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a pole to the Queen, with the words, 'Madame, your war is done. Here is your king's ransom.' She, in her wild feeling of exultation mixed with horror, burst into a laugh, and bade the traitor's head, a paper crown around it, to be hung on the gates of York. All that was forbearing or chivalrous died with Richard of York, and with old Nevil Earl of Salisbury, who was beheaded at Pontefract the next day; and room was left between the two heads for those of the two sons, March and Warwick-it was said, by Margaret's desire.
It was true that according to Margaret and Somerset, York, Rutland, and Salisbury were all under attainder, and were also in arms against the royal cause, and thus were liable to die without trial; it was true also that few women could have felt themselves and their dearest more atrociously misused and opprest than Margaret had been by York; but there was another side to the question. York really was the direct heir: the attainder had been regularly reversed by Parliament, with the King's full assent, and the King was in his keeping, not in the opposite army. The treason was not defined; the decapitation, whether upon a living or a dead body, was an act of unauthorized barbarity, prompted by mere revenge ; the murder of Rutland absolute wickedness, and Salisbury's execution a matter of doubtful justice. The feelings of the whole country were aroused. Hitherto the Red Rose had been the injured party-now it had rivalled or exceeded the other in bloodshed; for hitherto all the victims had fallen in honourable battle, and no corpse had been insulted. Wakefield was the true ruin of the House of Lancaster.
Horrible retaliation on either side had set in, and blood was held to demand blood; and yet even then the able French contemporary writer Philippe de Comines, praises the English for their humanity in this civil war, because they neither slew the wounded lying on the battle-field, nor wasted the fields and cottages of the peasants. The death of York made a terrible exchange, from the knightly noble bred in the habits of chivalrous warfare with the brave French, to his fiery son, a far abler man, but born to civil war, and brutalized by the cry of revenge and thirst of ambition. He was at Glocester when he learnt the dreadful tidings of Wakefield, and that his mother and younger brothers had fled to Utrecht. Thirsting for revenge, he completed the muster of bis adherents, and though barely nineteen years of age, shewed himself the only man of any real military instinct then in England. He marched forwards, hoping to check the Lancastrians on the way to London. On the way he was attacked by a force of Welsh under the Tudors, which he totally routed at Mortimer's Cross, on the 2nd of February, 1461, taking prisoner Owen Tudor, whom he beheaded by way of reprisals; but whether this were the father, Queen Catherine's husband, or his youngest namesake son, is not clear. On that morning, as Edward was going forth, he beheld the appearance called a perihelion—two suns on either side of the true one, which afterwards joined in one. Deeming this an omen of good fortune, he adopted as his badge a sun with streaming rays. Margaret meanwhile pushed on towards London, and Warwick came forth to meet her, bringing the King with him, as Montfort had brought another Henry two hundred years before.
The two armies met at St. Albans, February 17th, and a second battle was fought in the same streets, with this difference, that Warwick was within the town, the Queen, with the Somerset and Clifford whose fathers had here died, were outside and attacking. But Warwick's army were chiefly citizens of London, the trained bands of whom were under a captain favourable to the Queen, and held aloof; while the rest were no match for the terrible borderers brought by Percy, Clifford, and Dacre. Not only did these fierce marauders put Warwick’s troops to flight, but they rushed through the town in search of plunder; and Henry, who according to his usual fate, was left nearly alone in the confusion to become the prize of the victor, was almost in personal danger, but he besought Lord Montagu and the old soldier Sir Thomas Kyriel to remain with him, assuring them on his royal word of his protection. The Lancastrians did not even know that he was at hand, till his servant, Howe, found Lord Clifford, who summoned the Queen, and Margaret with her son flew to him, and were embraced by him with tears of joy, after which he conferred knighthood on the seven years old Edward, who had borne him fearlessly throughout the day.
But Henry found Margaret changed; her vehement affection for him was the same, but she viewed him as a being to be protected, not obeyed, scarcely to be consulted so much as his little son. She had taken the reins into her own hands, and scouted his promise that Montagu and Kyriel should be spared. Their heads and that of Lord Bonville were struck off, and another dead weight was added to the English hatred of the foreign queen.
Margaret was out of herself; she had lost all sense of consideration, and kept no terms. She sent a haughty requisition to the Lord Mayor to provide her army with salt-fish and bread; but the Londoners were mostly devoted to the handsome and winning March, and to the openhanded Warwick, and were horrified at the thought of the two fathers' heads at York, waiting for those of the two sons; and hearing that the two armies of March and Warwick had coalesced, they stopped the waggons at Cripplegate; and Margaret, partly in indignation, partly no doubt from actual lack of necessaries, gave permission to her soldiery to help themselves and plunder the country. The Lord Mayor and Recorder, much distressed, obtained an interview with the Queen by the interposition of the Duchess of Bedford and her daughter Lady Grey, and while he was representing to her that he was almost the only Lancastrian in London, and that she could not worse serve her own cause than by angering the citizens, the King hurried in to implore her to come and save the glorious Abbey of St. Albans from fire and plunder by her savage Borderers, who seemed to think themselves let loose for a raid in Scotland. The fire was hindered, but not the spoliation ; and Margaret thus made a Yorkist of Abbot Whethampstead, who had hitherto been a friend to the Red Rose. She had literally made St. Albans too hot to hold her, and finding that the enemy were approaching with forty thousand men, and that the city would not open its gates to her ruffianly northern spears, she drew off northwards.
Edward of March entered London on the 25th of February, and was received with gratitude as the deliverer of the city from Clifford's cruel army, and with enthusiasm as the brave son of a father slaughtered not two months back.
His splendid looks and bearing, joined with his frank free gracefulness and familiarity, transported the whole of the populace; and when the nobles, lawyers, and prelates conferred with him, they were amazed to find how much this handsome lad surpassed his father in intelligence, decision, and resources. In fact, Richard Plantagenet had never been devoid of scruples ; Edward Plantagenet had none.
Lord Falconburg summoned the trained bands to meet on Clerkenwell Common, ostensibly for a muster, but really to give the Chancellor, Bishop Nevil, an opportunity of haranguing them on Edward's right, and on the impossibility of obtaining good government while Henry was continually mastered by the Queen, who had shewn herself to be in her hour of victory all that she had ever been supposed to be. The acclamations of the whole multitude shewed that their hearts were with the new hope of England, and proclaimed Edward as their king. The peers then in London met the next day at Barnard's Castle, and decided that Henry, by joining the Queen and Somerset after they had destroyed the Duke of York, had violated his engagement, and forfeited his crown to the heir of Richard of York.
Upon this, on the 4th of March, 1461, the young man thus elected rode in grand procession to St. Paul's, and thence to Westminster Hall, where he mounted the throne, which eight months before his father had only touched, and holding the sceptre in his hand announced his claim amid the shouts of Long live King Edward!' Thence he repaired to the Abbey, and took the sceptre of the Confessor in his hand, while the nobles took the oaths of fealty, and the people rapturously bailed him King. He was rowed back in his barge to the city, and again proclaimed formally there; and from this day, the 25th of February, 1461, the reign of Edward IV. is dated.
But he had still more than half the kingdom to conquer. The wealthy midland counties and the north loved Henry and Margaret, and they lay at York with an army of sixty thousand men. Edward only waited to gather his army, and marched after them. Margaret remained with her husband and son within York, while Somerset and Clifford went forth to the battle.
The battle which ensued on Palm Sunday, the 28th of March, 1461, at Towton on the Moor, was the most terrible in the whole war, and was fought in the midst of a great snow-storm. It began by an attempt in
early morning on the part of Lord Clifford to surprise Lord Fitzwalter, who was in charge of Ferrybridge; Fitzwalter, who was in bed at the time of the alarm, did not wait to put on his armour, but rushed into the melee with his battle-axe, and was killed. Warwick, learning the disaster, repaired to Edward, and a summons was issued to the whole army to get under arms, Edward bidding all depart who doubted his right, promising rewards to his friends, and commanding that no quarter should be given. May God receive the souls of all who die in this battle,' Warwick is reported by Monstrelet to have said ; then kissing the cross of his sword, 'Let him turn back who will, for I shall live or die with those who remain with me.' And therewith he killed his horse, according to the same chronicler; a proceeding that is so improbable that it was probably the Frenchman's invention. Edward then sent Lord Falconburg forward, while it was still dark, to recover Ferrybridge. Clifford was forced to retreat, and had not gone far before an arrow-shot revenged the blood of young Edmund of Rutland.
Still the battle did not actually begin till nine o'clock, and then it raged with the deadliest fury for hour after hour. The snow was in the faces of the Lancastrians, and thus they could not see that their arrows fell short, while the Yorkists picked up the shafts and returned them. Till three o'clock the Lancastrians were unbroken; then they began to give way, and were pushed back into the river Cock, where many were drowned, and the others were slaughtered like sheep. Even when darkness came down on them the butchery still continued, and almost all the next day. Somerset and Exeter made their way to York, and took the King, Queen, and Prince, and Henry's chaplain Dr. Morton, parson of Blokesworth, with them to Alnwick Castle, which had lost its lord; for a second Northumberland had fallen for the Red Rose, and lay on the field among the thirty-eight thousand men, whose corpses were stretched amid the snow, or choking the rivers, after the most savage, most obstinate, most bloody battle ever fought by Englishmen! Edward wrote letters to his mother in London, and then entered York, under the gateway where his father's and brother's heads had hung since Christmas, and whence they, with that of Salisbury, were taken down to give place to those of Devon and Wiltshire, who had been taken in the flight. He advanced to Newcastle, searching for King Henry and his family, but they were beyond his reach, and he therefore returned to London, was received in great state, and was crowned in Westminster Abbey by Archbishop Bouchier on St. Peter's Day, 1461, exactly a year since his father had touched the cushion on the throne. At the same time his two young brothers, George and Richard, were created Dukes of Clarence and of Glocester.
The Duchess Cecily seems to have—from the time of her husband's death-resigned her personal ambition, and led a retired life of great devotion, rising at seven, spending many hours in chapel, dining at noon, while some religious book was read aloud, which lecture she again rehearsed at supper for the benefit of her attendants. She seems to have felt the evils of her past ambition, but she had yet to behold many dreary consequences of the pride she had taught her sons.
Meantime, Henry, Margaret, and little Edward were safe over the Border, and being comforted by Queen Mary, who ruled conjointly with the wise Bishop Kennedy, Margaret endeavoured to purchase assistance from Scotland by yielding up Berwick, and by promising Angus an English dukedom; also the two mothers agreed that the little Prince of Wales should wed Margaret, the eldest daughter of Scotland; and at the same time King Edward tried to make terms for himself by offering his own hand to Queen Mary; and not succeeding, he made an engagement with the banished Earl of Douglas, the Earl of Ross, who was also Lord of the Isles, and Donald Balloch, a great chieftain of the Hebrides, by which they were together to conquer Scotland, divide the estates between the three traitor nobles, and make Edward king of the whole island.
However, Edward was hardly firm enough on his throne for such an attempt, and the only person who stirred was Lord Ross, who proclaimed himself King of the Hebrides, whilst his son and Donald Balloch horribly forayed Athol, the Earl and Countess of which shire he tore from the sanctuary of St. Bridget at Blair, and sent off to a prison in Isla. He then tried to burn St. Bridget's Church, but each time the flames became extinguished, and as he endeavoured to sail away a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning came on, and sunk almost all the ships that carried the spoil of St. Bridget's shrine. Fully persuaded that he was visited by the wrath of the saint, he turned back, caused all his men to strip to their shirt and drawers, and with them performed penance at the shrine. He then set the Earl and Countess of Athol free, and returned to his allegiance, thus causing the failure of Ross's attempt.
Mary of Gueldres was reported to have herself fallen in love with Somerset; but he was at this time sent on a mission to Charles VII., and Margaret resolved to follow him thither with her son, and endeavour to obtain assistance from the uncle who had parted with her so affectionately. French historians say the means were supplied to her by a French merchant whom she had befriended in her girlhood, but Scottish records declare that she sailed from Kirkcudbright with an escort of five ships of war.
She did not know at that time that Charles had already expired. He had continued very restless at the favour his son Louis enjoyed in Burgundy. His favourite Dammartin, the Count de Maine, and all those who dreaded the vengeance of the new heir when he should come to the throne, inflamed the King's mind against him in hopes of causing him to be cut off from the succession; and when Charles was sụffering from an abcess in the mouth, they insinuated that his son had bribed his physician to poison him.
The idea worked more strongly than they had intended. The King brooded on it day and night, imprisoned his physician, and at length worked himself into so piteous a state of mistrust that he took no food