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Accession of Edward IV page 5


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Edward was rapidly marching thitherward. He was at Gloucester when the news of the fall of his father and the atrocious murder of his brother reached him; and the intelligence arousing the Welsh borderers, they flocked to his standard, breathing vengeance. His march was harassed by a party of royalists under Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, the king's half-brother, chiefly consisting of Welsh and Irish. To free himself of them, Edward turned upon them at Mortimer's Cross, near Hereford. A dreadful battle ensued, in which Edward gained a complete victory, slaying nearly 4,000 of the royalists. Jasper Tudor, the commander, escaped; but his father, Owen Tudor, the second husband of Catherine of Valois, and ancestor of the Tudor line of sovereigns, was taken prisoner, and, with Throgmorton and seven other captains, was beheaded at Hereford, in retaliation for those who had been similarly put to death after the battle of Wake-field. The news of this butchery reaching Margaret before the battle of St. Albans, instigated her to retaliate again by the execution of Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriel, who had so much distinguished himself in France. The spirit of deadly malice was now raging betwixt the contending parties, and one deed of cruelty provoked another.

Edward found no further obstacle on his march towards London. The terrible chastisement of the royalists made a deep impression. His force grew as he advanced. He soon joined Warwick, and collected his dispersed troops. Once united, they were more than a match for the royalists. When Edward approached London, he was welcomed as a deliverer. The lawless army of the queen had carried terror wherever they came. They had plundered the town of St. Albans, and stripped its ancient abbey, and this so incensed its abbot, the chronicler Whethamstede, that he abandoned the royal party, and became a Yorkist. The queen was as impolitic as her soldiers. She threatened the people of London with her vengeance for their open preference of her enemies - a preference they had never disguised since the murder of Gloucester. She sent from Barnet into the city demanding supplies; and, though the lord mayor was inclined to comply, the people stoutly refused to let any provisions pass. A party of 400 horse were sent to enforce the demand; they plundered the northern suburbs, and would have continued their depredations in London itself, but the people fell upon them, and drove them out. Such was the situation of affairs when Edward and Warwick appeared. The gates were joyfully thrown open, and Edward rode in triumph into the city. He was still but in his nineteenth year, of a remarkably handsome person, of a gay and affable disposition, and reputed to be highly accomplished. The fate of his father and brother, and the recent conduct of the queen, added greatly to the interest which he excited. While Lord Falconbridge reviewed a body of troops in the fields of Clerkenwell, Neville, the Bishop of Exeter, seized the opportunity to harangue the crowded spectators. He drew a miserable picture of the imbecility of the king, of the haughty and bloody spirit of the queen, and the calamities which had resulted from both; declared that Henry, by joining the queen's forces, had violated the award of Parliament, and forfeited the crown. He then demanded whether they would still have him for king. They shouted - "No, no!" He then asked whether they would have Edward for king, and they cried - "Yes, yes! long live King Edward!"

The popular feeling being thus ascertained, a great council was convoked by the Yorkists on the 3rd of March, 1461, which confirmed the verdict of the public, declared Henry to have justly forfeited the crown by breaking his oath and joining in proceedings against the Duke of York, who had thus been slain; and on the 4th Edward rode in procession to Westminster Hall, where he mounted the throne, and made a speech to the thronging thousands, detailing the just claims of his family, according to hereditary succession. His speech was received by loud acclamations. He then adjourned to the abbey church, where he repeated the same harangue to the same consenting audience, and was duly proclaimed by the heralds in the customary form by the style and title of King Edward IV.

Thus terminated the reign of Henry VI., but neither his life, nor the strife and troubles which attended it.

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