The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir


  Once in Calais, the Yorkist lords, accompanied by the loyal men of the garrison, plundered the countryside round about and took to piracy in the Channel, seizing or harrying merchant ships. They also began a hostile campaign against the English government, placing restrictions on English ships coming to Calais and disseminating virulent propaganda claiming they were the victims of the King’s evil counsellors.

  With York, Salisbury and Warwick out of the way, ‘the Queen and those of her affinity ruled the realm as her liked, gathering riches innumerable,’ states Davies’ Chronicle.

  The officers of the realm, especially Wiltshire, Treasurer of England, for to enrich himself, peeled the poor people and disinherited rightful heirs, and did many wrongs. In this time the realm of England was out of all good governance, for the King was simple and led by covetous counsel, and owed more than he was worth. For these misgovernances, the hearts of the people were turned away from them that had the governance of the land, and their blessings were turned to cursing.

  Margaret was again ‘defamed and slandered, that he that was called Prince was not her son but a bastard gotten in adultery’.

  Yorkist propaganda claimed that the Queen had persuaded the King to appeal secretly to Charles VII for military aid against York, and as Brézé’s agent Dolcereau had been with Margaret during the recent campaign, it is likely that this was true and that she was indeed using Brézé as a go-between in the negotiations; he was still her friend, could be counted upon to support her, and by the end of 1459 he had certainly committed himself to her cause.

  On 20 November Parliament, having been summoned at short notice, assembled at Coventry, packed solidly with the Queen’s supporters, for which reason it became known as ‘the Parliament of Devils’. As York had not submitted to the King, Margaret commanded Parliament to arraign him and his associates on a charge of high treason. A Bill of Attainder was drawn up that same day, in which York, Salisbury, Warwick, March, Rutland, Clinton, Wenlock, the Bourchier brothers, Sir William Stanley, Sir William Oldhall and others were all declared guilty of high treason and sentenced to forfeiture of their lives, estates, titles, honours and chattels. Should any of them return to England they would face arrest and the death penalty unless the King pardoned them. Duchess Cecily had been brought into Parliament and was made to witness her husband’s humiliation. After the attainder was passed the sentence was proclaimed throughout England.

  The confiscated estates, comprising a vast amount of landed wealth, were then distributed by the King and Queen among their supporters, a generous share going to Owen Tudor and his son Pembroke, who afterwards returned to Wales to stamp out Yorkist resistance there and prevent York from returning via the principality to England. Lord Clifford was given several lucrative offices that had been held by the Yorkist lords, and Somerset was appointed Captain of Calais in place of Warwick – a title he would hold in name only, as Warwick was still in possession of the town. Wiltshire became Lieutenant of Ireland, but York was already in control there and the Irish parliament was resolved to protect him, confirming him in that post and passing legislation to provide that anyone seeking his death or inciting rebellion against him would be deemed guilty of high treason. When Wiltshire sent a messenger to Dublin with a royal writ for the Duke’s arrest, the hapless emissary was immediately charged with treason, brought to trial before York and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

  In the Parliament at Coventry, the magnates were obliged to swear a new oath of allegiance to Henry VI, which had been altered to include vows of fidelity to the Queen and the Prince of Wales also. The new oath was sworn by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, sixteen bishops, including George Neville, Bishop of Exeter, the dukes of Exeter, Norfolk and Buckingham, five earls and twenty-two barons. Parliament also assigned all revenues from the city of Coventry to the Queen, to be used for the benefit of the Prince, although she took this to include financing her war against the Yorkists. After Parliament’s business was concluded she remained in Coventry for the winter.

  Somerset was determined to drive Warwick from Calais and establish himself as its Captain. The desertion of Trollope and his men at Ludford Bridge had proved that not all members of the Calais garrison were loyal to Warwick. However, the majority were, and Warwick also enjoyed the confidence of the Merchants of the Staple: Somerset would have to break that friendship before he could oust his rival. Margaret, exasperated by Warwick’s tortuous political manoeuvring between Burgundy and France and realising that his presence in Calais posed a very real threat to her rule, was urging Somerset to action, and he therefore took ship with an army of retainers and attempted to land in Calais. The garrison remained loyal to Warwick, and the gates of the town were firmly shut to him. To make matters worse, Burgundy was showing friendship to the Yorkist lords, concluding a three-month truce with them so as to give them a chance to prepare for a new onslaught on England.

  Warwick retaliated by impudently mounting a lightning raid on Sandwich, where some of the Duke’s soldiers were stationed. Then, in November, Somerset arrayed an army of a thousand men under Trollope, and sailed again to the Calais Pale. This time he succeeded in capturing Guisnes Castle, an English stronghold near Calais. Warwick, in turn, captured Somerset’s most important commanders, the new Lord Audley and Humphrey Stafford, while another, Lord Roos, deserted and returned to England. Somerset now had a base in the region, and from Guisnes he waged constant petty warfare on Warwick in Calais.

  Back in England the Queen was furious to learn of Warwick’s defiance and began raising reinforcements for Somerset. On 6 December some of Warwick’s ships were seized and made secure at Sandwich, and four days later Lord Rivers and Sir Gervase Clifton began mustering a fleet and men nearby. The Council were at this time under the impression that the Yorkist lords lacked the resources to maintain themselves, let alone raise an army to invade England, but at the same time the government itself was at a disadvantage because it was now winter and the campaigning season was past. Nor were there sufficient funds left to finance a new enterprise.

  In December, Master Judd, Master of the King’s Ordnance, was commanded to survey the ordnance at all castles and fortified towns and ensure that it was in a good state of repair. The government ordered the arrest of any of the Yorkist lords the moment they set foot in England, and placed an embargo on trade with Calais, which was supposed to protect merchant shipping from piracy but in fact had a disastrous effect on the wool trade. When the Council tried to raise money for a new campaign, it was again accused of extortion, and London angrily refused to supply any soldiers for the King. To counteract the city’s defiance the Council sent a priest to preach at Paul’s Cross, ‘charging the people that no man should pray for these lords, the traitors’, but ‘he had little thanks, as he deserved’.

  On 21 December the government issued new commissions of array, but the mood of the people was ugly, and the loyalties of many were with the Yorkists. The hapless Master Judd, on his way back to London, was brutally murdered near St Albans. The Queen was aware of the public sympathy York enjoyed and feared that he might take advantage of this to press his claim to the throne, since he now had nothing to lose by so doing. The government dared not risk such a test of the people’s loyalty.

  In January 1460, Lord Rivers, his wife the Duchess of Bedford, and their son Anthony Wydville were lodged in Sandwich, where Rivers was assembling a fleet for the invasion of Calais. But before dawn on 15 January, Sir John Dynham, acting on orders from Warwick, landed without warning and occupied the town, gaining possession of several of Warwick’s ships and capturing Rivers and his wife as they lay in bed; they also captured 300 of Rivers’s men. All of them were hauled off to Calais, and Dynham’s men also apprehended Anthony Wydville as he came riding into Sandwich to go to his father’s aid.

  When the Wydvilles arrived in Calais, the Yorkist lords kept them from entering the town until evening because they did not want them to excite the sympathies of the inhabitants.
They were then held in captivity until 28 January, when they were brought before Warwick, Salisbury and March in a hall illuminated by 160 torches. According to the Paston Letters, the Yorkists began to abuse them, and Salisbury turned on Rivers,

  calling him knave’s son, that he should be so rude to call him and these other lords traitors, for they shall be found the King’s true liege men, when he [Rivers] should be found a traitor. And my lord of Warwick rated him and said that his father was but a squire and made by marriage, and that it was not his part to have such language of lords being of the King’s blood. And my lord of March rated him in like wise.

  Late in January Rivers’s wife was allowed to return to England. The capture of her commander had caused great distress to Margaret of Anjou, and the government believed that his abduction heralded a Yorkist invasion and continued its efforts to raise an army. It was also provoked into tightening coastal defences and enlarging the navy. In fact, for the first five months of 1460 the Council was in a state of nervous tension, occupied with plans to re-take Calais and counteract any Yorkist invasion.

  Pembroke was granted control of York’s castle of Denbigh because the Council feared the Duke might make use of it as a centre of communication between himself and his supporters in England and Wales. Owen Tudor was also given a command at Denbigh, but York’s retainers refused to surrender the castle. Pembroke besieged it, and it fell to him at last in May. He then rode on to Pembroke, to ensure that its defences were also in good order.

  Late in January the Council issued commissions of array to the men of Kent, who were to join the King’s army in the north. On 1 February Sir Baldwin Fulford was empowered to keep the seas, his objective being to destroy Warwick’s fleet at Calais, but before his ships were ready to leave England’s shores, the government received word that Warwick had gone to meet York in Ireland. He arrived there by 16 March. As soon as he had left Calais, Somerset made another futile attempt to breach the town’s defences, but in a bitter struggle at Newnham Bridge many of his men were killed.

  The Council seized the opportunity afforded by Warwick’s absence to reappoint Exeter Admiral of England for a period of three years. It also requested the aid of a Venetian flotilla then at anchor in the Thames. The ships’ masters all hurriedly disembarked and disappeared, not wishing to become involved, and the Council, thwarted, ordered the arrest of all Venetian merchants resident in London. By the end of April, despite a number of setbacks, the Council felt it was prepared to deal with a Yorkist invasion.

  Throughout the winter, spring and summer of 1459–60, York and his allies were indeed planning a return, and were determined to launch one final, decisive offensive against the court party. Warwick’s allies in England had made him aware of the government’s unpopularity, and York’s affinity had been rousing support for him in Wales. When Warwick visited York at Waterford in Ireland, they formulated plans for a two-pronged invasion of England, to be preceded by the now customary propaganda campaign. Then York was to land in the north, and the other Yorkist lords in Kent, where they would be sure of a welcome.

  The Council soon discovered what was afoot and anticipated that Warwick would choose to invade through Kent. Exeter was provided with a new and efficient fleet of ships, and these were moored at Sandwich. On 23 May the Council appointed Osbert Mountfort, who had been Marshal of Calais in 1452, and one John Baker to raise and escort a body of reinforcements whose task would be to assist Somerset to escape from the Calais Pale. At Sandwich, Mountfort recruited several hundred men, but was then held up as he waited for the wind to change.

  Meanwhile, on the 25th, Exeter had sailed from Sandwich with fifteen ships and 1500 men to intercept Warwick. People in Kent and Sussex were looking daily for the Yorkist invasion force; the corporation of Rye paid 6d. to one John Pampelon to sail to Camber to see if anyone there had news of Warwick’s coming. On 1 June, Exeter and his fleet lay off the coast of Cornwall. From here he could see Warwick’s ships in the distance as they returned to Calais from Ireland. Exeter had far more ships, but by now he was not sure of his men who, disgruntled at short rations and poor wages, were openly voicing Yorkist sympathies. Consequently the Duke put in at Dartmouth and dismissed most of them. This left him with hardly anyone to man his fleet, since the government had failed to provide him with any money for new recruits. The Channel was now Warwick’s.

  After Warwick’s return there in June, Yorkist supporters gathered in Calais. Many of the garrison would rather have driven Somerset out of the Pale than invade England, but Warwick overruled them. The Merchants of the Staple loaned the Earl and his allies a total of £18,000, and by committing acts of piracy against foreign merchant shipping Warwick raised further funds for the invasion, as well as boosting his popularity with the Londoners. He and the other Yorkist lords also mounted an extensive propaganda campaign through their friends in England. In Ireland, Warwick and York had drawn up a manifesto outlining their grievances and their intentions, and this was widely distributed. In it they asserted that the King was still led by evil counsellors, and castigated oppression by lords both spiritual and temporal. Henry, they said, had put himself above the law and banished ‘all righteousness and justice’ from the realm. The manifesto alleged that the King had been persuaded by his advisers to incite the native Irish to rebel against York; York even claimed to have seen letters from Henry urging them to conquer Ireland. It further alleged that the King had, by proclamations, guaranteed to all the men of Cheshire and Lancashire who fought for him that they would be allowed to take what they liked ‘and make havoc’ in the south, thus fuelling the southern prejudice against northerners. Clement Paston wrote: ‘The people in the north rob and steal, and [have] been appointed to pillage all this country and give away men’s goods and livelihood, and that will ask a mischief in all the south.’ So successful was this particular piece of propaganda that proclamations were hastily issued in the names of the Queen and the Prince of Wales denying that the King had ever made such promises.

  The Yorkist lords, says the chronicler ‘Gregory’, also ‘sent letters unto many places in England how they were advised to reform the hurts and mischiefs and griefs that reigned in this land; and that caused them much the more to be loved by the commons of Kent and of London; and the commons of Kent sent them word to receive them and go with them in that attempt, and the most part of the land had pity that they were attaint and proclaimed traitors’. In fact, the Yorkists were putting it about that the King had not freely consented to the attainders passed the previous November, and that therefore his subjects need not obey the royal commissions of array.

  They also wrote an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury accusing Shrewsbury, Wiltshire, Beaumont and other lords of preventing them from gaining access to the King and procuring their attainders, and stating that they would again request an audience of Henry to declare the ‘mischiefs’ for which these men were responsible. In this and other letters they asked for help, and assured everyone of their faithful allegiance to their sovereign.

  This propaganda fell on fertile ground, for the commons were sick to death of misrule and readier than ever to support a loyal opposition. Only recently concern had been expressed in Parliament about the increasing violence and anarchy in English society, and there were continual complaints about riots, extortion and robberies, particularly in the north and south-west of England and in Wales. When the King ordered trade links with Calais to be severed, the people of Kent – already resentful of a government that constantly demanded men for service at unseasonable times of the year – were vociferous in their complaints. Few people in the south-east were ready to fight against their hero Warwick, who was perceived as a champion of Englishmen’s rights against foreigners. Again, seditious bills were nailed to church doors, especially in London; these demanded the recall of York or repeated the old allegations about the Prince’s paternity, some in the form of bawdy verses.

  The King, for once, was not being idle. In late May he was t
o be found at Coventry, taking an interest in preparations for the defence of his realm. The Council had decided to appoint the royal castle of Kenilworth, which was well-moated and maintained, as his chief military base, and Henry rode there to see new fortifications being erected. He also sent for all the guns and armaments in the Tower of London, which filled forty carts; these would accompany the royal army throughout the coming campaign.

  On 11 June a royal proclamation was issued, asserting that the King had consented freely to the Yorkists’ attainders and commanding all men to obey the royal summons to array. Coventry supplied forty men, but the King was aware that it had also sent men to the Yorkists in the past. He noted – and complained about – disaffection and disloyalty among the citizens there and ‘unfitting language against our estate’, and the mayor was commanded to investigate these and punish all offenders.

  The Queen and Prince were with the King at Coventry. Edward, now six and a half, had recently been ‘committed to the rule and teaching of men’, his governess, Lady Lovell, having been dismissed in March. But it was the Queen who remained the dominant influence in his life and who instilled in him her own ideals and prejudices.

  The King and court remained at Coventry until at least 26 June, probably because the Council expected York to invade through Wales. York, however, was biding his time.

  16

  The Paper Crown

  In June 1460 Lord Fauconberg, Sir John Dynham, and Sir John Wenlock crossed from Calais and occupied Sandwich, where they installed a large garrison and, with the willing assistance of the townsfolk, established a bridgehead for Warwick. Fauconberg also took Osbert Mountfort – still awaiting a fair wind – prisoner. The way was now clear for a Yorkist invasion of England.

  On 26 June, Warwick, Salisbury and March landed at Sandwich with 2000 men. The Queen had sent ships to Calais to prevent them from sailing out of the harbour, but her sailors had mutinied and the Yorkist ships had passed unmolested. The Lancastrian government had long anticipated an invasion, but their preparations to counteract it proved inadequate; even Buckingham, who was constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports, was absent from the area on the day the invaders landed, and seems to have taken few – if any – defensive measures.

 
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