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URING those days when his brother King Edward departed his life, Duke Richard of Gloucester was in Yorkshire, and William Hastings, the Chamberlain, sent him trusty messengers with a letter to inform him of his brothers death, and on his own behalf to indicate that the dying king had entrusted to him alone his wife, children, wealth, and everything else. So he urged him to go as soon as possible to Wales to fetch Prince Edward and bring him to London, so as to take up the government. When Richard learned his, he immediately began to burn with desire for the crown, but since there were no grounds which he could achieve this business under at least a show of honesty, for the moment he deferred that thought to another time. Meanwhile he wrote Elizabeth a letter full of good will, in which, having consoled her with many words, he promised her the seas and the mountains, as the saying goes. And so as to enhance confidence in his zeal and kindness towards his brother’s sons, he convened the nobility at York and commanded them to swear their homage to Prince Edward. He himself was the first to take the oath, which he was destined to be the first to break a little later. Thus the all the others did the same. This done, he gathered no mean band of armed men, intent on departing in his own good time. For Prince Edward, not being of an age to manage his own affairs, was at that time staying at Ludlow, in the care of his uncle Earl Anthony of Rivers, Thomas Vaughn his Chamberlain, and Sir Richard Grey. Queen Elizabeth and Marquis Thomas of Dorset, her son by her first husband John Grey, who was at London, sent frequent messengers urging them to bring the prince to London promptly so that he could receive the traditional coronation after his father had been buried. Obedient to the queen and marquis, they headed for London a little later. Richard did the same, and at Northampton he was met by Duke Henry of Buckingham, with whom he had a lengthy conversation, so much so that the common belief is that at that time he revealed to him his plan of seizing the throne, particularly because afterwards the duke supported him with his assistance, either out of fear or loyalty. After this, Richard decided that he should try to carry out his intended crime by artifice, and if that turned out less well than he hoped, then at length he would attempt it openly. For it did not enter this unfortunate man’s head that he could not sin without inflicting a huge loss on the commonwealth, and without the downfall of his house. For it befalls evil men who devise dangers for others that they are unhinged by their own deceit, their wickedness, their crime, their damnable daring. Richard went flying to the prince, who went ahead with a small retinue, and had now come to the hamlet of Stony Stratford when Richard and Duke Henry, supported by a company of soldiers, overtook him and took him into his power. And he arrested Anthony, Thomas Vaughan, and several others and then, because he suspected they would not assent to his plans, sent them back to the castle of Pontefract to be kept in custody.
2. When the report of such an evil, horrifying thing reached London, it filled all men with both astonishment and dread, but it particularly dismayed Queen Elizabeth, who immediately took flight. For, thinking that there was nothing of honesty in this, she took her remaining children and the marquis, to save them from the impending danger, and concealed herself in the asylum at Westminster. Some nobles did likewise, who supported her for the sake of her children’s safety. But Hastings, who bore secret grudges against the marquis and others of the queen’s party, and for that reason had encouraged Richard to serve as the prince’s war, when he saw that everything was tending towards armed conflict and falling out very differently than he had expected, repented what he had done. At St. Paul’s cathedral he assembled those of his friends whom he knew to be greatly concerned for Edward’s life, dignity, and standing, and discussed with them what should be done. Here some of them were of the opinion that they should quickly free Prince Edward, whom they already regarded as a prisoner, so that the fire might be quenched in its infancy, before coming widespread. They maintained that henceforth no counsel would be free of danger, unless this criminal enterprise, which showed that Richard had nothing good in mind, were stopped by a quick show of force. All the held that they should not resort to arms or violence, and suspected that this event would have no bad outcome. And so they chose to wait until Richard arrived and declared why he had arrested the boy’s tutors. Dukes Richard and Henry made their appearance not much later, together, and turned into the palace of the Bishop of London, next door to St. Paul’s cathedral, where they wished the prince to remain until the other arrangements had been made.
3. Then Richard assumed the government of all things, and began to be very distressed that he could not gain control over his brother’s second son Duke Richard of York without commotion, since his mother was holding him in asylum. For unless he had both the brothers in his power, he wholly despaired of achieving his intention. In his hope and mind he fixed his attention on snatching the boy from his mother’s bosom, and so he strove to accomplish by artifice what he could not achieve by violence, as he had decided. Calling to himself a goodly part of the nobility, he said, “Hang me, if I am not serving my nephews’ interests, since I know that their downfall would also bring down both the commonwealth and myself. And so, since my brother King Edward, while lately on his deathbed, appointed me Regent of the Realm, nothing has been important for me than to come here bringing his elder son Prince Edward, so that all may be done promptly in accordance with the will of the Privy Council. For I have decided to do nothing without the authority of yourselves, whom I wish to have as associates, helpers, and partners in the management of all things, so that I may readily be said by your testimony to have done whatever I do in all good faith, and to have served the advantage of the commonwealth and Prince Edward. For I believe that his father has entrusted his care and protection to myself for this reason alone. But Anthony Rivers lately attempted to keep me from performing this duty as I should, and for this reason I was obliged to arrest him and other men who likewise stood in my way. But what should I say about the bad counsel given by those men to Queen Elizabeth, who have always loathed me? For no good reason she has so imprudently feigned fear and dared to abduct the king’s children into asylum, this earth’s sole refuge for the poor, for bankrupts, for rascals, as if they were criminals, wretched, and wastrels, just as if I were intending to destroy them and everything were tending towards violence. Although this thing is a great disgrace for me and for the realm, nevertheless allowance must be made for her sex, from which such kinds of hysteria often arise. But we should immediately cure this womanly disease spreading through our land and setting the worst possible example. What kind of spectacle do you imagine it would be if on Coronation Day, while the ceremony was being performed, his mother, brother, and sisters were to be remaining in asylum? What kind of popular assembly would that be, by whose authority the king is to be created? What kind of applause would the people give their king, filled with grief rather than joy? Indeed, if the queen and her children were to continue in asylum, there would no man among the entire people, who would not fear for himself and think that the entire majesty of the laws has been desecrate . Let it therefore be your will that some of you visit the queen and return her and her children to the palace as soon as possible. And if she cannot be dissuaded from her decision, perhaps depraved by my enemies who are striving to provoke hatred by casting some blame upon me, then let them negotiate with her so that, upon a public guarantee of his safety, she will at least commit her other son Richard to your power, so that he may be present together with the other lords when his brother is made king. Now you have my sentiment, now you should to what you believe to be in the commonwealth’s best interest, for you can and should expect all that is good and honorable from me.” When Richard had said these things, they all thought his suggestion to be both just and honorable, since they had no suspicion that it was motivated by deceit. Therefore they voted that Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, Duke Henry of Buckingham, John Howard, and several other grave men should transact this business. They went to the asylum, and with many words and arguments exhorted the queen to return to the palace with her children, giving her both personal and public pledges of good faith. But the woman, somehow foreseeing what soon came to pass, could not be swayed by any arrangements to entrust herself to Richard. Perceiving this, they finally asked her only to hand over her son Richard, which they obtained only with difficulty, after giving many promises. And so the innocent lad was wrenched from his mother’s embrace.
4. Richard, having in this way almost gained his heart’s desire, transferred his nephews from the episcopal palace to the tower. This raised no suspicion in anybody’s mind, since the coronation procession traditionally leads from the Tower to Westminster. This done, Richard, whose mind was partly afire with lust for gaining the crown, and partly tormented by guilt (for conscience always makes punishment hover before the eyes of those who have done amiss), henceforth regarded nothing more important than to mollify the masses by largesse, and to win over his adversaries by gifts, rewards, and promises, began to stay in the Tower together with his nephews, daily discussing, conferring, and scheming with his nobles, by cleverness and craft hatching new plans to deal with pressing matters. This was his artifice, that while expectation made the people look forward to the new ceremony, by gradual consultations he might sound out the nobles’ minds, always pretending he was not seeking the highest power, but doing everything for the good of the realm. Therefore, by hiding and veiling his greed under the name of public utility, he so misled the nobles’ minds that, with the exception of those few from whom he had never concealed his true intent, they could in no wise perceive why he was creating delays, or to what end his counsels were tending: he proposed many things, and explained few, for a guilty mind is wont to vacillate. But meanwhile, when he recognized that William Hastings more than anyone else was urging and pressing that Prince Edward should receive his due honor, and that he, uniquely among the Peerage, enjoyed popularity for his grace and liberality, and had the greatest authority among honorable men of all ranks, and either feared his power or despaired that he could bring him over to his way of looking at things, decided to remove this man before revealing his counsel to the others, in whom he did not yet have any great confidence. And so, raging with incredible desire for bringing to pass what he had in mind, he set a trap of this kind for him. He stationed some ready-handed ruffians in the chamber next door to that in which the Privy Council met, and instructed them that when he gave a sign they should suddenly appear and surround those who were sitting with him, and particularly that they should lay hands on William Hastings and cut his head off there and then. With his scheme readied, on about June 12 he ordered that there be summoned to the Tower Thomas Rotherham Archbishop of York, John Morton Bishop of Ely, Duke Henry of Buckingham, Thomas Stanley, William Hastings, John Howard, and several others, whom he trusted to be loyal to himself, either out of fear or moved by his kindnesses. But he ordered the other nobles, together with John Russell Bishop of Lincoln, the Lord Chancellor of England, whom he did not wish to witness such a dire, foul spectacle, to spend that day at Westminster Hall with the magistrates, so they might publish the day on which Prince Edward was to be honored with his royal dignity. But the invited nobles all met early in the morning at the Tower, as if they would deliberate that entire manner. Here, behind closed doors, and with God, as it were, their only witness, while they were bent on discussing graver matters, Richard, who had nothing but cruel and savage things in mind, addressed them thus: “I have only summon you lords here today so that I may show you in what danger of death I exist. For the last few days I have no peace by day or by night, I have been unable to eat or drink, and so gradually my blood, my strength, and my spirit has grown feeble, and my limbs are more emaciated than usual (here he showed them his arm). This mischief in me comes from that evil woman Queen Elizabeth, who has attacked me with her witchcraft. Damaged by it, I am gradually being undone.” After he had said these things, no man answered him, since he was not speaking to the subject at hand. William Hastings, who did not hate Richard, and was used to frank speech in his presence, answered that the queen would deserve a great brand of infamy and punishment, if she were found to be guilty. To this Richard rejoined, “I tell you, I am dying by this woman’s sorcery.” When William made the same answer that he had given before, Richard, to give his hidden henchmen the signal to attack, said in a louder voice, “What then, William, if I were being destroyed by your means?” He had scarcely spoken these words when those who received the signal appeared and in an onrush seized William himself, both the prelates of York and Ely, and Stanley The latter three were imprisoned separately, but William was scarcely given the opportunity to confess his sins before having his head removed. Thus to his extreme loss Hastings learned that law of nature mentioned in the Gospel verse, All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them, cannot be violated with impunity. Would that this would serve as an example to those who imagine they are free to do as they please! Now I return to my subject.
5. As soon as was done, the cry treason! treason! went up throughout the Tower. When this word spread through the city, the citizens and all the city, taking these words as the truth and yet ignorant of what had happened, began to repeat them. But afterwards when the understood what had been done by means of terrible rumors, then each man began to fear his domestic enemies, and think upon death most foul or flight most wretched, while the whole people lamented the dead man on whom both they themselves and the nobles who loved Edward’s sons had pinned their hopes. Nor did it escape their attention that Richard would spare no man standing between himself and the throne, and that he was turning his royal authority into tyranny. After these Richard, content with the death of William Hastings, sent Thomas Stanley away safe and sound, fearing lest, should he harm him, his son George Lord Strange would provoke some popular rebellion against him. He handed over John Morton, Bishop of Ely, to the Duke of Buckingham to be kept in custody, and the duke forthwith sent him to his castle near the town of Brecknock in Wales. And he committed Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York, to the custody of Sir James Tyrell. For he wished those prelates to be imprisoned until he had gained power and had nobody to fear.
6. When these things had been achieved, Richard, now knowing for certain that he had no further reason for dissimulation, wrote a letter to the governor of Pontefract Castle ordering the immediate beheading of Anthony Rivers, Richard Grey, and Thomas Vaughan, which was done soon thereafter. Meanwhile he himself at London now feared everything and surrounded himself with a bodyguard of armed men. He then strove to win to himself the most powerful nobles by giving largesse and promises, and gained the support of a goodly part of them, who were induced more by terror than hope for benefits. Soon, relying on their power, he decided he must try another way. For he had lost hope that he could win over the common folk by his gifts to the point that they would tolerate his rule with equanimity. For he was not unaware that they could easily be provoked to arms for the sake of preserving their liberty and their rights, and so he feared them. And so, as he thought much upon this, it finally entered his mind that the Commons, if deceived by a certain show of honesty, would shudder less at what he was about to do. Therefore this man, blinded by greed for power, whom no sense of shame could now hold back, after deciding not to spare the blood of his own household, thought he should not spare its honor either, and so he devised a device like this. He had a private conversation with Ralph Shaa, a priest of the time who enjoyed great popular esteem, and explained to him that his father’s heritage was his by right, being the eldest of all the children whom his father Duke Richard of Gloucester had sired by his mother Cecily. For it was a well known fact that Edward, who had reigned previously, was a bastard, that is, that he was not born of a legal and legitimate wife, and that this was shown by well-known evidence. And he asked Shaa to consent to deliver a sermon from St. Paul’s pulpit instructing the people in this thing, so that at length they would acknowledge their true sovereign. And he said he was asking this so urgently because he thought it better to slight his mother’s dignity and honor than to allow the realm to be dishonored by such a royal line any longer. Either stricken by fear or seized by folly, Ralph undertook to humor him. And when the day was at hand, Richard, who had made himself more powerful under the pretext of attending to some other item of business, came to St. Paul’s cathedral with an armed escort, in royal style, and there attended the sermon with ears pricked up. With him in the audience, Ralph (who was a learned man) took this occasion to speak, not of some divine matter, but of a tragic one, and produced many arguments to show that Edward was not fathered by Richard Duke of York, but rather by someone else, who had seduced his mother by stealth. And was shown by certain proofs: that Edward resembled his father Richard neither in face nor in form, since he was tall while Richard was a small man, and had a large face, whereas Richard’s was small and compact. But no man could doubt, if he considered such things, that Richard was the duke’s genuine son, who should possess his father’s throne, which was rightfully his. And he particularly urged the lords, seeing that they lacked a king at present, to choose Richard, the true royal offspring, as their sovereign, repudiating others, who were base-born. When the people heard these words, they were wonderfully distraught, for, angry at the indignity of the thing, with all their hearts they cursed the preacher’s temerity, boldness, uncouthness, and the error of Richard’s criminal mind. For he failed to see how much shame, how much disgrace, how much of a blot he was casting on both his family and the entire realm by publicly condemning his mother, a most chaste woman, as an adulteress, by branding his brother, who had deserved well of him, with a lasting mark of infamy, and by covering his most innocent nephews with an enduring reproach. So at one and the time you could see some men standing as amazed as madmen by the novelty and strangeness of the thing, others frightened for themselves because they were friends of the royal boys, and yet others grieving for the boys themselves, for they believed that by now they were ruined . There is a popular story that in that sermon it was Edward’s sons who were called bastards, not Edward himself, which is far from the truth, since Edward’s mother Cecily, as I have said, was falsely accused of adultery and afterwards complained to a number of lords, some of whom are still living, of this insult she received at the hands of her son. But after his mother had thus been slandered in public and his brother Edward covered with shame, Richard was affected by happiness that this thing had been made public, which he had arranged so as to make plain to all men that the throne belonged him as a matter of right, rather than by the shame he should have felt. And he returned to the Tower with his royal escort, as if he had already been proclaimed king by parliament. But Ralph Shaa, the preacher of such a disgraceful thing, was soon thereafter chastised by his friends, embarrassed by his infamy, and returned to his sanity, and he so greatly repented what he had done that he soon died of a broken heart and paid the deserved penalty for his silliness.
7. By these means, Richard now appeared to have achieved mastery, and this was proclaimed everywhere, although out of fear rather than men’s consensus, but then he decided it was necessary to pause a while for the sake of the risks that threatened him. Even if his friends were urging that that which lay hidden should burst forth, and that he should quickly finish what remained to do, nevertheless, so that his deed would not easily be disapproved, his desire was that the public be put on its notice and the whole matter be referred to judges, so they might settle it. Therefore about May 20 he ordered the judges and city magistrates, who were Robert Billesdon, the Lord Mayor, and Thomas Norland and William Martin, the Sheriffs, to meet in the Guildhall together with the aldermen, and sent them the Duke of Buckingham with other nobles party to his counsels, to plead his case and on his behalf to ask that they would give a hearing to the arguments for doing this business, and agree to decide an issue which pertained to the safety of the nation and of all its citizens. The Duke delivered a long speech in which he set forth Richard’s commission, and on his behalf he showed that nothing favored his case except for right, faith, constancy, honesty, and equity, since he was fighting to regain the throne of which he had previously been cheated by his brother Edward, so that they might wish to deal with such a great matter by their authority, so that he would be able to at length obtain his kingdom by the favor of the Commons, who were guided by that assembly’s judgment. For this would be advantageous to the commonwealth, since Richard was a man of such prudence and modesty that they could expect complete fair dealing from him. This was the duke’s demand, and was an opinion which nobody dared contradict, since right loses its voice amidst arms. Richard, just as if the cowed judges had ruled in his favor, made a progress through the city from the Tower to Westminster, dressed in royal array and accompanied by a strong bodyguard, and there, occupying the throne, he first conducted himself as a king. He decided some matters and announced he would decide others, instructing the magistrates that henceforth they should do everything in his name, and likewise appointed a day for Peerage and Commons to appear and swear their homage to himself. When report of this reached every quarter of the realm, it was received in various ways. For those who had been partisans of Edward and the House of York hated Richard’s audacity like the plague, thinking it would consume their family by mutual slaughter. On the other hand, those who had been loyal to Henry VI adjudged this all would be useful to themselves, because it would soon come about that Richard’s rule would be tolerable to no man, and for the sake of his complete overthrow the nobility would readily transfer their loyalty to Earl Henry of Richmond, Henry’s nephew by his brother, and summon him to the throne. Meanwhile Richard, just as his violence required, feared lest the queen’s many friends would incite the people to arms when they observed the government being stolen from Prince Edward, and therefore as soon as he could he commanded 5,000 armed men to be sent from Yorkshire (for he trusted them above all all others), under the leadership of Richard Ratcliffe, instructing him to do various things along the way. He, supported by this multitude, halted at Pontefract, and there he commanded the governor of the castle to execute Anthony Rivers, Richard Grey, and Thomas Vaughan, just as Gloucester had instructed, as I have written above, so that this crime might be committed in his presence, with no commotion. This done, he marched to London. Protected by this band of trusty men, Richard addressed himself to accomplishing the rest of his program with confidence. Therefore he convoked a parliament at Westminster on July 6, at which he was created and crowned together with his wife Anne, with the people not objecting out of fear rather than actually approving, and was called Richard III. This was the year of human salvation 1483.
8. And so, without popular assent and only by the will of certain favoring nobles, and against law and right, Richard gained the crown. Not long thereafter,when affairs at London were settled to his satisfaction, he went to York and then straight on to Gloucester. While he was staying there, at every moment he was so gnawed by awareness of his crimes that he was in constant fear. And to rid himself of this altogether he decided to kill his nephews, for as long as they were safe he could by no means be free of danger. Therefore he wrote a letter to Robert Brackenbury, the Governor of the Tower of London, commanding him to find some honorable way of quickly killing his nephews. Then he departed for York, and was most willingly received by its citizens, who celebrated his arrival with several days of public rejoicing. And Richard, to give even the peasantry the chance to see him, for he was greedy for applause, arranged for the Archbishop of York to announce a day of supplication, and he himself marched in that procession, together with his wife, wearing the crown. Richard took with himself Earl Edward of Warwick, his nephew by his brother Duke George of Clarence, and so this boy would give him no trouble, he sent him to be held in custody in the castle of Sheriff Hutton. But the Governor of the Tower of London, when he received the king’s horrid instructions, was astonished at the atrocity of the thing, and feared that, should he comply, he would someday be called to account. So he did not do this immediately, hoping the king would spare the boys because of their kindred blood or their age, or would change his dire plan. But so far was he from achieving either of these things, since Richard’s mind remained unmoved, that as soon as he learned the governor had put off doing as he was bidden, he assigned this task to another man, James Tyrell. Compelled to to the deed, he sadly went to London and killed the royal children, setting an example nearly unheard-of within human memory. Thus Prince Edward died, together with his brother Richard, but it is unknown what manner of death the poor little boys suffered. Richard, set free by this deed from his care and fear, did not long conceal the murder, and a few days later allowed the rumor of the boy’s death to go abroad, as is reasonable to think, because, after the people had learned that Edward’s male issue was extinct, they would be more tolerant of his own government. But when rumor of his great crime spread abroad, such great sorrow afflicted all men’s minds that everywhere they wept, and after their tears were consumed they groaned, “Is there any man so hostile to God, His holy things, religion, and mankind, who would not shudder at such a foul murder?” And particularly the friends of the queen and the little boys shouted out “What will this man do to others, when he has cruelly butchered his own kinsmen through no fault of their own?” For they knew for certain that a most cruel tyranny had overcome the commonwealth. And this rumor was like death to the boys’ unhappy mother, who still remained in the asylum. When she learned of her sons’ death, she was panic-stricken at the first news of the cruelty of this thing, and suddenly collapsed, lying senseless for a while. After coming back to herself whe wept, howled, filled the house with her screams, smote her breast, tore her hair, and, overcome with such sorrow, prayed for death. She called for her dear darlings, she berated herself for her madness, because she was deluded by treacherous promises into letting her other son go from the asylum to his death. Next to God and her sons, she thought she was the most violated of them all. But after her lengthy lamentation, since she could gain her revenge by no other means, she invoked God, the avenger of treachery, as if knowing for sure that He would someday do just that. Who is there who is not terrified when he contemplates the death of such boys, since such things sometimes befall us because of the sins of our forebears, when the taint of their guilt descends to their posterity? This perhaps befell those two innocent boys, because their father neglected religion when he promised one thing with his words when he took his oath at the gates of York, as I have shown in my preceding Book, while having something quite different in his mind, as later came to light, and afterwards, when he incurred great guilt in the eyes of God, by the killing of his brother the Duke of Clarence.
9. While these things were happening elsewhere, the day of supplication was now at hand, and on that day many men came together at York out of an enthusiasm for having a look at their new king. Then the king participated in these supplications, celebrated by the clergy with great formality, wearing his crown and surrounded by a great bevy of lords. The queen followed, carrying her crown, and leading by the hand her son Edward, also wearing a crown, amid the great honor, happiness, and cheering of the people, as they praised Richard to the skies. When the processional of the supplication was finished, the king held a council soon thereafter, in which, after taking mature thought for the condition of that province, his single son Edward, about ten years old, was created Prince of Wales. John Howard, a man of great counsel and martial skill, was made Duke of Norfolk, and his son Thomas, a flourishing young man of distinction, was made Earl of Surrey. Likewise a number of nobles from that region were placed on the Privy Council, because, as I have shown above, Richard placed hope in their loyalty. Finally, since there was no evil, no adversity, that the king’s guilty conscience did not fear, he chose to take provision lest Earl Henry of Richmond be recalled to England by his enemies out of a desire for troublemaking. Therefore Thomas Hutton, a canny man, was appointed ambassador to the Duke of Britanny, who should use all his powers of eloquence and money to ensure that at the very least the duke would keep the earl in perpetual imprisonment, as he had previously done at the request of his brother Edward, and Hutton promptly crossed over to Britanny. When these things had been accomplished, the King returned to London, and the entire city came out to greet him, as a matter of duty. And thus Richard, by a novel form of monstrous behavior, had attained to supreme glory, and was accounted blessed in the estimation of the vulgar, although a little later he himself perceived he was gradually slipping from this state, nor could he keep himself in it by any manner of means. For after the death of Edward’s sons, whenever any bad storm appeared to threaten, either now or in the future, because of its fresh memory of the king’s crimes, the people would attribute this to Richard alone, crying out that God was avenging the king’s misdeeds on the poor people of England, and therefore they reproached him, hated him, and prayed for his final punishment. While Richard was thus in ill repute with all men, and although he was not unaware who in particular was saying these things, he did not dare lay a hand on them to avenge the insult, thinking it was sometimes not the part of a guilty man to repudiate those who advised him of his duty. So he lapsed from such great happiness back into fear and melancholy, and, since he could not make amends for what had passed, he decided to erase this blot of infamy on his name by performing all duties, and creating such hope for himself that henceforth no calamity could befall the commonwealth by his fault, although it is difficult to change one’s nature and suddenly remove what has become ingrained in one’s manners. Therefore, either for that reason, or because (as contemporary popular belief ran) he now repented his evil deeds, he began to live a new life and display himself in the guise of a good man, so that he would be deemed more just, more mild, more a friend of the people, and more liberal, especially towards the poor. And thus he would first earn God’s forgiveness for his wrongdoings, then lessen his unpopularity and return to grace among men. He began many works, both public and private, which he did not bring to completion, being cut off by an early death. At York he founded a college of a hundred priests. Likewise he was beginning to open his ears to his friends’ good advice, when immediately thereafter it became clear as clear can be that it was fear (rarely a teacher of enduring dutifulness) rather than justice that had momentarily improved Richard, since a man’s feigned goodness soon fails. And so all his counsels quickly began to come to naught. For first he lost his single son Edward, in the third month after he had been made Prince of Wales, and then a conspiracy was made against him by the doing of Duke Henry of Buckingham, although, when it came to light, he tried to suppress it before it grew great.
10. Since I have come to this place, it is appropriate to go back a little, so I may explain the origin of the quarrel that arose between the king and the duke. For once upon a time Earl Humphrey of Hereford, whose death I have recorded above in Book XVIII, left behind two daughters and made them his heirs, that is, Mary, who married Earl Henry of Derby, the oldest son of Duke John of Lancaster, who later achieved the throne under the name of Henry IV, and Eleanor, married to Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester and Earl of Buckingham. From Thomas and Eleanor was born one surviving daughter, Eleanor, who was first betrothed to Thomas Stafford, after her father’s goods had been confiscated by King Richard II. But he was put to death before they could marry, and she was subsequently given to Thomas’ brother Edmund, the Earl of Stafford. He fathered Duke Humphrey of Buckingham, and Humfrey fathered Henry. And thus by the marriages of Anne and Mary the inheritance of the Earl of Hereford, was divided, one part coming to the House of Lancaster, and the other to the Stafford family, from whom the Dukes of Buckingham took their origin. But after some years the pedigree of Henry IV came to a complete end in Prince Edward, the son of Henry VI, and, with his house extinct, Henry of Buckingham imagined that he had an excellent claim on that portion of the inheritance of the Earl of Hereford which had come to the House of Lancaster as Mary’s dowry, which at the time King Richard possessed by royal right, together with the other goods of the House of Lancaster. Therefore a few days later the duke found an opportune moment for a conference with Richard, and asked of Richard that part of the patrimony of the Earl of Hereford which was his due by hereditary right. To this Richard, who had thought that issue to be dead by now, is said to have exploded with anger and responded, “Do you wish, Duke Henry, to claim that right of Henry VI, by which he illegally usurped the throne, and make a way to it for yourself?” This answer of Richard’s stuck deep in the duke’s heart, and from that moment, driven by indignation and anger, he began to think how he might depose this ingrate, for whose sake he had often unwillingly acted against the right. So minded, the Duke accompanied Richard on his journey to York soon thereafter, as far as Gloucester, and then, with Richard’s permission, retired to Wales, where a goodly part of his patrimony was located. While he stayed there, partly spurred on by the memory of his recent insult, and partly repenting that he had not only acted to impede Richard in his evildoing, but had done much to support him, he decided to disentangle himself from him, although he should have done so from the very beginning, and put his plan into action. Therefore he began to share his counsel with John Bishop of Ely, whom, as I have reported above, he was keeping under custody in Brecknock Castle. Ely, suspecting trickery, first asked why he was undertaking this, and begged him to do no harm to himself. Afterwards, when he recognized that his hatred for Richard was legitimate and long overdue, he did not refuse to discuss a conspiracy. Then the duke explained everything to Ely and opened his heart, telling him he had devised a means whereby the remains of the families of Edward and Henry VI could be conjoined by kinship and restored to the throne, which was the legitimate property of both their lines. For he called Richard Edward’s enemy, not his brother. The means was that as soon as possible they should summon Earl Henry of Richmond, who was reported to have been freed from custody by Duke Francis of Britanny after he had learned of King Edward’s death, and they should help him with their resource, but only if he would first undertake upon his oath that, having gained the throne, he would marry Elizabeth, Edward’s eldest daughter. The Bishop of Ely liked both the duke’s plan and his means for achieving it, and he arranged for Reginald Bray, a servant of Henry’s mother Margaret, who had married Thomas Stanley, to come to the duke in Wales and, learning his view, quickly return to Margaret to inform her of all which had passed between himself and the duke for their common safety. This was the reason for the quarrel that arose between the king and the duke, and for the conspiracy made against the king, although the common report was different. For people said that from the beginning the duke had refrained from discouraging Richard from usurping the throne by means of so many crimes, so that afterwards he would become an object of hatred to God and man and be deposed, and he himself would be summoned to it, something for which he was striving might and main, and therefore he ultimately took up arms against Richard. But let me return to my thread.
11. Now, before the enraged duke had begun to be alienated from Richard, the foundation of a new conspiracy had been laid at London by Queen Elizabeth, wife to King Henry, and Henry’s mother Margaret, in this way. Because of her ill health Margaret employed a Welsh physician named Lewis. Since he was a grave man not without his uses, she was often accustomed to speak freely with him and sigh in his presence. After she had learned of the killing of Edward’s sons, that prudent woman began to have high hopes for her son’s fortunes, thinking it would be an action good for the commonwealth, should it come to pass, that the blood of Henry VI and Edward were to be mixed in kinship and these two long-standing and highly ruinous factions ended by one jointure of both families. And so, not letting pass such a great opportunity, in the course of her conversation she informed Lewis that the time had now come when Edward’s eldest daughter Elizabeth could be married to her son Henry, and King Richard, regarded by all men as an enemy to his nation, could easily be cast down from all honor and deprived of his crown, and so she asked him that he secretly deal with the queen about this great enterprise. For the queen also employed him, because he was a physician most skilled at the art. Without delay Lewis met with the queen, who was still keeping herself in the asylum, and told her of this thing as if it were his own invention and he was not acting under orders. The queen liked the idea so much that she commanded Lewis to go to Margaret, who was staying at her husband’s London mansion. On her behalf he should promise that she would do what she could so all the friends of her husband Edward would side with Margaret’s son Henry, if only he would swear to marry her daughter Elizabeth after gaining the throne, or, should she die before he came to power, to marry her younger daughter Cecily. Lewis immediately performed this service and easily settled the business between these women, since, being a physician, he could act as a go-between and member of that new conspiracy against Richard without arousing any suspicion. Thus put in high hopes, Margaret appointed Reginald Bray, her servant and a very trusty man, as the head of that conspiracy, with the instructions that as secretly as he could he should bring over to their party some nobles possessed of intelligence, loyalty, and diligence, so that they could help it along. Within a few days Reginald, having extracted an oath from each beforehand, had recruited Sir Giles Daubney, Richard Gilford, Thomas Romney, John Cheyney, and a number of others. Likewise the queen made her friends party to her counsel and to the affair. And meanwhile Margaret took into her household Christopher Urswick, a well-tried, upright, and most dutiful priest, and, having obtained his oath, she revealed all her counsels to him. She was sure she could do so safely because Christopher had always been a follower of Henry VI, and had come to her recommended by Lewis the physician. Therefore the mother, eager for her son’s safety and glory, entrusted Christopher with the task of going over to Britanny to Henry and informing him of all that had been done with the queen. But before he could begin his journey, behold, suddenly she learned that the Duke of Buckingham had formed the same plan as she had, as I have shown above. Finding this out, she changed her mind and kept Christopher with her, and sent Christopher Conway to Britanny to her son Henry, bringing a large sum of money, and instructed him to divulge everything and urge him to return. In particular, he should advise Henry to come to Wales, where he would find ready help. After him, Richard Gilford sent Thomas Romney from Kent, carrying the same message. They were brought there quickly, and at just about the same time came to Henry, whom I have already said to be existing at liberty in the court of the Duke of Brittany after Edward’s death. Henry received the message and gave his thanks to God, thinking that that which he wholeheartedly desired could not have come to pass without God’s will. And therefore, being wonderfully overjoyed, he had a discussion with the duke, telling him he had gained the sure hope of gaining rule over England, and therefore asked that this be done with his help and good will, and that he would repay his thanks when he could. The duke, although a little earlier Richard had solicited him with his entreaties and money, through his representative Thomas Hutton, whom I have said above to have been sent as his ambassador, to place Henry in custody once more, nonetheless promised his help, and gave it most cheerfully. Then Henry sent Hugh Conway and Thomas Romney over to England before him to announce his coming, so his supporters could make the rest of the arrangements necessary to speed the conspiracy, for he wished to remain where he was until his preparations had been made for sailing. Meanwhile in England the leaders of the conspiracy undertook many things. Some held strategic places defended by armed men, others secretly solicited the common folk to make disturbances, and yet others were ready and waiting elsewhere, so that, as soon as they were aware of Henry’s arrival, they might begin a war, and some men (whose leader was Bishop John Morton of Ely) used secret messengers to invite others to join their new conspiracy, whom they knew for sure to share their hatred of Richard.
12. Amidst these developments, this conspiracy of nobles was revealed to Richard, who was disturbed by a double evil, that he did not have a standing army, nor, should he wage a sudden war, did he have a sufficiently clear idea where he should confront Henry, or whether he should stay or go, and so he decided to dissimulate the affair a little while until he had assembled an army and until all his adversaries’ counsels had been sounded, understood, and brought to light by popular rumors and the diligence of his spies, or until by some trick he might take some member of the conspiracy, since there are no more secret traps than those which lie concealed in the concealment of understanding, or in some show of kindness. And since he was aware that the Duke of Buckingham was the conspiracy’s head, he thought this was the first that needed to be cut off, by stealth or by violence. Therefore in a very kindly letter he summoned the duke to himself, and instructed the messenger who bore it to tell the duke to make many promises on his behalf and in some good way to urge him to return to the palace. Pleading indigestion, the duke replied to the messenger that he could not come at present. Richard refused to accept his excuse, and summoned him once more, this time threateningly. Then the duke frankly refused to go to his enemy, and at the same time prepared for war, persuading the partners in his counsel that they should make some commotion elsewhere as soon as they could. So at almost the same moment Marquis of Dorset came out of asylum in Yorkshire, rescued from all his danger by Thomas Rowell, while in Devonshire Edward Courtney and his brother Bishop Peter of Exeter incited a peasant uprising, Richard Gilford and some nobles did the same in Kent. Meanwhile Richard, having collected a huge number of armed men, lest he dissipate his strength by pursuing individual conspirators, decided to ignore the rest and direct his arms against the head, which is to say, the duke. Leaving London, he marched in the direction of Salisbury, so he might turn aside and go against the duke if he ever learned where he was encamped. And now he had gone scarce two days from the city when the duke came against him. He was leading a great force of Welshmen, but they were reluctant and not inclined to fight on his behalf, since this hard man had recruited more by his command than by money, and this was the reason why they deserted him. For while on the march he was suddenly forsaken by the larger part of his soldiers, and obliged to flee. And in the course of his flight, terrified by this sudden alteration in his fortunes, and undecided what counsel to take, he hid himself in the home of a certain member of his household named Humphrey Bannister. He had known the man from boyhood and so was sure he was quite loyal, and entrusted himself to his protection, planning on staying with him until he had decided whether to rebuild his army or to go to Britanny and join Henry. When his allies who had joined in this war learned that the duke had been deserted by his men, had fled, and was nowhere to be found, then they were suddenly overcome by fear as each man took to his heels, despairing of his safety, seeking either asylum or deserted places, or trying to escape overseas. A goodly portion of these latter arrived in Britanny a few days later, safe and sound. These were Peter Courtney, Bishop of Exeter, Marquis Thomas of Dorset with his very young son, John Bourchier, John Wells, Edward Woodville, a stout fighting man and the brother of Queen Elizabeth, John Cheyney and his two brothers, William Barkley, William Brandon and his brother Thomas, nearly all of whom were knights. Likewise John Halwell, Edward Peningham, chief captain of the army, and Christopher Urswick. At the same time John Morton, Bishop of Ely, and a number of other nobles made their escape to Flanders.
13. But Richard, who had now come to Salisbury full of terrifying vigilance and speed, learning of the flight of the duke and the other conspirators, decided they needed to be pursued. First he sent soldiers to all the ports to occupy, close, and hold all the avenues of escape by sea, and to prevent the fugitives from crossing. Then, he promised rewards for whoever would reveal the duke: freedom for a serf, or impunity and 1,000£ for a freeborn man. Likewise, since he had long since learned from Thomas Hutton that Duke Francis was so far from agreeing to retain Henry in custody for his sake, that he was even ready to provide energetic support against himself, he likewise stationed certain heavily armed ships along the coast facing Britanny, so that, should Henry chance to appear, he might either be arrested or barred from the shore. Furthermore, so that there would be a wonderful number of guards everywhere, he placed some soldiers at strategic places to block all highways and byways, and sent out others in every direction to see if they could find and apprehend the duke or any of his confederates. While they were searching everywhere, Humphrey Bannister betrayed his guest the duke (it is uncertain whether he did so out of fear or induced by the reward) and immediately brought him to Richard at Salisbury. The duke was closely examined, and when asked what he knew, he answered without being put to the torture, in the hope that, if he frankly confessed, he would be given the opportunity of speaking with Richard, which he urgently requested. But after confessing his guilt he was promptly beheaded. This is the death suffered by the duke at the hands of King Richard, who he had aided against the grain of his conscience, as the saying goes, and with whom he had more truly shared the risk more than the power. From this we may learn that he who helps a criminal wastes his effort and enmeshes his life in great guilt, since he usually receives a bad turn in return, not a good one, and also because he always is justly punished by God in the end.
14. While these things were happening in England, Earl Henry of Richmond had readied an army of 5,000 Britons and outfitted a fleet of fifteen ships, and now the day of his departure had come. This was October 10 in the year of salvation 1484, the second year of Richard’s reign. He sailed with a favoring wind, but in the evening a storm came up and he was so afflicted that his ships were blown hither and thither by the savage force of the gale, and were obliged to change course. Some were driven back to Normandy, others to Britanny. The ship carrying Henry together with one other was storm-tossed throughout the night, and when the winds calmed early in the morning they arrived on the south shore of the island, at the port of Poole. From the ship Henry could see that the entire coast was occupied by soldiers, who, as I have said, had been stationed all over by Richard. So he he gave orders that no man should set foot on land until the other ships came together. And while he was waiting for them he sent a single skiff to find out whether those guarding the place were friends. The men who were sent were earnestly asked by the soldiers ashore to land as quickly as they could, calling out that they had been sent by the Duke of Buckingham to escort Henry to the camp, which he had nearby with his flourishing army, so that they could join forces and pursue the fleeing Richard. Henry suspected trickery (which it was), and after seeing none of his ships come into sight, hoisted sail and, enjoying a following a wind, went to Normandy, as if it were the gale itself which had protected him from danger. Here he paused three days on the coast to refresh himself and his men from their exertions, then he decided to return to Britanny with part of his company on foot, and meanwhile sent ambassadors to ask King Charles VIII of France (who had recently succeeded his father Louis) for leave to pass through Normandy. The king, taking pity on Henry’s misfortune, not only granted his permission, but also money for his travel expenses. But he, relying on the king’s kindness, had already sent his ships home and begun his journey. But he had only gone a little way when Charles’ ambassadors appeared, and he, gladdened by that kindness and full of good hope, returned to Britanny, thinking he must form another plan. When he came to Britanny he learned from his friends that the Duke of Buckingham had been beheaded in England, and that a little earlier the Marquis of Dorset and a goodly number of English noblemen had come looking for him, and were now at Vannes. Hearing this, he was very grieved that the first attempt of his noble friends had failed, and yet on the other hand he was happy to have so many distinguished captains as his allies and his position thus fortified. And so, in the sure belief that his affairs were in good order, he decided he must employ speed. So going to Rennes he immediately sent some of his followers to guide the marquis and the other nobles to himself. Learning that, after his lengthy wandering, Henry had come back to Britanny safe and sound, they were overjoyed (for they did not know where in the world he was, and feared he had fallen into Richard’s clutches) and immediately came flying to him. Here, after many mutual congratulations, after they had spent several days planning their strategy, they assembled in church on Christmas Day, confirmed everything else on their oath, and Henry vowed that as soon as he had gained the kingdom he would marry King Edward’s daughter Elizabeth. Then they swore their homage to Henry, just as if he had already been crowned king, promising they would sacrifice their lives, let alone their fortunes, rather than allow, suffer, and permit Richard to reign over them. This done, Henry discussed everything with Duke Francis, asking over and over that he agree to help him with larger forces so that he could promptly return to his longed-for nation, and especially to loan him money, for what he had obtained from his friends had already been spent on the costs of his previous attempt at waging war. What the duke gave, he would faithfully repay, and he undertook someday to requite, with all zeal, care, effort, and generosity, the duke’s singular generosity towards himself. The due promised his support, and Henry, relying on this, once again applied himself to assembling a navy, and prepared to sail, so that no chance would be lost because of his unreadiness.
15. Meanwhile Richard had returned to London and commanded the execution of certain participants in the conspiracy who had been arrested in various places. these included George Brown, Roger Clifford, Thomas Selenger, knights, and likewise Thomas Romney, Robert Clifford, and other members of that same family. Afterwards he convened a parliament, in which by decree of parliament all exiles were pronounced to be enemies of their country, then their goods were confiscated. Not content with that windfall, although it was a handsome one, he lastly imposed a heavy tax on the people. For to clear his name and gain popularity he had distributed so much largesse that he was beginning to be impoverished. And Thomas Stanley came very close to being included in the roster of traitors, because of the operations of his wife Margaret, Earl Henry’s mother, who was commonly said to be the conspiracy’s head. But since a woman’s enthusiasm was deemed to be a matter of no importance, the parliament decided and decreed that Thomas, who proved himself free of guilt, should keep her in custody in his household, stripped of all her servants, and that she should henceforth send no messenger to her son or to her friends, so she could contrive nothing against the king. And this was done. Likewise by parliamentary authority peace was concluded with the Scots, who had made inroads around the borders. These measures thus taken, it appeared that every conspiracy was now extinguished, with the duke put to death and the other confederates partly killed, and partly in distant exile. But the fear of a return by Earl Henry and his associates still vexed, tortured, and tormented Richard, more fretful than confident for his affairs, making his life miserable. So that he might no longer suffer this trouble, he decided to eliminate the source of all anxiety and trouble, and to do so by deceit rather than force. Therefore, after adopting this counsel, he thought nothing more timely and important than to solicit the Duke of Britanny once more with money, entreaties, and rewards, since it was in the duke’s power to free him of all danger. And so he immediately sent hand-picked messengers to the duke, who would, in addition to the great gifts they brought with them, promise that Richard would give him all the annual income from the estates of Henry and the other English nobles who were staying with him, if he would henceforth keep them in custody. The messengers, departing with these instructions, could not negotiate this matter with the duke, because his health had been undermined by a protracted and serious disease and his mind had begun to fail. Wherefore his Treasurer Peter Landois, a man of great sagacity and authority, was managing all things according to his own will, and so had inspired the great dislike of the Breton nobility. The English ambassadors met with this man, explained their instructions, and urgently requested that he, who could do everything as he pleased, would be willing to satisfy Richard’s long-standing desire. Peter, who was highly unpopular with his subjects, thought that he would be strengthened against his adversaries if he were to satisfy Richard, replied that he would do as Richard asked as long as he did not break his oath, and he did so for the sake of his domestic hostilities. For he had no hatred of Henry, whom, as I have shown in my previous book, he had previously rescued from danger at St. Malo. Thus we always sin for a reason. But the good luck of the English nation prevented this fatal agreement from being put into practice. For while many messengers letters flew back and forth between Peter and the king to arrange this business, John Bishop of Ely, who was living in Flanders, learned of this scheme from his kinsmen in England. And he immediately reported this treacherous agreement to Henry by means of Christopher Urswick, who had come to him from Britanny during those very days, and advised him and the other nobles to move from Britanny to France. Henry was at Vennes when he learned of the trick, and without delay sent Christopher to King Charles, requesting safe passage into France. Obtaining this with ease, the ambassador quickly returned to his prince.
16. Then Earl Henry, thinking he must tend to his affairs quickly, revealed his plan to a few of his followers, and sent all the English nobles ahead by routes that had been previously tested, pretending that he was sending them for some private reason to the duke, who at the time was staying near the French border for the sake of relaxation. And he secretly advised the Earl of Pembroke, the head of this delegation, that when they came to the Breton borderland, he should suddenly turn aside and make straight for France. Without wasting a minute they did as they were instructed, and on their journey they sought Anjou. Two days later he himself left Vennes, accompanied by only five servants, pretending to visit a friend who had a manor in the vicinity. Since a great multitude of Englishmen were left in the city, his departure caused no suspicion. But when he had gone about five miles, he turned off the highway into a nearby forest, dressed as a retainer, and followed one of the servants who was acting as guide on this journey. He traveled with such speed, following no definite route, never stopping save to rest the horses until he had come into the ter,ritory of Anjou and rejoined his followers. Four days after the earl’s escape Peter was intending to lead picked forces under trusty captains, chosen to accomplish the business upon which he had decided, under the pretence he was giving them to Henry to accompany him on his return to his homeland. But in truth they were to take Henry and the other English noblemen unawares and suddenly cast them in chains, so that by this deed he could satisfy Richard in exchanged for the promised tribute. But when Peter the Treasurer, a man not lacking in shrewdness, learned that Henry had decamped, he sent horsemen to pursue him, and, if they could overtake him, to arrest him and fetch him back. The horsemen employed such speed that nothing came closer than that they did overtake him. For the earl had reached the French border scarcely an hour before their arrival. When the English remaining at Vennes, who were about three hundred in number, learned of Henry’s flight, about which they had been unaware, they were overcome with such fear that now they despaired for their safety. But it turned out otherwise than they feared. For the duke took it hard that the earl had received such unkind treatment that he had been obliged to flee his realm, and so was highly irate against Peter, upon whom he placed the blame, even if he himself was entirely unaware of the scheme. He summoned Edward Poinings and Edward Woodville, gave them money for the journey, and commanded them to lead all the Englishmen to the earl. Thus Henry, having recovered his entire following, was wonderfully happy. And, lest he be considered an ingrate, he sent back some followers to the duke to tell him on his own behalf that he and his associates, rescued by his kindness, for the present were thankful, and sometime in the future would repay him. A few days later he himself paid a visit to King Charles, who was at a town on the Loire called Angiers. After thanking him for his kindnesses, he first explained the reason for his arrival, and then asked for help so that, by his undying support he might return to his nobility, by whom he wa being universally called to the throne because of their hatred of Richard’s tyranny. Charles promised his help and bid him be of good cheer because he would gladly extend his good will to him. Immediately thereafter he left for Montarge, taking with him Henry and all his retinue of nobles. While Henry was staying here, there came to him Earl of John of Oxford, whom I have said above to have been imprisoned by Edward in the Castle of Hamme, together with James Blount, the governor of the place and Sir John Fortescue, the Gentleman Porter of Calais, suborned by Oxford. Since he had left his wife in the castle, James the governor had strengthened it with a new garrison before taking his departure. Henry, meeting the earl, was overcome by great happiness that this man of great nobility and skill in warfare, a man of upright faith and a zealous adherent, had by God’s will been freed and come to his aid at such an opportune time. He could trust in him more safely than anybody else, and be of an easy mind. For it did not escape him that the others who had belonged to Edward’s party had come over to him because of the evil condition of the times, but he thought this man, who had so often fought for Henry VI, had been freed from custody by divine intervention, so he could have a man of his faction, to whom he could entrust all things. Therefore, overjoyed by Oxford’s arrival, he began to have better hopes for his cause. Not much later Charles left for Paris, and Henry followed along to pursue his business, asking Charles once more to take him under his protection so that he and his followers might be safe, and for this might be in his debt. Meanwhile many Englishmen who either came flocking from England, or were studying the goodly arts at Paris, became partners in his friendship and fortune, swearing their loyalty. Among these was the priest Richard Fox, a man of great intellect and learning, whom Henry immediately took on as his private secretary and soon elevated to the highest honors. He is now the Bishop of Winchester.
17. Meanwhile Richard, learning about the compact made by the partners to this conspiracy in Britanny, and how they had all made their escape to France by Henry’s leadership, although he was greatly downcast that his trick had failed to work, nevertheless decided on another approach, so that Henry could not aspire to the throne by a marriage. And since, in comparison with the previous crimes by which he had gained the throne in his blind greed for power, all that he would do henceforth seemed to him to be of small importance, since he who would lift an ox must learn to carry a calf, as the proverb has it, things now entered his mind which in word and in deed were the most foul in human memory. For since he considered what a mass of evil would be impending, were Henry to be enhanced by marriage to his niece, and since he had heard rumor that there were no few people trying to forward Henry’s affairs, he decided he needed to reconcile Queen Elizabeth to himself by all possible means, so that she would entrust herself and her daughters to his care. Thus Henry would be cheated out of the affinity of his niece, and, if there were no other remedy for these pressing evils, and if it should come about that his wife Anne were to depart this life, then he himself could wed his niece, rather than endanger his rule by that affinity, as if it were necessary for the realm to collapse, should he himself take a fall. Therefore he frequently sent messengers to the queen in asylum to excuse his action in her eyes, and by promising both her son the Marquis Thomas and herself the moon, they gave the woman great hope. Although these messengers, who were grave men, at first wounded her mind by refreshing the memory of her slain sons, and her sorrow seemed beyond consolation, they nonetheless assaulted her with so many arguments and promises that they had small difficulty in mollifying her (for thus her sex is a changeable animal), so that the woman did not close her ears to them, and finally said she would place herself in the kings trust. And not much later, forgetful of the wrongs she had suffered, heedless of her pledge to Henry’s mother Margaret, she first put her daughters in Richard’s power, and then by means of secret messengers she advised her son the marquis, who was at Paris, to desert Henry and return to England as soon as he could, since he was being called to great honors by the king. Having appeased Queen Elizabeth, Richard received all his brothers’ daughters into the palace after they had quit the asylum. It only remained to make his household free for a marriage, which he thought he by all means needed to make. But his mind shrank from so great a crime, for he had already played the part of a good man, as I have described above, and therefore was afraid that by his wife’s premature death he might offend against the good public opinion he imagined himself to possess. And yet the evil counsel prevailed in a character already averse from righteousness. He abstained from the marriage bed, and at the same time complained to many noblemen about his wife’s unfortunate condition, because she was barren. This he particularly deplored to Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York, because he was a grave and upright man, whom a little earlier he had released from custody (who got the idea from this that his wife would not long survive), and said the same to certain of his friends. Then he arranged for an anonymous rumor to circulate about the death of his wife the queen, that the woman might either pine away and fall into a sickness when she heard this rumor, or to test whether the people would blame him for this, should it afterwards occur. When the queen heard that the horrible rumor of her death was widespread among the people, she thought she was ruined and sadly went to her husband and asked if there were any reason he should want to kill her. So as not so seem steely-hearted by giving his wife no sign of affection, the king replied by sweetly kissing and consoling her, telling her she should be of good cheer. But, whether done in by sorrow or by poison, the queen died a few days later, and was buried at Westminster. This was Anne, the second daughter of Earl Richard of Warwick, who had once been betrothed to Henry VI’s son Edward. Thus free of the bonds of his marriage, the king now began to cast his eyes on his niece Elizabeth and desire her hand in marriage. But since all men abhorred that crime, and the girl herself refused, he decided that he had to proceed slowly, especially since he was being pressed by concerns on all sides because some nobles were daily going over to Henry, and others were secretly favoring him. Among these in particular were Thomas Stanley, his brother William, William Talbot, and many others, and even though Richard was unaware of their dispositions, yet he trusted none of them, but much less so Thomas Stanley, married to Henry’s mother, as the facts themselves revealed. For during those days, when he wished to retire to his estates for the sake of relaxation, as he gave out, but in truth so he would be at hand to give Henry a friendly reception on his revival, Richard forbade this, nor did not allow him to depart before he had left his son Lord George Strange at court as a hostage.
18. While Richard was obsessed with dread of some future upheaval amidst such a disturbance and alteration of affairs, behold, he heard that it had erupted, when he learned that the Castle of Hamme stood for Henry thanks to the effort of the Earl of Oxford, who had flown to Henry together with James Blount, the governor of the place. Thinking this needed to be nipped in the bud, he immediately sent a goodly part of the garrison at Calais to retake the castle. Those within, seeing their adversaries approach, quickly armed themselves for a defence, and straightway sent messengers to Earl Henry asking for assistance. Without delay Henry commanded the Earl of Oxford to take some choice soldiers and go to the aid of his followers. On his first arrival, pitching camp not far from the castle, while he held the attention of the enemy in one quarter, Thomas Brandon and thirty stout men made their way into the castle by passing through an adjacent march. Then those within, receiving these new reinforcements, pressed the enemy harder than usual from the walls, while Oxford attacked them no less vigorously from the rear. So it came about that their enemies freely allowed the defenders to depart with all their goods. Oxford did not refuse this condition, for he had come to free his friends from danger, particularly the wife of James the governor. Abandoning the castle, he and all his people returned to Henry at Paris safe and sound. Richard learned from his spies that Henry, living among the French, was becoming weary of wasting his time constantly begging for aid and obtaining nothing, and that nothing was going well for him, but that all his well-laid plans were coming to naught. Believing this to be the truth, just as if he were the victor in a war and freed from all fear, he imagined he had no reason to maintain his vigilance when he was safe, and so recalled his ships from their stations and also all his soldiers whom he had previously disposed to ward off his enemies. But, lest he be caught off his guard, he instructed his nobles who dwelt along the coast, and especially his Welsh ones, to take turns keeping watch, so that his adversaries might have no safe place to land on the shore. For, particularly in wartime, those who live on the coast hang lanterns atop poles on the nearby hills, and when something important happens because of the enemies’ arrival they quickly light the lamps, and raise a hubbub to rouse the countryside. Then others take this up, and in the same way give the signal to their neighbors, and thus the news is carried through all towns and cities, and the peasants and burghers take arms against the enemy. Richard, thus somewhat relieved, began to be of an easier mind, so he did not employ diligence and avert the oven hanging over his head. For such is the power of divine justice, that a man fails to be observant, to take provisions, to be on his guard when he is close to paying the price for his wrongdoings.
19. At the time when Earl Henry was staying in France for the sake of soliciting aid, many of the French nobility, who were Regents because of King Charles’ youth, disagreed among themselves. The principal instigator of this quarrel was Duke Louis of Orléans, who was married to Charles’ sister Joan and was striving to obtain first place in the government of the commonwealth. So it came about that supreme power was not conferred on any single man, and Earl Henry, who day and night let slip no opportunity to speed his return to his homeland, was compelled to dance attendance on them all individually. And so the business was dragging along, when Marquis Thomas of Dorset, whom I said above was being summoned home by his mother, partly for this reason, partly because he despaired of Henry’s success, and partly because he had been corrupted by Richard’s promises, left Paris furtively by night, and hastened to Flanders. As soon as the earl and the other English nobles found this out, they were deeply disturbed and requested Charles’ permission to retrieve this man from wherever he was, because he was party to their plans. This they were readily granted, and they began to scour all the highways. But Humphrey Cheney was best at scenting the trail of this runaway, and followed the marquis straight to the town of Compiègne, and was so successful at persuading him that a little he return to his comrades. Earl Henry, free of that trouble, lest he lose opportunities by hesitating and frittering away his days, and so the wait would do no more to torment the minds of his friends who were waiting upon him, decided he could not delay, but rather that great speed had to be used. Therefore he obtained a small escort of soldiers and borrowed money both from him and from his private friends, with whom he left the marquis as a guarantor (or rather as a hostage) together with John Bourchier, and went to Rouen. While he stayed there and outfitted a fleet in the mouth of the Seine, the rumor came to his ears that King Richard’s wife had died, and that he had decided to marry Elizabeth, the daughter of his brother Edward, and to marry off Cecily, Edward’s other daughter, to some unworthy no-account. This was a matter of no small importance, for it cut off all hope of achieving their plan from his followers, and it began to gnaw Henry greatly, since for this reason he saw he could not hope to marry any of Edward’s daughters, and so he saw he must fear lest his friends desert him. Therefore this matter was brought to the attention of only a few of them, and they elected to attach more importance to this than to their departure, so they might attempt to attract more help. And it struck them as advantageous to draw Walter Herbert, a man of long-standing power among the Welsh, into their association by means of an affinity, for at home he had a sister of marriageable age. To procure this, messengers were sent to Earl Henry of Northumbria, married to another of Walter’s sisters, asking him to manage this business. But the highways were so blocked that nobody was able reach him. Better news came from John Morgan, a lawyer, who at the same time indicated that Richard Thomas, a very useful man and a vigorous one, and John Savage were great supporters of Henry, and that Reginald Bray had scraped together no mean sum of money for the payment of soldiers, and so he advised Henry to come to Wales as soon as he could.
20. Then Henry, thinking that speed was of the essence so that his friends would no longer hang suspended between hope and fear, after he prayed to God for success and prosperity, sailed from the mouth of the Seine on August 1 with only 2,000 soldiers and a few ships. And, enjoying a gentle southerly breeze and clear weather, on the seventh day he reached Wales after sunset, being borne into the port of Milford. Landing immediately, he first occupied a place called Dalley, where he had heard some companies of his adversaries had been stationed during the previous winter, to keep him away. Departing from there at first light, he went to Haverford, a town less then ten miles from Dalley, and was received with great enthusiasm, and he did this so quickly that he was present in the flesh as soon as he was said to be coming. Here he discovered that, contrary to what he had been informed in Normandy, Richard Thomas and John Savage were energetically supporting Richard with their resources and those of their friends. But the inhabitants of Pembroke cheered everyone’s troubled minds. For, by means of their spokesman Arnold Butler, a brave fellow, they begged forgiveness for their former offences and said they were ready to support their Earl Jasper. With his army thus increased, Henry left Haverford and marched five miles towards Cardigan. While his solders were refreshing themselves there, it is said said that an anonymous rumor spread through his camp that Walter Herbert and those encamped at Caermarden were not far away, together with a great army. This started a commotion as each man began to don his armor and brandish his weapons. At the same time a passing fear overcame them all, unitl the horsemen sent ahead by Henry as scouts reported that everything was tranquil (as was the case), and no danger threatened their route of march. But Gryfyn, a man of high degree, did the most to cheer them. Although he had previously sided with Walter Herbert and Richard, at about this same time he defected to Henry with his small band of soldiers. On the selfsame day John Morgan came to Henry. Henry continued his progress, making almost no delays, and to travel all the faster he attacked some places garrisoned by his adversaries and took them with next to no trouble. Afterwards, when his scouts saw that Herbert and Richard were up in arms and standing in his path, he decided to march against him, either defeating him or bringing them over to his side, and then hasten on against King Richard. To inform his friends of all these things, he sent his most faithful supporters to his mother Margaret, to the Stanleys, and to Talbot and others, bearing his instructions. And this was their gist, that he, relying on his friends’ help, had decided to cross the Severn and make his way through Shropshire towards London, and so he asked them to meet him, and at opportune times and places he would divulge more of his plans to them. His messengers departed, bearing these instructions, and he was hastening towards Shrewsbury, when on his journey he encountered Richard Thomas with a goodly number of soldiers. He received Thomas’ homage and took him into his service. Two days earlier he had promised to make Thomas his Lord Lieutenant of Wales, if he would do so, which after gaining the throne he generously granted. Meanwhile the messengers he had sent did as they were instructed, and, laden down with the money contributed by the individuals to whom they had been sent, they returned to Henry on the very day he came to Shrewsbury, and indicated that his friends were ready to do their duty at the proper time. Henry was put in good hopes by this news, and he hastened along along his way, arriving at a village its inhabitants call Newport. Encamping on a nearby hill, he spent the night there. In the evening Gilbert Talbot joined him with more than 500 soldiers. Then he continued to Stafford, and while staying there William Stanley made his appearance, accompanied by a few men, and after a brief conversation he returned to the soldiers he had collected. Then Henry turned aside and sought Litchfield, where he passed a night outside its walls. Early on the morning of the following day he entered the city, and was honorably received. On the third day before Thomas Stanley had come to that place accompanied by a little less than 5,000 armed men. Learning of Henry’s arrival, he went ahead to the village of Adderstone, to wait there until Henry came up. He did this in order to avoid suspicion, for he feared that, if he openly sided with Henry, Richard, who so far did not completely distrust him, would kill his son George, whom I have already shown to be held hostage by the king.
21. Meanwhile Richard, who was at Nottingham at this time, learned that Henry and the other exiles who followed him had come to Wales, and that his unprepared and weak forces were opposed to his own very well prepared ones, whom he had stationed to guard that province. This rumor so raised his confidence that at first he did not think it warranted great attention, for he fancied that Henry, having proceeded rashly because of the small number of his men, was destined to have a bad end when he would either be compelled to fight against his will or be taken alive by Walter Herbert and Richard Thomas, who governed Wales with near-equal authority. But after reflecting that in war a small thing sometimes produces a great result, and that it was the better part of prudence not to scorn his enemy’s forces, no matter how slender, he thought he should quickly take provision for future exigencies. Therefore he commanded Earl Henry of Northumbria and other friendly nobles, whom he hoped would place more importance on his safety than on their personal fortunes, to conduct an immediate levy and to hasten to him with their equipped soldiers. Likewise by frequent messengers and letters he instructed Robert Brackenbury, the Governor of the Tower of London, to come to him as soon as possible, bringing with him Thomas Bourchier, Walter Hungerford, and several other knights as if they would be participating in the war, for he held them in suspicion. Amidst these things he heard that Henry had reached Shrewsbury, suffering no inconvenience. Troubled by this news, Richard began to burn with chagrin, rail at the crime of those who had broken their oaths, and at the same time to trust the others less confidently. The result was that he decided to confront his adversaries as soon as possible, and suddenly sent forth scouts to espy what route his enemies were taking. They performed their duty with diligence, and reported that Henry was encamped at Litchfield. Learning this, since by now a huge number of armed men had collected, he marshaled his solders and immediately ordered them to march in square formation along the same highway he had learned his enemies to be using, with their baggage in the center. He followed along with his bodyguard, and horsemen ranged on either side. Thus disposed in their ranks, they reached Leicestershire by sunset, while meanwhile Henry moved from Litchfield and went to the nearby village of Tamworth, met along the way by Walter Hungerford, Thomas Bourchier, and a number of others who entered into his service. For they, perceiving themselves to be suspect to Richard, so as they would not be conveyed to their enemy against their will, abandoned their leader Robert Brackenbury a little beyond Stony Stratford, and, traveling by night, made their way to Henry. Other nobles also came flocking to him, who day by day had come to hate Richard wor4se than all men.
22. A memorable thing befell Henry while making this journey. For although he was in high spirits and his forces increasing wherever he went, he was nevertheless in no small anxiety because he could assure himself of nothing concerning Thomas Stanley, who, as I have shown, was remaining neutral because he feared the harm Richard might do to his son. And, contrary to what his friends were telling him, he was informed that nothing was stronger than Richard’s forces, nothing more ready. And so, since his fear was not groundless, he halted on his march, accompanied only by twenty armed men, so as to deliberate what to do. Then too, he had heard Richard was approaching with a countless army. While he gloomily followed at a distance, all this army arrived at Tamworth, and when night fell he lost sight of its tracks. After he had wandered about a long while and could not find it, he fearfully came to a certain hamlet more than three miles from his camp. So not to fall into a trap, he did not dare ask the way of anybody, and he spent his night there, not so afraid of his present danger as of that yet to come. For he feared this was an omen of some future disaster. His army was no less distraught over the sudden absence of its commander, and then on the next day, as the sky grew light, Henry returned to the army, offering the excuse that this had happened on purpose rather than by his mistake, for he had been outside the camp to receive some welcome news from certain secret friends. Then he secretly went to Adderstone where the brothers Thomas and William Stanley were encamped. Here Henry met with Thomas and William, and they shook hands and congratulated each other upon their mutual stature, and all their minds were eased. Then they discussed how to wage war against Richard, if it came to blows, since they had heard he was not far away. In the evening John Savage, Brian Sanford, Simon Digby, and other defectors from Richard came to Henry with a choice band of soldiers. This both reinforced Henry and filled him with great good hope.
23. Meanwhile Richard, hearing his enemy was approaching, was the first to come to the place of battle, the village of Bosworth, a little beyond Leicester. There he pitched camp, and that night he refreshed his men from their exertions, making a lengthy speech to encourage them for the coming battle. They say that during this night Richard had a fearful dream. For he dreamt he was surrounded by evil demons, who did not let him rest. And this division did not assault his heart with sudden panic so much as it filled him with anxious cares. For immediately thereafter, sick at mind, from this apparition he foresaw the evil outcome of the battle, and he did not prepare himself for the fight with his usual eager expression. But so that it would not be said that he was displaying this melancholy because he feared the enemy, in the morning he related his dream to many men. But I believe this to have been no dream, but rather his conscience, burdened by his many crimes; his conscience, I say, which was all the heavier because his sin was the greater. Although our concience may not trouble us at other times, on our dying day is it wont to make us recollect the sins we have committed, and show us our destined punishments, so that we may deservedly repent of our ill-spent existence and be compelled to depart this life in sadness. Now back to my narrative. On the following day Richard, very prepared in all respects, led all his army out of camp and set up a battle-line of astonishing length, composed of both foot and horse, so that it might terrify those who saw it from afar by its multitude of armed men. He stationed his archers in front, like a wall, and placed Duke John of Norfolk over them. After this lengthy line came the king himself with a choice company of soldiers. Meanwhile Henry left this conference with his friends and began to be more uplifted. Without delay he encamped near his enemies and spent the night there. Early into he morning he ordered his soldiers to arm themselves, and at the same time sent to Thomas Stanley, who was now approaching, midway between the two armies, asking that he would come with his forces and place his soldiers in battle order. Stanley replied that he would bring his forces into the battle after making his appearance with his army in battle array. This response was not what Henry had expected, and was contrary to what the opportunity and importance of the thing demanded. So Henry was filled with no little anxiety and began to ponder, although, obliged by necessity, he was no slower in ordering his soldiers. He established a simple battle-line because of the paucity of his men, stationing his bowmen before the line under the command of Earl John of Oxford. On his right wing he placed Gilbert Talbot to defend it, and John Savage on the left. He himself, relying on the help of Thomas Stanley, followed along with one squadron of horse and a handful of foot. For the number of all his soldiers was barely 5,000, not counting those belonging to Stanley, of whom about 3,000 were present at the battle under William’s leadership. The royal forces were at least twice as large.
24. And so, when both battle-lines had been drawn up and the soldiers caught sight of each other from afar, they put on their helmets and prepared for the fight, awaiting the signal for battle with cocked ears. Between the armies was a marsh which Henry purposely kept on his left, so it would serve to protect his men. When the king saw the enemy pass by the marsh, he commanded his men to attack. They raised a sudden shout and first attacked the enemy with arrows. They, in turn, did nothing to slow the fight, but began to shoot their own arrows. When they drew close to each other, they henceforth did their work with the sword. Meanwhile the Earl of Oxford, fearing lest his men be outflanked in the fight, passed an order through the ranks that no man was to stray more than ten feet from the standards. Receiving this command, all his men crowded together and retired a little from the fight. The adversaries, frightened by this and suspecting trickery, broke off the fight themselves for a little while. Nor did they begrudge doing so, for they preferred to see their king dead rather than safe, and so fought with less enthusiasm. Then Oxford, directing all his companies at one place, renewed his attack on the enemy, and in another quarter others formed a wedge and, pressing forward together, renewed the fight. While the first lines were thus engaged, Richard was first informed by his scouts that Henry was at a distance, defended by a small bodyguard. Then, as he drew closer, he identified Henry more definitely because of his standards. Enraged, he spurred forward his horse and attacked him from the flank, riding outside the battle-line. Henry perceived Richard coming against him, and, since all his hope was in his arms, he eagerly entered the fray. At their first collision, when some men had been killed and Henry’s standard had been overthrown together with his standard-bearer William Brandon, Richard encountered John Cheyney, a very brave man who threw himself in the way, and with great force unhorsed him, cutting his way wherever he went. After Henry had withstood this attack longer than even his own soldiers expected, for they had almost despaired of victory, behold, William Stanley came to their aid with his 3,000 men. Then indeed in a trice, the rest of his men took to their heels, and Richard was killed, fighting in the thick of the fray. Meanwhile after a brief encounter Oxford quickly routed the others fighting in the forefront, of whom a goodly number were killed in their flight. But many more not unwillingly abstained fighting because they had followed Richard out of fear rather than of their own free will. These left the field having suffered no harm, since they were not seeking the salvation, but rather the downfall of their hated sovereign. About a thousand men were killed, including, out of the nobility, Duke John of Norfolk, Lord Walter Ferris, Robert Brackenbury, Richard Ratcliffe, and many others. Two days later the lawyer William Catesby was executed at Leicester, together with a number of others. And of the refugees, Lord Francis Lovell, Humphrey Stafford and his brother Thomas, and many of their companions fled to the asylum of St. John, which is at Colchester, a town on the Essex coast. The number of those taken captive was great, since as soon as Richard was killed everybody cast away their weapons and voluntarily submitted to Henry’s power, which the majority would have done at the very beginning, if Richard’s spies, flying hither and thither, would have let them. Among these were the noblemen Earl Henry of Northumbria and Earl Thomas of Surrey, of whom the latter was placed and custody, where he stayed for a long time, whereas the former, being a willing friend, was taken into Henry’s good graces. In that fight Henry scarcely lost a hundred soldiers, among whom the single nobleman was William Brandon, who had carried Henry’s battle-standard. The battle was fought on August 22 of the year of human salvation 1485, and lasted a little more than two hours.
25. The story goes that Richard could have rescued himself by flight. For those around him, seeing that from the beginning of the battle that their soldiers were fighting slowly and sluggishly, and that others were furtively slinking away from the battlefield, suspected fraud and urged him to flee. And then, when the battle had clearly turned against him, they brought him a swift horse. But he was not unaware that the people loathed him and abandoned all hope of future success, and is said to have replied that on that day he would make an end either of fighting or of his life, such was the man’s ferocity and spirit. Because he knew for sure that on that day he would either pacify his realm or lose it forever, he went into battle wearing the crown, so as to make either a beginning or an end of his reign in that battle. And so the wretch quickly suffered that same end that it wont to befall those who equate right, law, and honor with their own will, impiety, and rascality. These are indeed examples which can deter those who keep no hour free of crime, cruelty, and felony, more vividly than can any words. Having gained his victory, Henry immediately thanked God Almighty with many prayers for the victory he had gained, then, overcome by incredible happiness, he climbed a nearby hill, where, after he had praised his soldiers and ordered the wounded to be tended to, and the dead to be buried, gave his undying thanks to all his nobles and promised he would remember their support. Meanwhile with a great shout his soldiers acclaimed as him as king, and cheered him most willingly. Seeing this, Thomas Stanley promptly placed on his head Richard’s crown, which had been discovered amidst the spoils, just as if he had been hailed as king in the traditional way in accordance with popular will. This was the first harbinger of his blessedness. After this, Henry took up all his baggage and reached Leicester in the evening, with his victorious army. There he remained for two days, to refresh his soldiers after their effort and prepare for his march on London. Meanwhile Richard’s naked body was slung over a horse, its head, arms and legs dangling, and was brought to the Franciscan monastery at Leicester, a sorry spectacle but a sight worthy of the man’s life, and there it was given burial two days later, without any funeral ceremony. He reigned two years, two months, and one day. He was slight of stature, misshapen of body, with one shoulder higher than the other, and had a pinched and truculent face which seemed to smack of deceit and guile. While he was plunged in thought, he would constantly chew his lower lip, as if the savage nature in that miniature body was raging against itself. Likewise with his right hand he was constantly pulling the dagger he always wore halfway in and out. He had a sharp, clever, wily wit, fit for pretence and dissimulation. His spirit was lively and fierce, and did not fail him even in death. For when abandoned by his own men, he preferred to take up the steel than to save his life by shameful flight, unsure whether he might soon lose it by disease or by suffering his comeuppance.
Go to Book XXVI