There is some discussion about the correct dating of this letter in Maurer, Margaret of Anjou, as well as in Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker. The latter attributes the letter to 1459 and the former to 1454. While I’m aware that this might just be interpreted as sedition at the best, and the repudiation of one of my favourite historians at worst, I think Maurer’s probably right.
Maurer states: “[Margaret] may have felt that [Salisbury] could provide a moderating influence upon York. Salisbury’s loyalty had never been questioned; he had stood reliably with Henry at Dartford in 1452 when York had demanded Somerset’s arrest. And there is some reason to believe that he had formerly been on comfortable terms with Margaret. In happier times she had gone huting in his park of Ware, Salisbury’s letter to the prior of Erdesbury may reflect some memory of an easier relationship between them, though it also seems to acknowledge a sense, new perhaps, of her own power. It is noteworthy that it does not seek her intercession of intermediation with the king, but is concerned with making assurances of Salisbury’s own faithfulness to her.” (p 219)
The meat of the letter is contained in a mere 145 word towards the end: someone has accused the duke of York and the earls of Salisbury and Warwick of making accusations against others of high estate. While this may be a reference to the rumours of the bastardy of prince Edward, Maurer thinks the defence a bit light for such a serious charge. Whatever it is, Salisbury states that he is certainly not guilty, nor York and Warwick so far as he knows, which they will say for themselves if required.
[Addressed on the dorse: To the reverent father in god and my right especiall and tendre frende the priour of Erdebury]
Revernd father in god and my right especial and tendre frende I recomaunde me to yow, and in my right hertie and feithfull wise thanke yow of al your true and grete diligences and undelaied devoire that ye have many tymes put yow in at my special request and prayer to that that myght serve to theobteinyng of y right fervent desire to knowe and fele the good ladyship of the Quene oure soverein lady to me hir humble true servaunt, and in especial your grete labour in that bihalve sith my last speche with yow, as by your lettres brought me by the berer of thies. I conceive at large wherin among othre thing is contenede your desire and exhortacion me nat to varye from that I have promitted hertofore right largely by yow openned to hire said highnesse and that (yet) I see ye be nat dishonorede of your reportes in that bihalve, wherunto will ye wit that of eny promysse that I have made unto yow at eny tyme for my declaracion unto the said highnesse, and to have and stand in the favoure (favours) of hire good grae for the whiche oon of my moost earthly desires I pray yow as tendrely as I can to contynue therin your good will and devoir for my singular consolacon, I shal at all tymes kepe yow or eny other that labourfor me to that entent undishonored and nat to varie from my said promisse (promises) with godes mercie. And as toward the the blessed disposicon of the said good grace [et?] (yet) unto that that myght serve to rest and unitee comprised in hire gracioux lettres late directed to my lordes of the counseill whereof to my grete joy I have herd and god shal I doubt nat bie pleased therwith and prospre hire hie estate and the said lordes nat oonly, bot also al thoo whome the matiers (matiere) of the said blessed lettres touchen owe humbly and lowly to yeve laude and thanke to hire said highnesse therfore, as that I doo in my moost humble wise as soo on my bihalve as hire true servaunt with al myn hert and service, in that that mowe bee to hir hie pleasure I pray yow to declare me unto hire said grace. And where in your said lettres it is expressed that ye have herd language of accusacions of right hie estates to bie made by my lord of Yorke, my sone of Warrwice and me in matteres that have nat bee disclosed herebifore to their grete rebuke and etc, truely it is to my grete mervail by whate coloure reason or grounde eny such language by eny personne erthly myght bie uttred or saied, for as for myn own partie as I wol aunswere to our lord I nevere ymagined, thought ne (or) saied eny suche matter or any thing like therunto in my dayes. And in like wise I dare well say for my said lord and son as ferre as ever I herd or in eny wise knowe (knewe) unto their honire (this houre) as I doubt nat thai wol at al tymes right largely declaire for theim silf. And therfore therin or in eny othere, concernyng my trough I pray yow alway to aunswere largely for me. And if there bee thing that I may doo fo (to) your wele cretifieth em, and ye shal to the performing therof fynde me right hertly dispoed as our lord knoweth, which have yow ever in his blessed keping,
Writen at London the vij day of Marche.
Your good frende Richard Erl of Salisbury
Pollard (Warwick the Kingmaker, 205) suggests a different date again for this letter. Reading it within the context of unspecified accusations against the duke of York and requirements that both York and Warwick swear their loyalty to the King (but not Salisbury), and within the context of Margaret of Anjou’s growing influence and power, he suggests 1457 as a more likely date. His argument is sound and I now find I lean more towards his view than I previously had towards Maurer’s 1454 date. Pollard further convinces me that 1459 (as Hicks has it) is too late.