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Reign of Edward IV. Part 1 page 3


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Yet it was Margaret's fortune to be driven to the dominions of this great enemy by her strange fate. She found that it was necessary that she should quit Scotland with all speed; and setting sail in a small vessel with her son, her faithful attendant, De Breze, who had spent his whole fortune in her service, with Sir John Fortescue, and a number of other ruined adherents of Lancaster, to seek a refuge amongst her friends in the north of England, she was overtaken by tempests, and driven on the coast of Flanders, and into the small port of Ecluse. Though thus thrown into the power of a formidable enemy - against whom she had just uttered such direful threats - in the lowest condition of destitution and desertion; yet, still undaunted, she did not hesitate to demand an audience and a reconciliation with Burgundy. She had neither money, jewels, nor credit, to propitiate the pitiless people amongst whom she had come, who upbraided her with her misfortunes as her own work, and expressed their amazement that she should, of all places in the world, seek the dominions of him whose life she had so violently menaced. The duke, to whom she sent a messenger, received him very coldly, and sent word to Margaret, by an envoy of his own, that he was so much engaged in important affairs that he could not wait upon her. The duke was at St. Pol; she was now at Bruges, and she set forward thence to reach him in a common carrier's cart with a canvas tilt - like a country wife going to market - and attended by only three maids. The devoted Pierre de Breze and a few other gentlemen followed the cart to prevent it being attacked; and thus she went on from town to town, the people at every place running in crowds to see the former great Queen of England reduced to this lamentable condition. On the way she met the Count of Charolais, the son of the Duke of Burgundy, who took compassion on her, and presented her with 500 crowns, which he happened to have about him. On the road to Bethune she narrowly escaped a less welcome meeting - that of 200 English horsemen who lay in wait for her.

At length she reached St. Pol, succeeded in softening the heart of the great duke, and was received with much affection by her near relative, the Duchess of Bourbon, to whom she related her many vicissitudes and adventures, as they are recounted by Chastellain. The duke sent her back in great honour to Bruges, attended by a troop of horse to prevent the English from attacking her, who had declared they would not capture, but kill her, and thus rid themselves of their only formidable enemy. Parties of English soldiers were out from Calais for this purpose, no doubt deeply incensed against her by her endeavour to make over that stronghold to France. From Bruges she went to Bar, Amboise, and other castles and courts of the French princes, till she finally settled at the castle of Kuerere, in the diocese of Verdun, near the town of St. Michel, in Lorraine, being allowed by her father 2,000 livres a year, the utmost he could afford. There, and at Angers, the exiled queen principally spent the next seven years, Sir John Fortescue remaining as the prince's tutor, and where he wrote for his use the celebrated work, "De Laudibus Legum Anglise." At Kuerere Margaret received the melancholy news of the capture and imprisonment of her husband. For about twelve months the unfortunate monarch had contrived to elude the eager quest of his enemies. He went from place to place amongst the friends of the house of Lancaster in Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. At the various halls and castles where he sojourned, tradition has to this day retained the memory of his presence. There are "King Henry's chamber," and "King Henry's parlour," still pointed out, the bath that he used, and the boot, spoon, and glove that he left with, his host, Sir Ralph Pudsay, at Bolton Hall, Yorkshire. He was at length betrayed by Cantlow, a monk of Abingdon, and he was taken by the servants of Sir John Harrington, as he sat at dinner at Waddington Hall. He was treated with the utmost indignity on his way to London. He was mounted on a miserable hack, his legs being tied to his stirrups, and an insulting placard fixed on his back. At Islington Warwick met the fallen king, and disgraced himself by commanding the thronging spectators to show no respect to him. To enforce his command by his own example, he led the unhappy man three times round the pillory, as if he had been a common felon, crying, "Treason! treason! Behold the traitor!"

Edward, now freed from his enemies, considered himself established beyond a fear of the throne. He created Lord Montacute Earl of Northumberland for his services at Hexham, and Lord Herbert Earl of Pembroke. He issued a long list of attainders to exhaust the resources of his opponents and increase those of his adherents. He then passed an Act for the resumption of the crown lands to supply a royal income; but this was clogged by so many exceptions that it proved fruitless. He then gave himself up to mirth and jollity, and in the pursuit of his pleasures made himself so affable and agreeable, especially with the Londoners, that, in spite of his free gallantries, he was very popular. So strongly did he now seem to be grounded in the affections of his subjects, that he ventured to make known a private marriage, which he had contracted some time before, though he knew that it would give great offence in several quarters.

It is a curious circumstance that in the early part of the reign of Henry VI., two ladies of royal lineage, and one of them of royal rank, had condescended to marry private gentlemen, to the great scandal of their high-born connections. One of these was Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V., and mother of Henry VI., who married Owen Tudor. The other was Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the widow of the great Duke of Bedford, Regent of France, who married Sir Richard Wydville. Both Tudor and Wydville were men of remarkable beauty; and both were imprisoned and persecuted for the offence of marrying, without permission of the crown, princesses who chose to fall in love with them. Wydville regained his liberty by the payment of a fine of 1,000 crowns. Tudor's persecutions were more severe and prolonged, Yet, from these two scandalous misalliances, as they were regarded by the court and high nobility, sprang a line of the most remarkable princes that ever sat upon the English throne. The blood of both these ladies mingled in the burly body of Henry VIII. and his descendants. We have seen how Tudor became the grandfather of Henry VII.; we have now to observe how Wydville became the grandfather of Henry's wife, Elizabeth of York.

Jacquetta had several children by Sir Richard Wydville, one of whom, Elizabeth, was a woman of much beauty and great accomplishments. She had been married to Sir John Gray of Groby, a Lancastrian, who fell at the second battle of St. Albans. His estate was consequently confiscated, his widow, with seven children, returned to her father, and was living at his seat at Graf ton, in Northamptonshire. Edward being out on a hunting party in the neighbourhood, took the opportunity to call on the Duchess of Bedford. There he saw and was greatly struck with the beauty of the Lady Grey. She, on her part, seized the occasion to endeavour to secure some restitution of their property for her children. The whole of her subsequent life showed that she was not a woman to neglect such opportunities. She threw herself at the feet of the gay monarch, and with many tears besought him to restore to her innocent children their father's patrimony.

Lady Gray made more impression than she probably intended. Edward was perfectly fascinated by her beauty and spirit. He raised her from her suppliant posture, and promised her his favour. He soon communicated to her the terms on which he would grant the restitution of her property, but he found in Elizabeth Wydville, or Gray, a very different person to those he had been accustomed to meet. She firmly refused every concession inconsistent with her honour, and the king, piqued by the resistance he encountered, became more and more enamoured.

On the 1st of May, 1464, he married her at Graf ton, in the presence only of the priest, the clerk, the Duchess of Bedford, and two female attendants. Within a few days after the marriage he set out to meet the Lancastrians in the north; but the battles of Hedgley Moor and Hexham were fought before his arrival; and on his return he became anxious to open the matter to his council, and to obtain its sanction. Accordingly, at Michaelmas, he summoned a general council of the peers at the abbey of Reading, where he announced this important event. Amongst the peers present were Edward's brother, the Duke of Clarence, and the great king-maker, Warwick. To neither of these individuals was the transaction agreeable. To Clarence it appeared too inferior a choice for the King of England, though Elizabeth Gray, by her mother's side, was of princely blood. But to Warwick there was offence in it, personal and deep. He had been commissioned by Edward to solicit for him the hand of Bona of Savoy, the sister of the Queen of France. The proposal had been accepted; the King of France had given his consent; the treaty of marriage was actually drawn; and there lacked nothing but the ratification of the terms agreed upon, and the bringing over of the princess to England. At this moment came the order to pause in the proceedings, and the mystery was soon cleared up by the confident rumour of this sudden matrimonial caprice of the king. Warwick returned in high dudgeon; to Edward he did not endeavour to conceal it; but the time for revenge of his injured honour was not yet come; and therefore, after the royal announcement in the council, Clarence and Warwick took Elizabeth by the hand, and introduced her to the rest of the peers. A second council was held at Westminster, in December, and the income of the new queen was settled at 4,000 marks a year.

It was not to be expected that this sudden elevation of a simple knight's daughter to the throne would pass without much murmuring and discontent, which was probably the more fully expressed as it was shared by the all-powerful Warwick and the king's brothers. There were busy rumours that the politic old duchess, Jacquetta, and her daughter, had practised magical arts upon the king, and administered philters; and that, recovering from their effect, he had grievously repented, and endeavoured to free himself. But Edward's whole conduct towards the queen showed the falsity of this jealous gossip; and to make it obvious that she was of no mean parentage, he invited to the coronation her mother's brother, James of Luxembourg, with a retinue of a hundred knights and gentlemen, On the feast of Ascension he created, in honour of the queen, thirty-eight knights of the Bath, selecting four of them from the city of London. In return for this compliment, the lord mayor, aldermen, and the different companies met the queen at Shooter's-hill, and conducted her in state to the Tower. On Saturday, to please the people, she was conducted in a horse-litter through the principal streets, preceded by the new knights. The next day, Sunday, she was crowned with much splendour, and the following week was devoted to tournaments and public festivities.

But if the king had made apparent her noble birth and his continued affection for her, it became speedily as apparent that the marriage of a subject was to be followed by all its inconveniences. Elizabeth, though raised to the throne, might still be said to be on her knees, imploring the favour of the king. There was nothing which she thought too much for her numerous relations, and the king displayed a marvellous facility in complying with her requests. Her father was created Earl Rivers, and soon after the Lord Mountjoy, a partisan of the Nevilles, was removed to make way for him as treasurer of England; and again, on the resignation of the Earl of Worcester, the office of Lord High Constable was conferred on him. That was very well for a beginning, but it was nothing to what followed; every branch of the queen's family must be aggrandised without delay. She had five sisters, and every one of these was married to one of the highest noblemen in the realm: one to the Duke of Buckingham; one to the heir of the Earl of Essex; a third to the Earl of Arundel; a fourth to Lord Gray de Ruthyn, Who was made Earl of Kent; and the fifth to Lord William Herbert, created Earl of Huntingdon. Her brother Anthony was married to the heiress of the late Lord Scales, and endowed with her estate and title. Her younger brother John, in his twentieth year, was married to the wealthy old dowager Duchess of Norfolk, in her eightieth year; such was the shameless greed of this family. The queen's son, Thomas Gray, was married to the king's niece, the daughter and heiress of the Duke of Exeter.

The great family of the Nevilles looked on all this with ominous gloom. Hitherto it had enjoyed all the favour and emolument which were now turned so lavishly upon the Wydvilles. Of the three sons of the Earl of Salisbury. one was now Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of York. the other was created Lord Montacute, and then Earl c: Northumberland, with the ample estates of the Percies. But far above them all soared Warwick. He had put down Henry VI., and set up Edward. He had hitherto been the king's chief minister and general; he held the wardenship of the west marches towards Scotland, was Lord Chamberlain, and Governor of Calais, the most important and lucrative appointment in the king's gin. worth 15,000 crowns per annum. The value of royal grants alone, which he held independent of his patrimonial estates, was 80,000 crowns a year. The magnificence and liberality of his style of living was in full accord with hi s wealth and rank. No less than 30,000 people are said to have lived daily at his board, at his different manors and castles. When we add to the power of Warwick that of the house of Montacute and of Westmoreland, all Nevilles; and when we add that Warwick was as much worshipped by all military men for his bravery as for his frankness and princely profusion, we perceive the peril which the thoughtless Edward ran in wounding the pride and irritating the jealousy of the most potent of English nobles,

Fresh causes of disunion arose betwixt the king and Warwick. A marriage had for some time been in agitation between Margaret, the king's sister, and Count Charolais, the son and heir of the Duke of Burgundy. The count was sprung from the house of Lancaster, and even when his father showed the most settled coolness towards Henry YI. and Margaret, had displayed a warm sympathy for them. It was a good stroke of policy, therefore, to win him over by this marriage to the reigning dynasty. But Warwick, who in his former intercourse with Burgundy in France, had conceived a deep dislike to him, opposed this match, and represented one with a son of Louis XI. of France-as far more advantageous. To Warwick's arguments were opposed the evident policy of maintaining our commercial intercourse with the Netherlands, and of possessing so efficient an ally on the borders of France against the deep and selfish schemes of Louis. But in the end Warwick prevailed. He was sent over to France to negotiate the affair with Louis, Warwick went attended with a princely train and with all the magnificence which distinguished him at home, more like that of a great sovereign than of a subject. Louis, who never lost an opportunity of sowing jealousies amongst his enemies, even while he appeared to be honouring them, met Warwick at Rouen, attended by the queen and princesses. The inhabitants, obeying royal orders, went out and escorted Warwick into city with banners and processions of priests, who conducted the earl to the cathedral, and then to the lodgings prepared for him at the Jacobins. There also Louis and the court took up their quarters, and for twelve days, during which the conference lasted, Louis used to visit the earl in private, passing through a side door into his apartments. With all this secret and familiar intercourse, there were no pains taken to conceal its existence; and the consequence was such as the astute and mischievous Louis intended. Reports were forwarded to Edward from those whom he had placed in Warwick's train, which roused his ever uncalculating anger. He hastened to the house of Warwick's brother - the Archbishop of York and Chancellor of the kingdom - demanded the instant surrender of the seals; and, enforcing the act of resumption of crown lands lately passed, deprived the archbishop of two manors formerly belonging to the crown.

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Pictures for Reign of Edward IV. Part 1 page 3

Edward IV. and Lady Elizabeth Gray
Edward IV. and Lady Elizabeth Gray >>>>
Carriage of the Fifteenth Century
Carriage of the Fifteenth Century >>>>
Preaching at St. Paul's Cross
Preaching at St. Paul's Cross >>>>
Warwick visiting King Henry VI
Warwick visiting King Henry VI >>>>

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