MODERN research has added nothing to the slender information given by early writers with regard to that "strange accident of State," the rebellion which took place in the second year of Henry's reign in favour of Lambert Simnel. But the circumstances out of which it arose are clear enough. The King was still "green in his estate." A number of the Yorkist party were still dissatisfied. So much mystery surrounded the fate of the sons of Edward IV. that idle rumours prevailed that one, if not both of them, were still alive. The imprisonment of Warwick in the Tower aroused suspicions that the King would put him to death, and rumours were even spread that he had been actually made away with. It was under these circumstances that Richard Simon, a priest of Oxford, stirred perhaps by some restless spirits behind the scenes, inspired an adventurous boy named Lambert Simnel, whose education doubtless had been entrusted to him by his parents, with the idea of personating a young prince of the Honse of York. The lad was only ten years of age, the son of one Thomas Simnel, described afterwards in an Act of Parliament as "late of Oxford, joiner," but in another document as an organ maker; while the blind poet, Bernard Andre, who lived at the time, was not sure whether the youth claimed a baker or a shoemaker for his father. His origin, therefore, was obscure enough, but he was a bright lad and an apt scholar. He was first encouraged to personate Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two princes murdered in the Tower; but perhaps owing to the rumour that Warwick had died in prison, it was thought that he could as safely fit himself with the character of the latter personage. And to prevent immediate detection Simon carried his pupil over to Ireland, where he was declared to be the Earl of Warwick, son of the Duke of Clarence, newly escaped from the Tower.
The devotion of the Irish people to the House of York, and their characteristic readiness to acquiesce in impostures without too much inquiry, at once secured for him an enthusiastic reception. It has been supposed that Henry neglected Ireland at the beginning of his reign because he failed to remove the Earl of Kildare, who had been Lord Deputy in the reigns of Edward IV. and Richard III. But evidence exists which shows pretty clearly that he only forbore from policy to attempt what was beyond his strength; for he sent over to Ireland a messenger named John Estrete expressly to invite the Earl over to England to confer with him as to the best means of bringing the country completely under English rule; and as this was in reply to a request of the Earl himself to be made Deputy for a term of nine or ten years, the King, without committing himself in any way, gave every indication that he was well disposed to consent, but wished, for one thing to see whether the rvenues of Ireland could be made to bear the charge of £1000 a year for the Deputy's salary, or whether that would have to be provided otherwise.
It is not clear, however, that this message reached the Earl before Simnel's landing in Ireland. If it did we must suppose that it did not entirely satisfy him. For Kildare took counsel with the nobles and others upon the young man's pretensions, and it was unanimously agreed to support them. The supposed son of Clarence was lodged in Dublin aastle with great honour, proclaimed King of England by the name of Edward VI., and presently (24th May) crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, amid the universal enthusiasm of the populace. Not a sword was drawn in Henry's favour. Bishops, nobles, judges, and high officers of State, all with one consent came to over their allegiance to the pretender.
Nor was this all; for Ireland was but the scene chosen for the development of a widespread conspiracy, the first beginnings of which had not wholly escaped the king's notice. As early as Feb, just after Candlemas Day, the King had held a Great Council at Sheen, the chief result of which was a very mysterious decision taken about the queen-dowager. That Elizabeth Woodville, when her daughter was actually Queen of England, could have knowingly joined an intrigue to dethrone her husband is hardly credible in itself, and there is no reason to think it true. But she was a most unsteady woman, and her indiscretions may have been such as to serve the enemy's purpose almost as well as any active support she could have given them. Whatever may have been the case, the King thought fit, on due consideration, to deprive her of her jointure lands, which he had only a year before restored to her, leaving her to find a retreat in the Abbey of Bermondsey, where she had a right to claim apartments as King Edward's widow, with a pension of 400 marks, which the King soon after augmented to £400. In that seclusion, from which apparently she only emerged on some special occasions, she passed the few remaining years of her life, a miserable and disappointed woman. Her jointure lands were given by Henry to the queen, her daughter.
Another result of the Council just referred to was seen in the flight of one of the noblemen who had taken part in it almost immediately afterwards. This was John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who, being the eldest son of the Duke of Suffolk by Elizabeth, sister of Edward IV., had been named as successor to the kingdom by Richard III. not long before Henry's invasion. That he should have been disappointed at Henry's success was of course only natural, and it would seem that the proceedings at the Council convinced him that he was in danger of being arrested as an intriguer. He escaped beyond sea and joined Lord Lovell in Flanders, where he reported that Warwick was in Ireland and that he himself had been privy to his escape, having conferred with him at Sheen just before he left England. This was an excellent foundation for a plot. In Flanders all disaffected Yorkists were sure of sympathy from Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, widow of Charles the Bold, who, being a sister of Edward IV. and also of the Earl of Lincoln's mother, was bent upon the restoration of the House of York, and did everything in her power to encourage intrigues against Henry. And it really seemed that this enterprise, begun through the instrumentality of an impostor, required only a little judicious aid to enable Lincoln to turn Henry off the throne.
Henry meanwhile met the danger first by ordering Warwick to be taken from the Tower one Sunday and conducted through the streets in sight of all the people to St. Paul's; and secondly, by issuing a general pardon for all offences, including treason against himself, on the submission of the offenders. He at the same time caused the coasts to be well watched, not only to prevent further escapes, but to guard against invasion, which was especially apprehended on the eastern coast. For this reason orders were given on the 7th of Apr to set the beacons in order throughout Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex; and to confirm the loyalty of those counties, the King himself determined to go a progress through them. So having appointed two generals -- his uncle Jasper, Duke of Bedford, and the Earl of Oxford -- in case of any invasion either from Ireland or from Flanders, he left London in the middle of Mar and passed through Essex and Suffolk into Norfolk. At Bury St. Edmunds he was in formed that the Marquis of Dorset -- alarmed, no doubt, at what had befallen his mother, the queen-dowager -- was coming to his presence to explain his conduct when in France, and deprecate further suspicion; but considering the uncertainties of the time, the King thought it best to send the Earl of Oxford to apprehend him and put him in the Tower, so as "to try his truth and prove his patience." For Henry considered that if he were really loyal, as he actually proved, he would willingly endure so slight an indignity for the sake of his prince, while if he were otherwise it would prevent his doing mischief. Henry kept his Easter at Norwich, and on Easter Monday (16th Apr) rode from thence to the famous shrine of Walsingham.
After paying his devotions there he turned westward towards the centre of the kingdom. He reached Coventry in less than a week, in time to keep the feast of St. George there, which was done with very special solemnity. John Morton, who was now Archbishop of Canterbury, with five other bishops and a host of clergy, solemnly read in the cathedral the Pope's bulls declaring the king's right to the Crown, and that of the queen which was joined to his by marriage; whereupon they "cursed with book, bell, and candle" all who should in any way oppose those rights. Meanwhile the Earl of Lincoln and Lord Lovell, having obtained from the Duchess Margaret a band of 2,000 veteran Germans, under the command of an esperienced captain named Martin Swart, left the Low countries, not to invade the east coast, but to join Simnel in Ireland, and landed in that country on the 5th of May. The King was still at Coventry when he heard the news, attended by most of the southern nobility, rho had been summoned thither to assist him with their counsels. Most of these he at once sent back to their own districts to muster men, but some remained with him and sent orders to their people to be ready whencver summoned. Henry then rode to Kenilworth, and sent the Earl of Ormond to bring the queen and his mother to him there. News next came that the enemy had landed in Lancashire beside Furness Fells. A council of war was held at once, and Oxford, at his own request, vvas given the command of the royal forces.
Being thus compelled to face for a time a renewal of the civil war, Henry determined, for his part at least, to check as far as possible those enormities with which the country had been too familiar during such commotions; and by the advice of Morton, Richard Fox, and others, he issued a very stringent proclamation against robbing churches, ravishing women, or even taking victuals without paying for them at the prices "assized by the clerk of the market," on pain of death. Nor was any man to venture to take a lodging for himself not assigned to him by the king's harbingers, on pain of imprisonment and further punishment at the king's discretion. The strictest discipline was enforced throughout the army; and the stocks and prisons of market towns in the rear of its march were filled with vagrants and offenders against the proclamation. Thus the King and his host advanced in good order to Nottingham, where they were joined by a very large force of the Earl of Derby's men under his son, Lord Strange, and from thence to Newark, near which town, at the village of Stoke, they met and defeated the invaders.
The enemy had done well to land in Lancashire, where they knew they could reckon on the aid of Sir Thomas Broughton and get a few English followers to join the ill-assorted crew of Irishmen and Germans who came to support Simnel's pretensions to the English throne. But they had greatly miscalculated in thinking that they would receive much support in England. They had naturally made for York, where the feeling in favour of the House of York had always been strong; but the country was desolate, and Lovell's previous abortive attempt in Yorkshire did not dispose the people in their favour. The hordes of half-savage Irishmen under Lord Thomas Fitzgerald (the Earl of Kildare's brother), and even the well-trained mercenaries under Martin Swart, were calculated rather to arouse disgust and indignation. Meeting with no favourable reception in Yorkshire, they came southwards and endeavoured to surprise Newark; but were met, as we have just said, at Stoke, and utterly routed with great slaughter. The Irish, "after the manner of their country, almost naked," being only armed with darts and skeins, fought bravely, but were cut down in masses. The rest of the host, too, maintained the fight with the obstinacy of desperate men. All the leaders -- Lincoln, Lovell, Swart, and Sir Thomas Broughton -- either died on the field, or at least were not seen alive after it; for as regards Lovell there was a report that he had escaped and lived long after in some secret place, and it is even supposed that his body was discovered as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century in a long-hidden chamber at Minster Lovel in Oxfordshire. Simnel and his tutor, the priest, were taken prisoners, and the former being a mere boy, the King, with great policy, instead of putting him to death, took him into his service as a menial of the royal kitchen. As for the priest, he was placed in lifelong confinement.
Having thus gained the victory, the King went to Lincoln, where he ordered thanksgivings to be made, and then set forth on a progress into the north, causing strict inquiry to be made as he went, by court-martial or otherwise, as to the part taken by any of the inhabitants in befriending the rebels, or even expressing sympathy with them, as some had done by spreading false rumours of the defeat of the royal forces. To check such sympathy in future he imposed fines on those who were but slightly implicated, while the more serious offenders were put to death. He visited York, and went as far as Newcastle, from which place he sent Richard Fox, Bishop of Exeter, and Sir Richard Edgecombe in embassy to James III. of Scotland. The Scotch King, like the English, was at this time peacefully disposed -- more so, it is believed, than most of his own subjects. A three years' truce had already been concluded between the two countries in the preceding year, and the English Ambassadors endeavoured to get it extended with a view to a lasting peace, which was to be cemented by three marriages: the first between the Scotch king's second son, James, Marquis of Ormond, and Katharine, the third daughter of Edward IV.; the second between the Scotch King himself and the English queen-dowager, Elizabeth Woodville -- a thing apparently designed on Henry's part to remove the cloud which rested on his mother-in-law, without remitting the penalty she had incurred by her behaviour; and the third between the Duke of Rothesay, heir-apparent to the Scottish throne, and some other one of Edward IV.'s daughters, the question which of them it was to be being left for further consideration. The three matches were agreed to in this form; but the negotiators could only agree to a two months' extension of the truce. All efforts to bring about a permanent peace were for the present ineffectual; and any possibility of the renewal of the three marriage projects was terminated in the following summer by the revolt of the Scottish nobles and the death of James III.
In the autumn Henry returned southward for the long-deferred coronation of his queen, and also to meet his second Parliament. On his way he received at Leicester certain Ambassadors from Charles VIII., sent chiefly to explain the French king's attack on the duchy of Britanny -- a thing to which it was rightly suspected that English feeling would be sensitive. He arrived in London on the 3d of Nov, and was received with triumph like a conqueror. Parliament met on the 9th, and proceeded at once to attaint the leaders of the late rebellion and to pass various severe measures for the punishment of crimes and misdemeanours, one of which was what may almost be considered the institution of the afterwards too notorious Court of Star Chamber. The popular name of this court was derived from the room in which the Privy Council were in the habit of meeting, especially when they met as a court of justice; and the Act simply invested certain members of the Council with a criminal jurisdiction, highly necessary at this time, to restrain a host of abuses which had grown out of the too great power of the nobles. Livery and maintenance especially were the two great evils which, besides lending themselves too readily to a renewal of civil war, placed sheriffs, juries, and the whole administration of justice throughout the country under influences which utterly destroyed their independence. And as the court was chiefly intended to curb the power of the great, care was taken to strengthen its judicial authority by joining with the lords and privy councillors the two chief justices, or two other judges in their place. Parliament also granted a subsidy for the defence of the kingdom.
The queen's coronation took place on Sunday, the 25th of Nov, and was solemnised with a splendour that atoned for previous tardiness. The processions and festivities connected with it began two days before the coronation day itself, and continued two days after. It was, moreover, intimated that they would have been even further prolonged but for "the great business of the Parliament." It was perhaps important that the measures for restraining the power of the lords, if not already passed, should be passed before Christmas, when the members of either House would naturally expect to be allowed to return, each to his own part of the country. But the really "great business" of this Parliament more probably had reference to the French king's aggression upon Britanny, of which we shall speak more at length in the next chapter; for it was no doubt in view of this and of possible future hostilities that a subsidy of two tenths and fifteenths was voted, besides a pretty considerable tax upon artisans (six and eight pence to be paid by each native artificer, and higher rates upon aliens), which imposts appear to have met with little or no opposition.
Domestic peace was now tolerably secure; but it remained a question how to deal with Ireland -- a country which had lent itself so readily to the designs of English faction and foreign intrigue. It was out of the question to punish a rebellion in which practically the whole country was implicated; and apparently for some months the King was content to allow the ridiculous failure of the expedition in Simnel's favour to impress its own moral upon the Irish people. At last, in the middle of the following year, Sir Richard Edgecombe was sent over to Ireland with a commission to receive the fealty of all who were willing to acknowledge King Henry, and to grant ample pardons for the past.
A sturdy Cornishman, well used to adventure in the preceding reign, when it is said he had narrowly escaped with his life by flinging his bonnet in the water and making his pursuers think that he was drowned, Sir Richard must have been prepared for a dangerous enterprise. He sailed from Mount's Bay in Cornwall on the 23d of Jun 1488, and, after some time lost in the pursuit of pirates, reached Kinsale on the 27th. Here he took the allegiance of Lord Thomas of Barry, and landing at the request of Lord Courcy, who did fealty for the barony of Kinsale, had the keys of the town delivered to him. He then sailed to Waterford, a town which had always preserved its loyalty (it was there, or in neighbouring harbours, that English expeditions had always landed), and was conducted by the mayor over the walls and fortifications. The mayor also informed him of the disposition of the people, especially of the great men, and besought his protection against their old enemy, the Earl of Kildare, for whom they knew he had a pardon from the King. Sir Richard assured him that the city's interests would be protected, and sailing northward, after a rough passage anchored off Lambay Island, and sent a messenger to Dublin to inquire the disposition of the country. Word was brought back to him that the Earl of Kildare had gone on pilgrimage for a few days, on which Sir Richard landed at Malahide, and was conducted up to Dublin by the Bishop of Meath, a prelate who had taken an active part in Simnel's coronation but was now anxious to show his loyalty. Sir Richard took up his quarters in the Black Friars, where he awaited the arrival of Kildare, and meanwhile re ceived the submission of the Archbishop of Dublin and Rowland Fitzeustace, the Treasurer of Ireland, two other of Simnel's late adherents. At length Kildare arrived with 200 horse at St. Thomas's Court, just outside the walls of Dublin, where Sir Richard delivered to him a message from the King. He desired time to consult about it with the lords of the Irish Council, who were not then with him, and retired to his Castle of Maynooth.
Next day, which was a Sunday, the 13th of Jul, Sir Richard got the Bishop of Meath to publish at Christ Church Cathedral the Pope's bull of excommunication, and the readiness with which absolution might be ob ained with the king's free pardon on submission. On the Monday, at the earl's special entreaty, he visited him at Maynooth, and obtained from him a promise to conform in future to the king's pleasure. He failed, however, to obtain from him any securities for good behaviour, which Sir Richard continually insisted on, both at Maynooth and afterwards again at Dublin. Both the Earl and other lords were liberal in promises to be the king's true subjects; but, rather than give the bonds required, said they would become Irish every man. At last, hearing a report of the death of the King of Scots, which he feared might be the cause of further trouble, Sir Richard was content to take their oaths upon the sacrament as sufficient security for their loyalty; and after many objections and attempts at evasion they were ultimately sworn at St. Thomas's on the 21st of Jul, and absolved from the papal curse. Sir Richard then put a collar of the king's livery about the Earl of Kildare's neck, which he wore publicly in the city.
Sir Richard next visited Drogheda and Trim, and took the homage of both those towns; then returning to Dublin, took the fealties of a number of other gentlemen. He refused, however, notwithstanding the urgent solicitations of Kildare, to take the fealties of Justice Plunket and the Prior of Kilmainham, two of the chief promoters of Simnel's rebellion, who, in expectation of the king's pardon, thought little of their past offences, till at last, after much intercession, he admitted Plunket to favour. But he put Dublin Castle in the keeping of a loyal subject, whom the Prior of Kilmainham had for two years and more kept out of the office of constable, and embarked at Dalkey on the 30th of Jul on his return to England.
He had at least got the chief men in Ireland to recognise once more the king's authority and the duty of obedience. But the government of the country had to be left in the hands of those who had most actively promoted rebellion, and it scarcely required a prophet to foresee that in any future trouble Ireland would again take a leading part.
Towards the middle of the spring, the King, full of confidence and assurance, as a prince that had been victorious in battle, and had prevailed with his parliament in all that he desired, and had the ring of acclamations fresh in his ears, thought the rest of his reign should be but play, and the enjoying of a kingdom: yet, as a wise and watchful King, he would not neglect anything for his safety; thinking nevertheless to perform all things now, rather as an exercise than as a labour. So he being truly informed that the northern parts were not only affectionate to the house of York, but particularly had been devoted to King Richard the Third, thought it would be a summer well spent to visit those parts, and by his presence and application of himself to reclaim and rectify those humours. But the King, in his account of peace and calms, did much overcast his fortunes, which proved for many years together full of broken seas, tides, and tempests. For he was no sooner come to Lincoln, where he kept his Easter, but he received news, that the Lord Lovel, Humphrey Stafford, and Thomas Stafford, who had formerly taken sanctuary at Colchester, were departed out of sanctuary, but to what place no man could tell; which advertisement the King despised, and continued his journey to York. At York there came fresh and more certain advertisement, that the Lord Lovel was at hand with a great power of men, and that the Staffords were in arms in Worcestershire, and had made their approaches to the city of Worcester, to assail it. The King, as a prince of great and profound judgment, was not much moved with it; for that he thought it was but a rag or remnant of Bosworth-field, and had nothing in it of the main party of the house of York. But he was more doubtful of the raising of forces to resist the rebels, than of the resistance itself; for that he was in a core of people, whose affections he suspected. But the action enduring no delay, he did speedily levy and send against the Lord Lovel, to the number of three thousand men, ill armed, but well assured, being taken some few out of his own train, and the rest out of the tenants and followers of such as were safe to be trusted, under the conduct of the Duke of Bedford. And as his manner was to send his pardons rather before the sword than after, he gave commission to the Duke to proclaim pardon to all that would come in: which the Duke, upon the approach to the Lord Lovel's camp, did perform. And it fell out as the King expected; the heralds were the great ordnance. For the Lord Lovel, upon proclamation of pardon, mistrusting his men, fled into Lancashire, and lurking for a time with Sir Thomas Broughton, after sailed over into Flanders to the lady Margaret. And his men, forsaken of their captain, did presently submit themselves to the Duke. The Staffords likewise, and their forces, hearing what had happened to the Lord Lovel, in whose success their chief trust was, despaired and dispersed. The two brothers taking sanctuary at Colnham, a village near Abingdon; which place, upon view of their privilege in the King's Bench, being judged no sufficient sanctuary for traitors, Humphrey was executed at Tyburn; and Thomas, as being led by his elder brother, was pardoned. So this rebellion proved but a blast, and the King having by this journey purged a little the dregs and leaven of the northern people, that were before in no good affection towards him, returned to London.
In Sep following, the queen was delivered of her first son, whom the King, in honour of the British race, of which himself was, named Arthur, according to the name of that ancient worthy King of the Britons, in whose acts there is truth enough to make him famous, besides that which is fabulous. The child was strong and able, though he was born in the eighth month, which the physicians do prejudge.
There followed this year, being the second of the king's reign, a strange accident of state, whereof the relations which we have are so naked, as they leave it scarce credible; not for the nature of it, for it hath fallen out often, but for the manner and circumstance of it, especially in the beginnings. Therefore we shall make our judgment upon the things themselves, as they give light one to another, and, as we can, dig truth out of the mine. The King was green in his estate; and, contrary to his own opinion and desert both, was not without much hatred throughout the realm. The root of all was the discountenancing of the house of York, which the general body of the realm still affected. This did alienate the hearts of the subjects from him daily more and more, especially when they saw, that, after his marriage, and after a son born, the King did nevertheless not so much as proceed to the coronation of the queen, not vouchsafing her the honour of a matrimonial crown; for the coronation of her was not till almost two years after, when danger had taught him what to do. But much more when it was spread abroad, whether by error, or the cunning of malecontents, that the King had a purpose to put to death Edward Plantagenet closely in the Tower: whose case was so nearly paralleled with that of Edward the Fourth's children, in respect of the blood, like age, and the very place of the Tower, as it did refresh and reflect upon the King a most odious resemblance, as if he would be another King Richard. And all this time it was still whispered everywhere, that at least one of the children of Edward the Fourth was living: which bruit was cunningly fomented by such as desired innovation. Neither was the king's nature and customs greatly fit to disperse these mists, but contrariwise, he had a fashion rather to create doubts than assurance. Thus was fuel prepared for the spark: the spark, that afterwards kindled such a fire and combustion, was at the first contemptible.
There was a subtile priest called Richard Simon, that lived in Oxford, and had to his pupil a baker's son, named Lambert Simnell, of the age of some fifteen years, a comely youth, and well favoured, not without some extraordinary dignity and grace of aspect. It came into the priest's fancy, hearing what men talked, and in hope to raise himself to some great bishopric, to cause this lad to counterfeit and personate the second son of Edward the Fourth, supposed to be murdered; and afterwards, (for he changed his intention in the manage,) the Lord Edward Plantagenet, then prisoner in the Tower; and accordingly to frame him and instruct him in the part he was to play. This is that which, as was touched before, seemeth scarcely credible; not that a false person should be assumed to gain a kingdom, for it hath been seen in ancient and late times; nor that it should come into the mind of such an abject fellow, to enterprise so great a matter; for high conceits do sometimes come streaming into the imaginations of base persons, especially when they are drunk with news and talk of the people. But here is that which hath no appearance: that this priest, being utterly unacquainted with the true person, according to whose pattern he should shape his counterfeit, should think it possible for him to instruct his player, either in gesture and fashions; or in recounting past matters of his life and education; or in fit answers to questions, or the like; any ways to come near the resemblance of him whom he was to represent. For this lad was not to personate one, that had been long before taken out of his cradle, or conveyed away in his infancy, known to few; but a youth, that till the age almost of ten years had been brought up in a court where infinite eyes had been upon him. For King Edward, touched with remorse of his brother the Duke of Clarence's death, would not indeed restore his son, of whom we speak, to be Duke of Clarence, but yet created him Earl of Warwick, reviving his honour on the mother's side; and used him honourably during his time, though Richard the Third afterwards confined him. So that it cannot be, but that some great person that knew particularly and familiarly Edward Plantagenet, had a hand in the business, from whom the priest might take his aim. That which is most probable, out of the precedent and subsequent acts, is, that it was the queen dowager, from whom this action had the principal source and motion. For certain it is, she was a busy negotiating woman, and in her withdrawing-chamber had the fortunate conspiracy for the King against King Richard the Third been hatched: which the King knew, and remembered perhaps but too well; and [she] was at this time extremely discontent with the King, thinking her daughter, as the King handled the matter, not advanced but depressed: and none could hold the book so well to prompt and instruct this stage-play as she could. Nevertheless, it was not her meaning, nor no more was it the meaning of any of the better and sager sort that favoured this enterprise, and knew the secret, that this disguised idol should possess the crown; but at his peril to make way to the overthrow of the King; and that done, they had their several hopes and ways. That which doth chiefly fortify this conjecture is, that as soon as the matter brake forth in any strength, it was one of the king's first acts to cloister the queen dowager in the nunnery of Bermondsey, and to take away all her lands and estate: and this by a close council, without any legal proceeding, upon far-fetched pretences that she had delivered her two daughters out of sanctuary to King Richard, contrary to promise. Which proceeding being even at that time taxed for rigorous and undue, both in matter and manner, makes it very probable there was some greater matter against her, which the King, upon reason of policy, and to avoid envy, would not publish. It is likewise no small argument that there was some secret in it, and some suppressing of examinations, for that the priest Simon himself, after he was taken, was never brought to execution; no, not so much as to public trial, as many clergymen were upon less treasons, but was only shut up close in a dungeon. Add to this, that after the Earl of Lincoln, a principal person of the house of York, was slain in Stoke-field, the King opened himself to some of his council that he was sorry for the earl's death, because by him, he said, he might have known the bottom of his danger.
But to return to the narration itself: Simon did first instruct his scholar for the part of Richard, Duke of York, second son to King Edward the Fourth; and this was at such a time as it was voiced that the King purposed to put to death Edward Plantagenet, prisoner in the Tower, whereat there was great murmur. But hearing soon after a general bruit that Plantagenet had escaped out of the Tower, and thereby finding him so much beloved amongst the people, and such rejoicing at his escape, the cunning priest changed his copy, and chose now Plantagenet to be the subject his pupil should personate, because he was more in the present speech and votes of the people; and it pieced better, and followed more close and handsomely upon the bruit of Plantagenet's escape. But yet doubting that there would be too near looking, and too much perspective into his disguise, if he should show it here in England; he thought good, after the manner of scenes in stage-plays and masks, to show it afar off, and therefore sailed with his scholar into Ireland, where the affection to the house of York was most in height. The King had been a little improvident in the matters of Ireland, and had not removed officers and counsellors, and put in their places, or at least intermingled, persons of whom he stood assured, as he should have done, since he knew the strong bent of that country towards the house of York; and that it was a ticklish and unsettled state, more easy to receive distempers and mutations than England was. But trusting to the reputation of his victories and successes in England, he thought he should have time enough to extend his cares afterwards to that second kingdom.
Wherefore through this neglect, upon the coming of Simon with his pretended Plantagenet into Ireland, all things were prepared for revolt and sedition, almost as if they had been set and plotted beforehand. Simon's first address was to the Lord Thomas Fitzgerard, Earl of Kildare, and deputy of Ireland, before whose eyes he did cast such a mist, by his own insinuation, and by the carriage of his youth, that expressed a natural princely behaviour, as joined perhaps with some inward vapours of ambition and affection in the earl's own mind, left him fully possessed that it was the true Plantagenet. The Earl presently communicated the matter with some of the nobles and others there, at the first secretly; but finding them of like affection to himself, he suffered it of purpose to vent and pass abroad, because they thought it not safe to resolve till they had a taste of the people's inclination. But if the great ones were in forwardness, the people were in fury, entertaining this airy body or phantasm with incredible affection, partly out of their great devotion to the house of York, partly out of a proud humour in the nation, to give a King to the realm of England. Neither did the party, in this heat of affection, much trouble themselves with the attainder of George, Duke of Clarence, having newly learned, by the king's example, that attainders do not interrupt the conveying of title to the crown. And as for the daughters of King Edward the Fourth, they thought King Richard had said enough for them, and took them to be but as of the king's party, because they were in his power and at his disposing. So that with marvellous consent and applause this counterfeit Plantagenet was brought with great solemnity to the castle of Dublin, and there saluted, served, and honoured as King; the boy becoming it well, and doing nothing that did betray the baseness of his condition. And within a few days after he was proclaimed King in Dublin, by the name of King Edward the Sixth, there being not a sword drawn in King Henry's quarrel.
The King was much moved with this unexpected accident when it came to his ears, both because it struck upon that string which ever he most feared, as also because it was stirred in such a place where he could not with safety transfer his own person to suppress it. For partly through natural valour, and partly through an universal suspicion, not knowing whom to trust, he was ever ready to wait upon all his achievements in person. The King, therefore, first called his council together at the charter-house at Shine; which council was held with great secrecy, but the open decrees thereof, which presently came abroad, were three.
The first was, that the queen dowager, for that she, contrary to her pact and agreement with those that had concluded with her concerning the marriage of her daughter Elizabeth with King Henry, had nevertheless delivered her daughters out of sanctuary into King Richard's hands, should be cloistered in the nunnery of Bermondsey, and forfeit all her lands and goods.
The next was, that Edward Plantagenet, then close prisoner in the Tower, should be, in the most public and notorious manner that could be devised, showed unto the people; in part to discharge the King of the envy of that opinion and bruit, how he had been put to death privily in the Tower, but chiefly to make the people see the levity and imposture of the proceedings in Ireland, and that their Plantagenet was indeed but a puppet or a counterfeit.
The third was, that there should be again proclaimed a general pardon to all that would reveal their offences, and submit themselves by a day. And that this pardon should be conceived in so ample and liberal a manner, as no high-treason, no not against the king's own person, should be excepted. Which though it might seem strange, yet was it not so to a wise King, that knew his greatest dangers were not from the least treasons, but from the greatest. These resolutions of the King and his council were immediately put in execution. And first, the queen dowager was put into the monastery of Bermondsey, and all her estates seized into the king's hands; whereat there was much wondering, that a weak woman, for the yielding to the menaces and promises of a tyrant, after such a distance of time, wherein the King had shown no displeasure nor alteration, but much more after so happy a marriage between the King and her daughter, blessed with issue male, should, upon a sudden mutability or disclosure of the king's mind, be so severely handled.
This lady was amongst the examples of great variety of fortune. She had first, from a distressed suitor and desolate widow, been taken to the marriage bed of a bachelor King, the goodliest personage of his time; and even in his reign she had endured a strange eclipse by the king's flight, and temporary depriving from the crown. She was also very happy in that she had by him fair issue, and continued his nuptial love, helping herself by some obsequious bearing and dissembling of his pleasures to the very end. She was much affectionate to her own kindred, even unto faction, which did stir great envy in the lords of the king's side, who counted her blood a disparagement to be mingled with the king's. With which lords of the king's blood joined also the king's favourite, the Lord Hastings, who, notwithstanding the king's great affection to him, was thought at times, through her malice and spleen, not to be out of danger of falling. After her husband's death she was matter of tragedy, having lived to see her brother beheaded, and her two sons deposed from the crown, bastarded in their blood, and cruelly murdered. All this while, nevertheless, she enjoyed her liberty, state, and fortunes; but afterwards again, upon the rise of the wheel, when she had a King to her son-in-law, and was made grandmother to a grandchild of the best sex; yet was she, upon dark and unknown reasons, and no less strange pretences, precipitated and banished the world into a nunnery, where it was almost thought dangerous to visit her or see her, and where not long after she ended her life, but was by the king's commandment buried with the King, her husband, at Windsor. She was foundress of Queen's College in Cambridge. For this act the King sustained great obloquy, which nevertheless, besides the reason of state, was somewhat sweetened to him by a great confiscation.
About this time also, Edward Plantagenet was upon a Sunday brought throughout all the principal streets of London, to be seen of the people. And having passed the view of the streets, was conducted to Paul's church in solemn procession, where great store of people were assembled. And it was provided also in good fashion, that divers of the nobility, and others of quality, especially of those that the King most suspected, and knew the person of Plantagenet best, had communication with the young gentleman by the way, and entertained him with speech and discourse, which did in effect mar the pageant in Ireland with the subjects here, at least with so many as out of error, and not out of malice, might be misled. Nevertheless, in Ireland, where it was too late to go back, it wrought little or no effect. But contrariwise, they turned the imposture upon the King, and gave out that the King, to defeat the true inheritor, and to mock the world, and blind the eyes of simple men, had tricked up a boy in the likeness of Edward Plantagenet, and showed him to the people, and not sparing to profane the ceremony of a procession the more to countenance the fable.
The general pardon likewise near the same time came forth, and the King therewithal omitted no diligence in giving strait order for the keeping of the ports, that fugitives, malecontents, or suspected persons, might not pass over into Ireland and Flanders.
Meanwhile the rebels in Ireland had sent privy messengers both into England and into Flanders, who in both places had wrought effects of no small importance. For in England they won to their party John, Earl of Lincoln, son of John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and of Elizabeth, King Edward the Fourth's eldest sister. This Earl was a man of great wit and courage, and had his thoughts highly raised by hopes and expectations for a time; for Richard the Third had a resolution, out of his hatred to both his brethren, King Edward and the Duke of Clarence, and their lines, having had his hand in both their bloods, to disable their issues upon false and incompetent pretexts - the one of attainder, the other of illegitimation; and to design this gentleman, in case himself should die without children, for inheritor of the crown. Neither was this unknown to the King, who had secretly an eye upon him. But the King, having tasted the envy of the people for his imprisonment of Edward Plantagenet, was doubtful to heap up any more distastes of that kind, by the imprisonment of De la Pole also; the rather thinking it policy to conserve him as a co-rival unto the other. The Earl of Lincoln was induced to participate with the action of Ireland, not lightly upon the strength of the proceedings there, which was but a bubble, but upon letters from the Lady Margaret of Burgundy, in whose succours and declaration for the enterprise there seemed to be a more solid foundation, both for reputation and forces. Neither did the Earl refrain the business, for that he knew the pretended Plantagenet to be but an idol. But contrariwise, he was more glad it should be the false Plantagenet than the true, because the false being sure to fall away of himself, and the true to be made sure by the King, it might open and pave a fair and prepared way to his own title. With this resolution he sailed secretly into Flanders, where was a little before arrived the Lord Lovel, leaving a correspondence here in England with Sir Thomas Broughton, a man of great power and dependencies in Lancashire. For before this time, when the pretended Plantagenet was first received in Ireland, secret messengers had been also sent to the Lady Margaret, advertising her what was passed in Ireland, imploring succours in an enterprise, as they said, so pious and just, that God had so miraculously prospered the beginning thereof, and making offer that all things should be guided by her will and direction, as the sovereign patroness and protectoress of the enterprise. Margaret was second sister to King Edward the Fourth, and had been second wife to Charles, surnamed the Hardy, Duke of Burgundy, by whom having no children of her own, she did with singular care and tenderness intend the education of Phillip and Margaret, grandchildren to her former husband, which won her great love and authority among the Dutch. This princess, having the spirit of a man and malice of a woman, abounding in treasure by the greatness of her dower and her provident government, and being childless and without any nearer care, made it her design and enterprise to see the majesty royal of England once again replaced in her house, and had set up King Henry as a mark, at whose overthrow all her actions should aim and shoot; insomuch as all the counsels of his succeeding troubles came chiefly out of that quiver. And she bare such a mortal hatred to the house of Lancaster, and personally to the King, as she was no ways mollified by the conjunction of the houses in her niece's marriage, but rather hated her niece, as the means of the king's ascent and assurance therein. Wherefore with great violence of affection she embraced this overture. And upon counsel taken with the Earl of Lincoln, and the Lord Lovel, and some other of the party, it was resolved with all speed, that the two lords, assisted with a regiment of two thousand Almains, being choice and veteran bands, under the command of Martin Swart, a valiant and experimented captain, should pass over into Ireland to the new King, hoping that when the action should have the face of a received and settled regality, with such a second person as the Earl of Lincoln, and the conjunction and reputation of foreign succours, the fame of it would embolden and prepare all the party of the confederates and malecontents within the realm of England to give them assistance when they should come over there. And for the person of the counterfeit, it was agreed that if all things succeeded well he should be put down, and the true Plantagenet received, wherein, nevertheless, the Earl of Lincoln had his particular hopes. After they were come into Ireland, and that the party took courage, by seeing themselves together in a body, they grew very confident of success, conceiving and discoursing amongst themselves, that they went in upon far better cards to overthrow King Henry, than King Henry had to overthrow King Richard, and that if there were not a sword drawn against them in Inland, it was a sign the swords in England would be soon sheathed or beaten down. And first, for a bravery upon this accession of power, they crowned their new King in the cathedral church of Dublin, who formerly had been but proclaimed only; and then sat in council what should farther be done. At which council, though it were propounded by some, that it were the best way to establish themselves first in Ireland, and to make that the seat of the war, and to draw King Henry thither in person, by whose absence they thought there would be great alterations and commotions in England; yet because the kingdom there was poor, and they should not be able to keep their army together, nor pay their German soldiers, and for that also the sway of the Irishmen, and generally of the men of war, which, as in such cases of popular tumults is usual, did in effect govern their leaders, was eager, and in affection to make their fortunes upon England, it was concluded with all possible speed to transport their forces into England. The King, in the mean time, who at the first when he heard what was done in Ireland, though it troubled him, yet thought he should be well enough able to scatter the Irish as a flight of birds, and rattle away this swarm of bees with their King: when he heard afterwards that the Earl of Lincoln was embarked in the action, and that the Lady Margaret was declared for it, he apprehended the danger in a true degree as it was, and saw plainly that his kingdom must again be put to the stake, and that he must fight for it. And first he did conceive, before he understood of the Earl of Lincoln's sailing into Ireland out of Flanders, that he should be assailed both upon the east parts of the kingdom of England, by some impression from Flanders, and upon the north-west out of Ireland. And, therefore, having ordered musters to be made in both parts, and having provisionally designed two generals, Jasper, Earl of Bedford, and John, Earl of Oxford, meaning himself also to go in person where the affairs should most require it, and nevertheless not expecting any actual invasion at that time, the winter being far on, he took his journey himself towards Suffolk and Norfolk, for the confirming of those parts. And being come to St. Edmond's-Bury, he understood that Thomas, Marquis Dorset, who had been one of the pledges in France, was hasting towards him, to purge himself of some accusations which had been made against him. But the King, though he kept an ear for him, yet was the time so doubtful, that he sent the Earl of Oxford to meet him, and forthwith to carry him to the Tower, with a fair message, nevertheless, that he should bear that disgrace with patience, for that the King meant not his hurt, but only to preserve him from doing hurt either to the king's service or to himself, and that the King should always be able, when he had cleared himself, to make him reparation.
From St. Edmond's-Bury he went to Norwich, where he kept his Christmas. And from thence he went, in a manner of pilgrimage, to Walsingham, where he visited Our Lady's church famous for miracles, and made his prayers and vows for help and deliverance. And from thence he returned by Cambridge to London. Not long after, the rebels, with their King, under the leading of the Earl of Lincoln, the Earl of Kildare, the Lord Lovel, and Colonel Swart, landed at Fouldrey in Lancashire; whither there repaired to them Sir Thomas Broughton, with some small company of English. The King, by that time, knowing now the storm would not divide, but fall in one place, had levied forces in good number; and in person, taking with him his two designed generals, the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Oxford, was come on his way towards them as far as Coventry, whence he sent forth a troop of light horsemen for discovery, and to intercept some stragglers of the enemies, by whom he might the better understand the particulars of their progress and purposes, which was accordingly done; though the King otherwise was not without intelligence from espials in the camp.
The rebels took their way towards York, without spoiling the country, or any act of hostility, the better to put themselves into favour of the people, and to personate their King; who, no doubt, out of a princely feeling, was sparing and compassionate towards his subjects; but their snow-ball did not gather as it went. For the people came not in to them; neither did any rise or declare themselves in other parts of the kingdom for them; which was caused partly by the good taste that the King had given his people of his government, joined with the reputation of his felicity; and partly for that it was an odious thing to the people of England, to have a King brought in to them upon the shoulders of Irish and Dutch, of which their army was in substance compounded. Neither was it a thing done with any great judgment on the party of the rebels, for them to take their way towards York: considering that howsoever those parts had formerly been a nursery of their friends, yet it was there, where the Lord Lovel had so lately disbanded, and where the king's presence had a little before qualified discontents. The Earl of Lincoln, deceived of his hopes of the country's concourse unto him, in which case he would have temporized; and seeing the business past retract, resolved to make on where the King was, and to give him battle; and thereupon marched towards Newark, thinking to have surprised the town. But the King was somewhat before this time come to Nottingham, where he called a council of war, at which was consulted whether it were best to protract time, or speedily to set upon the rebels. In which council the King himself, whose continual vigilancy did suck in sometimes causeless suspicions, which few else knew, inclined to the accelerating a battle; but this was presently put out of doubt, by the great aids that came in to him in the instant of this consultation, partly upon missives, and partly voluntaries from many parts of the kingdom.
The principal persons that came then to the king's aid, were the George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and George Stanley, Lord Strange, of the nobility; and of knights and gentlemen, to the number of at least threescore and ten persons, with their companies, making in the whole, at the least, six thousand fighting men, besides the forces that were with the King before. Whereupon the King, finding his army so bravely reinforced, and a great alacrity in all his men to fight, was confirmed in his former resolution, and marched speedily, so as to put himself between the enemies' camp and Newark; being loth their army should get the commodity of that town. The Earl, nothing dismayed, came forwards that day unto a little village called Stoke, and there encamped that night, upon the brow or hanging of a hill. The King the next day presented him battle upon the plain, the fields there being open and champain. The Earl courageously came down and joined battle with him. Concerning which battle the relations that are left unto us are so naked and negligent, though it be an action of so recent memory, as they rather declare the success of the day, than the manner of the fight. They say, that the King divided his army into three battails; whereof the vant-guard only, well strengthened with wings, came to fight: that the fight was fierce and obstinate, and lasted three hours, before the victory inclined either way; save that judgment might be made by that, the king's vant-guard of itself maintained fight against the whole power of the enemies, the other two battails remained out of action, what the success was like to be in the end: that Martin Swart with his Germans performed bravely, and so did those few English that were on that side; neither did the Irish fail in courage or fierceness; but being almost naked men, only armed with darts and skeins, it was rather an execution than a fight upon them; insomuch as the furious slaughter of them was a great discouragement and appalment to the rest: that there died upon the place all the chieftains; that is, the Earl of Lincoln, the Earl of Kildare, Francis Lord Lovel, Martin Swart, and Sir Thomas Broughton; all making good the fight, without any ground given. Only of the Lord Lovel there went a report, that he fled, and swam over Trent on horseback, but could not recover the farther side, by reason of the steepness of the bank, and so was drowned in the river. But another report leaves him not there, but that he lived long after in a cave or vault. The number that was slain in the field was of the enemies' part, four thousand at the least; and of the king's part one half of his vant-guard, besides many hurt, but none of name. There were taken prisoners, amongst others, the counterfeit Plantagenet, now Lambert Simnell again, and the crafty priest his tutor. For Lambert, the King would not take his life, both out of magnanimity, taking him but as an image of wax, that others had tempered and moulded; and likewise out of wisdom, thinking that if he suffered death, he would be forgotten too soon; but being kept alive, he would be a continual spectacle, and a kind of remedy against the like enchantments of people in time to come. For which cause he was taken into service in his court to a base office in his kitchen; so that, in a kind of mattacina of human fortune, he turned a broach, that had worn a crown; whereas fortune commonly doth not bring in a comedy or farce after a tragedy. And afterwards he was preferred to be one of the king's falconers. As to the priest, he was committed close prisoner, and heard of no more; the King loving to seal up his own dangers.
After the battle the King went to Lincoln, where he caused supplications and thanksgivings to be made for his deliverance and victory. And that his devotions might go round in circle, he sent his banner to be offered to our Lady of Walsingham, where before he made his vows. And thus delivered of this so strange an engine, and new invention of fortune, he returned to his former confidence of mind; thinking now, that all his misfortunes had come at once. But it fell out unto him according to the speech of the common people in the beginning of his reign, that said, It was a token he should reign in labour, because his reign began with a sickness of sweat. But howsoever the King thought himself now in a haven, yet such was his wisdom, as his confidence did seldom darken his foresight, especially in things near hand. And therefore, awakened by so fresh and unexpected dangers, he entered into due consideration, as well how to weed out the partakers of the former rebellion, as to kill the seeds of the like in time to come: and withal to take away all shelters and harbours for discontented persons, where they might hatch and foster rebellions, which afterwards might gather strength and motion. And first, he did yet again make a progress from Lincoln to the northern parts, though it were indeed rather an itinerary circuit of justice than a progress. For all along as he went, with much severity and strict inquisition, partly by martial law, and partly by commission, were punished the adherents and aiders of the late rebels. Not all by death, for the field had drawn much blood, but by fines and ransoms, which spared life, and raised treasure. Amongst other crimes of this nature, there was diligent inquiry made of such as had raised and dispersed a bruit and rumour, a little before the field fought, 'that the rebels had the day; and that the king's army was overthrown, and the King fled'. Whereby it was supposed that many succours, which otherwise would have come unto the King, were cunningly put off and kept back. Which charge and accusation, though it bad some ground, yet it was industriously embraced and put on by divers, who having been in themselves not affected to the king's part, nor forward to come to his aid, were glad to apprehend this colour to cover their neglect and coldness, under the pretence of such discouragements. Which cunning nevertheless the King would not understand, though he lodged it, and noted it in some particulars, as his manner was.
But for the extirpating of the roots and causes of the like commotions in time to come, the King began to find where his shoe did wring him, and that it was his depressing the house of York that did rankle and fester the affections of his people. And therefore being now too wise to disdain perils any longer, and willing to give some contentment in that kind, at least in ceremony, he resolved at last to proceed to the coronation of his queen. And, therefore, at his coming to London, where he entered in state, and in a kind of triumph, and celebrated his victory with two days of devotion (for the first day he repaired to Paul's and had the hymn of Te Deum sung, and the morrow after he went in procession, and heard the sermon at the cross), the queen was with great solemnity crowned at Westminster, the five-and-twentieth of Nov, in the third year of his reign, which was about two years after the marriage; like an old christening that had stayed long for god-fathers. Which strange and unusual distance of time made it subject to every man's note, that it was an act against his stomach, and put upon him by necessity and reason of state. Soon after, to show that it was now fair weather again, and that the imprisonment of Thomas, Marquis Dorset, was rather upon suspicion of the time, than of the man, he, the said marquis, was set at liberty, without examination or other circumstance. At that time also the King sent an Ambassador unto Pope Innocent, signifying unto him this his marriage; and that now, like another Æneas, he had passed, through the floods of his former troubles, and travels, and was arrived unto a safe haven: and thanking his Holiness that he had honoured the celebration of his marriage with the presence of his Ambassador; and offering both his person and the forces of his kingdom, upon all occasions, to do him service.
The Ambassador making his oration to the Pope, in the presence of the cardinals, did so magnify the King and queen, as was enough to glut the hearers. But then he did again so extol and deify the Pope, as made all that he had said in praise of his master and mistress seem temperate and passable. But he was very honourably entertained, and extremely much made on by the Pope: who knowing himself to be lazy and unprofitable to the Christian world, was wonderfully glad to hear that there were such echoes of him sounding in remote parts. He obtained also of the Pope a very just and honourable bull, qualifying the privileges of sanctuary wherewith the King had been extremely galled, in three points.
The first, that if any sanctuary man did by night, or otherwise, get out of sanctuary privily, and commit mischief and trespass, and then come in again, he should lose the benefit of sanctuary for ever after. The second, that howsoever the person of the sanctuary man was protected from his creditors, yet his goods out of sanctuary should not. The third, that if any took sanctuary for case of treason, the King might appoint him keepers to look to him in sanctuary.
The King also, for the better securing of his estate against mutinous and malecontented subjects, whereof he saw the realm was full, who might have their refuge into Scotland, which was not under key, as the ports were; for that cause, rather than for any doubt of hostility from those parts, before his coming to London, when he was at Newcastle, had sent a solemn ambassage unto James the Third, King of Scotland, to treat and conclude a peace with him. The Ambassadors were, Richard Fox, Bishop of Exeter, and Sir Richard Edgcombe, comptroller of the king's house, who were honourably received and entertained there. But the King of Scotland labouring of the same disease that King Henry did, though more mortal, as afterwards appeared, that is, discontented subjects, apt to rise and raise tumult, although in his own affection he did much desire to make a peace with the King; yet finding his nobles averse, and not daring to displease them, concluded only a truce for seven years; giving nevertheless promise in private, that it should be renewed from time to time during the two kings' lives.
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