Charles Dickens.

A child's history of England online

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Common to give the Earl of Warwick battle. And now it was
*-2 be seen, for the last time, whether the king or the King-
maker was to carry the day.

While the battle was yet pending, the faint-hearted Duke of
Clarence be^an to repent^ and sent over secret messages to his


father-in-law, offering his services in mediation with the king-
But the Earl of Warwick disdainfully rejected them, and re-
plied that Clarence was false and perjured, and that he would
settle the quarrel by the sword. The battle began at four
o'clock in the morning, and lasted until ten ; and during the
greater part of the time it was fought in a thick mist, absurdly
supposed to be raised by a magician. The loss of life was very
great, for the hatred was strong on both sides. The Kingmaker
was defeated, and the king triumphed. Both the Earl of War-
wick and his brother were slain ; and their bodies lay in St.
Paul's for some days, as a spectacle to the people.

Margaret's spirit was not broken even by this great blow.
Within five days she was in arms again, and raised her stand-
ard in Bath, whence she set off with her army to try and join
Lord Pembroke, who had a force in Wales. But the king
coming up with her outside the town of Tewkesbur}% and order-
ing his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who was a brave
soldier, to attack her men, she sustained an entire defeat, and
was taken prisoner, together with her son, now only eighteen
years of age. The conduct of the king to this poor youth was
worthy of his cruel character. He ordered him to be led into
his tent. " And what," said he, " brought you to England ? "
" I came to England," replied the prisoner, with a spirit which
a man of spirit might have admired in a captive, " to recover
my father's kingdom, which descended to him as his right, and
from him descends to me as mine." The king, drawing off his
iron gauntlet, struck him with it in the face ; and the Duke of
Clarence and some other lords, who were there, drew their noble
swords and killed him.

His mother survived him a prisoner, for five years ; after
her ransom by the King of France, she survived for six years
more. Within three weeks of this murder, Henry died one of
those convenient sudden deaths which were so common in the
Tower ; in plainer words, he was murdered by the king's

Having no particular excitement on his hands after this
great defeat of the Lancaster party, and being, perhaps, desirous
to get rid of some of his fat (for he was now getting too cor-
pulent to be handsome), the king thought of making war on
Fra^nce. As he wanted more money for this purpose than the
Parliament could give him, though they were usually ready
enough for war, he invented a new way of raising it, by send-
ing for the principal citizens of London, and telling them with
a grave face that he was very much in want of cash, and would



take it very kind in them if they would lend him soir.e. It
being impossible for them safely to refuse, they complied ; and
the moneys thus forced from them were called — no doubt to
the great amusement of the king and the court, — as if they
were free gifts, " benevolences." What with grants from
Parliament, and what with benevolences, the king raised an
army, and passed over to Calais. As nobody wanted war, how-
ever, the French king made proposals of peace, which were
accepted ; and a truce was concluded for seven long years.
The proceedings between the kings of France and P^ngland on
this occasion were very friendly, very splendid, and very dis-
trustful. They finished with a meeting between the two kings,
on a temporary bridge over the river Somme, where they em-
braced through two holes in a strong wooden grating, like a
lion's cage, and made several bows and fine speeches to one

It was now time that the Duke of Clarence should be pun
ished for his treacheries ; and Fate had his punishment in store.
He was, probably, not trusted by the king \ (for who coukLtrust
him who knew him ?) and he had certainly a powerful opponent
in his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who being avari-
cious and ambitious, wanted to marry that widowed daughter
of the Earl of War^ , ick's who had been espoused to the de-
ceased young prince at Calais. Clarence, who wanted all the
family wealth for himself, secreted this lady, whcTm Richard
found disguised as a servant in the City of London, and whom
he married \ arbitrators appointed by the king then divided the
property between the brothers. This led to ill-will and mis-
trust between them. Clarence's wife dying, and he wishing to
make another marriage which was obnoxious to the king, his
ruin was hurried by that means too. At first the court struck
at his retainers and dependents, and accused some of ll.em of
magic and witchcraft, and similar nonsense. Successful against
this small game, it then mounted to the duke himself, who was
impeached by his brother, the king in person, on a variety of
such charges. He was found guilty, and sentenced to be pub-
licly executed. He never was publicly executed ; but he met
his death somehow in the Tower, and, no doubt, through some
agency of the king or his brother Gloucester, or both. It was
supposed at the time that he was told to choose the manner of his
death, and that he chose to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey
wine. I hope the story may be true \ for it would have been
a becoming death for such a miserable creature.

The ku^ survived him some five years. He died in the


forty-second year of his life, and the twenty-third of his reign.
He had a very good capacity, and some good points ; but he
was selfish, careless, sensual, and cruel. He was a favorite
with the people for his showy manners, and the people were
a good example to him in the constancy of their attachment.
He was penitent on his death-bed, for his " benevolences " and
other extortions, and ordered restitution to be made to the
people who had suffered from them. He also called about his
bed the enriched members of the Woodville family, and tlie
proud lords whose honors were of older date, and endeavored
to reconcile them for the sake of the peaceful succession of his
son, and the tranquillity of England.



The late king's eldest son, the Prince of Wales, called Ed-
ward, after him, was only thirteen years of age at his father's
death. He was at Ludlow Castle with his uncle, the Earl of
Rivers The prince's brother, the Duke of York, only eleven
years of age, was in London with his mother. The boldest, most
crafty and most dreaded nobleman in England at that time was
their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and everybody won-
dered how the two poor boys would fare with such an uncle,
for a friend or a foe.

The queen their mother, being exceedingly uneasy about
this, was anxious that instructions should be .sent to Lord Rivers
to raise an army to escort the young king safely to London.
But Lord Hastings, who was of the court party opposed to the
Woodvilles, and who disliked the thought of giving them that
power, argued against the proposal, and obliged the queen to
be satisfied with an escort of two thousand horse. The Duke
of Gloucester did nothing, at first, to justify suspicion. He
came from Scotland (where he was commanding an army) to
York, and was there the fi^st to swear allegiance to his nephew.
He then wrote a condoliL^* letter to the queen-mother, and set
off to be present at the coronation in London.

Now the young king, journeying towards London too, with
Lord Rivers and Lord Gray, came to Stony Stratford as his


uncle came to Northampton, about ten miles distant ; and
when those two lords heard that the Duke of Gloucester was so
near, they proposed to the young king that they should go back
and greet him in his name. The boy being very willing that
they should do so ; they rode off and were received with great
friendliness, and asked by the Duke of Gloucester to stay and
dine with him. In the evening, while they were merry together,
up came the Duke of Buckingham with three hundred horse-
men ; and next morning the two lords, and the two dukes, and
the three hundred horsemen rode away together to rejoin the
king. Just as they were entering Stony Stratford, the Duke of
Gloucester, checking his horse, turned suddenly on the two
lords, charged them with alienating from him the affections of
his sweet nephew, and caused them to be arrested by the three
hundred horsemen and taken back. Then he and the Duke of
Buckingham went straight to the king (whom they had now in
their power), to whom they made a show of kneeling down, and
offering great love and submission ; and then they ordered his
attendants to disperse, and took him, alone with them, to

A few days afterwards they conducted him to London, and
lodged him in the bishop's palace. But he did not remain
there long, for the Duke of Buckingham, with a tender face,
made a speech, expressing how anxious he was for the royal
boy's safety, and how much safer he would be in the Tower
until his coronation, than he could be anywhere else. So to
the Tower he was taken, very carefully, and the Duke of Glou-
cester was named Protector of the State.

Although Gloucester had proceeded thus far with a very
smooth countenance, and although he was a clever man, fair
of speech, and not ill-looking, in spite of one of his shoulders
being something higher than the other; and although he had
come into the city riding bare-headed at the king's side, and
looking very fond of him, — he had made the king's mother more
uneasy yet, and, when the royal boy was taken to the Tower,
she became so alarmed, that she took sanctuary in Westminster
with her five daughters.

Nor did she do this without reason ; for the Duke of Glou-
cester, finding that the lords who were opposed to the Woodville
family were faithful to the young king nevertheless, quickly re-
solved to strike a blow for himself. Accordingly, while those
lords met in council at the Tower, he and those who were in
his interest met in separate council at his own residence, Crosby
Palace, in Bishopsgate Street. Being at last quite prepared.


he one day appeared unexpectedly at the council in the Tower,
and appeared to be very jocular and merry. He was particu-
larly gay with the Bishop of Ely ; praising the strawberries that
grew in his garden on Holborn Hill, and asking him to have
some gathered that he might eat them at dinner. The bishop,
quite proud of the honor, sent one of his men to fetch some ;
and the duke, still very jocular and gay, went out, and the
council all said what a very ageeeable duke he was ! In a
little time, however, he came back quite altered ; not at all
jocular, frowning and fierce, and suddenly said, —

" What do those persons deserve who have compassed my
destruction ; I being the king's lawful, as well as natural, pro-
tector ? "

To this strange question Lord Hastings replied, that they
deserved death, whosoever they were.

"Then," said the duke, " I tell 5^ou that they are the sor
ceress my brother's wife," meaning the queen, " and that other
sorceress, Jane Shore, — who, by witchcraft, have withered my
body, and caused my arm to shrink as I now show you."

He then puHed up his sleeve, and showed them his arm,
which was shrunken, it is true, but which had been so, as they
all very well knew, from the hour of his birth.

Jane Shore, being then the lover of Lord Hastings, as she
had formerly been of the late king, that lord knew that he him-
self was attacked. So he said, in some confusion, " Certainly,
my lord, if they have done this, they be worthy of punishment."

"If } " said the Duke of Gloucester. " Do you talk to me
of ifs ? I tell you that they have so done ; and I will make it
good upon thy body, thou traitor ! "

With that he struck the table a great blow with his fist. This
was a signal to some of his people outside to cry, " Treason ! "
They immediately did so, and there was a rush into the chamber
of so many armed men that it was filled in a moment,
i " First," said the Duke of Gloucester to Lord Hastings, " I
arrest thee, traitor ! And let him," he added to the armed men
who took him, " have a priest at once ; for, by St. Paul, I will
not dine until I have seen his head off ! "

Lord Hastings was hurried to the green by the Tower chapel,
and there beheaded on a log of wood that happened to be lying
on the ground. Then the duke dined with a good appetite ; and
after dinner, summoning the principal citizens to attend him,
told them that Lord Hastings, and the rest, had designed to
murder both himself and the Duke of Buckingham who stood
by his side, if he had not providentially discovered their design.



He requested them to be so obliging as to inform their fellow-
citizens of the truth of what he said, and issued aproclama'^.on
(prepared and neatly copied out beforehand) to the same

On the same day that the duke did these things in the
Tower, Sir Richard Ratcliffe, the boldest and most undaunted
of men, went down to Pontefract, arrested Lord Rivers, Lord
Gray, and two other gentlemen, and publicly executed them
on the scaffold, without any trial, for having intended the
duke's death. Three days afterwards, the duke, not to lose
time, went down the river to Westminster in his barge, attended
by divers bishops, lords, and soldiers, and demanded that the
queen should deliver her second son, the Duke of York, into
his safe-keeping. The queen, being obliged to comply, resigned
the child after she had wept over him , and Richard of Glou-
cester placed him with his brother in the Tower. Then he
siezed Jane Shore ; and, because she had been the lover of
the late king, confiscated her property, and got her sentenced
to do public penance in the streets, by walking in a scanty
dress, with bare feet, and carrying a lighted candle, to St.
Paul's Cathedral, through the most crowded part of the city.

Having now all things ready for his own advancement, he
caused a friar to preach a sermon at the cross which stood in
front of St. Paul's Cathedral, in which he dwelt upon the prof-
ligate manners of the late king, and upon the l^te shame of
Jane Shore, and hinted that the princes were not his children.
" Whereas, good people,' said the friar, whose name was
Shaw, " my Lord the Protector, the noble Duke of Gloucester,
that sweet prince, the pattern of all the noblest virtues, is the
perfect image and express likness of his father." There had
been a little plot between the duke and the friar, that the duke
should appear in the crowd at this moment, when it was ex-
pected that the people would cry, "Long live King Richard ! "
But either through the friar saying the words too soon, or
through the duke's coming too late, the duke and the words
did not come together, and the people only laughed, and the
friar sneaked off ashamed.

The Duke of Buckingham was a better hand at such busi-
ness than the friar ; so he went to the Guildhall the next day,
and addressed the citizens in the Lord Protector's behalf. A
few dirty men who had been hired and stationed there for the
purpose, crying, when he had done, " God save King Richard ! "
he made them a great bow, and thanked them with all his heart.
Next day, to make an end of it, he went with the mayor and


some lorcv^ and citizens to Bayard Castle, by tlie river, where
Richard then was, and read an address, humbly entreating him
to accept the crown of England Richard, who looked down
upon them "out of a window, and pretended to be in great un-
easiness and alarm, assured them their was nothing he desired
less, and that his deep affection for his nephews forbade him
to think of it. To this the Duke of Buckingham replied, with
pretended warmth, that the free people of England would
never submit to his nephew's rule , and that if Richard, who
was the lawful heir, refused the crown, why then they must
find some one else to wear it. The Duke of Gloucester re-
turned, that since he used that strong language, it became his
painful duty to think no more of himself, and to accept the

Upon that the people cheered and dispersed ; and the
Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham passed a
pleasant evening, talking over the play they had just acted with
so much success, and every word of which they had prepared



King Richard the Third was up betimes in the morn-
ing and went to Westminster Hall. In the hall was a marble
seat, upon which he sat himself down between two great noble-
men, and told the people that he began the new reign in that
place, because the first duty of a sovereign was to administer
the laws equally to all, and to maintain justice. He tlien
mounted his horse, and rode back to the city, where he was
received by the clergy and the crowd as if he really had a right
to the throne, and really were a just man. The clergy and the
crowd must have been rather ashamed of themselves in secret,
I think, for being such poor-spirited knaves.

The new king and his queen were soon crowned with a
great deal of show and noise, which the people liked very much ;
and then the king set forth on a royal progress through his
dominions. He was crowned a second time at York, in order
that the people might have show and noise enough : and wher-
#»ver he went was received with shouts of rejoicing, — from a



good many people of strong lungs, who were paid to strain
their throats in crying, " God save King Richard ! " The
plan was so successful, that I am told it has been imitated
since, by other usurpers, in other progresses through other

While he was on this journey, King Richard stayed a week
at Warwick. And from Warwick he sent instructions home
for one of the wickedest murders that ever was done, — the
murder of the two young princes, his nephews, who were shut
up in the Tower of London.

Sir Robert Brackenbury was at that time Governor of the
Tower. To him, by the hands of a messenger named John
Green, did King Richard send a letter, ordering him by some
means to put the two young princes to death. But Sir Robert
— I hope because he had children of his own, and loved them —
sent John Green back again, riding and spurring along the
dusty roads, with the answer that he could not do so horrible
a piece of work. The king, having frowningly considered a
little, called to him Sir Jame.s Tyrrel, his master of the horse,
and gave him authority to take command of the Tower,
whenever he would, for twenty-four hours, and to keep all the
keys of the Tower during that space of time. Tyrrel, well
knowing what was wanted, looked about him for two hardened
ruffians, and chose John Dighton, one of his own grooms, and
Miles Forest, who was a murderer by trade. Having secured
these two assistants, he went upon a day in August to the
Tower, showed his authority from the king, took the command
for four and twenty hours, and obtained possession of the keys.
And when the black night came, he went creeping, creeping,
like a guilty villain as he was, up the dark stone winding
stairs, and along the dark stone passages, until he came to the
door of the room where the two young princes, having said
their prayers, lay fast asleep, clasped in each other's arms.
And, while he watched and listened at the door, he sent in
those evil demons, John Dighton and Miles Forest, wlu-
smothered the two princes with the bed and pillows, and car-
ried their bodies down the stairs, and buried them under a
great heap of stones at the staircase foot. And, when the day
came, he gave up the command of the Tower, and restored the
keys, and hurried away without once looking behind him ; and
Sir Robert Brackenbury went with fear and sadness to the
princes' room, and found the princes gone forever.

You know through all this history, how true it is that trai-
tors are never true ; and you will not be surprised to learn that


the Duke of Buckingham soon turned against King Richard,
and joined a great conspiracy that was formed to dethrone him,
and to place the crown upon its rightful owner's head. Rich-
ard had meant to keep the murder secret ; but when he heard
through his spies that this conspiracy existed, and that many
lords and gentlemen drank in secret to the healths of the two
young princes in the Tower, he made it known that they were
dead. The conspirators, though thwarted for a moment, soon
resolved to set up for the crown, against the murderous Rich-
ard, Henry, Earl of Richmond, grandson of Catherine, that
widow of Henry the Fifth who married Owen Tudor. And, as
Henry was of the house of Lancaster, they proposed that he
should marry the Princess Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the
late king, now the heiress of the house of York, and thus, by
uniting the rival families, put an end to the fatal wars of the
Red and White. Roses. AH being settled, a time was appointed
for Henry to come over from Brittany, and for a great rising
against Richard to take place in several parts of England at
the same hour. On a certain day, therefore, in October, the
revolt took place ; but unsuccessfully. Richard was prepared.
Henry was driven back at sea by a storm, his followers in Eng-
land were dispersed, and the Duke of Buckingham was taken,
and at once beheaded in the market-place at Salisbury.

The time of his success was a good time, Richard thought,
for summoning a parliament, and getting some money. So a
parliament was called ; and it flattered and fawned upon him
as much as he could possibly desire, and declared him to be
the rightful king of England, and his only son, Edward, then
eleven years of age, the next heir to the throne.

Richard knew full well, that, let the Parliameiit say what it
would, the Princess Elizabeth was remembered by people as
the heiress of the house of York ; and having accurate informa-
tion besides, of its being designed by the conspirators to marry
her to Henry of Richmond, he felt that it would much
strengthen h*.m and weaken them to be beforehand with them,
and marry her to his son. With this view he went to the
Sanctuary at Westminster, where the late king's widow and her
daughter still were, and besought them to come to court ; where
(he swore by anything and everything) they should be safely
and honorably entertained. They came accordingly ; but had
scarcely been at court a month when his son died suddenly, —
or was poisoned, — and his plan was crushed to pieces.

In this extremity King Richard, always active, thought, " I
ttiust make another plan." And he made the plan of mariying


the Princess Eli.zabeth himself, although she was his niece.
There was one difficulty in the way ; his wife, the Queen Anne,
was alive. But he knew (remembering his nephews) how to
remove that obstacle ; and he made love to the Princess Eliza-
beth, telling her he felt perfectly confident that the Queen
would die in February. The Princess was not a very scrupu-
lous young lady ; for, instead of rejecting the murderer of her
brothers with scorn and hatred, she openly declared she loved
him dearly, and when February came, and the queen did not
die, she expressed her impatient opinion that she was too long
about it. However, King Richard was not so far out in his
prediction but that she died in March, — he took good care of
that; and then this precious pair hoped to be married. But
they were disappointed \ for the idea of such a marriage was
so unpopular in the countr}^, that the king's chief counsellors,
Ratcliffe and Catesby, would by no means undertake to pro-
pose it, and the king was even obliged to declare in public that
he had never thought of such a thing.

He was by this time dreaded and hated by all classes of his
subjects. His nobles deserted every day to Henry's side ; he
dared not call another parliament, lest his crimes should be
denounced there, and, for want of money, he was obliged to
get " benevolences " from the citizens, which exasperated them
all against him. It was said too, that, being stricken by his
conscience, he dreamed frightful dreams, and started up in the
night-time, wild with terror and remorse. Active to the last
through all this, he issued vigorous proclamations against

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 21 of 38)