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after they had travelled and quarrelled all the way from South-
wark to Blackheath, and from Blackheath to Rochester, he
mounted a good horse, and galloped away into Sussex. But
there galloped after him, on a better horse, one Alexander Iden,
who came up with him, had a hard fight with him, and killed
him. Jack's head was set aloft on London Bridge, with the
face looking towards Blackheath, Vvhere he had raised his flag ;
and Alexander Iden got the thousand marks.

It is supposed by some that the Duke of York, who had
been removed from a high post abroad through the queen's in-
fluence, and sent out of the way to govern Ireland, was at the
bottom of this rising of Jack and his men, because he wanted
to trouble the government, He claimed (though not yet pub'
licly) to have a better right to the throne than Henry of Lan-
caster, as one of the family of the Earl of March, whom Henry
the Fourth had set aside. Touching this claim, which, being
through female relationship, was not according to the usual
descent, it is enough to say that Henry the Fourth was the
free choice of the people and the parliament, and that his fam-
ily had now reigned undisputed for sixty years. The memory
of Henry the Fifth was so famous, and the English people loved
it so much, that the Duke of York's claim would, perhaps,
never have been thought of (it would have been so hopeless) but
for the unfortunate circumstance of the present king's being by
this time quite an idiot, and the country very ill-governed.
These two circumstances gave the Duke of York a power he
could not otherwise have had.

Whether the duke knew anything of Jack Cade, or not, he
came over from Ireland while Jack's head was on London
Bridge ; being secretly advised that the aueen was setting up


his enemy, the Duke of Somerset, against him. He went to
Westminster at the head of four thousand men, and on his
knees before the king, represented to liim the bad state of the
country, and petitioned him to summon a parliament to consider
it. This the king promised. When the parliament was sum-
moned, the Duke of York accused the Duke of Somerset, and
the Duke of Somerset accused the Duke of York ; and, both
in and out of parliament, the followers of each party were full
of violence and hatred towards the other. At length, the Duke
of York put himself at the head of a large force of his tenants,
and in arms, demanded the reformation of the government.
Being shut out of London, he encamped at Dartford, and the
royal army encamped at Blackheath. According as either side
triumphed, the Duke of York was arrested, or the Duke of
Somerset was arrested. The trouble ended, for the moment, in
the Duke of York renewing his oath of allegiance, and going in
peace to one of his own castles.

Half a year afterwards the queen gave birth to a son, who
was very ill received by the people, and not believed to be
the son of the king. It shows the Duke of York to have been
a moderate man, unwilling to involve England in new troubles,
that he did not take advantage of the general discontent at this
time, but really acted for the public good. He was made a mem-
ber of the cabinet ; and the king being now so much worse that he
could not be carried about and shown to the people with any de-
cency, the duke was made Lord Protector of the kingdom, until
the king should recover, or the prince should come of age. At
the same time the Duke of Somerset was committed to the
Tower. So now the Duke of Somerset was down, and the
Duke of York was up. By the end of the year, however, the
king recovered his memory and some spark of sense ; upon
which the queen used her power, which recovered with him, to
get the Protector disgraced, and her favorite released. So now
the Duke of York was down, and the Duke of Somerset was up.

These ducal ups and downs gradually separated the whole
nation into the two parties of York and Lancaster, and led to
those terrible civil wars long known as the Wars of the Red
and White Roses, because the red rose was the badge of the
House of Lancaster, and the white rose was the badge of the
House of York.

The Duke of York, joined by some other powerful noblemen
of the White Rose party, and leading a small army, met the
king with another small army at St. Alban's, and demanded that
the Duke of Somerset should be given up. The poor king, be-


ing made to say in answer that he would sooner die, was in-
stantly attacked. The Duke of Somerset was killed ; and the
king himself was wounded in the neck, and took refuge in the
house of a poor tanner. Whereupon the Duke of York went
to him, led him with great submission to the abbey, and said
he was very sorry for what had happened. Having now the
king in his possession, he got a parliament summoned, and him-
self once more made Protector, but only for a few months \
for, on the king getting a little better again, the queen and her
party got him into their possession, and disgraced the duke
once more. So now the Duke of York was down again.

Some of the best men in power, seeing the danger of these
constant changes, tried even then to pi event the Red and the
White Rose W^ars. They brought about a great council in
London between the two parties. The White Roses assembled
in Blackfriars, the Red Roses in Whitefriars ; and some good
priests communicated between them, and made the proceedings
known at evening to the king and the judges. They ended in
a peaceful agreement that there should be no more quarrelling ;
and there was a great royal procession to St. Paul's, in which
the queen walked arm in arm with her old enemy, the Duke
of York, to show the people how comfortable they all were.
This state of peace lasted half a year, when a dispute between
ihe Earl of Warwick (one of the duke's powerful friends) and
some of the king's servants at court led to an attack upon that
^arl, — who was a White Rose, — and to a sudden breaking-out
of all old animosities. So here were greater ups and downs than

There were even greater ups and downs than these sook
after. After various battles, the Duke of York fled to Ireland,
and his son, the Earl of March, to Calais, with their friends,
the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick ; and a parliament was held
declaring them all traitors. Little the worse for this, the Earl
of Warwick presently came back, landed in Kent, was joined
by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other powerful noblemen
and gentlemen, engaged the king's forces at Northampton, sig-
nally defeated them, and took the king himself prisoner, who
was found in his tent. Warwick would have been glad, I dare-
say, to have taken the queen and prince too ; but they escaped
into Wales, and thence into Scotland.

The king was carried by the victorious force straight to
London, and made to call a new parliament, which immediately
declared that the Duke of York and those other noblemen
were not traitors, but excellent subjects. Then back comes


the duke from Ireland at the head of five hundred horsemen,
rides from London to Westminster, and enters the House of
Lords. There he laid his hand upon the cloth of gold which
covered the empty thrOne, as if he had half a mind to sit down
in it; but he did not. On the Archbishop of Canterbury ask-
ing him if he would visit the king, who was in his palace close
by, he replied, " I know no one in this country, my lord, who
ought not to visit w^." None of the lords present spoke a
single word ; so the duke went out as he had come in, estab-
lished himself royally in the king's palace, and, six days after-
wards, sent in to the lords a formal statement of his claim to
the throne. The lords went to the king on this momentous sub-
ject ;.and after a great deal of discussion, in which the judges and
the other law-ofBcers were afraid to give an opinion on either
side, the question was compromised. It was agreed that the
present king should retain the crown, for his life, and that it
should then pass to the Duke of York and his heirs.

But the resolute queen, determined on asserting her son's
right, would hear of no such thing. She came from Scotland
to the north of England, where several powerful lords armed in
her cause. The Duke of York, for his part, set off with some
five thousand men, a little time before Christmas day, 1460, to
give her battle. He lodged at Sandal Castle, near Wakefield ;
and the Red Rose defied him to come out on Wakefield Green,
and fight them then and there. His generals said he had best
wait until his galbnt son, the Earl of March, came up with his
power ; but he w is determined to accept the challenge. He
did so in an evil hour. He was hotly pressed on all sides,
two thousand of his men lay dead on Wakefield Green, and he
himself was taken prisoner. They set him down in mock state
on an ant-hill, and twisted grass about his head, and pretended
to pay court to him on their knees, saying, " O King ! without
a kingdom, and Prince ! without a people, we hope your gra-
cious Majesty is very well and happy." They did worse than
this ; they cut his head off, and handed it on a pole to the
queen, who laughed with delight when she saw it, (you recol-
lect their walking so religiously and comfortably to St. Paul's !)
and had it fixed, with a paper crown upon its head, on the
walls of York. The Earl of Salisbury lost his head too ; and
the Duke of York's second son, a handsome boy, who was fly-
ing with his tutor over Wakefield Bridge, was stabbed in the
heart by a murderous lord, — Lord ClilTord by name, — whose
father had been killed by the White Roses in the fight at St.
Alban's. There was awful sacrifice of life in this battle \ for


no quarter was given, and the queen was wild for revenge.
When men unnaturally fight against their own countrymen,
they are always observed to be more unnaturally cruel and
filled with rage than they are against any other enemy.

But Lord Ciiflord had stabbed the second son of the Duke
of York, not the first. The eldest son, Edward, Earl of March,
was at Gloucester; and, vowing vengeance for the death of his
father, his brother, and their faithful friends, he began to march
against the queen. He had to turn and fight a great body of
Welsh and Irish first, who worried his advance. These he de-
feated in a great fight at Mortimer's Cross, near Hereford,
where he beheaded a number of the Red Roses taken in battle,
in retaliation for the beheading of the White Roses at Wake-
field. The queen had the next turn of beheading. Having
moved towards London, and falling in, between St. Alban's
and Barnet, with the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Nor-
folk, White Roses both, who were there with an army to oppose
her, and had got the king with them, she defeated them with
great loss, and struck off the heads of two prisoners of note,
who were in the king's tent with him, and to whom the king had
promised his protection. Her triumph, however, was very
short. She had no treasure, and her army subsisted by plun-
der. This caused them to be hated and dreaded by the peo-
ple, and particularly by the London people, who were wealthy.
As soon as the Londoners heard that Edward, Earl of March,
united with the Earl of Warwick, was advancing towards the city,
they refused to send the queen supplies, and made a great re-

The queen and her men retreated with all speed ; and
Edward and Warwick came on, greeted with loud acclamations
on every side. The courage, beauty, and virtues of young
Edward could not be sufficiently praised by the whole people.
He rode into London like a conqueror, and met with an en-
thusiastic welcome. A few days afterwards. Lord Falconbridge
and the Bishop of Exeter assembled the citizens in St. John's
Field, Clerkenwell, and asked them if they would have Henry
of Lancaster for their king .'* To this they all roared, " No,
no, no ! " and " King Edward ! King Edward ! " Then, said
those noblemen, would they love and serve young Edward t
To this they all cried, " Yes, yes ! " and threw up their caps,
and clapped their hands, and cheered tremendously.

Therefore it was declared, that, by joining the queen, and
not protecting those two prisoners of note, Henry of Lancaster
had forfeited the crown ; and Edward of York was proclaimed


king. He made a great speech to the applauding people at
Westminster, and sat down as sovereign of England on that
throne, on the golden covering of which his father — worthy
of a better fate than the bloody axe which cut the thread of
so many lives in England, through so many years — had laid
his hand.



King Edward the Fourth was not quite twenty-one
years of age when he took that unquiet seat upon the throne
of England. The Lancaster party, the Red Roses, were
then assembling in great numbers near York, and it was
necessary to give them battle instantly. But the stout Ear"
of Warwick, leading for the young king, and the young king
himself closely following him, and the English people crowd-
ing round the royal standard, the White and the Red Roses
met, on a wild March day, when the snow was falling heavily,
at Towton; and there such a furious battle raged between
them that the total loss amounted to forty thousand men —
all Englishmen, fighting upon English ground, against one
another. The young king gained the day, took down the
heads of his father and brother from the walls of York, and
put up the heads of some of the most famous noblemen en-
gaged in the battle on the other side. Then he went to
London, and was crowned with great splendor.

A new parliament met. No fewer than one hundred and
fifty of the principal noblemen and gentlemen on the Lan-
caster side were declared traitors; and the king, who had
very little humanity, though he was handsome in person
and agreeable in manner, resolved to do all he could to
pluck up the Red Rose^ root and branch.

Queen Margaret, hcwever, was still active for her young
son. She obtained heip from Scotland and from Normandy,
and took several important English castles. But W^arwick
soon retook them; the queen lost all her treasure on board
ship in a great storm ; and both she and her son suffered great
misfortunes. Once in tiie winter weather, as they were riding


through a forest, they were attacked and plundered by a party
of robbers , and when they had escaped from these men, and
were passing alone and on foot through a thick, dark part of the
wood they came, all at once, upon another robber. So the
queen, with a stout heart, took the little prince by the hand,
and going straight up to that robber, said to him, " My friend,
this is the youngest son of your lawful king ! I confide him to
your care." The robber was surprised, but took the boy in
his arms, and faithfully restored him and his mother to their
friends. In the end, the queen's soldiers being beaten and
dispersed, she went abroad again, and kept quiet for the

Now, all this time, the deposed King Henry was concealed
by a Welsh knight, who kept him close in his castle. But
next year the Lancaster party recovering their spirits, raised
a large body of men, and called him out of his retirement to
put him at their head. They v;ere joined by some powerful
noblemen who had sworn fidelity to the new king, but who
were ready, as usual, to break their oaths whenever they
thought there was anything to be got by it. One of the worst
things in the history of the war of the Red and White Roses is
the ease with which these noblemen, who should have set an
example of honor to the people, left either side as they took
slight ofifence, or were disappointed in their greedy expecta-
tions and joined the other. Well, Warwick's brother soon
beat the Lancastrians ; and the false noblemen being taken,
were beheaded without a moment's loss of time. The deposed
king had a narrow escape ; three of his servants were taken ;
and one of them bore his cap of estate, which was set with
pearls, and embroidered with two golden crowns. However,
the head to which the cap belonged got safely into Lancashire,
and lay pretty quietly there (the people in the secret being
very true) for more than a year. At length an old monk gave
such intelligence as led to Henry's being taken while he was
sitting at dinner in a place called Wadington Hall. He was
immediately sent to London, and met at Islington by the Earl
of Warwick, by whose directions he was put upon a horse with
his legs tied under it, and paraded three times round the pil-
lory. Then he was carried off to the Tower, where they
treated him well enough.

The White Rose being so triumphant, the young king
abandoned himself entirely to pleasure, and led a jovial life.
But thorns were springing up under his bed of roses, as he
soon found out ; for having been privately married to Elizabeth


V/oodville, a young widow lady, very beautiful and very cap-
tivating, and at last resolving to make his secret known and
to declare her his queen, he gave some offence to the Earl of
Warwick, who was usually called the Kingmaker, because of
jjis power and influence, and because of his having lent
such great help to placing Edward on the throne. This of-
fence was not lessened by the jealousy with which the
Nevil family (the Earl of Warwick's) regarded the promo-
lion of the Woodville family. For the young queen was so
bent on providing for her relations, that she made her
tather an earl and a great officer of state, married hei five
sisters to young noblemen of the highest rank, and provided
/or her younger brother, a young man of twenty, by marrying
him to an immensely rich old duchess of eighty. The Earl of
U'arwick took all this preity graciously for a man of his proud
temper, until the question arose to whom the king's sister,
Margaret, should be married. The Earl of Warwick said,
-' To one of the French king's sons," and was allowed to go
over to the French king to make friendly proposals for that
purpose, and to hold all manner of friendly interviews with him.
But while he was so engaged, the Woodville party married the
young lady to the Duke of Burgundy. Upon this he came
back in great rage and scorn, and shut himself up discontented
in his castle at Middleham.

A reconciliation, though not a very sincere one, was patched
up between the Earl of Warwick and the king, and lasted until
the earl married his daughter, against the king's wishes, to the
Duke of Clarence. While the marriage was being celebrated
at Calais, the people in the north of England, where the influ-
ence of the Nevil family was strongest, broke out into re-
bellion ; their complaint was, that England was oppressed and
plundered by the Woodville family, whom they demanded to
have removed from power. As they were joined by great num-
bers of people, and as they openly declared that they were sup-
ported by the Earl of Warwick, the king did not know what to
do. At last, as he wrote to the earl beseeching his aid, Is
and his new son-in-law came over to England, and began to
arrange the business by shutting the king up in Middleham
Castle in the safe keeping of the Archbishop of York; so
England was not only in the strange position of having two
kings at once, but they were both prisoners £t the same time.

Even as yet, however, the Kingmaker w?.*3 so far true to the
king, that he dispersed a new rising of the Lancastrians, took
their leader prisoner, and brought him to the king, "jvho or*


deredhimtobe immediately executed. He presently allowed
the king to return to London, and there innumerable pledges
of forgivenness and friendship were exchanged between them,
and between the Nevils and the Woodvilles ; the king's eldest
daughter was promised in marriage to the heir of the Nevil
family , and more friendly oaths were sworn, and more friendly
proTiises made, than this book would hold.

They lasted about three months. At the end of that time,
the Archbishop of York made a feast for the king, the Earl of
Waiwick and the Duke of Clarence, at his house, the Moor,
in Hertfordshire. The king was washing his hands before
supper, when some one whispered him that a body of a hun-
dred men were lying in ambush outside the house. Whether
this were true or untrue, the king took fright mounted his
horse, and rode through the dark night to Windsor Castle.
Another reconciliation was patched up between him and the
Kingmaker ; but it was a short one, and it was the last. A
new rising took place in Lincolnshire, and the king marched
to repress it. Having done so, he proclaimed that both the
Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence were traitors, who
had secretly assisted it, and who had been prepared publicly
to join it on the following day. In these dangerous circum-
tances, they both took ship and away to the French court.

And here a meeting took place between the Earl of War-
wick and his old enemy, the Dowager Queen Margaret, through
whom his father had had his head struck off, and to whom he
had been a bitter foe. But now, when he said that he had
done with the ungrateful and perfidious Edward of York, and
that henceforth he devoted himself to the restoration of the
House of Lancaster, either in the person of her husband or of
her little son, she embraced him as if he had ever been her
dearest friend. She did more than that \ she married her son
to his second daughter, the Lady Anne. However agreeable
ihis marriage was to the new friends, it was very disagreeable to
the Duke of Clarence, who perceived that his father-in-law, the
Kingmaker, would never make him king now. So, being but a
weak-minded young traitor, possessed of very little worth or
sense, he readily listened to an artful court-lady sent over for
the purpose, and promised to turn traitor once more, and go
over to his brother. King Edward, when a fitting opportunity
should come.

The Earl of Warwick, knowing nothing of this, soon re-
deemed his promise to the Dowager Queen Margaret, by
invading England, and landing at Plymouth, where he instantly


proclaimed King Henry, and summoned all Englishmen be-
tween the ages of sixteen and sixty to join his banner. Then with
his army increasing as he marched along, he went northward,
and came so near King Edward, who was in that part of the
country, that Edward had to ride hard for it to the coast of
Norfolk, and thence to get away, in such ships as he could find,
to Holland, Thereupon the triumphant Kingmaker and his
false son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, went to London, took
the old king out of the Tower, and walked him in a great pro-
cession to St. Paul's Cathedral with the crown upon his head.
This did not improve the temper of the Duke of Clarence, who
saw himself farther off from being king than ever \ but he kept
his secret, and said nothing. The Nevil family were restored
to all their honors and glories, and the VVoodvilles and the rest
were disgraced. The Kingmaker, less sanguinary than the
king, shed no blood except that of the Earl of Worcester, who
had been so cruel to the people as to have gained the title of the
Butcher. Him they caught hidden in a tree, and him they
tried and executed. No other death stained the Kingmaker's

To dispute this triumpli, back came King Edward again,
next year, landing at Ravenspur, coming on to York, causing
all his men to cry " Long live King Henry I " and swearing on
the altar, without a blush, that he came to lay no claim to the
Crown. Now was the time for the Duke of Clarence, who
ordered his men to assume the White Rose, and declare for his
brother. The Marquis of Montague, though the Earl of War-
wick's brother, also declining to fight King Edward, he went
on successfully to London, where the Archbishop of York let
him into the city, and where the people made great demonstra-
tions hi his favor. For this they had four reasons. Firstly,
there were great numbers of the king's adherents hiding in
the city and ready to break out ; secondly, the king owed
them a great deal of money, which they could never hope
to get if he were unsuccessful ; thirdly, there was a 3'oung
prince to inherit the crown ; and fourthly, the king was gay
and handsome, and more popular than a better man might
have been with the city ladies. After a stay of only two days
with these worthy supporters, the king marched out to Barnet

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 20 of 38)