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Reign of Edward IV. Part 1 page 2

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Having thus established his own dignity, and conferred these favours on his friends, Edward returned his best thanks to this obliging Parliament, and dismissed it on the 21st of December.

The opening year of 1462 he inaugurated with fresh streams of blood. He brought John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and his son, Aubrey de Vere, to the block, for being found guilty of corresponding with Margaret. Sir William Tyrrel, Sir Thomas Tudenham, and John Montgomery were also executed for the same offence. All these distinguished personages were dispatched on Tower Hill in February, under sentence pronounced in no civil court, but merely of a court-martial - a proof to what an extent the public was awed by the daring military character of the new king,

Meantime, nothing daunted, Margaret was exerting her ingenuity to rouse a party in Scotland. She pleaded to deaf ears. Her traitorous surrender of Berwick brought her no real assistance; and she now sent over Somerset to endeavour to obtain succour from France. All these efforts were equally vain. Charles VII. died in 1460, and his successor, Louis XI. - one of the most selfish and cold-blooded men that ever sat on a throne - was immovable. Somerset, her ambassador, returned completely unsuccessful. He and his attendants had, indeed, been arrested by Louis when they attempted to escape in the guise of merchants, for fear of the despicable king giving them up to Edward to propitiate his favour. It was only through the earnest intercession of the Count of Charolais, the son of the Duke of Burgundy, that they were liberated. Louis XI. was cousin-german to both Margaret and Henry VI.; but such relationships weigh nothing with selfish men, in comparison to their own immediate interests. While this unwelcome news was arriving, Margaret was rendered the more uneasy and unsafe by the appearance of Warwick at the court of Scotland, proposing a marriage betwixt the Scottish queen and the victorious Edward of England. Under these circumstances, neither Margaret nor Henry were safe. She resolved, therefore, to make one more effort with Louis of France and a personal one. By means of a French merchant, who owed her some kindness for past benefit, she managed to get over to France, where she threw herself at the feet of Louis, who was at Chinon, in Normandy. She was only able to reach his court by the assistance of the Duke of Brittany, who gave her 12,000 crowns.

But she might as well have thrown herself at the feet of any stone statue in the church of Chinon. Louis had not a feeling in him but of self. To all her pleadings of the claims of kindred blood, of the glory of restoring a fallen friend to a throne like that of England, of benefits which might be reciprocated when that was done, he was deaf as the adder. It was only when Margaret had recourse to the same temptation as she had thrown to so little purpose in the way of the Scotch, and talked of surrendering Calais, that the despicable monarch opened his ears, Then, indeed, he was all attention, and unbent into a smile and a word of condolence. He then sent off post haste to his most cunning minister, who was absent, commanding him to hasten to him, for there was a good game to be played, and good winnings to be had. Then he paid great public court to the woman who had followed him from place to place, praying to him on her knees, but without receiving an answer, and invited her to unite with him as sponsors to the infant son of the Duke of Orleans, afterwards Louis XII. of France.

Margaret agreed to surrender the rights of the crown in Calais, and that Henry should do the same. And what was to be the price of this sacrifice? - this sacrifice of this proud stronghold of England, this sacrifice of her own honour, and this last remaining fragment of her good fame in Britain? The paltry sum of 20,000 livres! That was all that she could squeeze from the miserable French king foi this intensely desired object. True, he had it still to win, for it was not in the possession of Margaret or her husband; but this acknowledged purchase from the Lancastrian king would give him great weight in any attempts to compel the surrender, and if Henry did again regain his throne, it must be made over to him at once. The facility with which Margaret thus gave away the most important possessions of England, showed that she had no real patriotic feeling towards her adopted country. It was not the country for which she struggled, but for her own mere family interests; those saved, she cared not at what cost to the people of England. This the nation saw, and, after this time, her name became odious to all but the partisans of her own faction in this country.

With her 20,000 livres Margaret was enabled to engage the services of Pierre de Breze, the seneschal of Normandy. He had been an old admirer of Margaret's, and now offered to follow her with 2,000 men. With this force, after an absence of five months, she set sail for England, and attempted to land at Tynemouth, in October, 1462, but was repelled by the garrison. The fleet was now attacked by a terrible storm; the very elements seemed to fight against her. Many of her ships ran ashore near Bamborough. Yet, spite of all her difficulties, Margaret effected a landing, and gained possession of the castles of Bamborough, Dunstanburgh, and Alnwick. She sent for Henry from his safe hiding-place at Harlech Castle in Merionethshire, where she had left him while she went to France, and was gathering some considerable forces of Scotch and French, when Warwick approached with 20,000 men, and news was received that Edward was advancing with an equal number. Edward halted at Newcastle, but Warwick advancing, divided his forces into three bodies, and simultaneously invested the three strongholds. Somerset surrendered Bamborough on condition that himself and Sir Ralph Percy, and some others, should be allowed to take the oath of fealty to Edward, and be restored to all their honours and estates; and that the rest of the two garrisons, with the Earl of Pembroke, the Lord de Roos, and some others, whose lands had been conferred on Edward's friends, and could not, therefore, be now restored, should be conveyed in safety to Scotland. This defection of her chief supporters was a dreadful blow to the queen; and, to add to her misfortunes, 500 of her French followers, who had established themselves in Holy Island, were attacked and cut to pieces by Sir Robert Ogle. Alnwick Castle still held out in the hands of the brave De Breze and Lord Hungerford; but the Earl of Angus coming up with a party of relief, the besieged took the opportunity to make a sally and escape from the castle to their friends. Bamborough and Dunstanburgh were restored by the king to Lord Percy; but Alnwick he gave to Sir John Ashley, to the great offence of Sir Ralph Gray, who had formerly won it for Edward, and now expected to have had it.

It might have been supposed that all hope of ever restoring the Lancastrian cause was now at an end. But in the soul of Margaret hope never seemed to die. With an admirable and indomitable resolution, she again turned all her efforts to reconstruct a fresh army. She traversed Scotland, drew together her scattered friends, joined them to her French auxiliaries, whom she again mustered on the Continent; and by the spring of 1464 was in a condition once more to march into England. For some time her affairs wore a promising aspect. She re-took the castles of Alnwick, Bamborough, and Dunstanburgh. Somerset, Sir Ralph Percy, and the rest who had made their peace with Edward, hearing of her successes, again flew to her standard. Sir Ralph Gray, who resented the preference given to Sir John Ashley by Edward in the disposal of Alnwick, came over to her, and was made commander of Bamborough.

Edward, on the news of these reverses, dispatched the Lord Montacute into the north to raise his forces there, and make head against the never-resting queen. He met with Sir Ralph Percy on Hedgley Moor, near Wooller, on the 25th of April, defeated his forces, and killed Sir Ralph. Having received fresh reinforcements from the south, he advanced towards Margaret's main army, and encamped on a plain, called the Levels, near Hexham. There, on the 15th of May, the two armies came to a general action, and, after a long and bloody conflict, the Lancastrians were again completely routed. Poor King Henry fled for his life, and this time managed not to be left in the hands of his enemies. "He was the best horseman of that day," says Hall; "for he fled so fast that no one could overtake him; yet he was so closely pursued, that three of his horsemen, or body guard, with their horses trapped in blue velvet, were taken, one of them wearing the unfortunate monarch's cap of state, sailed a bicocket, embroidered with two crowns of gold, and ornamented with pearls." The Duke of Somerset., the Lords Roos and Hungerford, were taken in the pursuit. Somerset was immediately beheaded in Hex-ham, and Roos and Hungerford suffered the same fate on the Sandhills at Newcastle. Many of their followers were successively executed in that town, and at York. Sir Ralph Gray reached his castle of Bamborough, but Warwick came up and besieged him. Bamborough was deemed an impregnable fortress; and Sir Ralph congratulated himself in that opinion; for he knew that he had no mercy to expect from Edward, if he fell into his hands. His confidence proved vain. Warwick brought up the king's two largest cannon, called Newcastle and London, a brass piece called Dysson, and with these made such breaches that the garrison was compelled to surrender. Gray was dragged forth from beneath a piece of the fallen wall more than half dead; but he was preserved with great care by the victors, that he might be presented to Edward, as an especial gratification to his love of revenge. Accordingly, Gray was brought before him at Doncaster, where Edward had been lying, to recover from the effects of his dissolute life; and then, Gray's spurs being hacked off by his own cook with his cleaver, his coat-of-arms torn off his back and reversed, he was drawn to the town's end, and there beheaded.

Meantime Margaret and her son, with a few attendants, were flying wildly through the neighbouring forests from the tender mercies of this sanguinary young king. She was endeavouring to reach the Scottish borders, when they were met by a party of marauders, with which the border country abounded.

The whole of Margaret's adventures in this memorable flight have so much the air of romance, that some historians have doubted their truth; but as these recitals are made by Chastellain in his "Chronique des Dues de Burgoyne," who declares that he heard them related by Margaret herself to the Duchess de Bourbon at St. Pol, and as they are confirmed by Monstrellet and Prevost, there is no reason to doubt them. According to these accounts, the robbers seized the queen and her son, their attendants fleeing at the first sight of them. The queen, it appears, was carrying with her a number of the crown jewels, and some large vessels of gold and silver, as a resource during their abode in Scotland. The thieves, fired by the sight of the rich dresses of the queen and her son, which were probably of cloth of gold or silver, ornamented with precious stones - articles which only princely persons were allowed by the sumptuary laws of the times to wear - and of the gold and silver articles, dragged them from their horses, and threatened them, with drawn swords, with death and all manner of indignities. The queen on her knees implored mercy, and avowed who she was; but the villains who had hold of her, seeing their associates busy dividing the rich booty, turned to them, and she seized the opportunity, while they were quarrelling over it, to fly with her son. The fugitives rushed onward, not knowing whither they were going, till night overtook them. Nearly fainting with terror, fatigue, and hunger, as the moon broke through the clouds they beheld a huge man, armed, and with threatening gestures hastening towards them. Imagining that it was one of the band who had robbed them who had now overtaken her, she expected nothing but death; but, mustering her characteristic resolution, she bade the man see that if he hoped for booty it was useless, for she and her child were even stripped of their upper garments for their value.

The man appeared to be one of the numerous outlaws who harboured that locality, many of them having seen better days. He was touched by her appeal, and Margaret, perceiving it, said, "Here, my friend, save the son of your king! I charge thee to preserve from violence that innocent royal blood. Take him, and conceal him from those who seek his life. Give him a refuge in thine obscure hiding-place, and he will one day give thee free access to his royal chamber, and make thee one of his barons."

The man, struck by the majestic presence of the queen, the pleading innocence of the prince, and the words of Margaret, knelt, and vowed that he would much rather die a thousand deaths than injure or betray them. He carried the young prince in his arms to his cave, on the south bank of a little stream which runs at the foot of Blockhill, and, from this circumstance, still called "Queen Margaret's cave." There the man's wife made them right welcome, and, after two days' concealment, the outlaw succeeded in meeting with De Breze, and his followers soon afterwards discovered the Duke of Exeter and Edward Beaufort, from the execution of his brother now Duke of Somerset; and with their followers Margaret escaped to Scotland.

But Scotland would now afford her no asylum. Edward had diligently fenced against all the endeavours of the indefatigable Margaret. He had concluded treaties of alliance with Scotland, the Bang of France, the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, with Denmark, Poland, Castile, and Aragon. The Pope had sent to congratulate him on his succession, and all the world appeared agreed to consider the dynasty of Lancaster at an end for ever, and that of York immovably established. Margaret had speedy proof of the perilous position of her fortunes. She found it necessary to keep the closest concealment in her old retreat of Kirkcudbright; but even here, a traitor of the name of Cork, an Englishman, who knew her well, discovered her, and formed a scheme to make a profit by delivering her to King Edward. He succeeded in seizing her staunch friend De Breze and his squire Barville, and hurried them on board a vessel prepared for the purpose. He next secured Margaret and the prince, and conveyed them on board and set sail. But in the night De Breze had slipped his hands out of his fetters, released his squire, and waited for morning. "With its first rays he saw, with astonishment, the queen and prince. He and his squire rose against the captors, five in number; but, attacking them with the oars, they knocked them overboard, and made their way again to land. There they lay concealed till Barville had been to Edinburgh, to learn the position of affairs. Nothing could be worse. The treaty of marriage betwixt the Prince of Wales and Margaret, sister of James III., had been broken off through the influence of the Duke of Burgundy, the steady enemy of her house since his quarrel with the Duke of Bedford. Burgundy was uncle to the queen-mother of Scotland. He was the most powerful prince now in Europe, and, therefore, his wish was law to his niece the Scottish queen.

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