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Reign of of Richard III page 2


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What is more, all those said to be concerned in this diabolical deed were afterwards specially patronised by Richard. Greene, the messenger, was made receiver of the lordships of the Isle of Wight and Porchester Castle; Tyrrel and Brakenbury received numerous grants of lucrative offices, money, and lands, as may be seen in Strype's notes to Bucke's history, in Kennet. Dighton, one of the murderers was made bailiff for life of the manor of Aiton, in Staffordshire; and Forest dying in possession of a lucrative post in Bernard Castle, his widow and son received an annuity of five marks. Still further, Sir Thomas More says, "Very truth it is, and well known, that at such time as Sir James Tyrrel was in the Tower for treason against King Henry VII., both Dighton and him were examined, and confessed the murder in manner above written." Henry, in consequence, sought for the bodies, but at that time they could not be found, the chaplain, the depository of the secret, being dead.

When, in addition to this, it shall be seen that Richard was anxious to marry Elizabeth of York, the sister of these young princes, and to prevent Richmond marrying her, nothing can be more conclusive of the death of the boys as described - f or, otherwise, the issue of Elizabeth could not succeed rightfully to the throne. Moreover, Richard is himself stated to have allowed the fact of the murder to come out, in order to crush the rising of Buckingham and his confederates in their behalf. Under all these circumstances, we conceive no event of history stands more strongly authenticated.

It is said to have been in the midst of the gaieties of the coronation at York that Richard received the news of Buckingham's movement, and of the confederation of the southern countries. The circumstances were so alarming that, notwithstanding the execration which he was conscious such an avowal would bring down upon him, he permitted the account of the princes' death to be published. One universal burst of horror, both from friend and foe, went through, the kingdom; and from that hour, instead of saving him, the knowledge of that cruel deed repelled all hearts from him.

For the moment, the nobles, marching forward to rescue the young king, were taken aback: the tyrant had anticipated them; the king they would restore had perished. But the astute Bishop of Ely reminded them that there was Henry of Richmond, descended from John of Gaunt, who might marry Elizabeth of York, and thus, uniting the two rival houses, put an end to the divisions of the nation. This uniting all parties would annihilate the murderer. The idea was seized upon with avidity. Reginald Bray, the steward to the Countess of Richmond, was instructed to open the project to her, who immediately embraced it in favour of her son. Dr. Lewis, a Welsh physician, who attended the queen-do wager in the sanctuary, was made the bearer of the scheme to her. Elizabeth was well prepared by the wrongs heaped upon her, the murder of her brother and her three sons, and her own confinement and degradation, to forget her opposition to the house of Lancaster. She fully agreed to the project, on the condition of Richmond swearing to ^marry her daughter Elizabeth on his arriving in England. She even borrowed a sum of money and sent him, to aid his enterprise. A messenger was dispatched to Henry in Brittany to inform him of the agreement, and to hasten his arrival, the 18th of October being fixed for the general rising in his favour.

But it was not to be supposed that all these arrangements could escape the suspicious vigilance of Richard. Pie proceeded from York to Lincolnshire as if he were only attending to the ordinary affairs of the kingdom. But on the 11th of October - a week before the day appointed for the rising of the confederates - he summoned all his adherents to meet him at Leicester. Four days afterwards he proclaimed Buckingham a traitor, and set a reward of 1,000, or of 100 a year in land, on his head. For those of the Marquis of Dorset and of the two bishops he offered 1,000 marks, or 100 marks a year in land each; and for the head of any hostile knight half that sum. He sent at the same time to London for the great seal to authenticate these and similar acts.

On the day fixed, the rising, notwithstanding, took place. The Marquis of Dorset proclaimed Henry VII. at Exeter; the Bishop of Salisbury proclaimed him in that city; the men of Kent at Maidstone; those of Berkshire at Newbury, and the Duke of Buckingham raised his standard at Brecon. Few revolutions ever opened with more favourable auspices. The hearts of the people were with the insurgents; the very followers of the tyrant hated and watched only an opportunity to desert him. But untoward events, which it was not in human foresight to anticipate, made wholly abortive this well-planned and popular attempt. The Duke of Richmond set sail from St. Malo on the 12th of October for England, with a fleet of forty sail, carrying 5,000 men; but tempestuous weather prevented him reaching the coast of Devonshire till the dispersion of his unfortunate allies. He therefore put back. In the meantime, Richard had joined his army at Leicester, and issued a proclamation which reads now-a-days like the ravings of a madman.

To draw off the followers of the confederates, while he offered rewards for the heads of their leaders, he granted free pardons to all who would abandon them. And the elements at this moment fought for Richard. Buckingham set out on his march to unite his forces to those of the other leaders, but there fell such heavy and continuous rains during the whole of his march from Brecon through the Forest of Deane to the Severn, that the bridges were carried away, and all the fords rendered impassable. Such rains and floods had not been known in the memory of man; and the inundation of the Severn was long after remembered as Buckingham's Flood.

The Welsh, struck with a superstitious dread from this circumstance, and pressed by famine, dispersed, and Buckingham turned back to Weobly, the seat of Lord Ferrers. The news of Buckingham's failure confounded all the other confederates, and every man made the best of his way towards a place of safety. Morton, Dorset, Courtenay, the Bishop of Exeter, and others, escaped to Flanders and Brittany. Weobly was closely watched, on one side by Sir Humphrey Stafford, and on the other by the clan of the Vaughans, who were promised the plunder of Brecon if they secured the duke. Buckingham, in disguise, escaped from Weobly, and hid himself near Shrewsbury, in the hut of a fellow of the name of Bannister, an old servant of the duke's family. This wretch, to secure the reward, betrayed his master to John Mitton, the sheriff of Shropshire, who conducted him to Richard at Salisbury, who ordered his head to be instantly struck off in the market-place. Amongst others who shared the same fate, Richard had the satisfaction of thus silencing a witty rhymster, William Collingham, who had dared to

say that,

"The rat, the cat, and Lovel the dog,

Ruled all England under the hog,"

That is, Catesby, Ratcliffe, and Lord Lovel; the hog being in allusion to Richard's crest, the boar.

Richard, thus rescued, as it were, by a favouring Providence, marched into Devonshire, where he put to death, amongst others, Sir Thomas St. Leger, a knight who had married the Duchess of Exeter, his own sister. He then traversed the southern counties in triumph, and, arriving in London, he ventured to do what hitherto he had not dared, that is, call a Parliament. This assembly, prostrate at the feet of the prosperous despot, did whatever he proposed. They pronounced him "the undoubted King of England, as well by right of consanguinity and inheritance, as by lawful election, consecration, and coronation;" and they entailed the crown on his issue; the Lords, spiritual and temporal, binding themselves to uphold the succession of his son, the Prince of Wales. They attainted his enemies by wholesale, and beyond all precedent. One duke, one marquis, three earls, three bishops, with a whole host of knights and gentlemen, were thus deprived of honour, title, and estate; and their lands, forfeited to the crown, were bestowed by Richard liberally on his northern adherents, who were thus planted in the south to act as spies on the southern nobles and gentry. The Countess of Richmond, though attainted, was permitted to hold her estates for life, or rather, they were thus conceded for that term to her husband, Lord Stanley, to bind him to the usurper.

To avenge himself on the queen-dowager for her acceptance of the proposal to bring over Henry of Richmond and unite him to her daughter, Richard now deprived her and her daughters of all title, property, and honour. He treated them, not as the legitimate wife and children of Edward IV., but as what he had before proclaimed them. He had ordered the late murdered king to be called officially "Edward the bastard, lately called Edward V." The queen-dowager was styled "Elizabeth, late wife of Sir John Gray," and her daughters were treated and addressed as simple gentlewomen.

But the design of placing Henry of Richmond on the throne, Richard knew well, though for the moment defeated, was not abandoned. At the last festival of Christmas, Henry had met the English exiles, to the number of 500, at Rhedon, in Brittany, and had there sworn to marry Elizabeth of York as soon as he should subdue the usurper; and thereupon the exiles had unanimously sworn to support him as their sovereign. Henry was, as we have observed, descended on the father's side merely from Owen Tudor, a yeoman of the royal guard, and Catherine, the widow of Henry Y. On the mother's side he was descended from Edward III., through John of Gaunt, but from an illegitimate branch. The bar of illegitimacy, though legally removed, would always have operated against his claim to the crown; but, independent of this, there were still various princes and princesses of Spain and Portugal, descendants of John of Gaunt, whose titles to the English crown were much superior to his. Yet, from his very infancy, there seems to have been a singular feeling that one day he would mount the throne of this kingdom. Henry YI. is said to have laid his hand on his head as a child, and declared that one day the crown would sit there. Edward IV. had evinced a perpetual fear of him, and had not only bargained for his secure detention at the court of Brittany, but on one occasion he had bribed the Duke of Brittany to give him up on the pretence of his intending to marry him to his eldest daughter - that daughter, in fact, he was destined eventually to marry. The duke, however, at the last moment, feeling a strong misgiving, had followed Henry to St, Malo, and there stopped him from embarking. Richard, on succeeding to the throne, had tried to purchase the surrender of Henry from the Duke of Brittany. In short, Henry assured the historian, Comines, that from the age of five years he had either been a captive or a fugitive. With this long traditionary presentiment attached to him, that he was to reign in England, his marriage to Elizabeth of York would at once obviate all scruples as to his complete title. He would come in on the strength of her title, as William of Orange afterwards did 011 that of his queen, Mary Stuart.

As the prospect of this event became more imminent - as Richard felt too deeply that the heart of the nation was not with him, but that all men were looking to this alliance as the hope of better times, he set himself to defeat it. Though he had so lately robbed, degraded, and insulted Queen Elizabeth and her family - though he had murdered her children and usurped their throne, he now suddenly turned round, and fawned on them. He began to smile most kindly on Elizabeth, and wished her to quit the sanctuary and come to court - a court dyed in the blood of her sons and brothers. He made her the most nattering promises; and, when they failed to draw her forth, he followed them by the most deadly threats. Elizabeth Wydville had never been found insensible to prospects of advantage for herself and family; but to put herself into the power of so lawless a butcher, and to unite her daughter with the son of the murderer of her children, was by no means reconcilable to her feelings. She stood out stoutly; but fear of worse consequences at length compelled her to succumb, and a private contract was concluded. Richard, in the presence of a number of the nobles and prelates, as well as of the lord mayor and aldermen, swore that the lives of Elizabeth and her daughters should be safe; that the mother should receive an annuity of 700 marks for life, and each of the daughters lands to the value of 200 marks on their marriage, which should be to none but gentlemen.

To what a condition of ignominy was this once proud queen reduced, who had not only boldly allied her family with the highest in the state, but had aspired to their sharing one-half of the thrones in Europe! Now, she was compelled to receive a mere gentlewoman's pittance from the hand of the murderer; to humbly stipulate with him for the safety of the lives of her remaining children, and that her daughters should not be degraded by marriages with mean and revolting personages, a thing which she evidently feared.

When this bitter draught was swallowed, she had to endure another not the less sorrowful - that was, to appear at the court of the usurper, and behold him sitting in the seat of her murdered son, and receiving that homage which was his right. But this strange patron now smiled sunnily upon her. She and her daughters were received with every mark of distinction, and especially Elizabeth, the eldest, whom he was intending to pluck from the hopes of Richmond, by wedding her to his own son. But these views were suddenly destroyed by the death of this Richard's only legitimate son. He died at Middle-ham, where Richard was often residing, but was then with his queen absent at Nottingham. His death, which took place about the 9th of April, had something so remarkable about it, that Rous, the family chronicler, calls it "an unhappy death." Both Richard and his queen were so overwhelmed by this unexpected blow, that the continuator of the Croyland Chronicle says that they almost went mad.

It was indeed a fatal stroke. The son on whom Richard had built the hopes of his family's succession, and for whom he killed his nephews, was now gone, and he was left without an heir, and without any prospect of one. It might be supposed that this event would raise the confidence of the Richmond party; and Richard, appearing to entertain the same idea, conceived the design of securing Richmond, and, no doubt, dealing with him as effectually as he had done with all others who stood in his way. For this purpose he opened secret communications with Francis, Duke of Brittany. That prince, who had been so long the generous protector of Richmond, was now in a feeble and failing state of health, and his minister, Peter Landois, administered his affairs pretty much at his own will. The interest of Landois was purchased by heavy sums, and he agreed to deliver Richmond into the hands of Richard. But the sagacious Morton, Bishop of Ely, gave him timely warning, and Richmond fled for his life. He reached France with only five attendants, and went at once to the French court at Angers, where he was cordially received by the sister of Charles VIII., then acting as regent. He accompanied the French court to Paris, where he again repeated his oath to marry Elizabeth of York, in case of deposing the tyrant, and he was immediately hailed by the students of Paris as King of England. He was promised assistance by the princess regent for his enterprise, and while these things were proceeding, Francis of Brittany, who had recovered his health, and was made acquainted with the villany of Landois, sent a messenger to assure him of his disgust at the minister's conduct, and to offer him aid in his design.

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