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Reign of Henry VII. - (continued) page 3


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In the midst of the council the outlawed traitor Clifford, who was supposed at this moment to be at the Court of Margaret of Burgundy, was announced, to the terror and astonishment of the lords of the council; for he was known now, or violently suspected to be, at the bottom of all the late arrests. He prayed admission on the plea that he not only craved the king's pardon for past offences, but bore information essential to the king's safety. He was admitted, and falling on his knees, he made the humblest confession of his treasons against the king, and implored the royal clemency. All this was undoubtedly preconcerted by Henry, and for this reason he had taken up his quarters in the Tower; yet he affected to be as much astonished at the apparition of Clifford as anybody, and told the traitor that the only means by which he could hope for pardon was by revealing the very bottom of the Warbeck conspiracy. Thereupon Clifford named Sir William Stanley as the very soul of the treason, and the main hope of the traitors. The king, starting in well-assumed horror, declared the thing impossible. But this was only to render necessary a full revelation of all the charges against Sir William, and the proofs of them. Clifford declared himself ready to produce the gravest charges, the strongest proofs, and the king bade Sir William keep his private room in the square tower, and that the whole case should be heard in the morning.

Accordingly, Clifford, appearing before the council the next day, charged Sir William Stanley with being the chief instigator and abettor of himself and others. He was declared to be in secret correspondence with Warbeck and Margaret of Burgundy, and to have supplied money for the carrying out of the rebellion. Clifford stated that he had entertained himself, though a proclaimed traitor and outlaw, at his castle of Holt in Wales, last year at Easter, and had then declared that "if he were sure that that young man, meaning Warbeck, were King Edward's son, he would never bear arms against him." Clifford reminded the king that Sir William, through the reigns of Henry VI., Edward IV., and Richard III., had shifted with the times, and always contrived to take the side of

the new claimant. He reminded Henry how at Bosworth to the very last moment, he, and his brother Derby, had waited to see which side was likely to win, and then, rushing on, had borne away the credit of the victory.

In reply, Stanley seems to have been so satisfied that Henry had planned his downfall, that he admitted a certain degree of complicity, and threw himself on the mercy of the king. Probably, neither he nor any of the council expected that Henry would proceed to extremities with so distinguished a favourite, especially considering the near relation of his brother to the royal house. But, if so, they were mistaken. The crafty Henry had resolved to make an example which should strike terror through the hearts of all the disaffected, and convince them that no secrecy would screen from discovery, and no circumstances save them from his vengeance. But, besides this, there was his vast wealth. Sir William was regarded as the richest subject of the time. By his attainder, money and plate to the amount of 40,000 marks, besides jewels and other property of great value, would all go into the king's coffers, and an estate of 3,000 per annum, old rent, would fall to the crown. The writers of the time seem to regard the possession of such tempting affluence as the fatal item against him in Henry's eyes, and, accordingly, he was condemned and executed on Tower Hill on the 15th of February, 1498. The traitor Clifford received a reward of 500 for his base services, but Henry never again trusted him, and he slunk away into ignominious obscurity.

The fall of Stanley was a paralysing blow to the partisans of Warbeck. They saw that even that great nobleman, while apparently living in the very centre and blaze of royal favour, had been surrounded by spies who watched all his actions, heard his most secret communications, and carried them all to the king. No man who was in any degree implicated felt himself safe. Henry's cautious and severe temper, while it made him hated, made him proportionately feared. Assured by the success which had attended all his measures, Henry every day displayed more and more the grasping avarice of his disposition, and accusations and heavy fines fell thickly around. He fined Sir William Capel, Alderman of London, for some offence, 2,743; and, though he failed to secure the whole, he obtained 1,615. Encouraged by this, he repeated the like attempts; and, while he depressed the nobility, he especially countenanced unprincipled lawyers, as the ready tools of his rapacity. Whilst this conduct, however, kept alive the rancour of many influential people, it rendered the common people passive; for they escaped the oppressions of many petty tyrants, who were kept in check by the one great one. Warbeck's party, therefore, was greatly disabled. It was now three years since he made his appearance, but, with the exception of his brief visit to Ireland, he had attempted nothing in Henry's dominions. But the Flemings, who were smarting under the restrictions put upon their trade with England, began to murmur loudly, and the Archduke Charles to remonstrate warmly with Margaret on account of the countenance given to the English insurgents.

Under these circumstances it was necessary for War-beck and his adherents to make an effort of some kind. Taking advantage, therefore, of the absence of Henry on a visit to his mother at Latham House, in Lancashire, Warbeck and a few hundred followers made a descent in July on the coast of Kent, near Deal. It was hoped that Henry's severity would have made numbers ready to join them. The people, indeed, assembled under the guidance of some gentlemen of property, and, professing to favour Warbeck, invited him to come on shore. But he, or those about him, observing that the forces collected had nothing of that tumultuous impetuosity about them which usually characterises insurgents in earnest, kept aloof, and the men of Kent perceiving that they could not draw Warbeck into the snare, fell on his followers already on land, and, besides killing many of them, took 169 prisoners. The rest managed to get on board again, and Warbeck, seeing what sort of a reception England gave him, sailed back with all speed to Flanders. The prisoners were tied together like teams of cattle, and driven to London, where they were all condemned and executed to a man, in various places, some at London and Wapping, some on the coasts of Kent, Sussex, Essex, and Norfolk, where they were gibbeted, as a warning to any fresh adventurers who might appear on those shores.

Flanders was now become no durable place of sojourn for Perkin and his party. The Flemings would no longer submit to the interruption of their trade; and the archduke entered into a treaty with Henry, which contained a stipulation that Philip should restrain the Duchess Margaret from harbouring any of the king's enemies, and that the two princes should expel from their territories all the enemies of each other. This treaty was ratified on the 24th of February, 1496, and thereupon Warbeck betook himself to Ireland. But there he found a sensible change had taken place since his former visit. The king had sent over Sir Edward Poynings as lord-deputy, who had taken such measures that the people were much satisfied. The Earls of Desmond and Kildare had been pardoned, and the same grace had been accorded to all the other malcontents, except Lord Barry and 0'Water. On landing at Cork, therefore, the Irish refused to recognise their late idol, and from Cork he sailed away to Scotland. There a new and surprising turn of fortune awaited him. For a long time his interest had been on the decline. In Flanders the public had grown weary of him; in England they had endeavoured to entrap him; from Ireland they had repulsed him. He is said to have presented letters of recommendation from Charles VIII. of France, and from his great patroness the Duchess-Dowager of Burgundy; and James IV. of Scotland received him with open arms.

To understand this enthusiastic reception in Scotland we must take a short review of events there. We have already seen the position in which James III. and his nobility stood to each other. The attachment of James to men of letters and of artistic taste, and his undisguised contempt of the rude and ignorant nobles of his time, had led to revolt, and to the hanging of Cochrane and his other ministers over the bridge of Lauder in 1482. Since that time James, taught wisdom by these events, had roused himself to more exertion in the affairs of his kingdom. He had attached to his interests some of the wisest of the dignified clergy, and won over some of the most powerful of his nobles. He had put down the faction of

Albany and Douglas, and knit up a strong bond of union with France, Flanders, and the northern courts of Europe. He was seeking to unite himself closely with Henry of England by marrying the queen-dowager, and securing for two of his sons two of her daughters. But this very wisdom and sound policy, as they were rapidly augmenting his power, alarmed those who had formerly risen against him; and to prevent falling into his hands, they exerted themselves, as had frequently been the case in Scotland before, to secure the interest of the heir-apparent, and turn him as their instrument against his father.

James, his eldest son, the Duke of Rothsay, was a youth of only fifteen at the time, and they succeeded in inflaming his mind against his father, and flattering him by the hope of placing him immediately on the seat of supreme power. The marriage of the king with the English princess had been delayed by his refusing to comply with Henry's demand that the surrender of Berwick should make an item of the contract; and it is supposed that the disaffected barons had found in Henry a willing listener to their views.

In 1487 the barons, with Prince James at their head, took arms against their king, and Henry of England, vexed at the resistance of James III. to the surrender of Berwick, did not hesitate to treat with them, and with the revolted son as King of Scots, and to give passports to their ambassadors to his Court. James took the field against the rebels with an army of 30,000 men; and had he proceeded with the firmness of an indignant monarch rather than the tenderness of a father, he would speedily have dispersed and destroyed his enemies. But, like another David with another Absalom, he was more anxious to treat and to forgive than to fight and subdue. Having succeeded, as he supposed, in coming to terms with the rebellious son and subjects, the unwary king disbanded his army and returned to Edinburgh. But the ungrateful insurgents kept their forces together, and the abused king found himself obliged again to draw out against them near Stirling, one mile only from the celebrated field of Bannockburn, at a place called Little Canglar.

The king was mounted on a large grey charger which had been presented to him by Lord Lindsay of the Byres, with these ominous words, "If your grace will only sit well, his speed will outdo all I have ever seen, either to flee or follow."

The battle was fiercely contested; the unnatural son was posted at the head of the insurgent host, opposite to the too kind father. The lords surrounding the king, fearing danger to the royal person, most fatally advised him to withdraw from the conflict, and let them fight it out. The king rode off towards Bannockburn - thus, in the most effectual manner, disheartening his troops, who were soon after put to the rout. But before this took place, the unfortunate king, while crossing the Bannock, at the hamlet of Miltoun, came suddenly upon a woman filling a pitcher of water. The woman, seeing an armed horseman just upon her, let drop the pitcher on the stones in affright; the king's horse, startled at the noise, and probably at the woman's gestures of alarm, shied, and threw the monarch, who, falling in his heavy armour, was stunned and fainted. He was soon carried into the cottage by the inhabitants, and such stimulants as they had - probably whisky - were applied to recall his consciousness. On learning who the sufferer was, the woman ran out, calling for assistance for the king, and especially for a priest. A soldier from the prince's army, catching at the word "king," declared that he was a priest, and entering, pretended to stoop over him to administer ghostly consolation, but instead of that, stabbed him to the heart. Some historians assert this to have been a priest of the rebel army, of the name of Borthwick; but though James IV. afterwards offered a large reward for the discovery of the villain, no one was ever brought to justice.

By such means did James IV. succeed to the throne of Scotland in 1488. He is said to have issued a proclamation just before the battle forbidding any one, under the severest penalties, laying hands on the king. He was a youth of an ardent and impetuous temperament, and, no doubt, had been induced to believe, by the refractory barons, that it was necessary for the good of the country to oppose and control the king, who, they represented most falsely, was ready to surrender the independence of the realm to the King of England. But no pleas can excuse his conduct, which was unnatural and ungrateful, nor could his own conscience afterwards justify him.

James IV. of Scotland, though, to his perpetual regret, his ascent of the throne had been thus culpable, was a brave, generous, and patriotic monarch. As he came to reflect seriously on the part he had taken against the king his father, he was not slow to perceive that he had been made the instrument of the factious nobles, and that Henry VII. of England had not neglected to secretly foment the Scottish troubles. When Henry afterwards offered him his daughter Margaret, he, therefore, unceremoniously rejected the offer. The disposition which Henry was said to have shown to encourage his subjects, during the truce, to molest the Scottish merchantmen at the very mouth of the Forth, was highly resented by James, who supported his admiral, Wood, of Largo, in severely chastising the pirates, and did not fail to warn Henry that such practices must not be repeated. The dislike which James entertained for the insidious character of Henry, who began that system of bribing the nobles around the throne of Scotland which was never discontinued so long as a Tudor reigned, and which ended in the destruction of Mary, Queen of Scots, was violently aggravated by a base attempt of Henry in 1490. This was no other than a scheme to seize and carry off James to England.

Ramsay, Lord Bothwell, the favourite of the late king, who had fled to England, the Earl of Buchan, recently pardoned, and Sir Thomas Tod, a Scottish gentleman, entered into agreement with Henry VII. to seize the King of Scotland and his brother the Duke of Ross, and deliver them into the hands of the English monarch. Henry advanced them the sum of 266 to enable them to carry out this base enterprise; but, with his unconquerable regard for his money, binding them to repay it by a certain day, in case of failure. To ensure this, Tod delivered his son as a hostage. The original contract, drawn up at Greenwich, for this diabolical deed, still exists, and intimates that various other persons besides Bothwell, Buchan, and Tod were concerned in the affair. So unconscious was James of this treason meditated against his person, that at the very moment he was sending the Archbishop of St. Andrew's to meet the commissioners of Henry, for the adjustment of all border differences, and for the promotion of the general peace of the two kingdoms. Though this plot failed, another was soon after concocted by Henry with the malcontent Earl of Angus, of which James received due notice, and on the return of Angus ordered him into restraint in his castle of Tantallan, and deprived him of his lands and lordships of Liddisdale, and the strong fortress of Hermitage. These treacherous proceedings of King Henry sank deep into the mind of James, and he was anxious to break with England and carry some retributive trouble into Henry's own kingdom.

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