Yes, my good Lord,
It doth contain a king: King Richard lies
Witiiin the limits of yon lime and stone.
The earl of Lincoln, declared by Richard the Third, heir to the crown, did not join the royal forces, nor appear at the battle of Bosworth. This distinguished prince was a man of singular abilities and strength of mind, which chivalrous generosity adorned with a lustre superior even to that which he derived from his high rank. Lord Lovel was possessed of knightly courage, untarnished honour, and gentlemanly accomplishment. To these military and graceful qualities Lincoln added the wisdom of a statesman and the moral energy resulting from inflexible principle. He felt himself responsible to mankind and to all posterity for his actions. He was brave—that was a virtue of the times; but he was just, in a comprehensive sense of the word, and that exalted him above them. His manly features did not so much wear the stamp of beauty, though, like all the offspring of the House of York, he was handsome, as of the best quality of man, a perception of right, and resolution to achieve that right.
Lord Lincoln disapproved decidedly of the usurpation of his uncle, Richard the Third, over the children of Edward the Fourth. He allowed that the evidence was strong in favour of that king's former marriage, and their consequent illegitimacy; but he said, that Elizabeth Woodville had so long been held queen of England, and her children heirs to the crown, that it was impossible to eradicate the belief of the English people, that their allegiance was due to him who had been proclaimed even by his uncle, Edward the Fifth. Even if they were put aside, the attainder passed against the duke of Clarence was an insufficient reason to deprive his son of his lawful inheritance. He saw England wasted, and her nobility extirpated by civil contest; and he perceived the seeds of future strife in the assumption of the crown by the duke of Gloucester. When the son of Richard the Third died, and the earl of Warwick was named his successor, the superior right of the nephew before the reigning uncle became so eminent a subject of discussion, that the king was obliged to recall his declaration, and to confine the young prince in a castle in Yorkshire. The earl of Lincoln, then seven and twenty years of age, was next named. He remonstrated vrith his uncle privately; but fear of dividing the House of York against itself, and a disdain to make common cause with the dowager queen's relations, made him outwardly submit; but his plan was formed, and secretly all his efforts tended towards the restoring the children of Edward to their paternal rights.
The boys were sickly. Edward the Fifth, irritated by the extinction of the hopes which the intrigues of his mother had kept alive in his breast, wasted by imprisonment in the Tower, and brooking with untamed pride the change from a regal to a private station, pined and died. Richard, duke of York, was between ten and eleven; a sprightly, ingenuous boy, whose lively spirit wore out his frame, and this, added to confinement and attention to his dying brother, brought him also near the grave. It was on the death of Edward, that the earl of Lincoln visited the Tower, and saw young Richard. The accounts given by the attendants of his more than a child's devotion to his brother, his replies full of sportive fancy, his beauty, though his cheek was faded and his person grown thin, moved the generous noble to deep compassion. He ventured, under the strong influence of this feeling, to remonstrate warmly with his royal uncle, reproaching him with needless cruelty, and telhng him how in fact, though not in appearance, he was the murderer of his nephews, and would be so held by all mankind. Richard's ambition was satisfied by the success of his measures to obtain the crown; but his fears were awake. The duke of Buckingham was in arms against him—the queen and her surviving relatives were perpetually employed in exciting discontents in the kingdom. Richard feared that if they obtained the person of his nephew, he would be turned into an engine for his overthrow; while to obtain possession of him was the constant aim of their endeavours. He earnestly desired to reconcile himself to the queen, and to draw her from the sanctuary in which she had immured herself—she refused all his offers, unless her son was first placed in her hands.
His head, ripe with state plots, now conceived a scheme. He consented that Lincoln should take the duke of York under his charge, if he would first engage to keep his removal from the Tower, and even his existence, a secret from his enemies. Lincoln made the required promise; the young prince was conveyed to a country seat belonging to the earl, and Richard, in furtherance of his plan, caused a rumour to go abroad that he also was dead. No one knew with whom this report originated. When, to assure themselves, various nobles visited the Tower, the boy was no longer there. The queen gave credit to the tale. At this moment, Richard set on foot a negotiation of marriage with the eldest daughter of Edward the Fourth, the Lady Elizabeth. The partizans of the earl of Richmond sought to ensure the success of his enterprise by the same means: and while little Richard grew in health and happiness in his country retreat, his own nearest and most attached relatives were giving away his inheritance—his uncle unwittingly laid the foundation stone of the reputation of cruelty and murder ever after affixed to him; and his mother, endeavouring to exalt her daughter, and to restore herself to her lost station in the kingdom, sealed the fatal decree that first deprived her son of his rights, and afterwards of his life.
On the evening that Lord Lovel and Edmund Plantagenet entered London, the earl of Lincoln remained waiting intelligence from the field, in a palace he inhabited not far from Tottenham Court, a secluded habitation, surrounded by a garden and a high wall. This was an irksome situation for a warrior; but though his uncle loved, he distrusted him: his projected marriage with the Lady Elizabeth would probably cause him again to be father of an heir to the crown, and knowing that Lincoln possessed, in the young duke of York, a dangerous rival, he refused to allow him to take up arms against Richmond. Lord Lincoln was alone, pacing his large and vaulted hall in deep and anxious meditation. He, who with conscience for his rule, takes, or endeavours to take, the reins of fate into his own hands, must experience frequent misgivings; and often feel that he wheels near the edge of a giddy precipice, down which the tameless steeds he strives to govern may, in an instant, hurl him and all dependent upon his guidance. The simple feeling of compassion, arising from the seeing childhood lose its buoyancy in undue confinement, had first led the princely noble to take charge of his young cousin. Afterwards, when he beheld the boy grow in health and years, developing the while extraordinary quickness of intellect, and a sweet, ingenuous disposition, he began to reflect on the station he held, his rights and his injuries; and then the design was originated on which he was now called to act.
If Richard gained the day, all would stand as before. Should he be defeated—and that second sense, that feeling of coming events, which is one of the commonest, though the least acknowledged of the secret laws of our nature, whispered the yet unrevealed truth to him—who then would assume England's diadem, and how could he secure it for its rightful owner, the only surviving son of Edward the Fourth? All these reflections coursed themselves through his brain, while, with the zeal of a partizan, and the fervour of one wedded to the justice of his cause, he revolved every probable change of time and fortune.
At this moment a courier was announced: he brought tidings from the field. As is usual on the eve of a great event, they were dubious and contradictory. The armies faced each other, and the battle was impending. The doubts entertained on both sides, as to the part that Lord Stanley would take, gave still a greater uncertainty to the anticipations of each.
Soon after the arrival of this man, the loud ringing at the outer gate was renewed; and the trampling of horses, as they entered the court, announced a more numerous company. There was something in the movements of his domestics that intimated to the earl that his visitor was of superior rank. Could it be the king, who had fled; conquered, and a fugitive? Could such terms be applied to the high-hearted Richard? The doors of the hall were thrown open, and the question answered by the entrance of his visitant: it was a woman; and her name, "Lady Brampton!" in a tone of wonder, burst from the noble's lips.
"Even I, my good lord," said the lady; "allow me your private ear; I bring intelligence from Leicestershire. All is lost," she continued, when the closing of the door assured her of privacy; "all is lost, and all is gained—Richard is slain. My emissaries brought swift intelligence of this event to me at Northampton, and I have hastened with it hither, that without loss of time you may act."
There was a quickness and a decision in the lady's manner, that checked rather than encouraged her auditor. She continued: "Vesper hour has long passed—it matters not—London yet is ours. Command instantly that Richard the Fourth be proclaimed king of England."
Lord Lincoln started at these words. The death of his uncle and benefactor could not be received by him like the loss of a move at chess; a piece lost, that required the bringing up of other pieces to support a weak place. "The king is slain," were words that rang in his ears: drowning every other that the lady uttered with rapidity and agitation. "We will speak of that anon," he replied; and going to the high window of his hall, he threw it open, as if the air oppressed him. The wind sighed in melancholy murmurs among the branches of the elms and limes in the garden: the stars were bright, and the setting moon was leaving the earth to their dim illumination. "Yesternight," thought Lincoln, "he was among us, a part of our conversation, our acts, our lives; now his glazed eyes behold not these stars. The past is his: with the present and the future he has no participation."
Lady Brampton's impatience did not permit the earl long to indulge in that commune with nature, which we eagerly seek when grief and death throws us back on the weakness of our human state, and we feel that we ourselves, our best laid projects and loftiest hopes, are but the playthings of destiny. "Wherefore," cried the lady, "does De la Poole linger? Does he hesitate to do his cousin justice? Does he desire to follow in the steps of his usurping predecessor? Wherefore this delay?"
"To strike the surer," replied Lincoln. "May not I ask, wherefore this impatience?"
Even as he spoke, steps were heard near the apartment; and while the eyes of both were turned with inquietude on the expected intruder, Lord Lovel entered: there was no triumph, no eager anticipation on his brow—he was languid from ill success and fatigue. Lincoln met him with the pleasure of one who sees his friend escaped from certain death. He was overjoyed to be assured of his existence; he was glad to have his assistance on the present emergency. "We know," he said, "all the evil tidings you bring us; we are now deliberating on the conduct we are to pursue: your presence will facilitate our measures. Tell me what other friends survive to aid us. The duke of Norfolk, the Staffords, Sir Hobert Brakenbury, where are they?"
Lovel had seen the duke fall, the Staffords had accompanied his flight; uncertainty still hung over the fate of many others. This detail of the death of many of their common friends, subdued the impetuosity of the lady, till an account of how Richard himself had fought and been slain recalled her to their former topic of discussion; and, again, she said, "It is strange that you do not perceive the dangers of delay. Why is not the king proclaimed?"
"Do you not know," asked Lord Lovel, "that the king is proclaimed?"
Lady Brampton clasped her hands, exclaiming, "Then Richard the Fourth will wear his father's crown!"
"Henry the Seventh," said Lovel, "possesses and wears the English crown. Lord Stanley placed the diadem on the head of the earl of Richmond, and his soldiers, with one acclaim, acknowledged him as their sovereign."
"This is mere trifling," said the lady; "the base-born offspring of Lancaster may dare aspire so high, but one act of ours dethrones him. The Yorkists are numerous, and will defend their king: London is yet ours."
"Yes," replied Lincoln, "it is in our power to deluge the streets of London with blood, to bring massacre among its citizens, and worse disaster on its wives and maidens. I would not buy an eternal crown for myself—I will not strive to place that of England on my kinsman's head—at this cost. We have had over-much of war: I have seen too many of the noble, young, and gallant, fall by the sword. Brute force has had its day; now let us try what policy can do."
The council these friends held together was long and anxious. The lady still insisted on sudden and resolute measures. Lord Lovel, a soldier in all his nature, looked forward to the calling together the Yorkists from every part of the kingdom. The earl, with a statesman's experience, saw more of obstacle to their purpose in the elevation of Henry the Seventh than either of his companions would allow; the extreme youth of the duke of York, the oblivion into which he had sunk, and the stain on his birth, which was yet unremoved, would disincline the people to hazard life and fortune in his cause. Henry had taken oath to marry his sister, the Lady Elizabeth, and when thus the progeny of Edward the Fourth were freed from the slur under which they now laboured, the whole country would be alive to the claims of his only son. It was necessary now to place him in safety, and far away from the suspicious eyes of his usurping enemy. That morning Lord Lincoln had brought him up from his rural retreat to the metropolis, and sheltered him for a few hours under safe but strange guardianship. He was left at the house of a Flemish money-lender well known at court. It was agreed that Lord Lovel should take him thence, and make him the companion of his journey to Colchester, where they should remain watching the turn of events, and secretly preparing the insurrection which would place him on the throne. Lady Brampton was obliged to proceed immediately northwards to join her husband; the north was entirely Yorkist, and her influence would materially assist the cause. The earl remained in London; he would sound the inclinations of the nobility, and even coming in contact with the new king, watch over danger and power at its fountain-head. One more question was discussed: Whether the queen, Elizabeth Woodville, should be made acquainted with the existence of her son. All three, from various reasons, decided in the negative. A personal enmity existed between the widow of Edward the Fourth and Lady Brampton: her party was detested by the two nobles. It would be more popular with the nation, they thought, if her kinsmen, whose upstart pretensions were the object of the derision and scorn of the old aristocracy, had no part in bestowing the crown on the heir of the House of York. Time wore away during these deliberations; it was past midnight before the friends separated. Lord Lovel presented his young friend, Edmund Plantagenet, to the earl, and recommended him to his protection. Refreshment was also necessary after Lovel's fatiguing journey; but he was so intent on accomplishing his purpose, that he wasted but a few minutes in this manner, and then being provided with a fresh horse from Lincoln's stables, he left the palace to proceed first to the abode of Richard of York, and afterwards, accompanied by him, on his road to Essex.
Lord Lovel threaded his way through the dark narrow streets of London towards Lothbury. The habitation of the moneylender was well known to him, but it was not easily entered at past midnight. A promised bribe to the apprentice who hailed him from the lofty garret-window, and his signet-ring sent in to his master, at length procured admission into the bedchamber of Mynheer Jahn Warbeck. The old man sat up in his bed, his red cotton night-cap on his head, his spectacles, with which he had examined the ring, on his nose; his chamber was narrow and dilapidated, his bed of ill condition. "Who would suppose," thought Lovel, "that this man holds half England in pawn?"
When Warbeck heard that the errand of Lovel was to take from him his princely charge, he rose hastily, wrapping a robe round him, and opened a small wainscoat door leading into a little low room, whence he drew the half-sleeping and wondering boy. There was a rush taper in the room, and daylight began to peep through the crevices of the shutters, giving melancholy distinctness to the dirty and dismantled chamber. One ray fell directly on the red night-cap and spectacles of old Jahn, whose parchment face was filled with wrinkles, yet they were lines of care, not of evil, and there was even benevolence in his close mouth; for the good humour and vivacity of the boy had won on him. Besides, he had himself a son, for whom he destined all his wealth, of the same age as the little fellow whose plump roseate hand he held in his own brown shrivelled palm. The boy came in, rubbing his large blue eyes, the disordered ringlets of his fair hair shading a face replete with vivacity and intelligence. Mynheer Jahn was somewhat loth to part with the little prince, but the latter clapped his hands in ecstacy when he heard that Lord Lovel had come to take him away.
"I pray you tell me, Sir Knight," said old Warbeck, "whether intelligence hath arrived of the victory of our gracious sovereign, and the defeat of the Welch rebels."
Richard became grave at these words; he fixed his, eyes inquiringly on the noble: "Dear Lord Lovel," he cried, "for I remember you well, my very good lord, when you came to the Tower and found me and Robert Clifford playing at bowls—tell me, how you have fought, and whether you have won."
"Mine are evil tidings," said Lord Lovel; "all is lost. We were vanquished, and your royal uncle slain."
Warbeck's countenance changed at these words; he lamented the king; he lamented the defeat of the party which he had aided by various advances of money, and his regrets at once expressed sorrow for the death of some, and dread from the confiscation of the property of others. Meanwhile, Richard of York was full of some thought that swelled his little breast; taking Lovel's hand, he asked again, "My uncle, Richard the Third, is dead?"
"Even so," was the reply; "he died nobly on the field of battle."
The child drew himself up, and his eyes flashed as he said proudly,—"Then I am king of England."
"Who taught your grace that lesson?" asked Lovel.
"My liege—my brother Edward. Often and often in the long winter nights, and when he was sick in bed, he told me how, after he Lad been proclaimed king, he had been dethroned; but that when our uncle died he should be king again; and that if it pleased God to remove him, I should stand in his place; and I should restore my mother's honour, and this he made me swear."
"Bless the boy!" cried Warbeck, "he speaks most sagely; may the saints incline my lord, the earl of Lincoln, to do his royal cousin justice!"
"Your grace," said Lovel, "shall hear more of this as we proceed on our journey. Mynheer Jahn, the earl bade me apply to you; you are to repair to him before noon; meanwhile, fill this long empty purse with gold coins. He will be my guarantee."
"Lend me the money," cried the little duke, "I will repay you. We will repay you, when we have our crown."
This was an inducement not to be resisted.counted out the gold; the boy with light steps tripped down the creaking old staircase, and when Lovel had mounted, taking his hand, he sprung in the saddle before him. The fresh morning air was grateful to both, after the close chambers of the Fleming. The noble put his horse to a quick trot, and leaving London by a different road from that by which he had entered, took his way through Romford and Chelmsford to Colchester.
The news of the earl of Richmond's victory and assumption of the crown reached London that night. The citizens heard it on their awakening. The market people from the west related it to those who came in from the east; but it had not hitherto travelled in that direction. Lovel knew that the storm was behind him, but he outrode it; on the evening of the second day he was safe in sanctuary at Colchester. His young charge was lodged at a farm-house belonging to a tenant of Sir Humphrey Stafford. They all awaited impatiently for the time when the earl of Lincoln would put a period to their confinement, by informing them that the hour was arrived when they might again take arms against the upstart Lancastrian king.