THE BATTLE OF NEWARK.
Within these ten days take a monastery;
A most strict house; a house where none may whisper,
Where no more light is known but what may make you
Believe there is a day; where no hope dwells,
Nor comfort but in tears.
Beaumont and Fletcher.
With the consciousness of this plot weighing on her mind, Elizabeth Woodville continued her usual routine of life, and made a part of the court of Henry the Seventh. She had long been accustomed to pass from one evil to the other, and to find that when one cause for unhappiness died away, it gave instant place to another. She felt, with all the poignancy of a mother's disappointed pride, the situation of her daughter. Neglect was the lightest term that could be applied to the systematized and cold-hearted tyranny of Henry towards his wife. For not only he treated her like an unfavoured child, whose duty it was to obey without a murmur, and to endeavour to please, though sure of being repulsed. At the same time that he refused to raise her above this state of degradation, lie reproached her with the faults of maturity, and stung her womanly feelings with studied barbarity. He taunted her with her attachment, to her family and its partizans; spoke with triumph of its overthrow; and detailed with malignant pleasure every severe enactment passed by himself against the vanquished Yorkists. Then, again, he accused her of participating in her parent's intrigues; and though proud of the son she had given him, as the heir of his crown, he divided, as much as possible, the infant from the mother, under the avowed though ridiculous pretence of preventing her from inculcating principles of rebellion towards his liege and father.
This last blow sunk deep. She had hitherto borne his harshness meekly, sustained by the hope of overcoming his flinty nature by softness and yielding. She had anticipated that the fresh enmity conceived against her on the event of Lord Lovel's rebellion would be entirely allayed by her pretty Arthur, whose birth was solemnized by many rejoicings. But when she found this last hope fail, every expectation of good died away with it. Among other acts of duty, she had for a long time pursued a system of self-denial, deeming it a breach of duty to complain of her husband, even to her mother. But this mother, acquainted with the secrets of the human heart, and desirous of detaching her entirely from her husband, exerted all the influence that one experienced and firm can exercise over the young and vacillating: she brought her to lament her situation, and to complain of each fresh token of the king's disregard. The barrier of self-restraint once broken through, the sympathy and remonstrances of her parent emboldened her to such a change of conduct towards Henry, as at first excited his surprise, then his contempt. The many rumours afloat concerning the existence of the duke of York served also to rouse his angry mood. If at first he appeared somewhat complaisant towards his mother-in-law, it was from an endeavour to put her off her guard, and to attract or surprise her confidence on the point which lay nearest his heart; but when he found that his attacks were vain, his undisguised arrogance and her ill-concealed resentment produced scenes, disgraceful in themselves, and agonizing to the wife and daughter who was their witness.
At this moment, when suspicion was abroad—the Lancastrians fearful, the Yorkists erect with renewed hopes—like the bursting of a thunderstorm came the intelligence of the appearance of the earl of Warwick in Dublin, his enthusiastic reception there, the rising of the people in his favour, and the menaces held out by him of his intention to wrench the sceptre of England from the hand of him who held it.
Henry alone heard these momentous tidings with contempt. The earl of Kildare, lord-lieutenant of the kingdom, had received the pretender with princely honours; yet the very circumstance of a false son of Clarence being supported by the Yorkists was the occasion of satisfaction to him; his only fear arose from the probable mystery covered by these designs. He was angry at the disloyalty manifested; but it was in a distant province, and so came not home to him. There appeared no falling off, no disturbance among his English subjects. Still caution and policy were the weapons he best loved to wield; and he despatched several spies to Ireland, to endeavour to fathom the extent and nature of the rebellion. The chief among them was his own secretary, Frion, a Frenchman—a crafty and experienced implement. He succeeded in bringing back irrefragable proof that the dowager queen mingled deeply in the plot.
Henry hated Elizabeth Woodville. He considered that it was principally through her restless scheming that he had been forced to marry the portionless (her detested claim to his crown her only dower) daughter of York, instead of formingunion with a foreign princess; perhaps Mary of Burgundy, or Anne of Britanny, either of whom would have brought gold to his coffers, or extensive domains to his empire. He hated her, because he deeply suspected that she was privy to the existence of a formidable rival to his state. He knew that the young duke of York had not died in the Tower. In every way she was his enemy; besides that linked to her ruin was the sweet idea of confiscation, one ever entertained with delight by the money-loving king.
He assembled a council in his palace at Shene, which stood near where Richmond now stands. The chiefs of the English nobility were his counsellors. The duke of Buckingham, son of him who first favoured, and then rose against Richard the Third. The lords Dawbeny and Broke, who had been raised to the peerage for their services in the same cause. Lord and Sir William Stanley, men to whom Henry principally owed his crown. Others there were of high rank and note; but the king paid most attention to two priests: John Morton, bishop of Ely, and Richard Fox, bishop of Exeter, were his private advisors and friends, as well as public counsellors. Morton had watched over his interests while in exile; he first had excited the duke of Buckingham to revolt, and hatched the plot which placed Richmond on the throne.
The council held was long and solemn, and the results brought about more by insinuation than open argument, were different from those expected by most of the persons present. First it was resolved that a general pardon should be proclaimed to the insurgents. No exceptions were to be made; those persons then in the very act of setting up his adversary were included; for as, by the second decree, that the real earl of Warwick should be shown publicly in London, the deception would become manifest; if indeed they were deceived, it was thought more politic to reclaim them by clemency, than by severe measures to drive them to despair.
The third and last enactment was levelled against the queen dowager. Many of the council were astonished to hear it proposed, that she should forfeit all her goods and lands, and be confined for life in a convent, for having consented to the marriage of her daughter and Richard the Third, while the ready acquiescence of the king and his chief advisers made them perceive that this measure was no new resolve. These three decrees passed, the council separated, and Henry returned to Westminster, accompanied by Sir William Stanley. To him he spoke openly of the treason of the queen: he even ventured to say, that he was sure that some mystery lurked beneath; he commissioned Stanley, therefore, to notify the order of council to her majesty; but at the same time to show her, that disclosure, and reliance on the king, would obtain her pardon. Sir William Stanley was a courtier in the best sense of the term; a man of gentle manners; desirous of doing right, easily excited to compassion, but ambitious and timid; one in truth than whom none could be more dangerous; for his desire to please those immediately before him, led him to assume every appearance of sincerity, and perpetually to sacrifice the absent to the present.
Elizabeth heard, with utter dismay, the sentence passed against her;—courage was restored only when she found that her freedom could be purchased by the confession of her son's existence, and place of abode. She repelled Stanley's solicitations with disdain; answered his entreaties with an appeal to his own feelings, of how far, if such a secret existed, it were possible that she, a mother, should intrust it to the false and cruel king. Stanley speedily found his whole battery of persuasion exhausted; he withdrew in some wonder as to what the real state of things might be, and full of the deepest compassion. She had indeed scarcely veiled the truth to him; for, calling to mind the fate of the wretched Margaret of Anjou, she asked him, whether, like her, she should expose the young orphan York to the fate of the Lancastrian Prince Edward. But Stanley shrunk from being privy to such disclosures, and hastily withdrew.
Henry had not exhausted all his hopes: glad as he was to wreak his vengeance on the queen, and to secure her possessions to himself, he was not so blind as not to see that the knowledge of her secret were a far greater prize. His next implement was her eldest son, the marquess of Dorset. Lord Dorset had been so active in his opposition to Richard the Third, and had done such good service to his adversary, that Henry overlooked his near kindred to the queen dowager, regarding him rather as the representative of his father. Sir John Gray, who had fallen in the cause of Lancaster. He became indeed a sort of favourite with the king. Dorset was proud, self-sufficient, and extravagant, but his manners were fascinating, his spirit buoyant, and Henry, who was accustomed to find the storms of party lowering like winter over his domestic circle, found relief only when Dorset was present. The present occasion, however, called forth other feelings in the haughty noble; he might be angry with his mother's plotting, but he was more indignant at the severity exercised against her; and far from furthering Henry's designs, he applauded her resistance, and so irritated the king, that it ended by his sudden arrest, and being committed to the Tower.
And now all hope was at an end for the unhappy lady. The various acts of her tragic history were to close in the obscurity and poverty of a convent-prison. Fearful that her despair would lead her to some deed that might at least disturb the quiet and order he loved, Henry had resolved that no delay should have place, but that on the very morrow she should be conveyed to Bermondsey. She was to be torn from her family—her five young daughters, with whom she resided. The heartless tyrant was callous to every pang that he inflicted, or rejoiced that he had the power to wound so deeply one whom he abhorred. Lady Brampton was with her to the last; not to sustain and comfort her; the queen's courage and firmness was far greater than that of her angry friend; she pointed out the hope, that the cruelties exercised towards her might animate the partisans of York to greater ardour; and tears forced themselves into her eyes only when she pictured Richard, her victorious sovereign and son, hastening to unbar her prison doors to restore her to liberty and rank. The night was spent in such discourses between the ladies. With early dawn came the fated hour, the guard, the necessity for instant departure. She disdained to show regret before Henry's emissaries; and with one word only to her friend—"I commit him to your guidance," she yielded to her fate; submitting to be torn from all she loved, and, without an expressed murmur, entered the litter that bore her singly to her living grave.
The same sun that rose upon the melancholy progress of Elizabeth Woodville towards Bermondsey, shone on a procession, more gaudy in appearance, yet, if that were possible, more sad at heart. This was the visit, ordered by the king, of the earl of Warwick to St. Paul's Cathedral; thus to contradict to the eyes of all men the pretender in Ireland. Warwick had spent a year in the Tower, in almost solitary imprisonment. Hopeless of freedom, worn in health, dejected from the overthrow of all the wild schemes he had nourished at Sheriff Hutton, linked with the love he bore his cousin, the Lady Elizabeth, now queen of England, he could hardly be recognized as the same youth who had been her companion during her residence there. He was pale; he had been wholly neglectful of his person; carking sorrow had traced lines on his young brow. At first he had contemplated resisting the order of being led out as a show to further his enemies' cause: one futile and vague hope, which could only have sprung up in a lover's heart, made him concede this point. Perhaps the court—the queen would be there.
He met several noble friends, commanded by Henry to attend him; for it was the king's policy to surround him with Yorkists, so to prove that he was no counterfeit. Alas!
"These cloudy princes, and heart-sorrowing peers,"
assembled like shadows in the dim abyss, mourning the splendour of the day for ever set. They entered the cathedral, which stood a heavy Gothic pile, on a grassy mound, removed from all minor edifices. There was a vast assemblage of ladies and knights; all looked compassionately on this son of poor murdered Clarence, the luckless flower, brought to bloom for an hour, and then to be cast into perpetual darkness. The solemn religious rites, the pealing organ, the grandeur of the church, and chequered painted light thrown from the windows, for a moment filled with almost childish delight the earl's young heart; that this scene, adapted to his rank, should be so single and so transient, filled his soul with bitterness. Once or twice he thought to appeal to his noble friends, to call on them to resist the tyrant—Elizabeth's husband. His heart chilled at the idea; his natural timidity resumed its sway, and he was led back to the prison-fortress, despairing, but unresisting.
Yet, at this hour, events were in progress which filled many hearts with hope of such change as he would gladly hail. On the news of the queen's arrest. Lord Lincoln had departed with all speed to Flanders, to his aunt, the duchess of Burgundy, to solicit her aid to attack and overcome the enemy of their vanquished family. The Lady Margaret, sister of Edward the Fourth of England, and wife of Charles the Rash of Burgundy, was a woman distinguished by her wisdom and her goodness. When Charles fell before Nancv, and his more than princely domains descended into the hands of his only child, a daughter—and the false Louis the Eleventh of France, on one hand, and the turbulent Flemings on the other, coalesced to rend in pieces, and to prey upon, the orphan's inheritance—her mother-in-law, the Lady Margaret, was her sage and intrepid counsellor; and when this young lady died, leaving two infant children as coheirs, the dowager duchess entirely loved, and tenderly brought them up, attending to their affairs with maternal solicitude, and governing the countries subject to them with wisdom and justice. This lady was warmly attached to her family: to her the earl of Lincoln and Lord Lovel resorted, revealing the state of things—how her nephew, young Richard, was concealed in poor disguise in French Flanders, and how they had consented to Richard Simon's plots, and hoped that their result would be to restore her brother's son to the throne of their native land.
The duchess of Burgundy possessed a proud and high spirit. The abasement in which her niece, the Lady Elizabeth, was held by the earl of Richmond; she, the real giver of his crown, not having herself been crowned; the rigour exercised towards the Yorkist chiefs, many of whom had been her defenders and friends in time of flight and defeat; the calumnies heaped on the various members of her royal house; made a prospect of displanting Henry, and of revenge, grateful to her. She acceded to the earl's request, gave him an aid of two thousand Germans, led by Martin Swartz, a man of family and note in Germany, providing them with vessels to take them to Ireland, and blessing their expedition with her best and earnest wishes.
On their arrival in Dublin, a gay and brilliant scene was acted, which raised the enthusiasm of the Irish, and spread a glory round the impostor they supported. The exhibition of the real earl of Warwick had produced no effect in Ireland; Thomas Geraldine, earl of Kildare, asserted that Henry had brought forward a counterfeit, and Lambert Simuel lost no credit among them. He was proclaimed king of England; he was crowned by the bishop of Meath with a diadem taken from an image of the Blessed Virgin; a parliament was convoked in his name, and every measure taken to insure his power in Ireland, and to gather together forces wherewith to invade the sister island.
The English lords felt far more anxiety than their allies in the result of this insurrection. Although it had been disregarded by the Irish, the effect produced in England by the visit of Warwick to St. Paul's was such as Henry had anticipated, and the counterfeit in Ireland found few supporters among the Yorkists. Still it was necessary to end as they had begun: to acknowledge the imposture, so to bring forward the young son of Edward, would have been to all appearance too barefaced a cheat. Lovel, as a gallant soldier, was ready to spend his blood in any enterprise that promised to advance the White Rose; but he, as well as the earl of Lincoln, mingling sad memories of the past with careful forethought, looked forward to the result of Richard Simon's contrivance with well-founded dread. Still they entertained no thought of retreat, but mustered their forces, and counselled with their associates for the furtherance of the cause. On the 4th of June, Lambert Simnel, under the name of Edward the Sixth, with his, so called, cousin De la Poole, Lord Lovel, and their constant attendant young Edmund Plantagenet, the Lords Thomas and Maurice Geraldine, with their force of savage scarce-armed Irish, and Martin Swartz, with his German auxiliaries, landed at the pile of Foudray, in Lancashire, where they were soon after joined by Sir Thomas Broughton, who brought some few English to fight and die for this unhappy conspiracy.
Henry was prepared for their arrival: to gain grace in his subjects' eyes, he first made a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Walsingham, and then, proceeding to the midland counties, held council to know whether it were best to encounter his foes out of hand, or to let them drag on; so to weary them by delay. A number of nobles and their followers joined the king, and it was agreed among them to press forward, before the enemy should gather force in England. Henry had a further view in this: he could not tell how far the secret of their plot, which he felt assured was the design to advance the young son of Edward, was divulged among the Yorkists, and how far believed; as yet the enterprise bore no ill guise for him, having at its head a manifest impostor; so he hastened onward to crush it utterly, before it assumed a more fearful form. The earl of Lincoln, eager to try the fortune of battle, advanced also on his side, and the rival armies drew nigh each other at Newark-upon-Trent. The king pitched his tents three miles beyond the town; and on the same night the earl encamped at Stoke, but a few miles distant. And now, after a reign of two years, as he had forced King Richard to fight for his crown against him, an adventurer and an invader in his realm, did Henry Tudor find himself in his adversary's position, about to risk life and kingdom on one cast of the die against troops as ill-assorted but as desperate and brave as his had been. Henry felt in his heart's core the thrilling pang, which a conviction that all is in the hands of fortune must ever impart to a human being who is her slave. He felt that his crown was but by the laws, to a wild adventurer, his good sword his right; a fierce but disciplined auger filled his heart; his brows were bent, his voice was attuned to harshness, his thoughts were conversant with overthrow and death. The hour was come; he was impatient for its passing, and he led forth his troops, all well-appointed English soldiery, in such hope as the sight of a noble army might well inspire, in such dread as was the natural offspring of the many chances and changes that had occurred to the sovereigns of England during the late struggles.usurpation, that his anointed and sacred head claimed no reverence from these enemies; he was degraded in his own eyes from being a sceptred king upheld
The earl of Lincoln cherished still mightier fears; yet there was more of calm and dignity in his meditations than in the impatient misgivings of Henry. His heart sickened at the idea of battle and bloodshed: he felt himself responsible for the lives of all: and, while this nerved his heart to courage, it took rest from his eyes, and planted sorrow deep in his manly breast. The morrow! oh, the morrow! hours full of fate! whose looks forward and sees in the morrow the crown or ruin of the hopes of many, may well pray the swift-pacing hours to lag, and night to remain for ever as a spell to stop the birth of time.
But the morrow came; a day of slaughter and captivity for the Yorkist party. The battle was hard fought; the German auxiliaries were veteran soldiers, who spared neither blows nor blood; their leader, Martin Swartz, for valour, for strength, and for agility of body, was inferior to none among the warlike captains of those times. The Irish, though half-naked and ill-armed, fought with desperate bravery. In vain; the valour of Henry's soldiers was equal, their discipline and numbers superior. First the noble Lincoln fell, and his comrades were slaughtered around him, avenging his death. The Lords Geraldine, Swartz, and Sir Thomas Broughton, were found among the slain; Lord Lovel was never heard of more; the young Edmund Plantagenet, struck in the side by a dart, lay for dead upon the ground. Richard Simon and his false-seeming pupil were among the prisoners.
Such was the event of the last attempt of the Yorkists to raise the bruised White Rose to its old supremacy. All of high rank and power that owned this symbol were gone; Lincoln, the best column of its fortunes, was destroyed; nothing remained, save the orphan prince, the royal exile, a boy of thirteen years of age, brought up as the child of a Flemish money-lender. To hide himself in safe obscurity was his only wisdom, till time should give strength to his arm, sagacity to his plans, and power to his acts; happy if he could find any concealment sufficiently obscure, to baffle the discernment of Henry, and to save him from the arts of those whom he would employ to discover and seize on him.
Henry again felt himself secure on his throne: he deeply lamented the death of Lincoln, as he had hoped to learn from him the secret of the conspiracy. He found in Lambert Simnel the mere tool of others, and in contempt made him a scullion in his kitchen, so to throw derision on the attempt which had been made to exalt him. He dealt otherwise with Richard Simon. In the secrecy of his prison, every art was practised to induce him to make a full confession. Simon played a dastardly and a double part, half revealing, half disguising the truth. Henry became assured that his rival, the duke of York, survived, and he was led in some sort to guess at the place of his abode. He had promised liberty to Simon when the young prince should be in his hands; meanwhile he was imprisoned in the monastery in which he was fated to close his existence.