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Reign of Edward V page 3

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Here it was expected that the people would cry out, "Long live King Richard!" but they stared at one another in amazement, and the more so that Gloucester did not appear at the right nick of time, but after the preacher's apostrophe was concluded; so that, when Gloucester did appear, he was obliged to repeat his lesson, which threw such an air of ridicule upon the whole, that Gloucester could not conceal his chagrin; and the preacher - perceiving that the odium of the attempt, as it had failed, would fall upon him - stole away home, and, it is said, never again recovered his standing. Gloucester, of course, would be the first to fling him by as a worthless tool, and he received that reward of public contempt which it would be better for the world if it always followed such vile subserviency.

But Gloucester was now fully prepared to complete his necessary amount of crime for the attainment of the throne, and was not to be daunted by one failure. The preacher having broken the ice, he renewed his attempt in another quarter - the council chamber of the city. The lord mayor, as great a sycophant as his brother, the preacher, lent himself, as he had probably done before, to the scheme. On the next Tuesday, the 24th of June, the Duke of Buckingham appeared upon the hustings at Guildhall, and harangued the citizens. He called upon them to recollect the dissolute life of the late king; his frequent violation of the sanctity of their homes; the seduction of most respectable ladies; the extent of his extortions of their money under the name of benevolences. In fact, he repeated, in another form, the whole sermon of Shaw, and went through the whole story of the marriage of Lady Butler, by the king, previous to that with Lady Grey, of which he assured them Stillington, Bishop of Bath, was a witness. Stillington, however, was never called to give such evidence. He then asked whether they would have the illegitimate progeny of such a man to rule over them. He assured them that, for his part, he would never submit to the rule of a bastard, and that both aristocracy and people of the northern counties had sworn the same. But there, he observed, was the Duke of Gloucester, a man calculated to rescue England from such a stigma, and from all its losses - a man valiant, wise, patriotic, and of true blood, the genuine descendant of the great Edward III. Here he paused, that the people might cry, "Long live King Richard!" but they were all silent. Astonished at the failure of his eloquence, Buckingham turned to the pliant lord mayor, and asked him what could be the cause. The mayor said, "They perhaps had not fully understood him;" on which Buckingham repeated his discourse with some variations, but concluding with the same question. Still the people were all silent. "I now see the cause," observed the lord mayor; "the citizens are not accustomed to be harangued by any one but their own recorder, and know not how to answer a person of your grace's quality."

He then bade Fitzwilliams, the recorder, state the same things; but the man, who was averse to the dirty business put upon him, took care to repeat the whole in the name of the Duke of Buckingham, and not as proceeding from himself or the corporation. Still the people were as silent as before. "This is wonderful obstinacy!" cried the duke. "Express your meaning, my friends, one way or other. The Lords and Commons have resolved to have another king, but I require you here to say, in plain terms, whether you will have the Duke of Gloucester or not."

On this, the servants of Buckingham and Gloucester incited some of the meanest apprentices to cry out, and there was a feeble voice raised of "God save King Richard!" That was enough. Buckingham returned the people thanks for their hearty assent, and invited them to attend him the next morning to the duke's residence of Baynard's Castle, near Blackfriars Bridge, to tender him the crown.

When the supple lord mayor Shaw, and a number of lords and gentlemen, and the principal citizens, appeared in the court of Richard's castle in the morning with a mob at their heels, Richard professed to be alarmed at the approach of such a throng, and sent out to demand the cause. Buckingham adroitly pointed out this to the people, saying, "The lord protector knows nothing of the whole matter," and sent word in that the people were come to demand that Richard should be their king. On this Gloucester appeared at a window, but affecting astonishment, and even fears of his own safety. Then Buckingham read him an address, which afterwards was embodied in an Act of Parliament. This went over the whole ground of the sermon and the speech at Guildhall, setting forth the invalid marriage of Edward and Elizabeth, the sorcery on the part of Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta, Dame Eleanor Butler's prior and real marriage without issue, the attainder of Clarence, and consequent bar to his children, and winding up with the sole right and title of Gloucester.

Gloucester took care not to call in question any of the statements made, but excused himself as by no means ambitious, declaring that royalty had no charms for him; that he was greatly attached to the children of his brother, and would maintain the crown on the head of his nephew at all costs. To this amiable speech Buckingham replied that that was out of the question; the public was resolved not to crouch to the rule of a bastard, and, therefore, if Gloucester declined, they must look out elsewhere. This was the decision for which Gloucester was waiting. He pretended to be struck by this. He paused, as in deep thought, for a while, and then said, "In this case, it was his duty, however painful, to obey the voice of the people. That since he was the true heir, and had been chosen by the three estates" (a notorious fiction, for there had been no Parliamentary proceeding on the subject), "he assented to their petition, and would from that day take upon himself the royal estate, pre-eminence, and the kingdom of the two noble realms of England and France; the one from that day forward by him and his heirs to rule, the other, by God's grace and their good help, to get again and subdue."

Thus ended this scene, which Hume calls a ridiculous farce, but which was in fact a most diabolical one, to be followed by as revolting a tragedy. The next day this monster in human form went to Westminster in state. There he entered the great hall, and seated himself on the marble seat, with Lord Howard, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, on his right hand, and the Duke of Suffolk on his left. He stated to the persons present that he chose to commence his reign in that place, because the administration of justice was the first duty of a king. Every one who heard this must have felt that if there were any justice in him, he could not be there. It is clear that the spirit of the nation was with the poor boy Edward; but there was no man who dared to lift up his voice for him. The axe of Gloucester had already lopped off heads enough to render the others dumb, and London was invested by his myrmidons. He was already a dictator, and could do for a while what he pleased. He proclaimed an amnesty to all offenders against him up to that hour, and he then proceeded to St. Paul's, to return thanks to God. Thus, on the 26th of June, 1483, successful villany sat enthroned in the heart of London.

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