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manding that his claim might be admitted as representative of Lionel, duke of Clarence. The Lancastrians, on the other hand, urged that the duke's claim had become extinct by long abeyance, and that the title of Henry VI. was founded in justice, having been derived from Henry IV., whose accession was confirmed by act of parliament and the universal acquiescence of the nation. Under these circumstances both parties consented to submit their claims to a parliament to be indifferently summoned, and the advocates on either side pleaded eloquently before the house of lords, which for the first time appeared to possess an unbiassed deliberative authority. The friends of Henry and of Edward brought evidence from ancient records, and applied to the crown the same strict rules of inheritance which regulated private property, thus acknowledging the supremacy of the law, which had previously been doubtful in cases where the crown was concerned. Although the duke of York had been victorious over his enemies in the field, he could not so easily obtain a complete victory in parliament. The lords maintained a strict neutrality during the progress of the inquiry, and finally determined on a compromise, by which it was proposed that Henry should retain his throne for life, but that the duke should be declared his successor in preference to the prince of Wales, who was to be excluded from the throne. A statute was enacted in accordance with this decision, and a short time after, in order to show their reconciliation to the people, the king went in state to St. Paul's, attended by the duke as heir-apparent to the throne; but the high-spirited queen was indignant that her son should thus be excluded from the succession, and retiring to the north, prevailed on the earl of Northumberland and other powerful lords to espouse her cause an army was speedily collected, composed in great measure of the borderers, who were accustomed to pillage and rapine, and as a reward for their services the plunder of the country south of the Tyne was promised to them. Hearing of the queen's advance, the duke of York, without waiting to collect his whole forces, marched hastily to meet her, and came up with the Lancastrians at Sandal castle, near Wakefield; the earl of Salisbury earnestly exhorted him to wait for reinforcements from the west under his son the earl of March, but relying on his own valour and the superior discipline of his troops, the duke advanced to Wakefield Green, where his army was surrounded and cut to pieces, and himself slain. The victorious Lancastrians hastened to march to London before the arrival of the earl of March, but the earl of Warwick took up a strong position near St. Alban's, and although the queen succeeded in repulsing him, his army still kept the field, and before approaching London she received intelligence that the
citizens had closed their gates and declared for the earl of March, as nearest surviving heir of the house of York: this caused her to hesitate, and meanwhile the earl of Warwick succeeded in effecting a junction with the forces under the earl of March; their numbers were further augmented by reinforcements from London, so that the Yorkists were again able to renew the offensive. The queen's army finding themselves over-matched in the field, avoided a general engagement and retired to the north, closely followed by the earl of Warwick, who overtook and vanquished them at Towton heath, on the borders of Yorkshire, leaving 36,000 men dead on the field.
EDWARD IV. A.D. 1461-1483.
This victory, by which the earl of March was established on the throne by the title of Edward IV., so weakened the Lancastrian party, that the king, with his queen and the prince of Wales, was obliged to seek shelter on the continent at the court of his father-in-law the duke of Anjou; and although the queen again revived the struggle, her efforts were unsuccessful, and the unfortunate Henry VI. once more fell into the hands of the Yorkists, by whom he was committed a close prisoner to the Tower. The campaign would now have been ended, had not Edward IV. estranged from his interest the earl of Warwick, to whose valour and perseverance he owed his throne. Equally ungrateful and impolitic, Edward banished him from his councils, and refused to sanction the marriage of his daughter with his brother the duke of Clarence notwithstanding the king's opposition, the marriage was consummated, and for some years Edward was obliged to conceal his resentment; but on occasion of a revolt in Lincolnshire he commanded the troops to pursue the duke of Clarence and the earl of Warwick, who, suspecting his designs, succeeded in effecting their escape to the French court, where they were joyfully entertained by Louis XI., and by his skilful diplomacy were introduced to Margaret, the queen of Henry VI., who was still in confinement in the Tower. No sooner was their reconciliation effected than a new scheme was set on foot; it was agreed that the prince of Wales, heir-apparent of the house of Lancaster, should marry Anne, Warwick's second daughter, and that the deposed monarch should be restored to the throne by Warwick's influence to secure the co-operation of the duke of Clarence, it was arranged that if the prince should die without issue he should succeed to the throne, and in that case the house of Lancaster should resign all further title: this arrangement was confirmed by all present, and the undaunted queen once more set out
for the liberation of her husband, under the guidance of her new protector the earl of Warwick. On the earl's landing at Plymouth he proclaimed himself champion of the Lancastrian cause, and marched to Nottingham, where he was joined by many lords; and as his forces daily increased, Edward did not venture to make a stand, but hastening to the sea-coast embarked for Holland. Henry VI. was reinstated on the throne, but Edward soon after returned, bringing with him a few followers and 50,000 crowns, which he professed to be for the recovery of his family estates, and he swore on the altar at York that he had no intention of seizing on the crown. Disarmed by these professions of submission, the Lancastrians were lulled into security, and as soon as Edward could depend on the co-operation of his brother, the duke of Clarence, he threw off the mask, and marching southward engaged the royal army at Barnet, in which battle the earl of Warwick, lord Montague, and other famous leaders of the Lancastrian party, were slain [April 14, 1471]. This victory decided the fate of the throne; the unfortunate Henry was taken, and for the last time committed to the Tower, while his queen and the prince of Wales fell into Edward's hands a few weeks after at the battle of Tewkesbury. According to the narrative of the monkish historians, the conduct of Edward was extremely barbarous: after the battle the prince of Wales was brought into the royal tent and interrogated wherefore he had taken up arms against his sovereign and invaded his kingdom of England; to which he undauntedly replied, "I came to England to maintain my rights, and to revenge my father's wrongs." Edward struck him in the face with his gauntlet, and the courtiers who were standing round pierced him through with their swords. Preyed upon by remorse, Edward is said to have surrendered himself up to evil favourites, and to have indulged in the lowest debaucheries, paying but little attention to the affairs of the kingdom, and on a mere frivolous pretext causing his brother, the duke of Clarence, to be put to death. These statements, however, rest solely on the authority of the monkish historians, who are known to have been secretly, if not openly, in the Lancastrian cause, regarding the sovereigns of the house of York as usurpers, and adverse to the interests of the church: making, however, every allowance for prejudice and partiality, it is evident that the character of Edward IV. will not bear a rigorous scrutiny: nevertheless, as a politician he seems to have understood the position in which he was placed; and knowing the danger of leaving the country at rest after so long a period of excitement, he renewed the claim of the English kings to the throne of France, a scheme exceedingly popular with the lower orders, and by a vigorous attack on Normandy not only
increased his reputation but added to his pecuniary resources, Louis agreeing to pay 75,000 crowns, with a pension of 50,000 a year, besides a further sum of 50,000 for the ransom of his sister Margaret, wife of Henry VI., who had been kept in confinement since the battle of Tewkesbury. To furnish supplies for this war the king resorted to a novel mode of raising loans or benevolences on the merchants and wealthy citizens, promising to pay them when he should obtain money from the commons, a precedent which was followed in later times by the Tudor and Stuart kings. Towards the close of his reign Edward endeavoured to cultivate the friendship of the commons, and with this view resumed the grants of the crown lands, which had been lavishly squandered during the insecurity of the civil wars, so that the royal revenue had dwindled to £5000 a year, although in former times it had been sufficient to support the whole expenditure of government. The lords strongly opposed this measure as depriving them of their wealth, but the commons were zealous in its support, and on several occasions when applied to for new subsidies repeated their request to the king that he would take such order for the recovery of the regal domains that the king might live of his own, as in ancient days, without over-burdening his people. That the object of the commons in pressing this scheme was present relief cannot be doubted, but certain it is that the tendency of such a measure would have been to reduce the power of that body, by taking away their hold on the public purse, and rendering the crown independent of the people: such an adjustment, however, was beyond the power of any monarch to attain, however moderate his household, for since the time to which the commons referred, a vast change had taken place in the relations of society; land was no longer the only source of wealth, and the feudal dues which had abundantly replenished the exchequers of the Norman kings were either difficult to collect or had entirely disappeared, so that the king was compelled mainly to rely on the votes of the house of commons, by which means this body obtained its influential position in the state.
The weakness of the crown and the unsettled state of the country during the reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV. offered a favourable opportunity for innovation, and the commons availed themselves of this position of affairs to change their former mode of petition for complete statutes. This was a vast improvement in the vital principles of the constitution, for according to the ancient custom of petitions the laws of the new session were left to be engrossed till after the dissolution of parliament, when those who had been concerned in their enactment were no longer present to interfere, and the ministers of the crown were able to
alter and modify the intentions of the legislature without even the possibility of detection, so that statutes which were made for the express purpose of reforming the abuses of the government were either mutilated, or so perverted as to fail entirely of their purpose; but the substitution of bills avoided all possibility of error or deception on the part of the executive, and it soon became the admitted maxim of the constitution, that the king must either grant or withhold his consent to the complete statute without addition or modification.
The effect of this change in the procedure of parliament has been regarded by constitutional historians as the commencement of the triple division of our legislature; "for," says Mr. Hallam,* "as it is impossible to deny that while the king promulgated a statute founded upon a mere petition he was himself the real legislator, so I think it is equally fair to assert, notwithstanding the formal preamble of our statutes, that laws brought into either house of parliament in a perfect shape, and receiving first the assent of lords and commons, and finally that of the king, who has no power to modify them, must be deemed to proceed and derive their efficacy from the joint concurrence of all the three;" for although it had been asserted at a much earlier period "that the law of the land was made in parliament by the king, and the lords spiritual and temporal, with all the commonalty of the realm,"† yet this declaration can in the face of existing evidence be taken only as an expression of the spirit and not the practice of the constitution before the reign of Edward IV.
EDWARD V. A. D. 1483.
The jealousy which had long existed between the ancient nobility and the members of the queen's family, the Woodvilles, on account of the favour shown to them by the late king, broke out into open opposition on the death of Edward IV., and prevented that amicable adjustment of affairs which could alone have secured the peace of the kingdom during the minority of Edward V. At the time of his father's death, the prince of Wales was residing with his maternal uncle, the accomplished earl Rivers, on the borders of Wales, and his mother, the dowager queen, proposed that, considering the danger of the times, the earl should be instructed to raise an army, and accompany young prince to London, where he was to have been crowned. This project was opposed by the earl of Hastings, who objected that it would confirm the suspicions of the nobility that the queen's family were aiming at the government of the state; and *Hallam, Middle Ages, ii. p. 223, note. † Rot. Parl. iii. 293.