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CHAPTER XIV PLAYING WITH TREASON
Great ministers who have been accustomed to sway the destinies of kingdoms, and who suddenly find themselves disgraced at their master's caprice, have seldom been wont to sit down in resignation and accept their fall with equanimity. Such a line of conduct requires a self-denial and a high-flown loyalty to principle which are seldom found in the practical statesman. If the fallen minister is well stricken in years, and the fire has gone out of him, he may confine himself to sermons on the ingratitude of kings. If his greatness has been purely official, and his power entirely dependent on the authority entrusted to him by his master, his discontent may not be dangerous. But Warwick was now in the very prime of his life,—he was just forty,—and he was moreover by far the most powerful subject within the four seas. It was sheer madness in King Edward to goad such a man to desperation by a series of deliberate insults.

This was no mere case of ordinary ingratitude. If ever one man had made another, Richard Neville had made Edward Plantagenet. He had taken charge of him, a raw lad of eighteen, at the moment of the[Pg 176] disastrous rout of Ludford, and trained him in arms and statecraft with unceasing care. Twice had he saved the lost cause of York, in 1459 and in 1461. He had spent five years in harness, in one long series of battles and sieges, that his cousin might wear his crown in peace. He had compassed sea and land in embassies that Edward might be safe from foreign as well as from domestic foes. He had seen his father and his brother fall by the axe and the sword in the cause of York. He had seen his mother and his wife fugitives on the face of the earth, his castles burnt, his manors wasted, his tenants slain, all that the son of Richard Plantagenet might sit on the throne that was his father's due.

Warwick then might well be cut to the heart at his master's ingratitude. It was no marvel if, after the King's last treachery to him in the matter of the French embassy, he retired from Court and sent a bitter answer to Edward's next summons. After the open breach there were now two courses open to him: the first to abandon all his schemes, and betake himself in silent bitterness to the management of his vast estates; the second was to endeavour to win his way back to power by the ways which medieval England knew only too well—the way which had served Simon de Montfort, and Thomas of Lancaster, and Richard of York; the way that had led Simon and Thomas and Richard to their bloody graves. The first alternative was no doubt the one that the perfect man, the ideally loyal and unselfish knight, should have chosen. But Richard Neville was no perfect man; he was a practical statesman—"the cleverest man of his time," says one who had observed him closely; and his long tenure of[Pg 177] power had made him look upon the first place in the Council of the King as his right and due. His enemies the Woodvilles and Herberts had driven him from his well-earned precedence by the weapons that they could use—intrigue and misrepresentation; what more natural than that he should repay them by the weapon that he could best employ, the iron hand of armed force?

Hitherto the career of Warwick had been singularly straightforward and consistent. Through thick and thin he had supported the cause of York and never wavered in his allegiance to it. It must not be supposed that he changed his whole policy when his quarrel with the King came to a head. As his conduct in 1469, when his ungrateful master was in his power, was destined to show, he had no further design than to reconquer for himself the place in the royal Council which had been his from 1461 to 1464. Later events developed his plans further than he had himself expected, but it is evident that at first his sole design was to clear away the Woodvilles. The only element in his programme which threatened to lead to deeper and more treasonable plans was his connection with his would-be son-in-law George of Clarence. The handsome youth who professed such a devotion to him, followed his advice with such docility, and took his part so warmly in the quarrel with the King, seems from the first to have obtained a place in his affections greater than Edward had ever won. But Clarence had his ambitions; what they were and how far they extended the Earl had not as yet discovered.

Warwick had now the will to play his master's new ministers an ill turn; that he had also the power to do[Pg 178] so none knew better than himself. The lands of Neville and Montacute, Beauchamp and Despenser united could send into the field a powerful army. Moreover, his neighbours, in most of the counties where his influence prevailed, had bound themselves to him by taking his livery; barons as well as knights were eager to be of his "Privy Council," to wear his Ragged Staff and ride in his array. The very aspect of his household seemed to show the state of a petty king. Every one has read Hollingshead's famous description, which tells how the little army of followers which constituted his ordinary retinue eat six oxen daily for breakfast.

Nor was it only in the strength of his own retainers that Warwick trusted; he knew that he himself was the most popular man in the kingdom. Men called him ever the friend of the Commons, and "his open kitchen persuaded the meaner sort as much as the justice of his cause." His adversaries, on the other hand, were unmistakably disliked by the people. The old partisans of York still looked on the Woodvilles as Lancastrian renegades, and the grasping avarice of Rivers and his family was stirring up popular demonstration against them even before Warwick's breach with the King. A great mob in Kent had sacked one of Rivers' manors and killed his deer in the autumn of 1467, and trouble was brewing against him in other quarters. A word of summons from Warwick would call rioters out of the ground in half the shires of England. Already in January 1468 a French ambassador reports: "In one county more than three hundred archers were in arms, and had made themselves a captain named Robin, and sent to the Earl of Warwick to know if it was time to be busy, and[Pg 179] to say that all their neighbours were ready. But my Lord answered, bidding them go home, for it was not yet time to be stirring. If the time should come, he would let them know."[10]

It was not only discontented Yorkists that had taken the news of the quarrel between Warwick and his master as a signal for moving. The tidings had stirred the exiled Lancastrians to a sudden burst of activity of which we should hardly have thought them capable. Queen Margaret borrowed ships and money from Louis, and lay in force at Harfleur. Sir Henry Courtney, heir of the late Earl of Devon, and Thomas Hungerford, son of the lord who fell at Hexham, tried to raise an insurrection in the South-West; but they were caught by Lord Stafford of Southwick and beheaded at Salisbury. As a reward the King gave Stafford his victim's title of Earl of Devon. In Wales the long-wandering Jasper Tudor suddenly appeared, at the head of two thousand men, supported by a small French fleet. He took Harlech Castle and sacked Denbigh; but a few weeks later Warwick's enemy, Lord Herbert, fell upon him at the head of the Yorkists of the March, routed his tumultuary army, retook Harlech, and forced him again to seek refuge in the hills. Herbert, like Lord Stafford, was rewarded with the title of the foe he had vanquished, and became Earl of Pembroke. While these risings were on foot, Lancastrian emissaries were busy all over England; but their activity only resulted in a series[Pg 180] of executions. Two gentlemen of the Duke of Norfolk's retinue were beheaded for holding secret communication with the Beauforts while they were in Flanders, following the train which escorted the Princess Margaret at her marriage with Charles of Charolois, who had now become Duke of Burgundy. In London more executions took place, and Sir Thomas Cooke, late Lord Mayor, had all his goods confiscated for misprision of treason. Two of the Lancastrian emissaries alleged, under torture, the one, that Warwick had promised aid to the rising, the other that Lord Wenlock, Warwick's friend and supporter, had guilty knowledge of the scheme; but in each case the King himself acknowledged that the accusation was frivolous—the random imagining of men on the rack, forced to say something to save their own bones. It was not likely that Warwick would play the game of Queen Margaret, the slayer of his father and brother, and the instigator of attempts on his own life.

Startled by the sudden revival of Lancastrian energy, but encouraged by the easy way in which he had mastered it, King Edward determined to give the war-like impulses of his subjects vent by undertaking in the next year a great expedition against France. He had the example of Henry the Fifth before his eyes, and hoped to stifle treason at home by foreign war. Among his preparations for leaving home was a determined attempt to open negotiations with Warwick for a reconciliation. The King won over the Archbishop of York to plead his cause, by restoring to him some estates which he had seized in 1467; and about Easter George Neville induced his brother to meet the King at Coventry.[Pg 181] Warwick came, but it is to be feared that he came fully resolved to have his revenge at his own time, with his heart quite unsoftened toward his master; yet he spoke the King fair, and even consented to be reconciled to Lord Herbert, though he would have nothing to say to the Woodvilles. He was also induced to join the company which escorted the Princess Margaret to the coast, on her way to her marriage in Flanders. After this Warwick paid a short visit to London, where he sat among the judges who in July tried the Lancastrian conspirators of the city. Clarence accompanied him, and sat on the same bench. He had spent the last few months in moving the Pope to grant him a disposition to marry Isabel Neville,[11] for they were within the prohibited degrees; but under pressure from King Edward the Curia had delayed the consideration of his request.

The autumn of 1468 and the spring of 1469 passed away quietly. Warwick made no movement, for he was still perfecting his plans. He saw with secret pleasure that the French, with whom peace would have been made long ago if his advice had been followed, kept the King fully employed. It must have given him peculiar gratification when his enemy Anthony Woodville, placed at the head of a large fleet, made two most inglorious expeditions to the French coast, and returned crestfallen without having even seen the enemy.

Meanwhile the Earl had been quietly measuring his resources. He had spoken to all his kinsmen, and secured the full co-operation of the majority of them. George the Archbishop of York, Henry Neville heir to[Pg 182] Warwick's aged uncle Lord Latimer, Sir John Coniers of Hornby, husband of his niece Alice Neville, his cousin Lord Fitzhugh, and Thomas "the bastard of Fauconbridge," natural son to the deceased peer who had fought so well at Towton, were his chief reliance. His brother John of Montagu, the Earl of Northumberland, could not make up his mind; he did not reveal Warwick's plans to the King, but he would not promise any aid. William Neville of Abergavenny was now too old to be taken into account. The rest of Warwick's uncles and brothers were by this time dead.

By April 1469 the preparations were complete. Every district where the name of Neville was great had been carefully prepared for trouble. Kent, Yorkshire, and South Wales were ready for insurrection, and yet all had been done so quietly that the King, who ever since he had thrown off the Earl's influence had been sinking deeper and deeper into habits of careless evil-living and debauchery, suspected nothing.

In April Warwick took his wife and daughters across to Calais, apparently to get them out of harm's way. He himself, professing a great wish to see his cousin Margaret, the newly-married Duchess of Burgundy, went on to St. Omer. He there visited Duke Charles, and was reconciled to him in spite of the evil memories of their last meeting at Boulogne. To judge from his conduct, the Earl was bent on nothing but a harmless tour; but, as a matter of fact, his movements were but a blind destined to deceive King Edward. While he was feasting at St. Omer he had sent orders over-sea for the commencement of an insurrection. In a few days it was timed to break out. Meanwhile Warwick returned to[Pg 183] Calais, and lodged with Wenlock, who was in charge of the great fortress.

His orders had had their effect. In the end of June grave riots broke out in the neighbourhood of York. Ostensibly they were connected with the maladministration of the estates of St. Leonard's hospital in that city; but they were in reality political and not agrarian. Within a few days fifteen thousand men were at the gates of York, clamorously setting forth a string of grievances, which were evidently founded on Cade's manifesto of 1450. Once more we hear of heavy taxation, maladministration of the law, the alienation of the royal estates to upstart favourites, the exclusion from the royal Councils of the great lords of the royal blood. Once more a demand is made for the punishment of evil counsellors, and the introduction of economy into the royal household, and the application of the revenue to the defence of the realm. The first leader of the rioters was Robert Huldyard, known as Robin of Redesdale, no doubt the same Robin whom the Earl had bidden in 1468 to keep quiet and wait the appointed time. John Neville the Earl of Northumberland lay at York with a large body of men-at-arms, for he was still Lieutenant of the North. Many expected that he would join the rioters; but, either because he had not quite recognised the insurrection to be his brother's work, or because he had resolved to adhere loyally to Edward, Montagu surprised the world by attacking the band which beset York. He routed its vanguard, captured Huldyard, and had him beheaded.

But this engagement was far from checking the rising. In a week the whole of Yorkshire, from Tees[Pg 184] to Humber, was up, and it soon became evident in whose interest the movement was working. New leaders appeared. Sir John Coniers, the husband of Warwick's niece, and one of the most influential Yorkists of the North, replaced Huldyard, and assumed his name of Robin of Redesdale, while with him were Henry Neville of Latimer and Lord Fitzhugh. Instead of lingering at the gates of York, the great body of insurgents—rumour made it more than thirty thousand strong—rolled southward into the Midlands. They were coming, they said, to lay their grievances before the King; and in every place that they passed they hung their articles, obviously the work of some old political hand, on the church doors.

King Edward seems to have been taken quite unawares by this dangerous insurrection. He had kept his eye on Warwick alone, and when Warwick was over-sea he thought himself safe. At the end of June he had been making a progress in Norfolk, with no force at his back save two hundred archers, a bodyguard whom he had raised in 1468 and kept always around him. Hearing of the stir in Yorkshire, he rode north-ward to Nottingham, calling in such force as could be gathered by the way. As he went, news reached him which suddenly revealed the whole scope of the insurrection.

The moment that his brother's attention was drawn off by the Northern rising, the Duke of Clarence had quietly slipped over to Calais, and with him went George Neville the Archbishop of York. This looked suspicious, and the King at once wrote to Clarence, Warwick, and the Archbishop, bidding them all come to him without[Pg 185] delay. Long before his orders can have reached them, the tale of treason was out. Within twelve hours of Clarence's arrival at Calais the long-projected marriage between him and Isabel Neville had been celebrated, in full defiance of the King. Warwick and Clarence kept holiday but for one day; the marriage took place on the 11th, and by the 12th they were in Kent with a strong party of the garrison of Calais as their escort.

The unruly Kentishmen rose in a body in Warwick's favour, as eagerly as when they had mustered to his banner in 1460 before the battle of Northampton. The Earl and the Duke came to Canterbury with several thousand men at their back. There they revealed their treasonable intent, for they published a declaration that they considered the articles of Robin of Redesdale just and salutary, and would do their best to bring them to the King's notice. How the King was to be persuaded was indicated clearly enough, by a proclamation which summoned out the whole shire of Kent to join the Earl's banner. Warwick and his son-in-law then marched on London, which promptly threw open its gates. The King was thus caught between two fires—the open rebels lay to the north of him, his brother and cousin with their armed persuasion to the south.

Even before Warwick's treason had been known, the King had recognised the danger of the northern rising, and sent commissions of array all over England. Two considerable forces were soon in arms in his behalf. Herbert, the new Earl of Pembroke, raised fourteen thousand Welsh and Marchmen at Brecon and Ludlow, and set out eastward. Stafford, the new Earl of Devon, collected six thousand archers in the South-[Pg 186]Western Counties, and set out northward. The King lay at Nottingham with Lord Hastings, Lord Mountjoy, and the Woodvilles. He seems to have had nearly fifteen thousand men in his company; but their spirit was bad. "Sire," said Mountjoy to him in full council of war, "no one wishes your person ill, but it would be well to send away my Lord of Rivers and his children when you have done conferring with them." Edward took this advice. Rivers and John Woodville forthwith retired to Chepstow; Scales joined his sister the Queen at Cambridge.

Meanwhile the Northern rebels were pouring south by way of Doncaster and Derby. Their leaders Coniers and Latimer showed considerable military skill, for by a rapid march on to Leicester they got between the King and Lord Herbert's army. Edward, for once out-generalled, had to follow them southward, but the Yorkshiremen were some days ahead of him, and on July 25th reached Daventry. On the same day Herbert and Stafford concentrated their forces at Banbury; but on their first meeting the two new earls fell to hard words on a private quarrel, and, although the enemy was so near, Stafford in a moment of pique drew off his six thousand men to Deddington, ten miles away, leaving Pembroke's fourteen thousand Welsh pikemen altogether unprovided with archery.

Next day all the chief actors in the scene were converging on the same spot in central England—Coniers marching from Daventry on to Banbury, Pembroke from Banbury on Daventry, with Stafford following in his rear, while Warwick and Clarence had left London and were moving by St. Albans on Towcester; the[Pg 187] King, following the Yorkshiremen, was somewhere near Northampton.

Coniers and his colleagues, to whom belong all the honours of generalship in this campaign, once more got ahead of their opponents. Moving rapidly on Banbury on the 26th, they found Pembroke's army approaching them on a common named Danesmoor, near Edgecott Park, six miles north of Banbury. The Welsh took up a position covered by a small stream and offered battle, though they were greatly inferior in numbers. The Northerners promptly attacked them, and though one of their three leaders, Henry Neville of Latimer, fell in the first onset, gained a complete victory; "by force of archery they forced the Welsh to descend from the hill into the valley," though Herbert and his brothers did all that brave knights could to save the battle. The King was only a few hours' march away; indeed, his vanguard under Sir Geoffrey Gate and Thomas Clapham actually reached the field, but both were old officers of Warwick, and instead of falling on the rebels' rear, proceeded to join them, and led the final attack on Herbert's position.

Thunderstruck at the deep demoralisation among his troops which this desertion showed, the King fell back on Olney, abandoning Northampton to the rebels. Next day—it was July 27th—the brave Earl of Pembroke and his brother Richard Herbert, both of whom had been taken prisoners, were beheaded in the market-place by Coniers' command without sentence or trial. Their blood lies without doubt on Warwick's head, for though neither he nor Clarence was present, the rebels were obviously acting on his orders, and if[Pg 188] he had instructed them to keep all their captives safe, they would never have presumed to slay them. Several chroniclers indeed say that Warwick and Clarence had expressly doomed Herbert for death. This slaughter was perfectly inexcusable, for Herbert had never descended to the acts of the Woodvilles; he was an honourable enemy, and Warwick had actually been reconciled to him only a year before.[12] The execution of the Herberts was not the only token of the fact that the great Earl's hand was pulling the strings all over England. His special aversions, Rivers and John Woodville, were seized a week later at Chepstow by a band of rioters—probably retainers from the Despenser estates by the Severn—and forwarded to Coventry, where they were put to death early in August. Even if Pembroke's execution was the unauthorised work of Coniers and Fitzhugh, this slaying of the Woodvilles must certainly have been Warwick's own deed. Stafford the Earl of Devon, whose desertion of the Welsh had been the principal cause of the defeat at Edgecott, fared no better than the colleague he had betrayed. He disbanded his army and fled homeward; but at Bridgewater he was seized by insurgents, retainers of the late Earl of Devon whom he had beheaded a year before, and promptly put to death.

It only remains to relate King Edward's fortunes. When the news of Edgecott fight reached his army, it disbanded for the most part, and he was left, with no great following, at Olney, whither he had fallen back on July 27th. Meanwhile Warwick and Clarence,[Pg 189] marching from London on Northampton along the Roman road, were not far off. The news of the King's position reached their army, and George Neville the Archbishop of York, who was with the vanguard, resolved on a daring stroke. Riding up by night with a great body of horse he surrounded Olney; the King's sentinels kept bad watch, and at midnight Edward was roused by the clash of arms at his door. He found the streets full of Warwick's men, and the Archbishop waiting in his ante-chamber. The smooth prelate entered and requested him to rise and dress himself. "Then the King said he would not, for he had not yet had his rest; but the Archbishop, that false and disloyal priest, said to him a second time, 'Sire, you must rise and come to see my brother of Warwick, nor do I think that you can refuse me.' So the King, fearing worse might come to him, rose and rode off to meet his cousin of Warwick."

The Earl meanwhile had passed on to Northampton, where he met the Northern rebels on July 29th, and thanked them for the good service they had done England. There he dismissed the Kentish levies which had followed him from London, and moved on to Coventry escorted by the Yorkshiremen, many of whom must have been his own tenants. At Coventry the Archbishop, and his unwilling companion the King, overtook them. The details of the meeting of Warwick and Clarence with their captive master have not come down to us. But apparently Edward repaid the Earl's guile of the past year by an equally deceptive mask of good humour. He made no reproaches about the death of his adherents, signed everything that was required of him, and did not[Pg 190] attempt to escape. The first batch of privy seals issued under Warwick's influence are dated from Coventry on August 2nd.

The great Earl's treacherous plans had been crowned with complete success. He had shown that half England would rise at his word; his enemies were dead; his master was in his power. Yet he found that his troubles were now beginning, instead of reaching their end. It was not merely that the whole kingdom had been thrown into a state of disturbance, and that men had commenced everywhere to settle old quarrels with the sword—the Duke of Norfolk, for example, was besieging the Paston's castle of Caistor, and the Commons of Northumberland were up in arms demanding the restoration of the Percies to their heritage. These troubles might be put down by the strong arm of Warwick; but the problem of real difficulty was to arrange a modus vivendi with the King. Edward was no coward or weakling to be frightened into good behaviour by a rising such as had just occurred. How could he help resenting with all his passionate nature the violence of which he had been the victim? His wife, too, would always be at his side; and though natural affection was not Elizabeth Woodville's strong point,[13] still she was far too ambitious and vindictive to pardon the deaths of her father and brother. Warwick knew Edward well enough to realise that for the future there could never be true confidence between them again, and that for the rest of his life he must guard his head well against his master's sword.

But the Earl was proud and self-reliant; he de[Pg 191]termined to face the danger and release the King. No other alternative was before him, save, indeed, to slay Edward and proclaim his own son-in-law, Clarence, for King. But the memory of old days spent in Edward's cause was too strong. Clarence, too, though he may have been willing enough to supplant his brother, made no open proposals to extinguish him.

Edward was over a month in his cousin's hands. Part of the time he was kept at Warwick and Coventry, but the last three weeks were spent in the Earl's northern stronghold of Middleham. The few accounts which we have of the time seem to show that the King was all smoothness and fair promises; the Earl and the Archbishop, on the other hand, were careful to make his detention as little like captivity as could be managed. He was allowed free access to every one, and permitted to go hunting three or four miles away from the castle in company with a handful of the Earl's servants. Warwick at the same time gave earnest of his adherence to the Yorkist cause by putting down two Lancastrian risings, the one in favour of the Percies, led by Robin of Holderness, the other raised by his own second-cousin, Sir Humphrey Neville, one of the elder branch, who was taken and beheaded at York.

Before releasing the King, Warwick exacted a few securities from him. The first was a general pardon to himself, Clarence, and all who had been engaged in the rising of Robin of Redesdale. The second was a grant to himself of the chamberlainship of South Wales, and the right to name the governors of Caermarthen and the other South Welsh castles. These offices had been in Herbert's hands, and the Earl had found that they[Pg 192] cramped his own power in Glamorganshire and the South Marches. The third was the appointment as Treasurer of Sir John Langstrother, the Prior of the Hospitallers of England; he was evidently chosen as Rivers' successor, because two years before he had been elected to his place as prior in opposition to John Woodville, whom the King had endeavoured to foist on the order. The chancellorship, however, was still left in the hands of Bishop Stillington, against whom no one had a grudge; George Neville did not claim his old preferment.

By October the King was back in London, which he entered in great state, escorted by Montagu, the Archbishop Richard of Gloucester, and the Earls of Essex and Arundel. "The King himself," writes one of the Pastons that day, "hath good language of my Lords of Clarence, Warwick, and York, saying they be his best friends; but his household have other language, so that what shall hastily fall I can not say." No more, we may add, could any man in England, the King and Warwick included.


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