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Reign of Henry VII page 4

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But the most formidable and unwearied enemy of Henry VII. was Margaret, the Dowager-Duchess of Burgundy. As the sister of Edward IV. and of Richard, no circumstance could induce her to tolerate Henry Tudor, in her eyes a low-born man, who had thrust that lino from the throne. It mattered little to her that he was the husband of her niece Elizabeth, or the father of a prince in whose veins flowed Yorkist blood. She abhorred the mingling of the blood of York and Tudor, and yearned only to see it thrown down from the throne of England, and that of York, pure and undivided, set up in its place. Such a person was the Earl of Lincoln - such was the real Earl of Warwick. Then why, it may be asked, did she successively set up such puppets as Simnel and Warbeck? They were, undoubtedly, regarded by her and all her party merely as stepping-stones, or stalking-horses, by which to bring a real aspirant to the foot of the throne, when they could have been sacrificed without remorse. Margaret of Burgundy was, at the same time, regarded as a woman of high principle and amiable mind. As the wife of Charles the Rash, she seemed to have caught some of his daring spirit - as the stepmother of his daughter, Mary of Burgundy, her kindness to her and her children, Philip and Margaret, had won all hearts. She ruled the provinces which she held as her dower with great ability, and was highly popular all over the Netherlands. To her Lord Lovell had fled, and to her also fled the Earl of Lincoln. To her the Irish party sent emissaries for aid; and she dispatched 2,000 veteran German troops, under a brave and experienced general, Martin Swartz, accompanied by the Earl of Lincoln.

On the 19th of March, 1487, Lord Lincoln, with this strong reinforcement, landed at Dublin, and, no sooner was he introduced to the pretended Earl of Warwick, than he advised that he should be crowned. Lincoln had often seen and conversed with the real Earl of Warwick. He was intimately acquainted with his person, had recently conversed with him in London and at Sheen, for he had not set out for Flanders till after the great council of Henry, where, of course, he had learnt all the royal plans for defeating the plot. Yet, knowing all this, he at once proposed the coronation of Simnel as the true prince. This is sufficient to show us what was the scheme of the party, and that they were only putting forward puppets for ulterior purposes. The impostor was, accordingly, crowned as the true prince by the Bishop of Meath, with a diadem taken from a statue of the Virgin Mary. After the ceremony, in accordance with the Irish fashion, the new king was carried from the church to the castle on the shoulders of a chieftain of the name of Darcy. Writs were immediately issued in his name, convoking a Parliament, in which legal penalties were enacted against the Butlers and the citizens of Waterford, who were old and staunch Lancastrians, and stood out firmly for King Henry.

The moment that Henry Tudor learned the flight of the Earl of Lincoln, he set out on a progress through the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk, in which the chief interest of the earl lay. He was anxious to ascertain the feeling existing there, and to repress any symptoms of revolt. He was courteous to the gentry, and many of them proffered themselves to do him service. Both he and his lieutenant in those parts, the Earl of Oxford, appeared well satisfied with the state of things. As it was supposed, in order to please the people of Norfolk, he went on a pilgrimage to "Our Lady of Walsingham," and sought her aid in his behalf. Thence he proceeded, by Northampton and Coventry, to Kenilworth, tit which castle he had placed his queen, his mother, and

his son. He was still at Kenilworth when news was brought him that the Earl of Lincoln and Lord Lovell had landed with the pretended Edward VI., supported by Martin Swartz and his German legion, at the pile of Foudray, an old keep in the southern extremity of Furness. They pitched their tent at Swarthmore, near Ulverstone, where they were soon joined by Sir Thomas Broughton and his tenantry. Being now about 8,000 strong, Lord Lincoln, who was commander-ill-chief, marched boldly towards York, expecting to be joined by the discontented of that district. But the Yorkshire people had not only been won over by Henry's late visit and politic proceedings, but they had seen how Lord Lovell had fled before him without a blow. They were greatly impressed with ideas of the superior tact and fortune of Henry, and lay still; and they were the more disposed to this from the invading army consisting of Irish and foreigners.

Disappointed by this, Lord Lincoln considered it only the more necessary to push forward, and strike a blow while the king was unprepared. He therefore marched rapidly down towards the midland counties, and Henry, on his part, set forward to meet him. He issued the strictest orders for the government and conduct of his camp. It was made a capital offence to rob or ravish, to take anything without paying the market price for it, or to arrest or imprison any one without direct orders from head-quarters. Thus Henry protected his subjects at once from the licence of the soldiery, and the arbitrary will of the officers, as far as in him lay. Every soldier was to saddle his horse at the first blast of the trumpet, bridle it at the second, and mount at the third. All vagabonds and common women were banished the camp under menace of the stocks or imprisonment. Such a discipline, most unlike that of the past civil wars, was calculated to produce a great effect on the people.

Henry advanced by Coventry and Leicester to Nottingham; Lincoln had already approached Newark. The royal army advancing to oppose the whole force lost its way between Nottingham and Newark, and there was such confusion in consequence, and such rumours of the enemy being upon them, that numbers deserted. But five guides were procured from Ratcliffe-on-Trent, and soon afterwards the vanguard of Henry's army, led by the Earl of Oxford, encountered the forces of Lincoln at Stoke, a village near Newark. The battle lasted for three hours, and was obstinately contested. The veteran Germans, under Swartz, fought till they were exterminated almost to a man. The Irish displayed not the less valour; but, being only armed with darts and skeans - for the English settlers had adopted the arms of the natives - were no match for the royal cavalry. The whole of the troops of the insurgents, expecting no mercy if they were taken, seemed prepared to perish rather than to yield. Four thousand of the insurgents and 2,000 of the king's best troops are said to have fallen in this desperate engagement; but nearly all the leaders of the rebel army, the Earl of Lincoln, Sir Thomas Broughton, the brave Swartz, and the Lords Thomas and Maurice Fitzgerald, having fallen, the victory on Henry's part became complete.

The pretender Lambert Simnel and the priest Simons were captured by Sir Robert Bellingham, one of the king's esquires; but nothing was seen of Lord Lovell. He was believed to have escaped, but no traces of him were discoverable; many thought that he had perished in attempting to swim his horse across the Trent. But nearly two centuries afterwards a subterranean chamber was discovered accidentally by some workmen at Minster Lovell, in Oxfordshire, the ancient seat of his family In this chamber was seated a skeleton in a chair, with its head resting on a table; and this was supposed to be the remains of this same Lord Lovell, who had reached his house, and secreted himself in this apartment, where he had perished by some unknown cause. In West's "Furness" it is also stated that there is a tradition that {Sir Thomas Broughton also escaped, and lived in concealment amongst his tenants at Witherslack, in Westmoreland.

After the battle, Henry travelled northward to ascertain that all was secure in the tract through which the insurgents had passed, and to punish such as had aided the rebels, and those who just before the battle had spread the rumour of his defeat. The royal punishments did not consist in putting his enemies to death, but in fining them severely, for Henry Tudor much preferred making a profit of a man to killing him. On his return he gave his thanks to "Our Lady of Walsingham," for having listened to his prayers; and from Warwick he sent orders to prepare in town for the coronation of the queen. The late insurrection had taught him that if he did not wish for a repetition of it, he must concede something to the Yorkist party, and must pay some respect to the queen, Accordingly, on the 25th of November, 1487, Elizabeth was crowned with much state at Westminster.

The crowd which attended her from the Tower to Westminster was immense. It was the first time of her appearing in public in London as queen. She was not yet twenty-two years of age. She was tall, and of a fine figure, like her father, and her complexion brilliantly fair. She was clad in a kirtle of white cloth of gold, damasked, and a mantle of the same, furred with ermine, fastened on the breast with a great lace or cordon of gold and silk, with rich knobs of gold and tassells. Her fair yellow hair hung plain down her back, with a caul of pipes, that is, of pipe network over it. Her train was borne by her sister Cicely, who was still fairer than herself. She was carried on a rich open litter, over which was held a canopy by four of the new Knights of the Bath. Henry had created eleven on the occasion. Before her rode four baronesses on grey palfreys, and the king's uncle, Jasper, Earl of Bedford, who had lately married her aunt Catherine, the widow of the Duke of Buckingham. Behind her came six baronesses on their palfreys, and her sister Cicely, the Duchess of Beaufort, the Duchess of Suffolk, mother of the Earl of Lincoln, who lately fell at Stoke: such was the barbarous policy of the time, when private sorrow, however poignant, gave way as nothing to royal pageantry. These rode in one car, and the Duchess of Norfolk in another. The king, that the queen might appear the first person at her own coronation, did not present himself publicly, but beheld the scene from behind a lattice. After the ceremony, she dined in Westminster Hall, on which occasion, we are told, "the Lady Catherine Grey and Mrs. Ditton went under the table and sat at her feet while the Countesses,

of Oxford and Rivers knelt on each side, and at certain times held a kerchief before her grace."

Having thus made this amende to public opinion, Henry, instead of giving Simnel consequence, by putting him to death, or making a state prisoner of him in the Tower, turned him into his kitchen as a scullion, thus showing his contempt of him. "He would not take his life," says Lord Bacon, "taking him but as an image of wax that others had tempered and moulded;" and considering that if he was made a continual spectacle, he would be "a kind of remedy against the like enchantments of people in time to come." The priest Simons he shut up in a secret prison, saying he was but a tool, and did not know the depths of the plot. He even professed to regret the death of the Earl of Lincoln, who, had his life been spared, he said, "might have revealed to him the bottom of his danger." In his peculiar way he threw much mystery over the matter, for mystery was one of his greatest pleasures.

Having settled these matters, which he did on his own authority, Henry summoned a Parliament to grant him supplies, and to increase those supplies by bill of attainder against all those who had been engaged in the late conspiracy. To prevent similar risings, he demanded that the law should be rigorously put in force against the practice of maintenance. This maintenance was the association of numbers of persons under a particular chief or nobleman, whose badge or livery they wore, and to whom they were bound by oath to support him in his private quarrels against other noblemen. But the instrument was too convenient not to be turned on occasion against the crown, whenever rich chiefs took up the opposite party, and by this means it was that such numbers of troops could be brought at the shortest notice into the field against the monarch. Various laws had been passed on this subject, and heavy penalties decreed; but now it was ordained that, instead of calling such offenders before the royal council, as had been the custom, a particular Court should be established for the purpose. The chancellor, the treasurer, the keeper of the privy seal, or two of them, one bishop, one lay peer, and the judges of the King's Bench and Common Pleas, were empowered to summon all such persons before them, and to punish the guilty just as if they had been convicted by ordinary course of law. This was the origin of what came to be called the Court of the Star Chamber, from the walls or ceiling of the room where they met being decorated with stars. It grew, as we shall find, under the Tudors and Stuarts into a most arbitrary and terrible tribunal - an actual Inquisition, in which whoever offended the reigning monarch came to be punished at will, without any regard to justice or the constitution; for all pretence of trying a man by his peers was then done away with, and the monarch's will, through his officers and through venal judges, thus dependent on the crown, was the sole law. So long as this odious Court of the Star Chamber existed, England may be said to have lost its constitution, and the monarchy to have been absolute.

The internal peace of the kingdom being restored, Henry addressed himself to his foreign relations. The truce with Scotland concerned him most nearly, therefore he sent Fox, now Bishop of Durham, to the Court of James III. This monarch was most amicably disposed towards England, and engagements were entered into, not only for the prolongation of the existing truce, but for marriage alliances. James was a widower, and Henry proposed that he should marry Elizabeth Wydville, the queen-dowager, and that his two sons should marry two of her daughters. The days were fixed for the ambassadors' meeting to determine the marriage settlements; but this was prevented by the rebellion of the Scottish nobles, to which we shall advert anon, and the scheme was finally rendered abortive by the tragic death of the king. That Henry was thus ready to advance the queen-do wager to the Scottish throne, and to place one of her daughters upon it hereafter, has been held by some modern historians as clear proof that his alleged dislike of the queen-dowager could not be real. But we may rather suppose that the king was glad of a means to remove' her from his own court, and, at the same time, to conciliate by such an act of honour the Yorkist party - a policy which we see he was now pursuing. This is the more likely, because he never restored the queen dowager to her former position in his own court - where she only appeared on particular state occasions - or restored her dower, which had been forfeited in the former reign.

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