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Reign of Henry VII. - (continued)


Henry invades France, and makes a great Bargain for Peace - Rage of the English People - The Appearance of Perkin Warbeck as the younger Son of Edward IV., Duke of York - Received by the Duchess of Burgundy, Sister of Edward IV., as her genuine Nephew - Henry proclaims Warbeck an Impostor - Sends a Spy to him, and, discovering his Adherents in England, puts them to Death - Sir William Stanley, the Lord Chamberlain, beheaded - Warbeek's Descent upon England - Warbeck in Ireland - Warbeck in Scotland - James IV. receives him as the genuine Prince - Marries him to the Lady Catherine Gordon - Joins Warbeck in invading England - Insurrection in Cornwall - Second Invasion of the Scots - Peace with Scotland, and Warbeck retires - Warbeck lands in Cornwall - Besieges Exeter - Flies to Sanctuary - Surrenders - His Confession and Execution - Earl of Warwick executed - Henry at Calais - Marriages of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Arragon and of the Princess Margaret with James of Scotland - Henry's Schemes for extorting and hoarding Money - Death of Prince Arthur - Death of the Queen - Henry's cautious Speculation of Marriage for himself - Contract of Marriage between Catherine of Arragon and her Brother-in-law Prince Henry - King and Queen of Castile in England, and what Profit Henry made of them - Betrayal and Execution of the Earl of Suffolk - Death and Character of Henry.
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Henry was now bent, according to all appearance, on war. He was too clear-sighted not to perceive the immense advantage France had obtained over him in securing Brittany, and how the political foresight and sagacity on which he prided himself had suffered from the paltry promptings of his avarice. Mean as he was, the contempt which his subjects expressed for his neglect of his allies, and of the interests of his country, could not but make a strong impression; and the indignation everywhere felt at his private appropriation of the money which should have succoured Brittany and maintained the national fame, alarmed him lest he should have weakened his means of getting fresh supplies. He therefore put on a most belligerent attitude. He summoned a Parliament at Westminster, and addressed it in the most heroic strain. He commented on the insolence of France, elated with the success of her late perfidy, and on what he no doubt felt more deeply than anything else, her refusal to pay what he called the tribute agreed by Louis XI. to be paid to Edward IV., and hitherto continued to himself.

The address was worthy of the most generous and warlike monarch that ever sat on the throne of England, and wanted only one thing to revive all the ancient enthusiasm of the people - faith in the man who spoke it. To obviate the national fears on the score of expense, he assured them that France was now grown rich, and that he would soon make the war maintain itself.

Those who took a prudent and dispassionate view of affairs, not only distrusted, or rather disbelieved, the promises of the king, but they also recognised in France a far more powerful antagonist than she was formerly. England had lately suffered much from the civil wars; she could not yet be said to be free from widely-spread, if recent, discontent. She had lately seen a claimant of the crown only put down by a severe battle, and the bloodshed of many eminent men. Other clouds were already forming on the horizon, and the relations with Scotland were anything but settled. The turbulent nobles of that country had murdered their king, and his successor, James IV., was said to be strongly attached to the French interests; while France itself was wonderfully invigorated by the constructive policy of her late sovereigns. She had united all the great fiefs to the crown: all those provinces which formerly brought her weakness and even attack, now were united in one union of unprecedented power. We had no longer open highways into the very heart of that kingdom, but one compact and complete frontier, presenting its armed barriers to our approach. And our allies, what were they? Maximilian had already failed us - he was ambitious but poor; and the politic Ferdinand, at the moment he was threatening war, was sure to be found secretly treating for peace.

These were the sentiments of the more reflective portion of the nation; but Parliament and the nobility were roused by the royal claptrap, as though they had been listening, not to a Tudor, but a Plantagenet - to the Fifth, not to the Seventh Henry. Two-fifteenths were at once granted him, and the nobility were on fire with the anticipation of realising all the glories and the plunder of the past ages. To enable them to raise the necessary funds, an Act was passed empowering them to alienate their estates without paying any fines: an Act, in other words, to make ruin easy to the aristocracy for the enrichment of the avaricious king, who had no more idea of going to war than he had of refunding the various taxes raised on similar pretences, and still sleeping in his chests. The barons and knights, led away by the king's empty flourishes of speech, were in all haste to sell and mortgage, flattering themselves with nothing less than marching in triumph to the gates of Paris, placing their boastful monarch on the French throne, and returning laden with wealth, or staying to rule over the towns and provinces of the subjugated country. Henry all the whilo watched the enthusiasm, and calculated what it would exactly make in current coin.

He availed himself of the paroxysm of the moment, not only to gather in and garner the two-fifteenths newly granted, but the remains of the benevolence voted last session. Whilst the fresh tax fell on the nation generally, this fell on the monied and commercial capitalists. London alone furnished 10,000 of it or 100,000 of our money. The wily old archbishop, Morton, instructed the commissioners to employ this dilemma, which was called Morton's fork. They were to urge upon people who lived in a modest and careful way, that they must be rich in consequence of their parsimony; on those who indulged in expensive abodes and styles of living, that they must be opulent, because they had so much to expend. To afford ample time for harvesting these riches, Henry found perpetual causes for delaying his expedition. The nobles were already crowding to his standard with their vassals, and impatient to set out, but Henry had always some plausible excuse for lingering. At one time it was the unsafe state of Scotland, and four months were occupied in negotiating an extension of the truce; then it was the necessity of contracting for fresh levies of troops. These troops, however, were ready in June and July, but still they were not allowed to move. "The truth was," says Bacon, "that though the king showed great forwardness for a war, not only to his Parliament and Court, but to his Privy Council, except the two bishops (Fox and Morton), and a few more, yet, nevertheless, in his secret intentions, he had no purpose to go through with any war upon France. But the truth was, that he did but traffic with that war to make money."

At length, in the beginning of October, 1492, he landed at Calais, with a fine army of 25,000 foot, and 1,600 horse, which he gave in command to the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Oxford. This was a force capable of striking an alarming blow; but what appeared extraordinary was, that the French made no efforts to prepare against it. The country was as quiet and as defenceless as if not a hostile soldier was in it. There was no excitement, no muster of troops; there was scarcely a regiment on the whole way from Calais to Paris. This convinced those of any reflection that, after all, there would be no war, that nothing less was meant by Henry, or expected by Charles, and rumours to this effect began to pervade the English camp. It was said that it was now time to go into winter quarters, and, therefore, an actual campaign had never been contemplated. But Henry replied that the very lateness of the season, on the contrary, showed that he was in earnest. His object, he said, was the total conquest of France, and the appendage of it to the English crown, and that was not likely to be the work of a single summer. At what season he commenced this great enterprise was, therefore, of no consequence whatever. He had Calais for his winter quarters, and was at once as much at home as in England, and yet, ready at a moment to seize on all opportunities. To show them what he meant to do, he ordered a march upon Bologne. The siege of Bologne lasted two months, but nothing whatever was done, except Sir John Savage, an English captain, being killed by a shot as he was reconnoitring the walls.

In fact, Henry had entered into a treaty of peace before he had set out, and the only difficulty now was how to get out of the war without incurring too much resentment at home. To guard against this, the odium of the abortive expedient must be carefully removed from himself to* other parties. The machinery for this was already prepared. His ambassadors appeared in the camp at Bologne, informing them that their visit to his previous ally Maximilian had been useless; he was incapable of joining him. These were followed by others from Spain, bringing the intelligence that Ferdinand had concluded a peace with France, Roussillon and Cerdagne being ceded to him by Charles. But with Henry's fine army, and the defenceless state of France, the defection of these allies, from whom little or nothing had been expected, would have scarcely cost him a thought had he been a Henry V, As it was, after all his boasts, it was not even for him to propose an abandonment of the enterprise, and therefore, the Marquis of Dorset and twenty-three other persons of distinction were employed to present to him a request that he would also make a peace with France. They urged, as they were instructed for this purpose, the defection of these allies, the approach of winter, the difficulty of obtaining supplies at Calais at that season, and the obstinacy of the siege of Bologne. All these were circumstances that had been foreseen from the first, and treated with indifference, as they deserved to be; but now Henry affected to listen to the desires of his army, and sent off the Bishop of Exeter and the Lord Daubeney to confer with the Marshal de Cordes, who had been sent as plenipotentiary on the part of Charles to Estaples. They soon returned, bringing the rough draft of a treaty, by which peace and amity were to be maintained betwixt the two sovereigns during their lives, and a year afterwards. Even this Henry affected to decline, and only consented to give way at the earnest entreaty of his already-mentioned four-and-twenty officers.

After having thus assumed all this pretence to exonerate himself from censure, Henry signed a peace on the following terms: - Charles was to retain Brittany for ever, and he was to pay Henry 620,000 crowns in gold for the money advanced by Henry on account of Brittany and his present expenses, and 125,000 crowns in gold as j arrears of the pension paid to Edward IV. by Louis XL He was also to continue this pension of 25,000 crowns to Henry and his heirs. The whole amount which Henry sacked was 745,000 crowns, equal to 400,000 of our present money. The members of his council, who openly acted the part of petitioners of this peace, are said not only to have been instructed by Henry to perform this obnoxious duty, but to have been gained by the bribes of the French king, who was anxious to make short work of it, that he might proceed on an expedition which he had set his mind upon against Naples. They went about declaring that it was the most glorious peace that any king of England ever made with France, and that if Henry's subjects presumed to censure it, they were ready to take all the blame upon themselves.

Having used all these precautions to ward off the reproaches of his subjects, Henry ratified the peace on the 6th of November, and led back his army to England. There, though he had the money safely in his chests, the disappointment and indignation of the people were extreme, and tended to diminish his sordid satisfaction. The people protested that he had been trading on the honour of the nation, and had sold its interests and reputation for his own vile gain, and his enemies did not neglect to avail themselves of his unpopularity. During the past year, a young man had landed in Cork, of a singularly fascinating exterior and insinuating address. He represented himself to be no other than the Duke of York, the younger of the two princes who were supposed to have been murdered in the Tower. He was a fine young man, apparently exactly of the age of the Duke of York, and bearing a striking likeness to Edward IV. "Such a mercurial," says Bacon, "as the like hath seldom been known; and he had such a crafty and bewitching fashion, both to move pity and induce belief, as was like a kind of fascination or enchantment." If he were an impostor, he was so admirably qualified to act his part that he might seem created for the purpose; and so well did he act it, that it remains a moot point to the present day whether he were the true prince or not. For our own part, we can have little doubt as to the matter. It was the age of impostors. Lambert Simnel had been - only recently played off, and that but clumsily. He had been originally designed to support this character; but had, for reasons best known to the conspirators, been made to assume that of the Earl of Warwick. As we have surmised, probably as the queen-dowager was concerned in it, that plot had not meant to do more than alarm Henry, and induce him to act more favourably towards the queen and the party of York, Transparent

as was the delusion, it had actually shaken Henry on his throne, and led to a sanguinary conflict. This plot, more adapted to the increased resentment of the Yorkists, appeared to have a deeper and deadlier aim. The queen-dowager did not appear in it; and it therefore struck more ruthlessly at the very existence of the king and his whole line. It was in the highest degree artful in its construction, and widely supported by high and influential men. It had in it all the marks of proceeding from that manufactory of treason against Henry - the Court of the Duchess-Dowager of Burgundy. This princess, the sister of Edward IV., with all her virtues, was a deadly enemy of Henry Tudor. She hated him as the over turner of her own family; she hated him still more intensely for his insult to her house in his treatment of the queen and her mother, and his settled repugnance to the whole party of York. There can be little doubt, therefore, that this scheme, as well as that of Simnel, was concocted at her Court. That the present pretender could not possibly be the real Duke of York is sufficiently clear to our minds for these two reasons: - When Richard III. determined to murder the two princes, it was to exterminate the male offspring of Edward IV., and it is not likely that he would have suffered one of the two to escape. Had he done so, he had better have done nothing; for to stain his hands in the blood of the elder would have been utterly useless while the younger remained. If the Duke of York, therefore, had really escaped, we do not believe that he would have murdered the Prince of Wales. So long as the Duke of York was with his mother in the sanctuary, she, and every one, felt that the Prince of Wales was safe, even in the Tower. But once in the Tower together, their doom was sealed.

The only possibility of escape must have been in the fact of the hired assassins turning pitiful, and allowing the intended victims to escape. But would they murder one and save the other? Such a thing is contrary to nature. If they resolved to spare one they would spare both. But the discovery of the bones of the two boys long afterwards, buried precisely where it might be expected that they lay, in one coffin or chest, and tallying in every circumstance of age and relative size, sufficiently proves that they spared neither. Henry himself, as we shall see, was anxious to discover these remains, as a positive evidence of the actual death of both the boys, but could not. That discovery was reserved to a much later period, and was the result of accident, rendering the result the more conclusive, as there could then be no suspicion even that Henry had these skeletons first buried and then found. The whole of the evidence compels us to regard the present pretended Duke of York as thoroughly an impostor as Simnel himself. What would, appear to have been the real story of this remarkable pretender, so far as we can gather from the records of the time, is this: -

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