The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 8

Author: David Hume  | Date: A.D. 1455-1485

Wars of the Roses;
Death of Richard III at Bosworth

A.D. 1455-1485


Historians themselves declare that no part of English history since the Norman Conquest is so obscure and uncertain as that of the Wars of the Roses. "All we can distinguish with certainty through the deep cloud which covers that period is a scene of horror and bloodshed, savage manners, arbitrary executions and treacheries, dishonorable conduct in all parties." These brutal aspects of that horrid drama of history, running through more than the course of a full generation, are depicted for the mimic stage by Shakespeare, in Henry VI and Richard III, with a vividness that brings before us the ghastly realities of the historic theatre itself, and with such realization of the rude forces at work as calls for all the poet’s refining art to make their representation tolerable to modern spectators.

But the historians, while consciously failing to discover the hidden motives of intrigue and treachery which throughout actuated the parties to this fearful struggle of Englishmen with Englishmen, have nevertheless recorded for us its main outlines and leading episodes with sufficient clearness. We are enabled to see England as she was in that great transition of her "making "—in the throes of civil strife, again to be endured two centuries later—through which she must pass before she could become a "land of settled government."

During the weak reign of Henry VI, France was delivered from English rule, mainly through the heroism of Jeanne d’Arc. In 1450 the commons rose against King Henry and the house of Lancaster, to which he belonged, and declared in favor of the house of York—these houses having already come into serious rivalry for the supreme power. The disasters in France strengthened the Yorkists, and brought their representative, Richard, Duke of York, to the front, with armed forces to support his claims. In 1452 he marched upon London, demanding the removal of the Duke of Somerset, Henry’s chief minister, but a conflict was temporarily averted. When, in 1454, King Henry became insane, the Duke of York was made protector by parliament. He might now have seized the crown, but his forbearance was taken advantage of by the rival party, and "proved the source of all those furious wars which ensued "—the Wars of the Roses, beginning with the first battle of St. Albans, in 1455, and ending with the death of Richard III at Bosworth Field, in 1485.

The wars were signalized by twelve pitched battles; they cost the lives of about eighty princes of the blood; and during their ravages the ancient nobility of England was almost annihilated. Yet in these fierce wars comparatively little damage was done to the general population or to industry and trade. The wars derived their name from the fact that the partisans of the house of Lancaster took the red rose as their badge, and those of York chose the white rose.

The enemies of the Duke of York soon found it in their power to make advantage of his excessive caution. Henry being so far recovered from his distemper as to carry the appearance of exercising the royal power, they moved him to resume his authority, to annul the protectorship of the Duke, and to commit the administration into the hands of Somerset (1455). Richard, sensible of the dangers which might attend his former acceptance of the parliamentary commission should he submit to the annulling of it, levied an army, but still without advancing any pretensions to the crown. He complained only of the King’s ministers, and demanded a reformation of the government.

A battle was fought at St. Albans, in which the Yorkists were superior, and, without suffering any material loss, slew about five thousand of their enemies, among whom were the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland, the Earl of Stafford, eldest son of the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Clifford, and many other persons of distinction. The King himself fell into the hands of the Duke of York, who treated him with great respect and tenderness; he was only obliged—which he regarded as no hardship—to commit the whole authority of the crown into the hands of his rival.

Affairs did not immediately proceed to the last extremities; the nation was kept some time in suspense; the vigor and spirit of Queen Margaret,1

supporting her small power, still proved a balance to the great authority of Richard, which was checked by his irresolute temper. A parliament, which was soon after assembled, plainly discovered, by the contrariety of their proceedings, the contrariety of the motives by which they were actuated. They granted the Yorkists a general indemnity; and they restored the protectorship to the Duke, but at the same time they renewed their oaths of fealty to Henry, and fixed the continuance of the protectorship to the majority of his son Edward.

It was not found difficult to wrest power from hands so little tenacious as those of the Duke of York. Margaret, availing herself of that Prince’s absence, produced her husband before the House of Lords; and as his state of health permitted him at that time to act his part with some tolerable decency, he declared his intentions of resuming the government, and of putting an end to Richard’s authority. The House of Lords assented to Henry’s proposal, and the King was declared to be reinstated. Even the Duke of York acquiesced in this irregular act of the peers, and no disturbance ensued. But that Prince’s claim to the crown was too well known, and the steps which he had taken to promote it were too evident ever to allow sincere trust and confidence to have place between the parties.

The court retired to Coventry, and invited the Duke of York and the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick to attend the King’s person. When they were on the road, they received intelligence that designs were formed against their liberties and lives. They immediately separated themselves; Richard withdrew to his castle of Wigmore; Salisbury to Middleham, in Yorkshire; and Warwick to his government of Calais, which had been committed to him after the battle of St. Albans, and which, as it gave him the command of the only regular military force maintained by England, was of the utmost importance in the present juncture. Still, men of peaceable dispositions, and among the rest Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, thought it not too late to interpose with their good offices in order to prevent that effusion of blood with which the kingdom was threatened; and the awe in which each party stood of the other rendered the mediation for some time successful.

It was agreed that all the great leaders on both sides should meet in London and be solemnly reconciled. The Duke of York and his partisans came thither with numerous retinues, and took up their quarters near each other for mutual security. The leaders of the Lancastrian party used the same precaution. The mayor, at the head of five thousand men, kept a strict watch night and day, and was extremely vigilant in maintaining peace between them. Terms were adjusted, which removed not the ground of difference. An outward reconciliation only was procured; and in order to notify this accord to the whole people, a solemn procession to St. Paul’s was appointed, where the Duke of York led Queen Margaret, and a leader of one party marched hand in hand with a leader of the opposite. The less real cordiality prevailed, the more were the exterior demonstrations of amity redoubled. But it was evident that a contest for a crown could not thus be peaceably accommodated, that each party watched only for an opportunity of subverting the other, and that much blood must yet be spilt ere the nation could be restored to perfect tranquillity or enjoy a settled and established government.

Even the smallest accident, without any formed design, was sufficient, in the present disposition of men’s minds, to dissolve the seeming harmony between the parties; and, had the intentions of the leaders been ever so amicable, they would have found it difficult to restrain the animosity of their followers. One of the King’s retinue insulted one of the Earl of Warwick’s; their companions on both sides took part in the quarrel; a fierce combat ensued; the Earl apprehended his life to be aimed at; he fled to his government of Calais; and both parties, in every county of England, openly made preparations for deciding the contest by war and arms.

The Earl of Salisbury, marching to join the Duke of York, was overtaken at Blore Heath, on the borders of Staffordshire, by Lord Audley, who commanded much superior forces; and 8 small rivulet with steep banks ran between the armies. Salisbury here supplied his defect in numbers by stratagem a refinement of which there occur few instances in the English civil wars, where a headlong courage, more than military conduct, is commonly to be remarked. He feigned a retreat, and allured Audley to follow him with precipitation; but when the van of the royal army had passed the brook, Salisbury suddenly turned upon them, and partly by the surprise, partly by the division of the enemy’s forces, put this body to rout; the example of flight was followed by the rest of the army; and Salisbury, obtaining a complete victory, reached the general rendezvous of the Yorkists at Ludlow.

The Earl of Warwick brought over to this rendezvous a choice body of veterans from Calais, on whom, it was thought, the fortune of the war would much depend; but this reenforcement occasioned, in the issue, the immediate ruin of the Duke of York’s party. When the royal army approached, and a general action was every hour expected, Sir Andrew Trollop, who commanded the veterans, deserted to the King in the nighttime; and the Yorkists were so dismayed at this instance of treachery, which made every man suspicious of his fellow, that they separated next day without striking a blow; the Duke fled to Ireland; the Earl of Warwick, attended by many of the other leaders, escaped to Calais, where his great popularity among all orders of men, particularly among the military, soon drew to him partisans, and rendered his power very formidable. The friends of the house of York in England kept themselves everywhere in readiness to rise on the first summons from their leaders.

After meeting with some successes at sea, Warwick landed in Kent, with the Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of March, eldest son of the Duke of York; and being met by the Primate, by Lord Cobham, and other persons of distinction, he marched, amid the acclamations of the people, to London. The city immediately opened its gates to him; and, his troops increasing on every day’s march, he soon found himself in a condition to face the royal army, which hastened from Coventry to attack him. The battle was fought at Northampton, and was soon decided against the royalists by the infidelity of Lord Grey of Ruthin, who, commanding Henry’s van, deserted to the enemy during the heat of action, and spread a consternation through the troops. The Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury, the Lords Beaumont and Egremont, and Sir William Lucie were killed in the action or pursuit; the slaughter fell chiefly on the gentry and nobility; the common people were spared by orders of the Earls of Warwick and March. Henry himself, that empty shadow of a king, was again taken prisoner; and as the innocence and simplicity of his manners, which bore the appearance of sanctity, had procured him the tender regard of the people, the Earl of Warwick and the other leaders took care to distinguish themselves by their respectful demeanor toward him.

A parliament was summoned in the King’s name, and met at Westminster, where the Duke soon after appeared from Ireland. This Prince had never hitherto advanced openly any claim to the crown. He advanced toward the throne; and being met by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who asked him whether he had yet paid his respects to the King, he replied that he knew of none to whom he owed that title. He then stood near the throne, and, addressing himself to the House of Peers, he gave them a deduction of his title by descent, and pleaded his cause before them. The lords remained in suspense, and no one ventured to utter a word. Richard was much disappointed at their silence; but, desiring them to reflect on what he had proposed to them, he departed the house.

The peers, after deliberating, declared the title of the duke of York to be certain and indefeasible; but in consideration that Henry had enjoyed the crown, without dispute or controversy, during the course of thirty-eight years, they determined that he should continue to possess the title and dignity during the remainder of his life; that the administration of the government, meanwhile, should remain with Richard; that he should be acknowledged the true and lawful heir of the monarchy; that everyone should swear to maintain his succession, and it should be treason to attempt his life. The act thus passed with the unanimous consent of the whole legislative body.

The Duke, apprehending his chief danger to arise from Queen Margaret, sought a pretence for banishing her the kingdom; he sent her in the King’s name a summons to come immediately to London, intending, in case of her disobedience, to proceed to extremities against her. But the Queen needed not this menace to excite her activity in defending the rights of her family. After the defeat of Northampton she had fled with her infant son to Durham, thence to Scotland; but soon returning she applied to the northern barons, and employed every motive to procure their assistance. Her affability, insinuation, and address—qualities in which she excelled—her caresses, her promises, wrought a powerful effect on everyone who approached her; the admiration of her great qualities was succeeded by compassion toward her helpless condition; the nobility of that quarter, who regarded themselves as the most warlike in the kingdom, were moved by indignation to find the southern barons pretend to dispose of the crown and settle the government. And, that they might allure the people to their standard, they promised them the spoils of all the provinces on the other side of the Trent. By these means the Queen had collected an army twenty thousand strong, with a celerity which was neither expected by her friends nor apprehended by her enemies.

The Duke of York, informed of her appearance in the north, hastened thither with a body of five thousand men, to suppress, as he imagined, the beginnings of an insurrection; when, on his arrival at Wakefield, he found himself so much outnumbered by the enemy. He threw himself into Sandal castle, which was situated in the neighborhood; and he was advised by the Earl of Salisbury and other prudent counsellors to remain in that fortress till his son, the Earl of March, who was levying forces in the borders of Wales, could advance to his assistance. But the Duke, though deficient in political courage, possessed personal bravery in an eminent degree; and notwithstanding his wisdom and experience, he thought that he should be forever disgraced if, by taking shelter behind walls, he should for a moment resign the victory to a woman. He descended into the plain and offered battle to the enemy, which was instantly accepted. The great inequality of numbers was sufficient alone to decide the victory; but the Queen, by sending a detachment, who fell on the back of the Duke’s army, rendered her advantage still more certain and undisputed. The Duke himself was killed in the action; and as his body was found among the slain, the head was cut off by Margaret’s orders and fixed on the gates of York, with a paper crown upon it, in derision of his pretended title.

The Queen, after this important victory, divided her army. She sent the smaller division, under Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, half brother to the King, against Edward the new Duke of York. She herself marched with the larger division toward London, where the Earl of Warwick had been left with the command of the Yorkists. Pembroke was defeated by Edward at Mortimer’s Cross, in Herefordshire, his army was dispersed, and he himself escaped by flight.

Margaret compensated this defeat by a victory which she obtained over the Earl of Warwick. That nobleman, on the approach of the Lancastrians, led out his army, reenforced by a strong body of the Londoners, who were affectionate to his cause; and he gave battle to the Queen at St. Albans. While the armies were warmly engaged, Lovelace, who commanded a considerable body of the Yorkists, withdrew from the combat; and this treacherous conduct decided the victory in favor of the Queen. The person of the King fell again into the hands of his own party. Lord Bonville, to whose care he had been intrusted by the Yorkists, remained with him after the defeat, on assurances of pardon given him by Henry; but Margaret, regardless of her husband’s promise, immediately ordered the head of that nobleman to be struck off by the executioner. Sir Thomas Kiriel, a brave warrior, who had signalized himself in the French wars, was treated in the same manner.

The Queen made no great advantage of this victory. Young Edward advanced upon her from the other side, and, collecting the remains of Warwick’s army, was soon in a condition of giving her battle with superior forces. She found it necessary to retreat to the north. Edward entered the capital amid the acclamations of the citizens, and immediately opened a new scene to his party. This Prince, in the bloom of youth, remarkable for the beauty of his person, for his bravery, his activity, his affability, and every popular quality, found himself so much possessed of public favor that, elated with the spirit natural to his age, he resolved no longer to confine himself within those narrow limits which his father had prescribed to himself, and which had been found by experience so prejudicial to his cause. He determined to assume the name and dignity of king, to insist openly on his claim, and thenceforth to treat the opposite party as traitors and rebels to his lawful authority. His army was ordered to assemble in St. John’s Fields, and great numbers of people surrounded them. They were asked whether they would have Henry of Lancaster for king. They unanimously exclaimed against the proposal. It was then demanded whether they would accept of Edward, eldest son of the late Duke of York. They expressed their assent by loud and joyful acclamations. A great number of bishops, lords, magistrates, and other persons of distinction were next assembled at Baynard’s castle, who ratified the popular election; and the new king was on the subsequent day proclaimed in London by the title of Edward IV.

In this manner ended the reign of Henry VI, a monarch who while in his cradle had been proclaimed king both of France and England, and who began his life with the most splendid prospects that any prince in Europe had ever enjoyed.

Young Edward, now in his twentieth year, was bold, active, and enterprising. The very commencement of his reign gave symptoms of his sanguinary disposition. The scaffold, as well as the field, incessantly streamed with the noblest blood of England. Queen Margaret had prudently retired northward among her own partisans, and she was able in a few days to assemble an army sixty thousand strong in Yorkshire. The King and the Earl of Warwick hastened, with an army of forty thousand men, to check her progress; and when they reached Pomfret they despatched a body of troops, under the command of Lord Fitzwalter, to secure the passage of Ferrybridge over the river Are, which lay between them and the enemy. Fitzwalter took possession of the post assigned him, but was not able to maintain it against Lord Clifford, who attacked him with superior numbers. The Yorkists were chased back with great slaughter, and Lord Fitzwalter himself was slain in the action.

The Earl of Warwick, dreading the consequences of this disaster, at a time when a decisive action was every hour expected, immediately ordered his horse to be brought him, which he stabbed before the whole army, and, kissing the hilt of his sword, swore that he was determined to share the fate of the meanest soldier. A proclamation was at the same time issued, giving to everyone full liberty to retire, but menacing the severest punishment to those who should discover any symptoms of cowardice in the ensuing battle. Lord Falconberg was sent to recover the post which had been lost. He passed the river some miles above Ferrybridge, and, falling unexpectedly on Lord Clifford, revenged the former disaster by the defeat of the party and the death of their leader.

The hostile armies met at Touton, and a fierce and bloody battle ensued. While the Yorkists were advancing to the charge, there happened a great fall of snow, which, driving full in the faces of their enemies, blinded them; and this advantage was improved by a stratagem of Lord Falconberg’s. That nobleman ordered some infantry to advance before the line, and, after having sent a volley of flight arrows (as they were called) amid the enemy, immediately to retire. The Lancastrians, imagining that they were gotten within reach of the opposite army, discharged all their arrows, which thus fell short of the Yorkists. After the quivers of the enemy were emptied, Edward advanced his line and did execution with impunity on the dismayed Lancastrians. The bow, however, was soon laid aside, and the sword decided the combat, which ended in a total victory on the side of the Yorkists. Edward issued orders to give no quarter. The routed army was pursued to Tadcaster with great bloodshed and confusion, and above thirty-six thousand men are computed to have fallen in the battle and pursuit. Henry and Margaret had remained at York during the action; but, learning the defeat of their army, they fled into Scotland.

Scotland had never exerted itself to take advantage either of the wars which England carried on with France or of the civil commotions between the contending families. James I avoided all hostilities with foreign nations. After the murder of that excellent Prince, the minority of his son and successor, James II, and the distractions incident to it, retained the Scots in the same state of neutrality. But when the quarrel commenced between the houses of York and Lancaster, and became absolutely incurable but by the total extinction of one party, James, who had now risen to man’s estate, was tempted to seize the opportunity, and he endeavored to recover those places which the English had formerly conquered from his ancestors. He laid siege to the castle of Roxburghe in 1460, and had provided himself with a small train of artillery for that enterprise; but his cannon was so ill-framed that one of them burst as he was firing it, and put an end to his life in the flower of his age.

His son and successor, James III, was also a minor on his accession; the usual distractions ensued in the government: the Queen Dowager, Anne of Gueldres, aspired to the regency; the family of Douglas opposed her pretensions; and Queen Margaret, when she fled into Scotland, found there a people little less divided by faction than those by whom she had been expelled. Though she pleaded the connections between the royal family of Scotland and the house of Lancaster, she could engage the Scottish council to go no further than to express their good wishes in her favor; but on her offer to deliver to them immediately the important fortress of Berwick, and to contract her son in marriage with a sister of King James, she found a better reception; and the Scots promised the assistance of their arms to reinstate her family upon the throne. But Edward did not pursue the fugitive King and Queen into their retreat; he returned to London, where a parliament was summoned for settling the government.

On the meeting of this assembly, Edward found the good effects of his vigorous measure in assuming the crown, as well as of his victory at Touton, by which he had secured it. The parliament no longer hesitated between the two families, or proposed any of those ambiguous decisions which could only serve to perpetuate and to inflame the animosities of party. They recognized the title of Edward, by hereditary descent, through the family of Mortimer, and declared that he was king by right, from the death of his father, who had also the same lawful title; and that he was in possession of the crown from the day that he assumed the government, tendered to him by the acclamations of the people. They reinstated the King in all the possessions which had belonged to the crown at the pretended deposition of Richard II.

But the new establishment seemed precarious and uncertain, not only from the domestic discontents of the people, but from the efforts of foreign powers. Louis, the eleventh of the name, had succeeded to his father, Charles, in 1460, and was led from the obvious motives of national interest to feed the flames of civil discord among such dangerous neighbors by giving support to the weaker party. But the intriguing and politic genius of this Prince was here checked by itself: having attempted to subdue the independent spirit of his own vassals, he had excited such an opposition at home as prevented him from making all the advantage, which the opportunity afforded, of the dissensions among the English. He sent, however, a small body to Henry’s assistance under Varenne, seneschal of Normandy, 1462, who landed in Northumberland and got possession of the castle of Alnwick; but as the indefatigable Margaret went in person to France, where she solicited larger supplies, and promised Louis to deliver up Calais if her family should by his means be restored to the throne of England, he was induced to send along with her a body of two thousand men-at-arms, which enabled her to take the field and to make an inroad into England, 1464. Though reenforced by a numerous train of adventurers from Scotland, and by many partisans—of the family of Lancaster, she received a check at Hedgeley Moor from Lord Montacute, or Montagu, brother to the Earl of Warwick and warden of the east marches between Scotland and England. Montagu was so encouraged with this success that, while a numerous reenforcement was on its march to join him by orders from Edward, he yet ventured, with his own troops alone, to attack the Lancastrians at Hexham; and he obtained a complete victory over them. The Duke of Somerset, the Lords Roos and Hungerford, were taken in the pursuit, and immediately beheaded by martial law at Hexham. Summary justice was in like manner executed at Newcastle on Sir Humphrey Nevil, and several other gentlemen. All those who were spared in the field suffered on the scaffold, and the utter extermination of their adversaries was now become the plain object of the York party; a conduct which received but too plausible an apology from the preceding practice of the Lancastrians.

The fate of the unfortunate royal family, after this defeat, was singular. Margaret, flying with her son into a forest, where she endeavored to conceal herself, was beset, during the darkness of the night, by robbers, who, either ignorant or regardless of her quality, despoiled her of her rings and jewels, and treated her with the utmost indignity. The partition of this rich booty raised a quarrel among them; and, while their attention was thus engaged, she took the opportunity of making her escape with her son into the thickest of the forest, where she wandered for some time, overspent with hunger and fatigue and sunk with terror and affliction. While in this wretched condition, she saw a robber approach with his naked sword; and, finding that she had no means of escape, she suddenly embraced the resolution of trusting entirely for protection to his faith and generosity. She advanced toward him, and, presenting to him the young Prince, called out to him, "Here, my friend, I commit to your care the safety of your King’s son."

The man, whose humanity and generous spirit had been obscured, not entirely lost, by his vicious course of life, was struck with the singularity of the event, was charmed with the confidence reposed in him, and vowed not only to abstain from all injury against the Princess, but to devote himself entirely to her service. By his means she dwelt some time concealed in the forest, and was at last conducted to the sea-coast, whence she made her escape into Flanders. She passed thence into her father’s court, where she lived several years in privacy and retirement. Her husband was not so fortunate or so dexterous in finding the means of escape. Some of his friends took him under their protection and conveyed him into Lancashire, where he remained concealed during a twelvemonth; but he was at last detected, delivered up to Edward, and thrown into the Tower. The safety of his person was owing less to the generosity of his enemies than to the contempt which they had entertained of his courage and his understanding.

The imprisonment of Henry, the expulsion of Margaret, the execution and confiscation of all the most eminent Lancastrians, seemed to give full security to Edward’s government. But his amorous temper led him into a snare, which proved fatal to his repose and to the stability of his throne. Jaqueline of Luxemburg, Duchess of Bedford, had, after her husband’s death, so far sacrificed her ambition to love that she espoused in second marriage Sir Richard Woodeville, a private gentleman, to whom she bore several children, and among the rest Elizabeth, who was remarkable for the grace and beauty of her person, as well as for other amiable accomplishments. This young lady had married Sir John Gray of Groby, by whom she had children; and her husband being slain in the second battle of St. Albans, fighting on the side of Lancaster, and his estate being for that reason confiscated, his widow retired to live with her father, at his seat of Grafton, in Northamptonshire. The King came accidentally to the house after a hunting party, in order to pay a visit to the Duchess of Bedford, and, as the occasion seemed favorable for obtaining some grace from this gallant monarch, the young widow flung herself at his feet, and with many tears entreated him to take pity on her impoverished and distressed children. The sight of so much beauty in affliction strongly affected the amorous Edward, love stole sensibly into his heart under the guise of compassion; and her sorrow, so becoming a virtuous matron, made his esteem and regard quickly correspond to his affection. He raised her from the ground with assurances of favor; he found his passion increase every moment by the conversation of the amiable object; and he was soon reduced, in his turn, to the posture and style of a supplicant at the feet of Elizabeth. But the lady, either averse to dishonorable love from a sense of duty, or perceiving that the impression which she had made was so deep as to give her hopes of obtaining the highest elevation, obstinately refused to gratify his passion; and all the endearments, caresses, and importunities of the young and amiable Edward proved fruitless against her rigid and inflexible virtue. His passion, irritated by opposition and increased by his veneration for such honorable sentiments, carried him at last beyond all bounds of reason, and he offered to share his throne, as well as his heart, with the woman whose beauty of person and dignity of character seemed so well to entitle her to both. The marriage was privately celebrated at Grafton; the secret was carefully kept for some time; no one suspected that so libertine a prince could sacrifice so much to a romantic passion; and there were, in particular, strong reasons which at that time rendered this step, to the highest degree, dangerous and imprudent.

The King, desirous to secure his throne, as well by the prospect of issue as by foreign alliances, had, a little before, determined to make application to some neighboring princess; and he had cast his eye on Bona of Savoy, sister to the Queen of France, who, he hoped, would by her marriage insure him the friendship of that power which was alone both able and inclined to give support and assistance to his rival. To render the negotiation more successful, the Earl of Warwick had been despatched to Paris, where the Princess then resided; he had demanded Bona in marriage for the King; his proposals had been accepted; the treaty was fully concluded; and nothing remained but the ratification of the terms agreed on, and the bringing over the Princess to England. But when the secret of Edward’s marriage broke out, the haughty Earl, deeming h!m self affronted, both by being employed in this fruitless negotiation and by being kept a stranger to the King’s intentions, who had owed everything to his friendship, immediately returned to England, inflamed with rage and indignation. The influence of passion over so young a man as Edward might have served as an excuse for his imprudent conduct had he deigned to acknowledge his error or had pleaded his weakness as an apology; but his faulty shame or pride prevented him from so much as mentioning the matter to Warwick; and that nobleman was allowed to depart the court, full of the same ill-humor and discontent which he had brought to it.

Every incident now tended to widen the breach between the King and this powerful subject. The Queen, who lost not her influence by marriage, was equally solicitous to draw every grace and favor to her own friends and kindred and to exclude those of the Earl, whom she regarded as her mortal enemy.

The Earl of Warwick could not suffer with patience the least diminution of that credit which he had long enjoyed, and which he thought he had merited by such important services. Edward also, jealous of that power which had supported him, was well pleased to raise up rivals to the Earl of Warwick; and he justified, by this political view, his extreme partiality to the Queen’s kindred. But the nobility of England, envying the sudden growth of the Woodevilles, was more inclined to take part with Warwick’s discontent.

An extensive and dangerous combination was insensibly formed against Edward and his ministry. While this cloud was gathering at home, Edward endeavored to secure himself against his factious nobility by entering into foreign alliances. But whatever ambitious schemes the King might have built on these alliances, they were soon frustrated by intestine commotions, which engrossed all his attention. These disorders probably arose not immediately from the intrigues of the Earl of Warwick, but from accident, aided by the turbulent spirit of the age, by the general humor of discontent which that popular nobleman had instilled into the nation, and perhaps by some remains of attachment to the house of Lancaster. The hospital of St. Leonard’s, near York, had received, from an ancient grant of King Athelstane, a right of levying a thrave of corn upon every ploughland in the county. The country people complained that the revenue of the hospital was no longer expended for the relief of the poor, but was secreted by the managers, and employed to their private purposes. After long repining at the contribution, they refused payment; ecclesiastical and civil censures were issued against them; their goods were distrained, and their persons thrown into jail; till, as their ill-humor daily increased, they rose in arms, fell upon the officers of the hospital, whom they put to the sword, and proceeded in a body, fifteen thousand strong, to the gates of York. Lord Montagu, who commanded in those parts, opposed himself to their progress; and having been so fortunate in a skirmish as to seize Robert Hulderne, their leader, he ordered him immediately to be led to execution, according to the practice of the times.

The rebels, however, still continued in arms; and being soon headed by men of greater distinction—Sir Henry Nevil, son of Lord Latimer, and Sir John Coniers—they advanced southward, and began to appear formidable to the Government. Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was ordered by Edward to march against them at the head of a body of Welshmen; and he was joined by five thousand archers, under the command of Stafford, Earl of Devonshire. But a trivial difference about quarters having begotten an animosity between these two noblemen, the Earl of Devonshire retired with his archers, and left Pembroke alone to encounter the rebels.

The two armies approached each other near Banbury, 1469, and Pembroke, having prevailed in a skirmish, and having taken Sir John Nevil prisoner, ordered him immediately to be put to death, without any form of process. This execution enraged without terrifying the rebels; they attacked the Welsh army, routed them, put them to the sword without mercy; and, having seized Pembroke, they took immediate revenge upon him for the death of their leader. The King, imputing this misfortune to the Earl of Devonshire, who had deserted Pembroke, ordered him to be executed in a like summary manner.

Soon after there broke out another rebellion. It arose in Lincolnshire, and was headed by Sir Robert Welles. The army of the rebels amounted to thirty thousand men. The King fought a battle with the rebels, defeated them, took Sir Robert Welles and Sir Thomas Launde prisoners, and ordered them immediately to be beheaded. Edward during these transactions had entertained so little jealousy of the Earl of Warwick or the Duke of Clarence that he sent them with commissions of array to levy forces against the rebels; but these malecontents, as soon as they left the court, raised troops in their own name, issued declarations against the Government, and complained of grievances, oppressions, and bad ministers. The unexpected defeat of Welles disconcerted all their measures; and they retired northward into Lancashire, where they expected to be joined by Lord Stanley, who had married the Earl of Warwick’s sister. But as that nobleman refused all concurrence with them, and as Lord Montagu also remained quiet in Yorkshire, they were obliged to disband their army and to fly into Devonshire, where they embarked and made sail toward Calais.

The King of France received Warwick with the greatest demonstrations of regard, and hoped to make him his instrument in overturning the government of England and reestablishing the house of Lancaster. No animosity was ever greater than that which had long prevailed between that house and the Earl of Warwick. But his present distresses and the entreaties of Louis made him hearken to terms of accommodation; and Margaret being sent for from Angers, where she then resided, an agreement was soon concluded between them. It was stipulated that Warwick should espouse the cause of Henry and endeavor to restore him to liberty and to reestablish him on the throne; that the administration of the government during the minority of young Edward, Henry’s son, should be intrusted conjointly to the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence; that Prince Edward should marry the Lady Anne, second daughter of that nobleman; and that the crown, in case of the failure of male issue in that Prince, should descend to the Duke of Clarence, to the entire exclusion of King Edward and his posterity. The marriage of Prince Edward with the Lady Anne was immediately celebrated in France.

Edward foresaw that it would be easy to dissolve an alliance composed of such discordant parts. For this purpose he sent over a lady of great sagacity and address, who belonged to the train of the Duchess of Clarence, and who, under color of attending her mistress, was empowered to negotiate with the Duke, and to renew the connections of that Prince with his own family. She represented to Clarence that he had unwarily, to his own ruin, become the instrument of Warwick’s vengeance, and had thrown himself entirely in the power of his most inveterate enemies; that the mortal injuries which the one royal family had suffered from the other were now past all forgiveness, and no imaginary union of interests could ever suffice to obliterate them; that, even if the leaders were willing to forget past offences, the animosity of their adherents would prevent a sincere coalition of parties, and would, in spite of all temporary and verbal agreements, preserve an eternal opposition of measures between them; and that a prince who deserted his own kindred, and joined the murderers of his father, left himself single, without friends, without protection, and would not, when misfortunes inevitably fell upon him, be so much as entitled to any pity or regard from the rest of mankind. Clarence was only one-and-twenty years of age, and seems to have possessed but a slender capacity; yet could he easily see the force of these reasons; and, upon the promise of forgiveness from his brother, he secretly engaged, on a favorable opportunity, to desert the Earl of Warwick and abandon the Lancastrian party.

During this negotiation Warwick was secretly carrying on a correspondence of the same nature with his brother, the Marquis of Montagu, who was entirely trusted by Edward; add like motives produced a like resolution in that nobleman. The Marquis, also, that he might render the projected blow the more deadly and incurable, resolved on his side to watch a favorable opportunity for committing his perfidy, and still to maintain the appearance of being a zealous adherent to the house of York.

After these mutual snares were thus carefully laid, the decision of the quarrel advanced apace. Louis prepared a fleet to escort the Earl of Warwick, and granted him a supply of men and money. The Duke of Burgundy, on the other hand, anxious to support the reigning family in England, fitted out a larger fleet, with which he guarded the Channel. Edward was not sensible of his danger; he made no suitable preparations against the Earl of Warwick; he even said that the Duke might spare himself the trouble of guarding the seas, and that he wished for nothing more than to see Warwick set foot on English ground.

The event soon happened of which Edward seemed so desirous. A storm dispersed the Duke of Burgundy’s navy, and left the sea open to Warwick. That nobleman seized the opportunity, and, setting sail, quickly landed at Dartmouth with the Duke of Clarence, the earls of Oxford and Pembroke, and a small body of troops, while the King was in the North, engaged in suppressing an insurrection which had been raised by Lord Fitz-Hugh, brother-in-law to Warwick. The scene which ensues resembles more the fiction of a poem or romance than an event in true history. The prodigious popularity of Warwick, the zeal of the Lancastrian party, the spirit of discontent with which many were infected, and the general instability of the English nation occasioned by the late frequent revolutions drew such multitudes to his standard that in a very few days his army amounted to sixty thousand men and was continually increasing. Edward hastened southward to encounter him; and the two armies approached each other near Nottingham, where a decisive action was every hour expected.

The rapidity of Warwick’s progress had incapacitated the Duke of Clarence from executing his plan of treachery; and the Marquis of Montagu had here the opportunity of striking the first blow. He communicated the design to his adherents, who promised him their concurrence; they took to arms in the nighttime, and hastened with loud acclamation to Edward’s quarters; the King was alarmed at the noise, and, starting from bed, heard the cry of war usually employed by the Lancastrian party. Lord Hastings, his chamberlain, informed him of the danger, and urged him to make his escape by speedy flight from an army where he had so many concealed enemies and where few seemed zealously attached to his service. He had just time to get on horseback and to hurry with a small retinue to Lynne, in Norfolk, where he luckily found some ships ready, on board of which he instantly embarked. The Earl of Warwick, in eleven days after his first landing, was left entire master of the kingdom. But Edward’s danger did not end with his embarkation. The Easterlings or Hanse Towns were then at war both with France and England; and some ships of these people, hovering on the English coast, espied the King’s vessels and gave chase to them; nor was it without extreme difficulty that he made his escape into the port of Alkmaar in Holland.

Immediately after Edward’s flight had left the kingdom at Warwick’s disposal, that nobleman hastened to London; and taking Henry from his confinement in the Tower, into which he himself had been the chief cause of throwing him, he proclaimed him King with great solemnity. A parliament was summoned, in the name of that Prince, to meet at Westminster. The treaty with Margaret was here fully executed; Henry was recognized as lawful king; but, his incapacity for government being avowed, the regency was intrusted to Warwick and Clarence till the majority of Prince Edward; and in default of that Prince’s issue, Clarence was declared successor to the crown.

The ruling party were more sparing in their executions than was usual after any revolution during those violent times. The only victim of distinction was John Tibetot, Earl of Worcester. All the other considerable Yorkists either fled beyond sea or took shelter in sanctuaries, where the ecclesiastical privileges afforded them protection. In London alone it is computed that no less than two thousand persons saved themselves in this manner, and among the rest Edward’s Queen, who was there delivered of a son, called by his father’s name. Queen Margaret had not yet appeared in England, but, on receiving intelligence of Warwick’s success, was preparing with Prince Edward for her journey. All the banished Lancastrians flocked to her, and, among the rest, the Duke of Somerset, son of the Duke beheaded after the battle of Hexham. This nobleman, who had long been regarded as the head of the party, had fled into the Low Countries on the discomfiture of his friends; and as he concealed his name and quality, he had there languished in extreme indigence. But both Somerset and Margaret were detained by contrary winds from reaching England, till a new revolution in that kingdom, no less sudden and surprising than the former, threw them into greater misery than that from which they had just emerged.

The Duke of Burgundy equipped four large vessels, in the name of some private merchants, at Terveer, in Zealand; and, causing fourteen ships to be secretly hired from the Easterlings, he delivered this small squadron to Edward, who, receiving also a sum of money from the Duke, immediately set sail for England, 1471.

Edward, impatient to take revenge on his enemies and to recover his lost authority, made an attempt to land with his forces, which exceeded not two thousand men, on the coast of Norfolk; but being there repulsed, he sailed northward and disembarked at Ravenspur, in Yorkshire. Finding that the new magistrates, who had been appointed by the Earl of Warwick, kept the people everywhere from joining him, he pretended, and even made oath, that he came, not to challenge the crown, but only the inheritance of the house of York, which of right belonged to him, and that he did not intend to disturb the peace of the kingdom. His partisans every moment flocked to his standard; he was admitted into the city of York; and he was soon in such a situation as gave him hopes of succeeding in all his claims and pretensions.

Warwick assembled an army at Leicester, with an intention meeting and of giving battle to the enemy, but Edward, by taking another road, passed him unmolested and presented himself before the gates of London. Edward’s entrance into London made him master not only of that rich and powerful city, but also of the person of Henry, who, destined to be the perpetual sport of fortune, thus fell again into the hands of his enemies. It does not appear that Warwick, during his short administration, which had continued only six months, had been guilty of any unpopular act, or had anywise deserved to lose that general favor with which he had so lately overwhelmed Edward. But this Prince, who was formerly on the defensive, was now the aggressor. Everyone who had been disappointed in the hopes which he had entertained from Warwick’s elevation either became a cool friend or an open enemy to that nobleman; and each malecontent, from whatever cause, proved an accession to Edward’s army.

The King, therefore, found himself in a condition to face the Earl of Warwick, who, being reenforced by his son-in-law the Duke of Clarence, and his brother the Marquis of Montagu, took post at Barnet, in the neighborhood of London. Warwick was now too far advanced to retreat, and, as he rejected with disdain all terms of peace offered him by Edward and Clarence, he was obliged to hazard a general engagement. The battle was fought with obstinacy on both sides. The two armies, In imitation of their leaders, displayed uncommon valor; and the victory remained long undecided between them. But an accident threw the balance to the side of the Yorkists. Edward’s cognizance was a sun; that of Warwick a star with rays; and the mistiness of the morning rendering it difficult to distinguish them, the Earl of Oxford, who fought on the side of the Lancastrians, was by mistake attacked by his friends and chased off the field of battle. Warwick, contrary to his more usual practice, engaged that day on foot, resolving to show his army that he meant to share every fortune with them, and he was slain in the thickest of the engagement; and as Edward had issued orders not to give any quarter, a great and undistinguished slaughter was made in the pursuit. There fell about one thousand five hundred on the side of the victors.

The same day on which this decisive battle was fought, Queen Margaret and her son, now about eighteen years of age and a young prince of great hopes, landed at Weymouth, supported by a small body of French forces. When this Princess received intelligence of her husband’s captivity, and of the defeat and death of the Earl of Warwick, her courage, which had supported her under so many disastrous events, here quite left her; and she immediately foresaw all the dismal consequences of this calamity. At first she took sanctuary in the Abbey of Beaulieu; but being encouraged by men of rank, who exhorted her still to hope for success, she resumed her former spirit and determined to defend to the utmost the ruins of her fallen fortunes. She advanced through the counties of Devon, Somerset, and Gloucester, increasing her army on each day’s march, but was at last overtaken by the rapid and expeditious Edward at Tewkesbury, on the banks of the Severn. The Lancastrians were here totally defeated; the Earl of Devonshire and Lord Wenlock were killed in the field; the Duke of Somerset and about twenty other persons of distinction, having taken shelter in a church, were surrounded, dragged out, and immediately beheaded; about three thousand of their side fell in battle; and the army was entirely dispersed.

Queen Margaret and her son were taken prisoners are brought to the King, who asked the Prince, after an insulting manner, how he dared to invade his dominions. The young Prince, more mindful of his high birth than of his present fortune, replied that he came thither to claim his just inheritance. The ungenerous Edward, insensible to pity, struck him on the face with his gauntlet; and the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and Sir Thomas Gray, taking the blow as a signal for further violence, hurried the Prince into the next apartment and there despatched him with their daggers. Margaret was thrown into the Tower; King Henry expired in that confinement a few days after the battle of Tewkesbury; but whether he died a natural or violent death is uncertain. It is pretended, and was generally believed, that the Duke of Gloucester killed him with his own hands; but the universal odium which that Prince had incurred, perhaps inclined the nation to aggravate his crimes without any sufficient authority.

All the hopes of the house of Lancaster seemed now to be utterly extinguished. Every legitimate prince of that family was dead; almost every great leader of the party had perished in battle or on the scaffold; the Earl of Pembroke, who was levying forces in Wales, disbanded his army when he received intelligence of the battle of Tewkesbury, and he fled into Brittany with his nephew, the young Earl of Richmond. The bastard of Falconberg, who had levied some forces, and had advanced to London during Edward’s absence, was repulsed; his men deserted him; he was taken prisoner and immediately executed; and peace being now fully restored to the nation, a parliament was summoned, which ratified, as usual, all the acts of the victor, and recognized his legal authority.

This Prince, who had been so firm and active and intrepid during the course of adversity, was still unable to resist the allurements of a prosperous fortune; and he devoted himself, as before, to pleasure and amusement, after he became entirely master of his kingdom. But while he was thus indulging himself in pleasure, he was roused from his lethargy by a prospect of foreign conquests. He passed over to Calais, 1475, with an army of one thousand five hundred men-at-arms and fifteen thousand archers, attended by all the chief nobility of England, who, prognosticating future successes from the past, were eager to appear on this great theatre of honor. But all their sanguine hopes were damped when they found, on entering the French territories, that neither did the constable open his gates to them nor the Duke of Burgundy bring them the smallest assistance. That Prince, transported by his ardent temper, had carried all his armies to a great distance, and had employed them in wars on the frontiers of Germany and against the Duke of Lorraine; and though he came in person to Edward, and endeavored to apologize for this breach of treaty, there was no prospect that they would be able this campaign to make a conjunction with the English. This circumstance gave great disgust to the King, and inclined him to hearken to those advances which Louis continually made him for an accommodation.

Louis was sensible that the warlike genius of the people would soon render them excellent soldiers, and, far from despising them for their present want of experience, he employed all his art to detach them from the affiance of Burgundy. When Edward sent him a herald to claim the crown of France, and to carry him a defiance in case of refusal, so far from answering to this bravado in like haughty terms, he replied with great temper, and even made the herald a considerable present. He took afterward an opportunity of sending a herald to the English camp, and having given him directions to apply to Lords Stanley and Howard, who, he heard, were friends to peace, he desired the good offices of these noblemen in promoting an accommodation with their master. As Edward was now fallen into like dispositions, a truce was soon concluded on terms more advantageous than honorable to Louis. He stipulated to pay Edward immediately seventy-five thousand crowns, on condition that he should withdraw his army from France, and promised to pay him fifty thousand crowns a year during their joint lives. In order to ratify this treaty, the two monarchs agreed to have a personal interview. Edward and Louis conferred privately together; and having confirmed their friendship, and interchanged many mutual civilities, they soon after parted. As the two armies, after the conclusion of the truce, remained some time in the neighborhood of each other, the English were not only admitted freely into Amiens, where Louis resided, but had also their charges defrayed, and had wine and victuals furnished them in every inn without any payment being demanded.

This treaty did very little honor to either of these monarchs. It discovered the imprudence of Edward, who had taken his measures so ill with his allies as to be obliged, after such an expensive armament, to return without making any acquisitions adequate to it. It showed the want of dignity in Louis, who, rather than run the hazard of a battle, agreed to subject his kingdom to a tribunal, and thus acknowledge the superiority of a neighboring prince possessed of less power and territory than himself. But Louis thought that all the advantages of the treaty were on his side, and that he had overreached Edward by sending him out of France on such easy terms.

The most honorable part of Louis’ treaty with Edward was the stipulation for the liberty of Queen Margaret, who, though after the death of her husband and son she could no longer be formidable to Government, was still detained in custody by Edward. Louis paid fifty thousand crowns for her ransom; and that Princess, who had been so active on the stage of the world, and who had experienced such a variety of fortune, passed the remainder of her days in tranquillity and privacy till the year 1482, when she died; an admirable princess, but more illustrious by her undaunted spirit in adversity than by her moderation in prosperity. She seems neither to have enjoyed the virtues nor been subject to the weaknesses of her sex, and was as much tainted with the ferocity as endowed with the courage of that barbarous age in which she lived.

The Duke of Clarence, by all his services in deserting Warwick, had never been able to regain the King’s friendship, which he had forfeited by his former confederacy with that nobleman. He was still regarded at court as a man of a dangerous and a fickle character; and the imprudent openness and violence of his temper, though they rendered him much less dangerous, tended extremely to multiply his enemies and to incense them against him. Among others, he had had the misfortune to give displeasure to the Queen herself, as well as to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, a prince of the deepest policy, of the most unrelenting ambition, and the least scrupulous in the means which he employed for the attainment of his ends. A combination between these potent adversaries being secretly formed against Clarence, it was determined to begin by attacking his friends. He was alarmed when he found acts of tyranny exercised on all around him; but, instead of securing his own life against the present danger by silence and reserve, he was open and loud in justifying the innocence of his friends and in exclaiming against the iniquity of their prosecutors. The King, highly offended with his freedom, or using that pretence against him, committed him to the Tower, 1478, summoned a parliament, and tried him for his life. Clarence was pronounced guilty by the peers. The House of Commons was no less slavish and unjust; they both petitioned for the execution of the Duke and afterward passed a bill of attainder against him.

The only favor which the King granted him after his condemnation was to leave him the choice of his death; and he was privately drowned in a butt of malmsey in the Tower—a whimsical choice, which implies that he had an extraordinary passion for that liquor.

The Duke left two children by the elder daughter of the Earl of Warwick: a son, created an earl by his grandfather’s title, and a daughter, afterward Countess of Salisbury. Both this Prince and Princess were also unfortunate in their end, and died violent deaths—a fate which, for many years, attended almost all the descendants of the royal blood of England. There prevails a report that a chief source of the violent prosecution of the Duke of Clarence, whose name was George, was a current prophecy that the King’s son should be murdered by one the initial letter of whose name was G. It is not impossible but, in those ignorant times, such a silly reason might have some influence; but it is more probable that the whole story is the invention of a subsequent period, and founded on the murder of these children by the Duke of Gloucester.

All the glories of Edward’s reign terminated with the civil wars, where his laurels, too, were extremely sullied with blood, violence, and cruelty. His spirit seems afterward to have been sunk in indolence and pleasure, or his measures were frustrated by imprudence and the want of foresight. While he was making preparations for a French war he was seized with a distemper, of which he expired, 1483, in the forty-second year of his age and the twenty-third of his reign.

During the latter years of Edward IV the nation, having in a great measure forgotten the bloody feuds between the two roses, and peaceably acquiescing in the established government, was agitated only by some court intrigues, which, being restrained by the authority of the King, seemed nowise to endanger the public tranquillity. But Edward knew that, though he himself had been able to overawe rival factions, many disorders might arise from their contests during the minority of his son; and he therefore took care, in his last illness, to summon together several of the leaders on both sides, and, by composing their ancient quarrels, to provide as far as possible for the future tranquillity of the government. After expressing his intentions that his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, then absent in the North, should be intrusted with the regency, he recommended to them peace and unanimity during the tender years of his son, and engaged them to embrace each other with all the appearance of the most cordial reconciliation. But this temporary or feigned agreement lasted no longer than the King’s life; he had no sooner expired than the jealousies of the parties broke out afresh; and each of them applied, by separate messages, to the Duke of Gloucester, and endeavored to acquire his favor and friendship.

This Prince, during his brother’s reign, had endeavored to live on good terms with both parties, and his high birth, his extensive abilities, and his great services had enabled him to support himself without falling into a dependence on either. But the new situation of affairs, when the supreme power was devolved upon him, immediately changed his measures, and he secretly determined to preserve no longer that neutrality which he had hitherto maintained. His exorbitant ambition, unrestrained by any principle either of justice or humanity, made him carry his views to the possession of the crown itself, and, as this object could not be attained without the ruin of the Queen and her family, he fell, without hesitation, into concert with the opposite party. But, being sensible that the most profound dissimulation was requisite for effecting his criminal purposes, lie redoubled his professions of zeal and attachment to that Princess; and he gained such credit with her as to influence her conduct in a point which, as it was of the utmost importance, was violently disputed between the opposite factions.

The young King, at the time of his father’s death, resided in the castle of Ludlow, on the borders of Wales, whither he had been sent, that the influence of his presence might overawe the Welsh and restore the tranquillity of that country, which had been disturbed by some late commotions.

The Duke of Gloucester, being the nearest male of the royal family capable of exercising the government, seemed entitled, by the customs of the realm, to the office of protector; and the council, not waiting for the consent of parliament, made no scruple of investing him with that high dignity. The general prejudice entertained by the nobility against the Queen and her kindred occasioned this precipitation and irregularity; and no one foresaw any danger to the succession, much less to the lives of the young princes, from a measure so obvious and so natural. Besides that the Duke had hitherto been able to cover, by the most profound dissimulation, his fierce and savage nature, the numerous issue of Edward, together with the two children of Clarence, seemed to be an eternal obstacle to his ambition; and it appeared equally impracticable for him to destroy so many persons possessed of a preferable title and imprudent to exclude them.

But a man who had abandoned all principles of honor and humanity was soon carried by his predominant passion beyond the reach of fear or precaution; and Gloucester, having so far succeeded in his views, no longer hesitated in removing the other obstructions which lay between him and the throne. The death of the Earl of Rivers,2

and of other prisoners detained in Pomfret, was first determined; and he easily obtained the consent of the Duke of Buckingham, as well as of Lord Hastings, to this violent and sanguinary measure. Orders were accordingly issued to Sir Richard Ratcliffe, a proper instrument in the hands of this tyrant, to cut off the heads of the prisoners. The Protector then assailed the fidelity of Buckingham by all the arguments capable of swaying a vicious mind, and he easily obtained from him a promise of supporting him in all his enterprises.

The Duke of Gloucester, knowing the importance of gaining Lord Hastings, sounded at a distance his sentiments, but found him impregnable in his allegiance and fidelity to the children of Edward, who had ever honored him with his friendship. He saw, therefore, that there were no longer any measures to be kept with him; and he determined to ruin utterly the man whom he despaired of engaging to concur in his usurpation. On the very day when Rivers, Gray, and Vaughan were executed, or rather murdered, at Pomfret, by the advice of Hastings, the Protector summoned a council in the Tower, whither that nobleman, suspecting no design against him, repaired without hesitation. The Duke of Gloucester was capable of committing the most bloody and treacherous murders with the utmost coolness and indifference. On taking his place at the council table he appeared in the easiest and most jovial humor imaginable. He seemed to indulge himself in familiar conversation with the councillors before they should enter on business, and having paid some compliments to Morton, Bishop of Ely, on the good and early strawberries which he raised in his garden at Holborn, he begged the favor of having a dish of them, which that prelate immediately despatched a servant to bring to him. The Protector left the council, as if called away by some other business, but, soon after returning with an angry and inflamed countenance, he asked them what punishment those deserved that had plotted against his life, who was so nearly related to the King, and was intrusted with the administration of government. Hastings replied that they merited the punishment of traitors. "These traitors," cried the Protector, "are the sorceress, my brother’s wife, and Jane Shore, his mistress, with others their associates; see to what a condition they have reduced me by their incantations and witchcraft!" Upon which he laid bare his arm, all shrivelled and decayed; but the councillors, who knew that this infirmity had attended him from his birth, looked on each other with amazement; and, above all, Lord Hastings, who, as he had since Edward’s death engaged in an intrigue with Jane Shore, was naturally anxious concerning the issue of these extraordinary proceedings.

"Certainly, my lord," said he, "if they be guilty of these crimes, they deserve the severest punishment." "And do you reply to me," exclaimed the Protector, "with your ifs and your ands? You are the chief abettor of that witch, Shore; you are yourself a traitor; and I swear by St. Paul that I will not dine before your head be brought me." He struck the table with his hand; armed men rushed in at the signal; the councillors were thrown into the utmost consternation; and one of the guards, as if by accident or mistake, aimed a blow with a pole-axe at Lord Stanley, who, aware of the danger, slunk under the table; and though he saved his life, he received a severe wound in the Protector’s presence. Hastings was seized, and instantly beheaded on a timber-log which lay in the court of the Tower.

Lord Stanley, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely, and other councillors were committed prisoners in different chambers of the Tower.

These acts of violence, exercised against the nearest connections of the late King, prognosticated the severest fate to his defenceless children; and after the murder of Hastings, the Protector no longer made a secret of his intentions to usurp the crown. The licentious life of Edward afforded a pretence for declaring his marriage with the Queen invalid and all his posterity illegitimate. It was also maintained that the act of attainder passed against the Duke of Clarence had virtually incapacitated his children from succeeding to the crown; and, these two families being set aside, the Protector remained the only true and legitimate heir of the house of York. The Protector resolved to make use of another plea, still more shameful and scandalous. His partisans were taught to maintain that both Edward IV and the Duke of Clarence were illegitimate, and that the Duke of Gloucester alone appeared to be the true offspring of the Duke of York.

In a few days the Duke of Buckingham went to Baynard’s castle, where the Protector then resided, to make him a tender of the crown. Richard refused to appear, and pretended to be apprehensive for his personal safety; a circumstance taken notice of by Buckingham, who observed "that the Prince was ignorant of the whole design." At last he was persuaded to step forth, but he still kept at some distance; and he asked the meaning of the intrusion and importunity. Buckingham told him that the nation was resolved to have him for King. The Protector declared his purpose of maintaining his loyalty to the present sovereign. He was told that the people had determined to have another prince; and if he rejected their unanimous voice, they must look out for one who would be more compliant. This argument was too powerful to be resisted; he was prevailed on to accept of the crown; and he thenceforth acted as legitimate and rightful sovereign.

This ridiculous farce was soon after followed by a scene truly tragical—the murder of the two young princes. Richard gave orders to Sir Robert Brakenbury, constable of the Tower, to put his nephews to death, but this gentleman, who had sentiments of honor, refused to have any hand in the infamous office. The tyrant then sent for Sir James Tyrrel, who promised obedience; and he ordered Brakenbury to resign to this gentleman the keys and government of the Tower for one night. Tyrrel, choosing three associates, Slater, Dighton, and Forest, came in the night-time to the door of the chamber where the princes were lodged, and, sending in the assassins, he bade them execute their commission, while he himself stayed without. They found the young princes in bed and fallen into a profound sleep. After suffocating them with the bolster and pillows, they showed their naked bodies to Tyrrel, who ordered them to be buried at the foot of the stairs, deep in the ground, under a heap of stones, 1483.

These circumstances were all confessed by the actors in the following reign; they were never punished for the crime, probably because Henry, whose maxims of government were extremely arbitrary, desired to establish it as a principle that the commands of the reigning sovereign ought to justify every enormity in those who paid obedience to them. But there is one circumstance not so easy to be accounted for: it is pretended that Richard, displeased with the indecent manner of burying his nephews, whom he had murdered, gave his chaplain orders to dig up the bodies, and to inter them in consecrated ground; and as the man died soon after, the place of their burial remained unknown, and the bodies could never be found by any search which Henry could make for them. Yet in the reign of Charles II, when there was occasion to remove some stones and to dig in the very spot which was mentioned as the place of their first interment, the bones of two persons were there found, which by their size exactly corresponded to the age of Edward and his brother. They were concluded with certainty to be the remains of those princes, and were interred under a marble monument by orders of King Charles.

The first acts of Richard’s administration were to bestow rewards on those who had assisted him in usurping the crown, and to gain by favors those who, he thought, were best able to support his future government.

But the person who, both from the greatness of his services and the power and splendor of his family, was best entitled to favors under the new government, was the Duke of Buckingham, and Richard seemed determined to spare no pains or bounty in securing him to his interests. But it was impossible that friendship could long remain inviolate between two men of such corrupt minds as Richard and the Duke of Buckingham. The Duke, soon after Richard’s accession, began to form a conspiracy against the government, and attempted to overthrow that usurpation which he himself had so zealously contributed to establish. Never was there in any country a usurpation more flagrant than that of Richard, or more repugnant to every principle of justice and public interest. To endure such a bloody usurper seemed to draw disgrace upon the nation, and to be attended with immediate danger to every individual who was distinguished by birth, merit, or services. Such was become the general voice of the people; all parties were united in the same sentiments; and the Lancastrians, so long oppressed, and of late so much discredited, felt their blasted hopes again revive, and anxiously expected the consequences of these extraordinary events.

The Duke of Buckingham, whose family had been devoted to that interest, and who, by his mother, a daughter of Edmund, Duke of Somerset, was allied to the house of Lancaster, was easily induced to espouse the cause of this party, and to endeavor the restoring of it to its ancient superiority. Morton, Bishop of Ely, a zealous Lancastrian, whom the King had imprisoned, and had afterward committed to the custody of Buckingham, encouraged these sentiments; and by his exhortations the Duke cast his eye toward the young Earl of Richmond as the only person who could free the nation from the tyranny of the present usurper.

Henry, Earl of Richmond, was at this time detained in a kind of honorable custody by the Duke of Brittany, and his descent, which seemed to give him some pretensions to the crown, had been a great object of jealousy both in the late and in the present reign. Symptoms of continued jealousy in the reigning family of England seemed to give some authority to Henry’s pretensions, and made him the object of general favor and compassion, on account of dangers and persecutions to which he was exposed. The universal detestation of Richard’s conduct turned still more the attention of the nation toward Henry; and as all the descendants of the house of York were either women or minors, he seemed to be the only person from whom the nation could expect the expulsion of the odious and bloody tyrant. But notwithstanding these circumstances, which were so favorable to him, Buckingham and the Bishop of Ely well knew that there would still lie many obstacles in his way to the throne. It was therefore suggested by Morton, and readily assented to by the Duke, that the only means of overturning the present usurpation was to unite the opposite factions by contracting a marriage between the Earl of Richmond and the princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King Edward, and thereby blending together the opposite pretensions of their families.

The plan being laid upon the solid foundations of good sense and sound policy, it was secretly communicated to the principal persons of both parties in all the counties of England, and a wonderful alacrity appeared in every order of men to forward its success and completion. But it was impossible that so extensive a conspiracy could be conducted in so secret a manner as entirely to escape the jealous and vigilant eye of Richard and he soon received intelligence that his enemies, headed by the Duke of Buckingham, were forming some design against his authority. He immediately put himself in a posture of defence by levying troops in the North; and he summoned the Duke to appear at court, in such terms as seemed to promise him a renewal of their former amity. But that nobleman, well acquainted with the barbarity and treachery of Richard, replied only by taking arms in Wales, and giving the signal to his accomplices for a general insurrection in all parts of England.

But at that very time there happened to fall such heavy rains, so incessant and continued, as exceeded any known in the memory of man; and the Severn, with the other rivers in that neighborhood, swelled to a height which rendered them impassable and prevented Buckingham from marching into the heart of England to join his associates. The Welshmen, partly moved by superstition at this extraordinary event, partly distressed by famine in their camp, fell off from him; and Buckingham, finding himself deserted by his followers, put on a disguise and took shelter in the house of Banister, an old servant of his family. But being detected in his retreat, he was brought to the King at Salisbury, and was instantly executed, according to the summary method practised in that age. The other conspirators, who took arms in four different places, at Exeter, at Salisbury, at Newbury, and at Maidstone, hearing of the Duke of Buckingham’s misfortunes, despaired of success and immediately dispersed themselves.

The King, everywhere triumphant and fortified by this unsuccessful attempt to dethrone him, ventured at last to summon a parliament—a measure which his crimes and flagrant usurpation had induced him hitherto to decline. His enemies being now at his feet, the parliament had no choice left but to recognize his authority and acknowledge his right to the crown. His only son, Edward, then a youth of twelve years of age, was created prince of Wales.

Sensible that the only circumstance which could give him security was to gain the confidence of the Yorkists, Richard paid court to the Queen Dowager with such art and address, made such earnest protestations of his sincere good-will and friendship, that this Princess ventured to put herself and her daughters into the hands of the tyrant. He now thought it in his power to remove the chief perils which threatened his government. The Earl of Richmond, he knew, could never be formidable but from his projected marriage with the princess Elizabeth, the true heir of the crown; and he therefore intended to espouse, himself, this Princess, and thus to unite in his own family their contending titles. He flattered himself that the English nation, seeing all danger removed of a disputed succession, would then acquiesce under the dominion of a prince who was of mature years, of great abilities, and of a genius qualified for government, and that they would forgive him all the crimes which he had committed in paving his way to the throne.

But the crimes of Richard were so horrid, and so shocking to humanity, that every person of probity and honor was earnest to prevent the sceptre from being any longer polluted by that bloody and faithless hand which held it. All the exiles flocked to the Earl of Richmond in Brittany, and exhorted him to hasten his attempt for a new invasion, and to prevent the marriage of the princess Elizabeth, which must prove fatal to all his hopes.

The Earl set sail from Harfleur, in Normandy, with a small army of about two thousand men; and after a navigation of six days he arrived at Milford Haven, in Wales, where he landed without opposition. He directed his course to that part of the kingdom, in hopes that the Welsh, who regarded him as their countryman, and who had been already prepossessed in favor of his cause by means of the Duke of Buckingham, would join his standard, and enable him to make head against the established government. Richard, who knew not in what quarter he might expect the invader, had taken post at Nottingham, in the centre of the kingdom; and having given commissions to different persons in the several counties, whom he empowered to oppose his enemy, he purposed in person to fly, on the first alarm, to the place exposed to danger.

Henry, advancing toward Shrewsbury, received every day some reenforcement from his partisans. The two rivals at last approached each other at Bosworth, near Leicester, Henry at the head of six thousand men, Richard with an army of above double the number; and a decisive action was every hour expected between them. Stanley, who commanded above seven thousand men, took care to post himself at Atherstone, not far from the hostile camps; and he made such a disposition as enabled him on occasion to join either party.

The van of Richmond’s army, consisting of archers, was commanded by the Earl of Oxford; Sir Gilbert Talbot led the right wing; Sir John Savage the left; the Earl himself, accompanied by his uncle the Earl of Pembroke, placed himself in the main body. Richard also took post in his main body, and intrusted the command of his van to the Duke of Norfolk; as his wings were never engaged, we have not learned the names of the several commanders. Soon after the battle began, Lord Stanley, whose conduct in this whole affair discovers great precaution and abilities, appeared in the field, and declared for the Earl of Richmond. This measure, which was unexpected to the men, though not to their leaders, had a proportional effect on both armies: it inspired unusual courage into Henry’s soldiers; it threw Richard’s into dismay and confusion. The intrepid tyrant, sensible of his desperate situation, cast his eye around the field, and, descrying his rival at no great distance, he drove against him with fury, in hopes that either Henry’s death or his own would decide the victory between them. He killed with his own hand Sir William Brandon, standard-bearer to the Earl; he dismounted Sir John Cheyney. He was now within reach of Richmond himself, who declined not the combat, when Sir William Stanley,3

breaking in with his troops, surrounded Richard, who, fighting bravely to the last moment, was overwhelmed by numbers, and perished by a fate too mild and honorable for his multiplied and detestable enormities. His men everywhere sought safety by flight.

There fell in this battle about four thousand of the vanquished. The loss was inconsiderable on the side of the victors. Sir William Catesby, a great instrument of Richard’s crimes, was taken, and soon after beheaded, with some others, at Leicester. The body of Richard was found in the field, covered with dead enemies, and all besmeared with blood. It was thrown carelessly across a horse, was carried to Leicester amid the shouts of the insulting spectators, and was interred in the Gray Friars’ Church of that place.

The historians who favor Richard—for even this tyrant has met with partisans among the later writers—maintain that he was well qualified for government had he legally obtained it, and that he committed no crimes but such as were necessary to procure him possession of the crown; but this is a poor apology when it is confessed that he was ready to commit the most horrid crimes which appeared necessary for that purpose; and it is certain that all his courage and capacity—qualities in which he really seems not to have been deficient—would never have made compensation to the people for the danger of the precedent and for the contagious example of vice and murder exalted upon the throne. This Prince was of a small stature, hump-backed, and had a harsh, disagreeable countenance; so that his body was in every particular no less deformed than his mind.

1Wife of Henry VI.

2The Queen’s brother.

3Brother of Lord Stanley, above.


Related Resources

David Hume
Wars of the Roses

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Chicago: David Hume, "Wars of the Roses; Death of Richard III at Bosworth," The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 8 in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. Rossiter Johnson (Harrogate, TN: The National Alunmi, 1926), Original Sources, accessed November 28, 2022,

MLA: Hume, David. "Wars of the Roses; Death of Richard III at Bosworth." The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 8, in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, edited by Rossiter Johnson, Harrogate, TN, The National Alunmi, 1926, Original Sources. 28 Nov. 2022.

Harvard: Hume, D, 'Wars of the Roses; Death of Richard III at Bosworth' in The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 8. cited in 1926, The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. , The National Alunmi, Harrogate, TN. Original Sources, retrieved 28 November 2022, from