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With Hedgeley Moor and Hexham and the final surrender of the Northumbrian castles ended the last desperate attempt of the Lancastrians to hold their own in the North. The few surviving leaders who had escaped the fate of Somerset and Hungerford left Scotland and fled over-sea. Philip de Commines soon after met the chief of them in the streets of Ghent "reduced to such extremity of want and poverty that no common beggar could have been poorer. The Duke of Exeter was seen (though he concealed his name) following the Duke of Burgundy's train begging his bread from door to door, till at last he had a small pension allowed him in pity for his subsistence." With him were some of the Somersets, John and Edmund, brothers of the Duke who had just been beheaded. Jasper of Pembroke made his way to Wales and wandered in the hills from county to county, finding friends nowhere. No one could have guessed that the cause of Lancaster would ever raise its head again.

The times of war were at length over, and Warwick, like the rest of Englishmen, might begin to busy himself about other things than battles and sieges. In July he was at last free, and was able to think of turning southward to seek for more than a passing visit the Midland estates of which he had seen so little for the last five years. After a short interval of leisure, we find him in September sitting in the King's Council, and urging on two measures which he held necessary for the final pacification of the realm. The first was the conclusion of a definite treaty of peace with France. It was from King Louis that the Lancastrians had been accustomed to draw their supplies of ships and money, and while England and France were still at war it was certain that King Edward's enemies would continue to obtain shelter and succour across the Channel. Accordingly the Earl urged on the conclusion of a treaty, and finally procured the appointment of himself and his friend and follower Wenlock as ambassadors to Louis. The second point of his schemes was connected with the first. It was high time, as all England had for some time been saying, that the King should marry.[8] Edward was now in his twenty-fourth year, "and men marvelled that he abode so long without any wife, and feared that he was not over chaste of his living." Those, indeed, who were about the King's person knew that some scandal had already been caused by his attempts, successful and unsuccessful, on the honour of several ladies about the Court. Rumour had for some time been coupling Edward's name with that of various princesses of a[Pg 161] marriageable age among foreign royal families. Some had said that he was about to marry Mary of Gueldres, the Queen Dowager of Scotland, and others had speculated on his opening negotiations for the hand of Isabel of Castile, sister of the reigning Spanish King. But there had been no truth in these reports. Warwick's scheme was to cement the peace with France by a marriage with a French princess, and in the preliminary inquiries which the King permitted him to send to Louis the marriage question was distinctly mentioned. Louis' sisters were all married, and his daughters were mere children, so that their names were not brought forward, for King Edward required a wife of suitable years, "to raise him goodly lineage such as his father had reared." The lady whom Warwick proposed to the King was Bona of Savoy, sister to Charlotte Queen of France, a princess who dwelt at her brother-in-law King Louis' Court and in whose veins ran the blood both of the Kings of France and the Dukes of Burgundy.

King Edward made no open opposition to Warwick's plans. The project was mooted to King Louis, safe conducts for the English Embassy were obtained, and Warwick and Wenlock were expected at St. Omer about October 3rd or 4th. But at the last moment, when Warwick attended at Reading on September 28th to receive his master's final instructions, a most astounding announcement was made to him. We have an account of the scene which bears some marks of truth.

The Council met for the formal purpose of approving the marriage negotiations. A speaker, probably Warwick, laid before the King the hope and expectation of his subjects that he would deign to give them a Queen.
    Then the King answered that of a truth he wished to marry, but that perchance his choice might not be to the liking of all present. Then those of his Council asked to know of his intent, and would be told to what house he would go. To which the King replied in right merry guise that he would take to wife Dame Elizabeth Grey, the daughter of Lord Rivers. But they answered him that she was not his match, however good and however fair she might be, and that he must know well that she was no wife for such a high prince as himself; for she was not the daughter of a duke or earl, but her mother the Duchess of Bedford had married a simple knight, so that though she was the child of a duchess and the niece of the Count of St. Pol, still she was no wife for him. When King Edward heard these sayings of the lords of his blood and his Council, which it seemed good to them to lay before him, he answered that he should have no other wife and that such was his good pleasure.

Then came the clinching blow; no other wife could he have—for he was married to Dame Elizabeth already!

In fact, five months before, on May 1st, when he ought to have been far on his way to the North, King Edward had secretly ridden over from Stony Stratford to Grafton in Northamptonshire, and wedded the lady. No one had suspected the marriage, for the King had had but a short and slight acquaintance with Elizabeth Grey, who had been living a retired life ever since her husband, a Lancastrian knight, fell in the moment of victory at the second battle of St. Albans. Edward had casually met her, had been conquered by her fair face, and had made hot love to her. Elizabeth was clever and cautious; she would hear of nothing but a formal offer of marriage, and the young King, perfectly infatuated by his passion, had wedded her in secret at Grafton in the presence of no one save her mother and[Pg 163] two other witnesses. This was the urgent private business which had kept him from appearing to open his Parliament at York.

The marriage was a most surprising event. Lord Rivers, the lady's father, had been a keen Lancastrian. He it was who had been captured at Sandwich in 1460, and brought before Warwick and Edward to undergo that curious scolding which we have elsewhere recorded. And now this "made lord, who had won his fortune by his marriage," had become the King's father-in-law. Dame Elizabeth herself was seven years older than her new husband, and was the mother of children twelve and thirteen years of age. The public was so astonished at the match that it was often said that the Queen's mother, the old Duchess of Bedford, must have given King Edward a love philtre, for in no other way could the thing be explained.

Warwick and the rest of the lords of the Council were no less vexed than astonished by this sudden announcement. The Earl had broached the subject of the French marriage to King Louis, and was expected to appear within a few days to submit the proposal for acceptance. The King, knowing all the time that the scheme was impossible, had allowed him to commit himself to it, and now left him to explain to King Louis that he had been duped in the most egregious way, and had been excluded from his master's confidence all along. Very naturally the Earl let the embassy drop; he could not dare to appear before the French King to ask for peace, when the bond of union which he had promised to cement it was no longer possible.
But vexed and angered though he must have been at the way in which he had been treated, Warwick was too loyal a servant of the house of York to withdraw from his master's Council. He bowed to necessity, and acquiesced in what he could not approve. Accordingly Warwick attended next day to hear the King make public announcement of his marriage in Reading Abbey on the feast of St. Michael, and he himself, in company with George of Clarence the King's brother, led Dame Elizabeth up to the seat prepared for her beside her husband, and bowed the knee to her as Queen.

For a few months it seemed as if the King's marriage had been a single freak of youthful passion, and the domination of the house of Neville in the royal Councils appeared unshaken. As if to make amends for his late treatment of Warwick, Edward raised his brother George Neville the Chancellor to the vacant Archbishopric of York, and in token of confidence sent the Earl as his representative to prorogue a Parliament summoned to meet on November 4th.

But these marks of regard were not destined to continue. The favours of the King, though there was as yet no open breach between him and his great Minister, were for the future bestowed in another quarter. The house of Rivers was almost as prolific as the house of Neville; the Queen had three brothers, five sisters, and two sons, and for them the royal influence was utilised in the most extraordinary way during the next two years. Nor was it merely inordinate affection for his wife that led King Edward to squander his wealth and misuse his power for the[Pg 165] benefit of her relatives. It soon became evident that he had resolved to build up with the aid of the Queen's family one of those great allied groups of noble houses whose strength the fifteenth century knew so well—a group that should make him independent of the control of the Nevilles. A few days after the acknowledgment of the Queen, began a series of marriages in the Rivers family, which did not cease for two years. In October 1464, immediately after the scene at Reading, the Queen's sister Margaret was married to Thomas Lord Maltravers, the heir of the wealthy Earl of Arundel. In January 1465 John Woodville, the youngest of her brothers, wedded the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. This was a disgraceful match: the bridegroom was just of age, the bride quite old enough to be his grandmother; but she was a great heiress, and the King persuaded her to marry the sordid young man. Within eighteen months more, nearly the whole of the family had been married off: Anne Woodville to the heir of Bourchier Earl of Essex; Mary Woodville to the eldest son of Lord Herbert, the King's most intimate counsellor after Warwick in his earlier years; Eleanor Woodville to George Grey heir of the Earl of Kent; and Catherine Woodville, most fortunate of all, to the young Duke of Buckingham, grandson of the old Duke who had fallen at Northampton. To end the tale of the alliances of this most fortunate family, it is only necessary to add that even before Queen Elizabeth's marriage her eldest brother Anthony had secured the hand of Elizabeth, heiress of the Lord Scales who was slain on the Thames in 1460. Truly the Woodville marriages may compare not unfavourably with those of the Nevilles!
While the King was heaping his favours on the house of Rivers, Warwick was still employed from time to time in the service of the Crown. But he could no longer feel that he had the chief part in guiding his monarch's policy. Indeed, the King seems to have even gone out of his way to carry out every scheme on a different principle from that which the Earl adopted. In the spring of 1465, at the time of the Queen's formal coronation in May—a ceremony which he was glad enough to escape—Warwick went over-sea to conduct negotiations with the French and Burgundians. He met the Burgundian ambassadors at Boulogne, and those of France at Calais. It was a critical time for both France and Burgundy, for the War of the Public Weal had just broken out, and each party was anxious to secure the friendship, or at least the neutrality of England. With the Burgundians, whom Warwick met first, no agreement could be made, for the Count of Charolois, who had now got the upper hand of his aged father Duke Philip, refused to make any pledges against helping the Lancastrians. He was at this very time pensioning the exiled Somersets and Exeter, and almost reckoned himself a Lancastrian prince, because his mother, Isabel of Portugal, was a grand-daughter of John of Gaunt. Warwick and Charles of Charolois were quite unable to agree. Each of them was too much accustomed to have his own way, and though they held high feasts together at Boulogne, and were long in council, they parted in wrath. There would seem to have been something more than a mere difference of opinion between them, for ever afterwards they regarded each other as personal enemies. King Louis, whose[Pg 167] ambassadors met Warwick a month later, proved far more accommodating than the hot-headed Burgundian prince. He consented to forget the matter of the marriage, and agreed to the conclusion of a truce for eighteen months, during which he engaged to give no help to Queen Margaret, while Warwick covenanted that England should refrain from aiding the Dukes of Burgundy and Bretagne, now in full rebellion against their sovereign.

Late in the summer of 1465 Warwick returned home just in time to hear of a new stroke of fortune which had befallen his master. Henry the Sixth had just been captured in Lancashire. The ex-king had wandered down from his retreat in Scotland, and was moving about in an aimless way from one Lancastrian household to another, accompanied by no one but a couple of priests. One of Henry's entertainers betrayed him, and he was seized by John Talbot of Basshall as he sat at meat in Waddington Hall, and forwarded under guard to London. At Islington Warwick rode forth to meet his late sovereign, and by the King's orders led him publicly through the city, with his feet bound by leather straps to his stirrups. Why this indignity was inflicted on the unfortunate Henry it is hard to say; there cannot possibly have been any fear of a rescue, and Warwick might well have spared his late master the shame of bonds. Henry was led along Cheapside and Cornhill to the Tower, where he was placed in honourable custody, and permitted to receive the visits of all who wished to see him.

That Warwick was not yet altogether out of favour with King Edward was shown by the fact that he was[Pg 168] asked to be godfather to the Queen's first child, the Princess Elizabeth, in the February of the following year 1466. But immediately afterwards came the succession of events which marked the final breach between the King and the Nevilles. In March Edward suddenly dismissed from the office of Treasurer Lord Mountjoy, a friend of Warwick's, and gave the post to his wife's father Lord Rivers, whom he soon created an earl. The removal of his friend was highly displeasing to Warwick; but worse was to follow. Warwick's nephew George Neville, the heir of his brother John, had been affianced to Anne heiress of the exiled Duke of Exeter; but the Queen gave the Duchess of Exeter four thousand marks to break off the match, and the young lady was wedded to Thomas Grey, Elizabeth's eldest son by her first marriage. This blow struck the Nevilles in their tenderest point; even the marriages which had made their good fortune were for the future to be frustrated by royal influence.

The next slight which Warwick received at the hands of his sovereign touched him even more closely. His eldest daughter Isabel, who had been born in 1451, was now in her sixteenth year, and already thoughts about her marriage had begun to trouble her father's brain. The Earl counted her worthy of the highest match that could be found in the realm, for there was destined to go with her hand such an accumulation of estates as no subject had ever before possessed—half of the lands of Neville, Montacute, Despenser, and Beauchamp. The husband whom Warwick had hoped to secure for his child was George Duke of Clarence, the King's next brother, a young man of eighteen years.[Pg 169] Clarence was sounded, and liked the prospect well enough, for the young lady was fair as well as rich. But they had not reckoned with the King. After a long visit which Clarence and his younger brother Richard of Gloucester had paid to Warwick in the end of 1466, Edward got wind of the proposed marriage. "When the King knew that his brothers had returned from their visit to the Earl at Cambridge, he asked them why they had left his Court, and who had given them counsel to visit the Earl. Then they answered that none had been the cause save they themselves. And the King asked whether there had been any talk of affiancing them to their cousins, the Earl's daughters; and the Duke of Clarence"—always prompt at a lie—"answered that there was not. But the King, who had been fully informed of all, waxed wroth, and sent them from his presence." Edward strictly forbade the marriage, and for the present there was no more talk of it; but Clarence and Warwick understood each other, and were always in communication, much to the King's displeasure. It did not please him to find his heir presumptive and his most powerful subject on too good terms.

The King waited a few months more, and then proceeded to put a far worse insult on his old friends and followers. In May 1467 he sent Warwick over-sea, with a commission to visit the King of France, and turn the eighteen months truce made in 1465 into a permanent peace on the best terms possible. The errand seemed both useful and honourable, and Warwick went forth in good spirits; but it was devised in reality merely to get him out of the kingdom, at a time when[Pg 170] the King was about to cross all his most cherished plans.

Louis was quite as desirous as Warwick himself to conclude a permanent peace. It was all-important to him that England should not be on the side of Burgundy, and he was ready to make the Earl's task easy. The reception which he prepared for Warwick was such as might have been given to a crowned head. He went five leagues down the Seine to receive the English embassy, and feasted Warwick royally on the river bank. When Rouen was reached "the King gave the Earl most honourable greeting; for there came out to meet him the priests of every parish in the town in their copes, with crosses and banners and holy water, and so he was conducted to Notre Dame de Rouen, where he made his offering. And he was well lodged at the Jacobins in the said town of Rouen. Afterward the Queen and her daughters came to the said town that he might see them. And the King abode with Warwick for the space of twelve days communing with him, after which the Earl departed back into England." And with him went as Ambassadors from France the Archbishop of Narbonne, the Bastard of Bourbon (Admiral of France), the Bishop of Bayeux, Master Jean de Poupencourt, and William Monipenny, a Scotch agent in whom the King placed much confidence.

Warwick and the French Ambassadors landed at Sandwich, where they had a hearty reception; for the people of Sandwich, like all the men of Kent, were great supporters of the Earl. Posts were sent forward to notify their arrival to the King, and the party then set out to ride up to London. As they drew near the city[Pg 171] the Earl was somewhat vexed to find that no one came forth to welcome them on the King's behalf; but presently the Duke of Clarence came riding alone to meet him, and brought him intelligence which turned his satisfaction at the success of the French negotiations into bitter vexation of spirit.

When Warwick had got well over-sea, the King had proceeded to work out his own plans, secure that he would not be interrupted. He had really determined to make alliance with Burgundy and not with France; and the moment that the coast was clear a Burgundian emissary appeared in London. Antony "the Grand Bastard," the trusted agent of the Court of Charolois, ascended the Thames at the very moment that Warwick was ascending the Seine. Ostensibly he came on a chivalrous errand, to joust with the Queen's brother Lord Scales in honour of all the ladies of Burgundy. The passage of arms was duly held, to the huge delight of the populace of London, and the English chroniclers give us all its details—instead of relating the important political events of the year. But the real object of the Bastard's visit was to negotiate an English alliance for his brother; and he was so successful that he returned to Flanders authorised to promise the hand of the King's sister Margaret to the Count of Charolois.

But Warwick had not merely to learn that the King had stultified his negotiations with France by making an agreement with Burgundy behind his back. He was now informed that, only two days before his arrival, Edward had gone, without notice given or cause assigned, to his brother the Archbishop of York, who lay ill at his house by Westminster Barrs, and suddenly dismissed him[Pg 172] from the Chancellorship and taken the great seal from him. Open war had been declared on the house of Neville.[9]

But bitterly vexed though he was at his sovereign's double dealing, Warwick proceeded to carry out the forms of his duty. He called on the King immediately on his arrival, announced the success of his embassy, and craved for a day of audience for the French Ambassadors. "When the Earl spoke of all the good cheer that King Louis had made him, and how he had sent him the keys of every castle and town that he passed through, he perceived from the King's countenance that he was paying no attention at all to what he was saying, so he betook himself home, sore displeased."

Next day the French had the audience. The King received them in state, surrounded by Rivers, Scales, John Woodville, and Lord Hastings. "The Ambassadors were much abashed to see him, for he showed himself a prince of a haughty bearing." Warwick then introduced them, and Master Jean de Poupencourt, as spokesman for the rest, laid the proposals of Louis before the King. Edward briefly answered that he had pressing business, and could not communicate with them himself; they might say their say to certain lords whom he would appoint for the purpose. Then they were ushered out of his presence. It was clear that he would do nothing for them; indeed the whole business had[Pg 173] only been concocted to get Warwick out of the way. It was abortive, and had been intended to be so.

The Earl on leaving the palace was bursting with rage; his ordinary caution and affability were gone, and he broke out in angry words even before the foreigners. "As they rowed home in their barge the Frenchmen had many discourses with each other. But Warwick was so wroth that he could not contain himself, and he said to the Admiral of France, 'Have you not seen what traitors there are about the King's person?' But the Admiral answered, 'My Lord, I pray you grow not hot; for some day you shall be well avenged.' But the Earl said, 'Know that those very traitors were the men who have had my brother displaced from the office of Chancellor, and made the King take the seal from him.'"

Edward went to Windsor next day, taking no further heed of the Ambassadors. He appointed no one to treat with them, and they remained six weeks without hearing from him, seeing no one but Warwick, who did his best to entertain them, and Warwick's new ally the Duke of Clarence. At last they betook themselves home, having accomplished absolutely nothing. On the eve of their departure the King sent them a beggarly present of hunting-horns, leather bottles, and mastiffs, in return for the golden hanaps and bowls and the rich jewellery which they had brought from France.

Warwick would have nothing more to do with his master. He saw the Ambassadors back as far as Sandwich, and then went off in high dudgeon to Middleham. There he held much deep discourse with his brothers, George the dispossessed Chancellor, and John of Montagu the Earl of Northumberland. At Christmas the[Pg 174] King summoned him to Court; he sent back the reply that "never would he come again to Council while all his mortal enemies, who were about the King's person, namely, Lord Rivers the Treasurer, and Lord Scales and Lord Herbert and Sir John Woodville, remained there present." The breach between Warwick and his master was now complete.


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