Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir


  By 11 October King Edward had safely arrived at The Hague. He then travelled to St Pol, where he spent several days in the company of Charles of Burgundy. Edward pressed the Duke to help him regain his kingdom, but Charles was not yet prepared to commit himself. He was waiting to see whether or not Warwick would keep his promise and ally himself to Louis XI, and wished to do nothing that might provoke the Earl’s hostility towards Burgundy. Edward had to resign himself to waiting, and travelled to Bruges, where he took up residence in the palace of the Lord of Gruthuyse, Governor of Holland. Commines says Gruthuyse ‘dealt very honourably’ with Edward and his companions, ‘for he gave them much apparel among them’ and accorded them the respect due to visiting royalty.

  In Paris, meanwhile, Louis XI had learned of Henry VI’s restoration and ordered that a Te Deum be sung in Notre Dame and that the event be marked by a three-day holiday and festival. He then told the chief dignitaries of the city to prepare an honourable welcome for Queen Margaret, the Prince of Wales and the Countess of Warwick and her daughters, who would be arriving in Paris very soon, en route for England.

  On the 13th, Warwick had King Henry attired in his crown and in King Edward’s robes of state and paraded him through the streets of London to St Paul’s Cathedral, himself bearing the King’s train. Crowds flocked to see the spectacle and ‘all the people rejoiced with clapping of hands and cried, “God save King Henry!”’ After a service in which the King gave thanks to God for his restoration, he took up residence in the Palace of Westminster.

  Later that day, John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, was arraigned in Westminster Hall and found guilty of treason. Although Warwick’s policy towards the Yorkist nobility was to be of necessity conciliatory, he had had no compunction about apprehending the much hated Tiptoft. After Edward IV’s flight, the Earl had taken refuge in a forest in Huntingdonshire, where he was found hiding at the top of a tree, and thence brought to London. The Earl of Oxford, who presided over the court and whose father and elder brother had been condemned to death in 1462 by the man people were now calling ‘the Butcher of England’, found Tiptoft guilty of all charges and sentenced him ‘to go on foot to Tower Hill to have his head cut off’, a remarkably lenient sentence in the circumstances.

  At three o’clock that afternoon, the sheriffs of London received their prisoner at Temple Bar, intending to have him executed that evening. But the crowds were enormous; some had just come to ‘gawp and gaze’ at Tiptoft, while others were baying for his blood and would have lynched him had he not been protected by a heavily armed band of guards. It was nearly night by the time that the procession had forced its way as far as the Fleet Bridge, so the sheriffs asked the warden of the Fleet if they could borrow his prison and locked Tiptoft up there until morning. The next day they managed to escort him to Tower Hill. He showed no emotion on the scaffold and ignored the taunts and curses of the watching crowd, only unbending to speak to an Italian friar, who reproached him for his cruelty, to which he replied loftily that he had governed his deeds for the good of the state. He then requested the executioner to sever his head in three strokes in honour of the Holy Trinity. Thus died the only member of the Yorkist nobility to be executed by the readeption government. On 20 October, John Langstrother, Prior of the Hospital of the Knights of St John, was appointed Treasurer of England in his place.

  In October, Jasper Tudor arrived in Hereford, where his nephew Henry Tudor was living with Lady Herbert’s niece and her husband, Sir Richard Corbet. Corbet handed over the boy, now thirteen, to his uncle, who took him to London to be presented to Henry Vl. Polydore Vergil asserts that at their meeting the King, indicating young Henry Tudor, said to Jasper, ‘This truly is he unto whom both we and our adversaries must yield and give over the dominion.’ Yet it is highly unlikely that Henry VI would have said such a thing, for at that time the hopes of the Lancastrian dynasty were centred on the Prince of Wales. If he died, the throne would pass to Clarence, and even then there were others who might contest his claim, such as the descendants of the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter. No one then would have envisaged that Henry Tudor would one day become King Henry VII and found one of the most successful dynasties to rule in England. Vergil was the official historian to Henry VII, and this tale was no doubt invented to flatter his master, who claimed to be the heir to Lancaster.

  Jasper was now styling himself Earl of Pembroke, even though the attainder against him had not been reversed. He also tried to have the earldom of Richmond restored to Henry Tudor, but was unsuccessful because it was still held by Clarence.

  After his presentation at court, young Henry visited his mother and her husband Henry Stafford at Woking, before rejoining Jasper on 12 November and returning to Wales. This would be the last time he saw Margaret Beaufort for over fourteen years, and their next meeting would take place in very different circumstances, for he would then be king.

  By November 1470, says Rous, Warwick ‘had all England at his leading and was feared and respected through many lands’. Not only was he the King’s Lieutenant but he had also resumed his offices of Great Chamberlain of England and Captain of Calais. Clarence had been appointed Lieutenant of Ireland, and the composition of the Council was still much as it had been under Edward IV, being largely made up of men of ability rather than of rank. Clarence, who had been excluded from the Council by Edward IV, now had a place on it, although Montague did not, having been sent north to carry out his duties as Warden of the East Marches. Nor were Shrewsbury, Oxford, Stanley, Devon or Pembroke given seats; Warwick preferred them to exert their influence in their own territories. The self-styled Dukes of Exeter and Somerset were still in Burgundy, supported by pensions from Duke Charles, but their presence was an embarrassment to him since Edward IV had become a guest in his duchy, and he was fervently hoping that the exiles would soon go home now that it was safe to do so.

  Warwick’s situation, however, was not as strong as it seemed. Many die-hard Lancastrians still distrusted him and refused to co-operate with him, regarding him as a traitor who had brought about the ruin of the House of Lancaster. Nor could the Earl count upon the loyalties of those Yorkists who had previously supported him in his efforts to regain power and curb the influence of the Wydvilles, for many felt he had gone much too far in deposing King Edward. In fact, the only persons on whom he could rely were his Neville adherents and those Lancastrian nobles who had benefited from the readeption and were safeguarding their own interests. The rest of the nobility merely paid lip-service to Warwick’s government.

  It was only among the commons that Warwick was popular. The middle classes in London resented his deputy, Sir Geoffrey Gate, who appeared to be encouraging vandalism among his soldiers in the city, and were alarmed by the falling off of trade with Burgundy which had resulted from Warwick’s friendship with France. Some London merchants were complaining vigorously to the Council about Edward IV’s precipitate flight and demanding repayment of loans they had made him.

  The Earl could not be confident that Margaret of Anjou would allow him to remain in power once she returned to England, especially as the Prince, who was now seventeen, was older than Henry VI had been when he attained his majority. The future did not seem as secure as it had in France: Warwick realised that the success of his régime and the fulfilment of his ambitions depended on co-operation between himself, the unstable and increasingly dissatisfied Clarence, and the Lancastrian and Yorkist magnates, and that the prospect of that was remote.

  When Henry VI was informed that Queen Elizabeth was about to bear a child in sanctuary, he sent Lady Scrope to wait on her and act as midwife. He also authorised a London butcher, John Gould, to supply her household with half a beef and two muttons a week. Yet although the King had shown kindness to her and Warwick had left her in peace, Elizabeth chose to remain in sanctuary, ‘in great trouble and heaviness’. On 2 November, in the Abbot’s House, she gave birth to her first son by the King, a healthy boy whom she named Edward after his father. The infant was nur
sed by Old Mother Cobb, the resident sanctuary midwife, and baptised by the sub-prior in the Abbot’s House ‘with no more ceremony than if he had been a poor man’s son’, according to Sir Thomas More. The abbot and prior stood as godfathers and Lady Scrope as godmother, and four-year-old Princess Elizabeth held the chrysom.

  Warwick was well aware that the birth of a Yorkist heir might prove a focus for rebellion, and would certainly inspire King Edward to greater efforts to recover his kingdom. He decided therefore that now was the time for Queen Margaret to bring the Prince of Wales and his future bride to England, reasoning that the presence of a prince nearly grown to manhood would have more popular appeal than that of one in swaddling bands. Having persuaded Henry VI to agree with him, Warwick wrote to Queen Margaret, urging her to return to England at once.

  Throughout September and October, Queen Margaret, Prince Edward and the Countess of Warwick and her daughters had remained at the French court at King Louis’s expense. During that period, Jean Briconnet, Louis’s receiver of finances, paid out 2550 livres for their maintenance. After they had returned from a short visit to King René in early November, Briconnet paid a further 2831 livres for the purchase of silverware for them and 1000 livres ‘for their pleasures’. Margaret was wary of returning to England, believing that it was still an unsafe place for the precious heir to Lancaster. Nevertheless, she was inclined to agree with Warwick that the birth of a son to Elizabeth Wydville posed a threat to the security of the restored dynasty, and reluctantly began making plans to leave France.

  On 26 November, the readeption Parliament met at Westminster. Henry VI presided in person over this assembly, which confirmed his right to be King of England and vested the succession in the Prince of Wales and his heirs and, failing them, the Duke of Clarence and his heirs. At the opening session, Archbishop Neville, as Chancellor, preached a sermon on the text ‘Return, O backsliding children, saith the Lord’.

  The Parliament roll for this assembly no longer survives, yet its business is recorded in other contemporary documents. The Great Chronicle of London states that ‘King Edward was disinherited with all his children, and proclaimed throughout the city as usurper of the crown. Gloucester, his younger brother, was pronounced a traitor, and both were attainted.’ The attainders passed since 1461 on Lancastrian nobles were reversed. Jasper Tudor was formally restored to the earldom of Pembroke and was given back his property as well as being handsomely rewarded by the King with other estates, including the substantial lands formerly owned by Lord Herbert in South Wales and the Welsh Marches. Other Lancastrian nobles who were restored ‘in blood’ to their inheritance included Exeter, Somerset and Ormonde. Parliament recognised Warwick as Lieutenant and Protector of the Realm and the King, with Clarence as his associate, and dismantled much of the machinery of Yorkist government. Lord Montague received a royal pardon for his earlier loyalty to Edward IV after protesting that it was prompted by fear.

  Clarence had gained very little so far from supporting the readeption of Henry VI; no doubt he had believed he would enjoy more political power with Warwick holding the reins of government, but there had been little sign of that as yet. Nor did he have much hope of ever succeeding to the throne. Now he also stood to lose some of his estates as a result of the reversal of attainders on Lancastrian peers, and while Warwick had promised to compensate him for their loss, Clarence was realist enough to wonder whether the Earl would be able to keep that promise.

  On 3 December, in a great assembly at Tours, Louis XI formally repudiated his treaty of friendship with Burgundy, denouncing it as void by virtue of Charles’s alliance with Edward IV. This hostile move heralded the commencement of war between Louis and his powerful vassal, which was what Louis had been intending all along. His aim now was to crush Burgundy with England’s help, and he wasted no time in ordering his armies to advance into Burgundian territory. Only then did he send his ambassador to discuss what form England’s aid would take, thus presenting Warwick with a fait accompli.

  Before the French ambassadors embarked for England, they had an audience with the Prince of Wales, who agreed to affix his seal to an indenture whereby he agreed to make war on Burgundy until every last part of the Duke’s territories were conquered, and to persuade his father the King to ratify this undertaking.

  Once in England, the ambassadors began pressing Warwick to fulfil his part of the agreement with Louis, offering him Burgundy’s counties of Holland and Zeeland as bait; Louis knew that Warwick wanted a principality of his own so desperately that, against this, the objections of others could not prevail. Both the ambassadors and the Earl, though, had great difficulty in persuading the English magnates and merchants that an alliance with France would be more advantageous than the one Edward IV had already made with Burgundy. No ships were leaving the Port of London or docking there, and English goods could not be exported abroad. The last thing the London merchants wanted at this time was an alliance with France. Nor did the common people, for the treaty with Burgundy had brought new prosperity to England and provided her with a lucrative market for her goods. They saw no reason to jeopardise it. If, then, Warwick was determined to honour his agreement with Louis he would have to dissociate himself from the interests of the English people.

  Until now, Charles the Bold had shown himself cordial to the restored Henry VI, but news of Louis’s repudiation of their alliance made him reconsider his position and wonder if it would be more profitable to support the Yorkists, who had always shown themselves friendly towards him.

  The Pope had still not granted a dispensation for the marriage of Prince Edward and Anne Neville; Louis’s patience had long since been exhausted, and in desperation he had sent the Grand Vicar of Bayeux to procure one from the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. This arrived early in December, at which time the King moved to Amboise where the wedding would take place. On 13 December, the Prince was married to Anne Neville by the Grand Vicar of Bayeux in a sumptuous ceremony in the palace chapel which was attended by a host of members of the royal houses of France and Anjou, as well as the Duke of Clarence.

  There is good reason to believe that Queen Margaret had forbidden her son to consummate the marriage. Should Warwick be toppled – and his position in England was by no means secure – Anne Neville would no longer be a fit wife for the heir to Lancaster, and if the union had not been consummated an annulment could easily be obtained, leaving the Prince free to marry a more suitable bride. In 1472, Anne was described by Croyland as a ‘maiden’ or ‘damsel’, terms normally used to describe an unmarried virgin.

  Reports received by King Louis from his ambassadors in London had convinced him and Queen Margaret that it was now safe for her to return to England. On the day after the wedding, the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Countess of Warwick left Amboise on the first stage of their journey home, being escorted by a guard of honour formed by the Counts of Eu, Vendôme, Dunois and Châtillon. Shortly afterwards they made a ceremonial entry into Paris, being received outside the city gates by the chief officers of the university, the Parliament and the Châtelet, as well as the civic authorities, all wearing their finest robes. These gentlemen conducted the Queen and her party into a city made festive with tapestries and gaily coloured painted cloths hung from windows and balconies, and with streets thronged with cheering citizens. At the same time, in England, King Henry was instructing his Exchequer to pay £2000 to enable Warwick to cross to France with an army of ships and men ‘for the bringing home of our most dear and entirely beloved wife, the Queen, and our son, the Prince’.

  Margaret remained in Paris over Christmas, and was preparing to leave for England when she learned that, on 5 January 1471, Charles of Burgundy and Edward IV had had a meeting near St Omer. This unnerved her somewhat, yet she was reassured by reports sent to King Louis by the French ambassadors in London that the political situation there was stable and that it would be quite safe for her and her son to return. The Queen therefore left Paris and travel
led to Rouen to await the arrival of Warwick, who was to escort her to England.

  Warwick never came. Most of his annual income, which cannot have exceeded £15,000, had been spent in financing his large retinue, his military operations of the previous autumn, and the maintenance of his estates. Short of funds, he had spent the money granted for his journey on other, more pressing, things, and could not now afford to go to France to collect the Queen. Not knowing of this, Margaret refused to consider leaving until Warwick had actually arrived at a French port. While she waited at Rouen, the Earl waited for her at Dover, confident that she would have sailed without him. Soon, though, pressing matters of state obliged him to return to London.

  At last Margaret was forced to accept that Warwick was not coming, and went to Dieppe, intending to embark for England without further delay. Even though the masters of her ships warned her that the weather was not favourable, she refused to listen. Three times her fleet put to sea, and each time it was hurled back upon the coast of Normandy, driven by rough winds and storm-tossed waves. Some ships were badly damaged and had to be repaired, and the more superstitious among the Queen’s men said that the tempest had been conjured up by sorcerers employed by the Yorkists; others perceived the hand of God at work. There was to be no break in the weather for some time, and she had no choice but to wait, fuming in frustration at the interminable delay.

  Back in England, Warwick was desperately trying to consolidate his position. He was concerned about the loyalty of the King’s subjects in the counties of Gloucester and Hereford, and granted Pembroke – who was already responsible for keeping the peace in south Wales and the Marcher lordships – wide military and administrative powers in the Severn Valley. At the same time, Clarence, still outwardly loyal to Warwick but perhaps working for his own ends, was planting his spies in the houses of several noblemen suspected of secret sympathies with Edward IV, among them Northumberland, Shrewsbury and Stanley. Unbeknown to the lords in question, the spies were to monitor all conversations and comings and goings, in order to detect any weakening in their loyalty to the government. The Duke placed two spies in each household, so that one would always be there while the other was reporting back to him.

 
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