The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir


  Then, 'with a large body of soldiers and in company with the Duke of Buckingham', Gloucester, continues Mancini, 'hastened at full gallop towards the young King' at Stony Stratford, taking their joint escort with them, and Sir Richard Grey. 'Wherefore they reached the young King, ignorant of [Rivers'] arrest, and immediately saluted him as their sovereign.' Edward was already mounted alongside Vaughan, Haute and his escort, ready to leave for London, fifty miles away. Gloucester, says Croyland, 'did not omit or refuse to pay every mark of respect to the King his nephew, in the way of uncovering his head, bending the knee, or other posture required of a subject'. Buckingham also paid homage to Edward on his knees, and the boy, says More, 'received them in very joyous and amiable manner'. His joy was not to last for long.

  Then, says Mancini, the two dukes 'exhibited a mournful countenance, while expressing profound grief at the death of the King's father, whose demise they imputed to his ministers, since they were accounted the servants and companions of his vices, and had ruined his health'. This extraordinary outburst to a boy just bereft of his father was a direct thrust at the Wydvilles and the first example of the moral propaganda that Gloucester came habitually to use to discredit his enemies. 'Wherefore,' the Duke continued, lest these same ministers 'should play the same old game with the son, [they] should be removed

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  from the King's side, because such a child would be incapable of governing so great a realm by means of puny men. Gloucester himself accused them of conspiring his own death and of preparing ambushes both in the capital and on the road, which had been revealed to him by their accomplices. Indeed, he said, it was common knowledge that they had attempted to deprive him of the office of regent conferred on him by his brother. He said that he himself, whom the King's father had approved, could better discharge the duties of government, not only because of his experience of affairs, but also on account of his popularity. He would neglect nothing pertaining to the duty of a loyal subject and diligent protector.' He added that he had been forced, for his own safety's sake, to arrest Lord Rivers at Northampton.

  Edward was stunned by this news and sceptical about what Gloucester had told him, as are historians today, for there is no evidence to corroborate Gloucester's allegations that the Wydvilles had actually planned attempts on his life. Mancini says the King answered 'that he merely had those ministers whom his father had given him and, relying on his father's prudence, he believed that good and faithful ones had been given him. He could see no evil in them and wished to keep them.' He went on, 'What my brother Marquess [of Dorset] has done I cannot say, but in good faith I dare well answer for my Lord Rivers, and my brother here [Grey], that they be innocent of any such matter.' But here, Gloucester interrupted, saying, 'They have the dealing of these matters far from the knowledge of your good Grace.'

  Edward was not convinced. Mancini records that he answered that 'as for the government of the kingdom, he had great confidence in the peers of the realm and the Queen. On hearing the Queen's name, the Duke of Buckingham answered it was not the business of women but of men to govern kingdoms, and so if he cherished any confidence in her he had better relinquish it. Let him place all his hope in his barons, who excelled in power and nobility.'

  At various points during this conversation, Grey had attempted to interrupt but had been roughly silenced by Buckingham. Now, says More, both dukes 'picked a quarrel' with him, accusing him and his kinsmen of conspiring 'to rule the King and the realm, and to set variance among the estates', and, says Croyland, 'to destroy the old nobility'. And without further ado they arrested Grey, Vaughan and

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  Haute in the King's presence, as all sources agree, and then, states Mancini, 'handed them over to the care of guards'.

  Mancini goes on to say that thereafter Edward V, for whom this had been a most traumatic and frightening experience, 'surrendered himself to the care of his uncle, which was inevitable, for although the dukes cajoled him by moderation, yet they clearly showed that they were demanding rather than supplicating'.

  Something even more ominous was now to occur. Mancini relates that Gloucester deprived the King of his escort and issued an immediate proclamation ordering that every member of it must withdraw at once 'and not approach any place to which the King might chance to come, under penalty of death'. Clearly the Duke was taking precautions against any counter-coup by Wydville sympathisers. As for the King's attendants and servants, Mancini tells us that 'nearly all were ordered home', even, says Rous, 'his special tutor and diligent mentor in goodly ways, Master John Alcock. [He] was removed like all the rest, but not, however, subjected to the rigours of imprisonment.' This is borne out by the fact that in May Alcock attended a meeting of Edward IV's executors. Separation from his personal servants and the chief officers of his household, especially the faithful Vaughan, and their replacement by men chosen by Gloucester, may well have been calculated to break the King's will. It certainly ensured that he was isolated from all Wydville influence. More says he was terribly distressed by it: 'He wept and was nothing content, but it booted not.'

  Gloucester and Buckingham then returned in triumph with the King and their prisoners to Northampton, where they enjoyed a celebratory dinner, after which, says More, 'they took further counsel'. Rivers and Grey were shut up in separate rooms, and it is unlikely that the young King was allowed to see his former governor. More records that at dinner 'the Duke of Gloucester sent a dish from his own table to the Lord Rivers, praying him to be of good cheer, all should be well enough', but Rivers could not touch it and asked that it be given to Grey.

  Later that day, says Mancini, Gloucester wrote to both the Council and the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Edmund Shaa, notifying them of what had taken place and assuring them that 'he had not confined his nephew the King of England, rather had he rescued him and the realm from perdition, since the young man would have fallen into the hands

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  of those who, since they had not spared either the honour or life of the father, could not be expected to have more regard for the youthfulness of the son. No-one, save only him, had such solicitude for the welfare of King Edward and the preservation of the state. At an early date, he and the boy would come to the City so that the coronation might be more splendidly performed.' More states that Gloucester also wrote with news of his coup to Hastings.

  'In this wise,' More concluded, 'the Duke took upon himself the order and governance of the young King' and successfully broke the power of the Wydvilles at a stroke, without one drop of blood being shed. To all appearances the coup had been aimed only at the Wydvilles; nevertheless, it had the effect of alienating the King, perhaps irrevocably and permanently, from Gloucester. Indeed, it may well be that Edward V saw himself, in the words of Rous, as having been 'received like an innocent lamb into the hands of wolves'. From now on his liberty would be curtailed: Mancini says that Gloucester and Buckingham decided to take turns at guarding the King, 'for they were afraid lest he should escape or be forcibly delivered from their hands'. Soon afterwards they learned that the Welsh people 'could not bear to think that their prince had been carried off'; the dukes feared that these Welsh supporters, whose existence is also attested to by Molinet, might well rise on the King's behalf. This was an added threat to the success of their plans.

  Gloucester now embarked on an exercise in public relations, seeking, says Mancini, 'in every way to procure the good will of the people; hoping that if, by their support, he could be proclaimed the only ruler, he might subsequently possess himself of the sovereignty with ease, even against their wishes'. This may indeed have been just what Edward V now feared, and what others would anticipate, once news of the coup broke.

  This happened just before midnight on 30th April, in London, and threw everything into a turmoil. 'The unexpectedness of the event horrified everyone,' says Mancini. The Queen was stunned by the sudden realisation that, after twenty years, her family's power and influence were at an end, and that her much-feared enem
y was in control of her son, the King. She was, says More, 'in great flight and heaviness, bewailing her child's ruin, her friends' mischance and her own misfortune'. Her fear of Gloucester and what he might do to her

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  and hers in revenge for her role in the fall of Clarence was very real indeed; she had no cause to expect any kindness or clemency from him, especially since she had done all she could to prevent him from becoming protector. Clearly she feared that her very life might be in danger.

  Mancini relates that, with the aid of her son Dorset, Elizabeth Wydville at first 'began collecting an army to defend themselves and set free the young King from the clutches of the dukes. But when they had exhorted certain nobles who had come to the City, and others, to take up arms, they perceived that men's minds were not only irresolute but altogether hostile to themselves. Some even said openly that it was more just and profitable that the youthful sovereign should be with his paternal uncle than with his maternal uncles and uterine brothers.' The Queen could perceive clearly how things stood, and gathering together her younger son the Duke of York, her five daughters ranging in ages from seventeen to two, her brother Lionel, Bishop of Salisbury, and her son Dorset, she hastily withdrew in the early hours of 1st May, with as many of her personal goods as she could assemble, to the Sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, where she and her party were received in the College Hall by John Esteney, Abbot of Westminster, and, says the chronicler Edward Hall, 'registered as sanctuary persons'. Mancini states it was commonly believed that the royal treasure had some time before this been secretly removed from the Tower by Dorset and divided between himself, the Queen and Sir Edward Wydville, who was said to have taken his to sea with him. The Queen and Dorset reputedly carried theirs into the Sanctuary.

  Westminster Abbey had afforded sanctuary to criminals and lawbreakers since Saxon times, and the great, grim, cruciform stronghold of the Sanctuary building dated from Edward the Confessor's reign. Two storeys high, it was demolished with great difficulty in 1750. But the Queen and her relatives did not come here to mingle with debtors and common felons; they lodged in the comfort of the Abbot's house, where the Queen had given birth to Prince Edward during her previous sojourn in sanctuary in 1470. Here, she and those with her could be afforded permanent protection as fugitives.

  Before dawn broke, Archbishop Rotherham of York arrived. Mancini says that 'though of humble origin, [he] had become, thanks to his talent, a man of note with King Edward'. He owed his

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  advancement, to a great extent, to the Queen, and was stoutly loyal to her. Rotherham's London residence was York Place, by the Abbey, and having learned in the night of Gloucester's coup and the Queen's flight, he at once decided to deliver the Great Seal of England, which he held as Lord Chancellor, to the Queen, 'about whom [says More] he found much heaviness and rumble, haste and business, carriage and conveyance of her stuff into sanctuary: chests, coffers, packs, fardels, trusses, all on men's backs, some breaking down the walls to bring in the next way. The Queen sat alone, a-low on the rushes, all desolate and dismayed, whom the Archbishop comforted in the best manner he could, showing her he trusted the matter was nothing so sore as she took it for', and that he 'was put in good hope and out of fear' by a message from Lord Hastings assuring him, 'All shall be well.'

  The Queen was not reassured. Hastings, she pointed out, was 'one of them that laboureth to destroy me and my blood'.

  'Madam,' replied Rotherham, 'be ye of good cheer. For I assure you, if they crown any other king than your son, whom they now have with them, we shall on the morrow crown his brother, whom you have here with you.' Then he delivered up to her the Great Seal 'which, as that noble prince your husband delivered unto me, so here I deliver it unto you, to the use and behoof of your son'.

  Dawn was breaking when Rotherham left. Back at York Place he looked through the window of his chamber and saw, says More, 'all the Thames full of boats of the Duke of Gloucester's servants, watching that no man should go into the Sanctuary, nor none pass unsearched'.

  As the momentous news of Gloucester's coup spread, More recounts, there was 'great commotion and murmur, as well in other places as in the City, the people diversely divining upon this dealing'. Some lords, says Croyland, 'collected their forces at Westminster in the Queen's name, and others at London under the shadow of Lord Hastings'. Many citizens donned armour, says More, 'for they reckoned this demeanour attempted against the King himself, in the disturbance of his coronation'. Crowds gathered in the streets, speculating on what would happen next, and, according to Mancini, there became 'current in the capital a sinister rumour that the Duke had brought his nephew, not under his care, but into his power, so as to gain the crown for himself.

  That morning the Council met at Westminster to discuss the situation.

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  Receiving his summons to attend, Archbishop Rotherham had second thoughts about his precipitate action in surrendering the Great Seal to the Queen, fearing, says More, 'that it would be ascribed [as it was indeed] to his overmuch lightness that he so suddenly had yielded up the Great Seal to the Queen, to whom the custody thereof nothing pertained without especial commandment of the King, [and he] secretly sent for the Seal again, and brought it with him after the customable manner'.

  When the lords were assembled, Gloucester's letters were 'read aloud in the council chamber, and [says Mancini] to the populace' afterwards. More tells us that Hastings addressed the councillors, saying he was assured that Gloucester was 'fastly faithful to his prince' and that he had arrested Rivers and the rest only to ensure his own safety, for he was sure they had planned to murder him. The Duke, went on Hastings, would make sure that his prisoners received impartial justice when he arrived in London, and he implored the lords not to take up arms on Edward V's behalf. The councillors were 'somewhat appeased' by this; Mancini says they 'all praised the Duke of Gloucester for his dutifulness towards his nephews and for his intention to punish their enemies'. More believed that Hastings' reassurances did much to discredit the Wydville faction on the Council, and to allay the fears of Londoners at large as soon as they were reported in the streets. But there were those on the Council, Mancini heard, 'who realised [Gloucester's] ambition and his cunning [and] always suspected where his enterprise would lead'.

  On 2nd May, Gloucester despatched his prisoners under guard from Northampton to three of his northern strongholds: Rivers was sent to Sheriff Hutton Castle, Grey to Middleham and Vaughan to Pontefract. That same day the Duke was informed, probably by Hastings, of the reaction in London to his coup and of Rotherham's rash action in surrendering the Great Seal to the Queen. Gloucester immediately sent orders to London that Rotherham was to be deprived at once of the office of Lord Chancellor, although he allowed him to retain his seat on the Council. More says the Duke 'supposed he would be faithful to Edward's heirs come what might', having learned he had been their champion at previous Council meetings. He also knew Rotherham to be a staunch friend to the Queen.

  Gloucester then wrote, in the King's name, to Thomas Bourchier,

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  Archbishop of Canterbury, requiring him 'to see for the safeguard and sure keeping of the Great Seal of this our realm, unto our coming to our City of London, and [to] provide for the surety and safeguard of our Tower of London, and the treasure being in the same'. Gloucester had not yet found out that the royal treasure had been appropriated by the Wydvilles.

  All these actions of Gloucester's were illegal, because he had no authority as protector, having been neither appointed nor confirmed in that office by the Council. The arrest and incarceration of Rivers, Grey, Vaughan and Haute, and the sacking of Rotherham were therefore, strictly speaking, acts of tyranny, and were seen as such by many at the time.

  On the morning of 3rd May, Edward V, escorted by Gloucester and Buckingham, left Northampton for London. They spent the night at St Albans, and it was probably here that they passed the time in appending their signatures and mottoes to a parchment
now in the British Museum:

  'Edwardus Quintus'

  'Loyaultie me lie. Richard Gloucestre.'

  'Souvente me souvene. Harre Bokynham.'

  The next morning they prepared to enter the capital.

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  8. The Lord Protector

  On the morning of 4th May, the King, escorted by Gloucester and Buckingham, left St Albans and travelled via Barnet towards London. Mancini states that Gloucester was now ready to enter the capital, having 'ascertained the attitude of everyone, and with the help of friends' in the City 'provided against all eventualities'. Garbed in 'black cloth, like a mourner' and accompanied, says Mancini, 'by no more than 500 soldiers', he and the young King were officially welcomed to London at Hornsey Park by the Lord Mayor, aldermen and sheriffs, all mounted and clad in scarlet, followed by 410 mounted members of the great livery companies wearing new gowns of violet. Thus Edward V was escorted into his capital, 'riding in blue velvet', the two black-clad Dukes at either side. The Great Chronicle tells that, as they rode, Gloucester repeatedly bowed low in the saddle and presented the King to the cheering crowds, crying, 'Behold your prince and sovereign lord!' More says that his manner towards the boy was humble and reverent, the more so to convince the people of his loyalty.

  Already Gloucester's propaganda machine had swung into action. Mancini says that he and Buckingham 'were seeking at every turn to arouse hatred against the Queen's kin and to estrange public opinion from her relatives'. He goes on: 'Ahead of the procession they sent four wagons loaded with weapons bearing the devices of the Queen's brothers and sons, besides criers to make generally known that these arms had been collected by the Duke's enemies and stored at convenient points outside the capital, so as to attack and slay the Duke of

 
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