Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 26.djvu/68

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for the first time for many years the commons and the council were at one. After Easter parliament reassembled at Westminster. On 2 July Henry thanked the commons in person for their liberal grants, and prorogued the session till November. But the hollowness of the pacification at home and the unreality of the last effort of England abroad were soon apparent.

Henry proposed to devote the summer to an extended progress. He left London for Clarendon, a hunting seat in the New Forest. Here he was suddenly (Wyrcester, p. 771) smitten with an illness that made him equally impotent in mind and body (Chron. Giles, p. 44, says his illness began on 6 July. A contemporary almanac quoted by Gairdner, Paston Letters, i. xcvii, dates it as 10 Aug.). Besides the absolute loss of his reason and memory, he could neither walk, move, nor even stand erect (Whethamstede, i. 163). In July Shrewsbury was slain at Castillon, and before the end of the year all Guienne was finally lost. On 13 Oct. the queen gave birth to her only son, Edward.

The loss of Guienne was a final blow to the influence of Somerset. The birth of an heir cut off York's prospects of a peaceful succession to the throne, and occasioned all sorts of slanders against the queen. Henry's illness involved a regency, and Margaret and York were rivals for the position. For a time the council went on as in the days of the minority, governing, or trying to govern, in Henry's name. But even the existing parliament, which reassembled at Westminster in February 1454, was now friendly to York, who, as king's lieutenant, opened the session. Somerset had been in custody since December, while Margaret's claim to be regent was quietly put aside. The commons pressed for a new council.

Henry was now at Windsor, a hopeless idiot, ignorant even of the birth of his son. In January 1454 Buckingham and the queen presented the child to him, but he gave no sign of intelligence (Paston Letters, i. 263–4). On 15 March the council ordered a commission to be issued to three physicians and two surgeons empowering them to administer a formidable list of medicines to the king (Ord. P. C. vi. 166–7). But on 22 March the death of Cardinal Kemp brought matters to a crisis. A rumour spread abroad that the king was getting better (Paston Letters, i. 275). The next day a committee of lords was sent to Windsor to report on his health. They reached Windsor after the king had dined, and found him very weak and quite speechless (Rot. Parl. v. 240–1). On 27 March the lords ended the crisis by electing York protector until the prince came of age or as long as the king pleased. York kept Somerset in prison, vigorously endeavoured to put down private war, and succeeded in defending Calais and Jersey from French attack.

About Christmas-time Henry began to show signs of returning sanity. On 27 Dec. he sent offerings to the churches of Canterbury and Westminster. On 30 Dec. the queen brought the Prince of Wales to him. Henry recognised them, and declared that since his illness began he had not understood anything that was said to him till that time (Paston Letters, i. 315). On 7 Jan. Bishop Waynflete and the prior of St. John's visited him, and found him quite sensible and able to engage in his pious exercises.

Henry's restoration to sanity was a calamity. The last hope of good government was destroyed by the termination of York's protectorate. Somerset was released in February 1455, and restored to his old offices. The ministers were changed, and York excluded from the council. Margaret and Somerset had learnt nothing from adversity, and the king simply registered their will.

York and the Nevilles raised an army in the north, and marched on London. On 21 May Duke Richard sent from Ware a letter to Henry protesting his loyalty (Whethamstede, i. 184–6), but Somerset intercepted it before it reached the king. On the same day Henry set out from London at the head of two thousand men, and rested for the night at Watford. Early on the 22nd the two hosts marched from Ware and Watford respectively to St. Albans. Henry occupied St. Peter's Street, while York lay outside the town. For three hours the hosts faced each other, York demanding in vain an interview with Henry. But Henry swore by St. Edward he would slay all traitors. About noon the Yorkists attacked and easily carried the town. Somerset was slain, and Henry, wounded in the neck by an arrow, was captured in a tanner's cottage. York took him to St. Alban's shrine, and then to his room. But the victorious earls fell on their knees and declared themselves Henry's true liegemen. Henry changed his tone with his advisers. Next day he was taken to London ‘as a king and not as a prisoner’ (Gregory, p. 198). ‘There he kept residence with joy and solemnity’ (Paston Letters, i. 327–34, and Whethamstede, i. 167–71, give the best accounts of the battle).

York was now supreme. Henry had not been seriously hurt by his wound (Paston Letters, i. 334), but was much agitated. In June he was again labouring ‘under sickness and infirmity,’ and his physicians were called