The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir


  By 4 October only two Welsh castles remained in enemy hands – Carreg Cennen in Dyfed, which fell to the Yorkists in 1462, and the mighty fortress of Harlech.

  It was Edward IV’s intention that Herbert should replace Jasper Tudor, who had now fled via Ireland to Scotland, as the King’s representative in south Wales. This was no easy job, for there were many who lamented the departure of Jasper and resented the presence of Herbert. Moreover, during the campaign Herbert had again fallen out with Warwick, this time over who should have possession of the lordship of Newport, a dispute which rapidly turned into a major and long-lasting feud fuelled by Warwick’s jealousy of Herbert’s status in Wales. Warwick had long cherished dreams of building a power base in the principality, and now Herbert stood in his way.

  The first Parliament of Edward’s reign met in November in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster. Addressing the Speaker the King proclaimed his ‘right and title unto the Crown’, and thanked Almighty God that his house was restored to it, promising to be ‘as good and gracious a sovereign lord as ever was any of my noble progenitors’. On 1 November, he created his brother Richard Duke of Gloucester and sent the boy to live in Warwick’s household at Middleham to be educated with the sons of other peers, as befitted his rank. On the same day Edward raised Lord Fauconberg to be Earl of Kent.

  Both King and Parliament were anxious to re-establish the moral, political and legal authority of Parliament, and there was a high turnout of magnates. The Lord Chancellor announced that the practices of livery and maintenance* would be banned by law from now on. On the King’s command, a comprehensive programme of legal reform was to be launched. To enable the authorities to restore law and order, all subjects were urged to bring murderers and thieves to justice, while those who had been pardoned of earlier crimes would face the severest penalties if they re-offended. Commissioners were sent into all parts of the realm to ensure that the law was being enforced fairly, and, predictably, this resulted in the courts convicting a record number of offenders. Justice was truly being seen to be done.

  On 4 November, Acts of Attainder were passed against 150 Lancastrians, including ‘the usurper’ Henry VI, Margaret, ‘late called Queen of England’, Edward, who is referred to as her son, not Henry’s, Somerset, Exeter, Devon, Wiltshire, Northumberland, Fortescue, Beaumont, Roos, Clifford, Hungerford, Welles, Neville, Dacre and Trollope. Many of these were dead and beyond human retribution, in which case their relatives would suffer confiscation of all their property, but all were thus declared traitors to their liege lord Edward IV. The confiscation of so much Lancastrian property meant that Edward could reward his supporters well, and there followed a large-scale redistribution of lands, titles, offices and estates among the Yorkist hierarchy. The duchy of Lancaster was also declared forfeit to the Crown, in whose hands it has remained ever since, and all true subjects were forbidden, on pain of death, to communicate with the former king and queen.

  Lord Clifford’s widow, Margaret Bromflete, went in great fear that the King’s vengeance would extend to her seven-year-old son, Henry, the dispossessed heir. Fortunately, one of her former nursery maids at Skipton Castle had recently married a shepherd and gone to live at Londesbrough, where Lady Clifford’s family had an estate, and this woman now agreed to take Henry into her home and bring him up as her own. When the King’s officers came to Skipton, Lady Clifford told them that she had sent the boy and his younger brother to the safety of the Low Countries, where they were being educated. Her story was believed, but she was nevertheless evicted from Skipton and went to live with her father at Londesbrough, where she at least had the consolation of being able to see her son.

  Another boy who was deprived of his title by Parliament was Henry Tudor, whose earldom of Richmond was given to the King’s brother Clarence. As for the attainted Duke of Exeter, he had gone into exile on the Continent, where Commines saw him ‘walking barefooted, begging his livelihood from house to house’.

  Other Lancastrian supporters chose to remain in England and work for the restoration of Henry VI. Early in 1462, John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, whose line could be traced back to the time of the Conqueror, was in communication with the exiled royal family in Scotland. Oxford was one of the Queen’s chief agents in England and the head of a group of conspirators who were planning a Lancastrian invasion and the overthrow of Edward IV. Unfortunately for the Earl his courier was a Yorkist double-agent, who took his letters straight to the King. They revealed that Oxford, having learned that Edward was planning to march north to deal with the Lancastrian rebels, intended to follow him with a bigger force, pretending he had come to offer assistance, although, when the time was ripe, he would attack and kill him. Somerset, then in Bruges, would return to England, while Henry VI would lead an army of Scots over the border and Jasper Tudor would invade the south coast from Brittany.

  On 23 February Oxford was tried by Tiptoft and convicted of treason, along with his son Aubrey and other conspirators, including Sir Thomas Tuddenham: all were sentenced to death. Oxford’s sufferings were intense: he was disembowelled, then castrated, and finally, still conscious, burned alive. Edward IV permitted his second son, John, to inherit his father’s earldom, and married him to Warwick’s sister, Margaret Neville, to keep him loyal, but despite this John de Vere remained true to his father’s ideals and stayed a staunch Lancastrian to the end of his days.

  Queen Margaret was preparing to visit Louis XI, and her expectations of him were high, especially after she learned that he had been actively involved in Oxford’s conspiracy. She was appalled, therefore, to learn from her agents in France that Somerset had been boasting to Louis about the mutual love between himself and the Queen. When Somerset returned to Scotland, Margaret’s displeasure was all too evident and relations between them were strained for a time. She was also disappointed that none of her envoys had managed to obtain anything other than verbal support from Louis. Nevertheless Edward IV believed that Somerset’s arrival in Scotland presaged a Lancastrian invasion, and had decided to take preventive action by putting diplomatic pressure on Mary of Gueldres to abandon the exiles. He even offered her marriage, though Mary was non-committal and the plan was dropped.

  Margaret knew she must meet Louis face to face and solicit his help, and early in April 1462 she embarked for France at Kirkcudbright in a French ship, taking with her the Prince and Sir John Fortescue. On Good Friday, 16 April, they landed in Brittany, where the Queen was warmly welcomed by Duke Francis II, who presented her with a gift of 12,000 crowns. Awaiting her also was Jasper Tudor, who had learned of her coming and ridden to join her. The Duke told her that King Louis was away in the south of France, so she travelled on to Angers without delay. Here she was reunited with her father, King René. Both were impoverished, and René had to borrow 8000 florins to finance ‘the great and sumptuous expense of her coming’. Nor was he able to offer his daughter any help, for all of his slender resources were being eaten up by a costly and unnecessary war with Aragon. At the end of two weeks, Margaret bade him farewell, and set off to meet King Louis.

  In May, to show Mary of Gueldres that Edward meant business, Warwick led an army across the border and seized a Scottish castle. The ploy worked. Later that month, Mary met the Earl at Carlisle and signed a truce to last until 24 August. Warwick believed this might lead to a more permanent peace that would effectively close Scotland to the Lancastrians.

  Queen Margaret, after trailing the French court for several weeks, finally caught up with it at Amboise. When she was admitted to the King’s presence, she stunned everyone present by prostrating herself at Louis’s feet and making an emotional plea that he should help her husband regain his throne. Louis appeared unmoved. By a show of lack of interest, he meant to force the Queen to an arrangement favourable to himself. ‘I assure you,’ he wrote to one of his ministers, ‘I foresee good winnings.’

  After his mother, Queen Marie, and King René had put pressure on him, Louis granted Margaret another i
nterview and told her that if she would agree to surrender Calais to him he would lend her 20,000 francs with which to finance an invasion of England. But Margaret at first demurred, saying that she dared not alienate the English further by surrendering Calais. Louis conceded the point, and in June, as a favour to the Queen, he released Pierre de Brézé from the prison where he had been confined for some minor offence. On the 13th Louis saw Margaret again and offered her, in return for Calais, 2000 men under Brézé, 20,000 francs in ready cash, and the authority to muster men in Normandy. Margaret capitulated. On 28 June, on Henry VI’s behalf, she signed a treaty of peace with France, providing for a hundred-year truce and barring all Englishmen from entering France unless they were certified true subjects of King Henry. Both countries compacted not to enter into alliances with each other’s enemies or rebellious subjects. On the same day Louis handed over the promised 20,000 francs, and Margaret undertook to surrender Calais within a year or pay him the sum of 40,000 francs.

  After the treaty was signed, the Queen went to Rouen to recruit men, while Louis sent his ships to harry the English coast. Brézé had already raised a force of between 800 and 2000 soldiers and mercenaries. When news of the agreement between Louis and Margaret filtered through to England, she was called a traitor for offering to hand Calais back to the French, and King Edward dispatched seventy ships to harry the French coast and intercept any fleet that might be sailing thence to Scotland or England. In July, he appointed Fauconberg, his most distinguished veteran, Admiral of England.

  In October 1462, in anticipation of a Lancastrian invasion from France, Sir Richard Tunstall, a champion of the Queen, successfully plotted to wrest Bamburgh Castle from its constable, his brother William, and installed a Lancastrian garrison. On the 19th, Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, Pierre de Brézé and 2000 men sailed from Honfleur in Normandy in a dozen ships and made for the coast of Northumberland. The Yorkist garrison at Tynemouth, prevented them from landing and fired cannon at them. Their ships were then scattered in a violent storm and some were lost. When the sea was calm again they sailed further up the coast and landed near Alnwick, where they received a warning that Warwick was approaching with an army of 40,000 men. This was enough to make most of the mercenaries abandon the Queen and flee to the ships for safety, leaving Margaret, Brézé and the Prince standing disconsolately on the shore watching their fleet retreating out to sea. Eventually they found a fisherman who agreed to take them further along the coast, but another storm blew up and his boat broke up on the rocks at Bamburgh while such provisions, baggage and weapons as they had with them were washed overboard and they themselves barely escaped with their lives.

  The Queen expected loyal Lancastrians to rally to her at Bamburgh, but those who might have joined her were dismayed to find she had brought barely a soldier with her and deemed it safer to remain neutral. Undaunted, the Queen reinforced Tunstall’s garrison at Bamburgh with French troops who had sailed up the coast and rejoined her, marched on to Dunstanburgh Castle and took it, and went from there to Alnwick Castle, to which her remaining soldiers laid siege. Lacking provisions, it capitulated almost at once, and soon afterwards, Warkworth Castle also fell to the Lancastrians. With these strongholds in her hands, the Queen was now in virtual possession of Northumberland, but still very few Englishmen joined her cause, and many of the locals resented the French garrisons. Margaret ordered that each castle be stocked with sufficient provisions to withstand a siege, then travelled north to Berwick, where she found Henry VI, Somerset, Exeter, Pembroke, Roos, Hungerford and Morton waiting for her.

  Mary of Gueldres was not pleased to be asked for yet more aid and gave only a pittance to help finance this latest venture. Leaving the Prince at Berwick, the King and Queen then set out to invade England, accompanied only by their retinue and Margaret’s 800 remaining men.

  On 30 October news of the invasion reached London by fast courier. This new threat stretched the King’s resources, and he was obliged to levy heavy taxes and borrow money from London merchants in order to meet the costs of raising an army. He then sent out commissioners to the south and west to array men, arranged for shipments of provisions to be sent to Newcastle, and Warwick was dispatched north with orders to lay siege to Berwick. Early in November King Edward marched his army north to confront the invaders; with him marched thirty-one peers – a record for the period – including some who had recently transferred their allegiance to the Yorkists.

  News that Edward was coming at the head of an army was soon conveyed to Queen Margaret. She now placed Somerset in command of the garrison at Bamburgh Castle, supported by Roos, Pembroke and Sir Ralph Percy, who had recently turned traitor to the King. Her army, meanwhile, was causing havoc, her soldiers descending on the priories at Hexham and Durham and demanding funds for her use. When Edward IV arrived in Durham he was confronted by an angry prior demanding repayment of 400 marks which the Queen had forced him to lend her, while the Prior of Hexham was writing to anyone who might be sympathetic, including Warwick’s sister, complaining about the money the Queen had made him give her ‘through dread and fear’.

  On 13 November, having received reports of the size of the Yorkist host, and knowing her small force was nowhere near equal to it, Margaret ‘brake her field and fled’ with Henry VI, Pierre de Brézé and over 400 soldiers from Bamburgh in a small caravel, with as much luggage as it would hold, hoping that a French ship would rescue them. As they neared Holy Island, wrote a London chronicler, ‘There came upon them such a tempest that she was fain to leave the caravel and take a fisher’s boat, and so went a-land to Berwick, and the said caravel and goods were drowned.’ Four hundred of her men were stranded on Holy Island, and were obliged to surrender to two local Yorkists, when some were taken prisoner and others, not so lucky, were put to the sword as an example to others. When Edward learned of Margaret’s flight, he decided to pursue her, but before he could do so he was struck down by a virulent attack of measles and confined to bed at Durham.

  Warwick had meanwhile captured Warkworth Castle and made it his headquarters. He now laid siege to Bamburgh Castle, which occupied a wonderful strategic position, standing sentinel over the rocky Northumbrian coast. The Lancastrian garrison under Somerset held out for as long as possible, while Warwick sent messages promising Somerset a generous pension if he would surrender. In return, Somerset demanded that Sir Ralph Percy be granted custody of Bamburgh after he handed it over, that the lords with him would be restored to their estates and the lives of the garrison would be spared. Warwick agreed to these demands, and on Christmas Eve Somerset gave up the keys of the castle to him. Inside, Warwick found Margaret’s provisions and personal effects, which he sent to King Edward. Somerset now formally pledged his allegiance to Edward IV, and rode off to assist Warwick at the siege of Alnwick, Warwick having sent a force to reduce that castle and another to Dunstanburgh.

  Edward had for some time cherished notions of winning over Somerset, and had therefore been prepared to be more than conciliatory, knowing that the defection of one of their staunchest adherents would be a sickening blow to his enemies. Somerset’s desertion of the Lancastrians may have been prompted by the desire for personal gain or by rivalry with Brézé for the Queen’s favour; certainly relations between himself and Margaret had been strained of late.

  Conducting a siege in midwinter posed almost as many problems for the besiegers as for the besieged. Food was in short supply and weather conditions were miserable. At Alnwick, according to the chronicler Warkworth, the soldiers were soon complaining that ‘they had [to] lie there so long and were grieved with cold and rain, so that they had no courage to fight’. Nevertheless, by the feast of the Epiphany, 6 January 1463, Alnwick and Dunstanburgh had surrendered to the Yorkists, and Pembroke, unwilling to reach any compromise with Edward IV, returned to Scotland.

  The surrender of these Northumbrian castles effectively ended the campaign, and the King withdrew his army south, leaving Warwick to guard the border, a task he und
ertook with commendable energy and efficiency. ‘King Edward now possessed the whole of England, except a castle in north Wales called Harlech,’ observed Warkworth.

  With Margaret in Scotland, the King now decided to prevent her from obtaining any further support from the French by sending an embassy to negotiate a treaty of friendship, or a truce at the least, with Louis XI. When the Queen heard of his intention, she made it her aim to sabotage any attempt by Edward to win Louis over and to persuade the French king to provide further aid for her own cause.

  After the Northumbrian castles had fallen, Margaret’s French and Scottish mercenaries had followed her north to Scotland, where they regrouped, and just before Lent 1463, with the Queen and Brézé at their head, they marched across the River Tweed into Northumberland. Sir Ralph Percy, the untrustworthy captain of Bamburgh, allowed the Queen’s French mercenaries into the castle, and thereby enabled the Lancastrians to take it for Henry VI. Percy was also captain of Dunstanburgh Castle, and as soon as the garrison saw the Queen approaching it also surrendered, while on 1 May, thanks to the treachery of Sir Ralph Grey, Alnwick Castle opened its gates to the invaders. Later that month Margaret, Henry VI and Brézé took up residence in Bamburgh, making it their headquarters. With control of the Northumbrian fortresses restored to her, Margaret was now nominally in command of much of the north, though the local population were less than enthusiastic in their support. They were sickened by constant strife and internecine warfare, and the benefits of two years of Edward’s rule were beginning to manifest themselves. In London, however, the government and citizens were horrified at the swift success of the Lancastrian invasion, and the King sent Warwick north again, commanding that ‘the great rebellious Harry and Margaret should not pass away by water’. On 1 June Warwick’s brother Montague was made Warden of the Eastern March of the border.

 
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