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Reign of Edward IV. Part 1 page 4

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Warwick returned, as may be supposed, in no very good humour, but still with every prospect of success in his mission. The court of France was agreeable to the match. And on the heels of the earl came the Archbishop of Narbonne and the Bastard of Bourbon to complete the arrangements. They came prepared to offer an annual pension to Edward from Louis, and to pledge the king to submit to the Pope Edward's demand for the restoration of Normandy and Aquitaine, which should be decided within four years. But the importance of these propositions, and the evident policy of at least appearing to listen to the terms of a monarch like that of France, had no weight with Edward, who was far more distinguished for petulance and rashness than for policy. He treated the French ambassadors with the most insulting coldness; and unceremoniously quitted the capital, leaving his ministers to treat with the ambassadors, and, in fact, to get rid of them. His resentment against Warwick made him not only thus forget the courtesy due to the envoys of a great foreign prince on the occasion - conduct sure to create its own punishment - but he gave all the more favour to the suit of the Count of Charolais from the same cause.

The count had sent over his relative, the Bastard of Burgundy, ostensibly to hold a tournament with Lord Scales, the queen's brother, but really to press forward the match with the English princess. The Duke of Burgundy dying at this juncture, all difficulties vanished. The princess was affianced to the new Duke of Burgundy.

This completed the resentment of Warwick. The open insult offered to the court of France, and the rejection of the alliance which he had effected, sunk deep into his proud mind. He retired to his castle of Middleham, in Yorkshire; and occasion was taken of his absence from court to accuse him, on the evidence of one of Queen Margaret's emissaries taken in Wales, of being a secret partisan of the Lancastrian faction. The charge failed; but Edward, resolved to mortify and humiliate the man to whom he owed his throne, affected still to believe him a secret ally of the Lancastrians, and that his own safety was threatened by him. He therefore summoned a bodyguard of 200 archers, without whose attendance he never stirred abroad. He expelled the Nevilles from court, and took every means to express his dislike and suspicion of that house. On the other hand, the Nevilles repaid the hatred of the upstart family of Wydville with interest; and from this moment, whatever might be the outward seeming, the feud betwixt these rival families was settled, deadly, and never terminated till it had completed the ruin of all parties.

At present the Archbishop of York, though suffering under the immediate severity of the king, was too wise to give way to his resentment. He justly feared the influence of the Wydvilles with the king, and that it might prove most injurious to his own family. He therefore stood forth as a peacemaker. He volunteered a visit to Earl Rivers, the queen's father; met him at Nottingham. and agreed on terms of reconciliation between the families. The king, queen, and court were keeping the Christmas of 1467 at Coventry. The archbishop hastened to his brother at Middleham, and prevailed upon him to accompany him to Coventry, where he was graciously received by Edward; all subjects of offence betwixt him and the relatives of the queen - especially her brothers-in-law, the Lords Herbert, Stafford, and Audley - were arranged; and the king expressed himself so much pleased with the conduct of the archbishop,-that he restored to him his two manors. This pacific state of things lasted for little more than a year. On the 18th of June, 1468, the king's sister set out on her journey to meet her husband in Flanders. The king accompanied her to the coast; and, as a proof that Warwick at this moment held his old position of honour at court, the princess rode behind him through the streets of London. A conspiracy haying been discovered, or supposed, of several gentlemen with Queen Margaret, Warwick and his brother, the Earl of Northumberland, were joined with the king's brothers, Clarence and Gloucester, in a commission to try them; and the two Nevilles certainly executed their part of the trust with a zeal which looked like anything but disaffection. Very arbitrary measures were used towards the prisoners, several of whom were condemned and executed.

This calm was soon broken. The Duke of Clarence had from the first shown as deep a dislike to the ascendancy of the Wydvilles as the Nevilles themselves. This drew him into closer intimacy with Warwick. He frequently withdrew for long periods from court, and was generally to be found at one of the residences of Warwick. It soon came out that there was a cause still more influential than his dislike of the queen's relations; it was his admiration of the Earl's eldest daughter, Isabella, who was co-heiress of his vast estates. Warwick was delighted with the prospect of this alliance, for as yet the king, having no male heir, and his only daughter being but four years old, Clarence stood as the next male heir to his brother. Edward, on the contrary, beheld this proposed connection with the utmost alarm. The Nevilles were already too powerful; and should Warwick succeed, through Clarence, in placing his descendants so near the throne, it might produce the most dangerous consequences to his own line. He therefore did all in his power to frustrate the marriage, but in vain. Clarence and Warwick retired to Calais, of which Warwick remained the governor; and there the marriage was celebrated, in the Church of St. Nicholas, on the 11th of July, 1469.

With the exception of this annoying event, at this moment Edward appeared so firmly seated on his throne, and so well secured by foreign treaties with almost all the European powers, and especially with the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, the latter of whom had recently become his ally, that he actually contemplated the enterprise of recovering by his arms the territories which his weak predecessor had lost in France. His hatred of the cold-blooded Louis XI, who in political cunning was infinitely Edward's superior, probably urged him to this idea. To draw off the attention of the different factions at home, and find some common medium of uniting them in action abroad, might be another. The most remarkable circumstance of all was, that Parliament, after its experience of the drain, which these French wars had been to the blood and resources of the nation, received the king's proposal with cordial approbation.

But these dreams of martial glory were very quickly swept from the brain of the king by domestic troubles. At first these troubles appeared to originate in private and local causes, but there was such food for combustion existing throughout the kingdom, that the farther they went, the wider they opened, and at every step onwards assumed more and more the aspect of a Warwick and Clarence conspiracy. Nothing could be farther removed from such an appearance than the opening occurrence.

The hospital of St. Leonard's near York had possessed, from the reign of King Atheist an, a right of levying a thrave of corn from every ploughland in the county, There had long been complaints on the part of the public that this grant was grossly abused, and instead of benefiting the poor, as it was intended, was converted to the emolument of the managers. During the last reign many had refused in consequence to yield the stipulated thrave, and Parliament had passed an act to compel the delivery. Now again the refusal to pay the demand was become general. The vassals had their goods distrained, and were themselves thrown into prison. This raised the peasantry, who were all of the old Lancastrian party, and regarded the present dynasty as usurpers and oppressors. They flew to arms under the leadership of one Robert Hilyard, called by the insurgents Robin of Redesdale, and vowed that they would march south and reform the Government. Lord Montacute, Earl of Northumberland, brother of Warwick, marched out against them, forming as they now did a body of 15,000, and menacing the city of York. He defeated them, seized their leader Hilyard, and executed him on the field of battle.

So far there appeared certainly no hand of the Nevilles in this movement. Northumberland did his best to crush it, and Warwick and Clarence were away at Calais, thinking, apparently, not of rebellion, but of matrimonial festivities. But the very next move revealed a startling fact.

The insurgents, though dispersed, were by no means subdued. They had lost their peasant head, but they re-appeared in still greater forces, with two heads, and those no other than the Lords Fitzhugh and Latimer, the nephew and the cousin-german of Warwick. Northumberland contented himself with protecting the city of York. He made no attempt to pursue this still more menacing body, who, dropping their cry of the hospital and the thrave of corn, declared that their object was to meet the Earl of Warwick, by his aid and advice to remove from the councils of the king the swarm of Wydvilles, whom they charged with being the authors of the oppressive taxes, and of all the calamities of the nation. The young noblemen who headed the insurrection were assisted by the military abilities of an old and experienced officer, Sir John Coniers. At the name of Warwick, his tenants came streaming from every quarter, and, in a few days, the insurgent army numbered 60,000 men.

Edward, on the news of this formidable movement, called together what troops he could, and fixed his headquarters at the castle of Fotheringay. Towards this place the insurgent army marched, growing as they proceeded in numbers and boldness. The whole outcry resolved itself into a capital charge against the Wydvilles, and the movement being headed by the Nevilles, there could not be much mystery about the matter. Yet Edward, after advancing as far as Newark, and becoming intimidated by the spirit of disaffection which everywhere prevailed, wrote imploringly to Warwick and Clarence to hasten from Calais to his assistance. The result was such as might have been expected. Warwick and Clarence, instead of complying with the king's urgent entreaty, summoned their friends to meet them at Canterbury on the following Sunday, to proceed with them to the king to lay before him the petitions of the Commons.

In this alarming extremity, Edward looked with impatience for the arrival of the Earls of Devonshire and Pembroke, who had been mustering forces for his assistance. Devon was at the head of a strong body of archers, and Pembroke of 10,000 Welshmen. They met at Ban-bury, where the demon of discord divided them in their quest of quarters, and made them forget the critical situation of their sovereign. Pembroke, leaving Devon in possession, advanced to Edgecote. There he came in contact with the insurgents, who, falling upon him, deprived as he was of the assistance of Devon's archers, easily routed him. In this engagement 2,000 of his soldiers are said to have perished, and Pembroke and his brother were taken and put to death, with ten other gentlemen, on the field.

This fatal defeat completely annihilated the hopes of Edward. At the news of it, all his troops stole away from their colours, and his favourites fled for concealment. But the queen's father, Earl Rivers, was discovered in the Forest of Dean, with his son, Sir John Wydville; and the Earl of Devon, late Earl Stafford, the queen's brother-in-law, abandoned by his soldiers, was taken at Bridgewater. The whole of them were executed, Rivers and his son Wydville being conveyed to their own neighbourhood, and beheaded at Northampton.

Warwick, Clarence, and Northumberland, who had, no doubt, conducted all these movements from a distance, now appeared as principals on the scene. They marched forward from Canterbury at the head of a powerful force, and overtook Edward at Olney, plunged in despair at the sudden ruin which had surrounded him. They approached him with an air of sympathy and loyal obeisance; and Edward, imposed upon by this, with his usual unguarded anger, upbraided them with being the real authors of his troubles. He very soon perceived his folly, for he found himself, not their commander, but their captive. Warwick dismissed the insurgent army to their homes, who retired laden with booty, and sensible that they had executed all that was expected of them. Under protection of their Kentish troops, they then conducted Edward to Warwick Castle, and thence, for greater security, to Middleham.

Thus England had at the same time two kings, and both of them captive; Henry in the Tower of London, Edward at Middleham, in Yorkshire. Men now expected nothing less than that Warwick would proclaim Clarence as king, but probably the measures of Warwick and Clarence were deranged by a fresh insurrection which broke out. This time it was the Lancastrians, who seized the opportunity to raise again the banner of Henry. They appeared in the marches of Scotland, under Sir Humphrey Neville, one of the fugitives from the battle of Hexham. Warwick advanced against him, in the king's name, but he found that the soldiers refused to fight until they were assured of the king's safety. Warwick was therefore compelled to produce Edward to the army at York. After that, they followed him against the Lancastrians, whom they defeated, and taking their leader, brought Mm to the king, who ordered his instant execution.

Edward was now permitted to return to London, accompanied by several leaders of the party. There a council of peers was summoned, and then it appeared that though Warwick's faction had probably not accomplished all they had intended, they bound the king to terms which, while they neutralised the hopes of Clarence in some degree, still were calculated to add to the greatness of the house of Neville. The king announced that he had proposed to give his daughter, yet only four years old, to George, the son of the Earl of Northumberland, and presumptive heir of all the Nevilles. The council gave its unanimous approbation of the measure, and the young nobleman, to raise his name to a level with his affianced bride, was created Duke of Bedford.

Outwardly everything was so harmonious, that not only was a general pardon granted for all who had been in any way concerned in the late disturbances, but the king and his reconciled friends were again proposing to invade France in concert with the Duke of Burgundy. The French court was so convinced of the reality of this invasion that it commanded a general muster of troops for the 1st of May, 1470.

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