Reign of Henry IV page 3
The answer to this, as intended, was the showing openly the body, which was brought up from Pontefract Castle with considerable funeral pomp, namely, in a carriage drawn by two horses, one placed before the other. The carriage was covered with black cloth, having four banners emblazoned with the arms of St. George and St. Edward. It was attended by 100 men all clad in black, and was met on its approach to the city by thirty Londoners dressed in white and bearing torches. King Henry himself walked in procession, bearing a corner of the pall.
But this public exposition, so far from having satisfied the public mind of Richard's death, was the fruitful source of continued rumours of his existence, and perpetuated the very effects which Henry intended it to dispel - repeated revolts for his restoration. So strong was the belief that Richard was still alive and even at liberty, and that this was a mere mock funeral, and the corpse that of some other person, that in our own time Mr. Tytler, in his History of Scotland, vol. vii., p. 279, has taken up the theory, and produced new and curious evidence in its favour. It will explain much that we shall meet with in this reign to take a cursory review of this evidence.
The accounts of Richard's death, given by contemporary writers, are chiefly three. Walsingham asserts that he died in Pontefract Castle on the 14th of February, 1399, from voluntary starvation, having fallen into a profound melancholy on hearing of the failure of the insurrection on his behalf, and the execution of his half-brother, John Holland, and the rest of his friends. Thomas of Otterburn confirms this account, except that he adds that Richard being persuaded at length to take food by his keepers, found the orifice of his stomach closed from long abstinence, and perished in consequence. The chronicle of Kenilworth, the chronicle of Peter de Ickham in the Harleian collection, and Hardyng, assert that he was starved to death by his keepers.
The story of his assassination by Sir Piers Exton and his eight ruffians is found in a French manuscript work in the Royal Library at Paris, and is repeated by Fabyan, Hall, and Haywood. The account of Fabyan is that followed by Shakespeare, which has given it a firm and world-wide hold on the public mind. All these accounts concur in the fact that the murder of Richard, in whatever shape it took place, occurred in Pontefract Castle. Tradition has had but one constant voice, also fixing it there, and in 1643 three gentlemen of Norfolk visiting that castle record that they were shown the highest of seven towers, called "the round tower," as the one in which Richard fled round a post in combat with his butchers; and they add, "Upon that post the cruel hackings and fierce blows do still remain."
The reasons for rejecting all these accounts brought forward by Mr. Tytler are these. In the first place, the public at the time were extensively of opinion that the body shown as Richard's was not his, but most probably that of Maudelain, his kinsman and chaplain, a man so strikingly resembling him, that we have seen the conspirators lead him forth with them to personate the king. There was nothing shown of the body but the face, and that only from the eye-brows to the chin. Undoubtedly there were strong reasons of some kind for this concealment. If the body were Maudelain's, though the features might bear out the resemblance, the hair would dispel the illusion, for Richard's was well known from its peculiar yellow hue. No hair was visible, and, so far the idea of the substitution of another corpse was favoured. But the concealment of the head was equally suspicious, even were the body Richard's. It showed that there was something there which could not bear examination. If Richard died by violence, there would be upon the head the traces of it. That there was something to conceal was further strengthened by the fact that Henry did not allow the body to be deposited in the royal vault at "Westminster, nor in the vault of the Black Prince, Richard's father, at Canterbury, but had it privately conveyed to Langley, a favourite retreat of Richard's, and buried there in the monastery of the preaching friars, as more out of the way of inquiry and research.
Since Mr. Tytler has produced his evidence in favour of Richard's escape, the condition of the supposed body of Richard, on the opening of his tomb, has been referred to as proof that the story of his death by Sir Piers Exton could not be true. The skull exhibited no decided fracture, but the suture above the os temporis was open, and that might certainly have been produced by the stroke, and the os temporis be covered at the time of the exposition of the body by the bandage. That it could not, however, be the body of Maudelain was sufficiently clear, as the head had not been severed from the body by the axe, as Maudelain's was.
It might, therefore, really be Richard's body, and the death be as related - namely, by Exton and his assassins. The evidence for Richard's escape to Scotland brought forward by Tytler is this: - Bower, or Bow-maker, the continuator of Fordun, and one of the most ancient and authentic of our historians, says that Richard II. found means of escape from Pontefract Castle; that he succeeded in reaching the Scottish isles, and travelling in disguise through those remote parts, was accidentally recognised when sitting in the kitchen of Donald, Lord of the Isles, by a jester who had been educated at the court of the king. He adds that Donald sent him under the charge of Lord Montgomery to Robert III., with whom, as long as the Scottish monarch lived, he was supported as became his rank; and that, after the death of this king, the royal fugitive was delivered to the Duke of Albany, then governor of Scotland, by whom he was honourably treated; and he concludes this remarkable sentence by affirming that Richard at length died in the castle of Stirling, and was buried in the church of the preaching friars on the north side of the altar. In the events of the year 1419 the same historian has this brief entry: - "In this year died Richard, King of England, on the feast of St. Luke, in the castle of Stirling."
Andrew Winton, the author of a rhyming chronicle, who wrote before Bower, also relates the same story, with some additional incidents - namely, that Richard was placed by Henry in the Custody of two gentlemen of rank and reputation, named Swinburn and Waterton, who took compassion on him. connived at his escape, and spread the report of his death. Mr. Tytler, by application to the present descendants of those gentlemen, has learnt that it has always been a tradition in the family of Mr. Waterton, the well-known naturalist, that his ancestor, Sir Robert Waterton, master of the horse to Henry IV., had Richard II. in charge at Pontefract.
Sir Robert was steward of the honour of Pontefract; and what is a curious circumstance, in 1405 the Earl of Northumberland seized and kept Sir Robert Waterton in close confinement in the castles of Warkworth, Aln-wick, Berwick, and elsewhere; and that the Earl of Northumberland afterwards entered into league with Robert of Scotland to maintain the cause of King Richard.
In an ancient manuscript in the Advocates' Library, at Edinburgh, Mr. Tytler finds that "Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, with his nephew, Henry the younger, came to King Richard, at this time an exile, but well treated by the governor." The same manuscript gives the account of his death, and adds his Latin epitaph, which was still remaining on the tomb in the time of Boece, who quotes it. On examining the accounts of the chamberlain of the Duke of Albany, signed after the death of Robert III., and while James I. was a captive in England, Mr. Tytler finds four several entries in the years 1408, 1414, 1415, and 1417, stating the expenses of maintaining King Richard at the annual cost of 100 marks a year, in total of £733 6s. 8d.
Mr. Tytler then reminds us of the fact that all those who insisted on King Richard being still alive, were summarily dispatched whenever they fell into the hands of Henry. Walsingham states that the year 1402 absolutely teemed with reports of Richard being alive, and a priest of Ware was put to death by Henry for affirming it. Then eight Franciscan friars were hanged at London for obstinately maintaining that this was true. Walter de Baldock, Prior of Launde, in Leicestershire, was hanged for publishing the same story. Sir Roger de Clarendon, a natural son of the Black Prince, and one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to Richard II., along with his armour-bearer and page, was condemned and executed for the same offence. Still more, the celebrated Lord Cobham, the chief of the Lollards, on his trial in 1417, refused to plead, denying the authority of the court before which he was arraigned for heresy, saying, "He could acknowledge no judge amongst them so long as his liege lord, King Richard, was alive in Scotland." Mr. Tytler rests much weight on the position and character of Lord Cobham, whose integrity was of the highest kind, who had sat in Parliament, and held high office under Richard, Henry IV., and Henry V.; and must, he contends, have had ample opportunity for ascertaining the truth.
Finally, Mr. Tytler shows that when Sir David Fleming was in possession of the person of the asserted King Richard, Henry IV. entered into a secret correspondence with that gentleman, and granted him a passport for a personal interview; that Henry was about the same time carrying on private negotiations with Lord Montgomery, to whom, as we have stated, Richard had been delivered by the Lord of the Isles, and with the chaplain of the Lord of the Isles also.
Such are the chief points of the case brought forward by the ingenious historian of Scotland; and certainly they are strong and curious, but they fail to carry conviction to our minds. The pretended King Richard was no impostor, for he was asserted by others to be King Richard; but he uniformly denied it himself. He was positively declared by the former jester of King Richard to be that king, and also by the sister-in-law of the Lord of the Isles, who declared she had seen him in Ireland.
This supposed Richard is declared by Wynton "to have seemed half-mad or wild, from the manner in which he conducted himself," and therefore it was supposed that he had lost his understanding through his misfortunes. Though we are told that Lord Percy and other noblemen came to him, we are also informed that he would not see them. Yet for seventeen years at least, was this mysterious personage maintained at the court of Scotland as the veritable King Richard. But it appears that he was kept in the closest seclusion. Now, had the King of Scotland been confident that he had the real King Richard, nothing could have strengthened him so much against his enemy of England as to have let all those English noblemen and gentlemen who were familiar with Richard have the fullest opportunity of verifying him. As such was not the case, we may fairly infer that there were sufficient reasons for avoiding this test, and that the pretended Richard was what he was called by Henry of England in his proclamations, the mamuet, or puppet, which it was convenient for Scotland to play off against England, whenever it was useful to stir up an insurrection. Still, there is sufficient semblance of a fact in the case to make it one of those which will always stimulate curiosity, and give occasion for the exercise of a subtle ingenuity, without the chance of a positively decisive proof.
The King of Scotland lost no time in putting into play this story of the flight of King Richard to his court. The news of it was spread amongst the disaffected in various quarters of England, and the Scots prepared to make a descent on the country under advantage of the internal dissension produced. There were other motives which added piquancy to the enmity of the Scots and English. Robert III. was becoming old and feeble, and the Duke of Albany, his brother, one of the most ambitious and unprincipled men that ever lived, possessed the chief power, and gave every possible encouragement to the English adherents of Richard. On the other hand, Henry, recollecting the taunts of degeneracy which had been cast upon his predecessor because he was of a pacific turn, determined to gratify the taste of the nation for -military fame. It suited him in every way, except in a pecuniary point, for he was very destitute of funds; but it was calculated to divert men's minds from dwelling on the means by which he had risen to the throne, and gave them one great object of interest and union. The condition of Scotland, torn by powerful factions, and ruled by a weak and failing king, was favourable to his plans, and an expedition thither was the more grateful to his feelings, as it afforded him a hope of punishing the country which gave restage to his enemies. He announced his intention to Parliament, but it did not encourage the idea of imposing new taxes. He then called a great council of the peers, spiritual and temporal, and these consented to a partial resort to the ancient feudal system, which had for some time been falling into desuetude, that the barons should assemble their retainers and follow the royal standard at their own cost; while the prelates and dignitaries of the Church should give the king a tenth of their incomes. Henry next summoned all persons possessed of fees, wages, or annuities, granted by Edward III., the Black Prince, Richard II., or the Duke of Lancaster, to meet him at York, under the penalty of forfeiture: and, from the banks of the Tyne, where he arrived in the beginning of August, he dispatched heralds to King Robert and the barons of Scotland, as his vassals, to meet him on the 23rd of that month at Edinburgh, there to do homage and swear fealty to him as the paramount lord of Scotland, which, he modestly asserted, all former Kings of Scotland had done to the Kings of England from the days of Brute the Trojan.
He marched to Leith without opposition, but the castle of Edinburgh was in the hands of David, Duke of Rothsay, the king's eldest son, who sent Henry a contemptuous defiance, offering to do battle with him, with one, two, or three hundred Scottish knights against the same number of English. Henry received the proposal with an equal affectation of contempt, and waited some days for the approach of an army under the Duke of Albany. But he waited in vain, for that astute nobleman took care not to engage a force which famine was fast defeating for him. Provisions became unattainable, and Henry was compelled to retreat to the borders.
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