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The constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 online

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140 Constitutional History. [chap.

homanlj speaking, there was little hope for his country under
Henry VI.
Suffolk left The death of Gloucester, followed so closely by the death
ter. " of the cardinal, left Suffolk, the queen's minister, without a

rival; Edmund Beaufort was ordered to undertake the lieu-
tenancy in France and Normandy, thereby increasing the
jealousy between him and York*; and under their joint mis-
fortune and mismanagement all that remained to England in
France, save Calais, was lost.
His poUcy 344. Suffolk was an old and experienced soldier, and, if it were
o peace. ^^^ ^^^ ^^ cloud that rests on him in relation to Gloucester's
death, might seem entitled to the praise of being a patriotic
and sensible politician^. The policy of peace which Beaufort
had nursed, had been carried into effect by him; and it was
pursued by him when he became the most powerfid man at
court. It was a bold policy, for it was sure in the long run
to ruin its supporter even in the estimation of the class
Surrender of which was to gain most by the result ^ Suffolk saw that
Ai^jou. England could not retain her hold on France, and he tried
by surrendering a part of the conquest to maintain possession
of Normandy and Guienne. He knew well how dangerous

1 The duke of York had left Normandy in the autumn of 1445* and the
country was governed by commisBionera appointed during his absence, until
1447. Acconiing to Whethamstede (i. i^) Henry had reappointed him
for five years more, but had at Somerset's instigation cancelled the nomina-
tion. In July 1417 York was appointed lieutenant of Ireland (Wars, ftc
i. 478), but he still retained the title of lieutenant-governor of France in
November 1447. In December 1447 it had been determined to appoint
Edmund Beaufort, and he was acting as full lieutenant in May 1448. See
Appendix D to Foedera, pp. 509-538 ; Ordin. vi. 90.

' Suffolk was bom in 1396; Dugd. Bar. p. 186. He became a member
of the council in 1431 ; Ordin. iv. 108. His wife was Alice, widow of the
earl of Salisbury and daughter of Thomas Chaucer of Ewelme, whose mother
was sister to Katharine Swinford.

' On the 1st of Februaxy, I444> Suffolk's mission was discussed in council;
he said that he had been too intimate with the duke of Orleans and other
prisoners to be trusted by the nation, and he was very unwilling to go ; but
the chancellor overruled the objections ; Ordinances, vi. 32-35. Accord-
ingly, on February 30, the king wrote to Suffolk promising to warrant aU
that he misht do in the way of obtaining peace, and overruling his scruples
at undertuung the task; Rymer, xi. 53. This shows that Suffolk was
throughout open and strsdghtforward in his behaviour. The council knew
what his policy was, and was warned of the dangers which ultimately over^
whehned him.

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xvni.] Surrender of Maine and Anjou, 141

a part be had undertaken, and openly warned the council of Policy and
the results which really followed. He had promised, probably the surren-
by word of mouth, that, on the completion of the marriage
scheme, the remaining places which the English held in Maine
and Anjou should be surrendered to king Ilen6. If by such
a sacrifice peace could be obtained it would be cheaply pur-
chased; and it might be, for Charles VH had more than
once offered terms that would leave Henry in possession of
more than he now retained. But affairs had materially changed;
Charles was gaining strength, England was more and more
feeling her exhaustion. Anjou and Maine were now the keys
of Normandy, no longer the gate by which England could
march on France. The project of peace languished, the
surrender of Maine was urged more imperiously. The cessa-
tion of warfare was maintained only by renewal of short
truces, until in March 1448 * the coveted province was actually
given up, and then a truce for only two years was granted.
The high spirit of Edmund Beaufort chafed against the delays
2nd irritations of diplomacy, and unfortunately his strength,
whether of mind or of armaments, was not equal to his spirit.
He was made duke of Somerset in March 1448 ^, and in com-
pany with bishop Moleyns commissioned to treat for a perpetual

peace. But before the end of the year the French were com- Breach oC

. , thetruoe.

plaining that the truce was broken : early in 1449 it ^^ really

broken by the capture of Foug^res by a vassal of Henry';

* The negotiations may be traced in the collections of William of
Worceeter, pablished by Stevenson, Wars in France, vol. ii. pp. [634] sq.
The final surrender took place MarcJi ii ; Rymer, zi. 210, 214.

* Somerset's creation as dnke was on March 31, 1448 (not 1447 : see
Nicolas, Hist. Peerage, p. 437) ; Lords' Reports, v. 258, 159. Tlie com-
miflrion to him and Moleyns is dated April o, 1448. See Stevenson, Wars
in France, ii. 577 ; Hardyng, p. 399.

* Mar. 24 ; Blondel, p. 5. The conduct of Francis L'Arragonois, who
broke the trace, with the connivance of Suffolk and Somerset, as he tried
to prove, and possibly with that of Henry, is the subject of a long discus-
non in the letters of the time. Stevenson, Wars in France ; Stow, p. 386.
The chronicler however (Giles, p. 36) represents the true state of the case
when he says that the French were eagerly watching for the first breach of
trace in order to overwhelm the Enghsh, ' imputantes onmem causam re-
beUionifl.' See also ^neas Sylvius, opp. p. 440. According to M. de
Conssy (Bnchon, zzxv. 133 sq.) Somerset professed himself unable to con-
trol the English forces or to restore Foug^res.

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142 Constitutional History. [chap.

1^)88 of and in April war began again. Somerset saw all the strong-
in 1449 and holds of Normandy slip from his grasp with appalling rapidity :
the English ascribed it to treachery, but against strong armies
without and a hostile population within, it was impossible to
retain them. In May Pont TArche was taken; Conches,
Gerberoi, Vemeuil followed; in August Lisieux surrendered;
on the 29th of October Rouen. In January 1450 Harfleur
and Dieppe fell ; in May the English were defeated in a battle
at Formigny ^, and Bayeux was taken ; Caen surrendered on
the 23rd of June, Falaise on the loth of July; on the 12th
of August Cherbourg, the last stronghold in Normandy. Not
content with recovering Normandy, Charles waa threatening
a descent on England, and the Isle of Wight was expecting in-
Tasion. In the meanwhile England was suffering the first throes
of the great struggle in which her medieval life seems to close.
Unpopu- No parliament was held in 1448; the year was occupied in

lantyofth© ^ . . ,. . T - , if -

court. peace negotiations ; notnmg is known of the proceedmgs of
the council ; and as the surrender of Maine became known in
the coimtry, the popularity of the court and of Suffolk waned.
Suffolk As early as May 1447 ^® ^^ ^^^ allowed at his own request
himself. to defend his conduct before the council, and the king in the
following month had declared that the charges brought against
him by public report were mere scandals and that he was
guiltless of any real fault ^. On the 2nd of June, 1448, he
was made a duke, and, although he must have been aware
that his policy found no favour with the people, he bore him-
self as an innocent man to the last. In February 1449 the
parliament met at Westminster', and granted a half-tenth,

* Hardyng, p. 399.

" Rot. Pari. V. 447 ; Rymer. xi. 172-174. The duke had heard that he
was reported to have acted futhlessly in the matter ; and it had come
also to the king's ears ; the duke had desired a hearing, and May 25 was
appointed : there were present the chancellor, treasurer, the queen's con-
fessor, the dukes of York and Buckingham, lords Cromwell, Sudeley and
Say, with some others. The kintf regarded the vindication as complete,
declared Suffolk innocent, and ordered the reports to be silenced, issuing
letters to that effect on the i8th of June.

' Rot. Pari. V. 141. It met Feb. 12 ; John Say was speaker. On the
4th of April it was prorogued to May 7, and on May 50, to June 1 7, at
Winchester. The grants were made April 3 and July 16, the last day of

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xvin.] Parliamentary History. 143

fifteentb, and continaed tuimage and poundage for five years. ^l»»™eo*«
After two prorogations in consequence of the plague, it met in
June at Winchester, and there continued the wool subsidy for four
years and renewed the tax on aliens; the commons attempted
also to tax the clergy by granting a subsidy of a noble from
each stipendiary priest in consideration of a general pardon*
Henry sent the bill to convocation, telling the clergy that it
was for them to bestow the subsidy ; if they would grant the
noble, he would issue the pardon ^. The clergy accepted the
compromise and voted the tax. An urgent appeal for help
for Normandy was made by Somerset's agents*; but matters
were already too for gone to be helped ; still to the last we
see the king and council toiling in vain to send over men
and munitions. At home too the prospect was becoming very
threatening. A second parliament was called in November.
War had broken out with Scotland and the earl of Northum-
berland had suffered an alarming defeats

The session was opened on the 6th of November, and con- lyiiament
lanued at Westminster or at Blackfriars, by prorogation, until
Christmas, when it was again prorogued to the 17th of January*.
Little is known of the proceedings during these weeks, but
they were probably stormy; for on the 9th of December
bbhop Moleyns, who next to the duke of Suffolk was regarded
as responsible for the surrender of Maine, resigned the Privy
Seal '. Bishop Lumley of Carlisle, who had been treasurer since
1446, had in October made way for the lord Say and Sele,
who immediately became unpopular. The dissatisfaction of the ?^^.
countiy would no doubt have resulted in a rebellion, if there had

the secnon ; ib. pp. 142, 143. Security wns given for £100,000 ; p. 143. In
Jnly the dei^ voted a tenth and Os. M, on chaplains ; Wilk. Cone. iii.
55<i. Another tenth was voted in November, ib. p. 557.

* Bot. Pari. V. 151, 153 ; 3rd Report Dep. Keeper, p. 27.

• Rot. Pari. V. 147.

' Henry was charged with conniving at the breach of the truce with the
Scots, when visiting Durham in 1447 ; Chr. Giles, p. 35.

* Rot. ParL v. 171. John Popham was speaker. The parliament met
at Westminster, and was adjourned at once to Blackfnars, returning
Dec. 4, to Westminster. On the 1 7th it was adjourned to Jan. 22 ; and on
March 30 adjourned to Leicester for Afnil 39. It sat until May 17.

• Rjmer, xi. 255.

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144 Constitutional History. [chap.

Financial been any one to lead it: the cession of Maine and Normandy
had produced a violent reaction against Suffolk; the finances
of the country had gone to ruin ; the king's debt, the debt of
the nation, had since Beaufort's death gone on increasing, and
now amounted to £372,000; his ordinary income had sunk to
X5000; the household expenses had risen to J£24,ooo^ Stafford,
who was growing old, might be expected to give way under the
circumstances ; he had been eighteen years in of&ce, and if he
had done little good he had done no harm : as soon as the
Archbishop parliamentary attack on Suffolk began, he resigned, and arch-
ciSodSJ" bishop Kemp, the faithful coadjutor of Beaufort, now a cardinal*,
was called again into the chancery, too late however to restore
the falling fortunes of his master. Suffolk had not acted cor-
dially with Kemp, and the cardinal's return to office was one sign
that the duke's influence over the king was already weakened.
Obscure 345. The history of the trial and fall of Suffolk, although

Suffolk'B more fully illustrated by documentary evidence, is scarcely
less obscure, in its deeper and more secret connexion with
the politics of the time, than is that of the arrest and death
of Gloucester. Looked at in the light of the parliamentary
records, the attack seems to be a spontaneous attempt on
the part of the commons to bring to justice one whom they
conceived to be a traitorous minister; and if it were indeed
so, it would be the most signal case of proper constitutional
action by way of impeachment that had occurred since the
days of the Good Parliament. That it was not so is sufficiently
proved by the fact, recorded by a strong anti-Lancafltrian par-

* Rot. ParL v. 183.

* Kemp was made cardinal, with the title of S. Balbina, by Eugenins IV,
Dec. 18, 1439 (Panvin. Ep, Paparum. p. 300), and cardinal bishop of
S. Rufina July 21, 1452 (Ang. Sac. i. 123). There is a high panegyric
upon him in a letter of Henry VI to the pope on the occasion of his
promotion, Beckington, i. 39. It is possible that Kemp had, although
attached to Beaufort, opposed himself to the influence of Suffolk. In 1448,
when the see of London was vacant, Henry applied for the appointment of
Thomas Kemp, the nephew of the cardinal ; Suffolk, however, procured
letters in &your of Marmaduke Limiley, the treasurer, and called the
earlier application surreptitious. The pope administered a serious rebuke
to the king and appointed Kemp ; Beckmgton, Letters, i. 155 sq. It will
be obsenr^ that Luniley's resignation of the treasurerahip just preceded
the attack on Suffolk.

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xviu.] Fall of Suffolk. 145

tisan, that the commons were urged to the impeachment hy Proseoution
a member of the council ^ who was a personal enemy of Suffolk, occasioned
and by the circumstances of the duke's death, which proved success,
that bitterer enemies than the commons were secretly at work
against him. Yet there is no difficulty in understanding the
causes of the great ruin which befel him. The loss of Maine
and Anjou had been followed by the loss of great part of
Normandy. Maine and Anjou had been surrendered by the
policy of Suffolk. Normandy was being lost by the incapacity
or ill luck of Somerset. Both were in the closest confidence
of the king and queen. It was not easy for the rough and
undisciplined politicians of the country to discriminate between
the policy of Suffolk and the incapacity or ill luck of Somerset*
The easiest interpretation .of the phenomena was treason, and nromi^
there were not wanting men like lord Cromwell to guide the CJromweU.
commons to that conclusion. Cromwell represented possibly
a small minority in the council ; possibly he stood alone there ;
he was an old servant of Henry, whom the cardinal had been
able to keep in his place, and who was personally hostile to
Gloucester ^ Now that the cardinal and the duke were both
gone, he may have envied the rise of a new minister like
Suffolk, or he may thus early have been connected with the
band of men who later on undertook the overthrow of the

^ Lord Cromwell a few days before ChristmaB charged WiUiam Taillebois
with an attempt to asaaaaiinate him at the door of the Star Chamber.
Suffolk defended Taillebois, who notwithstanding was sent to the Tower ;
' et poflt«a dominns de Cromwelle reddidit duci Suffolchiae vices suas in
nude anno ipsi duci.* During the parliament Cromwell obtained damages
fi>r £1000 against Taillebois finom a Middlesex jury ; and then * domino de
Cromwell secrete laborante dux Suffolchiae per communes in parliamento
de alta et grandi proditione appellatus est'; W. Worcester, pp. [766-769].

' Cromwell had been, as we have seen, chamberlain to Henry VI and
treasurer from 1433 to 1443 ; he became chamberlain again in 1450. It
was at the marriage of his niece to Thomas Neville that the quarrel of
Egremont and the Nevilles broke out, W. Wore. pp. 770, 771. The
duke of Exeter sided with Egremont, and the duke of York with the
Nevilles. Cromwell in 1^54 exhibited articles in paiiiament against the
doke of Exeter, and no doubt was then in the York interest. He was
aocosed of treason in 1455 ; and on bad terms with Warwick, the two
duuging on each other the guilt of the battle of S. Alban*s. He died
however in 1456. See Fasten Letters, L 393, 344, 345, 376; et Ord. vi. 198.

TOL* ni. L

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146 Constitutional JBistory. [chap.

Bishop The miscliief began during the Christmas holydays. Bishop

murdered. Ifolejns had gone down to Portsmouth to pay the soldiers
who were going to France, and was there on the 9th of
January^ murdered by the sailors, the soldiers looking on.
In his last moments he was heard to say something about
the duke of Suffolk, which was understood as a confession
of their common delinquency. Suffolk, probably aware that
a formal charge would be preferred against him, attempted
to anticipate it, and, as he had done before the council in
SuflbDE 1447, to put liimself at once on his defence. Accordingly,
the charges on the first day of the session, January 22, 1450, he made a
him. formal protest before the king and lords. He declared in

simple and touching language his services and sacrifices, denied
the slander that was publicly current against him in conse-
quence of the bishop's supposed confession, and prayed that,
if any one would charge him with treason or disloyalty*, he
would come forth and make a definite accusation, which be
The trusted to be able to rebut. The commons at once took up

demand hii the gauntlet. On the 26th they petitioned that, as he had
acknowledged the currency of these infamous reports, he
might be put in ward to avoid inconyenient consequences ; on
the 27th the lords, acting on the advice of the chief justice,
resolved that he should not be arrested until some definite
charge was made ; on the 28th the commons made the definite
General charge, and the duke was sent to the Tower. This first charge
treaaoo. was based on the report that he had sold the realm to Charles
YII, and had fortified Wallingford castle as headquarters for
a confederacy against the independence of England'. Ten days
later the first formal and definite impeachment was made ;

^ Gregory, p. 189, ' for his oovetysBe aa hyt was reportyde.' ' Through
the procurement of Richard duke of York/ Stow, p. 387. * £t paoem aitieiis
cum morte receasit atroci/ Ohr. Gilea, p. 58. * Inter quoe et amicoa noater
Adam Molines aeoreti regii sijnuunili ouatoa et litteramm cultor, amiaao
oapite trunons jacuit'; ^neaa Sylrius, 0pp. p. 445. .^Bneaa had addreaaed
Moleyna aa the king's first favourite or next to the first; Epist. 18, p. 514 :
in another letter, Epist. 64, he congratulates him on his style. See alao
Epist. 80. There is a letter of Moleyos to Mnets, Epist. 186.

• Rot. Pari V. 176.

* lb. y. 176, 177* ' And also for the dethe of that nobylle piynoe the
duke of Gloucester* ; Gregory, p. 189.

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xvin.] Trial of Suffolk. 147

the chancellor having been changed in the meantime ^ ; and Pint set
on the fth of Febroary cardinal Kemp, attended by several charges;
of the lords, was sent by the king to the commons to hear the treason.
chai^. This elaborate accusation contained eight counts of high
treason ^ and misprison of treason : the duke had conspired
with the king of France to depose Henry and place on the
throne his own son John de la Pole as husband of the little
heiress of the Beauforts'; he had advised the release of the
duke of Orleans, and had conspired with him to urge Charles
Vu to recover his kingdom ; he had promised the surrender
of Anjou and Maine, had betrayed the king's counsel to the
French, had disclosed to them the condition of the king'^s
resources, and had by secret dealing with Charles prevented
the conclusion of a lasting peace, even boasting of the in-
fluence which he possessed in the French court ^; he had
likewise prevented the sending of reinforcements to the army
in France, had estranged the king of Aragon and lost the
friendship of Brittany. On the 1 2th of Februaiy these articles deferred to
were read and referred to the judges, and the discussion was
adjourned at the king^s discretion. The delay gave time for
a fresh indictment to be drawn up. ^

On the 7th of March the lords resolved that Suffolk should Second set

Of ohai'geB.
be called on for his answer ; and on the 9th eighteen additional

articles were handed in by the commons. These, which may be

regarded as a second and final indictment, chiefly comprised

* Hie diaooellor resigned Jan. 31 : the charges were brought forward on
the 7th of February ; Rot. ParL v. 177.

* Eat. ParL v. 177-179; HaH, Chr. pp. 21a, 213; Paston Letters
(ed. Gazrdner) i 99-105.

* The marriage of the two children was celebrated after the arrest ; Rot.
PaH. ▼. 177.

* This was possibly a reference to the language which he had used
in the Privy Cumber, when attempting to excuse himself from acting
as ambastAdor in 1444; above, p. 140; 'I have had great knowledge
among the parties of your adversaries in France,* &c ; Ord. vi. 33. Here,
however, the speech is said to have been made in the Star Chamber. ' He
declared <^)enly before the lords of your council here being, that he had
his place in the council house of ^e French king as he had here, and was
there as well trusted as he was nere, and could remove from the said
French king the priviest man of his oouncH if he would'; Rot. Pari.

T. 179.

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Constitutional History,


Charges of

asserts his


He does not
put himself
on his trial,
but submits.

The king
sends him

charges of maladministration, malversation, misuse of his power
and influence with the king, the promotion of unworthy persons,
and the sacrifice of the English possessions in Normandy by
a treacherous compact with the king of France ^. Suffolk was
then brought from the Tower and received copies of both the
bills. On the 13th he stated his own case in parliament: be
denied with scorn the charge that he had or could have planned
the king's deposition ; as for the matters of fact contained in the
eight articles, the rest of the council were as much responsible
as he ; his words had been perverted to a meaning which they
would not bear. The next day the chief justice asked the lords
to advise the king; but the question was again deferred, and
it was not until the 17th that the compromise was effected
which would, as it was supposed, save the duke and satisfy
the commons. All the lords 'thenne beyng in Towne' were
called into the king's chamber; Suffolk was admitted and
knelt before the king. The chancellor reminded him that
he had not put himself on his peerage in regard to the first
bill of impeachment, and asked whether he had anything
further to say in that matter. The duke replied by a forcible
repetition of his denial and a protestation of innocence, and
then placed himself entirely at the king's disposal, thus not
acknowledging any fault but showing himself unwilling to
stand a regular trial. The chancellor then declared the king's
mind : as to the greater and more heinous charges included
in the first bill, the king held Suffolk * neither declared
nor charged'^; as to the second bill the royal intention was
to proceed not by way of judgment, but on the ground of
the duke's submission: accordingly the king, by his own
advice, * and not reporting him to the advice of his lords, nor
by way of judgment, for he is not in the place of judgment,'
ordered him to absent himself from the king's dominions for
five years from the ist of May following. The lords lodged

* Rot. Pari. V. 179-182.

' The expression is obscure, but it seems to sigmfy that the king regarded
these charges as prima fieicie groundless, that he in fact ' ignored ' or threw
out the indictment.

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xvin.] Death of Suffolk, 149

& protest against this way of dealing with an accused person, Protest of
insisting that the royal act done without their advice and
counsel should not be construed to their prejudice in time to
come; this protest, however, which was presented by the viscount
of Seaumont, one of Henry's faithful friends, was itself part
of the scheme of compromise ^. It was clear that Suffolk
could not be tried formally unless the king and council were
prepared to face the storm of popular indignation which,
however undeservedly, had been aroused against the policy
of peace ; nor, if the matter were allowed to run its course Poesible
in the parliament, could the king have there interfered to proceeding.
rescue him from the uncertain issue*. He had therefore de-
clined to be tried by his peers, and sacrificed himself to save
the king and the council, or that part of it which followed the

Online LibraryWilliam StubbsThe constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 → online text (page 16 of 68)