The Arrivall of Edward IV

Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV, in England and the

Finall Recouerye of His Kingdomes from Henry VI. A.D.


Edited by John Bruce, Esq. F.S.A.

Published for the Camden Society


Part I


The principal original historical authorities for the period to which the following narrative relates are, I. The Second Continuation of the History of Croyland(1); II. Fabyan’s Chronicle (2); III. An English Chronicle from which there are large extracts in Leland’s Collectanea (3); IV. The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil (4), and V. The Memoires of Philip de Comines (5) to these is now added in the following narrative, a sixth authority, of greater value than any of them.

The Continuator of the History of Croyland is one of the best of our English Historians of the class to which he belongs. His name is unknown, but it appears in his work that he was a Doctor of Canon Law, was one of Edward IV’s Councillors, and was employed by that monarch upon a foreign mission. Thus connected with the house of York, but not writing until after the battle of Bosworth(6), he holds the balance pretty evenly between the rival parties. He does not dwell much upon minute facts; but the general current of events is clearly, and, in all probability, accurately, detailed by him.

Fabyan’s narrative is such an one as might be expected from a citizen and an alderman of the reign of Henry VII.; full, and no doubt correct, upon all points connected with the popular feeling and with transactions which took place in the City of London, but brief and inaccurate respecting events which passed elsewhere. Fabyan’s bias was towards the Lancastrian party.

Of the Chronicler from whom Leland extracted we know absolutely nothing. The extracts contain many anecdotes and minute particulars, and the spirit and feeling of a contemporary are evident throughout, but I have not observed anything which has enabled me to identify the author. He writes with a very palpable inclination towards the part of “the innocent Henry.”

From what sources Polydore Vergil derived his account of these events is unknown; but he has given an excellent narrative, superior in style, more abundant in facts, and more copious in description than any of those before mentioned. It of course strongly favors the house of Lancaster; and may indeed be considered as the account which that party was desirous should be believed.

I have added Philip de Comines to the catalogue of authorities, principally with a view to his account of Edward the Fourth’s proceedings on the Continent preparatory to his return into England, and his narrative of the battle of Tewkesbury; which last he seems to have received from some of those who fled from thence to the Continent(7). His relation of the intermediate events is extremely inaccurate.

Upon these authorities, which in many points are most singularly contradictory, all our subsequent Chroniclers, with one exception, which will be noticed hereafter, have based their statements. Rastell abridges Fabyan; Hall translates Polydore Vergil and Philip de Comines; Stowe transcribes the Chronicle quoted by Leland: and the rest follow some author and some another.

The present narrative has higher claims to authority than any of those I have noticed. It was written upon the spot; immediately after the events to which it relates; by some person possessed of full means of knowledge; and it will be seen that it was adopted by Edward IV. as an accurate relation of his achievements. All other narratives either emanated from partisans of “the adverse faction,” or were written after the subsequent triumph of the House of Lancaster, when it would not have been purdent–perhaps not safe–to publish any thing which tended to relieve the Yorkists from the weight of popular odium which attached to the real or supposed crimes of their leaders. We have here an authorised version put forth by the Yorkists themselves, and giving their account of the events upon which many of the heavy charges brought against their “house” have been founded.

The author says of himself, that he was a servant of Edward the Fourth, and that he “presently saw in effect a great parte of his exploytes, and the resydewe knew by true relation of them that were present every tyme;” (p.1) and these assertions are corroborated, not merely by the narrative itself, which posseses all the characteristics of a relation of an eye-witness, but in a singular manner also by communication made to the Society of Antiquaries in the year 1820, and published in the Archæologia, vol. xxi. p.11. It appears from that communication, and from a MS relating to the same subject, in the possession of Thomas Amyot, Esq. with the use of which I have been kindly favored, that on the 29th May 1471, three days only after the termination of the following narrative, Edward IV, being then at Canterbury, addressed a letter in French to the Nobles and Burgomasters of Bruges, thanking them for the courteous hospitality he had received from them during his exile, apprising them of the great success which attended his expedition, and referring them to the bearer of the letter for further particulars of his victories. Those “farther particulars” were contained in a very brief French abridgment of the following narrative; and in the Public Library of Ghent there is a quarto MS. volume in vellum which contains a contemporary transcript of the abridgment, and of the King’s letter, all written with great care, and oramented with four illuminations, representing the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, the execution of the Duke of Somerset, and the attack of the Bastard of Fauconberge upon London. It is possible that the Ghent MS. is a copy of the communication received from Edward IV, which was transmitted by the Citizens of Bruges to their brethen of Ghent, who were equally interested in the subject manner with themselves.

The identity of the Ghent MS. as an abridgment of the present narrative is unquestionable. Brief, meagre, and spiritless as it is, it yet contains quite enough to render the connexion indisputable. In both, the succession of events, even down to the most minute that are stated, is precisely the same; in both, whenever several persons or several facts are mentioned in one sentence, they stand in the same order; even in the re-translation from the French back into English, which alone is published in the Archæologia, the same epithets are frequently applied to the same events; and, with the exception of some obvious mistakes in the publication in the Archæologia (8),the same names, dates, and numbers–as, for instance, the numbers of killed in the several battles, and the numbers of troops engaged, as to which there is the greatest discrepancy in all the other accounts, are exactly the same.

The identity of the two narratives, the one as the original, and the other as an abridgment of it, lifeless, uninteresting, and almost useless for historical purposes, but still an abridgment of the more important work now published, being established, we become secure both as to the age and authority of the present work; and if we inquire further whether its contents be of sufficient importance to justify its publication, the result will be most satisfactory.

The events to which it relates have few parallels in history. A fugitive and exile, Edward IV, at the commencement of the year 1471, seemed to have lost all present chance of restoration. The imbecilty of the actual monarch was amply compensated by the vigour of the Earl of Warwick, the principal regent, a nobleman whose importance both parties in the state had by turns seen ample reason to appreciate, and whose present measures gave sufficient indication of the energy with which he was prepared to defend the throne he had raised. The inhabitants of the eastern coast, from the Thames to the borders of Scotland, were raised and arrayed to oppose any hostile landing; the Duke of Clarence, one of Edward’s brothers, was bound to the restored dynasty by being associated, according to some of the authorities, with the Earl of Warwick in the regency, by a marriage with Warwick’s elder daughter, and by a parliamentary entailment of the crown upon him, in exclusion of his elder brother, in case of failure of the descendents of Henry VI; and the new order of things was further strengthened, and the three great families of Lancaster, York, and Neville bound together, as it were, with a triple cord, by the union of the Prince of Wales with Warwick’s younger daughter, the sister of the Duchess of Clarence. Nor was there wanting that only sure foundation to the throne–the affection of the great majority of people. The simplicity and meek piety of Henry; the generous hospitality of Warwick; the hard fortunes of the youthful Prince of Wales; the licentiousness of Edward the Fourth’s life; his undignified marriage; and the unpopularity of his friend Worcester, “the butcher of England;” (9) all these circumstances, operating upon various classes of the community, produced a wide-spread feeling in favour of the cause of Henry VI.

The aspect of affairs upon the Continent seemed equally encouraging to the House of Lancaster. The Duke of Burgundy, the only prince to whom Edward could look for support, was little likely to enter warmly into his cause; for, although married to his sister, he was connected by relationship with Henry VI. and was involved in a war with France, which would become doubly perilous if, upon any opposition to the Lancastrian party, the influence of England were thrown into the scale against him.

Whilst every thing seemed thus secure and prosperous, Queen Margaret and the Prince of Wales prepared to pass into England. Warwick went to the sea coast to receive them; and, if they had landed at that time, their progress to the capital would have resembled a triumph. Detained on the coast of Normandy from February until April by the unusual boisterousness of the weather, they at length, with some difficulty, secured a landing at Weymouth; and what were the tidings with which they were greeted? That, amidst the tempests by which they had been detained, Edward and a small band of followers had landed in the north amongst a people up in arms to oppose him, but whom he had deceived by false respresentations of the purpose of his coming; that he had obtained possession of the metropolis and the person of the King; that Clarence–”false, fleeting, perjured Clarence”–had deserted the cause of Lancaster; that a great battle had been fought; and that Warwick, the centre of all their hopes, had been defeated and killed. “When,” says Hall, paraphrasing the words of Polydore Vergil, “when she harde all these miserable chaunces and misfortunes, so sudainly, one in another’s necke, to have taken effect, she, like a woman all dismaied for feare, fell to the ground, her harte was perced with sorowe, her speache was in a manner passed, all her spirits were tomented with malencholy.” (10)

The remainder of the story may be soon told. The friends of the House of Lancaster gathered around the Queen and Prince; a considerable force was raised; a strong position was taken near Tewkesbury; and on the fourth of May 1471 the two armies met. The results were fatal to the House of Lancaster. The Prince of Wales was killed; after the battle sixteen of his principal adherents were selected from amongst the prisoners and beheaded; and Edward returned to London, bearing Margaret with him as a captive.

One death more brought the tragedy to a close. Edward IV. entered London on the 21st of May, and on the 23rd, according to the following narrative, Henry VI. died in the Tower “of pure displeasure and melancholy.”

The interest which attaches to the persons and situations of the chief actors in these events; the controversies to which the events themselves have given rise; the picture they present of the state of moral degredation to which the English people were reduced by the long civil war,–to which alone Edward’s rapid recovery of the throne and the success of deceptions and crimes by which it was accompanied are to be attributed,–are quite sufficient to justify the addition of our historical authorities of a writer whose means of information were more ample, and whose narrative is anterior in date to any that we possess.

The deaths of the Prince of Wales and Henry VI. are popularly considered to constitute deep blots upon the escutcheon of the House of York; and although the acuteness of some modern writers has little shaken the general faith in the justice of the share in those deaths attributed to the Duke of Gloucester, it has not at all affected the almost universal belief that those Princes were murdered–and murdered through the instrumentality of the heads of the House of York. In the following pages we have a respresentation of the facts relating to both those deaths set forth by the Yorkists themselves, within a few days after their occurrence, and before the public mind had been filled with the rumours which were soon afloat. This is not the place which to enter upon any disquisition as to the manner in which the Yorkist narrative affects their cause; at any event, we shall all agree that they ought to be heard. In the notes, I have brought together the statements of the various contemporary authorities relating to the deaths of the Prince and Henry VI.; and the juxta-position will not only be useful to those who are desirous to approximate towards the truth, but, by displaying the contradictions between the existing authorities, will be found to prove the importance of obtaining further information.

The fate of the following narrative has been singular. Adopted as we have seen by Edward IV., and an abridgment of it translated and sent abroad at the time it was written, it either remained unknown to the English writers of the period, or was considered to be too entirely Yorkist in its tone and spirit to be used during the subsequent ascendency of the House of Lancaster. After the lapse of a century, a MS. of it is ascertained to have been extant in the library of Fleetwood, the well-known Recorder of London in the time of Queen Elizabeth; and from that MS. Fleetwood, without acknowledging his authority, compiled a narrative of Edward’s restoration, which was inserted in Holinshed’s Chronicle (11), and is referred to its author by the name “W. Fleetwood” in the margin. In passing under Fleetwood’s hand, the orthography was modernised, many passages were omitted, many softened, and in some of the most important places the narrative of Hall, translated from Polydore Vergil, was adopted as “more pleasing to Lancastrian ear.” After it had been thus diluted by Fleetwood, it received an infusion of Lancastrian spirit from Abraham Fleming, the editor of that part of Holinshed, who interpolated a number passages from Stowe, derived from the Chronicler with whom we are made acquainted by the extracts in Leland’s Collectanea. In these various ways the red rose was blanched, the colour of the narrative was changed in all its more important passages, and the servant of Edward IV. was transformed into a Lancastrian Chronicler.

It was through the partial representation in Holinshed alone, that the facts contained in this narrative were at all known, until Mr. Sharon Turner, whose endeavours to discover MS. historical authorities cannot be too highly praised, drew attention to the narrative itself, by using and commmending it in his History of England during the Middle Ages (12). To that work I am indebted for my first knowledge of it; and I am not aware that it has ever been noticed by any other writer.

What became of Fleetwood’s MSS. is not, I believe, known; but Stowe, who had access to them, made a copy of the original of the following paper, and that copy, written in the small clear hand of the Chronicler, found its way into the Harleian Library through Sir Symonds D’Ewes. It now forms the third article, in a small quarto volume of Stowe’s Transcripts, numbered 543, amongst the Harleian MSS. It commences on folio 31, and is thus described in a title page written by another hand; “The Historie of the arrivall of King E. 4 in England, and the finall recouerie of his Kingdomes from H. 6 in A.D. 1471. Written by an Anonymus whoe was liuing at the same time and a seruant to saied King E. 4. Transcribed by John Stowe the Chronicler with his owne hand.” The work now published is a copy of Stowe’s MS.

I cannot conclude without an expression of my thanks to the Council of the Camden Society for the readiness with which they adopted my suggestion for the publication of this Document, and also for the kind assistance I have received from them whilst it has been passing through the press.

John Bruce
8th May 1838

Footnotes to the Introduction