Cassell's Illustrated History of England/Volume 1/Chapter 73
Jack Cade's Insurrection—The French recover Guienne—Duke of York takes up Araia—Swears Fealty to the King—The French Provinces lost—Birth of Prince Edward—Commencement of the Wars of the Roses—Battle of St. Albans —Battle of Blore HeathvYorkists dispersed at Ludiford—Battle of Northampton—The King taken—Queen invades England—Battle of Wakefield—Cruelties of the Queen's Followers—Battle of Mortimer's Cross—Second Battle of St. Albans—The King recovered—Retreat of the Queen—Accession of Edward IV.
This extraordinary death of Suffolk excited the utmost consternation at court. The king and queen were plunged into the deepest grief. They saw that a powerful party was engaged in thus defeating their attempt to rescue Suffolk from his enemies by a slight term of exile; and they strongly suspected that the Duke of York, though personally absent in his Government of Ireland, was at the bottom of it. It was more than suspected that he entertained serious designs of profiting by the feebleness and unpopularity of the Government to assert his claims to the crown. This ought to have made the king and queen especially circumspect, but, on the contrary, the king announced his resolve to punish the people of Kent for the murder of Suffolk, which had been perpetrated on their coast. The queen was furious in her vows of vengeance. These unwise demonstrations incurred the anger of the people, and especially irritated the inhabitants of Kent. To add to the popular discontent, Somerset, who had lost by his imbecility the French territories, was made minister in the place of Suffolk, and invested with all the favour of the court. The people in several counties threatened to rise and reform the Government; and the opportunity was seized by a bold adventurer of the name of John Cade, an Irishman, to attempt a revolution. He selected Kent as the quarter more pre-eminently in a state of excitement against the court, and proclaiming himself to be John Mortimer, of the royal line of Mortimer, and cousin to the Duke of York, he gave himself out to be the son of Sir John Mortimer, who, on a charge of high treason, had been executed in the beginning of this reign, without any trial or evidence. The lenity which Henry V. had always shown to the Mortimers, dangerous as was their position near the throne, having un-questionably a superior title to his own, had not been imitated by Bedford and Gloucester, the infant king's uncles, and their neglect of the forms of a regular trial had only strengthened the opinions of the people as to the Mortimer rights. No sooner, therefore, did this adventurer assume this popular name, than the people, burning with the anger of the hour against the present unlucky dynasty, flocked, to the amount of 20,000, to his standard, and advanced to Blackheath. Emissaries were sent into London to stir up the people there, and induce thorn to open their gates and join the movement. As the Government, taken by surprise, was destitute of the necessary troops on the spot to repel so formidable a body of insurgents, it put on the same air of moderation which Richard II. had done in Tyler's rebellion, and many messages passed between the king and the pretended Mortimer, or, as he also called himself, John Amend-all.
In reply to the king's inquiry as to the cause of this assembly. Cade sent in "The Complaints of the Commons of Kent, and the Causes of the Assembly on Blackheath." These documents were most ably and artfully drawn. They professed the most affectionate attachment to the king, and demanded the redress of what were universally known to be real and enormous grievances. They were those under which the whole kingdom was and had been long smarting, the loss of the territories in France, and the loss of the national honour with them, through the treason and mal-administration of the ministers; the usurpation of the crown lands by the greedy courtiers, and the consequent shifting of the royal expenditure to the shoulders of the people, with the scandals, offences, and robberies of purveyance. They asserted that the people of Kent had been especially extortioned and ill-used by the sheriffs and tax-gatherers, and that the free elections of their knights of the shire had been prevented. They declared, moreover, that corrupt men were employed at court, and the princes of the blood and honest men kept out of power.
Government undertook to examine into those causes of complaint, and promised an answer; but the people soon were aware that this was only a pretence to gain time, and that the answer would be presented at the point of the sword. Jack Cade, therefore, sent out what he called "The Bequests of the Captain of the Great Assembly in Kent." These requests were based directly on the previous complaints, and were that the king should renew the grants of the crown, and so enable himself to live on his own income, without fleecing the people; that he should dismiss all the corrupt councillors, all the false progeny of the Duke of Suffolk, and take into his service his right trusty cousins and noble peers, the Duke of York, now banished to Ireland, the Dukes of Exeter, Buckingham, and Norfolk. This looked assuredly as if those who drew up those able papers for Cade were in the direct interest of the York party, and the more so as it went on to denounce the false traitors who had compassed the death of that excellent prince the Duke of Gloucester, of their holy father the cardinal, and who had so shamefully caused the loss of Maine, Anjou, Normandy, and all our lands in France. The assumed murder of the cardinal, who had died almost in public, and surrounded by the ceremonies of the Church, was too ridiculous, and was probably thrown in to hide the actual party at work. The requests then demanded summary execution on the detested collectors and extortioners, Cromer, Lisle, Este, and Sleg.
The court had now a force ready equal to that of the insurgents, and sent it under Sir Humphrey Stafford to answer the requests by cannon and matchlock. Cade retreated to Sevenoaks, where, taking advantage of Stafford's too hasty pursuit, with only part of his forces, he fell upon his troops, put them to flight, killed Stafford himself, and arraying himself in his armour, advanced again to his former position upon Blackheath.
This unexpected success threw the court into a panic. The soldiers who had gone to Sevenoaks had gone unwillingly; and those left on Blackheath now declared that they knew not why they should fight their fellow-countrymen for only asking redress of undoubted grievances. The nobles, who were at heart adverse to the present ministers, found this quite reasonable, and the court was obliged to assume an air of concession. The Lord Say, who had been one of Suffolk's most obsequious instruments, and was regarded by the people as a prime agent in the making ever Maine and Anjou, was sent to the Tower as a propitiation, with some inferior officers. The king was advised to disband his army, and retire to Kenilworth; and Lord Scales, with a thousand men, undertook to defend the Tower. Cade advanced from Blackheath, took possession of Southwark, and demanded entrance into the city of London.
The lord mayor summoned a council, in which the proposal was debated; and it was concluded to offer no resistance. On the 3rd of July Cade marched over the bridge, and took up his quarters in the heart of the capital. He took the precaution to cut the ropes of the drawbridge with his sword as he passed, to prevent his being caught, as in a trap; and, maintaining strict discipline amongst his followers, he led them back into the Borough in the evening. The next day he reappeared in the same circumspect and orderly manner; and, compelling the lord mayor and the judges to sit in Guildhall, he brought Lord Say before them, and arraigned him on a charge of high treason. Say demanded to be tried by his peers; but he was hurried away to the standard in Cheapside, and beheaded. His son-in-law, Cromer, sheriff of Kent, was served in the same manner. The Duchess of Suffolk, the Bishop of Salisbury, Thomas Daniel, and others, were accused of the like high crimes, but, luckily, were not to be found. The bishop had already fallen by his own tenants at Eddington, in Leicestershire.
On the third day Cade's followers plundered some of the houses of the citizens; and the Londoners, calling in Lord Scales with his 1,000 men to aid them, resolved that Cade should be prevented again entering the city. Cade received notice of this from some of his partisans, and rushed to the bridge in the night to secure it. He found it already in the possession of the citizens. There was a bloody battle, which lasted for six horns, when the insurgents drew off, and left the Londoners masters of the bridge.
On receiving this news, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, who were in the Tower, determined to try the ruse which had succeeded with the followers of Wat Tyler. They therefore sent the Bishop of Winchester to promise redress of grievances, and a full pardon under the great seal, for every one who should at once return to their' homes. After some demur, the terms were gratefully accepted; Cade himself embraced the offered grace, according to the subsequent proclamation against him, dated the 10th of July; but quickly repenting of his credulity, he once more unfurled his banner, and found a number of the men ready to rejoin it. This mere remnant of the insurgent host, however, was utterly incapable of effecting anything against the city; they retired to Deptford, and thence to Rochester, hoping to gather a fresh army. But the people had now cooled; the rioters began to divide their plunder and to quarrel over it; and Cade, seeing all was lost, and fearing that he should be seized for the reward of 1,000 marks offered for his head, fled on horseback towards Lewes. Disguising himself, he lurked about in secret places, till, being discovered in a garden at Hoyfield, in Kent, by Alexander Iden, a county gentleman, he was, after a short battle, killed by Iden, and his body carried to London.
That the party of the Duke of York had some concern in this movement, the Government not only suspected, but some of the followers of Cade, when brought to execution, are said to have confessed. But much stronger evidence of the fact is, that there was an immediate rumour that the duke himself was preparing to pass over to England. The court immediately issued orders, in the king's name, to forbid his coming, and to oppose any armed attempt on his part. The duke defeated this scheme by coming without any retinue whatever, trusting to the good-will of the people. His confidence in thus coming at once to the very court, put the Government, which had shown such suspicion of him, completely in the wrong in the eye of the public; and advantage was taken of this by his partisans in all quarters to extol his open, honourable conduct, and to represent not only his superior right, but the benefit to the nation of removing an imbecile usurper, and a false, French-hearted queen who had brought such disgrace and trouble on the country, and placing on the throne an able and popular prince.
We are now on the eve of that great contest for the possession of the crown, which figures so eminently in our history as the Wars of the Roses; and it is important at the outset to make clear to ourselves what are the real grounds of the quarrel, and where lies the justice of the case. The usurpation of Henry IV., productive of very bloody consequences at the time, had nearly been forgotten through the brilliant successes of his son, Henry V.; but still the heirs of the true line, according to the doctrine of lineal descent, were in existence. The Mortimers, Earls of Marche, had been spared by the usurping family; and Richard, Duke of York, was now the representative of that line. To understand clearly how the Mortimers, and from them Richard, Duke of York, took precedence of Henry VI., according to lineal descent, we must recollect that Henry IV. was the son of John of Gaunt, who was the fourth son of Edward III. On the deposition of Richard II., who was the son of the Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward III., there was living the Earl of Marche, the grandson of Lionel, the third son of Edward III., who had clearly the right to precede Henry. This right had been, moreover, recognised by Parliament. But Henry of Lancaster, disregarding this claim, seized on the crown by force, yet took no care to destroy the true claimant. In course of time, the Duke of York, who was paternally descended from Edward Langley, the youngest son of Edward III., was also maternally the lineal descendant of Lionel, the third son through the daughter and heiress of Mortimer, the Earl of Marche. By this descent he preceded the descendants of Henry IV., and was by right of heirship the undoubted claimant of the crown.
The Marches had shown no disposition whatever to exert that right, and that had proved their safety. They had been for several centuries a particularly modest and unambitious race; and so long as the descendants of Henry IV. had proved able or popular monarchs, their claims would have lain in abeyance. But they were never forgotten; and now that the imbecility and long minority of Henry VI. had created strong factions, and disgusted the people, this claim was zealously revived. Henry IV. had, as we showed under his reign, one real and indefeasible claim to the throne, that of the election of the people, had he chosen to accept it; but this he proudly rejected, and took his stand on his lineal descent from Edward III., where the heirs of his uncle Lionel had entirely the advantage of him.
The people who had favoured, and would have adopted Henry IV., had now become alienated from the house of Lancaster, through the incapacity of the present king. Through that they had lost the whole of their ancient possessions, as well as their conquests in France. Nothing remained but heavy taxation and national exhaustion, as the consequence of all the wars in that kingdom. In this respect the very glory of Henry V. became the ruin of his son. While the people complained of their poverty and oppression in consequence of those wars, they were doubly harassed by the factious quarrels of the king's relatives. They had attached themselves to the Duke of Gloucester, and he had been murdered in consequence of these factions, and, as was generally believed, at the instigation of the queen. Queen Margaret, indeed, completed the alienation of the people from the House of Lancaster. She was not only French, a nation now in the worst odour with the people of England, but through her they had lost Maine and Anjou, the beginning of all their losses. Coming into the kingdom, not only without any fortune, but under these unlucky circumstances, she took no pains to conciliate the popular good-will. She was haughty, ambitious, and extremely vindictive. She made herself the mortal enemy of the "good Duke of Gloucester," and had the credit of compassing his death. She allied herself successively with the Dukes of Suffolk and of Somerset, noblemen not only of the most determined hostility to Gloucester, but especially connected with the loss of France. She had vowed vengeance against the Londoners and the men of Kent for their share in the unpopularity of her favourites, and the death of Suffolk; and was reported to be at once unfaithful to the king, and bent on ruling, through him, on principles of despotism which were foreign to all English ideas.
These circumstances now drew the hearts of the people as strongly towards the Duke of York as they had formerly been attracted to the house of Lancaster. They began to regard him with interest as a person whose rights to the throne had been unjustly overlooked. He was a man who seemed to possess much of the modest and amiable character of the Marches. He had been recalled from France, where he was ably conducting himself, as was believed, by the influence of the queen, and sent as governor into Ireland, as a sort of honourable banishment. But, though treated in a manner calculated to provoke him, he had retained the unassuming moderation of his demeanour. He had yet made no public pretensions to the crown, and, though circumstances seemed to invite him, showed no haste to seize it. There were many circumstances, indeed, which tended to make all parties hesitate to proceed to extremities. Though the queen was highly unpopular, Henry himself, though weak, was so amiable, pious and just, that the public, though groaning under the consequences of his weakness, yet retained much affection for him. There were also numbers of nobles of great influence who had benefited by the long minority of the king, and who, though they disliked the queen's party, were afraid of being called on, in case another dynasty was established, to yield up the valuable grants they had obtained.
Thus the kingdom was divided into three parties: those who took part with Somerset and the queen, those who inclined to the Duke of York, and those who, having benefited by the long reign of corruption, were afraid of any change, and endeavoured to hold the balance betwixt the extreme parties. Almost all the nobles of the North of England were zealous supporters of the house of Lancaster, and with them went the Earl of Westmoreland, the head of the house of Neville, though the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, his relations, were the chief champions of the cause of York. With the Duke of Somerset also followed, in support of the crown, Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the Lords Clifford, Dudley, Scales, Audley, and other noblemen. With the Duke of York, besides the principal Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, went many of the southern houses.
Such was the state of public feeling and the position of parties when the insurrection of Cade occurred. The Duke of York had made himself additionally popular by his conduct in Ireland. He had shown great prudence and ability in suppressing the insurrections of the natives; and thus made fast friends of all the English who had connections in that island. No doubt the members of his own party used every argument to incite the duke to assert his right to the throne, and thus to free the country from the dominance of the queen and her favourites. That it was the general opinion of that time that the Cade conspiracy was a direct feeler on the part of the Yorkists, is clear from Shakespeare, who wrote so much nearer to that day. He makes York say—
"I have seduced a headstrong Kentish man,
John Cade of Ashford,
To make commotion, as full well he can,
Under the title of John Mortimer.
For that John Mortimer, which now is dead,
In face, in gait, in speech he doth resemble.
By this I shall perceive the Commons' mind
How they affect the house and claim of York.
Say he is taken, racked, and tortured:
I know no pain they can inflict upon him,
Will make him say I moved him to those arms.
Say that he thrive, as 'tis great like he will:
Why, then from Ireland come I with my strength,
And reap that harvest which that rascal sowed."
Accordingly, York appeared upon the scene; but Cade had already paid the penalty of his outbreak. On his way to town, York, passing through Northamptonshire, sent for Wiliam Tresham, the late Speaker of the House of Commons, who had taken an active part in the prosecution of Suffolk. But, on his way to the duke, Tresham was fallen upon by the men of Lord Grey de Ruthyn, and murdered, as was supposed, at the instigation of the queen, in revenge of her favourite's death. York proceeded to London, as related, and appeared before the king, where he demanded of him to summon a Parliament for the settlement of the disturbed affairs of the realm. Henry promised, and York meantime retired to his castle of Fotheringay.
Scarcely had York retired when Somerset arrived from France, and the queen and Henry hailed him as a champion sent in the moment of need to sustain the court party against the power and designs of York. But Somerset came from the loss of France, and, therefore, loaded with an awful weight of public odium; and with her vindictive disregard of appearances, Queen Margaret immediately transferred to him all her old predilection for Suffolk. When the Parliament met, the temper of the public mind was very soon apparent. Out of doors the life of Somerset was threatened by the mob, and his house was pillaged. In the Commons, Young, one of the representatives of Bristol, moved that, as Henry had no children, York should be declared his successor. This proposal seemed to take the house by surprise, and Young was committed to the Tower. But a bill was carried to attaint the memory of the Duke of Suffolk, and another to remove from about the king the Duchess of Suffolk, the Duke of Somerset, and almost all the party in power. Henry refused to accede to these measures, any further than promising to order a number of inferior persons from the court for twelve months, during which time their conduct might be inquired into. On this the Duchess of Suffolk and the other persons indicted of high treason during the insurrection, demanded to be heard in their defence, and were acquitted.
The spirit of the opposite factions ran very high; the party of Somerset accusing that of York of treasonable designs, and that of York declaring that the court was plotting to destroy the duke as they had destroyed Gloucester. York retired to his castle of Ludlow, in Shropshire, where he was in the very centre of the Mortimer interest, and under plea of securing himself against Somerset, he actively employed himself in raising forces, at the same time issuing a proclamation of the most devoted loyalty, and offering to swear fealty to the king on the sacrament before the Bishop of Hereford and the Earl of Shrewsbury. The court paid no attention to his professions, but an army was led by the king against him. York, instead of awaiting the blow, took another road, and endeavoured to reach and obtain possession of London in the king's absence. On approaching the capital, he received a message that its gates would be shut against him, and he then turned aside to Dartford, probably hoping for support from the same population which had followed Cade. The king pursued him, and encamping on Blackheath, sent the Bishops of Ely and Winchester to demand why he was in arms. York replied, from no disloyal design, but merely to protect himself from his enemies, who sought his ruin. The king replied that his movements had been watched since the murder of the Bishop of Chichester by men believed to be in his interest, and still more since his partisans had openly boasted of his right to the crown; but that for his own part, he himself believed him to be a loyal subject, and his own well-beloved cousin.
York demanded that all persons "noised or indicted of treason" should be apprehended, committed to the Tower, and brought to trial. All this the king, or his advisers, promised, and as Somerset was one of the persons chiefly aimed at by York, the king gave an instant order for the arrest and committal of Somerset, and assured York that a new council should be summoned, in which he himself should be included, and all matters decided by a majority. At these frank promises, York expressed himself entirely satisfied, disbanded his army, and came bareheaded to the king's tent. What occurred, however, was by no means in accordance with the honourable character of the king, and savoured more of the councils of the queen. No sooner did York present himself before Henry, and begin to enter upon the causes of complaint, than Somerset stepped from behind a curtain, denied the assertions of York, and defied him to mortal combat. So flagrant a breach of faith showed York that he had been betrayed. He turned to depart in indignant resentment, but he was informed that he was a prisoner. Somerset was urgent for his trial and execution, as the only means of securing the permanent peace of the realm. Henry had a horror of spilling blood; but in this instance York is said to have owed his safety rather to the fears of the ministers than any act of grace of the king, who was probably in no condition of mind to be capable of thinking upon the subject. There was already a report that York's son, the Earl of Marche, was on the way towards London with a strong army of Welshmen to liberate his father. This so alarmed the queen and council that they agreed to set free the duke, on condition that he swore to be faithful to the king, which he did at St. Paul's, Henry and his chief nobility being present. York then retired to his castle of Wigmore.
Siege Operations. Fifteenth Century. A French Town taken by the English. From the Royal MS. 14, E. 4.
Richard Duke of York claiming the Crown. (See page 605)
any business; and the Duke of York was thereupon appointed protector, with a yearly salary of 2,000 marks. The Lancastrian party, however, took care to define the duties and the powers of this office, so as to maintain the rights of the king. The title of protector was to give no authority, but merely precedence in the council, and the command of the army in time of rebellion or invasion. It was to be revocable at the will of the king, should he at any time recover soundness of mind; and, in case that he remained so long incapacitated for Government, the protectorate was to pass to the prince on his coming of age. The command at sea was entrusted to five noblemen, chosen from the two parties; and the Government of Calais, a most important post, was taken from Somerset, and given to York.
With all this change, the session of Parliament appears to have been stormy. The Duke of York had instituted an action for trespass against Thorpe, the Speaker of the Commons, and one of the Barons of the Exchequer, and obtained a verdict with damages to the amount of £1,000, and Thorpe was committed to prison till he gave security for that sum, and an equal fine to the crown. In vain did the Commons petition for the release of the Speaker. The Lords refused; and they were compelled to elect a new one. Many of the Lords, not feeling themselves safe, absented themselves from the House, and were only compelled to attend by heavy fines. The Duke of Exeter was taken into custody, and bound to keep the peace; and the Earl of Devonshire, a Yorkist, was accused of high treason and tried, but acquitted. So strong was the opposition of the court party, that oven York himself was compelled to stand up and defend himself.
These angry commotions were but the prelude to a more decisive act. The king was found something better, and the fact was instantly seized on by the queen and her party to hurl York from power, and reinstate Somerset. About Christmas the king demanded from York the resignation of the protectorate, and immediately liberated Somerset. This was not done without Somerset being at first held to bail for his appearance at Westminster to answer the charges against him. But he appealed to the council, on the ground that he had been committed without any lawful cause; and the court party being now in the ascendant, he was at once freed from his recognisances. The king himself appeared anxious to reconcile the two dukes—a circumstance more convincing of his good nature than of his sound sense—for it was an impossibility. He would not restore the Government of Calais to the Duke of Somerset, but he took it from York and retained it in his own hands. York perceived that he had been regularly defeated by the queen, and he retired again to his castle of Ludlow to plan more serious measures.
The Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Salisbury and his son, the celebrated Earl of Warwick, destined to acquire the name of the King-maker, hastened there at his summons, and it was resolved to attempt the suppression of the court party by force of arms. They were quickly at the head of 3,000 men, and with these they hoped to surprise the royalists. But no sooner did the news of this approaching force reach the court, than the king was carried forth at the head of a body of troops equal to those of York, and a march was commenced against him. The royal army had reached St. Albans, and on the morning of the 23rd of May, as it was about to resume its progress, the hills bordering on the high road were beheld covered with the troops of York. This army marching under the banners of the house of York, now for the first time displayed in resistance to the sovereign, halted in a field near the town, and sent forward a herald announcing that the three noblemen were come in all loyalty and attachment to the king; but with a determination to remove the Duke of Somerset from his councils, and demanding that he and his pernicious associates should be at once delivered up to them. The Yorkists declared that they felt this to be so absolutely necessary, that they were resolved to destroy those enemies to the peace of the country, or to perish themselves. An answer was returned by or for the king, "that he would not abandon any of the lords who were faithful to him, but rather would do battle upon it, at the peril of life and crown."
It would have appeared that the royal army had a most decided advantage by being in possession of the town, which was well fortified, and where a stout resistance might have been made in the narrow streets; but, spite of this, the superior spirit of the commanders on the side of York triumphed over the royalists. York himself made a desperate attack on the barriers at the entrance of the town, while Warwick, searching the outskirts of the place, found, or was directed by some favouring persons to a weak spot. He made his way across some gardens, burst into the city, and came upon the royal forces where he was little expected. Aided by this diversion, York redoubled his attack on the barriers, and, notwithstanding their resolute defence by Lord Clifford, forced an entrance. Between the cries of "A York! a York!" "A Warwick! a Warwick!" confusion spread amongst the king's forces, they gave way, and fled out of the town in utter rout. The slaughter among the leaders of the royal army was terrible. The Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland, and Lord Clifford were slain; the king himself was wounded in the neck; the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Dudley in the face, and the Earl of Stafford in the arm. All these were arrow wounds, and it was plain that here again the archers had won the day. The fall or wounds of the loaders, indeed, settled the business, and saved the common soldiers; for though Hall reports that 8,000, Stowe that 5,000 men full, yet Crane, in a letter to his cousin, John Paston, written at the time, declares that there were only six-score, and Sir William Stonor states that only forty-eight were buried in St. Albans.
The king was found concealed in the house of a tanner; and there York visited him, on his knees renewed his vows of loyal affection, and congratulated Henry on the fall of the traitor Somerset. He then led the king to the shrine of St. Albans, and afterwards to his apartment in the abbey. It might have been supposed that the fallen king, being now in the hands of York and his party, the claims of York to the crown would have been asserted. But at this time York either had not really determined on seizing the throne, or did not deem the public fully prepared for so great a change. On the meeting of Parliament it was repeated that York and his friends sought only to free the king from the unpopular ministers who surrounded him, and to redress the grievances of the nation. That party complained—with what truth does not appear—that, on the very morning of the battle, they had sought to explain these views and intentions in letters, which the Duke of Somerset and Thorpe, the late Speaker of the Commons, had withhold from his grace. The king acquitted York, Salisbury, and Warwick of all evil intention, pronounced them good and loyal subjects, granting them a full pardon. The peers renewed their fealty, and Parliament was prorogued till the 12th of November. Thus the first blood had been drawn at the battle of St. Albans in these civil wars, and all appeared restored to peace. But it was a deceitful calm; rivers of blood were yet to flow.
Scarcely had Parliament reassembled when it was announced that the king had relapsed into his former condition. Both Lords and Commons refused to proceed with business till this matter was ascertained and settled. The Lords then requested York once more to resume the protectorate for the good of the nation; but this time he was not to be caught in his former snare. He professed his insufficiency for the onerous office, and bogged of them to lay its responsibilities on some more able person. He was quite safe in this course, for he had now acquired a majority in the council, and the office of chancellor and the Governorship of Calais were in the hands of his two stout friends, Salisbury and Warwick. Of course, the reply was that no one was so capable or suitable as he; and then he expressed his willingness to accept the protectorate, but only on condition that its revocation should not lie in the mere will of the king, but in the king with the consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal in Parliament assembled. The Protectorate was to devolve, as before, on the Prince of Wales, in case the malady of the king continued so long.
York might think that he was now secure from the machinations of the queen, but he was deceived. That never-resting lady was at the very moment in full activity of preparation for his defeat; and no sooner did Parliament meet after the Christmas recess than Henry again presented himself in person, announcing his restoration to health, and dissolved the protectorate. The Duke of York resigned his authority with apparent good-will. Calais and the chancellorship passed from Salisbury and Warwick to the friends of the queen; the whole Government was again on its old footing. Two years passed on in apparent peace to the nation, but in the most bitter party warfare at court. The queen and her associates could never rest while the Duke of York and his friends were permitted to escape punishment for the late outbreak. The relatives of Somerset and the Earl of Northumberland, and of the other nobles slain at St. Albans, were encouraged to demand with eagerness vengeance on the Yorkists. Both parties surrounded themselves more and more with armed retainers, and everything portended fresh acts of bloodshed and discord. The king endeavoured to avert this by summoning a great council at Coventry in 1457. There the Duke of Buckingham made a formal rehearsal of all the offences committed by York and his party; at the conclusion of which the peers fell on their knees and entreated the king to make a declaration that he would never more show grace to the Duke of York, or any other person who should oppose the power of the crown or endanger the peace of the kingdom. To this the king consented; and then the Duke of York, Salisbury, and Warwick renewed their oaths of fealty, and all the lords bound themselves never for the future to seek redress by arms, but only from the justice of the sovereign.
At the close of this council, the Duke of York retired to Wigmore, Salisbury to Middleham, and Warwick to Calais. It was soon found that, notwithstanding all these oaths and these royal endeavours, the same animosity was alive in the two hostile parties, and the king tried still farther the hopeless experiment of reconciliation. He prevailed on the leaders to meet him in London. On the 26th of January, 1458, the leaders of the York and Lancaster factions appeared in the metropolis, but they came attended by armed retainers—the Duke of York with 140 horse, the now Duke of Somerset with 200, and Salisbury with 400, besides fourscore knights and esquires. York and his friends wore admitted into the city, probably as being more under the control of the authorities; for the lord mayor, at the head of 5,000 armed citizens, undertook to maintain the peace. The Lancastrian lords were lodged in the suburbs. Every day the Yoikists met at the Blackfriars and the Lancastrians at the Whitefriars, and after communicating with each other, the result was sent to the king, who lay at Berkhamstead with several of the judges. The result of their deliberations was this:—The king, as umpire, awarded that the Duke of York, and the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, should, within two years, found a chantry for the good of the souls of the three lords slain in battle at St. Albans; that both those who slew and those who were slain at that battle should be reputed faithful subjects; that the Duke of York should pay to the dowager Duchess of Somerset and her children the sum of 5,000, and the Earl of Warwick to the Lord Clifford 1,000 marks; and that the Earl of Salisbury should release to Percy Lord Egremont all the damages he had obtained against him for an assault, on condition that the said Lord Egremont should bind himself to keep the peace for ten years.
The next day, March 25th, the king came to town, and went to St. Paul's in procession, followed by the whole court, the queen conducted by the Duke of York, and the lords of each party walking arm-in-arm before them, in token of perfect reconciliation. But real reconciliation was as distant as ever. The causes of contention lay too deep for the efforts of the simple and well-intentioned king, or even for the subtlest acts of diplomacy. It was the settled strife for a crown; and swords, not oaths, could alone decide it. The whole show was a mocking pageant. The slightest spark might any day light up a flame which would rage through the whole kingdom; and in a little more than a month such a spark fell into the combustible mass. News arrived that a large fleet of merchantmen from Lübeck had been attacked by Warwick as it passed down the Channel, and five sail of them captured, after a severe contest, and carried into Calais. As Lübeck was a town of the Hanseatic League, that powerful association—which was in amity with England—speedily sent commissioners to London demanding redress. Warwick was summoned to appear before the council; and, whilst in attendance, a quarrel arose betwixt his followers and those of the court. Warwick believed, or feigned—to escape out of the scrape into which he had fallen—that there was a design upon his life. He fled to his father, Salisbury, and York, and they resolved that their only safety lay in arms. There was a story circulated, and thoroughly believed, in the Yorkist party, that the queen, who never forgot or forgave an enemy, kept a register, written in blood, of all the Yorkist chiefs, and had vowed never to rest till they were all exterminated. In fact, both parties were arrived at that pitch of rancour which nothing could appease but the blood of their opponents. The feud was no longer confined to the nobles and their immediate retainers; the leaven of discord had pervaded the whole mass of the nation. The conflicting claims had been discussed till they had penetrated into every village, every family, into the convents of the monks, and the cottages of the poor. One party asserted that the Duke of York was an injured prince, driven from his hereditary right by an usurping family, and now sought to be destroyed by them. The other contended that, though Henry IV. had deposed Richard II., he had been the choice of the nation; that his son had made the name of England glorious; and that more than sixty years of possession of the crown was itself sufficient warrant for its retention. That the Duke of York had, over and over again, sworn eternal fealty to Henry VI., which was in itself a renunciation of any claim he might previously possess; and that, in seeking now to deprive the king of his throne, he was a perjured and worthless man. One party argued that York owed his life to the clemency of the king; and the other replied that the king equally owed his to that of York, who had him in his power at St. Albans.
While the nation was thus heating its blood by these disputes, the heads of the different factions were busy preparing to meet each other in the field. The three lords spent the winter in arousing their partisans. Warwick called around him at Calais the veterans who had fought in Normandy and Guienne. On the other hand, the court distributed in profusion collars of white swans, the badge of the young prince; and the friends of the king were invited by letters, under the privy seal, to meet him in arms at Leicester. The spring and summer had come and gone, however, before the rival parties proceeded to actual extremities. The finances of the court impeded its proceedings; and the Yorkist party still averred that it had no object but its own defence and the rescue of the Government from traitors.
At length, on the 23rd of September, 1459, the Earl of Salisbury marched forth from his castle of Middleham, in Yorkshire, to form a junction with York on the borders of Wales. Lord Audley, with a force of 10,000 men, far exceeding that of Salisbury, sought to intercept his progress at Blore Heath, in Staffordshire; but the veteran Salisbury was too subtle for his antagonist. He pretended to fly at the sight of such unequal numbers; and having thus seduced Audley to pass a deep glen and torrent, he fell upon his troops when part only were over, and, throwing them into confusion, made a dreadful slaughter of them. Some writers contend that Salisbury had only 500 men with him; but this appears incredible, for they left Lord Audley with 2,000 of his men dead on the field, and took prisoner Lord Dudley with many knights and esquires. The earl pursued his way unmolested to Ludlow, where York lay, and where they were joined in a few days by Warwick with his large reinforcement of veterans under Sir John Blount and Sir Andrew Trollop.
The king, queen, and lords of their party, had assembled an army of 60,000 men. With these they advanced to within half a mile of Ludiford, the camp of York, near Ludlow, on the 10th of October; and Henry, after all his experience, had the goodness, or the weakness, once more to renew his offers of pardon and reconciliation on condition that his opponents should submit within six days. York and his colleagues replied that they had no reliance on his promises, because those about him did not observe them, and that the Earl of Warwick, trusting to them last year, nearly lost his life. Yet they still protested that nothing but their own security caused them to arm, and that they had determined not to draw the sword against their sovereign unless they were compelled. It was concluded by the royal party to give battle on the 13th, but they found York posted with consummate military skill. His camp was defended by several batteries of cannon, which played effectively on the royal ranks as they attempted to advance. The royalists, therefore, deferred the engagement till the next morning, and were relieved from that necessity by Sir Andrew Trollop, who was marshal of the Yorkist army, going over in the night with all his Calais auxiliaries to the king. Trollop had hitherto believed the assurances of the Yorkist leaders that they sought only Government redress, and not subversion of the throne; but something had now opened his eyes, and, as he was a staunch royalist, he acted accordingly. This event struck terror and confusion through the Yorkist army. Every man was doubtful of his fellow; the confederate lords made a hasty retreat into Wales, whence York and one of his sons passed over to Ireland, and the rest followed Warwick, who hastened to Devonshire, and thence escaped again to Calais.
Nothing shows so strikingly the feeble councils of the royal camp as that these formidable foes should be permitted to decamp without any pursuit. A vigorous blow now made on the panic-struck enemy might for ever have rid the king of his mortal antagonists. But Henry, always averse to blood shedding, was no doubt glad of this unexpected escape from it, and his generals were weak enough to acquiesce. The court returned to London, and satisfied themselves with passing an act of attainder against the Duke and Duchess of York, and their sons the Earls of Marche and Rutland, against the Earl and Countess of Salisbury, and their son the Earl of Warwick, the Lord Clinton, and various knights and esquires. Even this was painful to the morbidly tender mind of Henry. He reserved to himself the right to reverse the attainder, if he thought proper, and refused to permit the confiscation of the property of Lord Powis, and two others who had thrown themselves on his clemency.
Meantime the insurgent chiefs, though dispersed, were not crushed. York had great popularity in Ireland; Warwick had a strong retreat in Calais. To deprive him of this, the Duke of Somerset was appointed governor, and, encouraged by the conduct of the Calais veterans at Ludiford, set out to drive Warwick from that city. But he met with a very different reception to that which he had calculated upon. He was assailed by a severe fire from the batteries, and compelled to stand out. On making an attempt to reach Calais from Guisnes, he found himself deserted by his sailors, who carried his fleet into Calais, and surrendered it to their favourite commander. Warwick stationed a sufficient force to watch Somerset in Guisnes, and, so little did he care for him, set out with his fleet, and dispersed two successive armaments sent to the relief of Somerset from the ports of Kent. When that was done, he sailed to Dublin, to concert measures with York, and returned in safety to Calais, having met the high-admiral, the Duke of Exeter, who at sight of him escaped into Dartmouth.
In the spring of 1460 the Yorkists, who had fled so rapidly from the royal army at Ludiford, and had seemed to vanish as a mist, were again on foot, and in a daring attitude. They had sedulously disseminated proclamations throughout the country, still protesting that they had no designs on the crown; that the king himself was so well assured of it, that he refused to ratify the act of attainder, but that he was in the hands of the enemies of the nation. These documents concluded by saying the maligned lords were resolved now to prove their loyalty in the presence of the sovereign. Following up this, Warwick landed in June, in Kent—the great stronghold of the house of York next to the marches of Wales. He had brought only 1,500 men with him, but he was accompanied by Coppini, the Pope's legate, who had been sent indeed to Henry, but was gained over by Warwick. In Kent they were joined by the Lord Cobham with 400 men; by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had received his preferment from York during his protectorate; and by a great number of knights and gentlemen of the county. As he advanced towards the capital, people flocked to him from all sides, till his army amounted to 30,000, some say 40,000 men. He entered London on the 2nd of July, and, proceeding to the convocation, prevailed on no less than five bishops to accompany him to an interview with the king, who was lying at Coventry. The legate issued a letter to the clergy, informing them that he had laid it before the king; that the Yorkists demanded nothing but personal security, peaceable enjoyment of their property, and the removal of evil counsellors. All this was calculated to turn the credulous, or to prevent their swelling the forces of the court.
Henry advanced to Northampton, where he entrenched himself in a strong camp. On arriving before it, Warwick made three successive attempts to obtain an interview with the king, but finding it unavailing, the legate excommunicated the royal party, and set up the papal banner in the Yorkist camp. For this he was afterwards recalled by the Pope, imprisoned, and degraded; but for the time it had its effect. Warwick gave the king notice that, as he would not listen to any overtures, he must prepare for battle at two in the afternoon on the 10th of July, 1460. The royal party made themselves certain of victory, but were this time confounded by Lord Grey of Ruthyn going over to the enemy, as Sir Andrew Trollop had deserted the other party at Ludlow. Grey introduced the Yorkists into the very heart of Henry's camp, and the contest was very quickly decided. Warwick ordered his followers to spare the common soldiers, and direct their attacks against the leaders; and accordingly of these there were slain 300 knights and gentlemen, including the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the Lords Beaumont and Egremont. A second time Henry fell into the hands of his rebellious subjects, but they treated him with all respect. The queen and her son escaped into Wales, and thence into Scotland, after having been plundered on the way by their own servants.
The victors then marched back to London, carrying the king along with them a captive, but with studied appearance of being still at the head of his loving subjects. He entered the city, as in triumph, Warwick riding bare-headed before him, carrying the sword. Writs were issued in his name, applauding the loyalty of the very man who had made war on and seized his person, and a Parliament was summoned for the redress of grievances, the chief of these being the acts issued last year in the Parliament at Coventry, attainting the Yorkist leaders, which, of course, were abolished. This was scarcely effected, when the Duke of York himself arrived from Ireland, at the head of 500 horse. He rode into Westminster, entered the House of Lords, and advancing to the throne, laid his hand on the gold cloth, and seemed to wait as in expectance that he should be invited to seat himself there. But no such invitation was given. In fact, it would have been to act in opposition, on the part of the peers, to all the assurances that from first to last had been made by York and his friends, that he sought no such thing. It was now, however, the intention of York to throw off the mask, and openly lay claim to the crown. The manner in which the public, both aristocracy and people, had flocked to the standard of Warwick, led him to believe that it was now safe to declare himself; but he had himself defeated, in a great measure, his own object. His constant assurances that he sought only reform, not the subversion of the royal authority, his repeated oaths of fealty, had convinced all parties, except that of his own private friends, that he was sincere in his declarations, and they esteemed him for his honourable conduct to the gentle and inoffensive king. When, therefore, he did declare his intention of seizing the crown, the astonishment and disapprobation were proportionate.
As all remained silent when he laid his hand on the throne, he turned and looked as if in expectation on the assembled nobles. The Archbishop of Canterbury, to put an end to the embarrassing dilemma, asked him if he would not pay his respects to the king, who was in the queen's apartment. York replied that he knew no one to whom he owed that title; that he was subject to no man in that realm, but, under God, was himself entitled to the sovereignty. The peers preserved a profound and discouraging silence; and York, not finding that response which he had hoped, left the house. It was, however, only to take possession of the palace as his hereditary right. Thence he sent in to the peers a written demand of the crown, tracing his descent, showing its priority to that of the line of Lancaster, and that, by every plea of right, law, and custom, the possession of the throne centred in him. To this he demanded an immediate answer. This demand was carried by the lords to the king, who, on hearing it, said, "My father was king: his father also was king. I have worn the crown forty years from my cradle; you have all sworn fealty to me as your sovereign, and your fathers have done the same to my fathers; how, then, can my right be disputed?"
The Lords resolved to take the matter into consideration, as if it were a thing to be decided by evidence, without any heat or violence. They called upon the judges to defend, to the best of their ability, the claims of the king. But the judges objected that they were judges, not advocates; that it was their business not to produce arguments, but merely to decide on such as were advanced. They declared this to be a case above the law, and only to be decided by the high court of Parliament. The Lords then called upon the king's serjeants and attorneys, who also endeavoured to escape from the dangerous task, but were not permitted, their office being, in reality, to give advice to the crown.
The Peers then proceeded to the discussion of this great question. They objected to York's claims, that he had really renounced any right given him by descent, by repeatedly swearing fealty to Henry; that the many acts of Parliament passed to sanction the right of the house of Lancaster themselves were sufficient, and had authority to defeat any measure of title; that the duke bore the arms of Edmund, the fifth son of Edward III., and not those of Lionel, the third son, from whom he claimed, showing that he himself held that to be his true descent. York replied to all those arguments, but especially to that wherein he knew the main force to lie, the effect of his own oaths. This he declared nugatory, inasmuch as those oaths were of necessity and constraint, and, therefore, acknowledged by all men in all ages to be utterly void.
The result was that the Lords came to the conclusion which the power of outward circumstances rather than their real convictions dictated.
They attempted a compromise, which, had Henry had no issue, might have succeeded, but which, as it went to disinherit the son of Henry, and much more the son of Margaret, was certain to produce fresh conflicts. The queen, whose resolute spirit would have been worthy of all admiration, had it been accompanied by a spirit of liberality and conciliation, was sure never to acquiesce in the rejection of her own son while she could move a limb, or raise a soldier. The verdict of the Lords was that York's claim was just, but should not take effect during the lifetime of the present king. The decision of the Peers was accepted by York and his two sons Marche and Rutland, who swore not to molest the king, but to maintain him on his throne; and, on the other hand, Henry gave his assent to the bill, declared any attempt on the duke high treason, and settled estates on him and his sons as the succeeding royal line.
Queen Margaret and the Robber of Hexham
But Margaret of Anjou never for a moment conceded this repudiation of the rights of her son. She upbraided Henry for his unnatural conduct, and quitting her retreat in Scotland, appeared in the midst of her northern friends, calling on them by every argument of loyalty to the throne, and security to themselves, to take the field against the traitor York. The Earl of Northumberland, the Lords Dacre, Clifford, and Neville were soon in arms. They assembled at York; and Margaret, roused to the highest state of indignation by the disinheriting of her son, put forth all her powers to attach adherents to her standard. She assumed the most fascinating affability, and lavished her caresses and her promises on all whom she came near. She excited the jealousy of the northern barons by depicting the bold assumption of the southern nobles, who had presumed to give away the crown, as if it were their own; and she promised to every one unlimited plunder of the estates and property of the people south of the Trent. Those arts and allurements speedily brought 30,000 men to her standard. The Earls of Somerset and Devon joined them there.
York and Salisbury set out in all haste from London to oppose this growing force. They seem not to have been duly informed of its real strength, for they pushed-forward with only 5,000 men. They received a rude admonitory attack at Worksop, in Nottinghamshire, on the 21st of December; but, still advancing, York threw himself, before Christmas, into the strong castle of Sandal. Here it was the evident policy of York to await the arrival of his son, the Earl of Marche, who was collecting forces in the marches of Wales; but either he was straitened for provisions, or was weak enough to be influenced by the taunts of the queen, who sent him word that it did not become the future King of England to coop himself up in a fortress, but to dare to meet those whom he dared to depose. He issued into the open country, in defiance of the earnest warnings of Salisbury and Sir David Hall, and gave battle to the queen's troops near Wakefield. The Duke of Somerset commanded the queen's army. He led on the main body himself, and gave the command of one wing to the Earl of Wiltshire, and the other to Lord Clifford, ordering them to keep concealed till the action had commenced, and then to close in upon York. This was done with such success that York, who fell with great fury on Somerset, found himself instantly surrounded. Two thousand of his men were speedily slain, and the greater part of the remainder compelled to surrender. He himself, with most of his commanders, were left dead upon the field; the veteran Salisbury was taken, conveyed to the castle of Pontefract, "with several knights and gentlemen, and there beheaded.
When the body of York was found, his head was cut off and carried to Queen Margaret, who rejoiced excessively at the sight, uttered most unfeminine reproaches upon it, and ordered it to be crowned with a paper crown in mockery, and placed upon the walls of York. Whethamstede, a contemporary, says that the duke was taken alive, and beheaded on the field. At all events, Lord Clifford brought the head to the queen, stuck upon a spear; and this ferocious nobleman, whose father was killed at the battle of St. Albans, not satisfied with this revenge, perpetrated the murder of York's son, Rutland, with a fell barbarity which has covered his name with infamy. This youth, who was but about seventeen years of age, handsome and amiable, was met by Clifford as he was endeavouring to escape across the bridge of Wakefield in the care of his tutor Sir Robert Aspall. The poor boy, seeing the bloody Clifford, fell on his knees, and entreated for mercy. The savage demanded who he was; and Aspall, thinking to save him by the avowal, said it was the younger son of York. Then swore Clifford—"As thy father slew mine, so will I slay thee, and all thy kin;" and plunging the dagger into his heart, ruthlessly bade the tutor go and tell his mother what he had done.
The spirit of "the she-wolf of France" seemed to animate all her army on this occasion. There was nothing but butchery, and exultation in it. Margaret thought she had now removed the danger in destroying York. "At this deadly blood-supping," says Hall, "there was much joy and great rejoicing: but many laughed then that sore lamented after—as the queen herself and her son; and many were glad of other men's deaths, not knowing that their own were near at hand, as the Lord Clifford and others."
Great Seal of Edward IV.
The revenge soon came. The Earl of Marche, York's eldest son, was advancing to prove that York was still alive in the new possessor of the title. Yet, before his blow of vengeance fell, Margaret had one more triumph. She had pursued her march on London after the battle of Wakefield, and had reached St. Albans. But there she came in contact with the army of Warwick. Flushed with victory, her forces fell upon the enemy. Warwick had posted himself on the low hills to the south-east of the town. The royalists penetrated to the very town cross, where they were repulsed by a strong body of archers. But they soon made their way by another street through the town, and the battle raged on the heaths lying betwixt St. Albans and Barnet. The last troops which made a stand were a body of Kentish men, who, maintaining the conflict till night, enabled the Yorkists to retreat from the victorious van, and disperse. The king was found in his tent under the care of Lord Montague, his chamberlain, where he was visited by Margaret and his son, whom he received with the liveliest joy. The Yorkists in this second battle of St. Albans, fought February 17th, 1461, lost about 2,000 men. Edward, called "the late Earl of Marche," was proclaimed a traitor, and rewards offered for his apprehension. But the success of this action was defeated by the insubordination of the troops. They were chiefly borderers, who had been led on by hopes of plunder, and had been freely promised it by Margaret and her allies. Nothing could induce them to advance further. They were only bent on ravaging the neighbourhood, and the citizens of London, alarmed at such a horde of robbers, closed their gates against them, and held out for York.
Edward was rapidly marching thitherward. He was at Gloucester when the news of the fall of his father and the atrocious murder of his brother reached him; and the intelligence arousing the Welsh borderers, they flocked to his standard, breathing vengeance. His march was harassed by a party of royalists under Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, the king's half-brother, chiefly consisting of Welsh and Irish. To free himself of them, Edward turned upon them at Mortimer's Cross, near Hereford. A dreadful battle ensued, in which Edward gained a complete victory, slaying nearly 4,000 of the royalists. Jasper Tudor, the commander, escaped; but his father, Owen Tudor, the second husband of Catherine of Valois, and ancestor of the Tudor line of sovereigns, was taken prisoner, and, with Throgmorton and seven other captains, was beheaded at Hereford, in retaliation for those who had been similarly put to death after the battle of Wakefield. The news of this butchery reaching Margaret before the battle of St. Albans, instigated her to retaliate again by the execution of Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriel, who had so much distinguished himself in France. The spirit of deadly malice was now raging betwixt the contending parties, and one deed of cruelty provoked another.
Edward found no further obstacle on his march towards London. The terrible chastisement of the royalists made a deep impression. His force grew as he advanced. He soon joined Warwick, and collected his dispersed troops. Once united, they were more than a match for the royalists. When Edward approached London, he was welcomed as a deliverer. The lawless army of the queen had carried terror wherever they came. They had plundered the town of St. Albans, and stripped its ancient abbey, and this so incensed its abbot, the chronicler Whethamstede, that he abandoned the royal party, and became a Yorkist. The queen was as impolitic as her soldiers. She threatened the people of London with her vengeance for their open preference of her enemies—a preference they had never disguised since the murder of Gloucester. She sent from Barnet into the city demanding supplies; and, though the lord mayor was inclined to comply, the people stoutly refused to let any provisions pass. A party of 400 horse were sent to enforce the demand; they plundered the northern suburbs, and would have continued their depredations in London itself, but the people fell upon them, and drove them out. Such was the situation of affairs when Edward and Warwick appeared. The gates were fully thrown open, and Edward rode in triumph into the city. He was still but in his nineteenth year, of a remarkably handsome person, of a gay and affable disposition, and reputed to be highly accomplished. The fate of his father and brother, and the recent conduct of the queen, added greatly to the interest which he excited. While Lord Falconbridge reviewed a body of troops in the fields of Clerkenwell, Neville, the Bishop of Exeter, seized the opportunity to harangue the crowded spectators. He drew a miserable picture of the imbecility of the king, of the haughty and bloody spirit of the queen, and the calamities which had resulted from both; declared that Henry, by joining the queen's forces, had violated the award of Parliament, and forfeited the crown. He then demanded whether they would still have him for king. They shouted—"No, no!" He then asked whether they would have Edward for king, and they cried—"Yes, yes! long live King Edward!"
The popular feeling being thus ascertained, a great council was convoked by the Yorkists on the 3rd of March, 1461, which confirmed the verdict of the public, declared Henry to have justly forfeited the crown by breaking his oath and joining in proceedings against the Duke of York, who had thus been slain; and on the 4th Edward rode in procession to Westminster Hall, where he mounted the throne, and made a speech to the thronging thousands, detailing the just claims of his family, according to hereditary succession. His speech was received by loud acclamations. He then adjourned to the abbey church, where he repeated the same harangue to the same consenting audience, and was duly proclaimed by the heralds in the customary form by the style and title of King Edward IV.
Thus terminated the reign of Henry VI., but neither his life, nor the strife and troubles which attended it.