James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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his uncle, Bedford, upon whom the regency
devolved, though a capable statesman and
soldier, was hampered by the intrigues
of his brother, Gloucester. The English
cause soon began to suffer reverses.

A quarrel between Philip of Burgundy
and Bedford's brother Gloucester had
obliterated the resentments caused by the
crime of Montereau. Bedford died immedi-
ately after the desertion of Burgundy
was made public. In the hands of his
uncle and brother, Cardinal Beaufort and
the Duke of Gloucester, the tottering
English cause was soon overthrown. An
attempt to purchase peace by the arrange-
ment of a marriage between the young
Henry VI. and Margaret of Anjou, a
kinswoman of Charles VII., merely excited
discontent in England without conciliating
France. The new queen introduced a new
bitterness into the factions of the ceurt ;
and an alliance between herself and
Beaufort was immediately followed by
the arrest and mysterious death of
Gloucester, in 1447.











DEAUFORT outlived his nephew and
*-* enemy by only a few days ; but in
the person of Suffolk the queen found a
new minister through whom to rule ; the
place of Gloucester as head of the opposi-
tion was taken by Richard, Duke of York,
a good administrator and one of the few
generals who had won distinction in the
French wars, but hateful to the queen
because, uniting the claims of two lines
descended from Edward III., he stood
next in succession to her husband. The
king counted for nothing in the govern-
ment ; he was of weak intellect even
before the hereditary taint of madness
became apparent, and left everything to
his wife except that on occasion he
endeavoured without effect to play the
part of peacemaker.

York appears originally to have been

a loyal subject. But there was much in

the conduct of the government which

might legitimately be criti-

e rrup cised, and his censures were

Condition ,11 i -i j

. none the less plainly expressed

of Parliament , i j j r

because he was excluded from
a share of power. The parliamentary
constitution had proved a total failure ;
the House of Commons was composed of
members returned by corrupt influences
and in the interest of a few great families.
Since these families furnished the members
of the Privy Council, to which every royal
minister was subject, their supremacy was
assured. All business of any consequence,
and much that was trivial, came before the
council for settlement, and was transacted
without method or- despatch or technical
knowledge. The result at the best of
times was " lack of governance " ; and
throughout the country life and property
were insecure. Only a change of system
could mend the evil. But the people,
encouraged by the Yorkist party, looked
for individuals on whom to throw the
blame. The queen and her favourites
became the scapegoats of the constitution.

They cannot indeed be acquitted of mis-
managing the war in France. Year by
year ground was lost, and the positions
of the English garrisons, ill-found, ill-fed,
ilj-paid, grew more desperate. Normandy
was lost piecemeal in 1448-1449, Guienne
in 1451 ; even Calais was in danger in
1452. The nation, which had never been

willing to pay for the defence
English r , i j

.. .of these possessions, cried out
Counties in , ,-, ,

Revolt against the treachery through

which they had been lost.
The first symptom of approaching trouble
was the impeachment of Suffolk by the
House of Commons in 1450. The unpopular
minister was seized by his enemies and
beheaded in mid-Channel while attempting
to escape abroad ; immediately afterwards
the south-eastern counties rose in revolt
and, marching upon London under the lead
of one Cade, who was not improbably a
Yorkist instrument, demanded that the
Duke of York should be called to power,
and the queen's favourites dismissed.

Although easily suppressed, this rebellion
influenced the queen's mind against York.
When, in 1452, he made a personal
appearance, at the head of an armed force,
to reiterate the demands of Cade, she
answered with fair words ; but the birth
of an heir to the throne in 1453 gave her
courage to attack York as a traitor. It
became for the duke a matter of life and
death that he should assert his right to a
position on the council, and to the office
H of protector during the fits of

* * madness which had begun to
Jj seize the king at intervals.

The queen's determination to
exclude him from power made war inevit-
able. It began with the battle of Blore-
heath in 1459, and from that time until
the accession of Henry VII. in 1485 the
crown was in dispute between the rival
houses of York and Lancaster. The
duke found it necessary to assert his
pretensions, and they passed, after the


The Wars of the Roses, which broke out in the reign of King Henry VI., were one long struggle for the crown of
England between the Houses of York and Lancaster, and derived their name from the incident depicted above.
In the Temple Gardens, in London, the heads of the rival houses met one day, and when the Duke of York plucked
a white rose, calling upon his followers to do the same, the Lancastrian partisans promptly replied by plucking a red rose.

From the picture by John Pettie, R.A.

defeat and death of Richard at Wakefield
in the year 1460, to his son Edward IV.

The war of the White Rose (York) and
the Red (Lancaster) origi-
nated in a conflict of
personal ambitions be-
tween two branches of
the royal family. From
first to last it was a war
between aristocratic fac-
tions in which the
Commons took as little
part as possible. No
principle was at stake,
nor was the country
divided, as usually hap-
pened in the civil wars
of France and Germany,
upon the lines of racial
or provincial demarca-
tions. Roughly speaking,
the south and south-east

shires held for the ~. THE . Qy. EEN .. OF EDWARD iv.
Yorkists, the

influence of the great families. The
aristocracy had lost the more imposing of
the old feudal privileges, but land was
still the great source of
wealth and consideration,
while private ambition
and the troublous state
of the times had pro-
duced a new and bastard
feudalism. The timid and
the ambitious among the
middle and lower classes
assumed the livery of
great lords, whose private
quarrels they pursued in
return for maintenance
against the authority of
the law-courts and the
executive ; thus every
great proprietor could
bring a little army into
the field. To which side

, Elizabeth -Woodville, a Lancastrian, was he WOuld brin g ^ de "
ana married to King Edward IV. in 1464, three pended chiefly Upon the
Wales for the LancaS- years after he had ascended England's throne, ties of blood and the

trians. But to this general rule there were private feuds in which he was entangled,

many local exceptions ; the attitude of Scores of quarrels were fought out under

every district depended upon the territorial cover of the dynastic question.


The Yorkists succeeded in winning the
passive favour of the commercial classes,
of whose grievances, as of many with far
less foundation, Duke Richard had been
the mouthpiece before
the war broke out. The
accidental circumstance
that Margaret of Anjou
was forced to rely upon
the lawless barons of the
north confirmed the towns
in the prejudice which
they entertained against
her. Yet the Yorkists, if
judged by the character
of their claim, were the
more unconstitutional
party of the two. Richard
and his son demanded,
in effect, that the parlia-
mentary title of Henry
VI. should be set aside in
favour of one which rested
on hereditary right. The KING EDWARD iv. OF ENGLAND

supporter, and with Clarence, his brother
and the heir-presumptive. These rebels
overthrew their master by forming a
coalition with the fugitive Lancastrian
queen and with Louis XL
of Fiance in 1470. But
Edward recovered his
position with the aid of
Charles the Rash, the
Duke of Burgundy, to
whom it was of vital
importance that French
influence should not reign
supreme in the country
from which the weavers
of Flanders derived their
raw material. Henry VI.
was taken and put to
death ; Warwick ended
his days on the hard
fought field of Barnet ;
Margaret's son, the young
Prince Edward, was taken
after a victory over his

reign of Edward IV. is a He was the son of Richard, Duke of York, mother's forces at Tew-
sufficient proof that he S^Cff^^%B kesbury, and put ' to

had no respect for COn- London and defeated and killed Warwick at death Upon the field ;

stitutional liberties, and Barnet ; but his reign was a disappointment Margaret herself fled to
that his own interests were his guiding France, where she passed the remainder
star. He was allowed to overthrow the of her days in exile. Clarence, spared for
Lancastrians in the hope that he would a time in consideration of his treachery

establish a more efficient
government. He did, in
fact, establish a personal
system of rule which
kept the country in a
state of quiet ; but he
did his utmost to destroy
all constitutional guaran-
tees at the same time.
He endeavoured to sub-
stitute a council of
favourites and connec-
tions for one of territorial
magnates. But he did
not create a skilled
executive, and he reduced
the power of the legisla-
ture to a shadow.

The complicated story
of his fortunes after

to Warwick, was secretly
executed some years later,
in 1478. From 1471 to
1483 Edward ruled with-
out a rival. The most
notable event of his reign,
alter the destruction of
the premature consti-
tutionalism initiated by
the Lancastrians, was the
conclusion of the long
strife with France which
Henry V. had revived
with such disastrous con-
sequences. Edward held
fast by the Burgundian
alliance. But he refused
to entangle himself deeply
in the schemes of Charles
the Rash for the dis-


1460 is not worth tracing The b y kin * r etened for only three months. me mberment of France,

j , -i TT i His uncle usurped the throne, and shortly j n u ,i_

in detail. He was crowned afterh is accession as Richard in., the right- and eventually sold the

in 1461, annihilated the fui king, Edward v., was, with his brother, English claim on France

Lancastrian army at cruelly put to death in the Tower of London. f or a round sum of money.

Towton a few weeks later, and made This bargain, concluded at Pecquigny

himself master of his rival's person. Eight
years later he was expelled in consequence
of quarrels with Warwick, his ablest


in 1473, marks the close of the mediaeval
stage in English foreign policy ; it is an
unconscious concession to the new national


Flying with her son, Edward, after the battle of Hedgeley Moor, Queen Margaret tried to find shelter in a wood, but
was there set upon by robbers and deprived of all her jewels. While the robbers were quarrelling over their booty,
the queen escaped, and wandered about the forest. There she met another robber, who, touched by her pitiable condition,
lent her his aid. He congealed her, eventually leading her to the coast, and thus enabled her to escape across the sea.

)-r. in, the painting by W. Christian Syimms

3 8 99

We have represented a pathetic episode of English history. Imprisoned in the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard
III., the rightful king, Edward V., and his brother, the Duke of York, s'eemed to understand the awful fate which awaited
them, and they have been described as " clinging together in the vain hope of finding comfort in each other's embraces."

From the painting by Paul Delaroche in the Louvre, Paris

spirit made by the least national of kings.
In domestic government the tyranny of
Edward serves to bridge a period of
transition. He broke with the traditions
of the past, but he left it to a representative
of the rival house to lay the foundations
of the future. An ill-judged love-marriage
with Elizabeth Woodville had caused his
temporary expulsion ; and after his death
the Woodville connection was fatal to
his children.

On the death of Edward, in 1483, his
brother Richard of Gloucester, who had
taken up the feud of Clarence with the
Woodvilles, seized his two nephews, in
whose name their mother and her relations
hoped to rule, and in 1483 either put the
boys to death or spirited them away.
Parliament was induced to declare the
children of Edward illegitimate and to
accept the claim of Gloucester, who was


crowned as Richard III. But he held the
crown for barely two years. The public
conscience, though hardened by a long
series of political crimes and judicial
murders, revolted against Richard's cul-
minating atrocity. He became a mark for
the intrigues of every ambitious schemer,
although he bought the friendship of the
Woodville interest by offering to marry
his niece Elizabeth. Buckingham failed
to overthrow his former friend and
master in 1484; but Henry Tudor, a
representative in the female line of the
claim derived from John of Gaunt, the
progenitor of the Lancastrians, proved
more successful. Deserted by his most
popular supporters, Richard fell before
this new rival at the battle of Bosworth
Field. The Tudor was crowned on the
battlefield as Henry VII. ; and parliament
and the nation acquiesced in the title thus


irregularly asserted. A marriage between
the new king and Elizabeth of York
blended the White Rose with the Red.
The country drew a deep breath of satis-
faction at this omen of a lasting settle-
ment. Twenty-five years of strife had
created a longing for peace and ordered
government which was one of the strongest
forces in English politics for many years
to come.

The hereditary claim of Henry VII. was
of the slightest kind. His mother, Mar-
garet Beaufort, was a descendant of John
of Gaunt ; on the paternal side he could
claim as ancestors only a line of Welsh
squires. His grandfather, Owen Tudor,
had married the widow of Henry V., but
was not otherwise distinguished ; the
family had acquired the earldom of Rich-
mond only in his father's time. Henry
owed his strongest claim to the Act of
Parliament which decreed that the inherit-
ance of the crown should rest in King
Henry VII. and the heirs of his body. He
fortified his position by a marriage with

Elizabeth of York, the daughter of
Edward IV. But the early years of the
reign were disturbed by plots in favour
of Yorkist candidates, among whom two
laid claim to be princes of the blood. A
certain Lambert Simnel won the support
of the Irish in 1487 by alleging himself to
be Edward of Warwick, the son of the
ill-starred Clarence.

Between 1492 and 1499 more serious
trouble was caused by a Flemish youth,
one Perkin Warbeck, who passed as
Richard, the second son of Edward IV.,
and claimed that he had escaped when
his elder brother was murdered by
Richard III. Warbeck was supported by
Margaret of York, the sister of Edward IV.,
and Dowager Duchess of Burgundy. He
was received at the court of Scotland,
married a kinswoman of James IV., and
received promises of Scottish assistance.
Each of these pretenders invaded England,
and it would have gone hardly with the
new king if he had not in each case defeated
the pretender at the first encounter. The

At midnight, as the brothers were sleeping together, the two miscreants hired for the deed entered their chamber and
stifled them as they lay. Richard III. gained little by his wickedness, as be held the throne for barely two years.

248 3901


great families connected with the Yorkist
line, and all classes in the North of England,
merely awaited a favourable opportunity
to revolt. Of these, however, and of other
possible claimants, Henry freed himself in
good time. Simnel ended his days as a
scullion in the royal kitchen ; Warbeck,
at first imprisoned in the Tower, was
afterwards executed in consequence of an
attempted escape. His fate was shared by
his fellow-captive, the true Edward of
Warwick. The two De la Poles, cousins
of Edward IV., saved themselves by
flight in 1501, a number of their kinsmen
and friends were executed in 1502, and

England kept only Calais, a port valuable
indeed for purposes of trade and for
the command of the narrow seas, but a
poor satisfaction for some four centuries
of warfare and diplomacy. In the reign
of Edward IV. the English were almost
cured of their continental ambitions.
Others, however, had yet to be developed.
The discovery of the New World was only
beginning, and England was far from
being the first of the nations to realise the
prizes which might be won in America, in
Africa, in the Far East.

If we turn from foreign policy to
the consideration of domestic institutions

The fate of this unfortunate young prince is pictured on the two preceding pages. In this illustration we see the
queen-mother grief stricken at her parting from her younger son, the Duke of York, who was then only nine years of age.

From the painting by Philip A. Calderon. R.A.

under these altered circumstances the
Tudor cause seemed reasonably secure.
At the close of the Middle Ages we may
pause for a moment to ask what was the
legacy which they bequeathed to modern
England. From many points of view the
period 1066-1485 had been either sterile
or disastrous. The foreign policy of the
Norman and Plantagenet kings had been
directed towards schemes of continental
empire which were too great for the
resources of their island dominions, espe-
cially when a growing national feeling in
France brought all classes to the support
of the Valois monarchy. In 1485, of all
the possessions which she had won abroad,


the outlook in 1485 is brighter. The
Lancastrian period had completed the
parliamentary constitution, which was
first outlined by Simon de Montfort and
Edward I. In the fifteenth century it
was understood that the power of
imposing taxes, other than the ancient
and customary dues of the crown, lay
exclusively with parliament. Henry IV.
had been compelled .to admit that a money
Bill must originate in the House of Com-
mons. So, again, the right to petition
had become the right to present Bills for
the royal approval ; the crown might
reject them, but might not introduce
unauthorised amendments. During the




Wars of the Roses the responsibility of
ministers to Parliament had been asserted
by both parties ; the formidable proce-
dures of impeachment and attainder had.
taken shape as weapons to be used against
the complaisant tools of arbitrary power.
Finally, the right of both Houses to perfect

The former of these kings, Richard III., was a younger brother of Edward IV., and how he
established himself on the throne of England has already been described. He was succeeded
by Henry VII., after the battle of Bosworth, in 14S5, whose reign lasted till his death in 1509.

freedom of debate had been admitted by
the crown. But, on the other hand, the
growth of Parliament had been premature.
The two Houses had proved themselves
capable of obstructing government ; they
had done nothing to increase the efficiency
of the executive. The members of the
Lower House showed neither capacity for
rule nor independence of judgment.
Parliament was Yorkist or Lancastrian,
according to the fortune of war, and con-
sistent in nothing but the readiness with
which it proscribed the beaten party of
the moment.

Elections were seldom fairly conducted
in the fifteenth century. . Where intimida-
tion and corrupt influence failed to return
the candidate of a local magnate, the
sheriff could usually be suborned to make
a false return. The Commons had repre-
sented the private interests of the great
houses. There was now a hope that
better days might come. The baronage
emerged from the Wars of the Roses with
shattered fortunes and prestige, while the
crown was enriched by three successive
sets of confiscations, those of the Lan-
castrians, of the Yorkists, and of the new-
Tudor sovereign. But for the time being


the nation had ceased to reverence Parlia-
ment ; the new wealth and influence of
the crown was used to keep the national
assembly in a state of weakness and
humility. For a century after this date
Parliament was rarely allowed an oppor-
tunity of dictating the conditions of a
grant, or of offer-
ing an indepen-
dent criticism
upon royal policy.
The constitu-
tionalists of the
Stuart period were
the first to appeal
consistently and
with success to
the precedents
of parliamentary
sovereignty which
the reign of
Henry IV.
happily afforded.
Turning from
the legislature to
the executive we
find that the case
was even worse.
The great offices
of state, the

Privy Council, which controlled them, were
archaic in constitution, and ill-adapted
for the tasks imposed upon them. A new
distribution of duties, more perfect organi-
sation, the replacement of high-born but
inexperienced magnates by energetic but
expert statesmen such were the crying
needs of the central government. The
local administration, which Henry II.
had made the most scientific of his age,
was now totally inadequate to satisfy
the requirements of the community. It
was imperative to create new officials
in the place of the sheriffs, who had so long
fulfilled with equal inefficiency the various
functions of the tax-collector, the magis-
trate, and the captain of militia ; nor would
. anv system be successful

England s Need ,-'. , J j-j ,,

, . which did not give the

of Better , , . ,

.. . .. landowners, the national
Administration , , ,. . .

leaders of public opinion, an

interest and a share in maintaining the
public peace. In the towns the trammels
which the guild system had imposed upon
all kinds of industry could no longer be
defended. Whatever advantages the guilds
had once secured for the community by
their inspection of goods, by their regulation
of. wages and the conditions of labour, by


their encouragement of local industry
through the maintenance of a local mono-
poly, they were now more mischievous than
useful. If the whole constitution of lay
society stood in need of reform, the Church
had suffered no less from the growth of
slackness at headquarters, and in every
department, from the failure of the clergy
. _ ,. to maintain their former

The Decline ... . ..

of Power position as the pioneers of

of the Clergy intellectual progress and the
censors of national morality.
The jnmates of the monasteries were no
longer zealous in their work. They
may not have been so slack as the
Protestants of the next generations con-
tended ; but monasticism was no longer
respected as serving any useful purpose.
Popular liberality had almost ceased to
flow in the direction of religious houses,
and the wealth which they had derived
from the piety of past generations was
grudged to them by the laymen of the
fifteenth century. The preaching friars
were not so obviously useless as the
monks ; bat even the friars had lost their
high ideals, and earned their subsistence
by flattering a contemptuous populace.

The bishops were for the most part
engr6ssed in politics ; nominated either
by the king or the
Pope, they seldom
owed their rank
to any fitness for
its religious
duties. The re-
action against
Lollardry had
made them
staunch sup-
porters of the
papacy, which, in
the time of
Grosseteste, they
had been inclined
to criticise. Con-
scious of the slight
hold which they
possessed upon
the respect of the THE QUEEN-CONSORTS

laitV they SOUght Anne of Warwick was the queen of Richard III., and Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward
to imnrove their IV " was married to Henr y VIL in 1486 > their Adding taking place at Westminster Abbey.


upon the actions of the Church courts,
the intolerable multiplication of ecclesias-
tical dues, the idle and careless lives of the
secular clergy. The springs and sources oi
religious idealism were running dry ; if
they could not be reopened it was certain
that the Church would cease to be of any

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 52 of 55)