Part V

The Croyland Chronicle: Part V

The Third Continuation of the History of Croyland Abbey: January, 1469-March, 1470

Here follows a continuation of the events that happened in the commonwealth of England and elsewhere, as also of those circumstances in especial which took place in the monastery of Croyland, after the decease of the before-mentioned abbat John; which, as already mentioned, happened on the sixteenth day of the month of January, in the ninth year of the reign of king Edward the Fourth; the same being, according to the computation of the Roman church, the year of our Lord, 1469. Still, however, before we commence our narrative of the events which are known to have taken place subsequently to that year, some matters ought to be stated, which have either been omitted by the former Chronicler already referred to, or have not been more fully set forth by him; either through zeal for the inerests of holy religion, which does not generally care to be fully acquainted with secular matters, or a regard for conciseness and brevity. For it is our wish, that it may be clearly understood from the very beginning by what numerous incursions and battles the kingdom of England was harassed before the calamitous inroad of the northmen last described took place. Those events, too, which followed after that period, down to the year that will be found mentioned below, we shall set forth in as brief terms and in as unprejudiced a manner as we properly can.

We would wish, in the first place, here to observe, that, not so much a battle as a semblance of a battle, was first seen at the town of Ludlow, in the Marches of Wales, in the month of October, in this year of our Lord, 1459. This skirmish took place between king Henry, and those who remained faithful to him, on the one side, and Richard, duke of York and his sons and kinsmen, connexions and adherents, on the other. Among the latter, in especial, were the earls of Salisbury and Warwick, father and son, whose opposition was greatly dreaded. The king’s party, however, waxed stronger and stronger every day in consequence of endless multitudes of the nobles and common people, who now flocked together to his support; and the more especially, after Andrew Trollop and his paid followers, from Calais, who had been summoned by the earl of Warwick, their captain, from the parts beyond the sea, as though to aid the king, had deserted the duke of York. For, finding that, contrary to their expectations, they had really been brought over to act against the king, they left the duke, and sided with the king, whose provisions and pay they had been in the habit of receiving. Upon this taking place, the duke’s army was disbanded, while he himself retreated to Ireland, and his eldest son, Edward, earl of March, together with the before-named earls, father and son, crossed over by ship to Calais.

In the meantime, a Parliament having been summoned at Coventry, the duke and earls above-named were attainted, and their goods and properties transferred to new possessors. But, as the affairs of England, a thing that every day’s experience too well teaches us, are subject to many changes and vicissitudes, in the following year, that is to say, in the year 1460, the said earls crossed over from Calais, and landed in Kent: shortly after which, a great battle was fought near Northampton, on the feast (1) of the Martyrdom of the Seven Brethren, in the month of July, between king Henry and the above-named earls, with their respective adherents. There fell on the king’s side, the duke of Buckingham, the earl of Shrewsbury, the lord viscount Beaumont, the lord Egremont, and other nobles, with common men innumerable. The earls, having thus gained the victory, paid all the honors of royalty to king Henry, and conducted him with a most august escort to London; Richard Neville, the before-named earl of Warwick, on this occasion, carrying a sword before the king, bare headed, and with every mark of humility and respect.

In the month of October, in the same year the duke of York came over from Ireland; and repairing to Westminster, while the Parliament was there assembled, entered the upper chamber of the royal palace, where the lords spiritual and temporal were sitting; after which, going up to the royal throne, he claimed the right of sitting there as belonging solely to himself. He then genealogically traced his lineal descent from, Lionel, duke of Clarence, to whom, as being the elder son, he asserted that the succession to the kingdom of England of right belonged, and not to the posterity of John, duke of Lancaster, his younger brother, from whom king Henry was descended; after which, he protested that he would no longer put up with the injustice which had been done to his line for so many years by the three Henrys, who were only usurpers. Immediately after this, making his way into the inner rooms of the royal palace, he compelled the king to remove to the queen’s apartments, while he himself took possession of the whole of the king’s abode. This disturbance continued, though unattended by slaughter, for about three weeks, until the vigil of All Saints; the whole Parilament being occupied, in the mean time, with the discussion of the genealogical question, and the rights of the before-mentioned duke. Upon that vigil, these differences were brought to a conclusion in the following manner: the duke and his sons, Edward, earl of March and Edmund, earl of Rutland, who had both arrived at the years of discretion, were to swear fealty to the king, and to recogniize him as king so long as he should live, the same having been already deteremined by Parliament. At the same time, it was added, with the king’s consent, that as soon as the king should have departed this life, it should be lawful for the said duke and his heirs to lay claim to, and take possession of, the crown of England. Matters being thus arranged, the duke removed from the palace of Westminster to his mansion in London, and left the king and his people in peace.

In these days, queen Margaret, with prince Edward, the only son of the king and herself, was staying in the northern parts of the kingdom. As the above decree of Parliament appeared to the northern partisans of the queen most odious and execrable, a commotion took place there, among the nobles and common people, their object being, to have that enactment altered (2).

The duke of York, having in company with him his son, the earl of Rutland, and Richard, earl of Salisbury, set out for the purpose of offering resistance to their movements; but, as already mentioned (3), he was defeated at Wakefield, and there slain. Upon this ensued the incursion of the said northmen into the southern parts of England, until they reached Saint Alban’s, where they put to flight the earl of Warwick, who had brought king Henry thither, as though for the purpose of fighting against the queen, his wife, and his son. After obtaining the victory there, they did not puruse their advantages any further, but led back the king and queen with them into the north.

In the meantime, the duke’s eldest son, Edward, earl of March before-named, engaged the partisans of the queen in Wales, and, gaining a glorious victory over them, routed them at Mortimer’s Cross. On receiving tidings of his father’s death and how eagerly the people in the southern parts of the kingdom were awaiting him as their future king, he assembled his army together, and proceeded to London. Here, after mature deliberation, the council having come to the conclusion that king Henry, by taking part with the murderers of his father, had used his utmost endeavours to annul the decree of Parliament above-mentioned, the earl was pronounced to be no longer bound to observe his fealty towards him. Royal honors were now paid him by all the people, with universal acclamation, and on the fourth day of May, in the year, according to the computation of the Church of Rome, 1461, he commenced his reign, and in the power of his might won and earned the victory and the crown, in the manner which the Chronicler before-mentioned has already described.

All this I pass over in a cursory manner, as well as some succeeding events; such as the sieges of the castles of Northumblerand, and various skirmishes which took place on the Scottish borders, between the remnants of Henry’s party, who frequently made incursions from Scotland, and John Neville, lord Montague, who had lately been created earl of Northumberland, at the head of the other faithful partisans of king Edward. In these skirmishes and battles, many nobles on the side of king Henry, Henry, duke of Somerset, for instance, and some other lords, such as the lord Hungerfod, and the lord De Roos, as well as the illustrious knights Ralph Gray and Ralph Percy, and others, were routed and slain by the prowess of the said earl of Northumberland.

I now come to the sixth year of the reign of the said king, when Elizabeth, the eldest daughter by his marriage already mentioned, was born. This took place in the month of February, it being the year of our Lord, according to the computation of the English church, 1465, but according to that of the church of Rome, 1466. About this time, ambassadors were sent to England from Flanders, to ask the lady Margaret, sister of king Edward, in marriage for the lord Charles, the eldest son of Philip, duke of Burgundy, his father being then living. This marriage accordingly took place and was solemnized in the month of July in the year following, being the year of our Lord, 1467. At this marriage, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, who had for some years appeared to favour the party of the French against the Burgundians, conceived great indignation. For he would have greatly preferred to have sought an alliance for the said lady Margaret in the kingdom of France, by means of which, a favourable understanding might have arisen between the monarchs of those two kingdoms; it being much against his wish, that the views of Charles, now duke of Burgundy, should be in any way promoted by means of an alliance with England. The fact is, that he pursued that man with a most deadly hatred.

This, in my opinion, was really the cause of the dissensions between the king and the earl, and not the one which has been previously mentioned — the marriage of the king with queen Elizabeth. For this marriage of the king and queen (although after some murmuring on the part of the earl, who had previously used his best endeavours to bring about an alliance between the king and the queen of Scotland, widow of the king of the that country, lately deceased), had long before this been solemnly sanctioned and approved of at Reading, by the earl himself, and all the prelates and great lords of the kingdom. Indeed, it is the fact, that the earl continued to show favour to all the queen’s kindred, until he found that her relatives and connexions, contrary to his wishes, were using their utmost endeavours to promote the other marriage, which, in conformity with the king’s wishes, eventually took place between Charles and the lady Margaret, and were favouring other designs to which he was strongly opposed. It is to reasons of this nature that may be attributed the overthrow and slaughter of the Welch, with their leader, William Herbert, latedly created earl of Pembroke, at the battle previously mentioned, which took place at Hegecote, near Banbury: for that nobleman, at this period, had great weight in the counsels of the king and queen, his eldest son having previously married one of the queen’s sisters. The queen’s father also perished, Richard, earl of Rivers, already mentioned, together with Sir John Wydville, his son.

In the meantime, king Edward was taken prisoner at a certain village near Coventry, and, all his attendants being dismissed, was led thence to Warwick Castle, where he was detained in captivity. This calamity was caused by his own brother George, duke of Clarence, Richard, earl of Warwick, and his brother George, archbishop of York: and befell him in the summer of the ninth year of his reign, being the year of our Lord, 1469.

Lest it should come to pass that the faithful subjects of the said king, in the southern parts of the kingdom, should attempt to avenge the commission of so great an injury, and liberate him from his captivity in the said castle, they now transferred him to Middleham Castle, in the north; from which place, however, in a manner almost miraculous, and beyond all expectation, he did not so much make his escape, as find himself released by the express consent of the earl of Warwick himself. For there was now a rising in England, in the vicinty of the Scottish border, of many persons who formed the remains of Henry’s party, and who had chosen for their captain on Sir Humphrey Neville. The earl of Warwick found himself unable to offer an effectual resistance to these, without first making public proclamation in the king’s name that all the king’s liege subjects must rise to defend him against the rebels. For the people, seeing their king detained as a prisoner, refused to take any notice of proclamations to this effect, until, having been entirely set at liberty, he had made his appearance in the city of York; after which, the enemy were most valiantly routed by the said earl, and the king, seizing the opportunity, in the full enjoyment of his liberty came to London.

From this day, as already stated, there were repeated messages and embassies passing to and fro between the king and the dissatisfied nobles. In the end, a grand council of all the peers of the kingdom was summoned, and on a certain day which had been previously named, there appeared in the great chamber of Parliament, the duke of Clarence, the earl of Warwick, and the rest of their confederates; upon which, peace and entire oblivion of all grievances upon both sides was agreed to. Still, however, there probably remained, on the one side, deeply seated in his mind, the injuries he had received and the contempt which had been shown to majesty, and on the other–

‘A mind too conscious of a daring deed.’
At last, after the celebration at London of the feast of the Nativity, upon the approach of the fast of Lent in the year of our Lord, according to the computation of the Church of Rome, 1470, the king and the said nobles bade adieu to each other, the king intending to remain for a short time in London, while the others returned, each one as he pleased, to their respective homes.

In the meantime, the monastery of Croyland, being vacant by the death of abbat John Lytlington, which took place, as already stated, on the sixteenth of January in this present year, being the ninth of king Edward the Fourth, provision was dully made for supplying his place by the canonical election of the lord John Wysbech, a most prudent and circumspect man. At the time of his election, he held the office of prior of the cell of Freston; which cell had, from ancient times, been annexed and appropriated to the use of the said monastery of Croyland. This election took place on the thirteenth day of February, in the year of king Edward above-mentioned, the same being the year of our Lord, according to the computation of the English Church, 1469, but according to that of the Church of Rome, 1470.

Here, it seems as well, for the instruction of the young, who, perhaps, do not understand this variation of the modes of reckoning, or, at least, the causes thereof, to explain, in a few words, how it happens that the Romans, who rekcon from a later event, namely, the Nativity, precede us, who compute from a prior one, the Incarnation, by the space of time which, each year, falls between the feast of the Nativity and the feast of the Annunciation of our Lord: the remaining part of the year being numbered exactly the same by us and by them. For the purpose of understanding this, it ought to be observed, that Chroniclers who write annals, or the events of each year, have two modes of terminating the year. One of these methods is, where, from the beginning of the event which they wish to commemorate, they wait a whole revolution of the sun’s motion, and until he has passed through the Zodiac, or three hundred and sixty-five days [before they begin to count]; which is the way in which the English church reckons, not completeting (4) the first year of any event which takes place, until three hundred and sixty-five days have elapsed from the beginning of that event. Hence it is that it always concludes and terminates each year from the Incarnation of our Lord (from which event it mostly makes its calculations), on the same day on which the actual mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation conmmenced, that is, at the feast of the Annumciation.(5)

The Romans, on the other hand, out of the respect anciently entertained for the god Janus, from whom the month of January received its name, begin all their years on the first day of January, then finish them on the last day of December, in whatever intervening month the act which it is their intention to commemorate may have happened. Consequently, with them the first year of our Lord’s Nativity, from which event the Romans are wont to calculate, was finished in seven days after that event; and hence, with the the year two began on the first day of January of the next ensuing. When we come to undertand this equivocal method of terminating the year, it is clear that, in reality, there exists no error at all; but that, according to the first mode of computation, it is only the year of our Lord 1469, up to the feast of the Annunciation; while, on the other hand, according to the second mode, by which the new year always begins in January, it may be said that it is the year 1470. This method of beginning and concluding each year after the Roman manner, is supported by the usage observed in our manual reckoners and the customary Calendar of the church, as the Dominical letters, which are to serve for a whole year, are always changed on the first day of January.

But now let us return to the said John Wysbech, who was, as we have already stated, at this time elected abbat of Croyland. He was a truly wary man in all his doings, having gained experience in former years in fulfillilng the duties of many offices which he held in the monastery; besides which, he enjoyed this singular and especial privilege and piece of good fortune, which never fell to the lot of any of his predecessors. As often as any spark of litigation appeared about to be kindled, through his sagacity and the discreet moderation of his acts, he always quenched it, before it had burst into an open flame; so much so, that throughout the whole period of his pastoral duties he enjoyed perfect peace and tranquility. Let us, however, for a time dismiss any further notice of this good father or his pious deeds, of which we will make mention when we come to the events of the year in which he was withdrawn from this world, the same being the year of our Lord, 1477; and let us now return to the narrative of the secular history of the kingdom.

After the departure of the nobles before-mentioned from London, the men of the county and district of London, for the first time allying themselves, as it were, with the Kentish rebels, and resisting the laws and customs of the country, appeared in arms, under the command and guidance of the son and heir of the lord Wells. King Edward, however, having levied an army, as soon as he had arrived at Stamford, at the same instant, both saw and conquered them. All the leaders of the hostile force fell into his hands; and after inflicting capital punishment on them for their misdeeds, he showed grace and favour to the ignorant and guiltless multitude. Upon the news of his having gained this great victory reaching the ears of the duke and earl the noblemen already mentioned, being fully conscious of their share in promoting this insurrection, they consulted their safety in flight; upon which, the king followed in pursuit of them, along their route from the county of Lancaster across the intervening counties, until they had arrived at the city of Exeter in the county of Devon. Having arrived here before the king could come up with them, and finding a few ships in readiness, they embarked; and after spoiling of their property, in ships and wares, all the Hollanders and other subjects of the duke of Burgundy they could meet with engaged in mercantile pursuits, they pushed on with the utmost speed, and at length, with their confederates, landed safely in Normandy.

Here they were kindly received by king Louis, and being after some difficulty admitted into the favour of queen Margaret and her son prince Edward, made a promise that they would in future faithfully support their cause and that of king Henry. In addition to this, that their reconcilement and good faith towards each other might appear in the eyes of future ages the more undoubted, espousals were contracted between the said prince and the lady Anne, the youngest daughter of the said earl of Warwick; the duke of Clarence himself, having previously to this, married his eldest daughter, Isabella.

Hardly had these men been six months in exile, when, behold! recruited by means of the treasures of the king of the French, they landed in the same parts of England from which they had taken their departure. All the English in the neighbourhood felt compassion, as always is the case, for the exiles who had thus returned, and, not so much joining them, as waiting upon them to show them every attention, increased their forces to such numbers, that the troops of king Edward, for which he was waiting at Doncaster, withdrew from a contest so doubtful in its results. There was then living in the neighbourhood, at his own mansion at Pomfret, John Neville, brother of the earl of Warwick, who at this time had the title of marquis of Montague. Although he had swron fealty to king Edward, still, on hearing of the arrival of his brother, he had recourse to treachery; and entered into a conspiracy, the object of which was to seize the king’s person by means of the large body of men, which, by virtue of the royal proclamation, he had levied. As soon as this reached the king’s ears by the secret agency of a spy, he found himself compelled to consult his own safety and that of his followers by a precipitate flight to the port of Bishop’s Lynn, in Norfolk. Here finding some ships, he caused himself and his followers, nearly two thousand in number, to be conveyed across the sea to Holland, a territory of the duke of Burgundy. These events took place about the festival of Michaelmas, in the year of our Lord, 1470, it being the ninth year of the reign of the said king Edward.

In this manner did the lords before-mentioned gloriously triumph over the said king Edward, and that without the least slaughter or bloodshed; after which, they repaired to London with a degree of pomp befitting such great success. Taking king Henry the Sixth out of the Tower, where he had been so long detained in captivity, they once more placed him on the throne of the kingdom: and in the month of October, on the feast of the Translation of Saint Edward the King and Confessor, after walking in solemn procession, had the crown publicly placed on his head. Now all laws were once more enacted in the name of this king Henry, and all letters patent, writs, mandates, chirographs, and instruments whatsoever were published with a twofold mode of annotation in reference to this king’s government — in this manner; ‘In the year from the beginning of the reign of king Henry the Sixth, forty-eight, and in the first year of the recovery of his throne by the said king.’

At this time was born, Edward, the first-born son of king Edward, then in exile; which event took place on the feast of All Saints, in the monastery of Westminster, at which place queen Elizabeth and her three daughters had taken sanctuary. From this circumstance was derived some hope and consolation for such persons as remained faithful in their allegiance to Edward, while those who were well-wishers to king Henry, and who at this time were many in number, deemed the birth of this infant a thing of very little consequence. You might then have heard persons innumerable ascribing this restortion of the most pious king Henry to a miracle, and this change to the working of the right hand of the Most High; and yet, behold! how incomprehensible are the judgments of God, and how inscrutable are His ways! for within six months after this, it is a fact well known, that there was not a person who dared own himself to have been his partisan.

Notes on Part V

  1. Tenth of July.
  2. There is clearly an omission in the narrative here.
  3. In Part II of this electronic edition of the Chronicle.
  4. He means, “not considering it a year in the computation, until a whole year has been completed;” according to which mode of reckoning, the year one would begin not at the Incarnation, but at the end of 365 days after the Incarnation.
  5. Meaning that the year one would not begin to be reckoned till the first anniversary of our Lord’s Incarnation, on the feast of the Annunciation.