Изображения страниц

in those days, and for a long while afterwards, the Tower was both a palace and a prison. But the poor boy was not permitted to see his mother. She was so much afraid that some harm would happen to her children, that she had taken refuge with her youngest son, Richard, and his sisters, in the abbey of Westminster. Some religious houses, of which the abbey was one, had the privilege of affording refuge, or "sanctuary," as it was called, to persons in danger, and no one, not even the king, might force them to come out.

Gloucester desired that the young Prince Richard might be sent to the Tower to keep his brother company, and his mother, much as she feared Gloucester, permitted him to go. She never saw either of her boys again. Preparations had been making for the coronation of the young king all this time, but Gloucester secretly employed persons to go about and persuade the people that his nephew had no right to the throne. He said that Edward the Fourth was really married to another lady, though he pretended not to be so, that he might make Elizabeth Woodville his queen; and most men were too much afraid of Gloucester to say that they did not believe this story, for he had already put to death several of the noblemen who were most attached to his brother's family, on a false charge of treason.

So, on the 24th June, 1483, it was declared that the children of Edward the Fourth could not lawfully inherit the crown; and the Duke of Gloucester was proclaimed king by the title of Richard the Third. A few months afterwards, it was given out that the little princes had died in the Tower; but no one knew

[blocks in formation]

certainly what had become of them till long afterwards. In the next reign two men said that they had been ordered to murder the poor boys, and that they had smothered them one night in their sleep; and two hundred years afterwards, a chest containing the bones of two children was found buried underneath one of the staircases in the Tower. These were supposed to be the remains of the unfortunate little King Edward the Fifth and his brother.

The reign of Richard the Third lasted little more than two years. In that time several good laws were made, and had he not gained the crown by wicked means, Richard would have been thought a good king. But he had few friends even amongst the men who served him.

A few months after his coronation, the Duke of Buckingham, who had greatly helped him to obtain the throne, raised a great revolt against him in the western counties. It came to nothing, because the Severn, swollen by heavy rains, flooded all the neighbouring country, and the duke's troops could not march. Buckingham himself was betrayed into Richard's power by an old servant, and beheaded.

But a more formidable enemy was at hand-Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. He was the grandson of that Owen Tudor whom Katharine of France married after the death of her first husband, King Henry the Fifth, and by his mother's side he was descended from John of Gaunt, the father of Henry the Fourth.

During the war of the Roses, all the Lancastrian princes had been cut off, and such of their friends as were still living, looked upon Henry Tudor as the head of their party. He had made friends amongst the

Yorkists also by promising to marry Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Edward the Fourth. One of his chief adherents was the Yorkist Lord Stanley, who was also his step-father. But Stanley was one of Richard's chief officers, and he dissembled his attachment to his step-son until he could safely throw off the mask.

In August, 1485, Richmond landed in Wales. The Welsh were almost all friendly to him, because he came of a Welsh family; and he advanced without meeting any opposition as far as Bosworth in Leicestershire. There he encountered Richard, and on the 22d August, 1485, was fought the last battle of the War of the Roses. In the midst of the action, Lord Stanley decided the fortune of the day by going over with all his forces to Richmond. Richard saw that all was lost, and plunging into the thickest of the fight, he presently fell, covered with wounds. The crown, which he had worn above his helmet, was found in a hawthorn-bush, and carried to Stanley, who placed it on the head of Richmond, and proclaimed him king, on the battle-field, by the title of Henry the Seventh.

Richard the Third was the last of the Plantagenet kings, who had ruled over England since the accession of Henry the Second in 1154—a period of three hundred and thirty-one years. During that time the nation had made great advances in power, wealth, and freedom; and even while the country was suffering from the wars of the Roses, England was thought happy beyond other kingdoms of Europe, because the king could not impose taxes or make laws without the consent of the two Houses of Parliament.




France, and several other great and powerful States, the king made laws without the consent of the people; and they were forced to obey them.

During the last two or three reigns, the English had begun to pay a little more attention to learning. For a long while it had been left entirely to the Clergy, and many a great baron had not been able so much as to sign his name; but now some of the chief men in the country took pleasure in studying. At this time, too, Printing was first practised in England. It was invented about the year 1450, by a German, named Guttenberg. William Caxton was the first Englishman who learned the art, and the first printingpress was set up by him in the Abbey of Westminster, in the reign of Edward the Fourth. Caxton worked hard for nearly twenty years, printing histories of knights and heroes, Scripture stories, and various religious books; but he was not allowed to print an English Bible. For a long time yet the English Bible could only be had in written copies, and these were so dear that it would have taken all the wages of a labouring man for one year to enable him to purchase the New Testament only. Even those persons who possessed a copy of the Bible in English, and were able to read it, ran great risk of being punished as heretics; for the Clergy had forbidden any one to read Wickliffe's translation of the Scriptures.



(From 1485 to 1502.)

Two months after the battle of Bosworth, Henry Tudor was crowned king, and in the January following he married the Princess Elizabeth of York. The Red and White Roses were thus united, and the country began to be at peace. But the Yorkists were by no means contented with Henry's government, and more than one revolt was raised against him.

There still lived a prince of the royal house of York, Edward, Earl of Warwick, the son of that unhappy Duke of Clarence who had been put to death by his brother, King Edward the Fourth. Henry was so afraid that the Yorkists would try to set Warwick on the throne, that he kept him in close confinement; and the poor boy, shut up in the Tower, without teachers, companions, or amusements, grew up almost an idiot. When he was about seventeen, a clever handsome youth landed in Ireland, calling himself the Earl of Warwick. He was accompanied by a small body of followers, who gave out that he was the true son of Clarence, and the rightful King of England.

The Irish, who had been much attached to the House of York, readily believed the fable, proclaimed the young pretender by the title of Edward the Sixth, and flocked to his standard. Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of Edward the Fourth, was also deceived (or feigned to be so); she declared herself satisfied that the youth was her nephew, and sent over two thousand men to fight for him. His real name was

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »