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Reign of Edward IV. Part 2 page 5

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Directly after this, January 5th, 1477, the Duke of Burgundy fell at the battle of Nancy, in his vain struggle against the Duke of Lorraine, backed by the valiant Swiss. His splendid domains fell to his only daughter, Mary, who immediately became the object of the most eager desire to numerous princes. Louis of France disdained to sue for her hand for the dauphin, but attacked her territories, and hoped to secure both them and her by conquest. There had been some treaty for her by the Duke Maximilian, of Austria, for his son, during the late duke's life; but now Clarence suddenly aroused himself from his grief for the loss of his wife, and made zealous court, on his own account, to this great heiress. Her mother, Margaret, the sister of Clarence, favoured his suit warmly, but the idea of such an alliance struck Edward with dismay. Clarence already was far too powerful. Should he succeed in placing himself at the head of one of the most powerful states on the Continent, and with his avowed claims on the English crown, and his undisguised enmity to Edward's queen and family, the mischief he might do was incalculable. He might form a coalition with France, most disastrous to England and to him.

Edward, therefore, lost no time in putting in his most decided opposition. In this cause he was no doubt zealously seconded by Gloucester. But if ever there was a choice of a riyal most unfortunate, and even insulting, it was that put forward by Edward against Clarence, in the person, of Sir Anthony Wydville, the queen's brother. This match was rejected by the court of Burgundy with disdain, and only heightened the odium of the queen in England - an odium, which fell heavily on her in after-years - who now was regarded as a woman who, not content with filling all the great houses of England with her kin, was ambitious enough to aim at filling the highest continental thrones with them. The result was, that Edward succeeded in defeating Clarence, without gaining his own, or rather his wife's object.

From this moment Clarence became at deadly feud with Edward and all his family. The king, the queen, and Gloucester united in a league against him, which, where such men were concerned - men never scrupling to destroy those who opposed them - boded him little good. The conduct of Clarence was calculated to exasperate this enmity, and to expose him to its attacks. He vented his wrath against all the parties who had thwarted him, king, queen, and Gloucester, in the bitterest and most public manner; and on the other side, occasions were found to stimulate him to more disloyal conduct. They began with attacking his friends and members of his household, John Stacey, a priest in his service, was charged with having practised sorcery to procure the death of Lord Beauchamp, and being put to the torture, Was brought to confess that Thomas Burdett, a gentleman of Arrow, in Warwickshire, also a gentleman of the duke's household, and greatly beloved by Clarence, was mi accomplice. It was well understood why this confession was wrung from the poor priest. Thomas Burdett had a fine white stag in his park, on which he set great value. Edward, in hunting, had shot this stag, and Burdett, in his anger at the deed, had been reported to have said that he wished the horns of the deer were in the stomach of the person who had advised the king to insult him by killing it. This speech, real or imaginary, had been carefully conveyed to the king, and he thus took his revenge. Thomas Burdett was accused of high treason, tried, and, by the servile judges and jury, condemned, and beheaded at Tyburn.

Clarence had exerted himself to save the lives of both these persons in vain. They both died protesting their innocence, and the next day Clarence entered the council, bringing Dr. Goddard, a clergyman, who appeared on various occasions in those times, as a popular agitator. Goddard attested the dying declarations of the sufferers; and Clarence, with an honourable, but imprudent zeal, warmly denounced the destruction of his innocent friends. Edward and the court were at Windsor, and these proceedings were duly carried thither by the enemies of Clarence. Soon it was reported that, having for many days sat sullenly silent at the council-board with folded arms, he had started up and uttered the most disloyal words, accusing the queen of sorcery, which she had learned of her mother; and even implicating the king in the accusation.

The fate of Clarence was sealed. The queen and Gloucester were vehement against him, Edward hurried to Westminster; Clarence was arrested and conducted by the king himself to the Tower. On the 16th of January a Parliament was assembled, and Edward himself appeared as the accuser of his brother at the bar of the Lords. He charged him with a design to dethrone and destroy him and his family. He retorted upon him the charge of sorcery, and of dealing with masters of the black art for this treasonable purpose; that to raise a rebellion he had supplied his servants with vast quantities of money, wine, venison, and provisions, to feast the people, and to fill their minds at such feasts with the belief that Burdett and Stacey had been wrongfully put to death; that Clarence had engaged numbers of people to swear to stand by him and his heirs as rightful claimants of the throne - asserting that Edward was, in truth, a bastard, and had no right whatever to the crown; that to gain the throne, and support himself upon it, he had had constant application to the arts for which his queen and her mother were famous, and had not hesitated to poison and destroy in secret. As for himself - Clarence - he pledged himself to restore all the lands and honours of the Lancastrians, when he gained his own royal rights.

To these monstrous charges Clarence made a vehement reply, but posterity has no means of judging of the truth or force of what he said, for the whole of his defence was omitted in the rolls of Parliament. Not a soul dared to say a word on his behalf. Edward brought forward witnesses to swear to everything he alleged; the duke was condemned to death, and the Commons being summoned to attend, confirmed the sentence. No attempt was made to put the sentence into execution, but about ten days later it was announced that Clarence had died in the Tower. The precise mode of his death has never been clearly ascertained. The generally received account is that of Fabyan, a cotemporary, who says that he was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. All that is known is, that he was found dead with his head hanging over a butt of this wine; but whether he had been drowned in it and thus placed, or had been allowed to kill himself by drinking of it to excess, must ever remain a mystery. It was a fact that since the death of his wife, the defeat of his attempt to obtain Mary of Burgundy, and the subsequent irritations, he had given himself up to desperate drinking. He might have been supplied with his favourite drink, till it had done its work on a mind overwhelmed, in its solitude, with grief, mortification, and despair; or he might have had a gentle hoist over the side of the butt, to facilitate its operations. He was condemned to die; his brothers and their friends resolved that he should die in private - how, will never be known. Gloucester, who has always had the credit of assisting at this as at sundry other Tower murders, could not have officiated personally at it, for he was residing in the North at the time.

The conduct of the court on the occasion was characterised by the utmost heartlessness, and contempt of public decorum. The festival of the next St. George's Day, but about two months afterwards, was celebrated with extraordinary splendour, as though nothing so terrible had lately occurred: the queen taking the lead and wearing the robes of the chief lady of the order. With the characteristic rapacity of the Wydvilles, several of the estates of Clarence were taken from Ms children and bestowed on the queen's brother, Anthony, Earl Rivers; and as George Neville, the son of the Marquis of Montacute, was next heir to those lands, he was also deprived of the title, as he had previously been of the lands, on pretence that he had no income to support it.

Clarence left two children by the daughter of Warwick, a boy and girl, whose proximity to the throne afterwards proved their destruction also, as we shall see. There was a prophecy floating amongst the people at that time, that the son of Edward IV. should perish by the hand of a person whose name commenced with G. The name of Clarence was George; and much of the ill-will of Edward, who had great faith in fortune-telling, is said to have been directed to Clarence through it, never seeming to reflect that he had another very active G. near him, in the person of Gloucester, the actual future perpetrator of the deed.

Edward now again gave himself up to his pleasures, and would have been glad, in the midst of his amorous intrigues, to have forgotten public affairs altogether. But for this the times were too much out of joint. It was not in England alone that the elements of faction had been in agitation. Nearly the whole of Europe had witnessed the contentions of overgrown nobles and vassal princes, by which almost every crown had been endangered, and the regal authority in many cases brought into contempt. The changes consequent on the successful usurpation of Henry IV. we have fully detailed; those storms which raged around the throne of France we have partially seen; but similar dissensions betwixt the Electors of Germany and the Emperor Sigismund prevailed; the Netherlands were divided against each other: and Spain was equally disturbed by the conspiracies of the nobles against the crown. Edward of England, as if sensible of the weakness of his position, strove anxiously to strengthen it by foreign alliances. Though his children were far too young to contract actual marriages, he made treaties which should place his daughters on a number of the chief thrones. Some of these contracts were entered into almost as soon as those concerned In them were born. Elizabeth, the eldest, was affianced to the Dauphin of France; Cecilia, the second, to the eldest son and heir of the King of Scotland; Anne, to the infant son of Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, and husband of Mary of Burgundy; Catherine, to the heir of the King of Spain. His eldest son was engaged to the eldest daughter of the Duke of Brittany. On the other hand, all these royal negotiators appear to have been equally impressed with the precarious character of Edward's power, and were ready at the first moment to annul the contract.

That subtle monarch, Louis of France, never from the first moment seriously meant to adhere to his engagement; and in a very few years every one of these anxiously-planned marriages were blown away like summer clouds. Edward was not long in suspecting the hollowness of the conduct of Louis XI. Though repeatedly reminded that the time was come to fetch the Princess of England, in order to complete her education in France, preparatory to her occupying the station assigned to her there, Louis took no measures for this purpose; and when Edward remonstrated on the subject, threatened to withdraw the payment of the annual 50,000 crowns. Edward boiled with indignation, and vowed, amongst his immediate courtiers, that he would hunt up the old fox in his own cover if he did not mind. But that wily prince was not so easily dealt with. Ho saw with chagrin the proposed alliances betwixt Edward and his dangerous neighbours, the Duke of Brittany and Maximilian of Austria, now, through his wife, the ruler of Burgundy. Edward, in his resentment at the threat of Louis to withdraw his annual payment, made offers of closer union with Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy, and engaged, on condition that they should pay him the 50,000 crowns which he now had from Louis, to assist them against that monarch. But Louis was not to be out-manoeuvred in this manner; he was a profounder master in all the arts of diplomatic stratagem than Edward. He, therefore, made secret and tempting advances to Maximilian and Mary, one article of which devoted the Dauphin to their infant daughter, despite of her engagement to the English heir. At the same time he stirred up sufficient trouble in Scotland to engage the attention of Edward for some time.

The circumstances of Scotland were at this time very favourable to the mischievous interference of Louis. James III. was a monarch far beyond his ago. He was of a pacific and philosophic turn. Surrounded by a rude, ignorant, and barbarous nobility, ha conceived an infinite contempt for them, and, unfortunately, was not politic enough to conceal it. As he found no pleasure in their society, ho did not court, or even tolerate it. They were received at court with coldness and neglect, while they saw there men of science and letters held in the highest esteem, and admitted to the king's most intimate conversation. Amongst these were architects, painters, musicians, and astrologers, who in that age were ranked with men of science, and were much resorted to by the highest classes. Cochrane, an architect, was in great favour with James; and, on the other hand, styled by the nobles "Cochrane the mason." Rogers, a professor of music, and Dr. Ireland, a man of literary accomplishment acquired in France, were also greatly esteemed by him. Besides these, he also encouraged professors of the arts of gunnery, engineering, and defence. He was greatly interested in improving the casting and using of cannon. Artillerymen and skilful artisans were attracted to his service from the Continent. But what incensed his proud nobles more than all, was to behold his favour to smiths, fencing-masters, and similar low proficients, as they deemed them. To avenge their rude and barbaric dignity, they stirred up the king's two brothers, the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Mar, to rebellion. James, however, showed that, though pacifically disposed, he did not lack energy. He seized Mar and Albany, and confined them; Mar in Craigmillar Castle, and Albany in that of Edinburgh. Albany managed to escape, and made his way, by means of a French vessel, to France. Mar, who was of a vehement temper, was seized in his prison with fever and delirium. He was, therefore, removed from Craigmillar to a house in the Canongate, at Edinburgh, where, having been bled, he is said, on a return of the paroxysm, to have torn off his bandages while in a warm bath, and died from loss of blood. It was one of those incidents that, at the least, are suspicious; but public opinion at the time, for the most part, exonerated the king from the charge of any criminal intention; and even when he was afterwards deposed, no such charge was preferred against him by the hostile faction.

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