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CHAPTER XV WARWICK FOR KING HENRY
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 m