Part VII

The Croyland Chronicle: Part VII

The Third Continuation of the History of Croyland Abbey: January, 1477 – June, 1483 with Notes

In the meantime, Charles, duke of Burgundy, after, as already stated, he had left the king, subjected the whole of Lorraine to his arms. Proceeding onwards, most boldly, not to say rashly, * * * * * the third time that he engaged with the people who are at the present day commonly called [the Switzers], a battle was fought on the day of the Epiphany, in which he was defeated, and met his death; it being in the year of our Lord, according to the Roman computation, 1477. This piece of foreign history I have inserted, because it was universally mentioned that after the death of Charles, his widow, the duchess, lady Margaret, whose affections were fixed on her brother Clarence beyond any of the rest of her kindred, exerted all her strength and energies that Mary, the only daughter and heir of the said duke Charles deceased, might be united in marriage with that duke, whose wife had recently died. So great a contemplated exaltation as this, however, of his ungrateful brother, displeased the king. He consequently threw all possible impediments in the way, in order that the match before-mentioned might not be carried into effect, and exerted all his influence that the heiress might be given in marriage to Maxmillian, son of the emperor; which was afterwards effected.

The indignation of the duke was probably still further increased by this; and now each began to look upon the other with no fraternal eyes. You might then have seen, (as such men are generally to be found in the courts of all princes), flatterers running to and fro, from one side to the other, and carrying backwards and forwards the words which had fallen from the two brothers, even if they happened to be spoken in the most secret closet. The arrest of the duke for the purpose of compelling him to answer the charges brought against him, happened under the following circumstances. One Master John Stacy, a person who was called an astronomer, when in reality he was rather a great scorcerer, formed a plot in conjunction with one Burdet, an esquire, and one of the said duke’s household; upon which, he was accused, among numerous other charges, of having made leaden images and other things to procure thereby the death of Richard, lord Beauchamp, at the request of his adulterous wife. Upon being questioned in a very severe examination as to his practice of damnable arts of this nature, he made confession of many matters, which told both against himself and the said Thomas Burdet. The consequence was, that Thomas was arrested as well; and at last judgment of death was pronouned upon them both, at Westminster, from the Bench of our the king, the judges being there seated, together with nearly all the lords temporal of the kingdom. Being drawn to the gallows at Tyburm, they were permitted briefly to say what they thought fit before being put to death; upon which, they protested their innocence, Stacy indeed but faintly; while, on the other hand, Burdet spoke at great length, and with much spirit, and as his last words, exclaimed with Susanna (1), “behold! I must die; wheras I never did such things as these.”

On the following day, the duke of Clarence came to the council-chamber at Westminster, bringing with him a famous Doctor of the order of Minorities, Master William Goddard by name, in order that he might read the confession and declaration of innocence above-mentioned before the lords in the said council assembled; which he accordingly did, and then withdrew. The king was then at Windsor, but when he was informed of the circumstances, he was greatly displeased thereat, and recalling to mind the information formerly laid against his brother, and which he had long kept treasured up in his breast, he summoned the duke to appear on a certain day in the royal palace of Westminster: upon which, in response to the Mayor and aldermen of the city of London, the king began, with his own lips, amongst other matters, to inveigh against the conduct of the before-named duke, as being derogatory to the laws of the realm, and most dangerous to judges and jurors throughout the kingdom. But why enlarge? The duke was placed in custody, and from that day up to the time of his death never was known to have regained his liberty.

The circumstances that happened in ensuing Parliament my mind quite shudders to enlarge upon, for then was to be witnessed a sad strife carried on before these two brethren of such high estate (2). For not a single person uttered a word against the duke, except the king; and not one individual made answer to the king except the duke. Some parties were introduced, however, as to whom it was greatly doubted by many, whether they filled the office of accusers rather, or of witnesses: these two offices not being exactly suited to the same person in the same cause. The duke met all the charges made against him with a denial, and offered, if he could only obtain a hearing, to defend his cause with his own hand. But why delay in using many words? Parliament, being of opinion that the informations which they had heard were established, passed sentence upon him of condemnation, the same being pronounced by the mouth of Henry, duke of Buckingham, who was appointed Seneschal of England for the occasion. After this, execution was delayed for a considerable time; until the Speaker of the Commons, coming to the upper house with his fellows, made a fresh request that the matter might be brought to a conclusion. In consequence of this, in a few days after, the execution, whatever its nature may have been, took place (and would that it had ended these troubles!) in the Tower of London, it being the year of our Lord, 1478, and the eighteenth of the reign of king Edward.

After the perpetration of this deed, many persons left king Edward, fully persuaded that he would be able to lord it over the whole kingdom, at his will and pleasure, all those idols being now removed, toward which the faces of whom the eyes of the multitude, ever desirous of change, had been in the habit of turning in times past. They regarded as idols of this description, the earl of Warwick, the duke of Clarence, and any other great person there might then happen to be in the kingdom, who had withdrawn himself from the king’s intimacy. The king, however, although, as I really believe, he inwardly repented very often of this act, after this period performed the duties of his office with such a high hand, that he appeared to be dreaded by all his subjects, while he himself stood in fear of no one. For, as he had taken care to distribute the most trustworthy of his servants throughout all parts of the kingdom, as keepers of castles, manors, forests, and parks, no attempt whatever could be made in any part of the kingdom by any person, however shrewd he might be, but what he was immediately charged with the same to his face.

At this time and during nearly two years before the king’s death, king Louis failed in the strict observance of the engagements which he had previously entered into as to the truce and the tribute; as he was only watching for a time at which he might be released from all fears of the English. For after the agreement had become generally known, which had been made with the people of Flanders, and by which the daughter of the duke Maximillian was to be given in marriage to the Dauphin, the king was defrauded of one year’s tribute; while in the meantime, captures began to take place, both of the subjects and ships of the two kingdoms. Amid those tempests in which the English were thus involved, the Scots, encouraged by the French, of whom they had been the allies of old, imprudently broke the treaty of peace for thirty years which we had formerly made with them; and this, notwithstanding the fact that king Edward had long paid a yearly sum of one thousand marks by way of dowry for Cecily, one of his daughters, who had been promised in marriage by formal embassy to the eldest son of the king of the Scots. In consequence of this, a tremendous and destructive war was proclaimed by Edward against the Scots, and the entire command of the expedition was given to Richard, duke of Gloucester, the king’s brother.

What he effected in the expedition, what sums of money, again extorted under the name of benevolences, he uselessly squandered away, the affair in its results sufficiently proved. For no resistance being offered, he marched as far as Edinburgh with the whole of his army, and then leaving that most opulent city untouched, returned by way of Berwick, which town had been taken upon his first entrance into that country; upon which, the castle, which had held out much longer, not without vast slaughter and bloodshed fell into the hands of the English. This trifling, I really know not whether to call it “gain” or “loss,” (for the safe keeping of Berwick each year swallows up ten thousand marks), at this period diminished the resources of king and kingdom by more than a hundred thousand pounds. King Edward was vexed at this frivilous outlay of so much money, although the recovery of Berwick above-mentioned in some degree alleviated his sorrow. These were the results of the duke’s expeditions into Scotland in the summer of the year of our Lord, 1482, the same being the twenty-second year of the reign of king Edward.

King Edward kept the following feast of the Nativity at his palace of Westminster, frequently appearing clad in a great variety of most costly garments, of quite a different cut to those which had been usually seen heitherto in our kingdom. The sleeves of the robes were very full and hanging, greatly resembling a monk’s frock, and so lined within with most costly furs, and rolled over the shoulders, as to give that prince a new and distinguished air to beholders, he being a person of most elegant appearance, and remarkable beyond all others for the attractions of his person. You might have seen, in those days, the royal court presenting no other appearance than such as fully befits a most mighty kingdom, filled with riches and with people of almost all nations, and (a point in which it excelled all others) boasting of those most sweet and beautiful children, the issue of his marriage, which has been previously mentioned, with queen Elizabeth. For they had ten children, of whom, however, at this time, in consequence of the decease of three, there were but seven surviving. Of these two were boys, Edward, prince of Wales, and Richard, duke of York and Norfolk, but had not yet attained the years of puberty. Their five daughters, most beauteous maidens, were called, naming them in the order of their respective ages, the first, Elizabeth, the second, Cecily, the third, Anne, the fourth, Catherine, and the fifth, Dorothy. Although solemn embassies had been despatched and promises made, on the faith and words of princes, respecting the marriage of each of these daughters, and the same had been, in former years, agreed upon under letters of covenant concluded in the most approved form, still, it was not believed at this time that any one of the alliances above-mentioned would take place; to such mutability was everything subject, in consequence of the vacillating conduct of France, Scotland, Burgundy, and Spain, in regard to England.

This spirited prince now saw, and most anxiously regretted, that he was thus at last deluded by king Louis; who had not only withdrawn the promised tribute, but had declined the alliance which had been solemnly agreed upon between the Dauphin and the king’s eldest daughter; encouraged the Scots to break the truce, and to show contempt for the match with our princess Cecily; and taking part with the burghers of Ghent, used his utmost endeavours to molest the party of the duke of Austria, the king’s ally; as well as, with this singular craftiness, both by sea and by land, in order that he might annihilate the power of this kingdom. Upon this, the king thought of nothing else but taking vengeance; and accordingly, having again summoned Parliament, disclosed to them this prolonged series of frauds, and conciliated the minds of all, as often as time and circumstances afforded him an opportunity for so doing, in order to obtain their assistance in carrying out his plans of revenge. Still, however, though he did not venture as yet to ask any pecuniary subsidies from the Commons, he did not conceal his necessitiies from the prelates, and blandly asked them, with the most earnest entreaties, to grant him the tithes then next due; just as though, when the prelates and clergy once make their appearane in convocation, whatever the king thinks fit to ask, that same ought to be done. Oh, deadly destruction of the Church, which must arise from such servility! May God avert it from the minds of all succeeding kings, ever to make a precedent of an act of this nature! lest, perchance, evils may chance to befall them, worse even than can be conceived, and such as shortly afterwards miserably befell the same king and his most illustrious progeny.

For, shortly after the events already stated, and when the Parliament had been dissolved, the king, neither worn out with old age nor yet seized with any known kind of malady, the cure of which would not have appeared easy in the case of a person of more humble rank, took to his bed. This happened about the feast of Easter; and, on the ninth of April, he rendered up his spirit to his Creator, at his palace of Westminster, it being the year of our Lord, 1483, and the twenty-third year of his reign.

This prince, although in his day he was thought to have indulged his passions and desires too intemporately, was still, in religion, a most devout Catholic, a most unsparing enemy to all heretics, and a most loving encourager of wise and learned men, and of the clergy. He was also a most devout reverer of the Sacraments of the Church, and most sincerely repentant for all his sins. This is testified by those who were present on the occasion of his decease; to whom, and especially to those whom he left as executors of his last will, he declared, in a distinct and Catholic form, that it was his desire that, out of the chattels which he left behind him in such great abundance, made voluntarily, and without extortion on their part, to all those persons to whom he was, by contract, extortion, fraud, or any other mode, indebted. Such was the most beseeming end of this wordly prince, a better than which could not be hoped for or conceived, after the manifestation by him of so large a share of the frailties inherent to the lot of mankind. Hence, too, very strong hopes were afforded to all his faithful servants, that he would not fail to receive the reward of eternal salvation. For after Zaccheus, he had expressed his wish that one half of his goods should be given unto the poor, and that if he had defrauded any one of aught, the same should be returned to him fourfold * * * * * there can be no doubt that, through this intention on his part, salvation was wrought for his soul, because he was a son of Abraham, predestined to the light which God had formerly promised unto Abraham and his seed. For we read that it was not the works of Zaccheus which Christ regarded, but his intentions. Probably, however, this intention on the part of Zaccheus, though he was not then on a bed of sickness, was afterwards carried out; while the king, fully deserving the reward of these his good intentions, was carried off immediately [perhaps] in order than evil thoughts, supplanting them, might not change his designs.

I shall here be silent upon the circumstance upon which might have been mentioned above, in a more befitting place, that men of every rank, condition, and degree of experience, throughout the kingdom, wondered that a man of such corpulence, and so fond of boon companionship, vanities, debauchery, extravagance, and sensual enjoyments, should have had a memory so retentive, in all respects, that the names and estates used to recur to him, just as though he had been in the habit of seeing them daily, of nearly all the persons dispersed throughout the counties of this kingdom; and this even, if, in the districts in which they lived, they held the rank only of a private gentleman. Long before his illness he had made his will, at very considerable length, having abundant means to satisfy it; and had, after mature deliberation, appointed therein many persons to act as his executors, and carry out his wishes. On his death-bed he added some codicils thereto; but what a sad and unhappy result befell all these wise dispositions of his, the ensuing tragedy will more fully disclose.

For while the councillors of the king, now deceased, were present with the queen at Westminster, and were naming a certain day, on which the eldest son of king Edward (who at this time was in Wales), should repair to London for the ceremonial of his coronation, there were various contentions among some of them, what number of men should be deemed a sufficient escort for a prince of such tender years, to accompany him upon his journey. Some were for limiting a greater, some a smaller number, while others again, leaving to the inclination of him who was above all laws (3), would have it to consist of whatever number his faithful subjects should think fit to summon. Still, the ground of these differences was the same in each case; it being the most ardent desire of all who were present, that this prince should succeed his father in all his glory. The more prudent members of the council, however, were of opinion that guardianship of so youthful a person, until he should reach the years of maturity, ought to be utterly forbidden to his uncles and brothers on his mother’s side. This, however, they were of opinion, could not so easily be brought about, if it should be allowed those of the queen’s relatives who held the chief places about the prince, to bring him up for he solemnization of the coronation, without an escort of a moderate number of those. The advice * * * * * of the lord Hastings, the Captain of Calais, at last prevailed; who declared that he himself would fly thither with all speed, rather than await the arrival of the new king, if he did not come attended by a moderate escort. For he was afraid lest, if the supreme power should fall into the hands of the queen’s relations, they would exact a most signal vengeance for the injuries which had been formerly inflicted on them by that same lord; in consequence of which, there had long existed extreme ill-will between the said lord Hastings and them. The queen most beneficiently tried to extinguish every spark of murmuring and disturbance, and wrote to her son, requesting him, on his road to London, not to exceed an escort of two thousand men. The same number was also approved for the before-named lord; as it would appear, he felt fully assured that the dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham, in whom he placed the greatest confidence, would not bring a smaller number with them.

The body of the deceased king being accordingly interred with all honor in due ecclesiasitical form, in the new collegiate chapel of Windsor, which he had erected of the most elaborate workmanship, from the foundations; all were most anxiously awaiting the day of the new king’s coronation, which was to be the first Lord’s day of the month of May, which this year fell on the fourth day of the month. In the meantime, the duke of Gloucester wrote the most soothing letters in order to console the queen, with promises that he would shortly arrive, and assurances of all duty, fealty, and due obedience to his king and lord, Edward the Fifth, the eldest son of the deceased king, his brother, and of the queen. Accordingly, on his arrival at York, with a becoming retinue, each person being arrayed in mourning, he performed a solemn funeral service for the king, the same being accompanied with plenteous tears. Constraining all the noblity of those parts to take the oath of fealty to the late king’s son, he himself was the first of all to take the oath. On reaching Northampton, where the duke of Buckingham joined him, there came thither for the purpose of paying their respects to him, Antony, earl of Rivers, the king’s uncle, and Richard Grey, a most noble knight, and uterine brother to the king, together with several others who had been sent by the king, his nephew, to submit the conduct of everything to the will and discretion of his uncle, the duke of Gloucester. On their first arrival, they were received with an especially cheerful and joyous countenance, and, sitting at supper at the duke’s table, passed the whole time in very pleasant conversation. At last, Henry, duke of Buckingham, also arrived there, and, as it was now late, they all retired to their respective lodgings.

When the morning, and as it afterwards turned out, a most disastrous one, had come, having taken counsel during the night, all the lords took their departure together, in order to present themselves before the new king at Stony Startford, a town a few miles distant from Northampton; and now, lo and behold! when the two dukes had nearly arrived at the entrance of that town, they arrested the said earl of Rivers and his nephew Richard, the king’s brother, together with some others who had come with them, and commanded them to be led prisoners to the north of England. Immediately after, this circumstance being not yet known in the neighbouring town, where the king was understood to be, they suddenly rushed into the place where the youthful king was staying, and in like manner made prisoners of certain others of his servants who were in attendance on his person. One of these was Thomas Vaughan, an aged knight and chamberlain of the prince before-named.

The duke of Gloucester, however, who was the ringleader in this outbreak, did not omit or refuse to pay every mark of respect to the king, his nephew, in the way of uncovering the head, bending the knee, or other posture of the body required in a subject. He asserted that his only care was for the protection of his own person, as he knew for certain that there were men in attendance upon the king who had conspired against both his own honor and his very existence. Thus saying, he caused proclamations to be made, that all the king’s attendants should instantly withdraw from the town, and not approach any place to which the king might chance to come, under penalty of death. These events took place at Stony Stratford on Wednesday, on the last day of April, in the year above-mentioned, being the same in which his father died.

These reports having reached London on the following night, queen Elizabeth betook herself, with all her children, to the sanctuary of Westminster. In the morning you might have seen there the adherents of both parties, some sincerely, others treacherously, on account of the uncertainty of events, siding with one party or the other. For some collected their forces at Westminster in the queen’s name, others at London under the shadow of lord Hastings, and took up their position there.

In a few days after this, the before-named dukes, escorted the new king to London, there to be received with regal pomp; and, having placed him in the bishop’s palace at Saint Paul’s, compelled all the lords spiritual and temportal, and the mayor and aldermen of the city of London to take the oath of fealty to the king. This, as being a most encouraging presage of future prosperity, was done by all with the greatest pleasure and delight. A council being now held for several days, a discussion took place in Parliament about removing the king to some place where fewer restrictions could be imposed on him. Some mentioned the Hospital of Saint John, and some Westminster, but the duke of Buckingham suggested the Tower of London; which was at last agreed to by all, even those who had been originally opposed thereto. Upon this, the duke of Gloucester received the same high office of Protector of the kingdom, which had been given to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, during the minority of king Henry. He was accordingly invested with this authority, with the consent and good-will of all the lords, with power to order and forbid in every matter, just like another king, and according as the necessity of the case should demand. The feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist being appointed as the day upon which the coronation of the king would take place without fail, all both hoped for and expected a season of prosperity for the kingdom. Still, however, a circumstance which caused the greatest doubts was the detention of the king’s relatives and servants in prison; besides the fact that the Protector did not, with a sufficient degree of considerateness, take measure for the preservation of the dignity and safety of the queen.

In the meanwhile, the lord Hastings, who seemed to wish in every way to serve the two dukes and to be desirous of earning their favour, was extremely elated at these changes to which the affairs of the world are so subject, and was in the habit of saying that hitherto nothing whatever had been done except the transferring of the government of the kingdom from two of the queen’s blood to two more powerful persons of the king’s; and this, too, effected without any slaughter, or indeed causing as much blood to be shed as would be produced by the cut of a finger. In the course, however, of a very few days after the utterance of these words, this extreme of joy of his supplanted with sorrow. For, the day previously, the Protector had, with singular adroitness, divided the council, so that one part met in the morning at Westminster, and the other at the Tower of London, where the king was. The lord Hastings, on the thirteenth day of the month of June, being the sixth day of the week, on coming to the Tower to join the council, was, by order of the Protector, beheaded. Two distinguished preplates, also, Thomas, archbishop of York, and John, bishop of Ely, being out of respect for their order, held exempt from captial punishment, were carried prisoners to different castles in Wales. The three strongest supporters of the new king being thus removed without judgment or justice, and all the rest of his faithful subjects fearing the like treatment, the two dukes did thenceforth just as they pleased.

On the Monday following, they came with a great multitude by water to Westminster, armed with swords and staves, and compelled the cardinal lord archbishop of Canterbury, with many others, to enter the sanctuary, in order to appeal to the good feelings of the queen and prompt her to allow her son Richard, duke of York, to come forth and proceed to the Tower, that he might comfort the king his brother. In words, assenting with many thanks to this proposal, she accordingly sent the boy, who was conducted by the lord cardinal to the king in the said Tower of London.

From this day, these dukes acted no longer in secret, but openly manifested their intentions. For, having summoned armed men, in fearful and unheard-of numbers, from the north, Wales, and all other parts then subject to them, the said Protector Richard assumed the government of the kingdom, with the title of King, on the twentieth day of the aforesaid month of June; on the same day, at the great Hall of Westminster, obtruded himself into the marble chair. The colour for this act of usurpation, and his thus taking possession of the throne was the following: — It was set forth, by way of prayer, in an address in a certain roll of parchment, that the sons of king Edward were bastards, on the ground that he had contracted a marriage with one lady Eleanor Boteler, before his marriage to queen Elizabeth; and to which, the blood of his other brother, George, duke of Clarence, had been attainted; so that, at the present time, no certain and uncorrupted lineal blood could be found of Richard duke of York, except in the person of the said Richard, duke of Gloucester. For which reason, he was entreated, at the end of the said roll, on the part of lords and commons of the realm, to assume his lawful rights. However, it was at this time rumoured that this address had been got up in the north, whence such vast numbers were flocking to London; although, at the same time, there was not a person but what very well knew who was the sole (4) mover at London of such seditious and disgraceful proceedings.

These multitudes of people, accordingly, making a descent from the north to the south, under the especial conduct and guidance of Sir Richard Ratcliffe; on their arrival at the town of Pomfret, by command of the said Richard Ratcliffe, and without any form of trial being observed, Antony, earl of Rivers, Richard Grey, his nephew, and Thomas Vaughan, an aged knight, were, in presence of these people, beheaded. This was the second innocent blood which was shed on the occasion of this sudden change.

Notes on Part VII

  1. Hist. Susanna, v. 43.
  2. One would think that “tantæ humanitatis,” can hardly mean “of such humanity,” when applied to such persons as Edward the Fourth and his brother Clarence.
  3. This passage seems to be in a corrupt state.
  4. In allusion, no doubt, to the Duke of Buckingham.