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Lady Margaret by E.M.G. Routh (pub. 1924)

 

V

HENRY OF RICHMOND

1483-1485


THE failure of the rising was a terrible disappointment to all the conspirators, and most of all to Lady Margaret, who had looked forward with so much hope to ber son's home-coming. Many of the leaders, including her half-brother Lord Welles, the Courtenays and some of Queen Elizabeth's relatives, escaped to join Henry in Brittany; an Act of Attainder was passed against them and those who could not get away were executed without mercy.

Lord Stanley had cautiously held aloof from his wife's plottings, which, as it happened, was fortunate for both of them and probably saved her life. Richard felt that Stanley was too powerful to offend, but he could not ignore the actions of the Countess of Richmond, and a special Act of Parliament was passed against her,[1] which stated that she had 'of late conspired confedered and committed high treason in divers and sundry wises, and in especial in sending messages writings and tokens to the said Henry (the King's great rebel and traitor) desiring procuring and stirring him by the same to come into this Realm, and make war against our said Sovereign Lord '. Wherefore the countess was dispossessed of all her manors, lands, castles, lordships, rents, and tenements, and all her possessions 'whatsoever they be'.

However, for the sake of Thomas, Lord Stanley, his 'good and faithful service that he hath done and intendeth to do' and 'for the good love and trust that the King hath in him', the punishment of attainder was remitted, and all her possessions were given to the said Thomas for his life, after which they were to revert to the Crown.

'In this troublous season' (wrote the Chronicler) 'nothing was more marvelled at than that the Lord Stanley had not been taken and reputed as an enemy to the King, considering the working of the Lady Margaret his wife, mother to the Earl of Richmond.' But Richard affected to despise the enterprise of a woman, and Stanley managed to clear himself 'sufficiently' of complicity. He was commanded by the King to keep his wife at home 'in some secret place, without having any servant or company, so that from thenceforth she should never send letter nor messenger to her son, nor any of his friends or confederates'. [2]

It was supposed that the order was obeyed accord ing to the King's 'dreadfull commaundement'; but perhaps it was not so very dreadful after all, for soon after this Stanley himself must have been in communication with Richmond, and Lady Margaret, 'though debarred from active measures, was at least able to set Reginald Bray to work to collect money ready to pay the troops to be raised in her son's service, whenever he should come again.

Henry, meanwhile, had by no means given up hope of making a second attempt. Numbers of English refugees had met him in Brittany, and on Christmas Day (1483) they all went to the Cathedral of Rennes and pledged themselves to be true to each other and to him; at the same time he vowed to marry the Lady Elizabeth as soon as he should be King of England.

Richard III was not the man to be idle while his enemies worked, and he took various measures against them. After Buckingham's revolt he was in constant fear of invasion, and it was owing to this that he started one of the earliest systems of posting used in England. In order to obtain news quickly, he had horsemen stationed every twenty miles along the principal roads, so that important letters could be transmitted from hand to hand two hundred miles in two days.

He tried to bribe the Bretons to give the Earl of Richmond up to him, and very nearly succeeded during the illness of the Duke of Brittany, but Morton in Flanders somehow got wind of the plot; a message from him, carried by Christopher Urswyck, and the ready help of Jasper Tudor, enabled Henry to escape capture; he hurriedly changed clothes with his page in a coppice and rode off as fast as he could over the frontier of Brittany into France, where he gained the very useful support of the young French king, Charles VIII, and his sister Madame de Beaujeu.

It was obvious to King Richard that one very good way to upset the Lancastrian-Yorkist coalition would be to marry off the daughters of Edward IV before Henry could come over to claim Elizabeth or her sister as his bride, and he managed to persuade the queen dowager to bring her five daughters out of the Sanctuary at Westminster. It was a gloomy place and no doubt they were all very tired of being shut up in it; the girls were young and pretty and wanted a little pleasure. Though the Queen hesitated, at last Richard got his way, by solemnly promising to protect their lives and to provide each of his nieces with an income and a husband, though he would not recognize their royal rank.

The Christmas festivities of 1484 provided the gossips with immense excitement, for the Lady Elizabeth, a beautiful girl of eighteen, was actually seen dancing at Court in a dress just like Queen Anne's, which could only have been given her by the King! The report at once flew abroad that Richard intended to poison his wife in order to marry his niece, and that he had completely won over the queen dowager 'with glorious promises and flattering words' to agree to this shocking proposal. Unreliable though she was, it seems much more likely that the poor lady was too frightened to seem to oppose the King -- the murderer of her sons and brother -- who had her entirely in his power. At all events, she appeared ready to break all her promises to Lady Margaret and to consider the engagement of her daughter to Henry of Richmond at an end, and she wrote to tell her son, the Marquis of Dorset, who had joined Richmond in France, to desert his cause and return to England.

There were of course plenty of officious friends ready to tell Henry of the rumours that were being repeated about the supposed fickleness of his fiancee -- as there always are in such cases, in any period of time. He was by this time planning a new invasion and heard the report with dismay but not with despair; he had no intention of giving up the kingdom, even if he could not have its queen; he went on with his preparations, and was quite ready, if necessary, to seek another bride among his former playmates in Wales, the Herberts.

Happily, however, more reassuring news soon followed. According to one account, [3] Princess Elizabeth met Stanley in London when she came out of the Sanctuary, and implored him to protect her, giving him a letter and a ring to send to Henry, in token of her fidelity.

In any case, although Queen Anne died in March (1485), very conveniently, as some people thought, for the King's plans, Richard did not marry Elizabeth, and declared that he had never even thought of such a thing! The young princess was sent away to Yorkshire and held as a prisoner at Sheriff Hutton, to keep her out of reach of Richmond's friends.

By the summer of 1485 Henry was ready for his second venture. He collected his friends at Rouen and fitted out a small fleet at Harfleur, with the help of the French king. He embarked on the 1st August, and following his mother's advice to land in Wales, where Jasper Tudor was still looked upon as Earl of Pembroke, he arrived at Milford Haven a week later.

This time all went well; Henry and his uncle were welcomed with joy by many friends and they reaped the benefit of the useful work of Lady Margaret's agents throughout the Principality. Henry made a very favourable impression on all who saw him, but his position was an anxious one, for many of those who had promised him support had also sworn allegiance to King Richard.

The valiant Rice ap Thomas for one, having been persuaded by Lady Margaret's agent, Dr. Lewis, to join the cause, felt a little worried because he had vowed to Richard that he would let no enemy advance except across his own body; but his friend John Morgan (afterwards Bishop of St. Davids) conveniently offered to absolve him from his oath, and suggested (in case even that did not satisfy so scrupulous a conscience as his) that he should lie on the ground and let the Earl of Richmond step over him. Rice accepted this ingenious solution of the diffculty, and Henry, having played his own part in the comedy, helped his prostrate ally to his feet, and laughingly hoped that he would never again be brought so low in his service. According to another version of the tale, Rice ap Thomas arranged the matter more comfortably for his own person by going under a bridge while the earl rode over.[4] He was knighted on Bosworth Field in reward for his services.

Henry could not even feel quite sure of the support promised by Lord Stanley (who had Lancashire and Cheshire at his command) and by his brother Sir William; the King still hoped that their forces would oppose the invader, but Richard now with good reason suspected nearly everybody, and kept Stanley's eldest son, Lord Strange, a hostage for his father's loyalty.

The story of Henry's landing, his advance through Wales, and his victory on Bosworth Field is too well known to need repetition in detail. The two Stanleys with their forces held off until the very last moment, but in the end they came in on Henry's side and their help turned the battle into a decisive victory. Richard, fighting with the fury of despair, tried madly to kill Henry with his own hand, and fell, covered with wounds, at his feet. 'I will die King of England,' he had said, when urged to fly; 'I will not budge a foot.' He wore a crown on his helmet in the battle, and it was found in a hawthorn bush by Reginald Bray.

After the day was won, Stanley put the crown on his stepson's head and saluted him as king, while the soldiers shouted for 'King Henry'! -- a pleasant ending to the tale of the day's adventures which he had to relate to Lady Margaret when he saw her again!

There appears to be no record of the meeting between Henry and his mother, but he sent messages to her when he landed and it may be supposed that she hurried to see him, with joy and thankfulness in her heart, as soon as the news of King Richard's death released her from her nominal captivity. This meeting with her son must have been the greatest moment in her life; for years she had hoped and worked for his return, and in his home-coming she realized her dearest wish. It was fourteen years since she had parted from him; he had left her, a boy and a fugitive; he came back, a man and a king; she was proud of the victory he had won and was so deeply affected by her emotion at his return that at his coronation a few weeks later, 'in all that grete tryumphe and glorye, she wepte mervaylously'.

Henry VII was one of those people who might have been counted among the heroes of history if only they had died young. Looked at from a distance of four centuries he seems rather a colourless personality compared with other kings of his era, but he was very much admired at the time of his accession, and his mother found him perfectly satisfactory. He had none of those dramatic qualities which must have supplied so much anxiety to the relatives of Richard III and Henry VIII, but was altogether a more comfortable sort of person to have in the family than either of them. Though he was in general, hard, cold and cautious, he was an affectionate and dutiful son, an indulgent father and quite a good husband; if his mother could see any fault in him, it was his habit of acquiring other people's money, which grew upon him as he found the power that money brings.

She herself was the most generous of women, 'bounteous and liberal to every person of her know ledge or acquaintance. Avarice and "covetyse" she most hated, and sorrowed it full much in all persons, and specially in any that belonged to her.'

But Henry could spend royally too, sometimes; he lavished money on elaborate entertainments; his charities were very great; he gave his wife presents of furs and trinkets and paid her debts; he loved building, and buying jewels, and he even gave two shillings to a girl for a red rose.

For some time he was very popular; people flocked to see him and they liked his pleasant expression and ready smile; his eyes were 'grey, shining and quick', and his hair 'yellow, like burnished gold'. When he rode on a Royal Progress people called for blessings on his 'sweet face' and rained 'comfetts' from their windows, 'like haylestones', for joy.