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CHAPTER IX VICTORY AND DISASTER—NORTHAMPTON AND ST. ALBANS

When the arrival of the three Earls in London was known, all the Yorkist peers who were within touch of London came flocking in with their retainers. Thither came Warwick's uncle Edward Neville Lord Abergavenny, and his brother George Neville Bishop of Exeter, and his cousin Lord Scrope, and Clinton one of the victors of St. Albans, and Bourchier and Cobham and Say, and the Bishops of Ely, Salisbury, and Rochester. It is strange to read that Audley, who had been Warwick's prisoner in Calais ever since last November, also joined the Yorkists in arms. He had come to terms with his captor, and had agreed to forget the death of his father at Blore Heath and to serve the cause of York. In a few days an army of more than thirty thousand men had been gathered together.

The first task of the Yorkists was to provide for the blockade of the Tower of London, where Hungerford and Scales abode in great wrath, "shooting wild-fire into the town every hour, and laying great ordnance against it." Salisbury agreed to remain in charge of the city and to undertake the siege. With him were left Lord Cobham,[Pg 94] Sir John Wenlock, and the greater part of the levy of London, commanded by the Lord Mayor and by one Harrow, a mercer. They brought batteries to bear on the Tower from the side of St. Katherine's wharf, "so they skirmished together daily, and much harm was done."

Meanwhile Warwick and the young Earl of March set out on Saturday July 5th, having with them the other Yorkist lords, "and much people out of Kent, Sussex, and Essex with much great ordnance." Marching by the great north road, past St. Albans and Towcester, they made for Northampton, where they heard that the King was collecting his host.

The invasion of England had been so sudden and its success so rapid that the Lancastrians had not had time to call in all their strength, more especially as it lay to a great extent in the extreme North and West. But the Midlands were well roused, and, if a Yorkist chronicler is to be believed, the Queen "had it proclaimed in Cheshire and Lancashire that if so the King had the victory of the Earls, then every man should take what he might, and make havoc in Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, and Sussex." The Duke of Buckingham had the chief command, though he was not of the Court party nor a great lover of the Queen's, but out of sheer loyalty he now—as formerly at St. Albans—came out with all his retainers when he received the King's missive. With him were Egremont and Beaumont, both deadly enemies of the Nevilles and favourites of the Queen, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Grey de Ruthyn, and many more. Their forces, though very considerable, were still somewhat inferior to those of the Yorkists.
 
The King's camp was pitched just outside Northampton town, in the meadows south of the Nen, near the Nunnery between Sandiford and Hardingstone. The position had been strongly entrenched, and the earthworks were lined with a numerous artillery; the river covered both flanks, the lines being drawn from point to point in a broad bend of its course.

Warwick, in accordance with his declaration at St. Paul's on the previous Thursday, made three separate attempts to secure permission to approach the King's person; but Buckingham sternly refused to listen to his envoys, the Bishops of Rochester and Salisbury. "You came here not as bishops to treat of peace, but as men-at-arms," he said, pointing to the squadrons arrayed under the bishops' banners in the Yorkist host. Negotiations were fruitless, and at two in the afternoon Warwick drew out his army on the rising ground by the old Danish camp, the Hunsborough, which overlooks the water-meadows, and descended to the attack. Fauconbridge led the vanguard on the left, the Earl himself the centre, Edward of March, now seeing his first stricken field, conducted the right wing. Before the attack it was proclaimed that every man should spare the Commons, and slay none but the knights and lords, with whom alone lay the blame for the shedding of all the blood that might fall that day.

The first assault on the Lancastrian lines failed completely. The obstacles were far greater than Warwick had imagined; it was six feet from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the rampart, and the trenches were full of water, for it had rained heavily in the morning. How the day would have gone if treachery had not come[Pg 96] to the succour of the Yorkists it is impossible to say; but only a few minutes after the first gun had been fired, Lord Grey de Ruthyn on the Lancastrian left mounted the badge of the Ragged Staff, and his men were seen beckoning to the Yorkists to approach, and leaning over the rampart to reach their hands to pull them up. Assisted in this way, the Earl of March's column got within the entrenchments, and sweeping along their front cleared a space for Warwick to burst in. All was over in half an hour and with very little bloodshed. Only three hundred men fell, but among them were nearly all the Lancastrian leaders. On foot and in their heavy armour the lords and knights could not get away. The aged Buckingham fell at the door of his own tent, and Beaumont, Egremont, and Shrewsbury close to the King's quarters, as they strove to protect his retreat. But the King, helpless as ever, was too late to fly, and fell into the hands of an archer named Henry Montford. His capture, however, was not so important so long as his wife and child remained at large; and Margaret—as adroit as her husband was shiftless—was already speeding away with the young Prince, bound for North Wales.

Warwick and March conducted King Henry back with all respect to London, where he was lodged in the palace at Westminster. They had done their work so rapidly that they had not needed the assistance of the Duke of York, whose arrival from Ireland—he was two months later than his promise—was just announced from the West. Even before he appeared the victors of Northampton had begun to reconstitute the King's ministry. Henry was made to sign patents appointing Salisbury Lieutenant in the six northern counties; his[Pg 97] son, George Bishop of Exeter, received the Chancellorship; John Neville another son was made the King's Chamberlain, and Lord Bourchier got the Treasury. Warwick himself was re-established de jure in the position he had been so long holding de facto, the captainship of Calais.

The garrison of the Tower of London surrendered nine days after the battle of Northampton. Most of the defenders went away in safety, but Lord Scales, who was much hated by the populace of London, was not so fortunate. He took boat for the sanctuary of Westminster, but was recognised as he rowed along by some water-men, who gave chase to him and slew him on the river "just under the river wall of Winchester House." His body was stripped and thrown ashore into the cemetery of St. Mary Overy, whence it was removed and honourably buried by the Earls of March and Warwick that night. "Great pity was it that so noble a knight, so well approved in the wars of France and Normandy, should die so mischievously," adds the chronicler.

A Parliament was summoned by the Yorkists to meet on October 9th. Meanwhile Warwick was well employed. When August came round he ran across to Calais to see to his old antagonist at Guisnes. Somerset was now in low spirits, and willingly met the Earl at Newnham Bridge, there to be reconciled to him and make peace. But after he had embraced Warwick and assented to all his conditions, he secretly departed with his follower Trollope, fled through Picardy to Dieppe, and took refuge in his own south-western county. Meanwhile the Earl conducted his mother and wife in great state back to London, and re-established them in their old dwelling of[Pg 98] "the Harbour." He spent September in going on a pilgrimage with the Countess to the shrine of the Virgin at Walsingham in Norfolk. On this journey he ran great peril, for Lord Willoughby, an unreconciled Lancastrian, lay in wait for him near Lichfield on his return, and was within an ace of making him prisoner.

So Warwick came at last to his own Midland estates. And there all the knights and ladies of his lands came to him "complaining of the evils that they had suffered in the past year from the Duke of Somerset, who had pilled and robbed them, and sacked their towns and manors, and usurped the Earl's castles; but notwithstanding all their troubles they praised Heaven for the joyous return of their lord."

York had reached Chester early in September, and had marched slowly through his estates in the Welsh March towards London. When he came to Abingdon "he sent for trompeteres and claryners from London, and gave them banners with the royal arms of England without distinction or diversity, and commanded his sword to be borne upright before him, and so he rode till he came to the gates of the palace of Westminster." This assumption of royal state was the beginning of evils.

Meanwhile the Parliament was already sitting before the Duke's arrival. King Henry opened it with due solemnity, and heard it commence its work by repealing all the Acts of the Lancastrian Parliament of Leicester, and by removing the attainders of the Yorkist lords. On the third day of the session, Richard of York came up in the evening, and entered the palace, where he rudely took possession of the royal apartments. "He had the doors broken open, and King Henry hear[Pg 99]ing the great noise gave place, and took him another chamber that night."

This unceremonious eviction of his sovereign was only the beginning of the Duke's violent conduct. Next morning he went to the House of Lords, and approaching the throne laid his hand on the cushion as if about to take formal possession of the seat. Archbishop Bourchier asked him what he would do, and the Duke then made a lengthy reply "challenging and claiming the realm and crown of England as male heir of King Richard the Second, and proposing without any delay to be crowned on All Hallows' Day then following." The lords listened with obvious disapproval and dismay, and York did not even venture to seat himself on the throne. The meeting broke up without further transaction of business.

"Now when the Earl of Warwick, who had not been present that day, heard this, he was very wroth, and sent for the Archbishop and prayed him to go to the Duke and tell him that he was acting evilly, and to remind him of the many promises he had made to King Henry." Warwick in short remembered his oath of July 4th, and was determined that Henry should not be despoiled of his throne, but only placed in the hands of Yorkist ministers. The Archbishop refused to face the Duke.

    Then the Earl sent for his brother Thomas Neville, and entered into his barge, and rowed to the palace. It was all full of the Duke's men-of-arms, but the Earl stayed not, and went straight to the Duke's chamber, and found him standing there, leaning against a side-board. And there were hard words between them, for the Earl told him that neither the lords nor the people would suffer him to strip the King of his crown. And as they wrangled, the Earl of Rutland came in and said to his cousin, "Fair sir be not angry, for[Pg 100] you know that we have the true right to the crown, and that my Lord and Father here must have it." But the Earl of March his brother stayed him and said, "Brother, vex no man, for all shall be well." But the Earl of Warwick would stay no longer when he understood his uncle's intent, and went off hastily to his barge, greeting no one as he went save his cousin of March.

Next day, when his wrath had cooled down, the Earl sent to his uncle the Bishops of Ely and Rochester, Lord Audley, and a London citizen named Grey, to beg and beseech him to give up his enterprise. The Duke sent them away, with the answer that he would be crowned the very next Monday, the day of the translation of St. Edward the Confessor (October 13th). The preparations for the coronation were actually made, and the crowd was mustering in the Abbey, when on a last appeal made by Sir Thomas Neville in the name of his brother and of all the lords and commonalty of England, the Duke wavered. Fearing to offend his greatest supporters beyond redemption he temporised, put off his coronation, and began to negotiate.

Richard Neville, in fact, had matched his will against that of his imperious uncle and had won. The Duke was never crowned. The arrangement at which the parties arrived was that Henry should be King for life, that York should be made Protector, named Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester, and should be acknowledged as heir to the crown. The Duke, on the other hand, swore to be faithful to the King so long as he should live. On All Saints' Day the agreement was solemnly ratified at St. Paul's, whither the lords went in procession, Warwick bearing the sword before the King, and Edward of March bearing the King's mantle. "And[Pg 101] the crowd shouted 'Long live King Henry and the Earl of Warwick,' for the said Earl had the good voice of the people, because he knew how to give them fair words, showing himself easy and familiar with them, for he was very subtle at gaining his ends, and always spoke not of himself but of the augmentation and good governance of the kingdom, for which he would have spent his life: and thus he had the goodwill of England, so that in all the land he was the lord who was held in most esteem and faith and credence."

The Act of Parliament which recorded the agreement of York and King Henry made no mention of Queen Margaret or of the Prince her son. But it was of little use passing Acts of Parliament while she was at large and the Lancastrian lords of the North and West unsubdued. Margaret's first move had been to stir up the Scots, and at her bidding James the Second crossed the Border and laid siege to Roxburgh, which was then an English town. Fauconbridge, Warwick's uncle, was sent north to defend the place, but later events deprived him of aid from England, and he was forced to surrender, though not till after the King of Scots had fallen, slain by the bursting of one of his own siege guns.

But the Scotch invasion was only one of Margaret's schemes. Her main hope lay in a rising of the Lancastrians who had not suffered at Northampton; and from her retreat at Harlech in North Wales she sent to summon them together. Their mustering-place was in the North, where the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Neville, brother of Ralph Earl of Westmoreland, and Clifford son of the Clifford who fell at St. Albans,[Pg 102] united their retainers as the nucleus of an army. To them fled Somerset, regardless of his oath at Calais, and Exeter the late Admiral, and Courtney Earl of Devon, and Willoughby and Roos and Hungerford, and many more.

The danger was so imminent that the Duke of York, after wearing the honours of the protectorate for no more than three weeks, resolved to march north and disperse the gathering of the Queen's friends. He took with him his second son Edmund of Rutland, a boy of seventeen; Salisbury accompanied him, and he also left his first-born at home and went out with his fourth son Thomas Neville. The Duke and the Earl raised about six thousand men, and proceeded on their way, unopposed save by a small Lancastrian force which they beat at Worksop, till they reached Sandal Castle, one of York's family strongholds, close beside the town of Wakefield. When they arrived there, about Christmas Eve, they learnt that the Queen's army was much stronger than they had reckoned, and sent south for reinforcements. But on December 30th they were themselves assailed by forces tripling their own small host, under Somerset and Clifford. The Duke rashly fought in the open, though many of his men were scattered over the country-side foraging. It is said that he relied on help treacherously promised him by some of the Lancastrian leaders; but he was disappointed. No one played for his benefit the part that Grey de Ruthyn had carried out at Northampton.

The defeat of the Yorkists was decisive. Two thousand two hundred men out of their five thousand were slain. The fate of war fell heavily on the leaders, hardly one of whom escaped. The Duke fell on the[Pg 103] field, with Thomas Neville and William Lord Harington. The Earl of Rutland, "the best-disposed young gentleman in England," was slain in the pursuit as he fled across Wakefield Bridge. Salisbury's fate was more unhappy still; he was taken prisoner, and beheaded next day at Pontefract by the Bastard of Exeter, "though he offered great sums of money that he should have grant of his life." The heads of Salisbury and his son, of Harington, and of five knights, were set on spikes over the gate of York, with that of Duke Richard in the midst, crowned with a paper crown in mockery of the prospective kingship that he had never enjoyed.

All the Lancastrians of the North and the Midlands rose at once to join the Queen. She was soon at the head of forty thousand men, largely composed of the lawless moss-troopers of the Scotch Border, who looked upon war as a mere excuse for raids, and boasted that everything beyond the Trent was in an enemy's country. Before moving south they harried most thoroughly the estates of the northern Yorkists. Salisbury's patrimony about Middleham and Sherif Hoton bore the brunt of the plunder, at the hands of the retainers of the elder branch of Neville, whose head, Earl Ralph of Westmoreland, put his men under the charge of his brother Thomas, one of the most rabid Lancastrians in the North Country.

About the middle of January the Queen's army began to roll southward, pillaging recklessly on all sides, and sacking from roof to cellar the towns of Grantham, Stamford, Peterborough, Huntingdon, Royston, Melbourn, and Dunstable, as they passed down the Ermine Street.
 
The news of the battle of Wakefield reached London about January 5th, and set the whole South Country in dismay. Warwick, who had been keeping his Christmas on his own estates, was forced to ride up to the capital at full speed, and assume the direction of affairs, for there was now no one to share the responsibility with him. His uncle, in whose cause he had fought so long, and his father, whose prudent counsels had guided the party, were both gone; his cousin of March, the head of the family, was no more than nineteen years of age, and was moreover at this moment far away by the Severn, looking after the Welsh March. It devolved on Warwick to assume the responsibility for the government of the kingdom and the safety of the Yorkist party.

Though there were traitors enough ready to change to the winning side, as was always the case in this unhappy war, the south-eastern counties were firm to York even in the darkest hour. Warwick found ready assistants in the Duke of Norfolk, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Earl of Arundel, the Lords Bonville, Cobham, Fitzwalter, and the Commons of Kent and London. "In this country," wrote a partisan of York, "every man is well willing to go with my Lords here, and I hope God shall help them, for the people of the North rob and steal, and are appointed to pillage all this country, and give away men's goods and livelihood in all the South Country, and that shall be a mischief."

To resist the advance of the Queen on London, Warwick marched out to St. Albans and arrayed some thirty thousand men to cover the London road. His army was drawn up not in the great masses which were usual at this time, but in detachments scattered along a[Pg 105] front of three miles; the right on a heath called No Man's Land, the left in St. Albans town. The country-side was full of woods and hedges, which were manned by archers, supported by a body of Burgundian handgun-men whom Warwick had hired in Flanders. King Henry was taken along with the army, and stationed in the rear, in charge of Lord Bonville. The position was strong, but the communication between its various parts was bad, and the whole force of Warwick's men seems to have been ill placed for concentration. Owing to some mismanagement of the officer commanding the mounted scouts, the Lancastrians attacked before they were expected. "The Queen's men were at hands with the Earl's in the town of St. Albans while all things were set to seek and out of order, for the prickers came not home to bring tidings that the Queen was at hand, save one, and he came and said that she was yet nine mile off." The first Lancastrian attack on the left, in St. Albans town, was beaten back, but in another part of the field a fatal disaster took place. A Kentish squire named Lovelace, who led a company in the right wing, went over to the enemy, and let the Lancastrians through the Yorkist line. King Henry was captured by his wife's followers "as he sat under a great oak, smiling to see the discomfiture of the army." When the news ran along the front that treachery was at work, and that the King was taken, the bulk of the Yorkists broke up and fled. Not more than three thousand were slain or taken, but the whole force was irretrievably scattered, and the greater part of the leaders fled home to their own lands as if the war was over.
 
Queen Margaret showed her joy at the recovery of her husband's person by an exhibition of savage cruelty. Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyrriel, who had been in charge of Henry and had been captured with him, were brought before her. "So she told them they must die, and sent for her son the Prince of Wales, and said that he should choose what death they should suffer. And when the boy—he was eight years old—was brought into the tent, she said 'Fair son, what manner of death shall these knights, whom you see here, die?' And the young child answered 'Let them have their heads taken off.' Then said Sir Thomas, 'May God destroy those who taught thee this manner of speech,' but immediately they drew them out and cut off both their heads" (February 17th, 1461).



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