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Reign of Edward IV. Part 2 page 4


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The words of Louis came rapidly to pass as it regarded Edward's allies. Nothing could equal the folly of Burgundy and the treachery of the others. Charles the Rash, instead of coming up punctually with his promised forces, had, in his usual wild way, led them to avenge some affront from the Duke of Lorraine and the princes of Germany, far away from the really important scene of action. When the duke appeared in Edward's camp, with only a small retinue instead of a large army, and there was no prospect of his rendering any effective aid that summer, Edward was highly chagrined. All his officers were eager for the campaign, promising themselves a renewal of the fame and booty which their fathers had won. But when Edward advanced from Peronne, where he lay, to St. Quentin, on the assurances of Burgundy that St. Pol, who held it, would open its gates to him, and instead of such surrender, St. Pol fired on his troops from the walls, the king's wrath knew no bounds; he upbraided the duke with his conduct in thus deceiving and making a laughing-stock of him, and Burgundy retired in haste from the English camp. To add to Edward's disgust, Burgundy and his subjects had from the first landing of the English betrayed the utmost reluctance to admit the British forces into any of their towns. Artois and Picardy were shut against them, as if they came not as allies, but as intending conquerors.

Precisely at this juncture, the herald returned with his narrative of his kind reception, and the amiable disposition of Louis. This was by no means unwelcome in the present temper of Edward. It gave him the most direct prospect of punishing his perfidious allies. On the heels of the Garter king-at-arms arrived heralds from Louis, confirming all he had stated, and offering every means of pacification. The king called a council in the camp of Peronne, in which it was resolved to negotiate a peace with France on three grounds - the approach of winter, the absence of all supplies for the army, and the failure of assistance from the allies. For two months, while the terms of this treaty were discussing, the agents and the money of Louis were freely circulating amongst the courtiers and ministers of Edward.

The plenipotentiaries found all their labours wonderfully smoothed by the desire of Louis to see the soil of France as soon as possible freed from an English army. The French King agreed to almost everything proposed, never intending to fulfil a tithe of his contracts. A truce for seven years was concluded at Amiens. The King of France agreed to pay the King of England 75,000 crowns within the next fifteen days; and 50,000 crowns a year during their joint lives, to be paid in London. Apparently prodigal of his money, it was at this time that Louis paid 50,000 crowns for the ransom of Queen Margaret. To bind the alliance still more firmly, Edward proposed that the dauphin should marry his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, which was readily assented to. To testify his great joy in the termination of this treaty, Louis sent 300 cart-loads of the best wines of France into the English camp, and proposed, in order to increase the feeling of friendship between the two monarchs, that they should have a personal interview before Edward's departure.

Perhaps there is nothing more curious in history than this royal meeting. Nothing can possibly show the consciousness in the actors in this scene of the total dearth of all true confidence between those who thus professed friendship. This meeting, let it be remembered, was to promote a feeling of friendship between the two royal personages; but it was conducted with the same caution - a caution not concealed, but paraded - with which two notorious assassins would have approached each other. The meeting was to take place upon a bridge across the Somme at Picquigny, near Amiens. The very circumstance of its being on a bridge was strongly reminiscent of the famous meeting of Charles VII. and the Duke of Burgundy on the bridge of Montereau, in which Burgundy was murdered. To prevent any such catastrophe en this occasion, the two monarchs were not to meet as those persons did, between barriers, but to have a secure barrier betwixt them. This barrier consisted of latticework, with interstices no larger than would admit a man's arm. Through these the two monarchs were to shake hands and converse. Accordingly, on the 25th of August, the day appointed, the two royalties appeared at the opposite ends of the bridge, and advanced, attended by a few nobles. Louis arrived first at the barrier, followed by the Duke of Bourbon, the Cardinal Bourbon, Ms brother, and ten other persons of high rank. Edward of England approached, followed by his brother Clarence, the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Hastings, the lord chamberlain, the lord chancellor, and several peers.

Edward, as we are told by Comines, who was present, was a prince of a majestic presence, but inclining to corpulence. He was dressed in cloth of gold, and wore a rich cap of black velvet, with a large fleur-de-lis of precious stones. As the two kings came near the barrier, they bowed low to each other, with doffed caps. They then shook hands through the grating, again bowed profoundly, and then professed their great pleasure in seeing each other, and especially on so happy an occasion. Comines says, Edward spoke excellent French, and after conversing pleasantly together, the two monarchs proceeded to swear to the terms of the treaty upon a missal and a crucifix containing a fragment of the true cross. After this ceremony was over, the two kings again chatted merrily, and Louis, to appear extremely cordial, told Edward that he should be delighted to see him in Paris; that he would find the ladies very charming, and that the Cardinal Bourbon, there present, and well known for a very gay and bon-vivant churchman, should be his confessor, and would grant him easy absolution for any little peccadilloes.

To Louis's consternation, Edward replied, that nothing would delight him more than to pay him such a visit. Louis, though inwardly groaning at the very idea, carried off the matter gaily; the two kings once more shook hands, exchanged compliments, and withdrew.

Such were the precautions before these two smiling and embracing monarchs could meet. And yet, after all, had either party been so disposed, there was no real security. A sudden stroke of a sword might have dispatched either of them; and Comines confesses that the English king was greatly exposed, had Louis wished to take advantage of it. Edward and his party had to cross a narrow causeway, across marshes, of two bow-shots in length, to reach the bridge, where a sudden sally, when the English had reached the bridge itself, would have been almost certainly fatal to the English king. "But," adds Comines, "certainly the English do not manage those matters so cleverly as the French."

As Louis rode back to Amiens he was in great inward trouble about Edward's eager acceptance of his feigned invitation. He said, certainly Edward was a fine fellow, but he was so fond of the ladies that he might see some dame in Paris so much to his liking that he might be tempted to return; "and, to tell the truth," he added, "I prefer his acquaintance on the other side of the channel." At supper, Lord Howard, who was appointed to remain at the French court to see the terms of the treaty carried out, added to Louis's fright by saying, in much glee, to him, that he would certainly find means to induce Edward to come to Paris, and have a merry time with the king. To Louis this was an actual buffet, but he fell to washing his hands very earnestly, and, after a little thinking, assumed an air of regret, and said, "It was a thousand pities - it would have been a most charming thing, but, unfortunately, he was afraid it would be very long before it could take place, for he must now proceed to the frontiers to prosecute the necessary resistance to the Duke of Burgundy."

The treaty being signed, Gloucester, and some other of the chief nobility who were averse to the peace, and therefore would not attend the meeting of the kings, now rode into Amiens to pay their court to him, and Louis received them with that air of pleasure which he could so easily put on, entertained them luxuriously, and presented them with rich gifts of plate and horses.

Thus was this singular treaty concluded, and each monarch thought most advantageously to himself. Edward had paid off the Duke of Burgundy for his neglecting to fulfil his agreement as to the campaign, and he now sent the duke word, patronisingly, that if he wished, he would get a similar truce for him; to which Burgundy sent an indignant answer. Edward had, moreover, got a good round sum of money to pay his army, and a yearly income of 50,000 crowns for life. Like Charles II. afterwards, he did not trouble himself about the disgrace and disadvantage of having made himself a pensioner on France. Besides this, he had arranged to set his eldest daughter on the French throne after Louis's decease.

Louis, on his part, was so transported with his management of the affair, that, spite of his habitual caution, he could not avoid laughing and chuckling over it amongst his courtiers. True, he had spent some money, and made some promises. As to the promises, their nature was proverbial; and as to the money, it did not amount to a tithe of what he must have spent in the war, to say nothing of the evil chances which might follow a contention with the English again, and with a king always victorious. That money had cleared France of the English army, broken up the alliance with Burgundy and Brittany, left those princes now very much at his mercy, and, more than all, had tied the hands of the pleasure-loving King of England for life. To make sure work of it, Louis had not only bribed the monarch, but all the influential courtiers round him. He had agreed to pay yearly 16,000 crowns to some of the chief nobility of England. Lord Edward Hastings, Edward's great favourite, was to receive 2,000 crowns annually; the Chancellor 2,000, and the Marquis of Dorset, the Lords Howard and Cheney, Sir Thomas Montgomery, Sir Thomas St. Leger, and a few others, divided amongst them the remaing 12,000 of this really treasonable bounty money. So well aware were they of the odious nature of the payment, that Lord Hastings, though he received it as greedily as the rest, never would commit himself by signing a receipt. Well might that strange monarch, the despicable, truckling, tricky, but cunning Louis, express in private his unbounded contempt of both Edward and his courtiers. He strictly enjoined his own courtiers, however they might laugh, at the English dupes in private, they must be careful never to let them perceive any signs of their mockery and derision; and perceiving on one occasion, when his exultation had made him talk too freely, that a boastful Gascon v/as present, he immediately gave him most advantageous preferment, to bind him to secresy, saying, "It is but just that I should pay the penalty of my talkativeness."

The people were very much of the French king's opinion, that their own monarch had been sadly overreached. The army, which on its return was disbanded, promoted this feeling everywhere. The soldiers came back disappointed of the plunder of France, and accordingly vented their chagrin on the king and his courtiers, who for their private emolument had sold, they said, the honour of the nation. As to the general terms of the peace, the people had good cause to be satisfied. It was much better for the nation to be left at liberty to pursue its profitable trade, than to be year after year drained of its substance to carry on a useless war. But the real cause of discontent was the annual bribe, which bound the king and his court to wink at any proceedings of France on the Continent, against our allies and commercial connections, and even to suffer intrusions on our own trade and interests, rather than incur the danger of losing the pay of the French king.

Edward endeavoured to silence these murmurs by severity. He sent amongst the people agents who reported any offensive language, and he punished offenders without mercy. At the same time, he extended an equally stern hand towards all disturbers of the peace; the disbanded soldiers having collected into hordes, and spread murder and rapine through several of the counties. Seeing, however, that such was the general discontent, that should some Wat Tyler or Jack Cade arise, the consequences might be terrible, he determined to ease the burdens of the people at the expense of the higher classes. He therefore ordered a rigorous exaction of the customs; laid frequent tenths on the clergy; resumed many of the estates of the crown; and compelled the holders of estates to compound by heavy fines for the omission of any of their duties as feudal tenants. He moreover entered boldly into trade. Instead of permitting his ships to lie rotting in port, as he had no occasion for them as transport vessels, he sent out in them wool, tin, cloth, and other merchandise, and brought back from the ports of the Levant their products. By all these means Edward became the most wealthy monarch of Europe, and while he grew very soon popular with the people, who felt the weight of taxation annually decreasing, he became equally formidable to those who had more reason to complain.

But however generally prosperous was the remainder of Edward's reign, it was to himself filled with the deepest causes of grief and remorse. The part which his brother Clarence had taken, his allying himself to Warwick, with the design to depose Edward and secure the crown to himself, could never be forgotten. He had been named the successor to the Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI, and, should anything happen to Edward, might assert that claim to the prejudice of his own son. Still further, Clarence had given mortal offence to the queen. Her father and her brother had been put to death in Clarence's name. Her brother Antony, afterwards, had narrowly escaped the same fate from the orders of Clarence. He had been forward in the charge of sorcery against her mother, the Duchess Jacquetta. Scarcely less had he incensed his brother Richard of Gloucester, the vindictive and never-forgiving, by his opposition to his marriage with Anne of Warwick, and to sharing any of Warwick's property with him. Clarence was immensely rich, from the possession of the bulk of Warwick's vast estates, and he seems to have borne himself haughtily, as if he were another Warwick. He was at the head of a large party of malcontents, those who hated and envied the queen's family, and those who had been made to yield up their valuable grants from the crown under Henry VI. Clarence himself was one of the reluctant parties thus forced to disgorge some of his lands, under the act of resumption, on Edward's return from France. While brooding over this offence, his wife Isabella of Warwick died, on the 22nd of December, 1476, just after the birth of her third child. Clarence, who was so extremely attached to her that he was almost beside himself at the loss, accused, brought to trial, and procured the condemnation of Ankaret Twynhyo, one of her attendants, on the charge of having poisoned her.

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Pictures for Reign of Edward IV. Part 2 page 4

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