Reign of Henry VII. - (continued) page 2
Margaret, the Duchess-Dowager of Burgundy, having played off Lambert Simnel, devised this scheme, or was supplied with it by the Yorkist refugees at her Court, who had immediate and constant communion with the heads oŁ the York faction in England. A young man was industriously sought after who should well represent the Duke of York, though she knew him to be dead. Such a youth was found in the son, or reputed son, of one John Osbeck, or Warbeck, a renegade Jew of Tournaye. This Warbeck bad lived and carried on business in the time of Edward IV., and had dealings with the king, who was so free with him that the Jew prevailed on him to become godfather to his child, who was called Peter, and whose name became converted into the diminutive Peterkin or Perkin. Others assert that Warbeck's wife had been amongst the numerous favourites of Edward, and that this Perkin was really his son - whence the striking resemblance, the cleverness and liveliness of his character. Warbeck had returned to Flanders, and there, in course of time, his son had attracted the attention of the Yorkist conspirators as the very youth, in all respects, for their purpose. He was introduced to the duchess, who found him already familiar with the whole story of Edward's Court from the past affairs and position there of his parents.
The duchess was enraptured with the discovery. She formed the most sanguine expectations of success, from the beauty of the youth, the gracefulness or comeliness of his address, the quickness of his intellect, and the gentle suavity of his manners. She taught him to personate the Duke of York, and it is probable he assumed the character with the more facility from a belief that he was indeed a son of King Edward, and, therefore, the legitimate heir being removed, in some sense a fair claimant of the crown. So soon as he appeared duly indoctrinated and accomplished for his part, to prevent any premature discovery, he was sent to Portugal, in the suite of Lady Brompton, the wife of one of the exiles. Whilst he was concealed there, the indefatigable duchess gave it out that the Duke of York was alive, and would not fail in due time to appear and assert his right.
The scheme being now matured and the chief actor ready, they only waited for the true moment for his appearance. That came in the prospect of Henry being involved in war with France. As soon as this seemed inevitable, the pretended Duke of York landed in Ireland. The York faction was still strong in that country, and, spite of the failure of the former pretender, Simnel, the Irish were ready, to a certain extent, to embrace another claimant of Henry's crown. He landed at Cork, where the mayor and others of that city received him as the true Richard Plantagenet, as, no doubt, they had previously agreed to do. Many of the credulous people flocked after him, but the more prudent stood aloof. He wrote to the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, inviting them to join his standard, but those powerful noblemen kept a cautious distance. Kildare had been disgraced by Henry for his reception of Simnel, and dreaded his more deadly vengeance in case of a second failure. But Warbeck, undismayed, spread everywhere the exciting story of his escape from the cruelty of his uncle Richard, and was gradually making an impression on the imaginative mind of Ireland, when a summons came to a new scene.
Charles VIII. of France was now menaced by Henry with invasion. He knew the man too well to doubt the real object of his menace, and the power of money to avert it, but it was of consequence to reduce the bribe as much as possible; and every instrument which promised to assist in effecting that was most valuable. Such an instrument was this soidisant Duke of York, who had suddenly appeared in Ireland. The watchful Duchess of Burgundy is said to have adroitly turned Charles's
attention to this mysterious individual through the agency of one Frion, a man who had been a secretary of Henry, but who had been won over by his enemies. Charles caught at the idea; an invitation was instantly dispatched to Perkin Warbeck to hasten to the French Court, where he was to hear of something to "his advantage," and he was received by the king as the undoubted Duke of York and true monarch of England. Perkin's person, talents, and address, being worthy of a real prince, won him the admiration of all who approached him; and not only the Court and capital, but the whole of France soon rang with praise of the accomplishments, the adventures, and the unmerited misfortunes of this last of the Plantagenets. The king settled upon him a princely income; a magnificent abode was assigned him, and a body-guard befitting a royal personage was conferred upon him, of which the Lord of Concressault was made captain.
The news of this cordial reception of the reputed Duke of York by the French Court flew to England, and Sir George Neville, Sir John Taylor, and above a hundred gentlemen hastened to Paris, and offered to him their devoted services. This decided and rapidly-growing demonstration had the effect which Charles contemplated. Henry was greatly alarmed, and hastened to close the negotiations for peace. These once signed, the puppet had done its work in France. Henry made earnest demands to have Warbeck handed over to him, but Charles, who, no doubt, was bound by agreement with the Duchess of Burgundy to refuse any such surrender, declared that to do so would be contrary to his honour; but he gave the pretender a hint to quit the kingdom, and he retired to the Court; of Burgundy.
There all was conducted with consummate art. War-beck was made to throw himself upon the protection of the duchess as though he were an entire stranger to her person and Court. He declared himself to be her nephew, the unfortunate Duke of York, whose life had been sought by Richard III., and whose throne was usurped by Henry Tudor. He craved her assistance as the most kind and powerful asserter of the claims of his house, and offered to lay before her the most convincing proofs of his birth and history. The duchess acted her part with the utmost ability. She repelled him roughly as an impostor. She said she had been already imposed upon by one impostor, and that was enough: she would not become the dupe of another. The youth affected to be greatly grieved by this reception from so near and influential a relative, and the duchess bade him lay before her his pretences, and she engaged to prove him an impostor before all the world. When he had made his statements, she questioned and scrutinised them with the utmost minuteness and severity. She put a variety of questions to him regarding her brother, King Edward, his queen, and family, and appeared gradually giving way to astonishment at his answers. At length, after a long and searching scrutiny, she appeared overwhelmed by amazement, burst into tears, and embracing the young man with a transport of emotion, exclaimed, "I have found my long-lost nephew: he is indeed the Duke of York!"
The duchess now heaped on Perkin all the marks of affection and the honours which she would have deemed due to her own nephew. She ordered every one to give him the homage belonging to a real king: she appointed him a guard of thirty halberdiers, and styled him the "White Rose of England." On all occasions her conduct towards him was that of an affectionate aunt, who regarded him as the head of her family, and the heir of the brightest crown in Europe.
This full acknowledgment by the duchess of the claims of the pretended prince produced the most wonderful effect on the English in Flanders, and excited a corresponding sensation in England. Not merely the common people, but men of the highest rank, who hated Henry, showed a powerful inclination to favour the pretensions of Warbeck.
Lord Fitzwater, Sir Simon Montfort, and Sir Thomas Thwaites were avowed partisans. Sir Robert Clifford and William Barley hastened over to Brussels to satisfy themselves of the real merits of the case. They were admitted by the duchess to converse with Perkin at their utmost liberty; and the result was that Sir Robert wrote to England that, as his friends there knew, he was well acquainted with the person of the Duke of York, and, after full and satisfactory examination, he was perfectly certain that this was the very prince, and that there could not be a doubt upon the subject. Information of so positive a character, from a man of so distinguished a position and reputation, produced the profoundest effect in England. The conspiracy grew amain, and an active correspondence was kept up betwixt the malcontents in Flanders and at home, for the dethronement of Henry and the restoration of the house of York.
It is not to be supposed that the tempest which was gathering around Henry had escaped his attention. On the contrary, he was aware of all that was passing, and with the caution and concealment of his character, he was at work to counteract the operations of his enemies. The first object with him was to convince the public that the real Duke of York had perished at the same time as his brother, Edward Y. Nothing, he concluded, would be so effectual for this purpose as the evidence of those who had always been held to be concerned in the death of the young princes. Of five implicated, according to universal belief, two only now survived, namely, Sir James Tyrrel - who had taken the place of Sir Robert Brackenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower, during the night of the murder - and John Dighton, one of the actual assassins. These two were secured and interrogated, and their evidence was precisely that which we have stated when relating the murder of the princes. The bodies, therefore, were sought for, but as the chaplain was dead who was supposed to have witnessed their removal, according to the order of Richard III., they could not then be found and produced. The testimony of Tyrrel and Dighton, however, was published and circulated as widely as possible, and these two miscreants, after their full and frank avowal of the perpetration of this diabolical murder, were, to the disgrace of the king and of public justice, again allowed to go free. Every one, however, must perceive at once how important it was to Henry that the real witnesses of that murder should exist, and be forthcoming to confound any one pretending to be either of these princes.
Henry next applied to the Archduke Philip, the son of Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy, and now sovereign
of the Netherlands in his own right, to deliver up to him the impostor, Warbeck, who; he contended, was entertained in his dominions contrary to the existing treaties, and the amity betwixt the two sovereigns. But Margaret had the influence to render his application abortive. Philip professed to have every desire to oblige his great ally, Henry of England, but he pleaded that Margaret was sole ruler in her own states, and, though he might advise her in this matter, he could not control her. Henry resented the polite evasion by stopping all commercial intercourse between England and the Low Countries, by banishing all Flemings from his dominions, and recalling his own subjects from Flanders; and Philip retaliated by issuing similar edicts.
Henry, resolved to undermine and explode the whole conspiracy, dispatched his spies in all directions among the Yorkists. He sent over gentlemen of rank and position to Brussels, where Margaret held her court, to pretend adhesion to Perkin Warbeck, and thus to insinuate themselves into the confidence of the leaders of the party. These gentlemen Henry pretended to regard as the most vile traitors; he denounced them as outlaws, and had them publicly excommunicated with every sign of resentment and show of contumely. Regarded, therefore, as martyrs to the cause of Warbeck, they were all the more patronised by that adventurer and Margaret, and soon made themselves masters of the whole of their plot, and the list of their accomplices in England. They succeeded in bringing over Sir Robert Clifford and his associate, William Barley, if, indeed, Clifford had not been in Henry's pay from the first, for he was a Lancastrian, and a son of that Clifford who so ruthlessly slew the young Earl of Rutland at Wakefield. Clifford, who stood high in the favour of Margaret and Warbeck was consequently a most dangerous enemy.
Prepared with a catalogue of all the secret supporters of the plot in England, Henry suddenly arrested, on a charge of high treason, the Lord Fitzwater, Sir Simon Montfort, Sir Thomas Thwaites, Robert Ratcliffe, William Daubeney, Thomas Cressemer, and Thomas Astwood. Besides these, various clergymen were also seized;, amongst them, Sir William Richeford, Doctor of Divinity, and Sir Thomas Poynes, both of them friars of St. Dominick's order; Dr. William Sutton; Sir William Worseley, Dean of St. Paul's; Sir Richard Lessey; and Robert Lay-borne. All these were arraigned, convicted, and condemned for high treason, as aiders and encouragers of Perkin Warbeck. Fitzwater, Ratcliffe, Montfort, and Daubeney were executed; Fitzwater not in the first instance, but, having been consigned to prison in Calais, he was soon convicted of endeavouring to bribe his keeper in order to his escape, and was then put to death. Those of the clerical order were reprimanded, and set at liberty; but, says the chronicler, few of them lived long after.
This seizure of so many who were engaged in this conspiracy, struck terror through all who were guilty. They saw that they were betrayed; they could not tell who were the traitors, and numbers of them fled instantly into the nearest sanctuaries.
But there remained a conspirator far higher than any who had yet been unveiled - a conspirator where it was least expected, in the immediate vicinity of the throne, and in the person who more than all others, perhaps, had contributed to place Henry upon it. His name stood in the secret list of traitors furnished by Clifford, but he had been left for a more striking and dramatic discovery, for a denouement calculated to produce the most startling and profound impression.
After the festivities of Christmas the king took up his residence in the Tower, where he held his council on the 7th of January, 1495. If there was one man more distinguished than another by the royal favour in that august circle, he was Stanley, Lord Chamberlain. Sir William Stanley had burst upon Richard III. at Bosworth Field, at the critical moment, slain his standard-bearer, and, by his followers, killed the tyrant. His brother, Lord Stanley, had put the crown of the fallen monarch 011 Henry's head. For this he had been created Earl of Derby, and had been allowed to ally himself to the throne by the marriage of Henry's mother, the Countess of Richmond. Sir William had been made lord chamberlain, and both brothers had been glutted, as it were, with the wealth and estates of proscribed families. There were no men - not even Fox and Morton - who were supposed to stand so high, not merely in the favour, but in the friendship of Henry.
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