The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir


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  the Bohun inheritance and had agreed to marry his son to Buckingham's daughter.

  Five days later the Protector confirmed that Lord Hastings would continue to serve as Lord Chamberlain of England and Governor of Calais, and appointed him Master of the Mint. No further reward was forthcoming for the man who had been Gloucester's champion on the Council and who, by his timely intervention, had made his successful coup possible. Although the Protector 'loved him well', it was obvious that he preferred to promote Buckingham and have him as chief counsellor. The reason for this is not far to seek: Hastings had made it clear he was utterly loyal to Edward V, whom Gloucester had probably already made up his mind to supplant. Hastings therefore had received less than was his due, and may well have been resentful of the honours heaped upon Buckingham: some of them should have been his.

  On 16th May, Archbishop Bourchier summoned Convocation to meet at St Paul's. Two days later the assembled clergy offered up a bidding prayer for Edward V and Elizabeth, the Queen Dowager; no reference was made to the Protector. The next day an urgent summons to attend Gloucester was sent in the King's name to the Archbishop. Such a summons could only have been issued on Gloucester's orders, and it may well be that the Protector was angry at Bourchier's omission and wished to reprimand him for it. Unfortunately, there is no record of what the summons was about.

  By the end of May it was obvious to most members of the Council that their influence was diminishing beside that of Buckingham and Howard. They were becoming concerned also about Gloucester, being suspicious of his true motives and worried about the potential threat he posed to the young King. Most, however, were by now intimidated by Gloucester's treatment of the Wydvilles, and were afraid to speak out. The Protector detected their apprehension and took steps to counteract it. By the beginning of June he was sounding out the magnates and the citizens of London on a daily basis, trying to win their confidence and approval with 'largesse and liberality', saying 'always that he did not seek the sovereignty, but referred all his doings to the profit of the realm'. By this means he calmed the fears of all save those who had suspected 'from the beginning what mark he shot at'.

  There was no doubt in the mind of any contemporary writer that by the end of May Gloucester had made up his mind to take the throne.

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  9. The Fall of Hastings

  On 5th June Gloucester moved from Baynard's Castle to Crosby Place in Bishopsgate, a house he had leased in 1476 from the widow of its builder, Sir John Crosby, a prosperous grocer. The Elizabethan antiquarian John Stow describes Crosby Place as a 'great house of stone and timber, very large and beautiful, and the highest at that time in London'. It was built round a courtyard and had a solar, a great chamber, a chapel, a garden and a superb great hall with an oriel window, a marble floor, and an arched roof decorated in red and gold. This great hall survived the fire that destroyed the rest of the house in the late seventeenth century, and in 1908 was moved to Chelsea, where it stands today. Later the same day, Gloucester welcomed his wife Anne to Crosby Place; she had travelled to London from Yorkshire, leaving their son at Middleham.

  By now, Gloucester was well aware that there were those on the Council who wished to prevent him from extending his power beyond the coronation. After 5th June, says Rous, he 'showed extraordinary cunning by dividing the Council'. He, and those members who supported him, including Buckingham, met in private at Crosby Place, while the rest -- foremost amongst them Hastings, Rotherham, Morton and others loyal to Edward V -- met at Baynard's Castle and Westminster to plan the coronation and discuss routine business. Many were convinced that Gloucester and his supporters were conspiring against the King at these secret meetings at Crosby Place, and Mancini learned that those councillors who were concerned for Edward V's safety met

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  in private at each other's homes to discuss the situation. Lord Stanley for one was very worried about the Council being divided like this, for he had his doubts about Gloucester. But Lord Hastings hastened to reassure him, saying that his retainer, William Catesby, was a member of the Council that met at Crosby Place, and would report all its proceedings to him.

  William Catesby was a lawyer from Ashby St Legers, Northamptonshire; his talents had earned him the notice of Hastings, who had made him his estate agent and procured for him a seat on the Council. In May 1483 Hastings had introduced Catesby to Gloucester, who took an instant liking to the man and was soon including him amongst his clique of preferred councillors. Before long Catesby found himself enjoying considerable influence with the Protector. But what Hastings did not know was that Catesby's first loyalty was no longer to himself: he was now playing the role of double agent, on Gloucester's behalf. Stanley may have guessed as much, for he warned Hastings to be careful.

  'There is great business against the coronation,' wrote Simon Stallworthe, a servant of Bishop Russell, to Sir William Stonor on 9th June. Plans for the event were advancing steadily. On 5th June letters were sent in the King's name to fifty esquires, commanding them 'to prepare and furnish yourselves to receive the noble order of knighthood at our coronation'. Time was running short for Gloucester; his bid to remain in power after that date might fail in Parliament, and then it would be too late to make any bid for the throne, for once Edward V was consecrated it would be difficult to topple him. Hence all obstacles remaining in Gloucester's path must be removed now. 'He therefore resolved to get into his power the Duke of York,' states Mancini, 'for Gloucester foresaw that the Duke of York would by legal right succeed to the throne if his brother were removed. To carry through his plan,' he brought forward the date of the coronation by two days, to 22nd June. He must have done this before 9th June, when Stallworthe recorded that negotiations to bring the Queen out of sanctuary had broken down. Relations between Elizabeth Wydville and the councillors were by then so bad that they refused to visit her any more. Gloucester had an excellent pretext for removing York from sanctuary, for the boy's absence from his brother's coronation would have been a political embarrassment. But before Gloucester could act, events intervened.

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  The Council met on 9th June, but no record of its proceedings survives. Stallworthe, on that day, wrote that he had nothing to report apart from plans for the coronation. What happened next remains a mystery. Shortly before 9th June, Gloucester, says Mancini, had 'sounded out [Hastings'] loyalty through the Duke of Buckingham'. The Protector was anxious to learn how Hastings would respond to the suggestion that he, Gloucester, was the rightful King of England. Hastings, staunchly loyal to the memory of Edward IV and to his son, declared that he would accept Gloucester as protector but not as king. More says that Catesby also canvassed Hastings on Gloucester's behalf, but Hastings responded 'with terrible words', which were reported back to Gloucester.

  Hastings was much alarmed by the realisation that Gloucester was indeed contemplating usurping the throne. The speculation, he now knew, had not been unfounded. Vergil states that Hastings had regretted his support of Gloucester from the day the latter had demanded the death penalty for Rivers. Then he had seen Buckingham usurp his rightful place in the Protector's counsels. Now he faced the prospect of Gloucester overthrowing Edward IV's son, the rightful King, and found it intolerable. Worse still was the knowledge that the powerful Buckingham would lend the would-be usurper his support, as would Lord Howard.

  There were several people to whom Hastings could have confided his fears about what he had discovered. Chief among them was Edward V himself, whom Hastings saw regularly at the Tower: indeed, it may have been at this time that Edward gave Hastings an exquisite illuminated manuscript known as The Hastings Hours, now in the British Library. Hastings may have warned the King what was afoot, and Edward may have responded by urging him to do all in his power to have Gloucester dislodged from his office. Almost certainly, however, Hastings sought help and advice from fellow-councillors such as Rotherham, Stanley and Morton. Vergil says that at a meeting of his friends, probably at
a private house, he discussed the possibility of seizing the King by force and even, perhaps, of deposing Gloucester from his protectorship. There was also talk of removing Buckingham from the Council. However, all these things were dismissed as being too fraught with dangers, and the meeting ended with Hastings and his friends deciding to see what transpired before taking any action,

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  on the premise that forewarned is forearmed.

  Hastings may even, in his agitation, have approached the Queen. She was the one person who should be informed if her son was in any danger. Hastings is said to have sent her a message by his mistress, Elizabeth Shore, a strange choice in the circumstances, but probably safer than visiting Westminster Abbey himself.

  Then, probably on 9th June, Gloucester found out what was going on, probably through Catesby, who was in Hastings' confidence. In his anger, the Protector now chose to behave as if Hastings' activities and the meetings of councillors in each other's houses were evidence of a serious conspiracy against him, but Croyland, who was in a position to know the truth, states categorically that Hastings was not guilty of conspiring against Gloucester, a statement that is supported by Hastings' naivety regarding the split in the Council and Catesby's loyalty to himself. Nevertheless, evidence exists to show that some people did believe that a plot had been brewing. A fragment from the commonplace book of a London merchant, dating from 1483 and discovered in 1980 in the College of Arms, states that 'divers imagined the death of the Duke of Gloucester and it was espied'. The fragment goes on to connect this with Hastings. Vergil also states that a counter-coup was being planned in June. Then there are Gloucester's own allegations, which appear below, accusing Hastings of conspiring with the Queen and her party to destroy him. We may dismiss the first two sources on the grounds that they are probably based on the propaganda later put about by the Protector.

  Gloucester's allegations were probably a gross exaggeration of the truth, devised to justify the removal of a man who stood firmly in the way of his ambitions, for there is no other contemporary evidence of a conspiracy. The Wydvilles had been neutralised: the Queen, Dorset and Bishop Lionel were in sanctuary, Sir Edward had fled to Brittany, and Rivers and Grey were in prison. Hastings could have expected no help from that quarter. Nor did Gloucester take any proceedings against the Wydvilles at that time. More believed that Gloucester invented the 'conspiracy', because Elizabeth Wydville was 'too wise to go about any such folly, and if she would, yet would she of all folk least make Shore's wife of counsel, whom of all women she most hated'. What is likely is that Gloucester made Hastings' consultations with the councillors and perhaps his message to the Queen an excuse for

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  accusing him and others of conspiracy, to suit his own purpose.

  Gloucester was in no doubt that the wealthy and influential Hastings could prove a dangerous enemy whose loyalty to Edward V would ruin his carefully laid plans. Mancini says he 'considered that his prospects were not sufficiently secure without the removal or imprisonment of those who had been the closest friends of his brother and were expected to be loyal to his brother's offspring. In this class he thought to include Hastings, Rotherham and John Morton, the Bishop of Ely. Therefore the Protector rushed headlong into crime, for fear that the ability and authority of these men might be detrimental to him.' More states that Gloucester decided to eliminate Hastings because he was opposed to all his schemes, and a contemporary Welsh chronicler, Humphrey Lluyd, says that it was 'because [Hastings] would not freely have this man crowned'.

  There is no doubt that Gloucester acted precipitately to deal with the problem of Hastings as soon as he learned he would not have his support; he had no time to waste. Vergil states that during the days prior to 13th June, when he was planning to act against Hastings, Gloucester suffered deep bodily feebleness and was unable to rest, eat or drink -- surely signs of anger, tension and anxiety.

  On 10th June Gloucester wrote to the Civic Council of York:

  As ye love the weal of us, and the weal and surety of your own selves, we heartily pray you to come unto us in London, in all the diligence ye can possible after the sight hereof, with as many as ye can defensibly arrayed, there to aid and assist us against the Queen, her blood adherents and affinity, which have intended, and daily doth intend, to murder and utterly destroy us and our cousin the Duke of Buckingham and the old royal blood of this realm, and as is now openly known, by their subtle and demeanable ways forecasted the same and also the final destruction and disinheriting of you and all other inheritors and men of honour, as well of the north parts as other countries, that belongs to us; as our trusty servant, this bearer, shall more at large show to you, to whom we pray you give credence, and as ever we may do for you in time coming, fail not, but haste you to us hither.

  Gloucester's real motive in summoning troops from York was the

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  intimidation of possible opposition to his intended seizure of the throne. The concocted tale of a Wydville conspiracy was just an excuse to raise an army, and one he knew the citizens of York would respond to. Once again, he was presenting himself as the champion of the people. However, if a coup against him was as imminent as he made out, armed help from the North would not have reached him in time. Vergil believed that the troops were summoned primarily to prevent riots among the populace when 'they should see the crown bereft from Prince Edward'.

  On nth June Gloucester wrote further letters appealing for aid to the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Neville and other northern magnates. On that day or the next he despatched Richard Ratcliffe, who had been 'instructed with all my mind and intent', to the North with all the letters. Ratcliffe also carried warrants to be forwarded to Sheriff Hutton for the executions of Rivers, Grey, Vaughan and Haute, drawn up by Gloucester in defiance of the Council. Wrote Mancini: 'So as to leave no source of danger to himself from any quarter, when by means of the Council the Duke could not compass the execution of Lord Rivers and Richard [Grey], he ordered dependable officers to put them to death.' Such an action was unlawful and tyrannical, but to Gloucester it was politically vital for his future security and the guaranteed success of his bid for the throne. It was nevertheless an outrageous thing to order the execution of the King's uncle and relations, and the fact that Gloucester did it shows that he already regarded Edward V as a political nonentity whose favour he no longer needed to court. Only a man intent on seizing the throne would dare to take such a step.

  On 12th June, says Croyland, 'the Protector, with extraordinary cunning, divided the Council', summoning Buckingham, Hastings, Morton, Stanley, Rotherham, Lord Howard and his son Sir Thomas Howard to a council meeting to be held in the Tower the following morning. The other councillors met on 13th June at Westminster, with orders from Gloucester to finalise plans for the coronation. This second gathering was presided over by Lord Chancellor Russell.

  John Morton, Bishop of Ely, was leader of the court clerical party. He was a cultivated and learned man and a great canon lawyer, who had loyally served both Henry VI and Edward IV. Mancini calls him a man 'of great resource and caring, for he had been trained in party intrigue since King Henry's time, and enjoyed great influence'. More

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  says that Morton would have been glad that Edward IV's son had succeeded him, for the Bishop, like several of those councillors summoned by the Protector to meet at the Tower on 13th June, had made it clear from the first that his allegiance lay with Edward V.

  The fullest account of what occurred in the Tower that day comes from More, who almost certainly obtained some of his information from Morton, Rotherham and Thomas Howard, all eyewitnesses with whom he was at one time or other acquainted. We can deduce this because More gives details with a ring of authenticity that are not quoted anywhere else. Vergil also gives a comprehensive account, and internal evidence suggests that some of it came from those who had known Lord Stanley, another eyewitness.

  The Council met in the morning in what Mancini calls 'the innermos
t quarters' of the White Tower, the King being then in the royal apartments. More states that Hastings was escorted to the Tower by 'a mean knight' whom Hall later identified as Sir Thomas Howard. More's failure to name Howard suggests that the information had come from Howard sources on condition that names be suppressed. Nor did More wish to offend his powerful friend the Duke of Norfolk, Howard's son. Later editions of More's work, published when the Howards had fallen from favour, were not so reticent. It appears that Howard was detailed by Gloucester to ensure that Hastings turned up at the council meeting. Hastings, says Croyland, having openly exulted in Gloucester's successful coup against the Wydvilles, was about to have 'this extreme joy of his supplanted by sorrow'.

  Shortly before 9.00 am, the councillors were all seated, waiting, says Mancini, 'to salute the Protector, as was their custom', and believing they had been summoned to discuss the coronation. At 9.00 Gloucester entered, the embodiment of smiling amiability, an act put on, says More, to lull his victims into a sense of false security. The Duke cordially asked Morton to arrange for some strawberries to be sent to him from the Bishop's gardens at Ely Place in Holborn, which Morton hastened to do. Then, leaving the councillors to discuss routine business, Gloucester left the room.

 
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