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It was in the four years which lay between the fight of St. Albans and the second outbreak of the Civil War in 1459 that Warwick made his reputation and won his popularity. Up to 1455 he had been known merely as a capable young nobleman who followed in all things the lead of his father Salisbury. He had not as yet been given any independent command, nor trusted alone in any business of importance, though he was already far beyond the age at which many personages of the fifteenth century began to take a prominent part in politics. He was now twenty-seven years old, eleven years older than Henry the Fifth when he took over the government of Wales, nine years older than Edward the Fourth when he won the fight of Mortimer's Cross. There were no signs in Warwick of that premature development which made so many of his contemporaries grown men at sixteen, and worn-out veterans at forty.

Unlike most of his house, Warwick had not been blessed with a large family. Anne Beauchamp had borne him two daughters only, both of them delicate girls who did not live to see their thirtieth year. No male offspring was ever granted him, and it seemed evident[Pg 61] that the lands of Warwick and Despenser were destined to pass once more into the female line. But the day was far distant when this was to be, and Richard Neville's sturdy frame and constitution,—his altitudo animi cum paribus corporis viribus, to quote Polidore Vergil,—promised many a long year of vigorous manhood.

Warwick had already become a prominent figure in English politics, not so much from the breadth of his lands or from the promise of military prowess that he had shown at St. Albans, as from the almost universal popularity which he enjoyed. He was far from being the haughty noble, the Last of the Barons, whom later writers have drawn for us. His contemporaries speak of him rather as the idol of the Commons and the people's friend: "his words were gentle, and he was affable and familiar with all men, and never spoke of his own advancement, but always of the augmentation and good governance of the realm." There never was any peer who was a better lord to his own retainers, nor was there any who bore himself more kindly towards the Commons; hence he won a personal popularity to which his father Salisbury never attained, and which even his uncle of York could not rival.

As a school for a man of action there could have been no better post than the governorship of Calais. The place had been beset by the French ever since the loss of Normandy in 1450, and was never out of danger of a sudden attack. Three times in the last six years considerable armies had marched against it, and had only been turned away by unexpected events in other quarters. Bickering with the French garrisons of[Pg 62] Boulogne and other neighbouring places never ended, even in times of nominal truce. To cope with the enemy the Captain of Calais had a garrison always insufficient in numbers, and generally in a state of suppressed mutiny; for one of the chief symptoms of the evil rule of Suffolk and Somerset had been the impotence of the central government to find money for the regular war-expenses of the realm. The garrison of Calais was perpetually in arrears of pay, and successive governors are found complaining again and again that they were obliged to empty their own pockets to keep the soldiers to their post. Even the town-walls had been allowed to fall into disrepair for want of money to mend them.

Besides his military duties the Captain of Calais had other difficult functions. He lay on the frontier of Flanders, and a great part of the trade between England and the dominions of the house of Burgundy passed through his town, for Calais was the "staple" for that branch of commerce. Hence he had to keep on good terms with the neighbouring Burgundian governors, and also—what was far more difficult—to endeavour to sweep the Straits of Dover clear of pirates and of French privateers, whenever there was not an English fleet at sea. This was no sinecure, for of late English fleets had been rarely seen, and when they did appear had gone home without effecting anything useful. The man who could with a light heart undertake to assume the post of Captain of Calais must have been both able and self-confident.

Warwick held the place from August 1455 to August 1460, and combined with it the post of "Captain to guard[Pg 63] the Sea" from October 1457 to September 1459. His tenure of office was in every way successful. The garrison was brought up to its full strength, and put in good discipline—largely, we may suspect, at the expense of the Earl's own pocket, for after October 1456, when the Duke of York ceased to be Protector, Warwick got little money or encouragement from England. He raised the strength of his troops to about two thousand men, and was then able to assume the offensive against the neighbouring French garrisons. His greatest success was when, in the spring of the third year of his office, he led a body of eight hundred combatants on a daring raid as far as étaples, forty miles down the coast of Picardy, and took the town together with a fleet of wine-ships from the south of France, which he put up to ransom, and so raised a sum large enough to pay his men for some months. Falling into a disagreement also with the Burgundian governors in Flanders, he made such havoc in the direction of Gravelines and St. Omer that Duke Philip was obliged to strengthen his garrisons there, and finally was glad to consent to a pacification. The negotiations were held in Calais and came to a successful conclusion, for a commercial treaty was concluded with Flanders as well as a mere suspension of arms.

While Warwick lay at Calais he could not pay very frequent visits to England, for French alarms were always abounding. In June 1456, for example, "men said that the siege should come to Calais, for much people had crossed the water of Somme, and great navies were on the sea." Again, in May 1457, another threatened attack caused the Earl to lay in great stores,[Pg 64] for which he had to draw on Kent: "so he had the folks of Canterbury and Sandwich before him, and thanked them for their good hearts in victualling of Calais, and prayed them for continuance therein." That those rumours of coming trouble were not all vain was shown a few months later, for a Norman fleet under Peter de Brézé threw four thousand men ashore near Sandwich in August, and the French stormed the town from the land side, held it for a day, and sacked it from garret to cellar. It was this disaster which England owed to Margaret of Anjou, for she had deliberately suggested the time and place of attack to de Brézé, in order to bring discredit on the government of the Duke of York.

It is curious to note how the work of the day of St. Albans was undone, without any violent shock, during the earlier years of Warwick's rule at Calais. The Queen played her game more cautiously than usual. First, York's protectorate was ended, on the excuse that the King, whose mind had failed him again after St. Albans, was now himself once more. Then, eight months later, a great Council was summoned, not at London, where York was too popular, but at Coventry. The meeting was packed with the men-at-arms of the Queen's adherents, and at it King Henry dismissed the two Bourchier brothers, York's firm supporters, from their offices of Chancellor and Treasurer, and replaced them by the Earl of Shrewsbury, a strong adherent of the Court party, and by Wainfleet Bishop of Winchester. It was widely believed that York, who had come to the Council with no knowledge of the Queen's intended coup d'état, would have met with an ill end if his kinsman the Duke of Buckingham had not succeeded in aiding him[Pg 65] to escape. Of all the offices bestowed as the result of St. Albans fight, Warwick's post at Calais was the only one which was not now forfeited. Probably the Queen and her friends preferred to keep him over-sea as much as possible.

It is a good testimony to the loyalty of the Duke and his friends that they made no stir on their eviction from office. York retired to Wigmore, and for the next year abode quietly upon his estates. Salisbury went to Middleham and remained in the North. Meanwhile the country showed its discontent with the renewed rule of the Queen. Tumultuous gatherings took place in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and again on the Welsh Border, although no leading Yorkist was implicated in them. The temper of London was so discontented that the Queen would not allow the King to approach it for a whole year.

The ascendency of the Earls of Wiltshire, Beaumont, Shrewsbury, Exeter, and the other lords who ruled in the King's name and by the Queen's guidance, proved as unfortunate and as unpopular as any of the other periods during which Margaret's friends were at the helm. Men felt that civil war was destined to break out once more, as soon as York should be pressed too hard and find his patience at an end. Hence general joy was felt when in January 1458 the King, taking the initiative for once, announced that he was about to reconcile all the private grievances of his lords, and invited York, Salisbury, and Warwick, with the rest of their party, to attend a great Council at Westminster. They came, but fearing some snare of the Queen's, came with a numerous following—York with a hundred and forty horse, Salisbury with[Pg 66] four hundred, Warwick with six hundred men of the Calais garrison all apparelled in red jackets emblazoned with the Beauchamp badge of the ragged staff. There was no snare in the King's invitation, and all precautions were taken to prevent affrays. The Yorkist lords and their retainers were lodged within the city, while the Queen's friends, who appeared in great force—the Earl of Northumberland alone brought three thousand men—were provided for in the suburbs. The Mayor of London—Godfrey Bulleyn, Anne Bulleyn's ancestor—with five thousand citizens arrayed in arms kept the streets, to guard against brawling between the retainers of the two parties.

The King at once set forth his purpose of a general pacification, and found York and his friends very ready to fall in with his views. More trouble was required to induce the sons of those who had fallen at St. Albans—the young Somerset, Clifford, and Northumberland—to pardon those on whose swords was their fathers' blood. But the King's untiring efforts produced the desired result. York, Salisbury, and Warwick promised to endow the Abbey of St. Albans with a sum of £45 a year, to be spent in masses for the souls of the slain, and to make large money payments to their heirs—York gave the young Duke of Somerset and his mother five thousand marks, and Warwick made over one thousand to the young Clifford. After this curious bargain had been made, and a proclamation issued to the effect that both the victors and the vanquished of St. Albans had acted as true liegemen of the King, a solemn ceremony of reconciliation was held. The King walked in state to St. Paul's, behind him came the Queen, led by the[Pg 67] Duke of York; then followed Salisbury hand in hand with Somerset, Warwick hand in hand with the Duke of Exeter, and after them their respective adherents two and two. The sight must have gladdened the King's kindly heart, but no one save his own guileless self could have supposed that such a reconciliation was final; almost the whole of his train were destined to die by each other's hands. The Queen and Somerset were one day to behead York and Salisbury; Warwick was destined to slay Exeter's son; and so all down the long procession.

As one of the tokens of reconciliation, Warwick was created "Chief Captain to guard the Sea," a post wherein centred the ambition of his unwilling partner in the great procession, the Duke of Exeter. The office was not one with many attractions. The royal navy comprised no more than the Grace Dieu and two or three more large carracks. When a fleet was required, it was made up by requisitioning hastily-armed merchant-vessels from the maritime towns. Of late years, whenever such an array was mustered, the sailors had gone unpaid, and the command had been entrusted to some unskilled leader from the ranks of the Court party. England had entirely ceased to count as a naval power; her coasts were frequently ravaged by French expeditions, such as that which had burnt Sandwich in 1457, and pirates and privateers of all nations swarmed in the Channel.

In his capacity as Captain of Calais, Warwick had been compelled to learn something of the Channel, but we should never have guessed that he had accumulated enough of the seaman's craft to make him a competent admiral. Nevertheless, his doings during the twenty[Pg 68] months of his command at sea entitle him to a respectable place by the side of Blake and Monk and our other inland-bred naval heroes. He not merely acquired enough skill to take the charge of a fleet in one of the rough and ready sea-fights of the day, but actually became a competent seaman. At a pinch, as he showed a few years later, he could himself take the tiller and pilot his ship for a considerable voyage.

The tale of Warwick's first naval venture has been most fortunately preserved to us by the letter of an actor in it.

    On Trinity Sunday (May 28th) in the morning [writes John Jernyngan] came tidings unto my Lord of Warwick that there were twenty-eight sail of Spaniards on the sea, whereof sixteen were great ships of forecastle; and then my Lord went and manned five ships of forecastle and three carvells and four pinnaces, and on the Monday we met together before Calais at four of the clock in the morning, and fought together till ten. And there we took six of their ships, and they slew of our men about fourscore and hurt two hundred of us right sore. And we slew of them about twelvescore, and hurt a five hundred of them. It happed that at the first boarding of them we took a ship of three hundred tons, and I was left therein and twenty-three men with me. And they fought so sore that our men were fain to leave them. Then came they and boarded the ship that I was in, and there was I taken, and was prisoner with them six hours, and was delivered again in return for their men that were taken at the first. As men say, there has not been so great a battle upon the sea these forty winters. And, to say sooth, we were well and truly beaten: so my Lord has sent for more ships, and is like to fight them again in haste.

Such a hard-fought struggle against superior numbers was almost as honorable to Warwick's courage and[Pg 69] enterprise as a victory, and the indomitable pluck which he displayed seems to have won the hearts of the sailors, who were ever after, down to the day of his death, faithful to his cause. But his later undertakings were fortunate as well as bold.

The best known of them took place in the spring of 1458. Sweeping the Channel with fourteen small vessels, Warwick came on five great ships—"three great Genoese carracks, and two Spaniards far larger and higher than the others." For two days Warwick fought a running fight with the enemy, "hard and long, for he had no vessel that could compare in size with theirs." Finally he took three of the carracks and put the other two to flight. Nearly a thousand Spaniards were slain, and the prisoners were so many that the prisons of Calais could hardly contain them. The prizes were richly laden, and their contents were valued at no less than £10,000. The markets of Calais and Kent were for the moment so charged with Southern goods that a shilling bought that year more than two would have bought the year before.

This fight naturally made Warwick popular with merchants and sailors, but it was less liked at Westminster; for although at odds with the King of Castile, England was not at this moment engaged in hostilities with the Genoese, though there was a dispute in progress about the ill-treatment of some British merchants by them. Another feat of Warwick's, however, was to get him into worse trouble. Early in the autumn of the same year he had an engagement in the Straits of Dover with a great fleet of Hanseatic vessels from Lubeck, who were sailing southward to France. From them he took[Pg 70] five ships which he brought into Calais. Now England had signed a commercial treaty with the Hansa only two years before, and this engagement was a flagrant violation of it. It led Warwick's enemies on the Continent to call him no better than a pirate. What was his plea of justification we do not know. It may be, as some have alleged, that he mistook the Germans at first for Spaniards or Frenchmen. It may be that he fell out with them on some question as to the rights of the English admiral in the narrow seas, such as gave constant trouble in later centuries, and were the forerunners of the famous quarrels over the "right of search" and "the right of salute."

But about Warwick's capture of the Hanseatic vessels there was no doubt. A month later a board was appointed, consisting of Lord Rivers, Sir Thomas Kyrriel, and seven other members, to investigate the matter.

On November 8th Warwick came over from Calais to lay his defence before the King and Council. Henry received him courteously enough, and there was much sage talk about the marches of Picardy, "but the Earl could judge well enough by the countenances of many who sat in the Council Chamber that they bore him hatred, so that he bethought him of the warnings that his father had lately written him about the Queen's friends."

Next day when Warwick again came into the royal presence, the Council had hardly begun when a great tumult arose in the court, "the noise was heard over the whole palace, and every one was calling for Warwick." What had happened was, that the retainers of Somerset and Wiltshire had fallen on the Earl's attendants and[Pg 71] were making an end of them. Warwick ran down to see what was the matter, but the moment that he appeared in the court he was set on by a score of armed men, and it was only by the merest chance that he was able to cut his way down to the water-stairs, and leap with two of his men into a boat. He escaped with his life to the Surrey side, but his followers were not so lucky; three were slain and many wounded.

Warwick declared that the whole business had been a deliberate plot to murder him, and he was probably right; but the lords of the Queen's party maintained that the affray had been a chance medley between the two bands of retainers, and that the first blow had been struck by one of Warwick's men. But whatever was the truth about the matter, Warwick could not be blamed if he swore never to come to Court again without armed men at his heels. The sequel of the quarrel shows what had really been intended. Next day the Queen and her friends represented to the King that the quarrel had been due to brawling on Warwick's part, and procured an order for committing him to the Tower. Warned of this by a secret friend in the Council, the Earl rode off in haste to Warwick Castle, and sent to his father and the Duke of York. The three held a conference, in which they resolved that at the next hostile move of their enemies they would repeat the line of conduct which had been so successful four years before—they would muster their retainers and deliver the King by force out of the hands of the Court party.

Meanwhile Warwick retired to Calais, where he called together the officers of the garrison, and the Mayor and[Pg 72] aldermen, set forth to them the attempt upon his life, and begged them to be true to him and guard him against the machination of his enemies.

The next attack of the Queen on the followers of York was long in coming; nine months elapsed between the affray at Westminster and the final outbreak of Civil War.

    Meanwhile [says the chronicler] the realm of England was out of all good governance, as it had been many days before; for the King was simple, and led by covetous counsel, and owed more than he was worth. His debts encreased daily, but payment was there none; for all the manors and lordships that pertained to the Crown the King had given away, so that he had almost nought to live on. And such impositions as were put on the people, as taxes, tallages, and 'fifteenths,' all were spent in vain, for the King held no household and maintained no wars. So for these misgovernances the hearts of the people were turned from them that had the land in governance, and their blessing was turned to cursing. The Queen and her affinity ruled the realm as they liked, gathering riches innumerable. The officers of the realm, and specially the Earl of Wiltshire, the Treasurer, for to enrich themselves pilled the poor people, and disherited rightful heirs, and did many wrongs. The Queen was sore defamed, and many said that he that was called the Prince was not the King's son, but gotten in adultery.

The name of Wiltshire, "the best-favoured knight in the land, and the most feared of losing his beauty," was united with that of Margaret by many tongues, and the Queen's behaviour was certainly curious; for instead of staying with her husband, she was continually absent from his side, busied in all manner of political intrigues, and only visiting King Henry when some grant or signature had to be wrung out of him.[Pg 73] All the summer of 1459 she was in Lancashire and Cheshire "allying to her the knights and squires in those parts for to have their benevolence, and held open household among them, and made her son give a livery blazoned with a swan to all the gentlemen of the country, trusting through their strength to make her son King; for she was making privy means to some lords of England for to stir the King to resign the crown to his son; but she could not bring her purpose about."

The exact details of the outbreak of the war are hard to arrange chronologically. Writs were being sent about by the Queen in the King's name ordering every one to be ready to assemble "with as many men as they might, defensibly arrayed," as early as May. But no such muster seems to have taken place, and it was not till September that a blow was struck. In the middle of that month an army was raised in the Midlands with which the King took the field. A summons was then sent to Salisbury, who lay at Sherif Hoton in his northern lands, bidding him come to London. Remembering what had happened to his son on his last visit to the King, Salisbury went not, but took the summons, combined with the mustering of the King's forces, as an alarm of war. Collecting some three thousand of his Yorkshire tenants, he marched off to seek his brother-in-law York, who was lying at Ludlow. At the same time he sent messengers to his son at Calais, bidding him cross over at once to join him.

Warwick, seeing that the crisis was come, took two hundred men-at-arms and four hundred archers of the garrison of Calais, under Sir Andrew Trollope a veteran of the French War, and crossed to Sandwich. He left[Pg 74] Calais, where lay his wife and his two daughters, in charge of his uncle, William Neville Lord Fauconbridge, "a little man in stature but a knight of great reverence." Warwick marched quietly through London, and crossed the Midlands as far as Coleshill in Warwickshire without meeting an enemy. There he just avoided a battle, for Somerset, with a great force from his Wessex lands, was marching through the town from south-west to north-east the same day that Warwick traversed it from south-east to north-west; but as it happened they neither of them caught any sight or heard any rumour of the other.

While Warwick was taking his way through the Midlands, decisive events had been occurring. When the Queen, who lay at Eccleshall in Staffordshire, heard that Salisbury was on his way to York's castle of Ludlow, she called out all her new-made friends of the north-west Midlands, and bade them intercept the Earl. Lord Audley their leader was given a commission to arrest Salisbury and send him to the Tower of London. All the knighthood of Cheshire and Shropshire came together and joined Audley, who was soon at the head of nearly ten thousand men. With this force he threw himself across Salisbury's path at Blore Heath near Market Drayton on September 23rd. The old Earl refused to listen to Audley's summons to surrender, entrenched himself on the edge of a wood and waited to be attacked. Audley first led two cavalry charges against the Yorkist line, and when these were beaten back by the arrows of the northern archers, launched a great column of billmen and dismounted knights against the enemy. After hard fighting it was repulsed, Audley himself was slain, and[Pg 75] the Lancastrians drew back, "leaving dead on the field most of those notable knights and squires of Chesshire that had taken the badge of the Swan."

In the night Salisbury drew off his men and marched round the defeated enemy, who still lay in front of his position. A curious story is told of his retreat by the chronicler Gregory. "Next day," he says, "the Earl of Salisbury, if he had stayed, would have been taken, so great were the forces that would have been brought up by the Queen, who lay at Eccleshall only six miles from the field." But the enemy knew nothing of Salisbury's departure, "because an Austin friar shot guns all night in the park at the rear of the field, so that they knew not the Earl was departed. Next morrow they found neither man nor child in that park save the friar, and he said that it was for fear that he abode in that park, firing the guns to keep up his heart."

Salisbury was now able to join York at Ludlow without further molestation, and Warwick came in a few days later without having seen an enemy. The Duke and the younger Earl called out their vassals of the Welsh March, and their united forces soon amounted to twenty thousand men. They made no hostile movement however, though the Lancastrian force defeated at Blore Heath was now being joined by new reinforcements and lay opposite them in great strength. But the Duke and the two Earls went forward to Worcester, and there in the cathedral took a solemn oath that they meant nothing against the King's estate or the common weal of the realm. They charged the Prior of Worcester and Dr. William Lynwood to lay before the King a declaration "that they would forbear and[Pg 76] avoid all things that might serve to the effusion of Christian blood," and would not strike a blow except in self-defence, being only in arms to save their own lives.

The refusal of the Yorkist lords to assume the offensive, if creditable to their honesty, was fatal to their cause. For the next three weeks the levies of Northern and Central England came pouring into the Queen's camp, and the King himself, waking up for once, assumed the command in person. A curious record in the preamble of an Act of Parliament of this year tells us how he buckled on his armour, "and spared not for any impediment or difficulty of way, nor intemperance of weather, but jeopardied his royal person, and continued his labour for thirty days, and sometimes lodged in the bare field for two nights together, with all his host, in the cold season of the year, not resting in the same place more than one night save only on the Sundays." About October 12th, the King, whose army now amounted to as many as fifty thousand men, pushed slowly forward on to Ludlow, putting out as he went strongly-worded proclamations which stigmatised the Duke and the Earls as traitors, and summoned their followers to disperse, promising free pardon to all save Salisbury and the others who had fought at Blore Heath.

York and Warwick had, of course, no intention of abandoning their kinsman; they paid no heed to the royal proclamation, but they soon found that their followers were far from holding it so lightly. The Yorkists were so manifestly inferior in numbers to the enemy, less than half their force indeed, that the men's[Pg 77] hearts were failing them. Their position on the Welsh Border, with the King's army cutting them off from England, and with the Welsh in arms behind them, was unsatisfactory, and none of the Yorkist barons had succeeded in joining them except Lord Clinton and Lord Grey of Powis. The inaction of their leaders had allowed them time to think over their position, and it would appear that the news of the King's proclamation had reached them, and the announcement of pardon worked its effect. York seems to have recognised that the use of the royal name against him was the fatal thing, and proceeded to spread a rumour through his camp that King Henry was really dead. He even ordered his chaplains to celebrate the mass for the dead in the midst of the camp. But the stratagem recoiled on his head next day, when the truth became known, and the King was seen, with his banner displayed at his side, leading forward in person the van of the Lancastrian army. At nightfall on October 13th the armies were only separated by the Teme, then in flood and covering the fields for some way on each side of its course. The Duke set some cannon to play upon the King's line, but the darkness or the distance kept them from doing any hurt. This was all the fighting that was destined to take place.

That night demoralisation set in among the Yorkist ranks. It commenced with the veteran Trollope, who secretly led off his six hundred Calais troops from their place in the Yorkist line and joined the enemy. Lord Powis followed his example, and at dawn the whole army was melting away. York bade the bridges be broken down, and began to draw off, but nothing[Pg 78] could keep his men together; they were dispersing with such rapidity that he could no longer hope to fight. Accordingly he bade those who still followed him to save themselves, and made off with his two sons Edward and Edmund, Warwick and Salisbury, and a few devoted retainers, to seek some place of refuge.

Thus by the Rout of Ludford all the work of Blore Heath and St. Albans was entirely undone.


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