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The peace between Warwick and King Edward lasted for a period even shorter than might have been expected; seven months, from September 1469 to March 1470, was the term for which it was destined to endure. Yet while it did hold firm, all was so smooth outwardly that its rupture came as a thunderclap upon the world. Nothing, indeed, could have looked more promising for lovers of quiet times than the events of the winter of 1469-70. A Parliament ratified all the King's grants of immunity to the insurgents of the last year, and while it sat the King announced a project which promised to bind York and Neville more firmly together than ever. Edward, though now married for six years, had no son; three daughters alone were the issue of his union with Elizabeth Woodville. He now proposed to marry his eldest daughter, and heiress presumptive, to the male heir of the Nevilles, the child George, son of Montagu.[14] To make the boy's rank suitable to his[Pg 194] prospects, Edward created him Duke of Bedford. Montagu had not joined with his brothers in the rising, and had even fought with Robin of Redesdale, so it was all the easier for the King to grant him this crowning honour.

In February Warwick was at Warwick Castle, Montagu in the North, while Clarence and King Edward lay at London. All was quiet enough, when suddenly there came news of troubles in Lincolnshire. Riotous bands, headed by Sir Robert Welles, son of Lord Willoughby and Welles, had come together, sacked the manor of a certain Sir Thomas Burgh, one of Edward's most trusted servants, and were raising the usual seditious cries about the evil government of the realm. At first nothing very dangerous seemed to be on foot. When the King sent for Willoughby, to call him to account for his son's doings, the old peer came readily enough to London to make his excuses, relying on the safe conduct which was sent him. But the riots were now swelling into a regular insurrection, and soon news came that Sir Robert Welles had called out the whole shire-force of Lincoln, mustered fifteen thousand men, and was bidding his troops to shout for King Henry. Edward at once issued commissions of array for raising an overwhelming force against the rebels. Two of the commissions were sent to Warwick and Clarence, who were bidden to collect the men of Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Their orders were dated March 7th, but before they were half carried out, the purpose for which they were issued had already been attained. Edward, taking Lord Willoughby with him as a hostage, had rushed north[Pg 195] with one of these astonishing bursts of energy of which he was now and again capable. Leaving London on the 6th, he reached Stamford on March 11th, with the forces of the home and eastern counties at his back. On the 12th he met the rebels at Empingham near Stamford, and when Welles would not bid them disperse, beheaded his aged father Willoughby in front of his army. The Lincolnshire men fled in disgraceful rout before the fire of the King's artillery, casting off their cassocks with the colours of Welles in such haste that the fight was known as Lose-coat Field. Sir Robert was caught and beheaded at Doncaster a few days later, and the rising was at an end. On Tuesday the 21st the King reviewed his troops: "It was said that never were seen in England so many goodly men, and so well arrayed for a fight; in especial the Duke of Norfolk was worshipfully accompanied, no lord there so well." Warwick and Clarence, with a few thousand men from the shires they had been told to raise, lay that day at Chesterfield, converging, in accordance with their orders, on Lincoln.

Suddenly Edward announced to his army that he had learnt from the dying confession of Sir Robert Welles that Warwick and Clarence were implicated in the rising. Though Welles had sometimes used King Henry's name, it was now said that he had really been proposing to place Clarence on the throne, and was acting with Warwick's full approval. Edward added that he had already sent to the Duke and the Earl, bidding them come to his presence at once and unaccompanied. They had refused to come without a safe conduct, so he now proclaimed them traitors, but would[Pg 196] grant them their lives if they would appear before him in humble and obeisant wise within a week. The army was at once directed to march on Chesterfield, but when the proclamation reached Warwick and Clarence they did not obey it, and fled for their lives.

This series of events is the most puzzling portion of the whole of Warwick's life. The chroniclers help us very little, and the only two first-hand documents which we possess are official papers drawn up by King Edward. These papers were so widely spread that we meet them repeated word for word and paragraph for paragraph even in the French writers,—with the names, of course, horribly mangled.[15] Edward said that down to the very moment of Welles' capture he had no thought but that Warwick and Clarence were serving him faithfully: it was Welles' confession, and some treasonable papers found on the person of a squire in the Duke of Clarence's livery who was slain in the pursuit, that revealed the plot to him. The second document which the King published was Welles' confession, a rambling effusion which may or may not fully represent the whole story. Why Welles should confess at all we cannot see, unless he expected to save his life thereby; and if he expected to save his life he would, of course, insert in his tale whatever names the King chose. Welles' narrative relates that all Lincolnshire was afraid that the King would visit it with vengeance for joining Robin of Redesdale last year. Excitement already prevailed, when there came to him, about February 2nd, Sir John Clare, a chaplain of the Duke of Clarence's, who asked him if Lincolnshire would[Pg 197] be ready to rise supposing there was another trouble this year, but bade him make no stir till the Duke should send him word. Without waiting, according to his own tale, for any further communication, Welles raised all Lincolnshire, making proclamation in the King's name as well as that of the Duke of Clarence. Some days after the riots began there came to him a squire in the Duke's livery, who told him that he had provoked the King, and that great multitudes of the Commons must needs die unless they bestirred themselves. So this squire—Welles could not give his surname but only knew that he was called Walter—took over the guiding of the host till he was slain at Stamford. Moreover, one John Wright came to Lincoln, bearing a ring as token, which he said belonged to the Earl of Warwick, with a message of comfort to say that the Earl had sworn to take such part as Lincolnshire should take. "And I understand that they intended to make great risings, and as far as ever I could understand, to the intent to make the Duke of Clarence King, and so it was largely noised in our host." According to his story, Welles had never seen either Warwick or Clarence himself, and had no definite knowledge of their purpose. He only understood that the purpose was to crown Clarence; all his information came from Clare and the anonymous squire.

This is a curious tale, and suggests many doubts. If Warwick wished to act again the comedy of last year, why should he send to a county where he had no influence, to a staunch Lancastrian family (Welles' grandfather fell in Henry's cause at Towton, and his father was the Willoughby who tried to kidnap Warwick[Pg 198] in 1460) in order to provoke a rising? And if he had planned a rising in Lincoln, why did he make no attempt to support it by calling out his own Midland and South Welsh retainers, or raising Yorkshire or Kent, where he could command the whole county? That the Earl was capable of treasonable double-dealing he had shown clearly enough in 1469. But was he capable of such insane bad management as the arrangements for Welles' insurrection show? Last year his own relatives and retainers worked the plan, and it was most accurately timed and most successfully executed. Why should he now make such a bungle?

It is, moreover, to be observed that while Welles puts everything down to Clarence in his confession, Warkworth and other chroniclers say that he bade his men shout for King Henry, and all his connections were certainly Lancastrian. Is it possible that he was trying to put the guilt off his own shoulders, and to make a bid for his life, acting on Edward's hints, when he implicated Warwick and Clarence in his guilt?

It is certainly quite in keeping with Edward's character to suppose that, finding himself at the head of a loyal and victorious army, it suddenly occurred to him that his position could be utilised to fall on Warwick and Clarence and take his revenge for the deaths of Pembroke and Rivers.

Whether this was so or not, the Duke and the Earl were most certainly caught unprepared when Edward marched on Chesterfield. They left a message that they would come to the King if he would give them a safe conduct, and fled to Manchester. Edward threw his army between them and York, where they could have[Pg 199] raised men in abundance, and the fugitives, after vainly trying to interest Lord Stanley in their cause, doubled back on the Midlands. With a few hundred men in their train they got to Warwick, but apparently there was no time to make a stand even there. The King had sent commissions of array out all over England to trusty hands, and forces under staunch Yorkists were closing in towards the Midlands on every side. Edward calculated on having an enormous army in the field by April; he himself was coming south with quite twenty thousand victorious troops, and he had called out the whole of the levies of Shropshire, Hereford, Gloucester, Stafford, Wiltshire, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset. When he heard that Warwick was moving south, he sent to Salisbury to order quarters and provisions for forty thousand men, who would be concentrated there if the Earl tried to reach the Montacute lands in that quarter.

So unprepared was the Earl for the assault that, packing up his valuables in Warwick Castle, and taking with him his wife and his two daughters, he fled for the South Coast without waiting to be surrounded by his enemies. He quite outstripped the King, who had barely reached Salisbury when he himself was at Exeter. There the Duke and Earl seized a few ships, which they sent round to Dartmouth; more vessels were obtained in the latter place, for the whole seafaring population of England favoured the Earl. When Edward drew near, Warwick and his son-in-law went on board their hastily-extemporised fleet and put to sea. They ran along the South Coast as far as Southampton, where they made an attempt to seize a part of the royal navy, including the great ship called the Trinity, which had lain there since[Pg 200] Scales' abortive expedition in 1469. But Scales and Howard occupied the town with a great Hampshire levy; the Earl's attack failed, and three of his ships with their crews fell into the enemy's hands. Tiptoft Earl of Worcester, "the great butcher of England," tried the captured men, and a squire named Clapham and nineteen more were hung and then impaled by him. This atrocious punishment sent a shock of horror through England, and Tiptoft's name is still remembered rather for this abomination than for all the learning and accomplishments which made him Caxton's idol.

Warwick made for Calais, where his friend Wenlock was in charge, expecting free admittance. But the King had sent Galliard de Duras and other officers across to watch the governor, and Wenlock, who was somewhat of a time-server, dared not show his heart. When Warwick appeared in the roads he refused him entry, and shot off some harmless cannon toward the ships. At the same time he sent the Earl a secret message that "he would give him a fair account of Calais upon the first opportunity, if he would betake himself to France and wait." While Warwick lay off Calais his daughter, Clarence's wife, was delivered of a son. Wenlock sent out for her use two flagons of wine, but would not give her a safe conduct to land—"a great severity for a servant to use towards his lord," remarks Commines.

Repulsed from Calais, though we hear that the majority of the garrison and inhabitants wished to admit them, Warwick and Clarence turned back, and sought refuge in the harbour of Honfleur, where they trusted to get shelter from Louis of France. On their way between Calais and Honfleur they made[Pg 201] prizes of several ships belonging to the Duke of Burgundy, because they understood that he was arming against them. Louis kept away from Warwick for a time; but he sent his secretary, Du Plessis, to see him, and his admiral, the Bastard of Bourbon, gave the fugitives a hearty welcome. Louis was still at war with England, and still dreading a descent by King Edward on the French coast. He was delighted to learn that he could now turn Warwick, whose abilities he had learnt to respect, against his master—anything that would breed trouble in England would keep his enemy occupied at home. The King's first orders to his officers were to allow Warwick to fit out his ships, give him a supply of money, and send him off to England as quickly as possible. But the narrow seas were too well watched. Charles the Bold, irritated at Warwick's capture of his merchantmen, had collected a great fleet of seventy sail, which swept the Channel and watched the mouth of the Seine.

The enforced delay in Warwick's departure allowed time for a new idea to ripen in the French King's restless brain. Warwick had now broken hopelessly with King Edward; they could never trust each other again. Why therefore should not the Earl reconcile himself to the cause of Lancaster? No sooner was the idea formed than Louis proceeded to send for Queen Margaret out of her refuge in the duchy of Bar, and to lay his plan before her and the Earl, when they all met at Angers in the middle of July.

The scheme was at first sight revolting to both parties. There was so much blood and trouble between them that neither could stomach the proposal. If Margaret[Pg 202] could bring herself to forget that Warwick had twice driven her out of England, and had led her husband in ignominy to the Tower, she could not pardon the man who, in his moment of wrath, had stigmatised herself as an adulteress and her son as a bastard.[16] Warwick, on the other hand, if he could forgive the plot against his own life which the Queen had hatched in 1459, could not bear to think of meeting the woman who had sent his gray-haired father to the scaffold in cold blood on the day after Wakefield. King Louis asked each party to forget their whole past careers, and sacrifice their dearest hatreds to the exigencies of the moment.

If Warwick and Queen Margaret had been left to themselves, it is most improbable that they would ever have come to an agreement. But between them Louis went busily to and fro, for his unscrupulous mind was perfectly unable to conceive that passion or sentiment could override an obvious political necessity. Gradually the two parties were brought to state their objections to the King's scheme, the first step towards the commencement of negotiations. Warwick was the first to yield; the Queen took far longer to persuade. The Earl, she said, had been the cause of all the trouble that had come on herself, her husband, and her son. She could not pardon him. Moreover, his pardon would lose her more friends than he could bring to her. Warwick's answer was straightforward. He owned all the harm he had done to her and hers. But the offence, he said, had come first from her who had plotted evil against him which he had never deserved. What he[Pg 203] had done had been done solely in his own defence. But now the new King had broken faith with him, and he was bound to him no longer. If Margaret would forgive him, he would be true to her henceforth; and for that the King of France would be his surety. Louis gave his word, praying the Queen to pardon the Earl, to whom, he said, he was more beholden than to any other man living.[17]

The Queen so pressed, and urged beside by the counsellors of her father King Réné, agreed to pardon Warwick. Louis then broached the second point in his scheme. The new alliance, he urged, should be sealed by a marriage; the Prince of Wales was now seventeen and the Lady Anne, Warwick's younger daughter, sixteen. What match could be fairer or more hopeful?

But to this the Queen would not listen. She could find a better match for her son, she said; and she showed them a letter lately come from Edward offering him the hand of the young Princess Elizabeth.[18] Louis, however, was quietly persistent, and in the end the Queen yielded this point also. On August 4th she met Warwick in the Church of St. Mary at Angers, and there they were reconciled; the Earl swearing on a fragment of the true cross that he would cleave to King Henry's quarrel, the Queen engaging to treat the Earl as her[Pg 204] true and faithful subject, and never to make him any reproach for deeds gone by. The Earl placed his daughter in the Queen's hands, saying that the marriage should take place only when he had won back England for King Henry, and then departed for the coast to make preparations for getting his fleet to sea.

One person alone was much vexed at the success of Louis' scheme. The Duke of Clarence had no wish to see his father-in-law reconciled to the house of Lancaster, for he had been speculating on the notion that if Warwick drove out Edward he himself would become King. But wandering exiles must take their fortune as it comes, and Clarence had to be contented with Queen Margaret's promise that his name should be inserted in the succession after that of her son, when she and her husband came to their own again. The Prince was a healthy promising lad, and the prospect offered was hopelessly remote; Clarence began to grow discontented, and to regret that he had ever placed himself under Warwick's guidance. At this juncture his brother sent him a message from England, through a lady attending on the Duchess, praying him not to wreck the fortunes of his own family by adhering to the house of Lancaster, and bidding him remember the hereditary hatred that lay between them. Edward offered his brother a full pardon. Clarence replied by promising to come over to the King so soon as he and Warwick should reach England. Of all these negotiations Warwick suspected not a word.

Edward was so overjoyed by his brother's engagement to wreck the Earl's invasion, that he laughed at Charles of Burgundy for squandering money in keeping[Pg 205] a fleet at sea to intercept Warwick, and declared that what he most wished was to see his adversary safely landed on English soil, to be dealt with by himself.

He had his wish soon enough. In September the equinoctial gales caught the Burgundian fleet and blew it to the four winds, some of the vessels being driven as far as Scotland and Denmark. This left the coast clear for Warwick, who had long been waiting to put to sea. The Earl had already taken his precautions to make his task easy. A proclamation, signed by himself and Clarence, had been scattered all over England by willing hands. It said that the exiles were returning "to set right and justice to their places, and to reduce and redeem for ever the realm from its thraldom;" but no mention was made either of Edward or Henry in it, a curious fact which seems to point out that the Lancastrian alliance was not to be avowed till the last moment. But more useful than many proclamations was the message which the Earl sent into the North Country; he prayed his kinsman Fitzhugh to stir up Yorkshire and draw the King northward, as he had done before, when he and Coniers worked the rebellion of Robin of Redesdale.

Fitzhugh had no difficulty in rousing the Neville tenants about Middleham; and Edward, as Warwick expected, no sooner heard of this insurrection than he hurried to put it down, taking with him his brother Richard of Gloucester, Scales, Hastings, Say, and many more of his most trusted barons, with a good part of the army that was disposable to resist a landing on the South Coast. Near York he was to be met by Montagu, who had adhered to him for the past year in spite of[Pg 206] his brother's rebellion. But the King had paid Montagu badly for his loyalty. He had taken from him the Percy lands in Northumberland, and restored them to the young heir of that ancient house, compensating, as he thought, the dispossessed Neville by making him a marquis, and handing him over some of Warwick's confiscated northern estates. Montagu complained in secret that "he had been given a marquisate, and a pie's nest to maintain it withal," and was far from being so contented as the King supposed.

On September 25th Warwick landed unopposed at Dartmouth. In his company was not only Clarence but several of the great Lancastrian lords who had been living in exile—Jasper of Pembroke, Oxford, and many more. They brought with them about two thousand men, of whom half were French archers lent by Louis. The moment that the invaders landed, Warwick and Clarence declared themselves, by putting forth a proclamation in favour of King Henry. Devon and Somerset had always been Lancastrian strongholds, and the old retainers of the Beauforts and of Exeter came in by hundreds to meet their exiled lords. In a few days Warwick had ten thousand men, and could march on London; the King was at Doncaster, and his lieutenants in the South could make no stand without him. A little later Warwick's own Midland and Wiltshire tenants joined him, the Earl of Shrewsbury raised the Severn valley in his aid, and all Western England was in his hands.

Meanwhile King Edward, who had up to this moment mismanaged his affairs most hopelessly, moved south by Doncaster and Lincoln, with Montagu and[Pg 207] many other lords in his train. On October 6th he lay in a fortified manor near Nottingham with his bodyguard, while his army occupied all the villages round about. There, early in the morning, while he still lay in bed, Alexander Carlisle, the chief of his minstrels, and Master Lee, his chaplain, came running into his chamber, to tell him there was treachery in his camp. Montagu and other lords were riding down the ranks of his army crying, "God save King Henry!" The men were cheering and shouting for Warwick and Lancaster, and no one was showing any signs of striking a blow for the cause of York.

Edward rose in haste, drew up his bodyguard to defend the approach of the manor where he lay, and sent scouts to know the truth of the report. They met Montagu marching against them, and fled back to say that the rumour was all too true. Then Edward with his brother Gloucester, Hastings his chamberlain, Say, and Scales, and their immediate following, took horse and fled. They reached Lynn about eight hundred strong, seized some merchantmen and two Dutch carvels which lay in the harbour, and set sail for the lands of Burgundy. Buffeted by storms and chased by Hanseatic pirates, they ran their ships ashore near Alkmaar, and sought refuge with Louis of Gruthuyse, Governor of Holland. King, lords, and archers alike had escaped with nothing but what they bore on their backs; Edward himself could only pay the master of the ship that carried him by giving him the rich gown lined with martens' fur that he had worn in his flight.


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