« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
he prevailed upon the queen to send her son, accompanied only by a small escort, to London. At this time, the king's uncle, Richard earl of Gloucester, happened to be on the borders of Scotland with a considerable army, and hearing the news of his brother's death, hastened to York, where he proclaimed Edward V., and received the oaths and fealty of the nobility in the name of his nephew. On arriving at Northampton, he was received by the earl Rivers and lord Gray, who came to meet him with messages from the king, and proceeded in his company to Stony Stratford, where the court then was. On entering the king's presence, Gloucester charged the earl of Rivers and lord Gray with having alienated from him the affections of his nephew, and, notwithstanding the king's declaration of their innocence, commanded them to be committed close prisoners to Pontefract castle. Having secured those whom he most dreaded, Gloucester next dismissed the king's attendants, and taking him back to Northampton, kept a strict guard on all his actions. The queen, fearing treachery, took sanctuary with her daughters and her two sons, the marquis of Dorset and the infant duke of York, in Westminster abbey; but Gloucester did not think the opportunity yet favourable for his ambitious designs, and accompanying the young prince to London, caused him to be lodged in the bishop's palace, where he received the homage of all who came to the court, and the 22nd of June was fixed as the day of his coronation; but the duke of Buckingham, who appears to have been in Gloucester's intimacy, recommended that the young king and his brother, the duke of York, should be lodged in the Tower for greater security; and the queen was reluctantly compelled to give up her children to the care of Gloucester, who was named protector of the king and kingdom by the council. Finding that the nobility, although opposed to the pretensions of the Woodvilles, were sincerely attached to the king, Gloucester and his friends kept their meetings at Crosby house, and the council continued to sit in the Tower, where it was attended by Hastings, Stanley, and other lords. On the 13th of June, Gloucester unexpectedly entered the Tower, and taking his seat at the council board, conversed familiarly with the lords who were present, but being called off, as if by urgent business, was absent about an hour and a half, and then again entering the chamber with altered countenance, said that he had discovered a plot to destroy his life, and demanded of Hastings, what punishment they deserved who had compassed this villany. "To be punished as traitors," replied the earl. Then Gloucester, laying bare his left arm, which for many years had been withered, exclaimed, “Behold the state to which the witchcraft and sorcery of the queen, my brother's
wife, and his mistress, Jane Shore, have reduced my body; and you too, traitor," (turning to Hastings,) "have been the abettor of this crime." Then, striking his fist on the table, as a signal for his guards to rush in, he exclaimed, "I arrest thee, traitor, and by St. Paul, I will not dine till I have seen thy head off!" The terrified council offered no resistance, and Hastings was hurried away to execution. A similar fate awaited the earl Rivers, lord Gray, sir Thomas Vaughan, and sir Richard Hawse, who, after a mock trial, were beheaded at Pontefract castle. To procure a plausible excuse for depriving his nephew of the throne, Richard now feigned a great concern for religious scruples, and caused a public inquiry to be brought against Jane Shore, the favourite mistress of the late king, and insinuated that Edward and his brother, the duke of York, were not the legitimate children of his brother Edward IV. Having thus prepared the way, Dr. Shaw, an Augustine friar, delivered a violent sermon at Paul's Cross, hoping that a shout would be raised in favour of Richard; but this manœuvre having failed, the duke of Buckingham, next Tuesday (June 24), openly proposed to the people at Guildhall that they should make choice of Richard for their king, and a few hired voices replying in the affirmative, Buckingham expressed his warm approval of the national choice, and desired the people to accompany him to Baynard castle to present the crown to Richard. On receiving the deputation, Gloucester feigned extreme reluctance to deprive his nephews of the throne, and said, that "although he was ready to devote his life for the public good, he had much rather see the crown worn by his fair nephew, for whom he entertained the warmest affection."so," replied Buckingham; "the free people of England will never submit to be ruled by a bastard, and if the rightful heir refuses the sceptre, they know where to find a prince who will gladly accept it." Appearing to be deeply moved, Richard made answer, "If then indeed it is the will of my people, I accept the crown. The farce being thus concluded, Richard hastened to London to possess himself of the royal treasures, and on the 6th of July, 1483, was crowned in Westminster abbey.
RICHARD III. A. D. 1483-1485.
Having succeeded in usurping the throne, Richard III. caused his nephews to be secretly murdered in the Tower, in order to secure himself from the danger of any demonstrations which might be made in their favour. This barbarous deed, however, disgusted the people, and alienated from him a great party in the kingdom, who, though content that he should enjoy the throne,
regarded this act of cruelty as an infringement of their own security; even his firm friend and supporter, the duke of Buckingham, who had been accomplice in all his designs, was so irritated at the arbitrary temper of Richard, that he retired from court, and formed an alliance with the leaders of the Lancastrian party to place the crown on the head of Henry earl of Richmond, grandson of Catherine, widow of Henry V., and of Owen Tudor, and nearest survivor of the house of Lancaster. In this attempt
a great number of the nobility engaged; but the approach of Richard's army precipitated the insurrection before the plans of the insurgents were matured, and Henry, who had set sail with forty ships from St. Malo, in France, was driven back in a storm. Having gone too far to recede with safety to himself, Buckingham advanced, with all the forces he had been able to collect, to the banks of the Severn, with the intention of engaging Richard; but on attempting to cross, he found the banks overflowed, the bridges washed away, and all communication cut off with the opposite shore. After waiting several days in anxious expectation of the news of Henry's landing, he disbanded his army, and endeavoured to make his escape; being, however, discovered, he was brought to Salisbury, where Richard had taken up his head-quarters, and executed.
Thinking himself sufficiently strong, Richard now summoned a parliament, which, overawed by the presence of the army, confirmed his title, and settled the succession on his son, Edward prince of Wales, at the same time attainting the leaders of the late insurrection, and granting the king a subsidy on condition that the system of voluntary loans or benevolences, which had become frequent since the days of Edward IV., should be declared illegal.
Richard, having freed himself from immediate danger, kept his Christmas at Westminster with extraordinary magnificence, and invited to his court the queen of Henry VI. and her daughter Elizabeth, who were treated with every mark of attention, notwithstanding the current report that the latter was espoused to Henry Tudor; in fact, this appears to have been the plan adopted by Richard to thwart the ambition of his rival, for, knowing the influence Henry Tudor would acquire if he should marry the heiress of the house of Lancaster, he promised his own hand to Elizabeth as soon as the death of his queen should set him at liberty. This unnatural connection was eagerly entertained by the mother, although she had lost her brother and her three sons by the hands of the tyrant, and the engagement was to be effected by a still more serious crime. In three months, as Richard had prognosticated, the death of his queen took place, not without
strong suspicion of poison; but his marriage with Elizabeth was indefinitely postponed; for Ratcliffe and Catesby, two confidential advisers, fearing the revenge of Elizabeth for the injuries of her family if she should become queen, persuaded Richard that although he might obtain a dispensation from the pope for their consanguinity, the people would never regard the marriage but as the consummation of murder and incest, and that it might cost him his throne. Richard thereupon assured the citizens of London and York that no such union had ever been in contemplation, and promised to reform the abuses in the government, of which they justly complained; but his unpopularity rendered it unsafe to call frequent parliaments, and his necessities drove him to continue the arbitrary practice of loans, so that his government became every day more insecure. This was a favourable opportunity for Henry to renew his claims, and taking advantage of some dissensions amongst the regal advisers, he ventured to land at Milford Haven, on the western coast. As he advanced through North Wales, he encountered no opposition from the inhabitants; but few ventured to join his standard, fearing the royal army, which lay at Leicester. Henry, however, continued to receive fresh assurances of support from those who could not venture openly to declare in his cause, and lord Stanley raised a considerable body of troops, with the expressed design of joining the royal army, but with the determination of changing sides as soon as opportunity should serve. Without waiting to increase his numbers, Henry marched direct on Tamworth, and met the army of Richard, twice as numerous as his own, on the field of Redmore, about two miles from the town of Bosworth, which gives its name to the decisive battle which was fought there on the 23rd of August, 1485. At first, victory seemed to incline for Richard, but when the royalists saw Stanley on the side of Henry they wavered and fell back; the duke of Northumberland withdrew entirely from the field, and Richard, perceiving that all was lost, spurred his horse into the thickest of the fight, and having killed the standard-bearer, sir William Brandon, made a furious rush at Henry; the blow, however, was warded off by sir William Stanley, and Richard fell, pierced with a hundred wounds. Both sides instantly threw down their arms, and Henry VII. was crowned on the field of battle, with the coronet which had fallen from the head of Richard, amidst shouts of "Long live king Henry." Thus ended the fierce contest of the Roses, which for near thirty years, with slight intermission, had devastated England, and almost exterminated her ancient nobility.
RETROSPECTIVE VIEW FROM THE ACCESSION OF RICHARD II. TO THE EXTINCTION OF THE PLANTAGENET DYNASTY.
A. D. 1377-1485.
Causes of the freedom of the English constitution-Tendency to absolute monarchy on the continent-Absence of a privileged class in EnglandEnd of the feudal and papal period-Form of the constitution-Separation of the executive and legislative functions-Constitution of parliament-Its powers-Change of ecclesiastical policy-Right of the commons to originate money bills-Elective franchise-Parliamentary privilege Liberty of speech-Subserviency of parliament-Royal prerogatives - Purveyance Pardons-Court of wards-Superior condition of the middle classes. BEFORE entering on the Tudor period it will be requisite to take a retrospective view of the progress which England had made since the accession of Richard II., and to compare it with the prospects which the rest of Europe then presented. While in England the disappearance of feudalism was followed by the establishment of a free constitution, on the continent the tendency was to absolute monarchy, and the peasants, who had suffered beneath the tyranny of the feudal nobles, only longed for the day when all should be subjected to one omnipotent will.
For the first six centuries after the establishment of the European monarchies, the people of France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, had enjoyed no ordinary share of liberty; each country had had its assembly of the estates, and the power of the nobles was frequently so exorbitant as to render the royal authority little more than a name; but in the fourteenth century, when the anarchy and oppression of the nobility had driven the mass of the people to seek shelter in the power of the crown, the combined influence of the commons and the sovereign was sufficient to overpower the aristocratic element, while the democratic was yet too weak to supply its place; and thus the limited monarchies of the middle ages became the absolute governments of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was in England alone that the tendency was the reverse; there the original ascendency of the crown had caused the nobles to unite with the people in opposing its aggression, and they gladly surrendered their distinctive privileges to secure the ordinary blessings of freedom. "When," says De Lolme,* "the barons, whom their personal consequence had at first caused to be treated with caution and regard by the sove
* De Lolme, On the Engl. Const., book 1. ch. i. p. 21.