To Hold the
The Birth of a Prince
The Baker’s Boy
The Death of a Queen
Henry Duke of York
The Scottish Court
Tyburn and Tower Hill
The Spanish Princess
The Bride and the Widow
The Princes in the Tower
Birth and Death
The Search for a Queen
The Prince Discovers His Conscience
The End of a Reign
King Henry the Eighth
A Reader’s Group Guide
An Excerpt from Katharine of Aragon
About the Author
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
SHAKESPEARE’S HENRY IV, PART 2.
To Hold the
The Birth of
here was great consternation in the Palace of Winchester on that misty September day, in the year 1486 for the Queen—who was not due to give birth to her child for another month—had started her pains.
It was extraordinary for only eight months had passed since the marriage. Everyone had been delighted by the Queen’s promise of fruitfulness, and to have given birth nine months after the marriage would have been a most welcome sign, but to do so in eight months was a little disconcerting, though no one could believe for one moment that this might mean anything but the birth of a premature child.
Queen Elizabeth was sitting quietly with her sisters, Cecilia aged seventeen and Anne who was just eleven, working on an altar cloth, which the King’s mother, of whom they were in considerable awe, had decided was an appropriate occupation for them at such a time when all the favors Heaven could grant them were needed. Even Anne knew—for it was spoken of continually—that it was of utmost importance that the Queen should give birth to a healthy boy.
The Queen and her sisters had come through difficult times and still remembered them. They had been pampered and petted by their magnificent and all-powerful father but they had also suffered privations in the Sanctuary at Westminster when they had feared for their lives. If they had learned a lesson from life it must surely be that it was fraught with insecurity and could change drastically in the space of a few days.
At last Elizabeth was married to the King and although there had been a period when they had wondered whether Henry Tudor was going to honor his pledges, they now felt comparatively safe; and if the baby who was about to be born was a healthy boy, their chances of making good marriages and living in comfort—and perhaps even of survival—would be greatly increased.
As Cecilia stitched at the hem of the Madonna’s robe in a silk thread of exquisite blue, she was wondering when her time to marry would come. She hoped her husband would be someone at the King’s Court for she did not want to have to go away from home. At one time she had thought she was going to be sent to Scotland to be the Queen of Scots but that had come to nothing in the manner of so many of these proposed marriages. As for Elizabeth herself she had once been destined for the Dauphin of France and for a long time their mother had insisted that she be addressed as Madame La Dauphine. The fact was that one never knew where one would end up. Who would have believed that Elizabeth, after the humiliation of losing the Dauphin, would, through her marriage with Henry Tudor, become Queen of England?
Although one never spoke of it now, the King should have been their brother Edward. But where was Edward? What had happened to him and their brother Richard? Some people said that both had been murdered in the Tower. It must be so for if they had not been, surely the King of England should have been either Edward the Fifth or Richard the Fourth—not Henry the Seventh.
Their mother had said: “It is a subject which it is better not to discuss. We have to be careful not to upset the Queen who is in a delicate condition.”
Still it was strange not to talk of one’s own brothers. What should one talk of? The weather? Whether Elizabeth would have a coronation when the baby was born? The christening?
“Don’t talk too much about the baby,” their mother had warned. “It might be unlucky.”
Then of what did one talk?
Cecilia was saved the trouble of searching for a suitable topic of conversation for Elizabeth suddenly turned very pale, put her hands to her stomach and said: “I believe my pains are starting. Go at once to our mother.”
Cecilia dropped her part of the altar cloth and ran while Anne sat staring at her sister in dismay.
Queen Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen Mother, was alone in her apartments at the castle. She was longing for the next month to be over that she might hold her healthy grandson in her arms.
She was certain it would be a boy. If not her daughter Elizabeth must quickly become pregnant again. She had no doubt that Elizabeth would breed well, as she herself had.
She was congratulating herself on a return to prosperity. She and her family had passed through some very difficult times, during which she believed she had come near to disaster. King Richard had never liked her; he had always deplored his brother’s marriage to a woman, as he would have said, of low quality. Naturally he had never dared say much against her when Edward was alive; and after Edward’s death Richard had preserved his loyalty to his brother. Even when she had been caught with Jane Shore in conspiring against him, he had been lenient. Now everything was changed. He was dead—slain on Bosworth Field and the new King had become her son-in-law.
She was wishing Henry’s mother was not in the castle. The Countess of Richmond with her quiet air of superiority irritated Elizabeth Woodville. It was true that Margaret Beaufort had royal blood in her veins, even though as Elizabeth often reminded herself it came from the wrong side of the blanket. Oh, everyone knew that John of Gaunt had legitimized his Beauforts but that did not alter the fact that they had begun in bastardy, and it was true that those who were unsure of their claims always asserted their rights to them most forcefully. She herself was one of those, for ever since King Edward had become so enamored of her that he had married her and raised her to such dizzy heights, she had had to make sure that everyone remembered the respect due to her.
So it was with Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, and now that her son had become King this set her somewhat above the mother of the Queen, though, mused Elizabeth, none could doubt that the young Queen, as daughter of the late King Edward the Fourth, had more right to the crown than Henry Tudor who had won it by conquest rather than inheritance.
It was not a matter to brood on, for Henry now had the crown firmly in his grasp and he had fulfilled his contract to unite the houses of York and Lancaster, which he had done when he married Edward the Fourth’s eldest daughter.
Such times we live through! the Queen Mother often thought sadly, dreaming of the days of her glory when an ardent young King had first seen her in Whittlebury Forest and pursued her with such fervent devotion that he had lifted her from her humble position and made her his Queen.
While he had lived she had been secure as Queen of England, surrounded by her family whom she had made prosperous; but alas he had died suddenly at the age of forty-four although he had seemed in almost perfect health up to that time. Then had come the greatest blow of all—the shattering declaration that Edward had been married to Eleanor Butler who was alive at the time when he had gone through a ceremony with Elizabeth—thus making her marriage no marriage at all and her children illegitimate.
And her dear little boys—young Edward, who had briefly been Edward the Fifth, and the little Duke of York . . . where were they now? It seemed they had vanished into obscurity. There had been rumors that their uncle, Richard the Third, had murdered them in the Tower. But why should he find that necessary? He had declared them illegitimate. Why should he have needed to murder them? Whatever had happened to them, they were lost to her . . . her little darlings. She mourned them deeply for although she might be a vain and selfish woman she was a good mother and had loved all her children dearly. There was mystery everywhere. She remembered long dreary days, cold sleepless nights in Westminster Sanctuary when she had not known from one day to the next what would become of her and her family.
Richard had not been unkind after a while. There had even been talk of his marrying young Elizabeth. It was not serious of course. How could an uncle marry his niece? However, young Elizabeth was destined to be the savior of her family, now Henry, the new King, had married her. This meant that he did not consider her illegitimate . . . and yet if she were not, the young Princes also were not, and if they were alive . . . what right had Henry to the throne?
It was too complicated, too frightening to brood on. So she must put the past behind her. She must say: We have come so far and we are now as safe as any can be in this dangerous changing world. My daughter is the Queen of England. My little boys are lost to me forever. It might be true that Richard had murdered them in the Tower as one rumor had had it, yet why he should since they had been proclaimed illegitimate, she could never understand.
There was too much mystery; there had been too much misery; now they were moving forward into brighter times. She must forget the past.
If this child were a boy, contentment would settle on the country. The new dynasty of the Tudors would be accepted and the child would be the vital link which bound the Houses of York and Lancaster together and settled their differences forever.
What was most important now was to care for the young Queen and to bring this all-important child into the world. There was a whole month to wait and waiting was so irksome.
Cecilia had rushed into the room. She was about to reprove her daughter, reminding her that she must remember that she was not only the sister of the reigning Queen but also the daughter of great King Edward who was still mourned with such affection by his subjects. . . .
But this was no time for a lecture on deportment. Cecilia was breathless.
“My lady . . . come quickly . . . it is my sister. . . . She is in pain.”
The Queen Mother felt fear grip her.
“No . . . It cannot be. . . .”
She was out of the room running as fast as she could to her daughter’s apartment.
One look at Elizabeth was enough. “Send for the midwife!” she cried.
Then with the help of her women she took the Queen to the lying-in apartments, which by good fortune had already been prepared for her.
When Margaret Countess of Richmond heard that the Queen’s confinement had begun she went at once to the lying-in apartments. She had prepared them herself, so she knew that everything was in readiness and exactly as it should be.
Let there be no misunderstanding. This was the most important occasion the country had known since the crowning of the new King.
On the orders of the King’s mother, the lying-in chamber, which she had graciously allowed the young mother-to-be to choose herself, was hung with rich arras that was draped even over the ceiling. It hung at the windows, shutting out the light. This was fitting for a royal birth, said the Countess, and as the King accepted her word in all such matters, so must it be. Only women should be with the Queen at the time of the birth and the Countess had appointed members of her own sex even to such posts as butler and pages, positions usually occupied by men.
She knew that Elizabeth Woodville would have liked to countermand her orders; but she dared not. The King had no great liking for his mother-in-law, and the woman knew that she remained at Court on sufferance, because he could not ignore his wife’s mother; even so she would have to understand that she must fall in completely with his wishes if she were to retain her place at Court, and that meant those of his mother also.
The Countess of Richmond was a very determined woman. She had been a beauty in her youth—not such a dazzling one as Elizabeth Woodville, but nevertheless a woman of striking good looks. Her features were regular, serene and so stern that they could be called frigid. She was a woman who kept her own counsel, but there was one thing which was certain—and that was her complete devotion to her son.
She had been not quite fourteen years old when Henry had been born, already a widow for her husband Edmund Tudor had died in the November before his son was born the following January. The bewildered mother had been glad to retire to Pembroke Castle where her brother-in-law Jasper offered her a home. It was Jasper who became the guardian of the young baby and who had brought him through many dangers to his present position.
The Tudors were staunch Lancastrians and Margaret had watched the progress of the Wars of the Roses with alternate fear and hope. The deaths of Henry the Sixth and his son had made the way clear for Henry. How she had hoped and prayed for his success and naturally she had not been above a little scheming too; and at last her seemingly hopeless dream had become a reality. Her Henry—whose claim to the throne even she had to admit was a trifle flimsy—had landed at Milford Haven and from there marched to Bosworth Field where he had had the good fortune to put an end to the reign of the Plantagenets and begin that of the Tudors.
It was dramatic; it was the fortunes of war; and Margaret had played her part in it. Henry did not forget that and he deferred to her. She was glad of that. He was a serious young man, her Henry; she was convinced that he would make a good king. Of course he would. He would always be ready to listen to his mother.
Critically she looked now at that other mother. She had never approved of Elizabeth Woodville and had always thought King Edward must have been wanting in judgment when he married her. Of course everyone knew that he had been a lecher. All the more reason to wonder at his actions in marrying the woman. Still, it was all long ago and Edward and his Queen had given the country the present Queen, a charming girl who would do her duty and would not prove too difficult to handle, Margaret was sure. Moreover the girl, with Henry, had united the Houses of Lancaster and York thereby silencing those fierce Yorkists who might want to drive Lancastrian Henry from the throne. It had all worked out as well as could be hoped, thought Margaret.
But Elizabeth Woodville would have to realize that the King’s mother was in charge of the King’s household, and as the most important part of it at this time was the lying-in chamber, Margaret would be in absolute control.
“It is well,” she said, “that we came to Winchester early as it is the King’s wish that the child should be born here.”
“I should have preferred Windsor,” commented Elizabeth Woodville.
“It is of course the King’s wish that must prevail in these matters. Great King Arthur built this castle.”
“Is said to have built it,” interrupted Elizabeth.
“King Arthur is an ancestor of the King.”
“Oh my dear Countess, there are so many who claim they have descended from Arthur.”
“That may be but the King has in fact. He always had a great admiration for King Arthur. When he was a boy he was constantly reading of his deeds and those of his knights; and when he knew he was about to become a father he said, ‘I wish my son to be born in Arthur’s castle.’ That is why the Queen is here.”
“We hope it will be a son. One can never be sure.”
“Your daughter will be fertile, I have no doubt. You yourself have been.”
Elizabeth smiled complacently. She felt superior to the Countess in that respect. For although Margaret might have had three husbands she had produced only one child. True, that child had become King of England, but so had Elizabeth’s tragic little Edward the Fifth—if only for a few months before he retired into mysterious obscurity.
“There should be some light in the lying-in chamber,” she said.
“One window has not been fully covered. That will give her all the light she needs,” retorted the Countess.
Elizabeth was irritated. When she considered the number of times she had given birth she would have thought she knew more about it than the King’s mother.
“When I think of my little son . . . born in Sanctuary . . .”
“I know, but the King’s son will soon be born in Winchester Castle and that is what we must concern ourselves with.”
“My lady, is it not unlucky to talk of the sex of the child with such certainty?”
“I do not think so. I feel sure it is a boy the Queen carries. A little boy . . . who is so impatient to be born that he cannot wait his full time.”
“I trust Elizabeth will be all right. I do not like premature births. I almost wish that it was not premature . . . that . . .”
The Countess regarded her with horror. “Do you mean that you would have the King forestall his marriage vows . . . ?You cannot mean . . . ?”
“Oh no . . . no . . . I am sure he would never do that. But if the baby comes before its time, will it not be a little . . . delicate?”
“It is sometimes so, but Elizabeth is a healthy girl. I doubt not that if he should be born weakly we shall soon have him strong.”
“Well, she is young. This will be the forerunner of many it is to be hoped.”
Thus the two women talked while they waited to hear the first cry of the child. Elizabeth Woodville was hiding her apprehension. Her daughter had suffered recently from the ague and she was more worried than she would admit because the birth was premature. If Elizabeth died . . . No, she would not think of that. She had had too much bad luck with her beloved children. Elizabeth would survive. Elizabeth was the hope of the House of York. If she died, and the child with her, would the conflict begin again? The Yorkists would be ready to drive the Lancastrian from the throne. She knew that in some circles Henry was referred to as “the impostor” and it was only this marriage with the daughter of the House of York which made him acceptable. Once the child was born—and pray God it should be a boy—that alone would seal the pact.
“Elizabeth, my darling daughter,” she prayed, “live . . . live and give us a healthy boy . . . for the sake of the country, for the sake of us all.”
The Countess of Richmond was less confident than she appeared to be. Premature births were dangerous and it could not possibly be anything else but a premature birth. Elizabeth would never have taken a lover and Henry would never have forestalled his marriage vows. No . . . no . . . the child was coming a month before it was due. It had happened before. The main thing was that it should live and that Elizabeth should go on to give more children to the country. This conflict between York and Lancaster had to end. For thirty years—on and off—those wars had persisted. The strength of King Edward the Fourth had held them at bay but it had been seen how easily they had broken out when he had died. And now . . . Lancaster was in the ascendancy but the Yorkists were content because though the King was a Lancastrian the Queen was of the house of York. An ideal settlement, but it must stay firm. The Queen must remain the Queen and there must be a child.
It had all seemed hopeful until the Queen began to give birth prematurely.
If she died, thought the Countess, and if the child died . . . what then?
She had been watching Cecilia. The girl was comely—all Edward the Fourth’s daughters were beauties, with that magnificent golden hair inherited from the mother. It was hardly likely that they could be other than handsome with parents who had been generally proclaimed as the best-looking man and woman in the country.
If Elizabeth died could Henry marry Cecilia . . . ? It would be tricky but it had always been the Countess’s custom to be prepared for all eventualities.
Meanwhile the Queen was awaiting the birth of the child. The pains were intermittent now. She felt very ill and wondered if she were going to die. She had been unprepared when the evidence of the child’s imminent arrival became apparent and she was very alarmed. It could not be yet. It was not due for another month. They had brought her to this darkened chamber and she longed for more light, but it was against royal etiquette, her mother-in-law had said—and it was the Countess who made the rules in this household.
The King deferred to the Countess and Elizabeth must defer to the King. She was not sure whether she loved her husband. He was not what she had imagined him to be. When the marriage had been suggested she had thought of him as a hero of romance. He was coming to protect her from her Uncle Richard—not that she had ever been greatly in fear of her uncle. She remembered his visiting her father when he was alive and what affection there had been between the two of them, though Uncle Richard had been quite different from her big jovial exuberant father. Quiet, retiring, speaking very little, being intensely serious—that was Uncle Richard. Yet Anne Neville had loved him; and Anne had been a good friend to her.
The truth was that she was in awe of her husband. He had shown her affection and stressed that he was delighted with his marriage, but there was something she did not understand about him, something withdrawn . . . aloof. Behind those eyes were secrets she would never discover. Perhaps, she thought, it was better that she did not.
She was overanxious that she should produce a healthy boy because that was her duty. It seemed, looking back on her life, that it was what she had been born for. All her life she had been buffeted, it seemed, from this one to that. . . . First one marriage was important . . . then another. At one time she had been offered to the son of Margaret of Anjou. That came to nothing because he was affianced to Anne Neville when Anne’s father, the Kingmaker Earl of Warwick, turned his coat and went over to Margaret of Anjou, deserting his old friend and ally Elizabeth’s father. Later she was destined for the Dauphin of France. What a grand opinion she had had of herself then. So had her mother, who had insisted that she be called Madame La Dauphine throughout the Court.
Then of course the King of France had decided to give his son to another bride and that, it was said, so shattered Edward the Fourth that it was one of the causes of his death. And eventually here she was . . . Queen of England.
At least that side of her life was settled. She would like to live quietly now . . . at peace . . . with many children to occupy her days. That was what she wanted and for once it coincided with most other people’s wishes for her, so perhaps there was a chance of its coming to pass.
Perhaps she was wrong to be afraid of her cold-eyed husband. Perhaps she felt so because having lived close to a father like Edward the Fourth, she had expected to have a husband like him—full of good humor, full of laughter, handsome, dressed extravagantly, charming everyone with his smiles and well-chosen words. She remembered an occasion when the Lord of Grauthuse visited the Court and her father wished to do honor to him. There had been a great many entertainments and at one of the balls her father had led her out onto the floor and danced with her. She must have looked tiny beside his great bulk, but how exalted she had felt—particularly when the dance was over and he had lifted her up before them all and kissed her. That must have been one of the happiest moments in her life. She remembered her mother, so beautiful that she seemed like a being from another world, looking on at the scene and smiling benignly—oh yes indeed, the happiest little girl in all the Court . . . in all the world perhaps. But one quickly learned that happiness was a fleeting moment . . . here . . . and gone . . . but it did leave something behind . . . a memory to bring out now and then and glory in.
Now, lying in her bed in this darkened room with so many people about her, listening to the whispering voices, waiting for the next bout of pain, events from the past would keep coming into her mind.
She was thinking of her young brother Edward’s birth, which had taken place on a dark November day in the Sanctuary at Westminster where she with her mother and her sisters were sheltering from their enemies. She would never forget the exultation when it was learned that the new baby was a boy. Her mother had said: “This is the best news the King could have. Now he will regain his throne.” She remembered the little boy’s baptism in that grim place. There was no royal ceremony then, and yet that little boy was the King’s son, the heir to the throne.
Little Edward, she thought. Where are you now? Where is my brother Richard? Little Edward, true King of England, what happened to you?
One must not think of the boys, her mother had said. They must have died. . . . It is the only explanation.
Of course it was the only explanation, for if they lived and were not illegitimate as her Uncle Richard had proclaimed them to be, then Henry had no right to the throne and she was not the true Queen. And he must declare them legitimate for how could the King of England marry a bastard, for she must be one if her brothers were.
One certainly must not think of such things, particularly when one was about to bring a child into the world.
But the thoughts would keep intruding . . . terrible thoughts. There had been a rumor when her aunt, Queen Anne, wife of Uncle Richard was near to death that she, Elizabeth, and the King had conspired together to poison her. It was monstrous. It was absurd. Her Uncle Richard had never shown anything but devotion toward his wife and never never had she, Elizabeth, considered marriage to him. Her own uncle! It was criminal. And all for the sake of being Queen of England!
He must have felt the same horror for when the Queen died he sent her away from Court, and she had been more or less a prisoner at his castle of Sheriff Hutton in the North because he knew that there had been a secret betrothal to Henry Tudor.
That was her life—buffeted from one situation to another. Never was she consulted as to her wishes. They would do with her as best suited them. Received at Court one day, petted and pampered; and the next, banished to exile in what was more or less a prison.
At Sheriff Hutton she had been very much in the company of her cousin Edward, Earl of Warwick, who was the son of the Duke of Clarence—that brother of her father’s who had died in the Tower of London by drowning in a butt of malmsey. Poor Edward, his lot had been very sad. He had been only three years old when his father had died; his mother was already dead and poor little orphan that he was he was happy for a while in the care of his aunt Anne, then Duchess of Gloucester soon to be Queen of England. There had been a time, after the death of King Richard’s son, when Richard had thought to make young Edward his heir but the boy had continued at Sheriff Hutton, so that when Elizabeth had come there, she had found him already installed and a friendship grew up between them.
There they had been together at the time of the fateful battle of Bosworth, which was to change the lives of so many, among them the two who were virtually prisoners at Sheriff Hutton.
Elizabeth had come to Court to marry the new King; and the young Earl of Warwick for no other reason than he was a threat to the new King’s position was brought to London and lodged in the Tower.
Elizabeth was concerned for him; she would have liked to visit him, to ask her husband—or her husband’s mother—for what reason her young cousin Edward was confined in the Tower. What had he done—apart from being the son of the Duke of Clarence who might be said to have claim to the throne?
When she had broached the subject with Henry, that cold veiled look, which she was beginning to know so well, had come into his eyes.
“He is best there,” he had said with a note of finality in his voice.
As the Countess of Richmond had said: “The King will know how best to act.”
But it is wrong . . . wrong . . . she thought . . . to imprison him just because . . .
She tried not to think beyond that, but the thoughts would persist: Just because he has a greater claim to the throne than Henry Tudor. . . . After the sons of Edward the Fourth there is the son of his brother George Duke of Clarence. . . . But where are the sons of Edward the Fourth? Where are my little brothers Edward and Richard?
It was amazing how her thoughts came back and back to that question.
But the pains were starting again, and there was nothing else she could think of.
The King was out hunting when he heard the disturbing news that the child was on the point of being born. He was alarmed. It was too soon. Not only must this child be a boy, he must live. He was sure that if this could come about he would be secure upon the throne.
It meant everything to him. He believed he had all the gifts necessary to kingship. He believed he knew what England needed to make her a great country and he could bring this about. He hated war, which he was sure brought little profit to any concerned in it. He had seen what the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses had done to England. He wanted peace. He wanted trade. Edward the Fourth had seen the virtue of that and it was obvious that the country has prospered under him. He wanted to encourage the arts for he felt they enriched a nation; he wanted to accumulate wealth, for if the coffers of the exchequer were fuller a country lost its vulnerability and the money could be used to encourage commerce and exploration, which would result in new markets; he could enrich the country through architecture and learning; the taxes enforced on the people should be used for its prosperity, not squandered on useless wars and other futile extravagances.
He knew what the country wanted and he knew he could give it. He knew too that he had reached the throne through good luck. The battle of Bosworth might so easily have gone the other way and probably would have done so but for the defection of his father-in-law’s brother, Sir William Stanley. Then he had his mother to thank for so much. She should always be near him . . . cherished, revered. Well, here he was and here he intended to stay; but he must never forget that his position could not be firm, coming down through bastardy as it did. Many would say that his grandfather Owen Tudor had never been married to Katherine of Valois and therefore their children were bastards—part royal bastards though they might be. Then even his mother, daughter of John Beaufort, first Earl of Somerset, and his sole heir, descended from John of Gaunt, could not be completely free from the taint of bastardy. He would have been the first to admit that his claim to the throne was a very flimsy one, which was the reason why he must be very careful and ever watchful that those who might be said to have a greater claim were in no position to rise against him.
He was uneasy about Edward, Earl of Warwick, but he was safely in the Tower and there he must remain. It was fortunate that the only legitimate son of Richard the Third had died. The Yorkists would say that Elizabeth of York was the heiress to the throne. Well, she was his wife. That had been the only possible marriage for him and he had to thank his good fortune that he had been able to bring it about. Elizabeth not only had a claim to the throne but she was also a good wife. His mother had said: “She will bring you great joy and little trouble.” That was what he needed. So he had his gentle Elizabeth, the legitimate daughter of Edward the Fourth, who had already shown that she could be fertile.
There was the core of his anxieties. If she were legitimate then so were her brothers.
He did not want to think of those boys who had been lodged in the Tower. He kept telling himself that he need not worry anymore about them. Richard had been a fool to remove them from the public eye after those rumors of their death. He had made one or two mistakes in his lifetime—the thoughtful Richard. Trusting the Stanleys was one—that had cost him his crown; and removing the Princes into obscurity had lost him his reputation.
“I am not by nature a cruel man,” mused the King. “I am not a natural murderer. But sometimes what would seem to be evil deeds are necessary for the good of many. Then surely they cease to be evil. And what are the lives of two little boys compared with the prosperity, well-being and lives maybe of an entire kingdom?”
He must put unpleasant thoughts behind him. That would be easy enough if it were not for the constant fear that ghosts could arise from the past to confront a man when he least expected them; and if that man were a king, the results could be disastrous. But it was folly to see trouble where it had not yet raised its head. Time enough for that when the moment of danger arose.
There was one big threat to the throne and that could come through Clarence’s son. Henry’s enemies might decide to strike at him and use the boy as a figurehead. There would always be those to remember that Henry was a Lancastrian and the Earl of Warwick a Yorkist heir to the throne—providing the young sons of Edward the Fourth were truly no more. But unless it was absolutely necessary the boy must not die yet. There must not be too many deaths.
These were uneasy thoughts, but a king’s thoughts were often uneasy, and he had always been prepared for that. Life had never been smooth. How many times had he believed his to be at an end? And how grateful he should be now that he had a chance to reach his destiny!
His good friend John Morton, Bishop of Ely, had assured him that God had chosen him. Morton should have the Archbishopric of Canterbury. He deserved it, and Henry was going to bestow it on him next month. He owed his life to Morton and that was something he would never forget. He promised himself that he would be ruthless toward his enemies, but every man who had shown friendship to him should have his gratitude.
His Uncle Jasper and Morton were the best friends he had ever had—not counting his mother, of course, but complete devotion was something which came naturally from a mother . . . perhaps an uncle too. Morton though—without ties of blood—had been his greatest friend.
He did, however, owe a great deal to his uncle Jasper Tudor. Jasper had been true to the Lancastrian cause even when its fortunes were at their very lowest. His mother had told him how very alarmed she was to be left alone with a young baby and she could not imagine what might have befallen them but for his uncle Jasper.
“I remember the day he came to me,” she had told her son. “He embraced me. He told me that he looked upon you as a sacred charge. The Tudors always stood together and as you had lost your father he was going to do for you all that a father should. I never forgot that. And he did, Henry. He carried out his word. Never forget what you owe to your uncle Jasper.”
No, he would never forget Jasper. As soon as he had come to power he had created him Duke of Bedford and made him a Privy Councillor; he had restored the earldom of Pembroke to him and made him Chief Justice of South Wales. No, he would never forget Jasper.
His education had been supervised by his uncle who had provided him with the best tutors.
“We have a boy here,” Jasper had said, “who loves learning. It would be a sin not to let him have the best.”
His mother had fully agreed with these sentiments, so he had become immersed in his lessons, particularly stories about the Kings Arthur and Cadwallader whom he claimed as his ancestors. He had quickly become aware of the uncertainty of life, for his uncle Jasper was constantly engaged in battles as the war raged, with the Lancastrians victorious one day and the Yorkists the next. After one heavy defeat, when Henry was only five years old, Jasper had been obliged to fly to Scotland; the boy had been taken from Pembroke Castle to the fortress of Harlech where he had remained in Lancastrian hands until he was nine years old.
That had been a terrifying time. Henry hated war. He would do so all his life. He was not going to be one of those warrior kings like Henry the Fifth and the First and Third Edwards who, it seemed to him, sought to make war when it was not necessary to do so and when it would have been so much better for them and their countries to have lived in peace. He could not say the same of his family’s arch enemy, Edward the Fourth, for he had fought only when war was forced upon him, when he had to make it or risk losing his crown. Henry could understand that a crown was something well worth fighting for.
When he was nine years old William Herbert had come and taken the castle of Harlech for the Yorkists—and young Henry with it. Then Henry had a new guardian and he was amazed that he could quickly grow fond of the Herberts, particularly Lady Herbert who treated him as he had never been treated before—as a child. Oddly enough he enjoyed that. She scolded him and looked to his comforts and was as affectionate toward him as though he were her own son. Lord Herbert had been given the title of Earl of Pembroke for this had been taken away from Jasper. Henry and young Maud Herbert did their lessons together, rode together, quarreled together and in truth found each other’s company very agreeable. Lady Herbert watching, thought that one day they might enter into an even closer relationship. Then there had been a new development in the war. Fortunes had been reversed. The newly created Earl of Pembroke was killed in battle, the Lancastrians were restored to power, Edward the Fourth fled the country, and Uncle Jasper returned.
That had been a very important time in young Henry’s life because he was taken to London and there presented to King Henry the Sixth, his father’s half-brother, who welcomed him warmly, complimenting him on his handsome looks and musing in his somewhat absentminded way that it might well be that in time a crown would grace that head.
That was when young Henry first began thinking of the possibility of becoming a king. He had noticed the deference bestowed on the King; he was delighted to hear that he was related to him; he went back to Wales and read more and more of Arthur and Cadwallader. He was one of them. He could one day be a king.
Uncle Jasper had been full of high hopes at that time. The King was gracious to his Tudor kinsmen. It was clear that he had been impressed—as far as his addled mind could let him be—and had been struck by the looks and learning of young Henry.
“If he stays secure on the throne,” said Jasper, “there will be a high place for you at Court, my boy.”
But poor mad Henry did not stay secure on the throne and it was not long before the mighty Edward returned to claim the crown and hold it with such firmness of purpose which, combined with the will of the people who had always loved him, showed quite clearly that York would be triumphant as long as the magnificent Edward was there to make it so.
Edward was shrewd. He did not like the thought of that boy being nurtured in Wales.
“It is clear that we are unsafe here,” said Uncle Jasper.
So they had left intending to go to France but a strong wind had blown them onto the coast of Brittany where they were cordially received by the Duke, Francis the Second.
It became obvious that it had been a wise action when Edward asked the Duke of Brittany to deliver young Henry Tudor to him. “I do not intend to make him a prisoner,” Edward had declared. “I would like to arrange a match for him with one of my daughters.”
Jasper had laughed aloud at that and decided they would stay in Brittany until what he called a more healthy climate prevailed in England.
Henry had often thought that one of the saddest things that could happen to a man or woman was to be an exile from his or her own country. Pray God it never happened to him again.
He would not be here this day if it were not for John Morton. What a good friend he had been—one who was ready to work for a cause and place his life in jeopardy! He had come through some difficult times, had John Morton. In spite of his Lancastrian leanings he had managed to win the confidence of Edward the King. What fools some men—even great men—were. Both Edward and Richard, whom he was ready to concede were wise in many ways, had been fools. They never seemed to doubt the loyalty of those about them; it appeared to be good enough for a man to profess friendship, for these Kings to accept his word. King Henry the Seventh would never be caught like that. He would trust no one who had not proved his worth—even then not too deply. His mother he would trust with his life; and Morton, yes, but not even him completely. He would always remember Richard’s trust in Stanley. How could he have been such a fool! That act of folly had lost him his crown—or contributed to it.
So Edward had trusted Morton and made him an executor of his will, and as Bishop of Ely Morton had been in a strong position when Edward died. Yet Richard had suspected him. Had he not been arrested at that famous council meeting in the Tower when Hastings had lost his head? But what had Richard done? Put the Bishop in the care of Buckingham. How could Richard have trusted Buckingham as long as he did!
The more he looked back to the past the more he saw that a king must be wary; he must be suspicious of all and he must not weaken in his vigil and his purpose and those who stood between him and the throne must in due course be eliminated. Not only for the sake of Henry Tudor but for the peace and prosperity of the land.
Be watchful then even of good friends like Morton who had once saved his life. He would never forget it; he would reward Morton; but he would be watchful of all men.
Yes, even Morton, though it was he who had sent warning to him when Richard was planning to capture him in Brittany, and so enabled him to escape to France in time. He owed his life to Morton. From Buckingham’s care Morton had escaped to Ely and from there to Flanders where he had joined Henry with plans for the landing, for the conquest which should give Henry the Kingdom.
And now here he was . . . married to Elizabeth, heiress of York, awaiting the birth of his son.
Who knew, at this moment the child might have arrived.
He spurred his horse and rode with all speed to Winchester.
The Queen lay back exhausted and triumphant. It was over. She had heard the cry of her child, and the Countess of Richmond was at her bedside holding the infant.
“A boy!” she cried. “Healthy enough . . . though small, as to be expected coming a month too soon.”
“A boy,” said the Queen, holding out her arms.
“Just for a few moments, my dear,” said the Countess. “You must not tire yourself. We are going to get you well as soon as we can. That would be the King’s command.”
“Where is the King?”
“He will be here soon. I long to see his face when he hears we have our boy.”
The Queen could see her mother standing there and she smiled at her.
“Dearest lady,” she said.
The Queen Mother was on her knees at the bedside. “We have our boy, my dearest,” she said. “A darling little boy. We must call him Edward after your father. And let us pray that he shall be such another as his grandfather.”
The Queen nodded and looked down at the child. But her mother-in-law was already taking him away.
“The Queen should have the baby for a while,” said Elizabeth Woodville. “He will be such a comfort to her.”
“The Queen is comforted indeed by the knowledge that she has a son. She is exhausted now and it is best for her to sleep.”
The Countess signed to the nurse. “Take the child now.” As the nurse did so she said, “I hear sounds of arrival. The King is here.”
She hurried out of the chamber and went to greet him. She wanted to be the first to tell him.
There he was, eager and apprehensive. She bowed. She never forgot the homage due to the King. Elizabeth Woodville had said that at every possible moment she reminded herself and everyone that he was the King and was warning all not to forget it.
He was looking at her expectantly.
“All is well,” she said. “We have our child. . . .” She could not resist holding back the vital information, perhaps because she felt that a few moments of anxiety would make the news more joyful.
“Healthy,” she said, “strong, perfect in every way,” still prolonging the suspense. Then she let it out. “A boy. My son, we have our boy.”
He was overcome with joy and relief.
“And all is well with him?”
“He is small . . . being a child of eight months. But we shall soon remedy that.”
“A boy,” he said. “We shall call him Arthur.”
“A fitting name. The Queen’s mother has already suggested Edward.”
The King shook his head. Edward? Never Edward. To remind everyone of that great handsome king whom they loved even more now that he was dead than they had when he was alive, although they had been fond of him even then! Edward, to remind them of that little Prince who had disappeared in the Tower!!
“I must see the boy,” he said.
She led him up to the lying-in chamber. To her annoyance the Queen had the baby in her arms. The Woodville woman must have countermanded her orders as soon as she went down to greet the King. She would have to do something about that, but this was not the moment.
The King went to the bed and looked with wonder at the child.
The Queen was smiling at him. He smiled at her.
“I am happy,” he said.
“It is wonderful,” answered the Queen quietly. “I dared not hope for so much joy.”
“We have our boy . . . our first boy. Now you must recover quickly.”
It was almost as though he were saying, we should have another soon, so don’t waste time recovering.
His eyes were cold. She, who had grown up in a warmly loving family where displays of affection were commonplace, was repelled by her husband’s coldness. Even at such a time he was in complete control of his emotions. He was delighted that she had come safely through and they had a son, but was that because it would have been extremely awkward if she had died; and of course a son and a living Yorkist wife were what he needed to make his position very secure.
She said: “Is he not beautiful? He has a look of my father.”
The King shook his head. How could that red-faced wrinkled creature look in the least like the magnificent Edward.
“We should call him Edward,” said Elizabeth Woodville. “It is a good name for the son of a king.”
“No, he is to be Arthur,” replied Henry. “He is born in Arthur’s Castle. I am descended from Arthur. That is what my son shall be called. Arthur.”
“That,” said the Countess, “is just what I thought. Come, little Arthur. Your mother must rest.”
With a triumphant look at the Dowager Queen, the Countess took the child from his mother’s arms and handed him to the nurse.
It was all very satisfactory. They had their son. The country would rejoice and Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter had learned yet again that they must obey the wishes and commands of the King and his mother.
The Baker’s Boy
aking his way through the streets of Oxford Richard Simon had often paused by the baker’s shop to watch the graceful young boy helping his father there. Richard Simon, humble priest, disgruntled, inwardly complaining with much bitterness of the ill luck which had been his, often wondered what he could do to better his position. In the beginning he had had grand dreams. So many priests rose to greatness. One needed influence of course; that, or some great stroke of good fortune, and if only he could find it there was no end to what could happen to him. Bishoprics might come within his grasp and once he had got onto the first rung of the ladder to fame he would rise, he knew it.
He had ingenuity and imagination; he had courage . . . everything a man needed to rise; but as the years passed and he could not take that first step he was becoming more bitter and disillusioned every day.
In fact he was getting desperate. If good fortune would not come to him, he must go out to find it. There he was—personable and clever. He often thought he would have made a good Archbishop of Canterbury. There were some people who had the looks of distinction even though they were set in humble circumstances.
Take the young boy in the baker’s shop for instance. He moved with a natural dignity. He fascinated Richard Simon. How did a boy like that come to be working in a baker’s shop? That boy would have looked quite at home in the house of a nobleman.
He called in at the dwelling of a fellow priest and they sat together over a flagon of wine in a room which was darkened because the only light that came in came through the leaded windows. His own house might have been a replica of this one. It was a roof, a shelter, little more.
They talked of the country’s affairs, of the new King, of the marriage of York and Lancaster, of the newly born Prince.
“It looks as if fortune is smiling on King Henry,” said Richard Simon’s companion.
“Some are lucky. Look how he came to England. He defeated King Richard. Then he married King Edward’s daughter and within eight months—eight, mark you—he has a child and that child a boy. Does that look like fortune smiling on him? Why, Providence even cut short the time of waiting and made his son in eight months instead of the customary nine.”
Richard Simon’s lips curled with bitterness. There was nothing he would like better than to see the luck of Henry the Seventh change drastically. He would like to see him brought low . . . lose everything he had gained. Not that he cared which king was on the throne. He just hated the successful because he was a failure.
His companion admitted that it certainly seemed as though God were smiling on King Henry. “He is a man to wipe away all obstacles,” he said.
Richard Simon’s eyes narrowed. “Like King Richard . . . the little Princes . . .”
“King Richard was slain in fair combat and it was Richard who disposed of the Princes in the Tower. They were killed long ago.”
“It was rumor. Why should Richard kill them? They were no threat to him. And if they were bastards as Richard would have it, does that not make the Queen herself one since she came out of the same stable.”
“You talk rashly, Richard my friend.”
“I speak as I find. I wonder what happened to those boys. . . .”
“There is a tale going round that they escaped from the Tower and are living somewhere. . . in obscurity.”
“Yes . . . I had heard that. . . .” Richard narrowed his eyes. “It could be true. They must be somewhere. . . . I remember that story about King Richard’s wife, the Lady Anne Neville. . . . Clarence wanted to get rid of her and wasn’t she working in a kitchen somewhere? She, a high-bred lady, a kitchen maid. That was a story you’d scarce believe.”
“Yes it was true enough. It was well known at the time so my father told me.”
“So you see, there’s no end to what can be done.”
Richard Simon rose and said he had business to attend to. He went back to the baker’s shop. The boy was serving a customer. He might be listening to a petitioner, thought Richard Simon. He has all the grace of royalty.
He went into the shop. The baker came out rubbing his hands, smiling at the priest.
He had come for a cob loaf, he said.
“Lambert,” called the baker. “Get a cob for the gentleman.”
He watched Lambert. How gracefully the boy moved, how delicately he took the loaf and wrapped it. There was a diffidence about him and great dignity.
“Thank you, my boy,” said Richard.
Lambert inclined his head. Where did he learn such manners? Richard wanted to linger, to ask questions. He could scarcely say to the baker, How did you come to sire such a boy as this?
“I hear your bread is of the best,” he said to the baker.
The baker was smiling broadly; he rubbed his hands together. “You’re not the first who has heard that, Father. I’ve a reputation hereabouts. Have you ever tried my simnel cakes?”
“No, I have not.”
“Then you must. Then you must.” The baker leaned forward smiling broadly. “I’m so noted for them that they’ve called me after them.”
“Oh . . . what do you mean?” Listening to the father’s chatter he was still watching the boy.
“I’m known as Baker Simnel. That’s after my cakes, wouldn’t you say?”
“I would indeed. And your boy is a great help to you, I’m sure.”
“Oh he’s young yet . . . coming up for eleven. Still he’ll be useful when he’s a year or so older.”
One couldn’t spend the whole afternoon chatting over one cob loaf. Reluctantly Richard Simon left the shop.
He walked thoughtfully to his lodging.
The boy haunted him. What if it were really true that the Princes had not been murdered after all, that they had escaped . . . or perhaps been taken away and hidden somewhere . . . and where would be the best place to hide a prince? Where it would be least expected to find him. Clarence had made Anne Neville a kitchen maid. She might never have been found but for the determination of King Richard. Just suppose that boy Lambert Simnel was either King Edward the Fifth or the Duke of York. And suppose he, Richard Simon, humble priest, had found him. Suppose he restored him to the throne. The luck of King Henry the Seventh would change then would it not, and so would that of Richard Simon.
It had become an obsession. He went to the baker’s shop whenever he could, where he engaged young Lambert in conversation. The boy did not speak like a royal prince—as soon as he opened his mouth it was apparent that he was a baker’s son. But speech was something that could be changed. How long could he have been with the baker? Three years? A boy could change a great deal in that time. He was on the point of questioning the baker, but that would have been folly. There was no doubt that the baker would have been paid well to take the boy, but he would never admit that he had; moreover, and perhaps this was the real reason for his hesitation, the baker might call him mad and prove without a single doubt that the boy Lambert was his. The dream would be shattered. Richard Simon could not bear the thought of that. He had been happier since wild schemes had been chasing each other round in his head than he had for a long time. Perhaps he only half believed them. It did not matter. They were there; they were balm to his bitterness. He saw himself being graciously received by the King whom he had restored to the throne. Whether it was Edward the Fifth or Richard the Fourth he was not sure. That did not matter. The King was there; the upstart Henry the Seventh was deposed.
“I owe it all to my newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury,” he heard the new King saying.
“What I did, my lord, was what any of your loyal subjects would have done had God favored them with the good fortune to see the truth.”
He saw himself riding into Canterbury, the Archbishop who had saved the throne for the rightful king and rid the country of the impostor.
But these were only dreams—pleasant to indulge in for a while, but insubstantial. There must be some action some time.
He visited his friend frequently and often he was on the point of telling him of his discovery, but he refrained from doing so. He was afraid of bringing his theories into the light of day because he greatly feared they would immediately evaporate.
Instead he talked of events of the days of great Edward and the accession of Richard.
“The Tudor has a very flimsy claim to the throne,” he insisted.
His friend always looked furtively over his shoulder when he talked like that. He was a timid man. “It is of little concern to us,” he said. “What difference does it make to the life of a humble priest what king is on the throne?”
“I like to see justice done,” said Richard piously.
“We all do as long as it doesn’t do us any harm. We know it could have worked so differently. As you say, Richard might not have died at Bosworth. He might have lived to have sons. Or there might have been others to come to the throne. There’s young Edward of Warwick and his sister Margaret. They are children, I know. But there is John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln. They say that Richard made him the heir to the throne . . . in case he didn’t get children of his own . . . on account of the Earl of Warwick’s being but a boy.”
“The King has young Warwick under lock and key in the Tower, which shows he’s afraid of him. What has this young boy done . . . a boy of ten years or so, to deserve imprisonment? Why he’s as innocent as . . . as . . .”
A vision of the young Lambert Simnel came into his mind. He must be about the same age as the imprisoned Earl of Warwick.
“I wonder,” he went on, “why some of them don’t rise up and, er . . . do something about it.”
“Oh, Henry Tudor is safe on the throne, particularly now he’s married Elizabeth of York . . . uniting the houses . . . and as they’ve got a son . . . young Arthur . . . well, he’s safe enough now.”
“But I reckon some people feel angry about it. I reckon there’s the Earl of Lincoln for one. . . .”
He was excited. He wanted to get away to think. He had to be practical. What hope had a poor unknown priest of bringing about a rebellion? Why hadn’t he seen before that he needed help? He was reluctant to share the glory but on the other hand shared glory was better than no glory at all.
Suppose he went to the Earl of Lincoln. Would the mighty Earl receive a humble priest? But perhaps he would want to see a priest who believed he had made a great discovery.
And then it seemed to him that he had a sign from Heaven.
It was his friend who imparted the news to him. He had been wondering how he could find the Earl of Lincoln when his fellow priest said: “Have you heard the latest news? They say that the young Earl of Warwick has escaped from the Tower.”
Richard’s heart began to hammer against his side. Escaped from the Tower! When? It could have been some time ago because such news took a long time to get around.
The young Earl of Warwick was aged about ten. He must look rather like the boy in the baker’s shop.
Now he must act. This had decided him.
It was not easy to get an audience with the great Earl of Lincoln but when Richard Simon eventually succeeded in doing so what he had to say received the Earl’s full attention.
John de la Pole was about twenty-three years old. He deeply resented what he called the usurpation of the Tudor. In his view Richard the Third had been the undoubted King and he believed that the children of Edward the Fourth were illegitimate, which made the Earl of Warwick the heir to the throne. Nobody wanted a child king; nothing was worse for the stability of the country; therefore the Earl of Lincoln himself was the one who should be wearing the crown. His mother had been Elizabeth, sister to Edward the Fourth, and therefore he considered his claim indisputable. Richard the Third had thought so too for he had named him his heir.
“I was struck by the looks of this boy called Lambert Simnel as soon as I perceived him,” said Richard. “He quite clearly did not begin his life in a baker’s shop.”
“But you do not know what the Earl of Warwick looks like.”
“That is true, my lord, and my first thoughts were that here was one of the Princes . . . son of Edward the Fourth.”
“They are illegitimate. They haven’t the same claim to the throne as the Earl of Warwick.”
“And now that we hear he has escaped from the Tower . . .”
The Earl nodded.
“Has he the looks of an earl? Has he the manner?”
“He has indeed, my lord.”
“And have you spoken with him?”
Richard hesitated. “His speech is a little rough . . . like that of apprentices in the streets of London.”
“Not like an earl . . . eh, and a royal earl. Of course speech is acquired and if he has been long in the baker’s shop, it would be natural for him to adopt that method of speech.”
“So thought I.”
“The people would not accept him unless he appeared perfect in every respect. There would be those who would call him an impostor even though he were proved conclusively to be the Earl of Warwick.”
The Earl of Lincoln was thoughtful. Then he went on: “There would be many who would support the Earl of warwick against the Tudor.”
“I know that well, my lord. There are many who murmur against Henry Tudor. One hears whispers in the streets.”
“It is among people in high places that we should look to support this cause. When we have that, the people in the streets may flock to our banners.”
“My lord, I would do everything within my power to see this wrong righted.”
The Earl nodded. “The Irish have always supported the House of York,” he said. “They deplore the coming of the Welshman. My aunt, King Edward’s sister, the Duchess of Burgundy would help us I know. I have a feeling that the Dowager Queen is not very happy even though Henry Tudor has made her daughter Queen. I will leave England and sound out these people. In the meantime it would be well for you first to have an audience with the Queen Dowager, sound her. She could be a very good ally in the very center of Court itself.”
Richard’s heart was bursting with pride. His wildest dreams were becoming realities. He, to have an audience with the Queen Dowager! It was beyond belief. But he would do it. He would bring this about. The Archbishopric of Canterbury was not far off.
“Then,” went on the Earl of Lincoln, “you must get the boy and bring him to Ireland. There we will make sure that he has forgotten none of those customs and modes of speech which would be becoming in the Earl of Warwick.”
It was very irksome for Elizabeth Woodville to be frustrated at every turn by the Countess of Richmond. She wanted to shout at her: “I am a queen. What are you? A countess! Your husband was the son of a bastard; and you yourself come from the bastard Beauforts. I am a queen I tell you. I reigned with Edward. He was my devoted husband until the day of his death. My daughter is now Queen of England. How dare you adopt this patronizing manner toward me!”
It had been worse since the baby had been born. It was the Countess of Richmond who gave orders in the nursery. What did she know of the care of children? She had been thirteen when her son was born . . . the only one too, and when Elizabeth considered her own brood—most of them healthy—she wondered how Margaret Beaufort had the impertinence to try to tell her what should be done.
Little Arthur was not exactly robust. How could one expect an eight-month child to be? He needed very special care. He needed a little coddling. But the Countess would have none of that. She wanted him to grow up sturdy and strong, she said. “And I”, had retorted Elizabeth Woodville, “want him to grow up!”
It was frustrating and the Queen seemed very much in awe of both her husband and her mother-in-law. How things were changed since those days when Edward was alive and she had managed to get her own way, which he was prepared to grant providing she did not interfere with his love affairs. Not that she ever attempted to for she had been secretly glad that there were other women to cater for his insatiable sexuality. They were the good days. How different it would be if the Countess of Richmond were not here! Then she, Elizabeth, could step into her rightful role as grandmother to the heir to the throne. Dear child. She was sure he had a look of Edward. He should have been called Edward of course. Arthur! What a name for a king. He would be constantly compared with the mystic Arthur and that was not going to be of much help to him. Every time anything went wrong the magical name would be recalled. Oh no, Arthur was not going to find life easy with a name like that and it was a great error of judgment to have saddled him with it.
If only they had taken her advice. . . .
But they would never do that.
She was in a very disgruntled mood when she heard that a priest was asking for an audience with her. He came on the recommendation of the Earl of Lincoln.
The Earl of Lincoln had been a firm adherent of Richard, and she was not sure how he regarded her. One of the most shocking moments of her life had been when she heard that Richard was declaring her children to be illegitimate. He had revived that absurd story of Eleanor Butler’s marriage with Edward and as Eleanor Butler had been alive when he had married her, Elizabeth, that meant their marriage was invalid and her children illegitimate.
Nonsense! Nonsense! she had wanted to cry; but it had been accepted as fact and Richard therefore became the King; he had behaved as though her two sons, young Edward and Richard, did not exist as claimants to the throne. He had considered Clarence’s son, the young Earl of warwick, as his heir but because he was only a boy and the country needed a strong man he had named Lincoln.
She could imagine how Lincoln was feeling now . . . ready for revolt against the Tudor, she did not doubt.
Well, that gave them something in common for she felt the same.
Therefore she was ready to receive the priest who was Lincoln’s protégé.
Richard Simon was overawed. Elizabeth Woodville could be very regal when she wished; but that she was eager to hear what he had to say was clear.
He came quickly to the point and told her that he had seen a boy whom he had reason to believe was the Earl of warwick. He was at the moment working in a baker’s shop. He had reported his discovery to the Earl of Lincoln who, as she knew, had suggested that the matter be imparted to her. The Earl had left for the Continent. He was going to see the Duchess of Burgundy, so strongly did he feel that this matter should not be brushed aside.
The priest was aware of a terrible fear in that moment. There was a cold glitter in the Queen Dowager’s eyes. What a fool he had been to come! True, she was of the House of York, having married the great Yorkist King—but her daughter was now the wife of Henry Tudor. Would she work against her own daughter?
For a few moments he visualized himself seized, dragged away to a dungeon, tortured to reveal things he did not know. Fool . . . fool that he had been to deliver himself right into the lions’ den.
But he was wrong. Elizabeth Woodville had always reveled in intrigue ever since she and her mother had plotted to entrap Edward in Whittlebury Forest. She was furiously angry with the Countess of Richmond, who treated her as though she were of no account at all. Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth herself, was treated as though she were merely a puppet by these Tudors.
Of course Henry was an impostor. What of her own little boys? Where were they? Sometimes she dreamed of them at night. They were stretching out their arms to her, calling for her. She kept thinking of the last time she had seen the younger of them, little Richard, who had been taken from her to join his brother in the Tower. “I should never have let him go.” How many times had she said that?
And where were they now? She never mentioned them to their sisters. The Queen never wanted to talk of them. There was that horrible slur of illegitimacy which King Richard had laid on them and which Henry had ignored. And if he ignored it . . . then the true king was little Edward the Fifth. But where was he? And where was his brother?
When she thought of her boys she thought of Henry Tudor and that he had no right to be on the throne. If he had been humble, a little grateful because she had allowed her daughter to marry him, she would have felt differently.
But every day the Countess of Richmond gave some indication that the King and his mother were the rulers while the Queen and her mother did as they were told.
An intolerable situation, and if she could make trouble for Henry Tudor—no matter with what consequences—she was ready to do so. Moreover life was dull nowadays; she thought longingly of the intrigues of those days when she was the King’s wife and had ruled him in many ways of which he was ignorant.
So now she was ready for a little divertissement. It would be welcome.
“And how did you discover this boy?” she asked.
“Strangely enough, my lady, I went into the baker’s shop to buy a cob loaf. I noticed at once his grace, his dignity. It was unmistakeable.”
“Have you spoken to him of these matters? Have you spoken to the baker?”
“My lady, I have spoken only to the Earl of Lincoln. He is convinced that this boy is the Earl of Warwick. He was most anxious that he should have your approval of this matter before proceeding. It is dangerous, he said. I know if we went to the King and laid the matter before him we should be clapped into prison and never heard of again.”
“That is very likely,” said the Queen, and Richard Simon began to breathe more easily.
“So the Earl suggested that we come to you.”
“What help does he expect to receive from me?”
“He wants your approval, my lady. He wants to know whether you would consider it wise to pursue this matter.”
“He asks me?”
“He remembers your judgment . . . when you were able to give it. He remembers how you were of such help to our great King Edward.”
“Ah.” She sighed. “There was a king. We shall never see his like again.”
“It is true, my lady, but we must make the best of what is left to us. The Earl wished to know if you thought it wise for us to take up this boy, to discover more of him. And if he did indeed prove to be the Earl of Warwick, attempt to get him to that place where he belongs.”
The Queen nodded slowly. “The House of York would be reigning again. The House of Lancaster was never good for this country.”
“My lady.” He had lifted his eyes to her face and they were full of admiration for her beauty, of course. Elizabeth Woodville had been used to such looks all her life—though they came more rarely now. She had never grown tired of them and never would. “I shall proceed with a good heart. My plan is to take the boy to Ireland.”
“The Irish were always friends of York.”
“So said my lord of Lincoln. He is on his way to Burgundy.”
To Edward’s sister Margaret, of course, the forceful Duchess. She had always been a strong adherent of the House of York and had, like all the family, idolized her magnificent brother Edward. Naturally she would want to see a member of her family, her own nephew on the throne; she hated the usurping Tudor.
“I should be kept informed,” she said.
“We shall see that you are, my lady. And you will be here in the Court. You will be able to keep an eye on what is happening here. The Earl was most anxious that he should have your approval. I think if he did not have it he would want to go no further in this dangerous matter.”
She was delighted. She would keep her eyes open. She would be watchful and any discovery she made would be passed on to the Earl of Lincoln or her sister-in-law of Burgundy.
The priest left her. She felt as though she were alive again. Something was happening and if this were successful she would be the recipient of much gratitude. Land perhaps . . . wealth . . . and above all the opportunity to show the Countess of Richmond that she was not nearly as important as she had believed herself to be and indeed must now be subservient to her archenemy Elizabeth Woodville.
The next step was to get possession of the boy. Richard Simon strolled along to the baker’s shop. Baker Simnel recognized him at once as the priest who came in now and then for his cob loaf.
“There it is, Father,” he said. “All waiting for you. Don’t stand there like a zany, Lambert. Wrap it for his lordship.”
Richard watched Lambert wrap the loaf. Then he turned to the baker.
“I would like to have a word with you. Is there somewhere where we could go in private?”
The baker looked alarmed. He immediately began to search his mind, wondering if he had said or done something which could be brought against him. The priest had seemed very interested in his shop for some time.
“Oh yes . . . yes . . .,”he said. “Come this way. Take charge of the shop, Lambert. And call me if I’m wanted.”
Richard followed him into a dark little room at the back in which were two stools. Richard took one and the baker the other.
“This is good news for you, my friend,” said the priest. “It concerns your boy.”
“Lambert? Why so, Father? What has he done?”
“He has done nothing for which he can be reproached. He is an unusual boy.”
“He’s not so bad, you know. Not as bright as some you might say but he’ll improve, I shouldn’t wonder. He is getting quite good in the shop.”
“He is amazingly handsome.”
“Oh yes, a good-looking boy. He takes after his mother. ’Tis a pity she went. . . .”
The baker raised his eyes. “She was took to Heaven seven years since. It was when our other boy was born.”
“So you have another son.”
“Bright he is . . . brighter than Lambert. . . . He’ll be coming along.”
“I’m glad to hear it because I am going to ask you to let me take Lambert into my service.”
“Into your service . . . but for what purpose?”
“He has an air of dignity, which is appealing. I think he might be trained for the Church.”
“Trained for the Church? My Lambert? Why he’s not . . . well . . . you don’t know it, Father, because why should you . . . but Lambert is what we say here, one groat short.”
“You mean he is different from the rest of you. I perceived that.”
The baker tapped his forehead. “A good boy, mind you . . . but well, shall we say somewhat simple.”
“Nothing that a little learning wouldn’t put right, I’d say. In any case, if you are willing I will take the boy into my household and have him taught. I am traveling to Ireland very soon and should like the boy to be one of my party. There will be little duties for him to perform but if he shows the slightest aptitude he could go far.”
The baker was bewildered. If the man had been any but a priest he would have been highly suspicious. Of course it had been known for some young apprentice to catch the eye of a nobleman and be taken into his service. Why shouldn’t this happen to Lambert?
“Send for the boy,” said the priest.
The baker hesitated.
“On second thoughts,” went on Richard, “let us discuss this matter first. Let us work out a plan. Then it can be presented to the boy and if he agrees we will go ahead.”
“Lambert will do as I say.”
“So much the better for I see that you are a wise man. You will know what is best for the boy and let me remind you this is an opportunity such as will never come his way or yours again for as long as you live. I promise this boy a good future if he is ready to learn.”
“I think if he had opportunities to learn, he would.”
“That is well. He would have a good future. He could become affluent, a comfort to his father in his old age.”
“Tell me more of this.”
“I should like to take him on trial. He will come away with me and soon we will sail for Ireland. He will be taught to read and write and speak like a gentleman. Then he will be ready to study for his profession.”
“You choose Lambert for this? Lambert who is a little . . . simple, you must understand. My other boy . . .”
“No, it is Lambert or no one.”
“I admit the boy has a way with him. I sometimes wonder how I and his mother got him. . . .”The baker laughed sheepishly. “Though she was a good-looking woman, I will say that for her. . . .”
“Well, what is the answer?”
“Lambert shall come with you.”
“Good. I will call for him this day . . . when the shop closes. Say nothing of this to anyone. There are such rumors nowadays.”
The baker swore secrecy and later that day Lambert Simnel left his father’s house in the company of Richard Simon.
Richard Simon quickly realized that he could not have chosen a better subject for his purpose. He had not been mistaken in Lambert. He had a natural dignity, a graceful deportment and, dressed in appropriate clothes, could indeed pass for a boy of high degree. Richard Simon had immediately tackled his speech, which was halting and carried the accent of the streets.
He was sure that could be remedied. It was true that Lambert was simple, but that in itself proved an advantage. He did not question very much. Simon was amazed at the calm way he accepted his transition from his father’s household to that of the priest. It was as though he thought it was the most natural thing in the world for bakers’ sons to be whisked away from their natural environment to become someone else.
He had a natural gift for mimicry and in a matter of days his speech had improved. The Earl of Lincoln had supplied Richard Simon with funds and Lambert was fitted out in a velvet coat, which reached almost to his heels and had elaborate hanging sleeves slashed to show an elegant white shirt beneath it; he had gray hose and pointed shoes and a little hat with a feather. He was delighted with his appearance and moved and walked with even greater grace so pleased was he.
Richard Simon devoted the first few days in teaching him to speak. That was the most important. He must also learn to read a little and write a little. Not much would be demanded in that respect but of course he must have some ability in these arts.
When a few days had passed, Simon was delighted with his results and the more he was with the boy the more pleased he was by his simplicity.
It would have been impossible to impress on a normal boy that he was something other than he actually was. It was different with Lambert. That which his father called simple meant that his mind was pliable.
Simon realized this as soon as he tested him.
“You were not born in a baker’s shop,” he told the boy.
Lambert opened his eyes very wide.
“No. You were born in a noble palace . . . in a castle . . . and your father was not the humble baker. He was a great duke.”
Lambert still continued to stare. Oh yes, it would not be difficult to mold him.
“The great Duke of Clarence. When you were three years old your father died. He was drowned in a butt of malmsey when he was a prisoner in the Tower.”
“The Tower.” He knew the Tower. Like other inhabitants of the capital he saw its gray walls often. It was regarded with a mixture of awe, apprehension and pride. It was one of the landmarks of London. He knew that terrible things happened there. Far away in the maze of his mind he remembered hearing something about a duke who had been drowned in a butt of malmsey.
“Yes, your father was the Duke of Clarence. Your mother was the Lady Isabel. She was the daughter of the Earl of Warwick who was known as the Kingmaker. Your mother died before your father. . . . So you see you soon became an orphan.”
He was still wide-eyed, taking it all in, not questioning what the priest told him. Priests often told of strange happenings . . . the resurrection . . . the Holy Ghost visiting the disciples . . . things such as that, and compared with them the fact that he was in truth the Earl of warwick did not seem so strange. He had his velvet coat; he wore pointed shoes. They showed that he was different.
“The man who now sits on the throne is a usurper. That means he took what did not belong to him and when that is a throne all good and true men want to take from him that which he has stolen and put it back where it belongs.”
The boy nodded.
“My dear little lord, the crown belongs on your head not that of the wicked Tudor who now wears it. Do you understand?”
The boy nodded vaguely. “Well,” went on Simon, “there is no need to . . . yet. There is much to be done. We are ready now to sail for Ireland. You must work at your words. You must throw off the accent you acquired while working in the baker’s shop, where the wicked Tudor put you.”
Lambert could not remember the wicked Tudor putting him in his father’s shop. He thought he had always been there, but if the priest said he hadn’t then he supposed it was right. Priests always spoke the truth. A boy had to listen to them and obey them, otherwise he would not go to Heaven.
So before they reached Ireland, Lambert was speaking with a dignity which matched his deportment and he already believed that he had been a prisoner in the Tower of London and had been taken out by the wicked Tudor and placed in a baker’s shop.
So smoothly was everything working out that Richard Simon was certain that God was on his side. The Archbishopric of Canterbury was coming very near.
The King was disturbed. This was the most ridiculous assertion he had ever heard and yet it made him very uneasy. He had no doubt that he could quickly deal with this trouble but it was a warning to him. He was sure that throughout his life he would be beset by such annoyances.
There would always be those who sought to rebel against him for it was invariably so when one was not the direct heir to the throne. He would be the first to admit that he lacked that personal charm, charisma, aura of royalty, whatever it was which Edward the Fourth had had in abundance. Henry the Fifth, Edward the First and Edward the Third had had it. Was it something to do with making war? It might well be. It was more than that. It was the power to make men follow. But whatever it was, he lacked it.
He prided himself on facing facts. He knew that he would be a good king . . . if the country would let him. And after a few years, here was the first rebellion.
It was a foolish assumption. The Duke of Warwick masquerading under the name of Lambert Simnel who was the son of a baker! Ah, not the son of a baker was the rumor. The son of the Duke of Clarence and daughter of the great Earl of Warwick . . . the next in line to the throne.
Nonsense. A boy of eleven or so. Moreover he was in the Tower at this moment . . . a prisoner.
Yet . . . the people who were behind this rebellion alarmed him. There was the Earl of Lincoln whom Richard the Third had named as heir to the throne; there was Margaret of Burgundy, a formidable woman with vast forces at her command; there was Francis Lovell, a former adherent of Richard the Third. Well, how could they say they had the Earl of Warwick when the real one was in the Tower . . . his prisoner?
But rumor knew how to lie. Even though he proved to them that he had the Earl of Warwick in the Tower, even though he showed the boy to the people, there would still be some to say that this Lambert Simnel was the true Earl and that the boy the King was showing to the world was some creature he had set up in his place.
His mother came to him. She knew of his trouble. She had her ear to the ground, as she said, and she was ever watchful.
“You are uneasy about this Lambert Simnel,” she said. “It is the most arrant nonsense. You have young Warwick in the Tower. How can they have the effrontery to say he is with them.”
“It’s true. I must have the young Warwick paraded through the streets.”
“That will settle the matter once and for all.”
“Nay, my dear lady, not so. There was a rumor some time ago that young Warwick had escaped. That will be believed, you will see. It will be said that the boy whom I shall parade through the streets is a substitute. I know it is nonsense . . . but there will be some to believe it. My enemies will make all they can of this.”
“They will not succeed.”
“They must not succeed. Imagine if they did. This baker’s son would be set up as the King . . . oh, only a figurehead of course . . . but Lincoln would be there to govern the country . . . and you can imagine Margaret of Burgundy dictating what should be done. Men like Lovell will support them. No, my lady Mother, it is nonsense. I grant you, and I shall overcome it, but in the meantime I like it not.”
“Who does like these disturbances? I hear it is an unknown priest who has started all this—a certain Richard Simon.”
“It is. But I daresay it is taken out of his hands now. They have dared crown this Lambert Simnel in Dublin.”
“That is impossible.”
“Alas, not so. They have support from Margaret of Burgundy and two thousand German troops with them. The Germans are good fighters.”
“And what do they propose to do?”
“You can imagine. They will land here and we shall have to do battle. I thought the Wars of the Roses were at an end.”
“They are at an end. They must be at an end. You and Elizabeth have joined up York and Lancaster. There shall be no more wars.”
“That is my fervent hope. But we must always be wary of troublemakers like this upstart priest.”
“Richard Simon . . . why he came here once!”
“Why yes, to see the Dowager Queen.”
Mother and son looked at each other intently.
“So Elizabeth Woodville is concerned in this,” muttered Henry. “The Queen’s mother! It seems incredible.”
“I would believe anything of that woman. You have given her so much but she is quite ungrateful. I am sure she tries to manage everything here in the Queen’s household and because she cannot, will turn the Queen against you.”
“I have no fear that I shall not be able to influence the Queen.”
“Elizabeth is a good creature, I grant you. I have no complaint of her. She will be a docile wife and she admires you and is of course grateful because of what you have brought her. But I have never liked Elizabeth Woodville, an upstart from the beginning. I should like to see her removed from Court.”
“If she is involved in the slightest way with this affair of the baker’s son then she shall most certainly be removed from Court.”
“My son, leave this to me. I shall discover and when I do I shall ask for the privilege of dealing with the woman. You know you can trust me.”
“I never was more certain of anything,” answered the King. “I leave the matter of the Dowager Queen in your hands.”
The Countess found the Dowager Queen in her apartments surrounded by her women. One of them was reading while the rest of them worked on a piece of tapestry.
The Countess said: “I wish to speak with the Queen Dowager alone.”
The women immediately arose and, bowing, began to retire.
“Wait,” said Elizabeth in her most imperious manner. “I feel sure that what the Countess has to say to me can be said before you.”
“I do not think you would relish that, my lady,” said the Countess grimly, and Elizabeth felt a shiver of apprehension. She knew that preparations were going ahead on the Continent, that Lambert Simnel had been crowned in Dublin, that Margaret of Burgundy had decided to support the boy whom she called the son of her beloved brother Clarence, and that Lincoln had succeeded in getting an army of Germans together to fight the Tudor. It was satisfactory progress, but all the same she hoped that Henry had not discovered too much for he might resort to all kinds of drastic conduct if he knew how far this plot had gone against him.
She did not stop the women’s leaving and when they had gone she said with a strong resentment in her voice: “Countess, it is my place to give orders to my servants.”
“I am of the opinion that they might not be your servants much longer.”
“I do not understand. Are you suggesting that you will choose my attendants for me?”
“I am suggesting that you may not be here at Court much longer.”
Elizabeth laughed. “I am sure my daughter, the Queen, would not wish me to leave her.”
“I think she will when she knows what you have been doing.”
“You had better explain, Countess.”
“On the contrary it is you who should explain. Of what did the priest Richard Simon speak to you when he came on the instructions of the Earl of Lincoln to visit you?”
Elizabeth turned pale. So they knew. It was inevitable. The King would have his spies everywhere. Did it matter? He would soon know when the troops landed.
Elizabeth decided to be brazen. She was the mother of the Queen, so they would not dare harm her.
The Countess was saying: “It is no use denying that Simon came here. He is now in Ireland with that foolish baker’s boy whom they have had the temerity to crown in Dublin.”
“You mean the Earl of Warwick.”
“You know the Earl of Warwick is in the Tower.”
“I know he was there, poor child. Put there as my own sons were because of their claim to the throne.”
“You speak treason, Elizabeth Woodville.”
“I speak truth, Margaret Beaufort.”
“The King and I have a way of dealing with traitors.”
“I know you have a way of dealing with those whose claim to the throne is greater than that of the Tudor.”
Elizabeth felt reckless now, which was rare with her. But she believed Henry Tudor was no fighter and there were many in the country who resented him; they had accepted him because they wanted an end to the war, but no one could say that his claim to the throne was very strong.
Now was the time to take sides.
“You admit that you are involved in this nonsensical conspiracy?”
“I admit that the priest came here. I admit that I know the Earl of Warwick escaped from the prison in which your son had put him—poor child, little more than a baby and his only fault being that he had a greater claim to the throne than Henry Tudor.”
“You go too far, Elizabeth Woodville.”
“Well, what is it to be? The Tower? Do you think the Queen will allow that? And what do you think the people will say when they hear that the Queen’s Mother is sent to prison merely for saying the Tudor has a very shaky claim to the throne? If you imprison people for saying that, you will have the whole country in captivity.”
“Silence,” cried the Countess. “You are to leave for the nunnery at Bermondsey without delay.”
“A nunnery! I am not ready for that.”
“You will have a choice. It is the nunnery or the Tower. If you go to the nunnery it can be said that you go for your health’s sake. The King and I give you this chance.”
“You and the King do not wish the country to know that I believe the boy Lambert to be the true Earl.”
“That matter will soon be settled. Prepare to leave for the nunnery.”
“I will see my daughter first.”
The Countess lifted her shoulders.
“You must be ready to leave before the end of the day.”
When she was alone Elizabeth felt deflated. The victory was theirs, but she was sure it was a temporary one. Power was in their hands now. It was true they could have sent her to the Tower and she was not so popular with the people that they would greatly care what became of her.
To be sent to the Tower, put in a dark cheerless cell—those places of doom in which a prisoner spent long days and nights, to be forgotten and remembered only when he or she was no longer there and none could be sure how that prisoner had died and none cared.
My little boys, where are you? she wondered. Do your ghosts roam the Tower by night?
And what of the Earl of Warwick? Had he really escaped? Had he gone the way of the little Princes? Who could say?
The Queen came to her. She looked disturbed. So the Countess had told her what was planned.
She went to her daughter and took her in her arms but the Queen was somewhat aloof. The Dowager Queen had never been demonstrative . . . not like King Edward, and it was not possible to become so just when the moment demanded it. It would be so easily detected as forced.
“They are asking me to leave for Bermondsey,” she said.
“I know. You have been involved in this foolish uprising . . . if that is what it will come to. How could you!”
“How could I? Because that boy in Ireland whom they have crowned has more right to the throne than Henry Tudor.”
“How can you say such foolish things! Henry is my husband. I am the Queen. Our marriage has put an end to the Wars of the Roses. York is honored in this marriage as much as Lancaster.”
“Is it? You are the King’s puppet. You do as he says. I am treated as of no importance. Lancaster is in the ascendant. Where is York now?”
“My son is of the houses of both York and Lancaster. Henry is going to make this country great. He knows how to do that but he must have peace. We want none of these foolish troubles . . . and this is a particularly stupid one. I am surprised that you received that priest. I think that Henry is being very lenient in sending you to Bermondsey.”
Elizabeth’s spirits sank. They had taken her daughter from her. They had made her one of them. Perhaps she had been foolish to become involved in this affair. After all would it be so good for her if the young boy was on the throne when her own daughter was Henry’s Queen? But Elizabeth was too meek. She was already one of them. She was on their side against her own mother.
Elizabeth Woodville began to realize that she was lucky merely to be banished to Bermondsey.
There were crowds in the streets of London watching a young boy on a white horse. He was some twelve years old, very pale, for he had been a prisoner in the Tower since the King’s accession and before that had lived in some restraint at Sheriff Hutton.
He was a little bewildered now and looked about him with a kind of dazed wonder as the people pressed round to look at him. He was on his way to St. Paul’s Cathedral where he could hear Mass and confess his sins, which would not take long for there were few sins a prisoner of twelve years old could commit.
The people studied him intently. Was he the real Earl of Warwick as the King said he was? Or was he a substitute? Who could say? Important and influential people said the true one was in Ireland now . . . coming to England to claim the throne.
Who could know the truth?
The King and the Queen were present and the Earl rode close behind them. Looks of recognition passed between the young boy and the Queen, and they shared memories of Sheriff Hutton where they had both been in restraint before the battle of Bosworth. Both had been buffeted from one position to another and all because of who they were.
The young Earl knew why he was in the Tower. His father had died in the Tower, killed they said on the orders of his own brother the great King Edward, to whom Clarence had been a menace. That was the trouble, they were all menaces if they were in the line of succession to the throne—except Elizabeth. She had other uses. She was a Princess and by marriage had joined the Houses of York and Lancaster.
The boy looked at her pleadingly. She understood. He was saying: I should like to be free again. I should like to go into the country, to ride out, to smell the grass and the trees. Freedom is the most important gift in the world and one which is not appreciated until it is lost.
He was hopeful. Elizabeth was kind and she was the Queen now. She would remember their friendship at Sheriff Hutton. Perhaps she could persuade the King to let him go free. If he could only be released he would promise never to try to gain the throne. He would barter all his claims . . . for freedom.
So he rode through the streets where the heralds proclaimed him—Earl of Warwick, son of Clarence . . . alive and well and lodging at the Tower.
The people had seen him. They should know now that the boy those traitors were threatening to bring to England was an impostor.
At least, thought the young Earl, I have had one day of freedom because of him.
So from St. Paul’s he went back to his prison in the Tower.
Elizabeth Woodville was at Bermondsey; the young Earl of Warwick was back in the Tower; but this was not an end to the matter. It had gone too far and there were too many powerful people at the center of it.
The Earl of Lincoln had joined the not inconsiderable army gathered together in Ireland and they were ready to cross the water and make good their claim.
Young Lambert had almost forgotten the days when he had worked in his father’s baker’s shop. He had been an earl and now he was a king. People bowed to him, spoke to him with respect and all he had to do was smile at them and obey his good friend Richard Simon. He was always a little alarmed when Richard Simon was not there. The Earl of Lincoln and Sir Francis Lovell were very respectful to him but they frightened him. He need not be afraid, Richard had told him; all he had to do was speak as he had been taught to and do exactly as they told him. Then he could keep the beautiful crown which had been put on his head.
He had learned to ride and rode at the head of all the soldiers. The Earl of Lincoln was on one side of him and Sir Francis on the other. He was a little nervous because Richard Simon was some way behind. “Don’t be afraid,” Richard had told him. “I shall be there.”
So they boarded the ships and crossed to England with all the men in their splendid uniforms and all the beautiful horses. They landed near Furness in Lancashire and then they started to march.
“The people will flock to our banner,” said the Earl of Lincoln. “They are weary of the Tudor and they know he has no right to the throne.”
But by the time they had reached the town of York it was realized that the people were quite indifferent to their cause. It might be that the Tudor’s claim was slight but they had had enough of war. They had thought the royal marriage had put an end to that and now here was some remote member of the House of York trying to start it all up again.
The Earl of Lincoln grew less optimistic, especially when he heard that the King’s forces were on the march.
The opposing armies met at Stoke and battle ensued. The Germans fought valiantly and, professional soldiers that they were, came within sight of victory; but the King’s forces were too much for even them and gradually they had to face defeat.
The Earl of Lincoln was slain; Lovell managed to escape and Lambert Simnel and the priest Simon, who were not actually involved in the fighting, were surprised together in a tent and taken prisoner.
“It is all over,” said Richard Simon fatalistically. He would never be Archbishop of Canterbury now. He visualized the terrible fate which was customarily meted out to traitors, and for the first time Lambert saw him without hope. The boy was frightened. He did not quite understand what had happened but he did know that something had gone terribly wrong.
They put him on a horse and he rode to London. Richard was on another horse beside him. He supposed now that they would send him back to his father’s baker’s shop. Now that former life seemed more real to him than what had happened since the soldiers had come to the tent.
The King had expressed a wish to see the traitor priest and the boy who had dared pose as the Earl of Warwick and they were brought to the palace of Shene on the river’s edge where the King was staying at that time. They stood before Henry Tudor—the shivering priest who had been too ambitious and the bewildered boy who even now was not quite sure what this was all about.
Henry looked at them coldly.
“So you, sir priest, thought to replace me with this boy?” said the King.
Richard Simon fell on his knees. He could not speak; he could only babble. The boy watched him in bewilderment. He put out a hand to touch him, to try to comfort him in some way. He was less overawed than the priest by the cold-eyed man who was watching him so closely. That was because he did not know the magnitude of what had happened and his part in it. Perhaps it was because the King did not look as splendid as the Earl of Lincoln had when he had first seen him. Perhaps he had grown accustomed now to seeing important men. But the King was by no means the most impressive of these.
“What have you to say, boy?” asked the King.
Lambert looked at him and did not know what to say. They had always told him what to say. Now there was no one to do so.
“Speak up,” said the King.
The priest spoke then: “My lord King, it is no fault of the boy. He did as he was told.”
“So thought I,” said the King. “They took you from your baker’s shop, eh, boy? They set you up as their puppet. That was it. I knew it. You admit it, eh?”
The boy still looked dazed.
“He is a simpleton,” said the King. “What folly was this! Lincoln dead. I am sorry. I should have liked to ask him what foolishness could have possessed him to pass off this half-witted creature as the Earl of Warwick. Take them away . . . both of them.”
So they awaited their sentence. The King was smiling, which was something he rarely did.
He was not sorry that this had happened. He would show the people how he would keep order. There had been this uprising . . . yes . . . with a disgruntled earl and a boy from a baker’s shop. He had quickly suppressed that. He had shown them how he would deal with these impostors.
The ringleaders were dead or in flight and he had only the priest and the half-witted boy to deal with.
It should be a traitor’s death for them both. No. They were not important enough for that. He would show mercy to them both. The priest should be imprisoned for life because he had plotted against the King and might well take it into his knave’s head to do it again. The boy . . . well he was very young; moreover he was addlepated. How could one punish a boy like that? It was no fault of the poor half-witted creature. He had been plucked out of his father’s baker’s shop because of his pleasant looks, which the King admitted was all he had to recommend him.
He should go into the King’s kitchen. That would best suit him.
“Let this Lambert Simnel become one of our scullions,” said the King. “I doubt not he will soon forget his grand aspirations there.”
So Richard Simon, congratulating himself that he had escaped the barbarous traitor’s death, lived on in prison—a contrast to the archbishop’s palace of which he had dreamed; as for Lambert he was happy in the King’s kitchens. His fellow workers laughed at him but without malice, so Lambert laughed with them; and he worked hard and well. He was happier there than he had been sitting on an uncomfortable but very grand chair with a crown on his head.
In the streets they laughed at the story of Lambert Simnel—which, said the King to his mother, was the way he had hoped it would be.
lthough people laughed to think of the leader of a rebellion now working as a scullion in the King’s own kitchens, Henry himself did not dismiss the matter so lightly. He talked it over with a young man whom he had recently made one of his Privy Councillors and toward whom he had felt especially drawn. This was Edmund Dudley, a lawyer in his twenties who was showing characteristics which were not unlike the King’s own.
Henry wanted to gather round him men of his own choosing. No king should inherit statesmen for they would most certainly compare the present master with the previous one and as the departed always gained in stature such comparisons put the living at a disadvantage.
Henry’s early life had made him suspicious and cautious and acceding to the throne had not lessened these traits in his character. Edmund Dudley who had studied law at Gray’s Inn and had later become Sheriff of Sussex was a man with whom he felt immediately in harmony; also Dudley had an associate, Richard Empson, another lawyer, educated for the Bar, who had already shown himself to be an astute lawyer. These were the kind of sharp minds Henry needed around him; and he had already shown favor to these two.
So now as they walked down to the river’s edge in the grounds of his favorite Palace of Shene and they talked of the rising of Lambert Simnel, Dudley commented that it was a sobering thought to contemplate how many Lincoln had been able to rally to his banner.
“And what do you think this indicates?” asked the King.
Intercepting the look which passed between Dudley and Empson, Henry knew that they had discussed the matter together.
“Come, speak up. I shall not be offended by truth.”
“Sire,” said Dudley, “the people approve of your marriage and the uniting of York and Lancaster, but they are saying that York does not receive its dues.”
“What do they mean by this?”
“That Lancaster is in the ascendancy.”
“It must be so since I am the King.”
Dudley hesitated and Empson nodded to him.
“My lord,” he said, “you have taken the throne, you have an heir in Prince Arthur, you have been crowned King of England, yet the Queen has not been crowned.”
“Ah,” said the King. “You think a coronation would please the people?”
“Coronations are ever a source of delight to the people, Sire,” said Empson. “Free wine in the streets . . . celebrations throughout the country . . . They love their ceremonies. But we were thinking of the Yorkists who might have reason to complain.”
The King nodded, giving an approving look to his two advisers. He could trust them to come up with a tangible suggestion.
“Perhaps the time has come then for the Queen to have her coronation,” he said. “Her mother is a source of irritation. I never trusted that woman. People say it was sorcery which enabled her to ensnare the late King.”
“She has outstanding beauty,” commented Dudley. Again he looked at Empson.
“And not too old for marriage I dareswear,” he said.
Henry was alert. “Could you by any chance be thinking of the King of Scotland?”
“He has just lost his Queen.”
Henry gave one of his rare smiles. “There is nothing I would like better than to send my mother-in-law over the Border.”
“It would certainly rid us of the unpleasantness of having to keep her under restraint, which is another reason why the Yorkists might be restive,” commented Dudley.
“I shall send an ambassador to Scotland without delay,” said Henry.
“Perhaps we should also inform the Dowager Queen of the intention?”
Henry was silent. “She is an obstinate lady, I fear.”
“My lord, surely she would consider very favorably changing a prison for a crown.”
“’Tis scarcely a prison at Bermondsey. I’ll swear my lady mother-in-law reminds them every hour of the day of her rank and is treated there with the utmost respect.”
“Nevertheless the match could scarcely be made without her consent.”
Henry agreed and the two matters of importance were decided on. Elizabeth Woodville should be offered to the King of Scotland, and the Queen should have her coronation.
It was true that Elizabeth Woodville suffered no harm in Bermondsey. She had her own apartments and her own servants there and apart from the seclusion of the life she might have been in her own palace. It was tiresome, of course, to be shut away from the world; but no less frustrating than being at Court where she was continually finding the interference of the King’s mother so irksome.
When she heard that her daughter was to have a coronation she remarked that it was time she did; then she regretted that she would not be there. It was monstrous. The mother of the Queen and more or less in restraint because of that upstart Tudor!
If only Edward had lived. If only her fair sons were with her! It was at times like this that she thought of them and wondered again what had happened to them in the Tower. She longed to see her little grandson. Dear Arthur. Though what a ridiculous name! It should have been Edward of course. However she was glad it was not Henry.
She longed to see her girls. Not that Elizabeth had much time for her mother nowadays; she had been completely subjugated by those Tudors. It was right, of course, that a woman should cling to her husband, but when that husband showed himself the enemy of the mother who had cared for her through all the difficult years . . . it was cruel and unnatural.
Dear Cecilia had more spirit than Elizabeth. She fancied that Cecilia was very interested in Lord John Weils. She had intercepted glances between them. It had made her a little uneasy at the time for although John Wells was a worthy man, and quite a favorite of the King, he was not a suitable husband for Cecilia. He was twice her age to begin with.
Nothing would come of that. She could dismiss it from her mind. But she did remember a certain defiance in Cecilia, which had been lacking in her elder sister.
She often wondered why Henry had not found a husband for Cecilia. At one time she suspected he had planned to test out Elizabeth and if she did not produce the heir . . . or died . . . he would try for Cecilia. She suspected Henry of all sorts of devious scheming. One could be sure there would be some motive behind everything that he did.
One of her servants came to tell her that a nobleman saying he came from the King wished to see her.
Ah, she thought, he has come to tell me that I shall be released for the coronation. He will realize that the people will notice my absence. It is only right and fitting that the mother of the Queen should be present on such an occasion.
The nobleman was brought in. He bowed with all due deference.
“Pray be seated,” she said. “You come from the King?”
“I do, my lady. He wishes to have your views on a matter of some importance.”
“I am honored that the King should seek my opinion,” she replied with a hint of sarcasm.
“My lady, it concerns you deeply and it is for this reason. The King of Scotland has been recently bereaved. He is of a mind to remarry. The King thought that if you were of like mind, negotiations could begin to bring about a union.”
“Between myself and the King of Scotland? Why he is half my age!”
“It is always said that you have the looks of a lady half your age.”
She was pleased. She could not help it. She had not thought of marriage for herself. She had never wanted much from men except power. That was why she had made a success of her marriage with Edward. She had never shown any jealousy of his countless mistresses; she had never sought to restrain his activities with them; it was for that reason that he had loved and admired her and she had been able to keep her hold on him. But the King of Scotland! Well, to be a queen again . . . a reigning queen, that was a great consideration. And to exchange this . . . well, retreat one might say . . . for palaces and castles. It was rather a pleasant idea.
“I can see that the idea is not repulsive to you, my lady.”
“These proposed marriages often come to nothing,” she said. “My daughter was to have married into Scotland. How strange that the offer should now be made to me.”
“The King feels sure that James of Scotland will be overjoyed at the prospect.”
“We shall see,” said the Queen, and graciously inclined her head to indicate that the interview was at an end.
She wanted to be alone to consider the suggestion. She had not really committed herself. She could always abandon the project if she had a mind to. At the moment it added a certain spice to life. Queen of Scotland! She was amused to contemplate the trouble she could bring to the King of England if she were ever in that position.
Elizabeth the Queen came riding into London with her sisters Cecilia and Anne. They were all excited because Elizabeth was about to be crowned.
“A queen is not a real queen until she is crowned,” said Anne. “You will be a real queen now, Elizabeth.”
“I wonder why it has been delayed so long,” added Cecilia.
“The King has his reasons,” replied the Queen serenely.
That is the answer her mother-in-law has taught her, thought Cecilia, and it applies every time the King’s conduct is questioned. Since her marriage Elizabeth has become a shadow of the King and his mother. I should never allow that to happen to me.
No indeed she would not. She was thinking of John Wells. She knew that he was a good deal older than she was, but she did not care. In his company she felt elated yet at peace; she felt contented and had a great desire to be with him. Was that love? She believed it was. She had explained her feelings to him and he had confirmed this. Moreover he felt the same contentment with her.
She knew that he was the husband she wanted. Her mother had often said that the King would soon be marrying her off and she would not be surprised if Cecilia was soon making some alliance which the King thought would be good for him. I won’t be, thought Cecilia. Elizabeth married him. That is enough. Elizabeth doesn’t mind being married to him. She is ready to agree that everything he does is right. That is good enough; she has done the family duty toward him. I will marry where I will.
She shuddered to think that she might now be miles away from John Wells. She might be in Scotland for they had once wanted to marry her to little Prince James of Scotland. And now there was rumor that her mother was being offered to that little Prince’s father. We are bandied about like a parcel of goods with no thought for our feelings, she thought. We are unimportant. . . . Well, some of us are. They will find the Princess Cecilia different.
They were to stay first of all at the Hospital of St. Mary in Bishopsgate from where, the Queen told them, they would watch the King’s entry into the capital.
“It will be a triumphant march,” said Anne, “because the King has defeated the scullion boy. Shall we ever see him, do you think, Elizabeth? I should very much like to see him.”
“It seems hardly likely that you will,” replied the Queen. “And if you did you would find he looked exactly like every other little scullion.”
“I think he would look a little different,” said Cecilia. “After all he must have had something about him for them to decide to use him in the first place.”
“Let us not discuss the silly boy,” said the Queen. “I find it all most distasteful. The King has shown his contempt for him and was it not benevolent of him to let him go free?”
Cecilia was silent. She was thinking: I shall marry John. What will the King say then? Whatever it is, Elizabeth will tell me it is right. I shall not care if we are banished. I am sure John will not either.
“After the coronation,” said Elizabeth, “I shall be more often in the company of the King.”
“Rendered worthy by the act of crowning,” added Cecilia. “Yet you are the daughter of a King whereas he . . .”
“He is descended from the great kings Arthur and Cadwallader. Do not forget that.”
Dear Elizabeth, thought Cecilia. She is bemused. Not by love of the King I’d swear. By a love of peace. A desire that everything shall go smoothly around her. That is good enough when one has everything one wants. Perhaps I shall be like that when I am married to John.
“I have heard it whispered,” Anne was saying, “that the House of York is not treated with the same respect as that of Lancaster.”
“You should not listen to whispers,” the Queen told her.
The people of London were growing vociferous in their welcome of Elizabeth. She made a charming picture riding with her two sisters who were as good-looking as she was herself, and the cheers were prolonged. The Queen bore a striking resemblance to her dead father. Her long golden hair hung loose about her shoulders in the style which showed it to its best advantage; her oval face was a little on the plump side, which with her pink and white complexion gave her a look of glowing health; her forehead was high like her father’s; if she was not quite as beautiful as her mother had been she lacked Elizabeth Woodville’s arrogance and that gentle rather self-deprecating smile appealed to them. There was more warmth in it than her husband could ever show them. The fact was the people were pleased with Elizabeth of York. “Long live the Queen!” they cried.
They liked her sisters too—beautiful girls both, with the same high foreheads and long flowing golden hair. Their beloved King Edward had indeed passed on his handsome looks to his family. It was to be hoped that the children of this noble lady would take after her family rather than that of the Tudor.
Not that they were against their King. By no means. He appeared to be strong, and they knew a strong king was what the country needed. He had settled this unfortunate rebellion of Lambert Simnel and had amused them by making the leader of the insurrection a scullion in his kitchens. In fact the story provoked laughter whenever it was mentioned. They merely liked the rosy handsome looks of York rather than the dour ones of Lancaster. And this was a great occasion. The crowning of their Queen.
Seated at a window of St. Mary’s Hospital the Queen, with her two sisters beside her, watched the King’s entry into the city. He came as the victor of the battle of Stoke where he had annihilated the rebels, and his triumphant procession through the capital was meant to tell the people that they could hope for peace in his time. He was going to be a strong ruler; he was going to put an end to wars; and although this last little fracas was a contemptible effort to break the peace, he had quickly suppressed it. Moreover he had not wanted revenge. He would be a strong but benevolent king; they would realize that when they considered his treatment of Lambert Simnel.
“It is sad that our mother is not here,” murmured Anne. “I wonder what she is thinking in Bermondsey.”
“That she was foolish to plot against the King, I doubt not,” said Elizabeth.
Cecilia thought: She is no longer like our sister. She has become merely the King’s wife. They shall never mold me as they have her. I will do as I please. I will marry John.
“The King has taken her estates from her,” she said. “She will be so sad for they meant a lot to her. And it was only last year that the lordships and manors were granted to her.”
Anne murmured softly: “Waltham, Magna, Badewe, Mashbury . . .”
“Dunmow, Lighe and Farnham,” finished Cecilia. “I remember how elated she was when they were granted to her. She kept repeating them over and over again as though to learn them by heart . . . which we did too.”
“She was very unwise to receive that priest,” said the Queen severely. “The King reluctantly decided that she must be taught a lesson.”
“I could almost believe,” said Cecilia, “that it is the Countess of Richmond sitting there and not our sister.”
The Queen shrugged her shoulders impatiently. It was nearly time for the King to arrive and she could hear the tumult in the streets a little way off.
The King came into Bishopsgate and when he reached the Hospital of St. Mary he paused and looked up at the window at which the Queen sat with her sisters.
He gave Elizabeth one of his rare smiles, and she returned it with a look of genuine love, which delighted the crowd. He could trust Elizabeth to do what was expected of her.
The crowd roared its approval. Henry acknowledged the cheers and passed on.
He was thinking that Empson and Dudley were right. The coronation of the Queen was what the people wanted. Now they were going to have it. Moreover if he could bring off this marriage of Elizabeth Woodville with the King of Scotland he would have rid himself of that most tiresome woman.
The King conducted the Queen to Greenwich Palace leaving her there while he returned to the Tower of London. In accordance with tradition she must come without him to the capital for the ceremony of crowning and he must be at the Tower of London, waiting to welcome her when she arrived.
She must sail down the river with the most glorious pageantry which could be devised. It would be an expense, Empson had said, and he, no less than the King, deplored expense; but there were occasions when rules of economy must be waived and reasonable sums laid out if the result of spending money was to have the desired effect.
It was a misty November day when the Queen left Greenwich, but no one seemed to care very much about the weather. The people were determined to enjoy themselves and they set about doing so with gusto, for here was their handsome Queen at the center of one of the colorful pageants which they had grown accustomed to during the reign of that incomparable monarch King Edward the Fourth.
Elizabeth was seated in her barge with her sisters and some of her ladies, there were craft of all description on the river that day; moreover people had massed on the banks to witness the progress of the pageant as it sailed along the Thames. The civic companies all had their barges on the river but what gave especial pleasure to the Queen was the presence of the students of Lincoln’s Inn in the Barge of the Bachelors, for they had decided to do honor to the House of Tudor and Elizabeth realized how this would delight the King. He was always gratified by such gestures although he did not show it. But there were those rare occasions when the people seemed really glad to welcome the Tudor; and that was what the Bachelors were doing now for they had erected a red dragon in their barge and on his side was a notice that he was the Red Dragon of Cadwallader. Henry, of course, prided himself in his descent from Cadwallader so this could only be construed as a special tribute to him. The people thoroughly appreciated the dragon and roared with delight as fire spouted from his mouth and fell into the river. Moreover as the Barge of the Bachelors sailed along close to that of the Queen several students strummed their lutes and others sang songs of Wales.
“The King will see that when we approach the Tower,” said the Queen to Cecilia. “It will put him in a good humor.”
“He should already be in that,” said Anne. “He should be pleased because at last it is his Queen’s coronation.”
Poor Anne is a little put out because our mother is not here, thought Elizabeth. But she would have been if she had not angered the King by seeing that foolish priest. The Countess is right, she does interfere too much. And it makes us all unhappy because she is more or less in restraint. It will be good for everyone if this Scottish marriage comes about.
But she was a little sad thinking that she might have to say good-bye to her mother. Theirs had always been a close family and it was hard to remember always that she must not allow her mother to guide her when she had the very excellent Countess to do that.
She must not have sad thoughts on her coronation day so she must remember that if her mother was in her present position it was due to her own fault.
Now she could see the gray walls of the Tower. Soon the King would be greeting her. She would rest in the Tower for the night and from there she would go to Westminster and the ceremony of coronation.
Her sisters were with her when she was dressed for the journey from the Tower to Westminster Palace where she would spend the night and from there, on the next day, go to the Abbey.
She looked beautiful and remarkably like her mother had at her age, except that there was a humility about her that Elizabeth Woodville had never possessed even before she rose to a throne.
Already the crowds were gathering in the streets. The people of London were anxious to see more of her. They had grumbled because, although she was the Queen, they believed the King had contrived to keep her away from them. But it seemed that they had misunderstood. She had become pregnant immediately after her marriage and often ladies did not wish to show themselves in that state and this would seem particularly true of such a modest one as the Queen obviously was. It was not so long since little Arthur had been born, and now she was emerging. They would see her often with the King now, and today they would watch the procession to Westminster Palace and the next day the coronation itself.
There she was in her kirtle of white cloth of gold and her mantle of the same material edged with royal ermine; and her beautiful golden hair was caught in a golden caul and about her brow was a simple gold circlet.
She might not have the perfect features of her mother but she had a warmth which that arrogant lady had lacked. Moreover she managed at the same time to have a look of her royal father and that was enough to endear the people to her.
As she left the Tower her train was carried by her sister Cecilia who, some said, was even more beautiful than the Queen; she certainly had the same golden looks and magnificent long flowing hair. Walking beside the Queen was the King’s uncle Jasper Tudor whom Henry had made Grand Steward, so eager was he to do him honor; and there was Lord Stanley, husband of the Queen’s mother-in-law who had now been created Earl of Derby and whose brother Sir William Stanley had played such a decisive part at the battle of Bosworth by changing sides at the crucial moment. A not very noble act, but it had brought about peace and what the people of London wanted more than anything now was peace.
There might be many staunch Lancastrians but York was represented too. The King had not been so foolish as to leave them out; and even the Duchess of Suffolk was there, which was an indication of how merciful the King could be, for it was her son, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln who had sought to set up Lambert Simnel and who had been slain at Stoke.
For the rest of the journey the Queen was to travel by litter and this was brought forward. She sat in it smiling at the people as she passed through the streets under the canopy, which was held by the four knights of the Bath whom Henry had recently created.
It was comforting to Elizabeth to see how the people liked her. They had hung out gaily colored material from their windows; they leaned forward to strew leaves and sweet-smelling herbs in her path; and every now and then the procession was halted while bands of children stepped forward to sing her praises.
It was very gratifying; and tired but exalted, she reached Westminster Palace.
There she could spend a quiet night in preparation for the next day’s ordeal.
Cecilia was with her when they dressed her.
“You look very grand,” she said. “Not like our sister anymore.”
“I am the same beneath all these fine robes, Cecilia.”
Not quite, thought Cecilia. You are the King’s wife now.
Did Elizabeth still remember those dreary days in Sanctuary at the time when Richard had taken the crown, when they had not known from one day to the next what their fate would be? Had she forgotten how even their father had had to fight to keep his crown . . . and that it was always the Lancastrians against whom he fought? Now she was one of them. Of course that had to be and marriage between the two houses was better than war. But Elizabeth seemed to have changed sides. In fact she could see no point of view but that of the King. Had it something to do with the mystic ritual of the marriage bed?
I shall find out, Cecilia told herself. And she knew then that she was going to marry John . . . in secret of course, for to announce her intentions openly would most certainly mean that they would be frustrated.
How beautiful Elizabeth looked in her kirtle of purple velvet edged with ermine with her magnificent hair loose, flowing from the circlet of gold studded with pearls and stones of several colors, which they had placed on her head.
She looks so serene, thought Cecilia, as though coronations were commonplace with her. She has no will of her own, now; only that of her husband and her mother-in-law. They decided what she must do and Elizabeth mildly did it. Perhaps that was a happy state to be in. Elizabeth certainly looked happy. Did she ever think of anything but pleasing her husband, submitting to his embraces in order to do her duty and produce one child after another, for that was how it would be, Cecilia was sure.
They had entered Westminster Hall, there to wait that moment when they would set out for the Abbey. The way from the Hall to the Abbey was carpeted with striped cloth, which the people regarded as their own perquisite, for after the Queen had walked on it they were at liberty to cut off pieces which would then be theirs.
So eager were the people to get their pieces of the material that no sooner had the Queen walked over it with her trainbearers than they dashed forward and started to cut the cloth. The ladies who were following were terrified to find themselves surrounded by the rush of people, shouting, abusing each other and even trampling those who had fallen under foot. Fortunately some of the lords, having seen what was happening, rushed forward to rescue the ladies, which they did just in time.
Cecilia going ahead with the Queen looked back and to her horror saw what was happening. Elizabeth knew something was wrong but she went serenely on. Nothing must mar this day. The King would expect her to play her part like a queen.
Cecilia was deeply disturbed; she knew she would never forget that brief glimpse of those people who were descending on the cloth like so many wild animals.
Every vestige of the cloth had disappeared in a very short time, but those who had fallen in the affray had to be carried away as unobtrusively as possible while in the Abbey the ceremony continued. The King with his mother was watching from an enclosed box between the altar and the pulpit. He had said that he wished to witness the ceremony but in no way did he want to take attention from the Queen.
So was Elizabeth of York crowned Queen of England and so, said many, were the Houses of York and Lancaster entirely united forever.
The company then returned to Westminster Hall where the banquet was to be held. The King and his mother did not join the Queen at table but, as they had in the Abbey, watched the proceedings from an enclosed box.
That, thought Cecilia, was taking it a little far. Was it implied that the people would be so overawed by his presence that they would forget the Queen? She did not think that likely. In fact it seemed clear that although the King was accepted, the Queen’s popularity was greater than his. Perhaps that was why he wished to hide himself.
With the King one could never be sure.
She was certain that she must marry John before the King had knowledge of it, for who knew what devious methods he might employ to prevent it if he knew in advance.
She had persuaded John that if they were to marry they must do so in secret.
“I do not think that I am of such great interest to the King now that my sister has borne him a son,” she insisted.
Lord Wells was deeply enamored of the young Princess, and somewhat surprised that she should feel the same about him. He was not a young man but Cecilia was a serious-minded girl and she was determined to choose her own husband.
He was in favor with the King for his family had always been ardent supporters of the Lancastrian cause. His father had died with the Lancastrian army at Towton and at that time his estates had been confiscated by Edward. John’s elder brother Richard was killed during Warwick’s rising leaving John the heir to the estates should they be released. Edward had been notoriously lenient to his enemies and John somehow came into favor during the years of peace. He was present at the coronation of Richard the Third but had never favored that monarch and had been a firm supporter of Henry for there was a family connection with the Countess of Richmond.
Henry had not forgotten his services when he came to the throne and had given him two castles and several grants of manors; moreover the family estates had been restored to him; he had been given the title of viscount and the King clearly trusted him.
It was for this reason that he believed Henry might not frown too deeply on the marriage once it was accomplished although, as Cecilia said, if his permission were asked it would very likely not be given and then marriage would be quite out of the question.
So Cecilia and he were married secretly and gave themselves up to the joy of being together; but of course the marriage could not remain a secret and Cecilia decided that she would tell her sister and ask her to pass on the news to the King.
Elizabeth was in a very happy mood. The coronation had been a great success; she found the King less formidable than he had seemed at first. He appeared to be growing fond of her. She adored her little Arthur though she saw very little of him; she was less worried about her mother now that a match was proposed for her, and there was an atmosphere of peace and serenity all about her.
Cecilia came to see her. There was a change in her. She seemed as though she were very happy about something, and yet at the same time a little apprehensive.
“I wanted to talk to you . . . as a sister,” she said.
“My dear Cecilia,” replied the Queen, “am I not always your good sister?”
“You look very happy today.”
“I am. Henry was so pleased with the coronation . . . apart from those people who got crushed to death.”
“Imagine risking your life for a piece of cloth!”
“I suppose it meant something more than that to them. Cecilia, Henry has been so generous to me. He has given me a grant of seven lordships and manors.”
“Seven. Why it was seven he took from our mother.”
“Our mother forfeited the right. . . .”
“I know. I know.”
Cecilia looked at her sister intently. “He has given you Waltham . . . has he?”
“Waltham, Magna, Badewe, Mashbury. Dunmow, Lighe and Farnham.”
Cecilia began to laugh. “He has given you those which he took from our mother.”
“Why should he not? They were available.”
“No reason at all. But it is all so neat. And it keeps them in the family.”
“I think it is very good of the King.”
“To take them from our mother?”
“Our mother was fortunate. She could have been accused of treason. I consider he has been most generous . . . to us both.”
Cecilia thought: Be careful. Don’t alienate her. You need her help.
“Elizabeth,” she said. “I have something to tell you. I want you to do something for me.”
Elizabeth smiled. She really is a sweet-natured and generous creature, thought Cecilia. I should remember that when I criticize her.
“If it is possible . . .”began Cecilia.
“I . . . want you to speak to the King on my behalf.”
Little lights of alarm were in the lovely eyes; they were no longer quite so serene.
“Oh sister, what have you done?”
“I have married.”
“Yes, you may well look shocked. I was determined to marry where I wanted to and I have done it.”
“But . . .”
“I know as the Queen’s sister . . . sister-in-law to the King . . . I should have had his consent. Well, I did not, Elizabeth.”
“But why . . . ?”
“You may well ask. For the simple reason that I feared that consent might not have been given if we asked for it.”
“Who is it?”
Elizabeth looked faintly relieved. “The King has a good opinion of him.”
“And should have. His family have firmly supported Lancaster for years. Elizabeth, will you please speak to the King for me? Will you plead for us? Tell him that we love each other, that no other will do for us, and that he must approve of what we have done.”
Elizabeth was uneasy. The King was not going to like this, and she was to be the one to tell him. How could Cecilia? Why did she not wait? She had always been so firm in her opinions; it had never been possible to shift her from them—for Elizabeth at least.
Elizabeth was sorry for her sister. She was fond of her family. They had been a very loving community. Deep in her heart she was worried about her mother. She fervently wished that people would live in peace with each other and not do things which were a source of irritation to others. She had to hide her anxieties about her mother . . . and now here was Cecilia. She did not know how the King would deal with the matter. She was afraid to anger him—although she had never seen him in anger. She remembered the violent rages of her father. They had not happened often and they were soon over, but he did have more than a touch of what was called the old Plantagenet temper. Henry had none of that. He was always calm, cold almost. She often felt that he considered carefully everything he said before he uttered it.
How he would feel about Cecilia she was not sure. She had had a notion that he was not anxious for her to marry. He had never mentioned a husband for her since their own marriage; and she had noticed that there was never any special place for Cecilia at functions.
Cecilia was now looking at her anxiously. She could see that she would have to take this matter to the King and it would be better for him to hear quietly through her than through any other source for it would not be easy to keep such a matter secret for long.
She said: “I will tell him, Cecilia.”
Cecilia had taken her hand and was looking at her earnestly.
“And you will explain that we love each other . . . that John wanted to ask the King but I would not have that. It was I who thought that if we were married first it would be too late to stop us.”
“I will tell him that, Cecilia. I will try to explain.”
“Thank you, sister.”
Cecilia kissed the Queen on the forehead.
She said: “It is almost as though we were little again. You and I were always good friends, Elizabeth. Do you remember . . . how we thought the others were such babies?” Elizabeth nodded. “And now you are Queen. It is strange but we always thought that Edward . . .”
Elizabeth flinched. It was foolish to bring up their young brothers at this time. Perhaps at any time. Nobody wanted to think of them now. Their disappearance must remain a mystery. To try to solve it might bring forth some evidence which certain people might find embarrassing.
Cecilia went on: “I know the King will listen to you. I am sure he must love you dearly.”
“He does,” said Elizabeth firmly. At another time Cecilia might have said that he loved the alliance they had been able to make between the two houses, but not now. This was not the time.
It seemed only in the bedchamber that the Queen could be alone with the King.
Elizabeth’s women had departed. She was in her long white nightgown, her golden hair in two long plaits giving her a childish look. Soon the King would come in and she was preparing what she would say to him.
When he came there was that somewhat forced smile on his pale face. He was always gentle and kind; it seemed to her that he was grateful for his good fortune in becoming King but was always on the alert lest someone should take the crown from him. He was fond of her. She had in certain moments of self-revelation wondered how fond, or whether his fondness was for what she stood for, not for her person.
She had asked for nothing for herself. She did not want jewels or extravagant pageants. Moreover she knew that Henry would never have given them. He had explained to her that the exchequer was in an unhealthy state. Her father had been extravagant but because of the pension he had had for some years from the King of France he had made the country prosperous. But that pension had stopped before his death. Uneasy times had followed his death; the perpetual unrest culminating in the Battle of Bosworth had impoverished the country. He was determined to crush extravagance, and she would not dream of asking for unnecessary luxuries.
But she would have liked to ask for her mother to come back to Court, though she accepted the fact that it would be impossible because her mother had really committed an act of treason.
Now there was this matter of Cecilia’s marriage.
He came to her smiling. He would lead her to the bed and they would make further attempts to get another child. It was the ritual when they were together. She believed that Henry had no greater liking for the act than she had for they were both aware of a certain relief when it was over, though it brought with it a sense of achievement which they hoped would be rewarded and a certain respite gained. Sometimes she thought of her father and all his mistresses. How different he must have been!
“Henry,” she said, “there is something I have to tell you. I hope it will not anger you.”
He was alarmed. She sensed that rather than saw it. He never showed his feelings but she was aware that she had made him uneasy.
She said quickly: “It is my sister, Cecilia. I am afraid she has acted rather foolishly.”
“How so?” he asked.
“She has married.”
He looked puzzled. But she could not tell whether he was angry or not.
She said quickly: “To Lord Wells.”
He remained silent for a few seconds. Cecilia married to Wells! He was not at all put out. He had been watchful of Cecilia. In his mind had been the thought that he might have had to put her in Elizabeth’s place. He was a man who calculated all eventualities. Life had made that necessary in the past and once a habit was formed with him, it generally continued. Moreover it was as necessary now as it had ever been. He had visualized Elizabeth’s dying in childbed as so many women did and perhaps the baby with her. Then there would have been no alternative but marriage with Elizabeth’s sister Cecilia. Cecilia was the one. The others were too young. So therefore he had kept Cecilia in the background. He had made sure that she should not be offered on the marriage market. He had looked upon her as a reserve. And now . . . she had married John Wells.
Wells came of a family which had always been loyal to him. He liked John Wells.
“You do not speak,” said Elizabeth, watching him fearfully.
“I am taken by surprise.”
“Of course it was very wrong of them.”
“But natural I suppose. We have been inclined to think of Cecilia as a child. She has shown us that she is not that.”
“Oh Henry . . . are you . . . ?”
He said: “What’s done is done.”
He was thinking: I am safe now. I have Arthur. As long as I have an heir who is half York and half Lancaster all is well. It is a pity Arthur is not more robust. However, it is no use thinking of Cecilia now. There is Anne . . . Very young as yet. But Elizabeth is still here . . . and strong. . . .
He had always kept a firm control on his emotions and that habit never failed him. Always he liked time to think, what is best for Henry Tudor? what is safe for Henry Tudor? while his quick shrewd mind worked out the answer for him. He believed that he had come as far as he had because of this.
He said now: “Why are you trembling, Elizabeth? You must not be afraid. You are not afraid of me, are you?”
She lowered her eyes. She could not tell a blatant lie.
“You must not be. You did right to tell me. I should not have liked to hear this from another source. But it is done. I trust John Wells. He has always been a good servant to us. Perhaps I shall tell him that he has been a little hasty. You may like to tell your sister that. Well, then let us wish them happiness and a fruitful marriage, eh . . . ?”
“You are so good,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I shall never forget that scullion boy . . . and now Cecilia.”
“Lord and Lady Wells would not relish being compared with Lambert Simnel, my dear. Now . . . let us to bed.”
The Death of
n her nunnery at Bermondsey Elizabeth Woodville heard of her daughter Cecilia’s marriage and that the King had accepted it with a philosophical shrug of the shoulders.
This meant, Elizabeth knew, that he felt secure now Arthur was progressing well. Oh why should she be kept from her grandchild! Why should she be kept here? What an end to a career of such brilliance! But looking back there had been many times like this when she had had to remain shut away from the world as the only way to preserve her life. She was tired of it. If the Queen could persuade the King to accept Cecilia’s marriage why could she not bring her mother back to Court?
The answer was simple. The first did not affect the King one whit; the second might. Henry Tudor will always take care of Henry Tudor, thought Elizabeth bitterly.
Every day she expected to hear news of Scotland. That James would agree she had no doubt. She had at one time been reckoned to be the most beautiful woman in England and beauty such as hers did not disappear; it became a little faded—a little subdued sounded better—but she was still a very beautiful woman and with the right clothes and environment could toss aside the years as though they were tennis balls.
To Scotland! She had heard the climate was dour and the manners of the people not the most gracious in the world, but it would be better than remaining here, shut away from the Court, living in a kind of disgrace and with the knowledge that the King would always be suspicious of her if she went back to Court, and she could be sure that mother of his would never be far away.
Scotland was the best she could hope for, and why should she not make a success of her new role? She was not young, but nor was the King of Scotland. She calculated that he would be just under forty. Mature, very glad no doubt to have for his wife a beautiful woman who had been a Queen of England.
She would try to forget her family here. Elizabeth who had become the Queen; Cecilia who had married Lord Wells and now, she heard, had retired with him to the country; Anne who was just thirteen and who would soon be having a husband found for her; Catherine who was but eight years old and Bridget who was a year younger and destined for a nunnery. All girls left to her and two little boys lost forever. No, she must stop herself trying to solve that mystery. It would bring no good. All this she must forget. She must put the past behind her. She must think of the new life in Scotland.
It would be entirely new . . . a new world to conquer. Her spirits were lifted considerably. She felt almost as she had that day when she, the desperately impoverished widow, mother of two boys by the dead John Grey, had gone out to Whittlebury Forest and made a name for herself in history.
Now . . . here was another chance. Queen of Scotland. The more she thought of the past, the more she considered her prospects for the future, the more she felt that her salvation was in Scotland.
She read of Scotland; she studied the history of Scotland; and what a tumultuous history it had! The Scots seemed to be more warlike than the English and one noble house was for ever at odds with another.
It would be primitive of course. The Scottish castles were as drafty as the English ones and there was a colder climate with which to contend. She would need fur cloaks and rugs; she visualized great fires roaring in the rooms of the castles; she could bring a more gracious way of life to that unruly race.
Each day she became more and more eager to leave. She knew that the delay in receiving an answer from James was probably due to the fact that he was now engaged in a war.
She would try to teach them that diplomacy worked so much more effectively than bloodshed. She would introduce a little culture into the Court. She would have friends visiting her from England.
One afternoon a visitor called at the nunnery. She was wrapped in a concealing cloak and she had two ladies with her. The Queen Mother was called down to greet the visitors and when one of them stepped forward and threw back her hood, she saw that it was no other than her daughter, the Queen.
She gave a cry of joy and ran forward to embrace her.
The young Queen was almost in tears.
“Dear mother,” she said. “I am so happy to see you. I trust you are well.”
The Queen Dowager said that she was well indeed, and would be quite fit to travel when the time came.
“Dear lady,” said the Queen, “I would speak with you alone.” She signed to her attendants to fall back, which they did, and Elizabeth Woodville took her daughter to her apartments. There she dismissed her servants and the two Queens sat down to talk.
The young Elizabeth seemed as though she did not know where to begin and her mother said: “Have you news of Cecilia?”
“Only that she is well and happy and enjoying life in the country.”
“She has been fortunate in escaping the wrath of the King. Not like her poor mother. It was a very rash and reckless thing she did.”
“But it harmed no one,” said the young Queen firmly. “Dear lady, there is news from Scotland and that is why I felt I must come to you with all speed.”
News from Scotland. James was waiting for her. How soon could she set forth? In a week. . . . Not less, she supposed.
“Well?” she prompted, for her daughter seemed to find it difficult to proceed.
“James is dead, my lady. He was killed in battle.”
“God has indeed deserted me.”
“Oh my dear mother, did you so long to go to Scotland?”
“Who does not wish to escape from prison?”
“But you have your comforts here.”
“I lack freedom, my daughter.”
“It will not always be so.”
“Have you spoken to the King?”
“He believes that it is for your own good to be here.”
“Henry believes what is for his good is always so for that of other people.”
“You must not talk thus of the King. You will want to hear of the sad end of the King of Scotland?”
“Slain in a battle, you say?”
“Yes . . . in a way. There was a revolt of the feudal houses.”
“There were always revolts.”
“I fear so. There were powerful men in this one . . . Angus, Huntly, Glamis. . . . They met the King’s forces and defeated him. He was in retreat with a few of his followers and went to a well for water. While they were there a woman came with her bucket and James could not resist saying to her: ‘This morning I was your King.’ He told her that he was wounded and wanted to confess his sins to a priest. He begged her to find one and send the man to him, and she promised to do this. But what she did was to inform the townsfolk that the King was at the well and wanted a priest. There were some of the enemy forces in the town and one of these disguised himself as a priest. James was waiting at the well when the bogus minister arrived. The King fell on his knees and entreated the priest to shrive him, whereupon the man drew his sword and saying, ‘I will give you short shrift’ slew the King. That is the story, my lady.”
“So I have lost my King,” said Elizabeth Woodville.
“Dear lady, do not be so sad. You never knew him.”
“He was to be my salvation.”
“Oh come, dear mother. If you truly repent of what you did I am sure the King will forgive you. You are happy here. Why you live as luxuriously as you would at Court. It may be that in time the King will find another noble husband for you. But it will not be Scotland now.”
“Adieu Scotland,” said the Queen Mother slowly. “Adieu my King whom I never knew.”
She looked about her apartments.
“I have a feeling that I shall end my days here,” she said.
The King was feeling a little melancholy. He had just received the members of the embassy he had sent to Spain; they had been cheerful, optimistic, certain that their efforts would bear fruit, but Henry had never been one to deceive himself. He knew that whatever compliments had been paid and promises hinted at, nothing had really been achieved. He knew the reason why and it was that reason which he found so disturbing.
Arthur was at the very heart of his safety. He had thought himself the luckiest man in England when he had defeated Richard at Bosworth—or at least his armies had. Henry himself was no great general. His strength lay in his ability to govern rather than wield a sword—which men of good sense should know was more important for a king. They did not seem to, though—and if the time came for him to protect his kingdom he would need to shine on battlefields as well as in council chambers. That was what he dreaded.
He was never sure from one moment to the next whether someone might leap out to kill him. Every rustle of a curtain set him wondering; every time there was a knock on his door he wondered who would enter. It would get better when he felt more secure on his throne. It must be thus with all those who are not strictly in the line of succession.
The Lambert Simnel affair had worried him far more than he would admit. Not because it had had much hope of success—not because the baker’s boy could have been anything but an impostor—but because it showed how easily these rebellions could arise and how many people—even with only the flimsiest causes—would rise to support them.
And now here was the embassy from Spain. If it had brought back results—a signed agreement . . . something like that, he would have had an indication that he was accepted as a King of England, likely to remain firm on his throne. But it was not so. The embassy had come back empty handed.
The fact was that Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain had a family—one son and four daughters; and the youngest of these daughters was Katherine who was a year older than Arthur. Henry believed fervently in alliance between powerful countries, and a marriage of the children of the rulers was the best safeguard for peace. It had seemed to him that if Ferdinand and Isabella would give their daughter Katharine in marriage to his son Arthur, it would show the world that the monarchs of Spain believed in the stability of the King of England. Moreover Spain and England would be powerful allies against the King of France. This might appeal to Ferdinand and Isabella; it was the fact on which he had pinned his hopes. But he knew that the sovereigns would not want to form an alliance with a king whose grip on his crown was far from steady.
So he had listened to his ambassadors newly returned from Medina del Campo with gloomy attention and nothing they could say of the lavish Spanish hospitality, the gifts they had brought back with them, could dispel his melancholy.
Isabella and Ferdinand would not commit themselves to an alliance between Arthur and Katharine because they were not convinced that Arthur’s father would be able to keep his hold on the throne.
“Let us face the facts,” he said to John Dudley. “We have wasted the money we have spent on this embassy.”
Dudley was not sure of that.
“At the moment,” he said, “they are unsure. They will have heard of the Lambert Simnel affair and it has shaken them.”
“To think this could have come about through that baker’s boy!”
“It is not exactly through him, Sire. It is the fact that Margaret of Burgundy supported him . . . among others . . . and the indication that there are people who are ready to rise against you.”
The King nodded gloomily. “As I say, we need never have wasted the money.”
“It may not have been wasted. We have sown a seed. It may well be that later, when they see you have come to stay, they will change their minds. The children are so young yet and therefore marriage could not take place for several years. So much can happen in even a short time. And, Sire, we are going to show them that in spite of Lambert Simnel and any like him, King Henry the Seventh is here to stay.”
“You are right, of course, my lord. But it is a disappointment. I should have liked Arthur to be betrothed to Spain.”
“It will come, Sire. Wait. Let us be watchful and patient. Let us be ready for these troubles when they arise. Lambert Simnel has done us no real harm. You have shown the people that you can quell a rebellion, and it was a master stroke to send the boy to the kitchens. We need patience. Let us not be unduly troubled by the evasiveness of the Spaniards. The money has not really been wasted. The idea is sown in their minds. What we have to show them is that your throne is secure. Then we shall have them suing us for the marriage.”
Henry knew Dudley was right. With luck he would succeed. The result of his careful policies would soon be evident; and if he could get another son he would feel very confident in the future.
In the late spring there was good news. His efforts with the Queen were rewarded. Elizabeth was once more pregnant.
At the end of October Elizabeth the Queen went into retirement in the Palace of Westminster to prepare for the birth of her child. It was not due for another month but in view of Arthur’s early arrival it had been thought wise for the Queen to be prepared.
Margaret Countess of Richmond had arranged the household as she had for the birth of Arthur, and this time she was not harassed by the presence of Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville who, to the Countess’s great satisfaction, was still confined at Bermondsey.
The Countess had made a list of all her requirements.
“There must be two cradles,” she had told Elizabeth, “the cradle of state decorated with cloth of gold and ermine and that other in which the baby will sleep.”
Elizabeth listened contentedly. She was delighted to have her mother-in-law to rely on; and as she never questioned any of the Countess’s requirements there was perfect amity between them.
“We must have a good wet nurse . . . that is most important—a strong healthy young woman and her food shall be considered most carefully so that she can give the baby all due nourishment. Then we need a dry nurse, sewers, panterers and rockers of course.”
“As with Arthur,” said the Queen.
“Exactly so. Oh my dear Elizabeth, if this proves to be a boy I shall be overjoyed. Now I have arranged for a physician to be in attendance with the wet nurse at all her meals. That is most important for the health of the child.”
“How good you are.”
“I long to see you with a family of children . . . boys and some girls . . . for girls have their important parts to play in affairs of state.”
“I do agree.”
“I have my eyes on a good woman. She will give birth at the same time as you do. She is a respectable woman and this is not her first child. She has remarkably good health and has reared other children most satisfactorily. Her name is Alice Davy. The day-nurse will be Alice Bywimble. She is a good woman and I have two very good rockers. I have prevailed upon the King to pay them three pounds six shillings and eightpence a year. He thought it a great deal of money for such people but I have impressed on him the need to pay these people more than they would get in an ordinary household to make them realize the importance of serving a royal child.”
“And did he agree?” asked the Queen, wondering for a moment whether she would have to take sides with the King against her mother-in-law and thinking how awkward that would be.
“Oh I brought him round to my point of view,” said the Countess complacently, implying that she could always do that—even with the King.
Elizabeth was relieved. She reached out a hand and took that of the Countess.
“My lady, I thank you. I am so grateful to have you here to take care of these matters.”
“My dear, dear daughter, you cannot be happier than I. You know what my son means to me . . . apart from the fact that he is the King and ruler of us all, and I will say this—that although you come from a house which has for so long been the enemy of my own, there is none I would rather see my son married to than you.”
Elizabeth was deeply moved.
It was so easy to remain in loving friendship with her mother-in-law. All she asked was agreement in everything she did and as she was a very wise woman, this worked out ideally for Elizabeth.
The days began to pass at Westminster. It was quite clear that the new baby was not going to make a premature appearance, but arrived on the night of the twenty-ninth of November of that year 1489, which was exactly the time it was due.
The child was rather disappointingly a girl. But a strong healthy girl—more lusty than Arthur had been.
The Queen requested that she should be called after the King’s mother to whom she owed so much, and the King was most graciously pleased to agree.
So in due course the Princes Margaret joined her brother Arthur in the royal nurseries.
It was pleasant to retire to Greenwich. There she would stay until the birth of the child, for Elizabeth was once again in what people who do not have to endure it call a happy condition.
The nursery now contained Arthur who was five years old and Margaret nearly two. Arthur was a gentle, serious child, already showing an interest in his books. Perhaps this was because he was a little delicate. The King watched him anxiously. He was afraid something might happen to Arthur who was more than a son to him; he was one of the chief reasons why the people wanted him to remain King.
Minors were a menace. That had been the lesson of the ages. What the people always wanted was a strong king who had a son or sons in his youth so that by the time he died there would be someone strong to take his place.
“How I do hope this one will be a boy,” prayed Elizabeth.
Margaret was already showing herself to be a somewhat forceful little creature. She wanted her own way all the time and invariably got it, for she had grown out of the childish way of screaming for it and employed more devious methods to cajole the guardians of the nursery. The only person of whom Margaret seemed to feel some awe was her grandmother the Countess of Richmond, for the child was shrewd enough to recognize that there was a lady to be obeyed, and although she avoided having to comply whenever she could, she did know when it would be expedient to do so.
Elizabeth prayed that Arthur’s health might be improved and Margaret’s temper controlled and contemplated what the new one would be like.
She enjoyed being at Greenwich—less important of course than Winchester, the birthplace of Arthur, or Westminster, that of Margaret. But this one after all was but a third child.
There was a peace here among the green fields with the river meandering through them. She was not surprised that the Romans had called it Grenovicum when they had seen it and later the Saxons had named it Grenawic—the Green Town. It had been a royal residence since the days of Edward Longshanks and it had become increasingly popular ever since. Henry had enlarged the Palace and because the river was encroaching had added a brick wall along the waterfront. The tower in the Park had been started years ago and not finished until Henry had it completed. He was now talking about building a monastery for the Grey Friars who lived in the district. It seemed strange that Henry should consider spending money on such things for he was usually so careful and hated to see it, as he always said, “wasted.” But this was different. This was adding to the wealth of the country. He said: “It is important that we preserve our buildings.”
She was glad. It was lovely to see the old Palace as it should be. The people at Greenwich were pleased too and they were delighted that she had come here for her accouchement.
It was hot that June; she found the room stifling but of course it had to be closed in. These were the orders of the Countess of Richmond who said they must always comply with Court etiquette.
“Leave everything to me,” said the Countess. “All you have to do, my dear, is produce a healthy boy.”
“Pray God I do,” she replied fervently.
In London the sweating sickness was plaguing the people and the King had been very anxious that she come quickly to the cooler, fresher air of Greenwich, so here in this Palace with the tall mullioned windows and the lovely shade of terracotta in the tiled floors, she felt comfortable and secure. All she had to do was stay in her apartments with her women around her and wait.
It was comforting to know that the Countess of Richmond was at hand.
Oh God, she continued to pray, let this one be a boy.
And on a hot June day her prayers were answered.
Her child was born; strong, lusty, informing the castle of his arrival within a few minutes of his birth by his piercing cry.
The King came to Greenwich. This was a happy day. The new baby was of the desired sex and he seemed as healthy as his sister Margaret was proving to be. Another addition to the nursery and a boy! It was something to thank God for.
His birth was, of course, not of the same importance as Arthur’s, but he was the son of the King, and although while Arthur lived he would be of secondary importance it was always wise to have some boys in reserve.
The King was therefore pleased and although the festivities in honor of the child would not compare with those which had announced the birth of the heir to the throne they should be commensurate with his rank of second son to the King.
It was decided that the boy should be baptized only a few days after his birth, which was always a wise procedure, for so many healthy-seeming children died suddenly for no apparent reason. Bishop Fox came to Greenwich expressly to perform the ceremony and the Church of the Observants there had been specially decorated. The King had ordered that the font be brought from Canterbury for the occasion and there were carpets on the floor—a very special luxury and a wonder to those who beheld them and who were accustomed to seeing rushes there.
The little boy was discreetly divested of his garments and carried to the font into which he would be dipped, and all present marveled at the size of the baby and remarked that he was perfect in every way.
Bishop Fox proclaimed to all those present that he named the boy Henry.
Henry. It was a good name—his father’s name.
Only the child was indifferent and in spite of his extreme youth he appeared to look on at the scene with calm aloofness.
After being wrapped in a white garment he was taken from the church back to the Palace, with the musicians marching before him playing their trumpets and drums, to the Queen’s presence chamber where Henry and Elizabeth—who had not attended the ceremony in the church—were waiting to receive the procession.
The child was carried to the Queen, who took him into her arms and murmured a blessing. Then the King took the child and did the same.
All those present looked on smiling.
“Long live Prince Henry,” murmured the Countess of Richmond and the cry was taken up throughout the chamber.
Life had not gone smoothly for the Queen Dowager since she had lost the King of Scotland. She had suddenly realized that her days of power were over. It was scarcely likely that the King would find another husband for her now. She could not reconcile herself to spending the rest of her life in a convent. Yet it seemed that that was the intention of the King and his overbearing mother; and if it was their wish it would be very difficult for her to evade it.
She spent most of the days in dreaming of the past. It is a sorry state of affairs when a woman who once enslaved a king has come to this, she thought.
She was not so very old. It was true that she would not see fifty again, but she was still beautiful and she had always been mindful of her outstanding beauty and had sought to preserve it. If she were fifty-five years of age she certainly did not look it. And yet of late she had begun to feel it. She experienced unaccountable little aches and pains, an inability to breathe easily, the odd little pain here and there.
Age! How tiresome it was. If only she were young as she had been when she had gone into Whittlebury Forest. But she must stop brooding on the past. But could she when the past had been so thrilling, so exciting, so adventuresome . . . and now . . . what was she? A queen still, mother of a queen . . . but a queen who had become the tool of a cold stern man who was quite immune to the charms and wisdom of his mother-in-law.
Of course it is that woman, she thought. Surely the mother of the Queen carries as much weight as the mother of the King . . . or should do when the Queen had far more right to the throne than the King had, who in fact had acquired it largely through his marriage with the daughter of Elizabeth Woodville.
It was old ground and perhaps she shouldn’t go over it perpetcually. And yet how could she help it? What was there to do in her nunnery except relive the glories of the past?
One morning when she awoke she began to cough and during the day found great difficulty in breathing. Her attendants propped her up with cushions and that eased her a little but by nightfall she felt very weak.
She thought: Is this the end then? Is this how death comes?
She thought of Edward the King who had been so strong and well one day and then had had that fit of apoplexy, which she was sure had been brought on by the shock of hearing that the King of France had broken his treaty with him, and their daughter was not to be Madame La Dauphine after all. But he had recovered from that and seemed well . . . but soon afterward quite suddenly he had died after catching a cold when he was out fishing.
It was better if death came swiftly. Who wanted to outlive one’s power? Certainly no one who had enjoyed so much as Elizabeth Woodville. But the thought of death was sobering when one brooded on all the sins one had committed, all the things one should have done and those which had been left undone.
A woman has to live . . . to fight her way through, particularly if she has after much success been visited by adversity.
But she had outlived her power . . . and her wealth. She had very little left for herself after having supported her girls. It would have been different if her son had come to the throne . . . little Edward the Fifth. Little son, what happened to you there in the Tower? What dark secret is hidden from me? You were the delight of our lives when you were born in Sanctuary, your father overseas, striving to come back and claim his throne. You were delicate. I know you suffered some pain. I was glad you had your brother Richard with you in the Tower. You wanted him to be with you so much. Yet if I had not let him go to you . . . perhaps he would be with us now.
In her heart she admitted that she had let him go for the sake of her freedom. It was an ultimatum they had delivered to her. Suppose she had held Richard back? Would he have been King now? Never. The Tudor would have come just the same and taken the throne.
If Edward were living today what would he think? The first thing he would do would be to take up arms and drive the Tudor from the throne. He would see the red rose trampled in the dust, the white triumphant.
But the white rose lived on in Henry’s wife, the present Queen. That was the irony of it. Lancaster and York reigning side by side—but it was only token power for York. It was Lancaster through Henry Tudor who wielded the real power.
The pain in her chest was growing worse.
“I should like to see my daughters,” she said.
Cecilia was the first to come. She knelt by the bed, alarmed to see the beautiful face so pale and sunken.
“Dear mother,” she said, “you must get well.”
“I feel I never shall again, my child,” said Elizabeth. “This is the end. Do not look so sad. We all have to go sometime and I have had a good life. Where is the Queen?”
“She has taken to her lying-in chamber. Her time is very near.”
“She does her duty by the Tudor. I hear young Henry flourishes.”
“Indeed, yes. He and Margaret are fine healthy children. I wish I could say the same for Arthur.”
“I never believed in that closed-in room, but the Countess insisted.”
“Margaret and Henry were born in the same conditions,” Cecilia gently reminded her. “Dear lady, should you not rest?”
“There is a long rest ahead of me. Cecilia, I am glad you are provided for. Is Lord Wells a good husband?”
“The best of husbands.”
“Then you are fortunate. And you lack for nothing, I believe. He is very rich.”
“We are very comfortable and happy, my lady.”
“I wish the others had been a little older so that I could see them settled.”
“Elizabeth will provide for them.”
“She must when I can no longer do so. I have very little to leave, Cecilia. You find me in dire poverty. I have been growing poorer and poorer.”
“But our father left you well provided for, did he not?”
“When York lost to Lancaster . . . I lost much of what he left to me. Your father’s personal property is in the hands of your grandmother. Cecily of York is one of the most avaricious old women I ever heard of.”
“Think not of money now, dear mother. Rest your voice.”
The Queen Dowager smiled and nodded. “Sit by my bed, dear child,” she said. “Hold my hand. I loved you all dearly . . . far more than I ever showed you.”
“We were so happy when we were children, dear mother. You and our father were like a god and goddess to us. We thought you perfect.”
“Neither of us was that, dear child, but whatever else we were we were loving parents.”
Seventeen-year-old Anne arrived next with her sisters Catherine and Bridget the youngest who had come from her convent at Dart-ford to be at her mother’s bedside. Anne was a source of anxiety to the Queen Dowager because she was seventeen years old, ripe for marriage. Who would look after her now? Elizabeth the Queen must do that. Catherine was eleven; there was time yet for her. Bridget was the only one whose future was assured for she was preparing herself to take the veil.
Elizabeth looked at them through misty eyes. Her beloved children. Was it only eleven years ago that Edward had been alive and they had rejoiced at the birth of this daughter?
She held out her hands to them. The younger girls looked at her with alarmed dismay. They had never seen her like this before, poor children, thought Cecilia. She looks so ill. I really believe this is the end.
“Bless you, dear daughters,” said the Queen Dowager. “I think I shall be gone before Whitsuntide.”
“Where shall you go?” asked Catherine.
“To Heaven, I hope, sweet child.”
Then the little girls began to weep and Bridget knelt down by the bed and prayed as she had seen the nuns do.
“Good-bye, my dear ones. Remember this. No parents ever loved their children more than the King and I loved you. Sad events have fallen upon us but we must make the best of them. . . .Your sister, the Queen, will care for you.”
Catherine said: “Dear mother, I think I should send for the priest.”
On the following day Elizabeth Woodville died.
It was Whit Sunday when the Queen Dowager’s body was taken along the river to Windsor.
There was a very simple funeral. Only the priest of the college received the coffin, and some Yorkists who had come out to see the end of great Edward’s Queen murmured together that such a hearse was like those used for the common people.
Was this the way in which King Henry honored the House of York? What was all this talk of the roses entwining—the uniting of white and red—when a Yorkist queen was buried with no more ceremony than the humblest merchant?
On the following Tuesday the daughters of Elizabeth Woodville—Catherine, Anne and Bridget—came to Windsor. Cecilia was at the time unwell but her husband Lord Wells came in her stead.
The burial itself was performed with as little expense as possible. Even black clothes had not been provided for those who had been engaged to sing the dirges and they appeared in their working garments. This was unheard of for a royal personage—and a queen at that.
There was a great deal of murmuring. “The Queen should have provided proper mourning for her mother,” said many.
“The Queen has no power and the King is a miser.”
But at least she was buried where she would have wished to be—in St. George’s Chapel beside her husband King Edward the Fourth.
Henry was relieved. He had always been uneasy concerning his mother-in-law. He had never trusted her and in his suspicious mind he saw the possibilities of her being at the center of an intrigue to drive him from the throne. The animosity between Elizabeth Woodville and the Countess of Richmond had been more than feminine bickering. The Countess had seen danger in the woman, for like her son’s, her own life had prepared her to look for trouble.
But now Elizabeth Woodville was dead; the Queen was delivered of another child—a girl, Elizabeth, this time and delicate like Arthur. The King was thankful that he had the robust Henry and Margaret to show they could get healthy children. Four was a goodly number and the Queen was still young, and if a little delicate that did not seem to impair her ability to bear children.
He fancied too that on the continent they were beginning to regard him as a formidable figure in world politics. The King of France had just shown a healthy respect for him; and he was delighted because he was going to be spared the necessity of going to war.
He had been drawn into an agreement with the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian, and Isabella and Ferdinand. He was particcularly eager to have the friendship of the Spanish monarchs because he saw through an alliance with them a bulwark against the perennial enemy, the French, and he was still hoping for a marriage between their daughter Katharine and his own Arthur. He hated war, seeing it as senseless and costly, but he had come to the point where he had found it impossible to back out.
Dudley and Empson had said that it would be necessary to raise the money from the people. It was a strange and sobering fact that while the people were reluctant to pay taxes in order to increase industry they were ready to do so to go to war, and there had been many a squire who had sold part of his estates in order to equip himself for war. Why? Did he think the spoils he would bring back would compensate him, or was it just the lust for conflict? War was no good to anyone, was Henry’s theory; and he could not understand why when this had been so well proved through the ages, men still wanted to indulge in it.
But because it had been impossible to evade it he had landed an army in France and laid siege to Boulogne, and although this had not proved outstandingly successful as the town was very well fortified, the French King sued for peace—offering to pay Henry’s expenses and a sum of money if he would retire from the field.
The acquisition of money had always been a pleasure to Henry and to get it without the loss of men or equipment seemed to him a heaven-sent opportunity.
There were people to murmur against it, for operations like this, while so profitable to the leaders, were scarcely so to those who had sold part of their estates to enable them to join the expedition and then returned empty-handed.
However Henry was delighted. He accepted the offer, made peace and came back to England.
It was while he was congratulating himself with those devoted and efficient statesmen Dudley and Empson, that he received news which shattered his peace.
A young man had presented himself to the peers of Ireland with the story that he was Richard Duke of York, second son of King Edward the Fourth whose disappearance with his brother had caused such speculation some years before.
His brother—who was in truth Edward the Fifth—declared this young man, had been murdered. But he, the second son, had escaped. He had called himself Peter Warbeck and had remained in obscurity until the time was opportune for him to take the throne.
He was now gathering together an army—he had the support of some influential people including the Duchess of Burgundy—and was coming to take the throne from the usurper Henry Tudor who now occupied it.
Henry’s peace of mind had completely deserted him. Here was another of them. It was lies . . . lies. None knew that better than he did.
Richard of York—the second of the Princes in the Tower—was dead, he knew that. But how could he explain to the country why he was so sure?
And was this another Lambert Simnel? No . . . indeed not. Lambert Simnel had been doomed to failure from the first.
Something told Henry that this was a far more serious matter, and he knew that his enemies would be preparing to strike at him.
He had constantly to look about him for where the blows would come.
He had not thought that it could be through one of the little Princes in the Tower.
eter had been ten years old when the Framptons came to Flanders. He was a bright boy, tall and handsome with abundant golden hair and very alert blue eyes. His father, John Warbeck, was a customs official and his mother Katharine was a clever woman. They had several children, otherwise they would have been able to do more for Peter; as it was he was put into several noble houses there to learn how to be a good squire.
After the Battle of Bosworth when there was a turnabout in England and the House of Plantagenet, which had reigned since Henry the Second came to the throne in the year 1154, was defeated and replaced by the Tudors, among those who felt it was necessary to leave England were Sir Edward and Lady Frampton. They were staunch supporters of the House of York—so much so that they were committed to help bring that House back to power if it was at all possible for them to do so.
When they settled at Tournay in Flanders they had been able to bring much of their wealth with them and they were made very welcome and took several people into their household.
Peter’s good looks and amazingly pleasant manners secured him a place and very soon he became a favorite of Lady Frampton.
“You remind me,” she told him, “of our great King Edward. He was exceptionally handsome. The people loved him. It was the greatest tragedy that could befall England when he died. And, Peter, you have a look of him.”
Peter was flattered and was eager to discover all he could about the handsome King to whom he bore such a strong resemblance.
Lady Frampton was always ready to talk to him. When she rode out Peter would act as her groom and she often sent for him in the house so that she could chat to him.
It was very pleasant for her to have such an attentive audience and she was only too glad to speak of the past because the present seemed so hopeless.
“If only,” she was fond of saying, “by some stroke of good fortune, we could drive the usurping Tudor from the throne.”
Peter asked a great many questions about the late King Edward to whom he bore such a resemblance.
“I suppose,” said Lady Frampton, “the King was in Flanders at some time. I’d be ready to swear, Peter, that he was interested in some Flemish maid and that you were the result.”
“My mother is a very virtuous wife.”
“I know . . . I know. But sometimes those whom we believe to be our parents are not. You understand what I mean, Peter? Suppose the lady you think of as your mother was asked to care for a child . . . a child who came rather mysteriously into the world. Suppose that child was the result of a liaison between some persons who dared not divulge their identity.”
If it was an absurd supposition, Lady Frampton refused to accept the fact. Edward had many bastards but he had never made any secret of the fact. He had no one to answer to and even his Queen had been aware of his activities in that field and knew she must turn a blind eye to them.
Still, it was interesting to talk and the boy was very pleased at the prospect of having a king for a father. He wanted to know about the sons Edward had had by the Queen and why they didn’t rise up and take the throne away from this obnoxious Tudor.
“They disappeared. . . .It is most mysterious for none so far as I have heard have an answer to the question. Richard the Third declared the children illegitimate. The two boys were put into the Tower of London. They have never been seen since.”
“Did King Richard murder them?”
Lady Frampton was indignant. “Richard was a good Yorkist king—brother of Edward. He would never murder his own nephews. It was the Tudor. You see while they lived they were a menace to him. The elder of the boys was Edward the Fifth; his younger brother was Duke of York. And if Edward died there was still Richard of York to come before this Tudor.”
“So he kept them imprisoned in the Tower.”
“Yes . . . and no one knows what became of them.”
“If they were alive would they not show themselves?”
“It may be that they will one day.”
“And I look like them, you say, my lady?”
“Very much so. They had long blond hair . . . just like yours. And a certain bearing . . .”
Peter was very proud. He was very careful of the way he looked, the way he walked; he studied noblemen and imitated them.
Lady Frampton remarked to Sir Edward that the boy grew more royal-looking every day.
When the Framptons left for Portugal Peter went with them. He had a great desire to see the world. Lady Frampton’s talk of his resemblance to the Princes had set ambition growing in him and he had a feeling that he might become the center of great events. He dreamed about himself and there were times when his dreams seemed more real than his everyday life.
He had not been long in Lisbon when he made the acquaintance of a knight called Peter Varz de Cogna—a somewhat battle-scarred gentleman who had lost an eye and who seemed to young Peter one of the most interesting people he had ever met. The Knight too noticed the royal looks of young Warbeck and he talked to him a great deal about the recent uprising headed by Lambert Simnel.
“It is clear that the Tudor is uneasy on the throne of England,” he said. “And it is not to be wondered at considering he has very little right to it.”
Peter liked to hear how Lambert Simnel the baker’s son had been taken from his father’s shop by the priest Richard Simon and had come within a short distance of taking the throne of England.
“A baker’s son!” cried Peter, aghast. “How did he manage to pass himself off for the Earl of Warwick?”
“He had such good looks . . . and a manner of carrying himself. They say he looked the part and when they had taught him to speak . . . as an earl would speak—well, it might have been an earl himself.”
“And now he is just a scullion.”
“Some would say he has been lucky.”
“Of course he might have succeeded. And if he had . . . ?”
“He could not succeed because the real Earl of Warwick lives and is the King’s prisoner in the Tower.”
“Because,” said Peter, “he has a greater claim to the throne than the Tudor. I find it of great interest.”
“I’m not surprised. With looks such as yours you might be one of the sons of Edward yourself.”
“Would it not be strange if I were?”
“It is said that he had children all over the place. He was that kind of man.”
“I should like to go to England.”
“You would have to learn the language.”
“I do speak a little. It seems to come naturally to me and Lady Frampton has taught me a good deal.”
“You should go to Ireland first.”
“They have always supported the Yorkists. They would like the look of you. They would think the young Edward the Fifth or his brother of York had come back to life.”
It was not long after this that a Breton merchant came to Lisbon and stayed awhile at the house of Peter Varz. He was, he told them, on his way to Ireland where he would do business. At the mention of Ireland, Peter Warbeck’s eyes sparkled.
“It is a country I long to see,” he said.
Peter was thoughtful. Could it be possible? He did not see why not. Peter Varz would not stand in his way. He told him of his great desire to see Ireland and the Breton merchant replied that there was no difficulty about that. He was sailing for Ireland shortly and there would be a place for Peter Warbeck on his ship.
It seemed to the young man that there was some Divine purpose in all this. First he had been endowed with these marvelous looks; secondly he had met the Framptons; and now here he was on his way to Ireland.
The Breton merchant was proud of the interest his protégé aroused.
“They say he is one of the sons of Edward the Fourth,” he told people; and it was not long before Peter was invited to call on Lord Desmond.
Lord Desmond was an influential Irish peer and the Irish had always believed that they could expect better treatment from the Yorkists than from the Lancastrians. They wanted home rule and there had once been a hint from a Duke of York that he believed this might be brought about. That it would never be granted by Henry the Seventh they were certain. It might be another matter if there was a Yorkist king on the throne of England, and they would like to see this come about.
They had supported Lambert Simnel although it must have been clear that he was an impostor, but Lambert had managed to make trouble for the English and that was what the Irish liked to do beyond anything.
The Earl of Desmond was delighted by Peter Warbeck.
“Why, you have the Yorkist look. I could easily believe you are one of Edward’s sons. Tell me about yourself. From whence do you come?”
“I was in Tournay with people whom I had always believed to be my parents.”
“And they were not . . . ?”
Peter passed a hand across his brow. Lord Desmond noticed how graceful were his gestures.
“It is a little hazy . . . I remember being in a prison . . . with my brother . . . There was some trouble. . . .I cannot remember . . . although sometimes flashes of it come back to me.”
Lord Desmond was excited.
“I should like you to stay here for a while. There are people whom I would like to meet you.”
Peter felt a sense of mingling excitement and apprehension. He knew that he had stepped over the dividing line between fantasy and reality.
It was Lord Desmond and the Irish peers who had changed him. He had been through a great experience, he told himself. It was natural that he should feel as he did. The past was beginning to emerge and it was becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between what had actually happened and what he wanted to have happened.
That he was of noble birth everyone was ready to accept. Lord Desmond was teaching him to speak fluently in English and with an acceptable accent.
The Irish peers discussed the boy.
“He could not be the son of Clarence because he is still in the Tower,” said Desmond, “where he has been languishing since the accession of the Tudor—for no other reason, of course, than that he has a stronger claim to the throne than Henry. But he could be one of the sons of Edward the Fourth . . . those Princes who were kept in the Tower. No one knows what became of them.”
That seemed very likely. Could he be Edward the Fifth? Was he old enough for that? It seemed far more likely that he was the younger brother, Richard Duke of York.
Now if he were the young Duke of York he was in fact the true King of England providing his brother Edward the Fifth was dead.
It was an exciting project. It was just what the Irish peers were looking for. They wanted a Yorkist claimant to the throne; they were always ready for a fight; and there was nothing they liked better than bringing trouble to the English King.
Moreover, let them produce the true King of England, let them lead a rebellion against the Tudor, set the young King on the throne, and he would not forget what he owed to Ireland.
Lord Desmond was constantly in the company of Peter Warbeck. They conversed together of the affairs of England and Ireland and they decided that what had happened was that Peter (his real name was Richard Plantagenet) had been put into the Tower by his uncle Richard the Third. When Henry Tudor won the Battle of Bosworth Field he planned to murder the two little boys—which he must do, for he was to marry their sister; which he could not do if she were illegitimate (as Richard the Third proclaimed the family to be) and if she were not illegitimate then her brothers were not either; and if they were not then they were the true heirs to the throne. So here, according to Peter Warbeck, was what had happened.
The two little Princes had been taken out of the Tower and given to certain gentlemen who had orders to kill them. This was carried out in the case of the elder—King Edward the Fifth. His brother, Richard Duke of York, fared differently. The gentleman who had been selected to kill him found that he could not commit so foul a deed, for he was deeply moved by the boy’s guilelessness and could not bring himself to destroy such innocence. He had paid two men to take the boy away, strip him of his identity, give him a new name. “Swear that for eight years you will not divulge his story,” they were told. “On this condition only can his life be spared.”
So the boy was taken abroad; he wandered around and was finally taken into the house of the Warbecks who accepted him as their son.
It was a likely story—at least it was good enough to start with.
There came the day when Peter’s speech and manners were so perfect that Lord Desmond thought they should move into action. He proposed to send messages to the sovereigns of Europe announcing the fact that the younger son of Edward the Fourth, about whose death—with that of his brother—there had been a longstanding mystery, had come forth and was about to lay claim to the throne of England. His brother had been murdered, but by a miracle Richard Duke of York had escaped. As true King of England he asked those whom he was sure were his friends and would wish to see justice done, to aid him to get what was his and drive the usurping Tudor back to Wales and obscurity where he belonged.
There was immediate interest. Henry Tudor was known to be insecure on the throne; the King of France and the Emperor Maximilian would not be averse to a little trouble in England. It was always wise to keep kings engaged on their own doorsteps. It prevented their meddling in the affairs of others.
The King of Scotland sent a warm invitation for Peter to visit him; but before he could reply there was another invitation—this time from the King of France.
This was too important to be dismissed and Peter set out for France without delay.
It was at this time that Henry heard what was happening and knew that he had to discover all he could about this Peter Warbeck who called himself the Duke of York. That the man was a liar Henry was well aware. He could have told the world that it was quite impossible for him to be the Duke of York. But how could he be so sure? they would ask. There was the crux of the matter. Henry was sure, but he did not want the reason for his certainty to be known.
He sent spies to the Continent to find out how far this matter had gone and who was involved in it.
He remembered how his contemptuous treatment of Lambert Simnel had reduced the boy to a figure of fun. It showed the people how those who set out to take a crown from a king could end up watching the spits in that king’s kitchen.
He talked not angrily of this impostor but slightingly, giving him the nickname Perkin, which was sometimes given to those called Peter.
In Court circles and in the streets they talked of Perkin Warbeck and the name Henry had given him did surprisingly diminish his stature.
Henry was getting very concerned when he heard through his spies that the King of France had received Perkin Warbeck with honor as though he were indeed visiting royalty. He knew that his enemies on the Continent were just waiting to see him fall. It was a perpetual nightmare. During his early years he had been striving for the throne and when he eventually achieved it he discovered that his real troubles had begun. To be ever watchful of enemies, wondering constantly who was plotting against him, to be in constant dread of assassination . . . was this what he had dreamed of all those years in exile?
But he was committed now. He had to hold his throne for the sake of his son, King-Arthur-to-be, for the sake of the House of Tudor.
Some might have shrugged aside this ridiculous impostor, have told the world that he was liar and cheat—and the reason why it was a certainty if necessary.
Sometimes it was in the interests of peace that murder should be committed. Henry could assure himself that only in such circumstances would he be guilty of it. He wanted to be a good strong king; he wanted to bring prosperity to England; he wanted to leave a great country behind him when he died. He wanted Arthur to have an easier life than he had. Was that wrong? What happened to countries ruled by minors? There was always trouble. Looking back over history this was a lesson which stood out clearly. He had come to the throne through conquest. He did have a claim. He was descended from great British Kings Arthur and Cadwallader—his mother was descended from John of Gaunt and his grandmother had been Queen of England and daughter of the King of France. Was that not good enough?
The people would realize in time that a serious-minded king who sought to do what was best for the people was more worthy to rule than some little boy with pretty manners—even if he were the true son of Edward the Fourth, which this ridiculous young Perkin was most definitely not.
There was one ray of light. The French King was eager to complete the Treaty of Etaples and Henry would refuse to sign until Charles had promised that he would give no aid or shelter to pretenders to the English throne.
At least that was a small victory.
Charles signed the treaty and the result was that Perkin Warbeck with his adherents was asked—very politely—to leave France.
This Perkin did but he had already received an invitation to visit Margaret Duchess of Burgundy.
The Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of Edward the Fourth, was a forceful woman who had on the death of her husband become a very powerful one.
She was devoted to her family. Like all of them she had adored her eldest brother Edward and one of the great sorrows of her life had been the quarrel between Edward and their brother George Duke of Clarence, which had ended by Clarence’s being drowned in a butt of malmsey in the Tower. It was said to have been an accident because he had been a heavy drinker and it was assumed he had fallen into the butt during one of his bouts of drunkenness. Margaret did not know whether to believe the story or not, but she suspected George had become a menace and that Edward had removed him for that reason.
That saddened her. Families should cling together. She could not blame Edward of course, for she knew George would have been a danger to him but she did mourn him sadly. She turned her attention to developing the arts and to encouraging the printer Caxton in his works, later sending him to Edward to print books in England. She had obtained licences for the English to export oxen and sheep to Flanders and also wool free of custom duty. She had wanted friendship and trade between Flanders and England; and because of her relationship she had got it.
And then the Tudor had come. He had killed her brother Richard and that had been the end of the House of Plantagenet, which to her had been heartbreaking. To think that the noble House to which she had belonged had been set aside for that upstart Tudor was intolerable. She hated Henry Tudor. He was mean and grasping; he was the complete antithesis of her brother Edward. Edward had been generous-hearted, romantic, handsome, pleasant . . . a perfect man. And this Tudor was a miser who thought of little but hoarding money. He was slight in stature whereas Edward had been a man of bulk as he grew older, but when he had been young he had had the figure of a god. She had never seen Henry Tudor and did not want to, but she had heard many descriptions of him—pale dry skin, grayish eyes, cold as a wintry sea, and reddish-brown hair. Not a handsome man, but one who could be ruthless if crossed.
I will cross him, thought Margaret. If I had a chance I would drive him from the throne.
There was, moreover, a personal grievance for when he had seized the crown, Henry had confiscated the greater part of the dowry which Edward had bestowed on her when she married the Duke of Burgundy. It was maddening to think that what should be hers was in the hands of that man; and she made very welcome at her Court all the dissatisfied Yorkists who came from England. They all hated the Tudor monarch and were ever seeking means to overthrow him and they could be sure of finding a sympathetic listener in the Duchess of Burgundy.
Thus when Perkin Warbeck arrived she was ready for him.
She embraced him affectionately, then held him at arm’s length that she might see him better.
“My nephew,” she said. “We have often wondered what became of you. You are so like your father, I weep to look at you. I am thankful that you have come to me. It may not be long now before you have that which is your rightful due. You will find friends here who are only waiting for the opportunity to help you.”
So at the Duchess’s Court Perkin was treated as though he were indeed her nephew. He told his story of his wandering after the man selected to murder him had allowed him to go free. He talked of the Framptons who had befriended him and first made him realize that he should do something and save his country from the Tudor rule.
“That shall be done,” said the Duchess firmly. “We will raise an army. You will find that you have many to help you.”
She kept him beside her. Everywhere she went she presented him as the White Rose, Prince of England, King Richard the Fourth. She talked to him continually of her brother King Edward, of how he had lived; she told him everything she knew of that king’s family and it seemed to Perkin that the life of Richard of York was more real to him than that of Perkin Warbeck of Tournay. He began to believe he had really been in Sanctuary with his family; he could almost remember being sent to the Tower to join his brother; he could see his mother’s face distorted with grief; he could feel her tears on his face as she kissed him and gave him over to his jailers.
With Margaret he was the Duke of York. Peter Warbeck was just an identity he had assumed while he was waiting to declare himself.
Henry, watching events very closely, was getting more and more disturbed.
He must take some action. It was no use asking Margaret of Burgundy to give up this ridiculous charade. She wanted him off the throne, he had always known that; and what could suit her better than to set up her own puppet?
He could bring trouble to Flanders, and against his better judgment he decided to do so. He forbade all contact between England and Flanders and expelled all Flemings from England.
It was a mistake and enraged the people of London. Riots were narrowly averted but it taught Henry how easily the people could be persuaded to rise against him and that any one of these pretenders with no claim to the throne whatsoever could ruin himself and the country.
“It is no use shrugging aside this Perkin,” he said to his Lord Chamberlain Sir William Stanley. “He is more dangerous than Lambert Simnel. It is all very well to talk slightingly of Perkin as we did of the scullion now in the kitchens, but they make trouble, these petty adventurers.”
“Indeed it is so, my lord,” said Stanley, “but this fellow is a nobody and most people know this.”
“My good Stanley, you give the people credit for too much good sense. There are people who will support a cause however flimsy because they take a delight in discord. One is never quite sure where trouble will come from next.”
“Sire, you are firm on the throne now. It would take a mighty force to shift you.”
The King smiled at Stanley. He wished he had his confidence. Good Stanley. He owed a great deal to him and had recently made him a Knight of the Garter. He doubted whether but for Stanley he would be where he was today. Stanley was in a way a member of the family, for his brother had married the Countess of Richmond thereby becoming Henry’s stepfather. It was Stanley who at Bosworth Field had deserted Richard the Third and brought his men over to Henry’s side at a vital moment. One could say he had helped put Henry on the throne and Henry liked to have such men about him, being haunted as he was by the fear of assassination or the rising of those who would try to take the crown from him.
They were joined by Empson and Dudley, who were so good at thinking up taxes which could be legitimately imposed on the people and thus adding to treasury funds.
They were smiling. They had brought him good news of large sums of money which had recently been added to the exchequer. But the King could not be weaned from his melancholy mood.
“It is no use amassing wealth and creating a prosperous country if all our efforts are to be squandered in wars to suppress pretenders.”
“No one can really believe that Perkin Warbeck is the Duke of York,” said Empson.
“We know that, my friend,” replied Henry, “and my enemies on the Continent know it as well as we do, but it suits them to set him up, to provide him with that which he needs to come against me. I have a suspicion that he is not without friends in this country.”
“That cannot be,” cried Dudley, aghast.
“Impossible!” echoed Stanley.
“I have not your trusting natures, my friends,” said the King. “There are certain people about me whom I know to be loyal . . . who have proved their loyalty . . . but beyond that.”
He was looking with approval at the three men who nodded sympathetically.
“We must be on the alert,” said Stanley. “We shall increase our vigilance and may I say, my lord, that this project of yours for Prince Henry will be an answer to these people on the Continent.”
“I thought so,” said the King.
“We will try to make it not too costly,” said Empson.
“On an occasion such as this will be, in my opinion, one should not give an impression of parsimoniousness,” Stanley said. “As a matter of fact, my lord, I have come with suggestions for the tournaments, which must necessarily follow. And the Prince will need his special garments.”
“We will discuss these matters,” said Henry, “and when we have decided we will pass over the accounts to our good friends here. . . .”
Empson and Dudley bowed their heads and, realizing that their presence was not needed while the arrangements were discussed, asked leave to retire and left the King alone with his Lord Chamberlain.
Later Henry recalled his lawyer financiers to discuss the cost of the ceremonies he was planning and when they had glanced through the suggested expenditure the subject of Perkin Warbeck arose again. Indeed it seemed one which the King found impossible to leave for long. It was clearly very much on his mind.
“The more I think of it the more certain I am that we have enemies in our midst,” he said. “It may well be that they are planning to help Perkin when he attempts to land.”
His ministers looked grave.
“If we could find out who they are . . .”
“I intend to,” said the King. “That is why I am setting spies along every road that leads to Dover. I am having all travelers searched. In this way we shall ourselves receive messages which are intended for our enemies.”
“A big task, Sire.”
“We are constantly confronted by big tasks—and this happens to be a very important one . . . for us all. The Londoners are already up in arms because of the cessation of trade with Flanders.”
Both Dudley and Empson were silent. They did not think that was a very good measure to take merely to upset Margaret of Burgundy. England herself had suffered from the loss of trade, which was the last thing the King wanted. It showed how deeply he feared this Perkin Warbeck.
“And have your spies on the Dover road discovered anything?”
“Not yet. But I am hopeful.”
He was right to be hopeful for within a short time his spies found what they were looking for. When he read the letters which were being brought from Flanders for Lord Fitzwalter he was horrified.
The letters were written by Sir Robert Clifford, a man whom he knew and whom he would have trusted. He had been with the army in France, spoke the language fluently, and had acted as an interpreter. Henry would have vouched for his loyalty. It was a terrible blow to discover that he did not know in what direction to look for his enemies.
Clifford had written: “I have been in contact with the Pretender. He is so like the late King Edward the Fourth that he must be his son. I have no doubt whatsoever that the man who is contemptuously called Perkin Warbeck by Henry Tudor is in truth Richard the Fourth.”
The letters went on to state that plans were going ahead for the invasion. It was necessary to have friends whom they could trust in England so that when the invading forces landed they would know where to look for supporters.
This was worse than Henry had feared. The correspondence revealed names in the most unexpected quarters. There was Lord Fitzwalter, a man whom he had made steward of his household during the first year of his reign and later joint steward of England with Jasper Tudor. He was deeply wounded by the perfidy of such a man. What had he wanted? More honors? Or did he genuinely believe that Perkin Warbeck was Richard of York? Who could say? The mysterious disappearance of the Princes would go on reverberating through the ages. If the truth could be told . . . No! The truth must never be told. But his concern of the moment was to bind his friends to him and to cut off his enemies for ever.
Sir Thomas Thwaites, Sir Simon Mountford . . . traitors all of them. Men close to him, men whom he had believed to be his friends! And this was not all, there were three members of the Church involved in the conspiracy—and important ones at that. The Dean of St. Paul’s himself and the Prior of Langley as well as the Provincial of the Black Friars.
He was cold with fear and rage.
He sent for his guards.
“Arrest these men,” he said.
So now he knew the extent of the conspiracy. He had been wise to intercept the messengers.
He thought constantly of Sir Robert Clifford. He knew the man well, remembering him from the days in France. He was not a man whom he considered would be distinguished for his bravery, and it occurred to the King that Robert Clifford might be very useful to him. The men whose names had been revealed were not of any great importance perhaps. They were not the leaders of the conspiracy and Henry’s natural suspicions led him to believe that there might be men close to him who were working against him. They were the ones he must try to catch.
He made a decision. Could he use Robert Clifford to work for him as an informer, a counter spy? It seemed possible. He immediately sent one of his spies to Flanders in the guise of a merchant with the instructions that he was to seek out Robert Clifford, sound him, offer him a pardon, offer him money, if he would work for Henry instead of for this Pretender whose claims he must know were as spurious as those of the scullion Lambert Simnel.
Henry eagerly waited for the response. It came quickly. Robert Clifford was ready to work for Henry Tudor.
Henry was pleased. Robert Clifford should be given a free pardon—he had the King’s word for that. When it should be ripe for him to return to England he should have a grant of five hundred pounds; and there should also be a free pardon for his servant Richard Waltier who would also be expected to serve the King in this matter of revealing those who worked against him.
This was a wise move. Henry now began to realize how deeply the dissatisfaction had gone in England. He was amazed at those who were ready to listen to this preposterous claim of young Perkin and moreover dally with the possibility of betraying their crowned King.
Henry Duke of York
n the nurseries at Eltham Palace the royal children played their games and grappled with their lessons unaware of the fact that their lives could drastically change within a few days if their father’s enemies were successful.
In spite of the fact that he was the youngest and only three years old, Henry was already making his presence felt. Arthur, five years his senior, was a quiet and studious boy, rarely asserting himself and leaving his sister Margaret and young Henry to fight together for supremacy. Five-year-old Margaret was showing signs of a forceful personality, which was matched by that of three-year-old Henry who would send his bronze horse on its squeaky wheels shooting across the nursery in pursuit of any who offended him. He loved that horse for on it sat a knight with a lance and a shield and Henry had always seen himself as that knight, fearless, ready to attack his enemies, and at the same time it offered a certain comfort in the dark. Margaret had complained many times to Anne Oxenbrigge, whose task was to watch over Henry, that her brother had grazed her legs with his silly old horse.
Anne would scold Henry in a mild way, which was no real scolding. Henry knew he only had to bury his face in her skirts and look woeful and she would pick him up and cuddle him. He liked cuddling Anne; she was warm and soft with enormous bosoms from which he had sucked his milk when a baby. She had been chosen because she was young and healthy, large of hip and bosom with a red and white complexion which showed good health. Henry knew of course that she was only a nurse and that his mother was a queen, but a lady so noble that she could not be concerned with children in nurseries. But children in nurseries grew up and when they did they became important as his mother and father were.
He must wait for that day. In the meantime he had to rule the nursery. It would not have been difficult but for his rival Margaret who could scream as loud as he could, kick and cajole as effectively. He did not have to worry about Arthur. Although he was big and old he never listened to their quarrels, and never took part in any; he was always meek and anxious to do his lessons.
Anne said: “Your brother Arthur is a good boy. Now why don’t you try to be more like the Prince of Wales?”
“I should be Prince of Wales,” said Henry.
“Now, now, that’s silly. Arthur is older than you. It is his right.”
“It’s my right really. . . .”
“The pride of him!” said Anne, kissing him. “Now you try to be a good boy and don’t send that horse of yours crashing into Margaret. You hurt her badly.”
“Now that is really wicked.”
“I am wicked. I want to be wicked. I am going to hurt Margaret with my horse. My knight doesn’t like her. He doesn’t like Arthur. He thinks I ought to be Prince of Wales.”
“Tut, tut!” said Anne; he heard her say afterward to one of the maids: “Our young Henry has a fine conceit of himself. I fancy he is jealous of his brother. I’m always telling him he ought to be more like him. I thank the Virgin that he is not.”
Henry was all ears. The perfidy of women! Wasn’t Anne always telling him that he should be good and quiet like Arthur, studying his lessons—and now she was thanking the Virgin that he was not! This was interesting.
“Delicate,” whispered Anne. “Takes after his mother.”
“Don’t suppose he’ll make old bones.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all. It’s a good thing we have young Henry.”
“There’s a sturdy little fellow for you. They say he takes after his grandfather King Edward. I never saw him but I hear he was big and tall and more handsome than anyone ever before.”
“I reckon that’s about right and young Henry will be such another. It’s a pity he wasn’t born first. . . .What a king he would have made!”
“Well . . . who knows . . . ?”
“Hush! We shouldn’t talk like this. The Queen would think we were illwishing her eldest.”
“God forbid. He’s a dear boy.”
“Easier to manage than young Henry I can tell you.”
“Ah well, he’s a boy to be proud of . . . though a handful.”
The “handful” went off brooding on what he had heard. A resentment had started to grow in his heart. It was rather unkind of God not to have made him the eldest—more than unkind, foolish, for it was clear that he would have made a much better king than Arthur.
He was growing fast and he was a big child. He was secretly delighted to realize that he was catching up on Arthur. Arthur was a little thin and weedy; Henry was sturdy rather than plump; he had a cherubic face with a pink and white complexion, whereas Arthur’s face was thinnish and rather pale; Henry’s reddish hair was thick and plentiful, Arthur’s was inclined to be less vital. Margaret was very like Henry. Vociferous and demanding, there was bustle surrounding her always and she was constantly in some argument with the nurses because she wanted to do something which was forbidden.
Henry felt the nursery would have been a happier place without Margaret—without Arthur too for that matter. He would have liked a nursery where he was the eldest and perhaps one or two brothers and sisters who looked up to him as though he were already a king.
He liked to leave the Palace, which he had done on one or two occasions when he had been to see his parents at Westminster. He had ridden on his palfry—led by a squire—and the people had liked him. They had cheered him wildly—him more than the others he was sure—and he had smiled at them and waved and he fancied his father had been rather pleased with him. He thought it was a shame that they had to come back to Eltham; it was a pleasant palace but away from everything that was especially exciting. Although it was only eight miles from London it was shut away. He felt when he was crossing the drawbridge over the very deep moat that he was leaving the exciting world behind. The walls were so high, the archway so lofty, he felt shut in by all those gray stones and he longed to be older that he might go to Court and hear the people cheer him.
He sat at table with his brother and sister.
Arthur was constantly told: “Now you must eat that, my lord. You’ll never grow into a big strong boy if you don’t.”
No need to tell Henry. He could always eat all the beef or mutton which was put before him; he always asked for his pewter tankard to be refilled with the ale which they were given to drink. They never had water; it could be dangerous. He liked good spiced meat far better than that salt fish they had on Fridays and in fact he disliked Fridays because of the fish, for food meant a great deal to him.
Meals were quite a ceremony. They were presided over by squires well suited to the task, for princes must be taught to conduct themselves in a seemly fashion at the table and not fall on the food like ravenous wolves. They must not show too great an interest in the food—because that was what the needy would do. They must wash their hands both before and after a meal; they must eat with a knife gracefully and use the correct fingers for holding the food. Even the washing of hands was a ceremony, for one of the carvers would bring the bowl, then kneel and pour water over Henry’s hands while another servant stood by with a towel to dry them.
The most difficult part was to show indifference to the food. That was something Henry could not feel for he was invariably ravenously hungry.
It was September about three months after Henry’s third birthday when messengers arrived at the Palace. They came to announce that in a few days the King and Queen would be visiting Eltham.
The household was in a twitter of excitement, which was mainly apprehension. They were all very much in awe of the King, for although he rarely spoke to any of them, if he noticed anything of which he disapproved there would be a complaint and the fact that it would not be made in the hearing of the one to blame made it worse because there was no chance of answering the charge.
The Queen was a beautiful, gentle lady, but it was the King who counted.
Henry was at the nursery window with Arthur and Margaret when the cavalcade rode into the great courtyard. He saw the magnificently caparisoned horses and the servants of the King in their green and white livery mingling with those of the Queen’s purple and blue. It was exciting. Henry jumped up and down in his glee.
“Be still, Henry,” admonished Margaret. “You are behaving like a stable boy.”
Henry‘s little blue eyes narrowed. He would have liked to send his bronze horse and knight rushing straight at her. But this was not the time for retaliation so he merely scowled at her, which did not bother her in the least and she laughed at him saying, “Now you look really ugly!”
As though he ever did! As though he ever could! How often had he heard the servants say he was the image of his grandfather Edward and he had been one of the most handsome men in England.
Anne Oxenbrigge was running into the nursery casting an anxious eye over them all. Arthur’s tutor was there with other attendants and servants because now was the time for the children to go down and greet their parents.
Arthur led them into the great hall.
They knew what they had to do. They must bow to the King and Queen and wait until they were spoken to.
The King was a disappointment to Henry. He did not look like a king. Henry would have liked to see his father in purple velvet and ermine with a golden crown on his head.
When I am King . . . he thought . . . and then with a guilty look at Arthur . . . if I am King I shall always look splendid. My father might be just a squire or a lord . . . out for a day’s hunting. The Queen was beautiful though—like a picture, rather remote, with her plump rather expressionless face and a certain longing in her eyes, which the children did not understand.
The King watched them to make sure they behaved in the correct manner and when the first ceremony of greeting was over they were all a little more comfortable.
Refreshment was immediately brought for the party and Arthur served the King and then the Queen with wine and cakes. The Queen kept Margaret and Henry with her . . . one on either side, and Henry thought how beautiful she was and was proud of her. He kept comparing her with Anne Oxenbrigge. Anne was by no means as beautiful . . . but somehow he would hate them to send Anne away whereas when the Queen went he would not mind so very much after the first day or so, and then he would only mind because it meant that all the excitement of a royal visit was over.
The Queen asked questions about what they did. Margaret tried to talk all the time but Henry was not having that. There was quite a little babble about the Queen, which was different from what was happening with the King and Arthur who seemed to find it difficult to keep their conversation going.
Finally that ceremony was over and the King and Queen went to their apartments while the children returned to the nurseries, there to wait the next summons, which would be for dinner; as they would take this with their royal parents their mentors hoped they would remember all they had been taught about the washing of hands and the correct method of eating.
Arthur was given precedence of course; he it was who held the basin while the King’s hands were washed; then he sat beside the King and there was more of that uneasy talk. Poor Arthur, he was wishing that the ordeal was over.
They were all glad when the tumblers who traveled with the King and performed for his entertainment were brought in. The King’s stern face relaxed into a smile as he watched them and young Henry was so excited he leaped up and tried to imitate them, which caused a great deal of amusement and even made the King laugh aloud.
Then there was the King’s fool called Patch who said a lot of things to make them all laugh and was really quite disrespectful to the King, which Henry could not understand until he learned afterward that this was a special privilege for fools whom nobody took seriously.
If I were a king, he thought, I wouldn’t allow anyone to speak disrespectfully of me, fool or no.
Ever since he had overheard that conversation he was thinking more and more of what he would do if he were king.
He was surprised when the King told him to come and sit beside him. His father studied him very carefully.
“You may have been wondering why the Queen and I have come to Eltham.”
“To see me . . . and Arthur and Margaret.”
“Yes, that is so. But there is a rather special reason and it concerns you, my son.”
Henry’s eyes were bright with excitement; his little mouth turned up in a smile.
“I am going to honor you, Henry. I am going to give you a title. You must be worthy of it.”
“I will, my lord,” said Henry firmly.
“I believe you will. You are going to be the Duke of York.”
“Couldn’t I be Prince of Wales?”
“What do you mean? Arthur is the Prince of Wales.”
“He doesn’t like being Prince of Wales very much. I should . . .”
The King’s smile was a little wintry. “You must not say such things. There is a Prince of Wales and he will remain Prince of Wales until he becomes the King. You will have to understand these matters. You will be Duke of York, which is next in rank and honor to the Prince of Wales.”
Henry was subdued. He had betrayed his dreams, That was silly.
Although he hoped that one day he would be the King, he knew that
he must never tell anybody.
“What must I do, my lord?” he asked.
“You will be told and have time to learn what you have to do. It is a most important ceremony and I want you to be worthy of it.”
Henry nodded gravely.
“There, my son,” said his father, “that is the purpose of our visit . . . to honor you.”
That was very pleasant, but for just a fleeting moment Henry wished that his parents had come to see him . . . rather than just to tell him of something he had to do, even though it was such an honor.
The King dismissed him and he went back to his place beside the Queen. Margaret was watching him jealously, and he could not resist crying out: “I’m going to be Duke of York. I’m going to be honored.”
He looked up at his mother. On impulse he buried his face in her skirts. He felt cool hands taking hold of him. It was one of the carvers. His mother was smiling but she made no attempt to touch him. Margaret was looking pleased, which meant that he had behaved in a manner which was quite incorrect. The King was pretending not to see what he had done, but the King saw everything. He would hear more of this.
His pleasure was dampened. He knew then that he wanted his mother to ruffle his hair as Anne Oxenbrigge did, to pick him up and hold him against her breast, to tell him that for all his impudence he was only a baby.
He was glad when the tumbling and antics of the fool ceased and he could go to the nurseries. Anne was there waiting. He ran to her and caught her by the knees.
“Anne, Anne, I’m going to be Duke of York!”
He was picked up, held in the strong arms. He buried his face into her large soft breasts.
“Well, well,” she said, “you’ll have to mind your manners, won’t you?”
She was laughing. He said: “Are you glad, Anne? Are you pleased?”
She was silent for a while. Then she said: “No . . . I expect I want you to stay my baby. . . .”
Then he put his head down on her breast again and clung to her. He was comforted.
It was a golden October day when they came to prepare him for the great event. He was dressed in velvet with a cap on his abundant reddish hair, and they put a heavy gold chain round his neck; his cheeks were even rosier than usual, for he was very excited.
His riding master had had some qualms. He was very young to ride, but it was believed he was proficient enough to manage a small quiet horse; and the people would of course be delighted with him. The King had said that this was the time to show them that there was one Duke of York and one only and he was the son of Henry Tudor here in London and not a lying impostor skulking on the Continent.
So young Henry came riding into London where the Mayor, the aldermen and dignitaries from the city companies were all waiting to greet him. The people had crowded into the streets and when they saw this beautiful little boy sitting so confidently on his horse and returning their greetings with such royal gravity they roared their applause.
At Westminster the King was waiting to receive his son and when he saw him he congratulated himself on this move. Few could have done more for him than this beautiful child at this dangerous moment when the news from the Continent was growing more and more grim and it was certain that people in England were concerned in the conspiracy. A glow of affection showed in his eyes but young Henry was too concerned with his own role to notice it.
He had been drilled constantly for the last week so that he should not fail to do what was expected of him and he was thoroughly enjoying it all. This was his day. And although Arthur might be the Prince of Wales, the most important son of the King at this time was Henry.
His first task was to join in the ceremony of washing the King’s hands. It had been decided that he should be the one who stood by with the towel. But he must kneel when offering it and he was a little unsteady. However the King smiled at him and he believed he had performed that duty with grace. Now he could sit down and eat—being very careful how he did so—and even at such a time his appetite did not fail him.
Afterward he was taken away to a small room where he was stripped of his clothes and placed in a warm herb-scented bath. This he knew was the ceremony of purification, which all knights had to undergo.
He sat in the bath and listened to the injunctions which were read out by Lord Oxford, explaining to him what knighthood demanded. He must remain faithful to the Church; he must protect widows and maidens; and above all he must love the King and serve him with all his heart.
The King put his hand in the water and making the sign of the cross on young Henry’s body, kissed the spot.
Then the boy was taken from his bath and dressed in a robe made of coarse stuff which irritated his skin. He was then allowed to go to his apartments although the rest of the knights who had joined in the ceremony would spend the night praying in the chapel.
He was glad to cast off the coarse garment and delighted when the following day they dressed him in silken clothes, which in comparison seemed deliciously soft. In the chapel the knights were waiting to conduct him to the Star Chamber where one of them, Sir William Sandes, lifted him and carried him to the King’s Hall where the King was waiting.
The King then commanded two of the most noble peers in the land to put the spurs on the little boy’s feet, so the Duke of Buckingham fixed the right one and the Marquis of Dorset the left, while the King himself put on the boy’s sword. There he was equipped like a knight—though a diminutive one, but he felt very proud.
The King kissed him and said: “Be a good knight, my son.” Then he picked him up and put him on a table and as he stood there with his newly acquired sword and spurs everyone cheered.
He was now a Knight of the Bath.
But it was the greater title which the King wished to bestow on him and the following day there was another ceremony.
This was far more impressive because the King wore his robes of state and his crown and he himself wrapped young Henry in the velvet cloak of deep crimson edged with miniver and put on his coronet and sword.
He was now the Duke of York.
After that it was rather disappointing because although there were tournaments and entertainments to celebrate his elevation, the adults seemed to have forgotten that he was the center of it all and now that he had actually gone through his performance he was once more regarded as a little boy. It was true he was allowed to sit in the royal box and watch the knights tilt against each other, but Margaret and Arthur were there too; and when the prizes were distributed to the successful knights it was not he who awarded them but Margaret.
How self-satisfied she was when the knights came up one by one and knelt to her. She could not resist glancing over her shoulder to make sure that Henry was watching. It was as though she said: “I know you went riding through the city and everyone cheered you, but watch me now. They are all kneeling to me.”
It was irritating and he scowled at her, but try as she might she could not take from him the memory of all those people smiling at him and cheering him and so obviously thinking how important he was.
He wanted that adulation to go on and he grew more and more sorry that he had not been born the eldest. He was sure the people would have preferred him to Arthur.
How could fate have been so blind?
It was just after Christmas when Sir Robert Clifford arrived in England and called on the King at the Palace of the Tower where he had taken up residence at that time.
As soon as he knew that he had arrived Henry received him.
The man bowed low.
“So,” said the King, “you have returned.”
“My lord, I can do no more in your service. I am of the opinion that the conspirators have become aware of my actions and I have news of one near to you who is a traitor and I believed that I had something to say to you which could not be trusted to paper.”
“I see,” said the King. “Go on.”
“I would remind you, Sire, of your promise to me.”
“Yes, yes, a free pardon. It is yours.”
“And five hundred pounds for my services.”
“It shall be yours. Tell me of this traitor.”
“I fear you will be inclined to disbelieve me for it concerns one very close to you . . . even related.”
The King tapped his fingers impatiently, but still Sir Robert hesitated, whether to give his revelation more momentum or whether he feared the King’s wrath over what he was about to reveal, Henry was not sure.
“Come, come, Clifford. Speak up.”
“My lord, Sir William Stanley is in league with Perkin Warbeck.”
“I feared you would feel so, my lord. But it is the truth. I have evidence. Letters in his handwriting. He is ready to offer his help to the impostor when he lands in England.”
Henry was silent. He would not believe it. Not William Stanley . . . brother of his father-in-law! Heaven preserve him, how deep had this thing gone! He had scarcely had a night’s sound sleep since he had heard the name of Perkin Warbeck.
“Allow me, Sire,” said Clifford. “I can give you irrefutable evidence and knowing that you would find it difficult to believe in this man’s perfidy I have brought you that evidence.”
The King held out his hand.
He stared down at the paper. Stanley’s writing. Stanley’s treason! There could be no doubt of it.
He felt sick with disgust and anger. Had he not seen it with his own eyes he would never have believed it. Stanley! What would his mother say? What would his stepfather say? This was terrible. This was treachery of the worst kind.
“My lord, you believe me now?”
“I believe you, Sir Robert. You have done good work. It is a pity that you were ready to betray me in the beginning.”
“A mistake, Sire, for which I crave the pardon which you have already granted me. I realized my mistake and I wished to rectify my errors . . . which I am sure with your love of truth and justice you will readily agree that I have done.”
For five hundred pounds and a free pardon! How uneasy is he who is a king! Must it always be so? Must those whom he most trusts betray him?
“You have done well,” he said. “You shall be paid your five hundred pounds. Leave these papers with me . . . You may go to my treasurer and take an order from me for your five hundred pounds, which shall be paid to you at once. Then you may go.”
“Thank you, my lord. It has been my pleasure to serve you.”
“Go now,” said the King coldly.
He sat silent for a few seconds. Somewhere in this very palace Sir William Stanley would be preparing for the evening’s entertainment, little guessing that his perfidy was revealed. Henry was glad that he had come to the Tower. Stanley could be taken to his cell without undue fuss.
He sent for the guards.
“Arrest Sir William Stanley,” he said, “and have him conducted to a dungeon. Make sure that he is well guarded.”
The men-at-arms were astounded. They hesitated, wondering if they had heard correctly.
The King said, and his voice was very cold: “Those are my orders. Sir William Stanley is to be conducted without delay to a dungeon. He is under close arrest.”
The men bowed and went out. Henry sat for a few moments staring into space, his face creased into lines of desperate unhappiness.
The King signed to the jailer to open the door of the cell. He went in. Stanley turned sharply and let out a cry when he saw who his visitor was. He went onto his knees and tried to take the King’s hand.
“My lord . . . Sire . . . I do not understand.”
“Get up, Stanley,” said the King. “Alas, I understand all too well.”
“My lord, I pray you tell me of what I am accused.”
“Of treachery, Stanley.”
“Treachery? I . . . Your faithful servant . . .”
“My unfaithful servant, alas. Have done with pretense. I know that you have been in correspondence with the impostor Perkin Warbeck. I have seen your letters. . . .”
Stanley’s shocked silence would have proclaimed his guilt if that had been necessary. It certainly was not. Henry had no doubt of it. It had been made quite clear to him.
“My lord . . . I thought . . . to discover more of this man . . .”
An old excuse! It never worked. He was going to say: I was pretending to be with the other side in your service. I wanted to find out what they were planning so that I could present my findings to you.
“It is useless, Stanley, I know all. Do you imagine that while you have your friends over there I have none? My good servants were working for me, Stanley, while my unfaithful ones were working against me. I could not believe it at first. You . . . Stanley . . . Your brother my own stepfather. My mother will be quite distressed. I should think your brother will be ashamed.”
Stanley covered his face with his hands. “As I am, my lord . . . as I am. . . .”
“Perhaps I should have suspected you. You were ever a turncoat.”
Stanley spoke with some spirit. “Ah, my lord, you owe something to that. Have you forgotten Bosworth Field?”
“I do not forget, Stanley, that you started out with Richard and when the battle turned against him you changed sides.”
“And decided the day for you, my lord.”
“There could be something in that. But one should never trust a turncoat. So now you are ready to give your services to Perkin. Has he promised to pay you well? I rewarded you did I not? Did I not acknowledge my debt to you? You were my Lord Chamberlain, Knight of the Garter. Did I not give you estates in Wales? And yet, and yet . . .”
Stanley was silent.
The King looked at him steadily. “I just wondered why, Stanley. You must have been promised a great deal. I know your love of possessions. I have heard that you have many treasures stored away in Holt Castle. Alas, Stanley, you cannot take them with you.”
“My lord . . .”
“You shall be tried, Stanley. Never fear—it shall be a fair and just trial. And if you are found guilty . . . as it would seem you cannot fail to be . . . you will pay the penalty demanded of traitors. Goodnight, Stanley. I think you should begin to make your peace with God.”
The King went out. A terrible melancholy possessed him. He felt that he would never trust anyone again.
Sir William Stanley was brought before his peers in Westminster Hall, where he was accused of falsely plotting the death and destruction of King Henry the Seventh and attempting to overthrow the kingdom.
In vain did he protest his innocence. He had been maligned, he insisted; his enemies had trumped up evidence against him; but even he knew that none would believe him. He had been a fool. He had gambled too far. He had always been an adventurer. As a Yorkist during the reign of Edward the Fourth he had enjoyed many favors; he had professed friendship for Richard the Third but when he had seen an opportunity of finding favor with Henry he had blatantly deserted Richard and as it happened swung the battle in Henry’s favor. He had often congratulated himself on going over at precisely the right moment. Henry had been grateful, had rewarded him. But perhaps Stanley was adventurous by nature; perhaps the thought of this young man on the Continent had fired his imagination. It was possible that he was one of the Princes in the Tower, for the question of what had happened to those Princes had never been satisfactorily answered.
However, whatever motives had led him to this, he was here and he had come to the end. He knew now there would be no adventures, no more plots and counter plots.
He must now say it is over, and prepare himself for his fate.
“Guilty of treason” was the verdict and he was condemned to the traitor’s death.
The traitor’s death! It was the most barbarous act which could befall a man. To be dragged through the streets on a hurdle, to be hanged, cut down before death put a merciful end to suffering, cut open and one’s entrails burned until one could endure no more.
Every man dreaded it. To be a traitor men needed the utmost courage and yet . . . so many of them were ready to risk this terrible death for something they believed in.
Did Stanley believe in Perkin Warbeck? Not in his heart. He knew Warbeck was another Lambert Simnel but more polished, more prepared. He had the other to draw on for a lesson.
That he, William Stanley, should have come to this was hard to believe. He had brought disgrace on his brother but the Countess would protect her husband from the King’s wrath against the family. Perhaps Henry was not the man to visit the sins of one man on another just because they happened to be brothers. Henry was a just man. He was not revengeful. He would eliminate people—coldbloodedly as some thought, but that would only be because he felt it necessary to do so. Any violent deed which he condoned would not be done in hot blood or vengeance. It would be because it was expedient to do it.
It was no use asking for clemency, for Henry would reason that it would be unwise to grant it. Sir William Stanley was a traitor and the King must give a lesson to all would-be traitors.
Henry was more concerned about Stanley than he cared to admit. There must always be men who worked against a leader, he supposed, because men were envious by nature, and if a man was up, there would always be those who wanted to bring him down, for no other reason than that he was up . . . and perhaps they thought they had more right to be where he was. That he accepted. But not the treachery of close friends—men whom he had trusted. This was the blow.
He was shut in with his melancholy. To whom could he talk of these depressions which obsessed him? Not to his mother—she was too close and she would be particularly disturbed because the criminal was her husband’s brother. No, he could not distress her more by revealing his grief to her. To Elizabeth the Queen? No. He never talked to Elizabeth. She knew him as a kind and gentle husband but he had never shared a state secret with her and he had never talked to her of the affairs of the country. Arthur was a child. He wished his children were older. How comforting it would have been to discuss this matter with a son. Arthur was grave and serious. He had high hopes of Arthur . . . but as yet a boy of eight.
The King felt desperately alone.
It was not only Sir William Stanley who had been exposed as a traitor. There were many more. It was disturbing that there should be others but Stanley was the one on whom he brooded.
Not one of them must be spared. There must be public executions. The people must be made fully aware of the dreaded fate in store for traitors.
People crowded the streets. Executions were like public holidays. Crowds massed outside Newgate to watch the prisoners brought out and taken to the place of execution. Those of higher rank were taken from the Tower but the place was of little importance to the condemned. They were all to meet the same fate.
Henry spared one or two of them at the last minute, just as they were preparing themselves for the axe. This created drama, as the King intended it should. A messenger would arrive at the last moment and there would be an announcement from the scaffold that the King had decided on a reprieve for this particular criminal because he considered he had been led astray by evil counselors. The reprieved man would go back to prison where in due course he might earn his liberty.
This made the executions almost like a play. At every one of them the people waited expectantly for an announcement. It was obvious in the faces of the condemned that they too were waiting.
There would be a hush in the crowd and a watchfulness for the messenger waving the King’s pardon. Though it came rarely the expectation was always there; and when the axe finally descended there would be a deep sigh from the crowd.
Henry decided that he could not submit Sir William Stanley to the indignity of the traitor’s death and at the last moment the sentence was changed to beheading, so on a bleak February day Sir William was brought out of the Tower to Tower Green and there in the presence of a large crowd he laid his head on the block and paid the penalty for his treachery to the King.
The city was now adorned with the heads of traitors, but the King did not want to disgrace the Stanley family in this way, so he decreed that William Stanley’s head should be buried with his body at Sion on the Thames.
Young Prince Henry, Duke of York, knew that something was happening and he was frustrated because no one told him what it was.
Margaret pretended to know but he was not sure that she did. Arthur of course knew, but would not talk of it. It was maddening.
And following so soon after his elevation particularly so, for Henry had realized during that ceremony that he was, if only a child, a very important one and he wanted everyone around him to remember it.
It was all very well for Anne Oxenbrigge to call him her baby. There were times when he wanted to be just that but even she must remember that he was also the Duke of York and although he might like to cuddle up against her warm and cozy bosom, he was still a very important boy, only slightly less so than Arthur.
“Where is Sir William Stanley?” he asked Margaret.
He had seen a great deal of Sir William before that splendid ceremony when he had been the center of attraction. He wanted Sir William to bring him some more silken garments and to arrange more pageants in his honor.
“You are not to know,” retorted Margaret. “You are too young.”
“I am the Duke of York,” he told her proudly.
“You are not four years old yet.”
“I will be in June.”
“But it is not yet June and you are only three. Fancy being only three!”
Henry was furious. He hated Margaret. If I were the King, he thought looking at her venomously through narrowed eyes . . . What would he do to Margaret? Send her to the Tower.
Arthur was kind. He asked him. His elder brother hesitated.
“It’s of no moment,” said Arthur gently. “I hear you have a new spinning top. Does it go well?”
“I whip it hard,” said Henry with satisfaction.
“You must show me.”
“First I want to know where Sir William Stanley is.”
Arthur thought: He will have to know sometime. There was no point in keeping it secret.
He said: “He is dead. His head was cut off because he was a traitor.”
Henry’s little eyes opened wide, and the color rushed into his cheeks. He was trying to visualize Sir William Stanley without his head.
“There is a wicked man on the Continent who says he is the Duke of York.”
“I am the Duke of York.”
“Yes, this is a spurious one.”
Arthur used long words, forgetting that others couldn’t understand them, because Arthur was supposed to be very clever with his books, and Henry was not going to admit that he didn’t know what spurious was. It was clear that it was something wicked.
“What about him?” asked Henry eagerly.
“He wants to take the crown from our father.”
“To wear it, of course. Oh you are too young. . . .”
“No, no Arthur. I am growing up more every day. I wish I was older. I wish I were older than you.”
“Then you’d be Prince of Wales, brother.”
“You wouldn’t like that.”
Arthur hesitated again. He was always hesitant, weighing everything up before he answered. “I shouldn’t mind,” he said slowly. “In fact perhaps I might be rather glad.”
A wild excitement possessed Henry. Arthur didn’t want to be Prince of Wales. Perhaps they could change places. He cried: “I’ll be it for you.”
That made Arthur laugh. “Thank you, little brother, but it is not possible.”
Little brother! He had betrayed his youth again. It was maddening.
“Tell me about Sir William,” he said.
It‘s merely that he was corresponding with Perkin Warbeck who pretends he is our uncle who disappeared in the Tower, and if he was alive would be King.”
“King? Then our father . . .”
“Oh you have a lot to learn, Henry.”
Henry was bewildered, raging against his youth and inexperience.
He was going to find out though and if it was ever possible, he was going to change places with Arthur.
Whenever they rode out from Eltham to join their parents at Westminster or Shene he saw heads on poles. They fascinated him.
“Whose heads are they?” he wanted to know.
The heads of traitors, he was told.
That was the right way to treat traitors. Their heads should be cut off and put on poles for everyone to see. The thought of someone taking his father’s crown away frightened and angered him, for if his father were no longer King, Arthur would not be Prince of Wales—then how could Henry Duke of York change places with him when the time came?
There was more talk of Perkin Warbeck that summer, for the young man had taken an action which implied that he was very determined in his attempt to get possession of the throne.
News spread throughout the country that a fleet of ships led by the Pretender had appeared off the port of Deal.
The people of that town crowded onto the beaches to watch them, fearing that war was inevitable and that they were in the front line. And where were the King’s forces and how long would it take them to reach the coast?
Some of the spirited members of the community of Sandwich, a town a little way along the coast, gathered together a fighting force. After all the executions which had taken place not so long ago they were not going to be accused of conspiring with the invaders.
Coming in close to land Perkin saw the hostile crowds assembled there and decided that he would not risk all of his troops. It would be difficult to land and he could see that while this operation was in progress he could be attacked and lose many of his men and much equipment.
He decided therefore to land a few men who could persuade the people that they came to deliver them from one who had no right to the throne while he, the true King, Richard the Fourth, was preparing to come and be their good lord.
But the people were not to be persuaded. The Mayor of Sandwich was there to meet them as they attempted to land. “We want none of you Pretenders here,” he declared. “We’re content with what we have and that’s an end to fighting. We’re not having that on our soil.”
Perkin’s troops realized that they were at a disadvantage and many of them rowed back to the ships. The others who had landed were immediately taken prisoner and their equipment captured.
When Henry heard what had happened he was delighted with his good people of Sandwich and Deal. They had taken over a hundred and sixty prisoners to send him, and the rest of the invading force at sea decided to give up the attempt, for the time at least, and make other plans for landing which might have a chance of success.
The people of Sandwich excitedly tied up their prisoners and sent them on to London in carts where they were received into the Tower and immediately sentenced to hanging. That the country might realize what happened to men who indulged in such actions against the King, they were publicly hanged in the coastal areas and from London to as far as Norfolk.
It was unfortunate that Perkin was not among them, but he had sailed on to Ireland.
Am I never to be free of this Perkin Warbeck? wondered the King. It was four years since he had first heard that name and it had haunted him ever since.
When would it end? Perhaps more important still, where would it end?
That September a sad event took place in the royal nurseries. The little Princess Elizabeth died. Young Henry had never taken much interest in her. She was a year or so younger than he was and that made her quite a baby. She was delicate and had to be specially taken care of, which to one in his robust health seemed a little contemptible.
The Queen came to Eltham—beautiful and remote. She was clearly very distressed by the state of her little daughter’s health. Henry wondered why, because she saw very little of her. It was Anne Oxenbrigge who made such a fuss, going about with red eyes and turning away every now and then to choke back her sobs.
Death! He knew it happened to traitors. He had seen their heads on poles. He used to count them when he rode through the streets from Eltham to Westminster or Shene. But that death should come to the royal nursery, that was different.
There were physicians everywhere. His father and his mother were in the nursery together. The rest of the children were sent out. They waited in an ante room; and then Arthur was called in.
“She is dying,” said Margaret. “We shall have no sister now.”
“I have one,” said Henry.
“I haven’t,” she said. “But I have two brothers. You only have one.”
“I don’t want two brothers.”
“You’re only a baby yet.”
How she liked to taunt him with that. It was because she knew it was what he hated more than anything.
“I don’t want any sisters either,” said Henry ominously.
“And I only want one brother . . . dear Arthur who is the nicest brother. I don’t want a silly baby brother. . . .”
Henry flew at her. He already showed signs of possessing a quick temper, which alarmed Anne Oxenbrigge.
It was Anne who came in now.
“For shame!” she said. “Fighting when your little sister is dying. What do you think the King and Queen would say to that?”
“They won’t know,” said Margaret slyly.
“God will,” Anne reminded her.
Both children were silent, contemplating the awfulness of God’s watching them.
“So,” went on Anne, having made her point, “you should be very careful.”
They were subdued. Henry whispered a prayer: “I didn’t mean it, God. It wasn’t my fault. It was Margaret. You know what a silly girl she is.”
He had made up his mind that he was always going to do what God would like, for he had heard it said that a king needed good allies and Henry had reasoned that God was the best ally any man could have.
The Queen had come out of the nursery. She came to the children and embraced them solemnly. They knew what that meant. Then Arthur came out with the King, and the King said very quietly: “My children, you have no sister Elizabeth now. She has gone to live with God and His angels.”
Elizabeth was buried in the new chapel her father had built in Westminster Abbey.
The Scottish Court
n the great hall of Stirling Castle the Scottish King was seated at the table, his favorite mistress Marion Boyd beside him. Everyone was drowsy as was invariably the case after they had feasted well. Several of the highest nobles in the land were present, among them Lennox, Huntly, Bothwell and Ramsay . . . all friends now, thought James, until they decide to revolt against me. What a crowd! He could not trust them any further than this hall. The only one he could really rely on was Marion—and perhaps her father Archibald Boyd of Bonshaw . . . solely because of his association with Marion of course.
James was cynical. How could he be otherwise? His countrymen must be the most quarrelsome in the world—with the exception of the Irish who might be said to be even worse; and another thing they had in common was perpetual hatred of the English. No matter what truces they made, no matter how many treaties were signed, how often they exchanged the kiss of peace, the antipathy was always there. It was as natural as breathing. The people below the Border were regarded as enemies by every Scotsman living above it.
He twirled a lock of Marion’s hair. She was pregnant. That was pleasing. He liked children; and it was comforting to know how virile he was. He had several bastards for he was a man who found feminine society irresistible, and it had been so ever since he had come to the throne as a boy of fifteen seven years ago. He wondered whether the child would be a girl or boy. He wouldn’t mind. He would be proud of a boy, but he had a greater fondness for the girls.
“Perhaps we’ll call in Damian,” he remarked.
“What to tell us?” asked Marion idly.
He touched her protrusion playfully. “A little girl or a little boy?” he said.
She took his hand and kissed it. “Let’s wait and see,” she said.
“I should like to see the fellow. He says very soon he shall be able to fly.”
Marion laughed. She did not trust the wily Abbot of Tungsland, who had leaped into favor with the King when he had declared that he possessed supernatural powers. James was intrigued. He had always listened to soothsayers—and relied on them perhaps too much.
Marion would not complain. James had been faithful in a way. That was if one did not mind his dallying now and then with other women. He could not help that. It was the nature of James. But his best-loved mistress could hold her place. None of them had ever had reason to complain of his meanness for he was very generous with those who pleased him—and beautiful Marion did that.
She had of late seen his eyes stray to Janet Kennedy. There was a beautiful woman if ever there was one. However she was the mistress of Archibald Douglas, and even James would think twice about upsetting the great earl.
Round the table several of the men had fallen asleep—they had slumped forward in their chairs, some snoring. Others sat with their women caressing them, perhaps rather too intimately for polite society. Not that James cared. They were Scots and would act in the Scottish way. The English who came to the Scottish Court were shocked by what they called the coarseness of the manners there. As for the elegant French they were amazed.
Let them be. It was Scotland for the Scots, said James.
George Gordon, Earl of Huntly was present with his eldest daughter Katharine—a very beautiful girl, James thought her. Her mother had been a daughter of James the First so there was a family connection. If he had not been so deeply involved with Marion—and Katharine was not the kind of girl with whom he could carry on a light intrigue—he might have been tempted. Perhaps it was better as it was. There was a puritanical streak about Katharine—young as she obviously was—and James had never been attracted by puritans. Connoisseur that he was, he had discovered that hot-blooded women were the most satisfactory partners.
Marion followed his gaze round the table and said: “It is different at Westminster, I’ll be bound.”
“You’re right, my love. Henry is a very virtuous man. I have never heard one whisper that he is unfaithful to his Queen.”
“Perhaps people are afraid to whisper.”
“I think not. They whisper of other things. They say that his heart beats faster when he tots up a column of figures and sees what profits he has made than it ever could in the most appealing bedchamber in the world.”
“I see he has not your tastes, James.”
“You should thank Heaven for that, Madam.”
“I do . . . I do. But you are a little afraid of Henry Tudor, are you not?”
“Dear Marion, my ancestors have been afraid of the rulers on the other side of the Border since the beginning of time. Trouble in England therefore means rejoicing in Scotland.”
“And the other way round?” suggested Marion.
“Don’t upset me, woman. I have trouble enough as you know. I wonder how many of these who call themselves my friends, snoring and eating here at my tables, fornicating or committing adultery in the rooms of my castles . . . would as lief thrust a knife in my back as kneel to me in homage.”
“You must keep them in order, my King.”
“One thing is sure: they will always follow me when I make war on the English. That is the common enemy. We can all be friends hating them, but when the English are not coming against us then forsooth we must go against each other.”
“So it is in your interests to preserve your old enemy,” said Marion lightly.
“I hear that he is in a state of panic at this time.”
“Which pleases you mightily?”
“How did you guess? His throne trembles under him, you know.”
“I know. This fellow on the Continent . . . is he really the Duke of York, Edward’s son?”
“Where is Edward’s son? Where are Edward’s sons? Two little boys in the Tower, and they disappear. Where to? Can people disappear in that way?”
“Easily if their throats are cut or they are stifled as I have heard these boys were . . . stifled by downy pillows . . . poor little mites. Did Richard do it as some say?”
“Why should he? He said they were bastards. But Henry has married their sister. He couldn’t marry a bastard . . . which she must have been if they were. It sounds reasonable to me. Henry takes them from the Tower in secret . . . puts them out to be murdered far from the spot. Someone takes pity on the younger boy . . . and there we have our Perkin Warbeck.”
“Reasonable,” she admitted.
“And a great anxiety to old Henry. You can picture him—trembling on his throne. There are many in Europe who are ready to rise up and help the young man fight for his crown.”
“Richard the Fourth. Would Scotland be happier under Richard the Fourth than under Henry the Seventh?”
“Scotland asks only to have an English king to fight. What his name is is of no matter. Scotland asks to harry the English King and if it can be done by making him change his name from Henry to Richard so much the better. Scotland is happiest when Englishmen are fighting against Englishmen because it saves the Scots the trouble of fighting them. I like to see my poor old enemy Henry being frightened out of his wits by this young man from Flanders.”
“Is he frightened? He seems to be holding his crown rather well.”
“Who can say, little love? He has to be continually on the alert. That has to take his mind from his money bags. And he won’t like having to spend some of those contents on war, will he?”
“James, you are malicious.”
“I am indeed where Henry is concerned . . . but kind and loving to my friends, do you not agree?”
“I would agree with that.”
“I am thankful to have your approval. I fancy I don’t have Huntly’s at this moment. He is wondering whether his daughter Katharine should be in such company.”
“My lord, I trust you will keep your eyes from Katharine. She is not for you.”
“Well I know it. Huntly need have no fears for his virtuous daughter. We must find a worthy husband for her. That I assure you is the reason why he has brought her to Court. Now what say you to sending for Damian?”
“If it so please my lord, then let it be.”
“I’ll send for him tomorrow. Now my bed calls . . . and it would seem it does for many of our friends.”
The King stood up, and the company rose with him.
He bade them all a good and safe night; then with Marion he went to his bedchamber.
Damian appeared the next day. The Abbot of Tungsland had come far since he had attracted the attention of the King and this he had done through what he proclaimed to be knowledge of the art of magic.
He was an astrologer, but there were other astrologers. Damian had special gifts. He could tell the King what was about to happen. He could tell him what to avoid. He had had some luck in those respects and James, who wanted to believe, was inclined to pass over Damian’s mistakes and remember his successes.
Marion had once said: “You help Damian when he is groping for messages and things from the unknown. You supply him with little bits of information, which help him make the right guess.”
James had been really displeased. Easy-going as he normally was he could be angry if anyone spoke disparagingly of something so near his heart as the effectiveness of the occult. Marion was quick to learn lessons. She would have to be careful; her association with James had been dangerously long and she saw the look in his eyes when they strayed to Janet Kennedy—mistress of old Bell-the-Cat though she might be. Kings were not all that averse to taking what Earls regarded as theirs; and James in his passionate pursuit of a mistress would be more determined than he had shown himself to be pursuing an enemy in war.
So Marion said no more about Damian and feigned an interest in his work, which she did not really feel, and when Damian arrived she was with the King.
“Damian . . . my good friend,” cried the King, embracing the abbot. “I am right glad to see you here.”
“My lord’s wish is his command as far as I am concerned. I am always at your service, Sire.”
“Well, have you looked at the stars of late?”
“I search them continuously.”
“On my behalf I hope.”
“My lord King is never far from my mind.”
“Well, Damian, well . . . what sex is the child my dear Marion carries so proudly? Is he the King’s son?”
Marion cried: “James! How could he be another’s!”
“Impossible, impossible dear lady. All know your fidelity to their sorrow . . . some declare I am sure. I was about to say, is he the King’s son . . . or daughter?”
This was the sort of question which Damian liked least. One could so easily . . . and so quickly . . . be proved wrong. If one predicted some things it was easy to adjust one’s meaning if the need arose, but the sex of a child—a plain yes or no—that was tricky.
He placed his hands on the girl. She was large. The manner in which she carried the child indicated it might be a boy. The last was a girl. What the King wanted to hear was that it was a boy and his reward would probably be greater if he made the King happy. It was a chance he had to take in any case so why not take the happy chance?
“I think I can say with certainty that the child my lady carries is a boy . . . and your son, my lord.”
“Bless you, Damian. That’s good hearing, eh, Marion?”
“The best, my lord.”
“And will he grow up to be a good boy to his father?”
“He will,” said Marion. “I shall see to that.”
“There, Damian, you have a rival. The lady is looking into the future and finding the answer before you do.”
“The lady will indeed do all she says. I can confirm that.”
“What a pair of comforters I have! Now tell me of my old enemy below the Border. What trials can you search out for him, Damian?”
“He is beset by them. His eldest boy is sickly.”
“Is he going to die?”
“Not yet . . . but later . . .”
“Ah, there’s another though. A sprightly little fellow by all accounts . . . recently made Duke of York by his doting father.”
“To show, my lord, that there should be but one Duke of York.”
“Well, there is, eh? The other is the true King of England.”
Perkin Warbeck. Here was dangerous ground for Damian. He was always very well informed of affairs so that he knew exactly what was happening. That enabled him to give a considered judgment and once again he had been lucky in being right more often than wrong.
He had the gift of making his prophecies vague. That was the secret. A good sorcerer couched his words in clever obscurity so that when a certain thing happened people said, “Oh that was what Damian meant!”
It was very helpful.
He said now: “A visitor will come to your shores, my lord.”
The King was alert. Was he expecting someone? wondered Damian. It was always wise to say a visitor was coming because visitors came so often to a king. Damian knew that the French were eager to see Perkin Warbeck harry the King of England and that Margaret of Burgundy was helping him, and he knew that the Irish had helped in the past. It was very likely that some messenger would come to Scotland from one of these sources. So it was safe to mention a visitor.
“And how could I receive this visitor?”
“Receive him well. Listen to what he has to say. He will ask your help. Give it.”
That was wise. It was always good to listen and people usually came in supplication. It was never a bad thing to give help when it was asked. This was easy. It was the direct questions such as the sex of a child that made him uneasy.
The Abbot joined the courtiers at the dinner table that day. They all fired questions at him, which amused the King.
And while they were at the meal one of the servants came running into the hall; his face was red and he was almost inarticulate in his desire to impart his startling news.
“A fleet of ships has been sighted off the coast of Scotland, my lord. They are saying it is Perkin Warbeck who comes to you.”
The King rose excitedly. Warbeck! The man who was claiming the English throne. It would be very amusing—and perhaps profitable—to have the man under his roof.
He looked at Damian who was smiling with satisfaction.
“Blessings on you, Damian, here is your visitor. Why the words were scarcely out of your mouth. . . .”
“I did not know that he would be here so soon, my lord,” said Damian modestly.
“You excel yourself, Damian; now I have only to wait for the birth of my son.” He turned to the company. “I think we should prepare to greet our guest,” he said.
James received Perkin Warbeck at Stirling Castle. Perkin had lived as a royal personage for four years and having been schooled in the part by none other than the Duchess of Burgundy, he had come to believe that he was the son of Edward the Fourth. So many times he had told the story of his being handed over to a man who was too soft-hearted to murder him and had set him free to roam the world for a few years before disclosing his identity that he believed it.
To converse with grace, to accept the homage due to his assumed rank, to behave with the manner of a courtier—this was all second nature to him.
Some of the noblemen of the Scottish Court were ready to laugh at his dandified manners because his gracious and graceful behavior made them feel uncouth.
When he had the throne of England, he told James, he would remember those who had helped in his need. He had made many friends during this period of waiting and they could rest assured he would not forget them.
James said he was welcome and offered him a residence and one thousand two hundred pounds a year. Damian had said he should make his visitor welcome and this was surely that visitor.
Letters arrived from Ireland from Lord Desmond telling James that the Irish would support Richard the Fourth and drive the usurping Tudor from the throne. Moreover James took a fancy to Perkin. The young man talked well and seemed in no great hurry to go to make war into England. He was quite content to dally at the Court; he danced well, sang well; indeed he was a gracious courtier and James could well imagine how concerned the Tudor must be below the Border. The last place he would want his enemy to be was plotting with that other ever-present adversary. Moreover it would be easier to march into England over the Border than it ever could be by sea from the Continent. That was a hazardous matter but to creep over the Border, to plant the flag on English soil—that had been done many times and would be done again.
But not yet. They would wait until the time was ripe. Let them have help from overseas. Let the Tudor fret in his bed at night . . . just a little longer.
In the meantime Perkin had noticed beautiful Katharine Gordon. That was interesting. A lovely girl—cousin of the King, Huntly’s daughter. Perkin looked high . . . that was if he were only plain Perkin. Of course, if he were indeed the true King of England it would be an excellent match for Katharine Gordon.
Marion’s child was born. It was a son and so Damian had scored again.
Marion was delighted and so was James. He said the child should be called Stewart after his father. Alexander Stewart. None could doubt with a name like that that he was a true Scotsman.
Damian was clever, Marion agreed, crowing over her little son. He had been right about the child and the visitor.
“And he said that I was to welcome him,” said James. “None can say I have failed as a host. And did you notice, Marion, that our gallant gentleman is casting eyes on Katharine Gordon?”
Marion had noticed. She was ever watchful of Katharine Gordon.
“It would not surprise me,” said James, “if he should ask for her hand.”
“You’ll grant it?”
“Huntly will have to be asked. But if he is indeed the true King of England he should have a bride with royal blood.”
“So you’ll give your consent.”
“I might . . . when it’s asked. I wonder what the Tudor will have to say about his rival’s marrying into Scotland.”
“For that my dear, we must wait and see,” commented Marion.
“And you, my very dear, are as usual right,” said James. He was laughing. He was glad Perkin had come to Scotland. Perhaps soon they would make warfare over the Border. It would be pleasant to see the Tudor ousted and a beautiful Scottish lassie on the throne of England.
Perkin Warbeck was in love.
She was a very beautiful girl, this Katharine Gordon, daughter of the great Earl of Huntly and cousin of the King himself.
She was gracious to him. After all he was an honored guest at the King’s Court. They called him the Duke of York . . . heir to the throne of England . . . more than that, rightful King of that country. He had come a long way from the Warbeck home in Flanders. Fleetingly he thought of John and Katharine Warbeck whom he had believed to be his parents before he learned the fantastic story. What would they have said if they could see their son—or so-called son—now, honored guest in all the courts of Europe, awaiting the moment when he should regain his throne.
He did not want to think too much of those early days in Flanders; they had been put away in some quiet recess in his mind—not to be disturbed, to be left there until they crumbled away into forgetfulness. Especially now he must not remember. What would these people say—the King, and the Earl of Huntly—if they thought a humble Flanders adventurer was asking for the hand of Katharine Gordon.
And Katharine herself? The manner in which she returned his glances, the flush which came to her cheeks at the soft pressure of his hand was enough to tell him with a girl like Katharine. She was not like so many women at James’s Court. To tell the truth its crudity after the elegance of the Court of Burgundy had shocked him. The women were bold and brazen and the men openly coarse. That did not appeal to Perkin. He was immediately attracted to Katharine because she was different from so many of the others.
He contrived to be near her when possible, to talk to her, to attempt to assess what her feelings would be if he were to ask for her hand. The Huntlys were powerful noblemen; they lived close to the King. But the King had shown him the utmost friendship ever since he had arrived in Scotland. He could but try. It would be strange if having done so much for ambition he should falter in love.
In the dining hall of Stirling Castle he contrived to seat himself beside her. From the end of the table he was aware of James watching him and he could swear there was a glint of amusement in his eyes. If he was against a match between them would he allow them to be so much in each other’s company? The Earl of Huntly was present also and he showed no objection.
Beside the King was his mistress Marion Boyd—very sure of herself now that she had a son as well as a daughter and both without doubt the King’s.
Perkin deplored such conduct. The King should marry and settle down and make his Court respectable. If he must have mistresses he should have them in private. Perkin had heard there were negotiations for marriage going on between him and Spain. This showed something of the devious natures of the Spanish Sovereigns for there were similar diplomatic missions in progress between them and Henry Tudor for the same purpose. It was clear that Isabella and Ferdinand were playing one off against the other.
If the Spanish Sovereigns would aid him, with the help of Margaret of Burgundy and perhaps the King of France, he could be certain of achieving his goal.
There were times when he wondered whether that was really what he wanted. He tried to see himself as a king and could not quite manage it, for he knew there was more to governing a kingdom than riding through the streets in purple and gold and smiling at the people while one acknowledged their cheers. He had managed the speech and the manner very well, but he was not quite sure how he would emerge from the other. In the meantime this dalliance was very pleasant particularly now he had met Katharine.
He turned to her and said: “You must forgive me for staring at you.”
“Were you?” she asked.
He smiled. “Ah, you are so accustomed to people’s gazing that you do not notice. In truth they cannot keep their eyes from you, for they all admire you as I do.”
“Thank you,” she murmured. “You are kind to say so.”
“I say only what I feel. If you but knew what I feel for you . . . well, I hardly know what you would say.”
“If I knew, you might have an opportunity of finding out.”
She was smiling at him, encouragingly surely, but if he asked her to marry him and she refused . . . that would be the end. He wanted to go to James and say, “The Lady Katharine Gordon and I love each other, I beg you to give your consent to our marriage for that reason.” But what if she didn’t? He realized that he was afraid. That was why he did not want events to go further. He wanted to stay just as he was . . . pretender to the throne . . . accepted by important people talking constantly of the day he would be a king. He did not want to think beyond that. The future yawned before him like a dark pit and he was afraid to step into it lest he should fall into darkness. At the moment he was happy in the sunshine. He wanted to remain there.
He prevaricated as he did so often.
“You look so serenely beautiful; you are so young and when the sun shines on your hair it is like gold. I never thought to see such a perfect being.”
“I fear you do not see very clearly if you consider me perfect. I am far from that.”
“You have everything. Your family is a great one, you are rich, you are beautiful, above all you are good. I have been your slave . . . from the moment I saw you.”
“Have you?” she replied smiling. “I did not know.”
“You mock me.”
“In truth no,” she said. “How could I mock one who pays me the sort of compliments which anyone would want to hear?”
“I would speak seriously to you,” he said, “if I dared.”
“I did not expect you to be a fearful man, my lord Duke.”
“In one respect . . . yes . . . where you are concerned.”
“Afraid of me! Oh no that is not possible.”
“Katharine, you must know my feeling for you. Ever since I set eyes on you I have thought of little else.”
“You should be thinking of regaining your crown.”
“I could regain it I know . . . if I could but have this dearest wish of all granted me.”
“And you ask me to grant it?”
“You are the only one who can. I know I have to regain my crown. I know my future is insecure. . . .Perhaps I should not have asked you until I have that in my grasp. . . .”
“You do me an injustice,” she said, “if you think that I would say no if there was no crown and say yes if there was one.”
“Then you know of what I speak.”
“My lord, you are taking such a long time to say it that I must say it for you since you are meandering back and forth from the point in such a manner that you leave me no alternative but to guess.”
“Katharine . . .”
“Duke Richard, ask me . . . if that is what you want.”
“Will you marry me?”
“Yes,” she said.
“I cannot believe it.”
“Of course you know full well . . .”
“I know now that I am the happiest man on earth.”
“You will have to get the King’s permission.”
“And that of your father.”
“The one would follow the other.”
“I feel James will be sympathetic toward lovers.”
“I feel that too.”
“Oh Katharine, I would we were alone that I might kiss your lips.”
“You will speak to the King?”
“At the first opportunity, which I shall now seek. Katharine, you will be the Queen of England.”
“I hope there will not be a lot of fighting. I would rather stay here . . . at James’s Court all our days. Perhaps we could escape often to the country . . . and be by ourselves.”
“I cannot wait to speak to him.”
“He is in a good mood now. He is pleased with Marion but I believe he is glancing far too frequently at Janet Kennedy, but speak to him soon . . . speak to him tonight.”
He did. The opportunity occurred that very night.
The company was dancing, and James who had drunk a great deal of wine seemed drowsy. Perkin went to him and asked permission to sit beside him, which was readily given.
“Sire,” he said, “I want to speak to you of a matter which is very important to me. May I do so?”
James smiled and nodded. “Though I’ll take a guess first. It concerns a lady.”
“You are so shrewd, Sire.”
“Where ladies are concerned, yes. And the Lady Katharine is a beauty. I grant you that.”
“We love each other, Sire.”
“Love indeed! A beautiful emotion. Nothing like it. What do you wish, my lord Duke? You can’t make a mistress of a girl like Katharine. Huntly has her at Court to find a husband for her.”
“That is what I want to be, my lord.”
“Ah, marriage to Huntly’s daughter. Well if you are going to be King of England that will be an honor which even Huntly can’t refuse.”
“It is your consent I am asking for.”
“You have it, my lord Duke. I will speak to her father. I will point out to him the advantages of such a match for his daughter.”
“You have earned my endless gratitude. But you had that already. I cannot tell you what your kind acceptance of me at your Court has meant to me. And now . . . and now . . .”
“There, my lord Duke. That is enough. I wish to help you. I see no reason at all why the fair Katharine should not be yours and I shall see that Huntly feels the same. What of the lady herself?”
“She loves me . . . even as I love her.”
“That is charming. That is delightful. I like to see people around me happy. Now, my lord Duke, you have deserted her too long. Let me see you lead her into the dance.”
When he and Marion were alone that night in the royal bedchamber James was overcome by mirth.
“This is a fine state of affairs,” he said. “This is going to set the Tudor ranting . . . if he ever rants. I doubt he does. He is a very self-contained man who never shows his anger. But just think what he will say when he hears that Perkin Warbeck is marrying Lady Katharine Gordon . . . my cousin . . . I can tell you this is going to madden him.”
“It pleases you,” said Marion.
“My dear, have you only just learned that what infuriates Henry Tudor is most certain to give me the utmost pleasure?”
“I hope it works out well . . . for the Lady Katharine,” said Marion.
So they were married and because of the rank of the bride and the expectations of Perkin they were given a royal wedding. James took a gleeful delight in behaving as though Katharine Gordon was marrying into the royal family. She was royal herself. “A fitting bride,” said James, “for the future King of England.” He was maliciously wondering what was happening below the Border.
The bride and the groom gave little thought to anything but each other, and as the weeks sped by their happiness grew for they were more in love every day. Katharine was all that he had believed her to be—gentle yet strong; modest yet proud of her family and of him; pliant and yet firm; fun loving and yet she could be serious. These were the happiest days of Perkin’s life and he wanted them to go on for ever. The thought of leaving Katharine to go and fight for his throne horrified him. In his heart he did not really want the throne. He wanted to live in peace with Katharine for the rest of his life.
She admitted that she wanted the same. It was amazing how they thought as one person.
He realized during those weeks of marriage that he had never really wanted a throne. It was people around him who had selected him because of his appearance and his natural grace to fill a role for which they sought a character to fit.
He began to see that he had been used.
But he dismissed that flash of understanding. He could not bear to examine it. He had become adept at pushing aside the truth and supplanting it by a picture of his making—or perhaps that of those around him.
All he knew now was that he wanted to go on like this. He wanted to make his home here in Scotland, to go on living under the protection of the King and the powerful family into which he had married, but into the halcyon contentment of those days there crept the fear that they must be transient. At any time the call would come. They would raise an army for him and send him to gain that to which they said he had a right.
“I don’t want the crown,” he said to Katharine. “I just want to stay here with you.”
She held him tightly against her. “If only it could be,” she said.
“Do you want to be Queen of England?”
She shook her head. “Not if it means your going away, risking your life. No . . . Let us hope we can stay here. Why should we not?”
He shook his head. “They will never allow it. Oh, I wish . . .”
What did he wish? That he had never left the home of John Warbeck? But if he had not he would never have met Katharine. Anything was worth that.
But it brought him back to where he had started. Here he was . . . blissfully happy, except when he remembered, then living each day in terror that suddenly the call would come.
Katharine added to his bliss when she told him that there would be a child. He wanted to weep with happiness . . . but it was a happiness quickly tinged with fear.
When the call came, there would be even more to leave . . . and perhaps lose.
Tyburn and Tower Hill
hen Henry heard that James of Scotland had allowed the Lady Katharine Gordon to marry Perkin Warbeck he was deeply disturbed.
“This means that James really accepts the impostor!” he cried to Dudley and Empson whom he had summoned because he knew that he would have to consult them as to how to raise money for war.
That seemed inevitable now. James would never have allowed such a marriage if he had not made up his mind to help Perkin Warbeck fight for the crown of England.
“He must be mad!” said Empson. “Does he want war then?”
“He is bent on making trouble. It’s a Scottish custom,” said Henry bitterly. “It will mean raising money for an army, which is the last thing I wanted to do. It is infuriating to see money wasted in this way.”
“It will be necessary to tax the whole country,” murmured Dudley.
“We must be in readiness for war,” agreed the King.
“The Spanish emissaries have arrived in England, Sire,” Empson said. “They will have heard of this marriage. It will not please them.”
“The French will be delighted. Do you think they intend to give him their support?”
“Who can say with the French! They are involved in their affairs.”
“But I am their affair, Empson,” said the King. “If they can do anything to harm me, you may be sure they will. A curse on these pretenders! First Simnel . . . now this one. If ever I get that fellow into my hands I’ll put an end to this once and for all.”
Dudley looked at him in silence. He thought: Is that possible while the disappearance of two little Princes in the Tower remains a mystery? Will there not always be men to rise up and say, “I am Edward the Fifth;” “I am Richard Duke of York.”
Within a few days Don Pedro de Ayala arrived from the Court of Spain. He had a proposition to make. His Sovereigns wished Henry to join the Holy League for keeping the French out of Italy and if he was to be free to do this, it was rather important that he was not engaged in hostilities with Scotland.
“The Infanta Katharine is promised to my son, Arthur,” Henry pointed out. “But I hear that the Sovereigns are offering one of the Infantas to the King of Scotland as a bride. It would seem that Spain is seeking an alliance with Scotland as well as England.”
“My lord,” cried Don Pedro, “there is no intention of a marriage between Spain and Scotland. I have been instructed to lay these suggestions only before you. You yourself have a daughter. Would you consider offering the Princess Margaret as a bride to James? This would be a way of preventing hostilities between your two countries.”
Henry was silent. What he wanted more than anything was peace. And the idea of having to spend money to go to war he found completely frustrating. He did not want war. He had always seen the folly of it. England wanted a peace. That was what he prayed for, a spell when he could work for the good of the country, curb extravagance, develop trade. He wanted all Englishmen to realize that the harder they worked, the more closely they were united with one aim in view, the richer they would all be. But that aim was not war. It was peace.
Oh yes, Henry wanted peace.
He would willingly give Margaret to Scotland for it. Why not? That was what daughters were for . . . to make alliances between hostile countries and bring about peace between them. Yes, Margaret could be the bride of James the Fourth of Scotland.
But there was one other factor. Perkin Warbeck must be delivered to him.
Until that was done there could be no talk of a marriage between Margaret and James—no talk of peace.
There could no longer be reason for delay. James was ready and eager to advance on his enemies below the Border.
He sent for Perkin and told him gleefully that soon he would be crowned at Westminster, so Perkin could do nothing but feign an eagerness, while there was nothing he longed for so much as to be left to live in peace with his wife and his newly arrived daughter.
But this was what he had come for. This was the price he had to pay for all the grand living, all the splendor, all the adulation he had enjoyed for so many years and now he had become accustomed to it. But just at that time he would have given a great deal to be living with Katharine in a small house in Flanders—two humble people of whom no one outside their immediate circle had ever heard.
Katharine knew of his feelings. She shared them. She did not want a throne any more than he did and would have been perfectly content with that humble home in Flanders.
He could have wished that all this had never happened to him, that he had never gone into Lady Frampton’s service and attracted her by his good looks—but for the fact that through it he had met Katharine. More and more he was remembering those early days and there were times when he was on the point of making a confession to Katharine. He did not though; he could not bring himself to do it, even to her, and now the time had come when he must leave her and go marching into England.
“I shall send for you as soon as I am settled,” he told her.
“I know. I know.”
“What I don’t know is how I shall bear the separation.”
“You will be too busy to miss me,” she told him, “whereas I shall have to wait . . . and pray.”
“I shall need your prayers, Katharine. Pray I beg you that it shall not be long before you are beside me.”
“That is what I shall pray for.”
“I would give up everything I ever hoped to have not to leave you now.”
She nodded. She understood. Perhaps deep in her heart she knew that he had never been that little boy in the Tower of London.
James reviewed his troops and at Holyrood he made offerings to the saints and ordered that masses be sung for him and when Perkin joined him there he greeted him with pleasure.
“Now,” he said, “we shall see men flock to your banner. They have had their fill of the Tudor impostor. We will harry the Border towns and carry off spoils and see what effect this has on the Tudor. Meanwhile we will issue a proclamation in the name of Richard the Fourth, King of England and when you have thousands welcoming you . . . that will be the time to march south.”
Meanwhile they went to Haddington and across the Lammermuir to Ellem Kirk. They crossed the Border and raided several towns, but there was no response at all to the proclamation and it was very soon clear that the Englishmen of the Border were not interested in driving Henry Tudor from the throne and setting Richard of York up in his place.
James and Perkin laid siege to one or two towns. The expedition was taking on the nature of one of the Border forays of which there had been hundreds over the years, and James was getting bored. Moreover to march south without the support of the people of England for the new King would be folly.
He began to think that Perkin was not exactly a great leader of men and he would need a very big army if he were going to gain the crown. James had no intention of providing that, even though Perkin had promised him a good many concessions when and if he were successful.
James was wanting to be back in Edinburgh. He was making good progress with Janet Kennedy in spite of Archibald Douglas. It was true that he was tiring of Marion Boyd, although she had been a good mistress to him, but if she would understand his need to wander far afield, he would not mind keeping her on and visiting her occasionally. But it seemed to him that Janet would be the sort of woman who might absorb all his interest in which case it would have to be good-bye to Marion.
Who wanted a rough camp bed when he could be in a luxurious four poster with a glorious red-headed woman to comfort him? It was true Perkin had made great promises. It was very easy to make promises when one still had to gain a victory before he could redeem them; afterward the promises could be forgotten for they might not be so easy to carry out.
He went to Perkin’s camp. The young man was sunk in melancholy.
“You do not look happy, my friend,” said James. “Are you missing your warm marital bed?”
“’Tis so, my lord.”
“Ah, I miss my own bed. I tell you that.”
“I am troubled because the blood we are shedding is that of Englishmen . . . my own subjects,” said Perkin. “I cannot sleep at night for thinking of it.”
He cannot sleep at night because he wants his Katharine! thought James. He cannot sleep at night because he knows that Englishmen do not want King Richard the Fourth, and they will stay with Henry Tudor rather than fight. Well, it is a pleasant and human excuse and it will help to get me back to Edinburgh.
James nodded. “That is no mood in which to go to war, my friend.”
“I agree,” Perkin answered eagerly.
“Well, we have done our little foray. Perhaps we should think of returning to Edinburgh.”
Perkin felt as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
He was going home to Katharine and the baby.
There was murmuring throughout the country because Dudley and Empson were endeavoring to raise money for the Scottish war. The people were being asked to pay heavy taxes because a certain Perkin Warbeck was attempting to wrest the throne from Henry Tudor.
To the people of Bodmin in Cornwall this seemed a matter for kings to decide among themselves. What did it matter to them what king was on the throne? When did they ever see him? King Henry or King Richard . . . what did Cornwall care?
Lawyer Thomas Flammock felt very strongly on this issue. He went into the market square and talked to the people about it. They gathered round listening intently. There was not a man present who had not been harassed by extra taxes.
“My patience me,” grumbled the blacksmith Michael Joseph, ’tis hard enough for the likes of we to put bread in our mouths and those of our childer . . . are us going to stand by and pay like helpless fules? Don’t ’ee think we should up and do som’at about it?”
Joseph was a powerful speaker. In his forge he talked what the King would call sedition but what to the people of Bodmin seemed sound common sense.
“Where is the fighting?” asked Thomas Flammock. “It’s on the border between Scotland and England, there’s where it is. They’ve been fighting there for hundreds of years and they’ll go on fighting for a hundred more. Why should we be asked to pay for their quarrels?”
“But what do we do about it, eh, lawyer?” shouted a voice in the crowd.
“That is what I want to suggest to you,” said Flammock. “We can march to London. We can present a petition to the King and ask him to get rid of his evil advisers. If the King wants to wage war it is not for us . . . the people of Cornwall . . . who know no difference, wars or no wars . . . it is not for us to pay for it.”
The crowd cheered loudly.
“And who will go to London with this petition?” asked the man who had spoken before.
“We must all go, my friend. If one or two of us go . . . we’d not be received most likely. We’ve got to show them that we mean what we say. We must go to London in a body . . . march to London . . . show that we mean what we say: we will not pay these taxes for a fight which does not concern us.”
“We would want someone to lead us,” said the man. He pushed his way to the spot where Flammock was standing with Joseph. “Friends,” he cried, “here’s two good Cornish men. Shall we ask them to lead us to London and the King?”
There was a shout from the crowd.
“Lawyer Flammock and Blacksmith Joseph! Our leaders . . .”
There was wild enthusiasm, but Flammock lifted his hand for silence.
“I will lead you,” he said. “And you, Michael?”
“Aye,” said Michael. “I’ll come along.”
“We will lead you until we can find someone more worthy to be your leader.”
“Ain’t no one more worthy than ’ee, lawyer,” shouted a voice.
“Someone of the nobility would carry more weight. But we shall not delay. We shall set out for London. . . .Tomorrow at dawn . . . we’ll assemble here and those who can, must come with us. The more men we have the more likely we are to make our point. Is that agreed?”
There was a roar of approval in the crowd. The next morning at dawn, Flammock was amazed at the numbers who had assembled in the square. They were carrying bows and arrows and billhooks. He was a little alarmed for he had meant this to be a peaceful demonstration.
By the time they reached Taunton their numbers had grown and Flammock was a little dismayed for he had been joined by ruffians whose intent he knew was to rob and pillage. This was the last thing Flammock had had in mind, and he began to wonder whether it would not have been better to have selected, say, a dozen men, all worthies of the town of Bodmin, and with them gone to London to present the petition.
The crowd was getting out of hand. This was proved when the Provost of Taunton came out to remonstrate with them, for some of the men were overrunning the town and helping themselves from the shops.
Flammock was horrified to see the Provost lying in a pool of blood. The man was dead.
He managed to get them out of the town quickly. There he spoke to them. “That was a regrettable incident,” he said. “Now we have a man’s blood on our hands. To kill is not the purpose of this expedition. I want no more scenes like that. We have not come to rob and murder but to talk to the King about harsh taxes. There must be no more killing. God help us for we have slain a man who was doing nothing but his duty.”
At Wells they were joined by James Touchet, Lord Audley. Audley was very dissatisfied with the King. He had been in France with Henry and he felt he had not been given his dues. He was therefore feeling extremely disgruntled and when he saw the large numbers of men descending on Wells he rode out to speak with their leaders.
He found Thomas Flammock a reasonable and educated man and he agreed with him that it was insupportable that the King should demand such high taxes from people who were not in a position to pay them.
In a rather rash moment he offered to accompany them.
Seeing an opportunity of shifting responsibilities, Flammock was delighted.
“My lord,” he said, “you are a nobleman of high degree. It is for you to take over the leadership of our party.”
Audley saw the point of this.
So, with Audley at their head the Cornish rebels marched to London and on a hot June day, weary but expectant, they arrived at Deptford Strand.
Henry was furious. This was what he had always feared. A dissatisfied people no doubt fired by this impostor in Scotland now saw fit to rise against him.
The nightmare had become a reality.
His forces were concentrating in the North to deal with the Scottish threat. And now here was trouble from the West.
He hastily sent messengers to his armies on the way to the North. They must send a considerable force up to the Border it was true; but he must have forces in the South to meet the rebellious Cornishmen.
Lord Daubeney, who had only just set out for the North when the call came, turned back and made his way to Deptford Strand. The Cornishmen had become somewhat disheartened by the indifference of the people through whose towns and villages they had passed and who were clearly of the opinion that to start a rebellion would bring them more trouble than paying what was asked.
In vain did Flammock attempt to explain that it was merely a petition he had set out to take to London. He was learning that it was impossible to prevent such an undertaking assuming an uglier aspect.
He was dismayed when the King’s forces had come into contact with some of the marchers and the Cornishmen had a momentary victory, taking a few prisoners. There was one of these who was obviously of high rank and when he was questioned it was discovered that he was none other than Lord Daubeney himself—the leader of the King’s army.
Audley and Flammock conferred together.
“We must release him at once,” said Audley. “Otherwise we shall be called rebels and accused of treason. This is not a rebellion. It is a deputation to protest against the high taxation.”
Daubeney was brought in and Audley explained this to him.
Overcome with shame at being captured by rebels and guessing how this would lower his prestige with the King Daubeney hid his fury and embarrassment and pretended to understand.
He was immediately released with the other prisoners.
But Daubeney was not going to allow this insult to pass. He immediately planned to attack the Cornishmen and this he did, taking them by surprise at Blackheath. They, with their arrows and billhooks, were no match for the King’s trained soldiers and the battle was over almost before it had begun and Daubeney had the satisfaction of taking the rebel leaders, Audley, Flammock and Michael Joseph, alive.
So that little flurry was over, thought Henry; he could be grateful for that. He wondered how best to act. He wanted to show the people his leniency and on the other hand he must make them realize that no one could rise against him with impunity.
The Cornishmen themselves—the humble artisans from Bodmin—should have a free pardon. They could go back to their remote town and talk of the benevolence of the King.
The leaders should not get off so freely. Men like Flammock and Joseph were dangerous. Moreover, but for them this disturbing affair would not have taken place.
The people must be shown that the Flammocks and Josephs among them were dangerous men to follow. This time, because the King was merciful they had been forgiven and had escaped the punishment they deserved—but it must not happen again.
Audley was considered the chief offender. It was men such as he who were the real danger. He forgot his position in the country when he placed himself at the head of a rabble and he must pay the penalty. He was brought before the King and condemned to death. As he was a nobleman he should be beheaded and not suffer the barbarous penalty which befell low-born traitors, but he must be shamed first. He was put into a paper coat, which showed that he had been stripped of his knighthood, being no longer worthy of it, and was led from Newgate to Tower Hill where the executioner with his axe was waiting for him.
When his head was separated from his body it was stuck on London Bridge—a warning to all who thought they might play the traitor.
Flammock and Joseph were less fortunate. They suffered the traitor’s death. They were taken to Tyburn where they were hanged, drawn and quartered; and their limbs were displayed in various parts of the city.
This was what happened to traitors, those who in moments of folly lightly undertook to plot against the King.
Henry was satisfied. He had dealt with the matter in his usual calm way; and no one could say he had been unduly harsh.
Many a king would have slaughtered hundreds of them. But not Henry. He could always calmly decide what was best for Henry Tudor, and that was not to murder for murder’s sake. He did not want to do so for revenge even. He was rarely in a hot rage about any matter and therefore always had time to calculate which would be the most advantageous way to act.
Reluctantly he had decided on the traitor’s death for the three ringleaders. He must give no one an impression of weakness. No. He was not weak. He was stern perhaps, but just—always just.
He could congratulate himself that he had dealt very properly with the Cornish rebels.
There still remained Perkin Warbeck to haunt his days and turn pleasant dreams into nightmares.
James was growing rather tired of Perkin Warbeck. The expedition into England had shown clearly that the people were not going to flock to his banner, and James was not going to beggar himself by supporting another man’s cause—and a possible King of England at that! No, indeed not. Perkin must fight his own battles and the more thought James gave to the matter the more it seemed to him that it would be better for Perkin to fight somewhere which did not involve Scotland.
Not that James gave much thought to the matter. He was inclined to let it slide out of his mind, for he was deeply involved at this time with the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was delightful, gentle, loving, passionate, outstandingly beautiful, and everything he liked best in a woman, and as he liked women better than anything else on Earth and had had great experience of them, this was saying a good deal. For the first time in his life—although he had often imagined himself to be in the condition on other occasions—James was truly in love.
The lady was Margaret Drummond daughter of John, first baron Drummond, a very able man who had been raised to the peerage for his services to Scotland some ten years before. He was a Privy Counsellor and justiciary of Scotland as well as the Constable of Stirling Castle, and his offices brought him to Court. With him came his beautiful daughter—a fact which caused the King to rejoice.
Marion Boyd, Janet Kennedy—delectable wenches both of them—could not compare with Margaret Drummond.
James paid constant visits to Stirling Castle where Margaret lived in the care of Sir John and Lady Lindsay. It had not taken him long to woo Margaret. Gentle, virginal . . . a little overwhelmed by so much royal favor, she had quickly fallen under the spell of the King. But perhaps, James thought ruefully, it would be more correct to say that he had fallen under hers. He could think of little else, so it was small wonder that whenever the name of Perkin Warbeck was spoken to him he felt a mild irritation.
He wanted nothing to come between him and his pursuit of Margaret. His thoughts were completely occupied by the possibility of seeing her. There was no reason why they should not be openly together. The whole of the Court knew of his infatuation—including Marion and Janet—and it was easier to face the whole of his Court than those two, particularly fiery Janet.
Who wanted war? Women were so much more enjoyable. And while Perkin Warbeck remained in Scotland he represented a threat. Henry had demanded that the young man be delivered to him. That, James had refused to do of course. Perkin had promised to restore Berwick to Scotland when he came to the throne, in payment for James’s hospitality. That would be good. Berwick was one of the most important Border towns. Certainly he wanted Berwick . . . and all the other concessions which Perkin had promised.
But promises! . . . What did they come to if wars had to be fought for the hope of their fulfilment?
No, he wanted no more now that he and Margaret had discovered each other.
He broached Perkin when they met at Linlithgow.
“It seems to me, my lord Duke,” he said, “that you are achieving little here. You do not wish to fight these people in the North . . . your own subjects, you say . . . men who had never heard of Richard Duke of York . . . or perhaps Henry Tudor.”
“I could not bear to see the blood of my own subjects shed,” said Perkin.
“I understand that well. So this is not the place for you. You have your friends in Ireland. I’ll tell you what I am going to do, my lord Duke. I am going to give you a ship. You can sail from Scotland to Ireland taking Katharine and the baby with you. I have no doubt that the Irish will rally to your cause. You will have more chance there than here in Scotland.”
Perkin was left in no doubt that this was James’s diplomatic way of telling him to leave and he had no alternative but to accept the offer of the ship and prepare to depart.
If Katharine was sad to leave her native land she did not show it.
“We are together,” she said. “That is all that matters.”
Perkin was apprehensive. He could no longer prevaricate and he had an idea that the easy life was over. He would have to make some attempt to wrest the crown from Henry Tudor and if he achieved it then his difficulties would begin. In his heart he knew he was unfitted to rule a country. He was frightened by the enormity of this matter, which had come about in the first place through a love of adventure, and an excitement because people noticed his royal looks.
Still it had led him to Katharine, for if all this had not happened he could never have met her.
As he stood on the deck watching the coastline of Ireland grow nearer he could echo her words: “We are together.”
Lord Desmond was dismayed. Life did not stand still, he pointed out, and in spite of the rebellions Henry Tudor still had a firm grip on the crown. People were beginning to like his rule apart from one thing—the exorbitant taxation, and they blamed Empson and Dudley for that. Those two were the most unpopular men in the country and the fact that they did not regard Henry himself entirely responsible was an indication of how he was beginning to be accepted as a good king.
The fact was that Desmond did not want to have anything to do with the rebellion. He could see that Henry’s calm wisdom would inevitably make him the victor.
He said: “The Irish are an unpredictable people. They sway one way and then another. There has been a rebellion in Cornwall. Now that is where you would find your supporters.”
“Henry suppressed that rebellion.”
“Because it was just a rabble. Audley was there to give it some standing, but they were not trained soldiers. No. It would have been different if they had been. After all, they captured Daubeney in the first place. Think what they could have done if they had had some backing. No, the West Country is your hope, my lord. You should go there and raise an army.”
It was quite clear that Desmond did not want to be involved.
Scotland had rejected Perkin, and now Ireland. So there was nothing for it but to take ship to Cornwall.
There his spirits rose.
From the moment he landed at Whitesand Bay Perkin was warmly welcomed and he rode in triumph to Bodmin where memories of the recent march to London were still vivid.
“Good Flammock,” they said. “His parts exposed all over London! And him always such a modest man. That they could do such a thing to Lawyer Flammock is past belief.”
“And don’t ’ee forget Joseph. There’s none could shoe a horse like that ’un . . . And to think of ’ee . . . Oh it be past thinking of.”
They were smarting from the humiliation levied on those two worthy men.
“But the rest of ’em just came back. Don’t ’ee do it again . . . that’s all they did say.”
“Well, stands to reason, they couldn’t do to us all what they did to good Flammock and Joseph.”
“I’d think not. Cornwall wouldn’t stand for that.”
“Aye, and ’e do know it, King or not. He couldn’t treat us Cornish like that.”
And now here was the handsome young man.
“Reckon he could show old Tudor a thing or two. . . .”
“He could and all . . . if he had Cornishmen to back him.”
Perkin’s spirits rose.
“This is different from our reception in Ireland,” he said.
The Mayor proclaimed him in the square as “Our King Richard the Fourth.”
The Cornishmen were with him. They were going to have a king of their own choosing and it was going to be this handsome young man, and his beautiful wife who should reign beside him.
“I shall win this time,” said Perkin, trying to bring enthusiasm into his smile.
“I shall be nearby,” said Katharine.
Perkin shook his head. “I want you to be safe . . . you and the baby.”
She shook her head but he would not listen.
Men were flocking to his banner. They all wanted to go and fight the Tudor. It was an adventure and if all went well they would have put a new king on the throne and if it did not . . . well, they would just come back as their friends had done when they had followed Flammock and Joseph to London.
Three thousand men had rallied to his banner. This was success. He believed that when he was on the march with such a following more men would fall in behind him.
“I must go,” he told Katharine. She was in tears. Perhaps she who loved him knew that, good husband that he was, he was no leader of men. But it was true, he did seem inspired. If it should happen that he gained the throne she must stand with him, reign as his queen. She fervently wished that it could be happily settled and that they could go away and live in obscurity and leave Henry Tudor his throne.
“They tell me that you will be safest on St. Michael’s Mount,” he told her.
“It will be so far from you.”
“I shall not rest happy unless I know you are in a place of safety.”
“Do you think I can rest happy anywhere until you are back with me?”
He kissed her fondly. “It will not be long,” he promised her.
But she did not believe him. Sadly they parted—she going westward with her child, he marching on to Exeter.
It was true that men fell in with his army. They liked the look of him. He was so handsome; he had the Plantagenet look; he had the appearance of a king—more so than Henry who never smiled and whom they said had aged twenty years since he took the throne.
It was not so easy as he marched on. Exeter stood out against him, so he had to put the town under siege. But he was no soldier. He could only be strong when he faced the weak. As soon as he heard that the Earl of Devonshire with other noblemen of Devon were on the march against him, knowing he could not stand a chance facing a professional army, he gave orders to retreat and fell back to Taunton. There worse news awaited him: Lord Daubeney had reached Glastonbury and was marching onward.
“We cannot stand against him,” he said. “We have not the experience to face a professional army. There is nothing for it but to get away.”
“What will the men say?” he was asked.
He was frightened as he knew he would be. This was not what he wanted. He wanted people to say, “Here is Richard the Fourth. Let us make him our king.” But to fight for the crown . . . he could not do it. He did not want to fight. All he wanted now was to go back in peace to Katharine.
He could not take his army with him. They would never get away, so he selected sixty of his men and together they left Taunton. But even sixty horsemen found the going difficult. People came out in alarm to watch them, and there was not enough food in the inns for sixty.
Perkin said: “This will never do. We shall be captured at once if we go about in such numbers.”
He selected three men from the sixty and said to them: “When night falls, we will steal away. It will be easy for four of us to make our escape. It is impossible with sixty.”
So the four of them slipped away in the darkness and in due course they arrived at Beaulieu in Hampshire where they found an empty house and there took refuge.
What Perkin wanted to do was lie low until the hue and cry had died down, then make his way back to St. Michael’s Mount, get a ship and take Katharine and the baby, where . . . ? Perhaps they could go to Flanders. Perhaps he could find John and Katharine Warbeck, those parents whom he had denied. Then perhaps they could all live happily together again.
He wanted no crown. He just wanted to live in peace with Katharine.
He lay on the floor, his companions beside him.
Perhaps he should leave them . . . slip away. He could disguise himself as a pedlar . . . work his way back to the Mount. He and Katharine could hide themselves away until they found a ship to Flanders. . . .
Not yet. It was unsafe as yet. He must be careful to preserve his life because Katharine needed him.
Somewhere in the darkness he heard a sound. He raised himself.
Was it the sound of distant horses’ hooves? Perhaps. Some traveler out late.
He lay down and thought of Katharine. Yes, he would find his way back to her. They must hide themselves and plan to get away.
She would agree. Her wish was the same as his—that they should be together.
Again that sound . . . nearer now . . . Perhaps . . . He looked at his sleeping companions. Should he rouse them? No. It was only a traveler in the night.
And then . . . the noise was nearer. Not one horseman but many. He stood up. His companions were awake now. They went to a window.
“We are surrounded,” said Perkin.
There was nothing to do but to surrender. Perkin and his companions were taken back to Taunton by the King’s guards, and for the first time Perkin came face-to-face with the man whose right to the throne he had challenged, the Tudor himself. So Henry had thought the matter of sufficient importance to see his captive in person.
At first Perkin thought: Why, he is an old man! He seemed so to Perkin. Old and gray. He was in truth forty years of age but looked ten years older. Slight with graying hair, light blue-gray eyes and a pale complexion. But there was a certain strength about him and it was impossible to be in his presence without being aware of it.
Perkin was overawed by the pale, ageing man. If he had shown anger he would have been less afraid of him. It was the calmness of the Tudor which unnerved him, the almost blank expression which nevertheless suggested that it was merely a mask to hide his thoughts, which he was determined to keep to himself.
“You are Perkin Warbeck,” said the King.
Perkin started to say: “I am King Richard the Fourth. . . .I was taken from the Tower. . . .”
“Nonsense,” said Henry Tudor. “I know who you are. You are Perkin Warbeck, son of John Warbeck, customs man of Tournay in Flanders.”
Perkin drew himself up to his full height. He must remember what he had learned from Lady Frampton and the Duchess of Burgundy . . . from Lord Desmond. He wished that he could forget that house in Flanders, but somehow with this stern cold-faced man looking at him so penetratingly as though he could read his thoughts he found it difficult.
Henry said: “I have sent for your wife, Perkin. We knew she was at St. Michael’s Mount.”
“No . . . I beg of you . . . Donot harm her. She is not to blame.”
“We know that. She has been deceived as others have. Do not disturb yourself. I am not a monster. I do not harm innocent women.”
Perkin was immensely relieved. Henry was observant. He cares for her more than for his aspirations, he thought. A sentimental fellow. He will not be difficult to handle.
“Now, Perkin,” he said. “You have caused us a great deal of trouble, but I know you are just the tool of certain men . . . enemies of my country. I know you are a foolish young man from a humble family in Flanders and have been used by these people. I am not a cruel man. I have a reputation for being lenient . . . a lover of justice. I do not blame you so much as those who have used you. I shall not harm your wife. I know she is a highly born lady. I shall have her sent to my Queen where she will be accorded the honor due to her rank.”
Perkin put his hands to his face. He was weeping with relief.
“Oh I thank you, my lord, I thank you with all my heart. She has done no harm. She believed . . . with the rest . . .”
Henry smiled. It was going to be very easy to get a confession from this boy. He was glad. He hated the clumsy work of torturers, and the information they got was always suspect.
“So,” he went on gently, “you can rest assured your wife and child will be well treated. Now as for you . . . well, you have offended us greatly. This nonsense about your identity. You know full well who you are and it is not Richard of York. That’s so. Is it not?”
Perkin was silent.
“Oh come. Do not be foolish anymore. I tell you your wife is safe. You must be grateful for that. Are you?”
Perkin nodded dumbly.
“I understand. I have heard of your devotion. You see, I hear a great deal about you, Perkin. There was another like you who set himself up: Lambert Simnel. He has worked well in my kitchens. I have just promoted him to become one of my falconers. He is a good servant . . . very grateful to his King for having spared his life. Poor simple boy. He knows he deserved to lose it . . . as you do, Perkin, as you do. But I do not propose to put you in my kitchens. All I ask you to do is to make a full confession. If you do this, I shall spare your life. I have sent for your wife. You must confess in her presence. And if you do that I shall send you to the Tower of London where you will be my prisoner for a while, but I have no doubt that if you behave with propriety . . . well, I am not a vindictive man and it might well be that in due course . . . you could join your wife . . . if she still wants to be the wife of a Flemish adventurer after she thought she had a royal Duke of York.”
Perkin could not speak. He had not imagined it would be like this at all.
Henry rose. “I will give you a little while to think. And when your wife arrives you shall make your first confession . . . to her.”
Perkin was taken to Exeter where Henry had gone and it wasn’t long before he was summoned to the King’s presence.
As soon as he entered the chamber he saw Katharine.
He gave a cry of joy and would have rushed to her but he was restrained by guards. Eagerly he studied her. She was not harmed in any way. She looked at him in a bewildered fashion as though she was seeing him afresh. He could not bear that.
“Katharine . . .” his lips formed the words and she smiled at him.
“Husband . . .” she whispered, and he knew that she loved him still.
The King said. “Give the Lady Katharine Gordon a chair, and place it here beside me.”
This was done and Katharine sat down.
“Now, my lady,” said Henry, “your husband wants to tell you who in truth he is. He will explain everything. I thought it right that you should know and hear it from his own lips. Proceed, Perkin.”
He tried to speak but he could only look at her. He wanted her to run to him; he wanted to put his arms about her; but she only sat there looking at him with those beautiful appealing eyes begging him to speak.
He had to tell the truth and it all came back so vividly now.
“My father is John Warbeck. We lived in Tournay. He was a controller of customs.”
She stared at him disbelievingly. He should never have lied to her. He should have explained everything before they married. But at that time he had for long periods believed it was true that he was Richard Duke of York. That story of being with his brother in the Tower, of being handed over to the man who could not murder him had seemed far more real than his father’s house in Tournay.
But he must go on. He must preserve his life. He must try to make Katharine understand. He could not bear to see her look at him like that.
He went on: “I was put into several houses. I served there in various capacities . . . in exchange I was given some education. Then the Framptons came to Flanders. They had been supporters of the House of York and they had to leave when King Henry came. They saw my resemblance to the Duke of York and they convinced me that I was one of the Princes who disappeared in the Tower. I passed from one household to another. . . .I went to the French Court and the Court of Bordeaux. . . .I was learning all the time. . . .You know the rest. I passed myself off as Richard Duke of York, second son of Edward the Fourth . . . and therefore since Edward the Fifth was dead, heir to the throne.”
The King was watching Katharine closely during this confession. He said: “You see, my lady, how you have been deceived like so many others.”
Still she was silent, looking at Perkin with disbelief in her eyes.
“My lady, you shall go to the Queen. I have asked her to care for you and treat you as a sister. You will understand I cannot free your husband. I shall not treat him harshly for I see full well that he has been the tool of others. Now he will go to London and you shall go to the Queen. I will leave you for ten minutes to take your farewells of each other and to say what you wish to.”
With those words Henry rose and walked slowly out of the chamber.
Perkin rushed to Katharine. He knelt at her feet and buried his face in her skirts. For a few seconds she did nothing; then he felt her fingers in his hair and he lifted his face to hers.
“Is it true?” she asked. “Is it something they have made you say under threat?”
He shook his head. “It is true . . . alas. Lady Katharine Gordon has married the son of a customs official.”
“I married you,” she said.
He had risen and taken her into his arms and they clung together for a moment.
“Oh . . . my love . . . what will they do to you?” she asked.
Joy flooded over him. In that moment he did not care. All that mattered was that she cared.
“They say the King is lenient. . . .”
She thought of the stories she had heard of Flammock and Michael Joseph. What had they done? Not nearly so much as her husband. He had raised a revolt, headed an army, called himself the true king.
“He will send me to the Tower,” he said. “But he has hinted that in time I might be free.” He took her face in his hands. He said: “Katharine, I don’t think I wanted to go on with it . . . after I found you. But if I had never started it I should never have met you. Marriage between us would have been an impossibility . . . but once I had you . . . and the baby . . . I just wanted to go back . . . back into obscurity . . . to Tournay . . . in a little house . . .”
She said: “I know.”
“And what will you do?”
“It has been decided for me. I must go to the Queen.”
“Katharine . . . in time . . .”
She said: “Let us pray it will be soon.”
“Oh God bless you. You are even more wonderful than I ever thought you could be.”
“I did not love a crown,” she said. “I loved you.”
“And you still do?”
“I do not change,” she told him. “I think perhaps I knew. . . .I could never see you as King of England and myself as Queen. . . .I shall pray that the King frees you. . . .”
“And then, Katharine?”
“We shall go away . . . right away . . . where no one knows us.”
“You will want that?”
“There will be the two of us . . . the three of us . . . Perhaps more children. We will make a home for ourselves . . . and over that will hang no shadows . . . no fears of going to war . . . no crowns, which have to be won.”
“Oh Katharine . . . it’s strange but I feel happier than I have for a long time.”
The guards had come. It was time for Perkin to go to London and for the Lady Katharine to be taken to the Queen.
Henry was not quite as lenient as he had first implied he would be. He did not feel vindictive toward Perkin, but he wanted everyone to know the extent of his folly.
Therefore Perkin must ride through the streets of London that the citizens might come out of their houses to look at the man who had tried to be their king. Some of them threw mud at him. He was crestfallen and humiliated.
“King Richard,” they called after him derisively.
After that he was lodged in the Tower.
Several weeks passed and one day a man in the green and white livery of the King’s household came to him and told him he was free to leave his prison providing that he went immediately to the King’s Court where he would remain for a while under surveillance.
His spirits rose. He was on the way to freedom. He was sure that after a while he would be able to go to Katharine.
He came to Court. The King watched him with amusement and so did others. “The man who would be king!” they said. Well, they had to admit that he had a certain grace, his manners and speech were impeccable. He had clearly had some very good tutors.
Desperately he tried to get news of Katharine. She was with the Queen whose health was not of the best, which meant that she spent a great deal of time away from the King’s Court. She had given birth to a daughter the previous year. Little Mary was a strong and healthy baby; but the following year Edmund had been born and by all accounts he was sickly. The Queen’s health was a matter of concern to the King and he allowed her to live in a certain obscurity provided she showed herself from time to time to let the people know that their royal marriage was a felicitous one. They had two daughters and a son Henry who were all pictures of health and enough to delight the hearts of any parents. If Arthur and Edmund were not as healthy as they might be, that was sad, but as their nurses said, they would grow out of it. There had been the death of little Elizabeth but Henry felt secure in his family. Therefore he was pleased with his Queen and as long as she continued to add to their brood she could live as she wished.
This made it impossible for Perkin to see Katharine unless he left the King’s Court or she came to it from the Queen’s. But although the Queen treated her as a sister, she was still her attendant and it was obvious that Henry did not want the husband and wife to meet. It may have been that he feared they might plot, or people seeing the handsome pair together might think they would well grace a throne.
However they did not meet and there came a time when Perkin could endure this state of affairs no longer.
He was going to see Katharine, no matter what the consequences.
It was folly of course. He was too closely watched, and he had not gone very far when he realized that he was being followed.
He rode with all speed to the monastery at Syon and there sought refuge but the King’s men were immediately on his trail.
He must give himself up, he was told. It was the only way he could hope to save his life after this. He had been treated well by the King and he had broken his solemn word never to leave the castle or palace where he was in the King’s custody, and he had done so.
“There is no help for it,” said the King. “The man is not to be trusted. Take him to the Tower. I have no wish to harm him. He is a foolish fellow . . . a little brighter than Lambert Simnel but still a fool. Let him stay in the Tower until I decide what we shall do with him.”
The King did decide. Perkin had tried to escape. For what purpose? To attempt to rally men to a cause that was so absurd it was lost before it started?
No. The people must realize what Perkin stood for, and the best way to treat him was to humiliate him. Let the people laugh at Perkin. The more they jeered the less dangerous he became.
“Let him be placed in the stocks by Westminster Hall,” said the King. “There he shall repeat his confession of fraud. I want the people to know that off by heart. Then let him do the same in Chepeside. We will have his confession printed and circulated throughout the country. When this is done I think we shall have clipped his wings.”
So Perkin suffered the humiliation of the people’s ridicule.
After that he was taken back to the Tower.
He felt desperate. He was sure Henry would never give him the opportunity to escape again.
Henry was not seriously concerned with Perkin Warbeck for it had been so easy to prove him to be the impostor he so obviously was; but that did not mean this matter gave him no uneasiness. Even Lambert Simnel had done that, and the reason was, of course, that these men were products of a shaky throne. Henry was a strong king; he was a born administrator and men would learn in time that this was what a country needed. He could make England great, if he could but be allowed to reign in peace. These impostors might well go on springing up and the reason was of course that so many English resented his kingship simply because they did not believe in his claim to the throne.
He himself knew that the sons of Edward the Fourth were dead. If only he could make this known to the people it would help a lot—but not of course if they must also know the manner of their dying. It was better to let Richard the Third bear the blame for that. Alas, there was so much evidence against the theory of Richard’s removing them, that the matter must be wrapped in mystery. The fact remained that they were dead. But there was one still living who had a greater claim than Henry—and that was Edward, Earl of Warwick whom he had kept in the Tower ever since he had come to the throne.
It had not been so difficult in the beginning but that was fourteen years ago when the young Earl had been but ten years old. To take the boy into his care as he called it seemed a reasonable thing to do and if that care was a prison in the Tower no one dared to protest. The boy had no close relations; he was too young to attract ambitious men. He was easy prey.
But now the Earl was twenty-four years of age and there must be many who remembered that he was in fact heir to the throne. His father, the brother of Edward the Fourth, had been judged a traitor and met his death ignobly in a butt of malmsey, but that did not mean his son was not next in line of succession.
Henry had long been uneasy about that young man. And when he received dispatches from Spain his thoughts turned even more urgently toward him.
Henry desperately wanted alliance with Spain. Since the Sovereigns had married, since they had turned the Moors out of Spain, and joined Castile and Aragon they had become very powerful indeed.
If Henry could bring about that alliance between Arthur and their daughter Katharine he would be very happy. He would feel much safer on the throne; he would have friends to stand with him against France and all those who might come against him. He must get the marriage solemnized as soon as possible.
But as he read these dispatches, cordial as they were, he was shrewd enough to read between the lines.
The Sovereigns were uncertain about the alliance. They did not want to see their daughter married to a deposed king. They were very uneasy. Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck might be impostors but they would never have arisen if the throne had been secure; and while there was this uncertainty others might rise against the King of England and perhaps be more successful.
There was only one person who had a true claim, and that was the captive Earl of Warwick. If he could be disposed of, thought Henry, there would be no real claimant to come before me.
The matter tormented him, disturbing his dreams, presenting itself at all hours of the day; making him furtive, watchful of those about him. Every time a man entered his presence Henry found himself wondering whether that man carried a concealed dagger.
He could have had the Earl murdered. He could have drowned him in a butt of malmsey, had him suffocated in his sleep. It was not as though he had to catch the Earl. He was there in the Tower, the King’s prisoner. It shouldn’t be difficult.
But Henry was eager to have the approval of his subjects. He did not hope for their love; he knew well enough that he was not the type to inspire that. But he wanted them to see him as a just—if stern—king, as a man who was determined to make England great. They knew this in their hearts even though they were continually grumbling about the high taxes which had been imposed during his reign. They blamed Dudley and Empson more for this than they did Henry, which was unreasonable for they were only carrying out the King’s commands. The royal exchequer was growing. England was becoming rich. He had brought this about in fourteen years, pulling the country away from bankruptcy, making her prosperous.
But he did not want to be known as a murderer of those who stood in his way. At times a certain guilt came over him but he could remind himself that he had done what he had, not only for his own good, although he had to admit this was part of it, but for the good of England. The kingship of minors invariably meant disaster. It was better to remove minors than by letting them live risk the lives of thousands. That was how he had reasoned and he had always been able to convince himself that he had good sense on his side.
What was done was done. His immediate problem was the Earl of Warwick.
While the Earl lived—a perpetual threat with a greater right to the crown than Henry himself—there could be trouble, and Isabella and Ferdinand would not wish their daughter to make an alliance with a Prince who might never reach the throne.
He had to be rid of Warwick . . . and soon. But how?
Then suddenly an idea struck him.
Perkin Warbeck was in the Tower. Perkin Warbeck was longing to be with his wife, and it was certain that if he was not reunited with her soon, he would make an attempt to reach her and plot to escape.
Suppose Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick occupied cells close to each other—two prisoners of the King, one with a spurious claim to the throne, the other with a real one? They should have something in common.
It was a chance.
Henry sent for the Constable of the Tower.
He said: “I wish Perkin Warbeck to be moved. Place him close to the Earl of Warwick, and let both young men know that they are near to each other. It might provide some comfort for them. Who are your most trustworthy guards? I should like to see them . . . not yet, not yet. In due course . . .”
Henry was smiling. He would not hurry the matter. The whole point was that everything should appear to have happened naturally.
Perkin was getting desperate. He began to feel that he would never get out of this place. He had had no news from Katharine. He did not know that the King had given instructions that no letters from his wife were to be delivered to him. Henry wanted him to get desperate and Henry was succeeding.
His guards were friendly. They lingered often in his cell and talked to him; they had made his life more tolerable than it might have been; his food was good and well served and he believed this was due to the guards.
But sometimes he was in acute despair.
“If only I could get out,” he would say. “I’d go away. I’d leave England. I should never want to see this place again.”
The two guards were sympathetic.
“Well, there is the poor Earl just there.” The guards pointed vaguely at the wall. “He’s been here for nigh on fourteen years. Think of that!”
“For what reason?”
One of the guards lifted his shoulders and coming a step closer whispered: “For no reason but that he is the son of his father.”
“Oh . . . of the Duke of Clarence, you mean?”
“Died in this same place . . . Drowned in a butt of malmsey . . . helped himself . . . or others helped him to too much wine.”
Perkin shivered. “And his son has been here ever since the King came to the throne?”
The guards were becoming very confidential. “Well, he’s got a right, hasn’t he?”
One of them made a circle around his head and winked. “Wouldn’t do for him to be around having more right to it . . . some say. Well, it stands to reason. . . .He has to be kept away . . . under lock and key, don’t he?”
Perkin was thoughtful. Only a short distance from him was a young man who had a real claim to the throne. He had made no attempt to rise against the Tudor . . . and yet here he was . . . condemned to be a prisoner all his life maybe.
All his life! Perkin grew cold at that thought. Was that what was intended for him?
“You and the Earl,” said the guard . . .“you’d have a lot in common wouldn’t you? If you liked to write a note to him . . . I’d see he got it.”
“What should I write to him about?”
The guard shrugged his shoulders. “That’s for you. I thought two young men . . . here . . . so near and can’t see each other. I reckon the Earl would like to get a note from you . . . and you’d like to get one from him.”
Perkin shook his head.
The guard went out. His fellow guard was waiting for him.
“He don’t take to the idea,” he said. “He’ll need a bit of working on.”
But Perkin did take to the idea. He thought about the lonely Earl and he felt that if he could pour out his thoughts on paper it would relieve his feelings considerably. He would like to tell someone who could understand, how he had been drawn into posing as the son of a king and how he might so easily have become a king if his luck had gone the other way. It was not that he wanted to be a king; all he asked now was to rejoin his wife and child. That was all he asked but the King would not grant it and kept them apart. If Katharine could come and live with him in the Tower he was sure she would.
He asked the guard for paper and a pen to write. He should have been suspicious of the alacrity with which it was produced.
The Earl was equally glad to enliven his days in correspondence with his fellow prisoner. He told Perkin that he had heard something of him. News came now and then to the prisoners in the Tower—snippets of it . . . and then long silences so that one never really got the real story. Perkin told him what had happened to him and the Earl was eager to know more. Poor young man, he had been so long in the Tower that he knew very little of the outside world.
Perkin wrote of the freedom he longed to obtain, of Katharine waiting for him. All his thoughts were of freeing himself and getting away. . . . Escape from this fearful place, he wrote. Freedom. That is what I crave for.
The Earl craved for it too. “Am I to spend all my life a prisoner?” he wrote.
The guards who read the letters and gave them to the constable who showed them to the King before they were passed on to the intended recipient, said: “We are getting somewhere.”
“They were right. In time the two young men began to write about means of escape. How could they achieve it? “The guards are friendly,” wrote Perkin. “I have an idea that they would help us. There must be many prisoners in the Tower—many of them guiltless. It might be possible to get them to help us . . . It would be freedom for them as well as for us.”
The Earl was inclined to leave the planning to Perkin who had had adventures in various places, who had actually gone into battle. What could a young man who had been a prisoner since he was ten, know of these matters?
Planning made the days pass pleasantly. Perkin had a grand plan for seizing the Tower, they would get the guards to help. Warwick must not forget he was the true heir to the throne. He had the right to command. Perkin was only a humble citizen, but he would admit he had experience.
They grew excited. They drew plans. It was all in the mind. Both of them knew what they wrote about would be impossible to put into action.
But it was far more serious than they realized and they were to pay dearly for their diversion.
One day the guards came into Perkin’s cell. He looked up eagerly thinking they might have brought him a communication from the Earl.
The guards looked different; they were no longer smiling conspiratorially, no longer asking for the latest communication to the Earl of Warwick.
“Perkin Warbeck,” said the senior of the guards. “You are to be tried at Westminster on the sixteenth day of November.”
“Tried! But I have already been judged.”
“This is another matter. You will be tried with the Earl of Warwick for treason.”
Perkin did not understand.
“Plotting against the King’s person. Plotting to take possession of the Tower.”
“You mean . . .”
“You won’t get away with this one, I can tell you. It’s all there . . . in the letters.”
“My letters to the Earl . . .”
“And his to you . . . You’re in trouble, you and the noble Earl.”
Perkin understood then. This had been their plan. The friendly guards were the sinister spies of the Tudor King and he was in trouble . . . moreover he had involved the Earl of Warwick with him.
Henry was gratified. His ruse had worked. Perkin was of no importance to him, but the Earl of Warwick had fallen into his hands.
The two men had written to each other of escaping from prison. It would not be easy to condemn Warwick to death for that. People would say, for what reason was he in prison? Wasn’t it the most natural thing in the world that he should plan to escape?
That would not do.
He consulted with Lord Oxford who was the High Constable of England. The Constable knew what his wishes were and why. It was imperative that the match with Spain be made without much more delay. If the matter was allowed to drift the Spanish Sovereigns might well betroth their daughter to someone else.
“It would seem,” said the King, “that the Earl of Warwick was not planning merely to escape. His idea was to gather an army about him. That is quite clear.”
It was not. But the Constable knew that the King was commanding him to make it clear.
Henry was right. Oxford saw that. While the Earl lived there would be no peace in the kingdom. At any moment someone would arise and use him as a figurehead. There must be peace. What was the life of a young prince compared with the terrible revenge of war? It was the good of the country against an innocent young man.
“It must be made clear,” said Oxford.
The Earl was bewildered to find himself in the midst of so much excitement. Up to now he had spent his days in the quietness of his prison. He knew little of the world. Vaguely he remembered life at Middleham with the Duchess of Gloucester who had afterward become Queen Anne. She had been kind to him—she had been his mother’s sister and she used to talk to him about her childhood when she and Isabel his mother were together at Middleham with Richard whom she married and George whom Isabel had married. “They were brothers,” she had said, “we were sisters . . . daughters of Warwick the Kingmaker who ma