Archive for July, 2010

Richard, duke of York

Caroline’s suggestions

Young Edward IV

Older Edward IV


Margaret of Anjou (thanks to Elizabeth and Caroline)

“Hey oop, our John,” t’earl o’ Warwick sez. “Av theee subjugated t’north yet?”

“Lancastrian barmpots keep takin t’castles! Ahm reeight mithered!” John sez. “Thee could cum ‘n doa wee eur ‘an!”

John wor reeight jiggered. ‘E’d bin busy subjugatin t’north for months ‘n ‘e wor missin ‘is wife ‘n bairns summat terrible. Warwick felt soz for ‘im, bur ‘e wor alsoa reeight chuffed o’ ‘is younga beeam.

“Orl reeight,” ‘e sez, “Ahl cum wi theur an’ ‘elp.”

T’twoa Neville brothers, chuffed ‘n warli’, rode thru t’Yorkshire countryside, bowin regally ta orl whoa cem fra thea ‘ouses to greet ’em as thee passed. Warwick wondered wheear ‘is owd lova meight be ‘iding; if shi wor thinkin o’ ‘im as ‘e thowt o’ ‘a. ‘E closed ‘is een ‘n picutred ‘a as shi wor when ‘e’d last seen ‘a, ‘a fieree red ‘air catching int’ gleam o’ t’torchlight, ‘a een, darkly smouldering, full o’ t’memories o’ love. Ahl fin’ thee agin, ‘e thowt. Ther’s nowt a’ can gi’o’a t’force ‘n powa o’ wee love.

Bur shi wasn’t i’ enny o’ t’castles, so Warwick reduced ’em ta rubble ‘n went back ta London.

“Thars done well, wee beeam,” ‘e sez ta John. “Naw orl thee as ta doa is win t’battle o’ ‘Exham ‘n thee can av eur rest.”

T’battle o’ Exham, John thowt reeight wearily. Ah ‘ate war bur ah suppose ahl just av to doa it! Ah meight even fin’ ‘a’ dingy who’s bin makin ee a’ uz wife ‘n execute ‘im. It’ll mek uz feel bad bur ah guess ah won’t ave eur choice.

Now John wor eur fine sahdia despi’ t’fact a ‘e ‘ated war, ‘ated killin, so ‘e made sure e’ wor sharp abaht it ‘n i’ neya tahm ‘e’d won t’battle o’ ‘Exham. ‘E ‘ad umpteen o’ prisoners waitin ta av thea ‘eads chopped off ‘n ‘e needed to mek sur t’Duke o’ Somerset wor among ’em. ‘E walked up ‘n daahn t’line o’ defeyted Lancastrians thinkin ‘a’ thee wor nobbut pathetic scum when ‘e saw ‘im  – t’bloke ‘a’ wor i’ love wi’ ‘is beautiful wife Isobel. ‘E grabbed ‘im by t’throa’ ‘n threw ‘im teur t’ground’.

“Ah lern thee ta lust afta uz wife!” ‘he sez.

“Pardon?” t’Duke o’ Somerset sez, so John kicked ‘im int’knackers.

“I know something about your brother,” t’Duke said, groanin.

“Thee norrz nowt!”

“My father told me, before he was… murdered!”

“Thy fatheur wor eur coward ‘n clegged it away fra eur feight!” John sneered. “‘E wor killed ‘idin i’ eur pub!”

“What?” the Duke of Somerset frowned.

John ‘auled ‘im ta ‘is feet ‘n dragged ‘im ta eur nearby bap. “Od ‘im daahn,” ‘e sez ta twoa nearby sahdiers.

“No please, please!” Somerset begged piteously. “I can tell you a secret! You won’t know it if you kill me. Please spare my life!”

“What’s ‘e on abaar? Ah can’t understan’ eur wut ‘e sayin,” sez John, but t’sahdiers shrugged.

Someone grabbed an axe ‘n raised it aboon t’Duke’s neck.

“The father of the queen’s son is…. Urk!”

T’axe cem daahn ‘n Somerset stopped callin mid sentence.

“Wha’ wor ‘e calling abaht?” t’executioner sez.

“Ah av neya ideeur,” John sez. “Bloody barmpot!”

That’s t’north subjugated, ‘e thowt, reeight chuffed wi’ ‘imsel. Naw ah can nip on ‘ooam

Translation help supplied by whoohoo!

Dear Mediaeval Penthouse,

I’ve never written to you before but a recent adventure with my husband has made me think you’ll find this letter interesting.

He was in the army and was working a long way from home and I missed him very much. He wrote me lots of letters telling me how much he missed me and I was getting very, you know, itchy. You know what I mean. So I decided to surprise him.

A band of travelling sexy dancers came to our town and I thought this was the perfect opportunity. The women were really beautiful and sexy and I secretly envied them because they’d – you know – gone to bed with more than just their husbands. I asked them to teach me how to act like a complete… woman of easy virtue so that I could surprise my husband. Anyway, they showed me some tricks, some sexy moves and I thought, “He’s going to get quite a surprise!”

I was real nervous when we showed up at his camp and I went to his tent with the travelling sexy dancers and we put on quite a show. The tent was full of very excited men and they kept grabbing the other girls and dragging them outside. (I don’t think the girls minded) and I was very lucky that, despite the fact that I’m stunningly beautiful and very sexy, none of them grabbed hold of me! I was real nervous, like I said, but my husband just couldn’t keep his eyes off me. Then I winked at him and showed him my secret birthmark so he’d know who I was and he got really angry and called me a harlot and told me that he was going to divorce me for being a loose woman in an army camp.

I ran away as fast as I could because I was really frightened. I persuaded the travelling sexy dancers man to take me back home and I hid in a closet for three days. When my husband came home he was still really angry and he locked me up in a tower and I’m still there, hoping that one day he’ll forgive me, or at the very least bring me some dinner. He hasn’t yet.

Sexy Siren from Seaton Delaval

I was the kind of guy who cracked dames like her across the jaw when they got too fresh. She was the kind of dame who worked her way under a man’s skin until he thought he’d go crazy with the itching. My kind of dame. Hair a shade of blonde that she didn’t get from nature, eyes like stars burning themselves out, a figure that’d send a good man blind and legs that just didn’t know when to quit. See, I was an earl and she was queen and it was never going to work out between us. She was way too good for me and she knew it. We’d had a thing there for a while and she was real wild, scratch a man’s eyes out she would, then kiss him like she was kissing the face of God. Mouth like a sailor, lips like an angel.

I sauntered on down to Paul’s Cross to hear what my brother had to say about things. He had a way with words, was the brains of the family. I couldn’t string two words together, not then, not now. So George is talking to the crowd, stirring them up, getting them to come round to our way of thinking. They were looking at him like he was God’s representative in this filthy hellhole of a city, which I guess he was, seeing as how he was an Archbishop and all. Good looking man, my brother. Dames just melted when he talked, which a real shame seeing as how he’d turned himself over to God and kept himself all pure and holy. When he spoke, they listened. They always did. See, he had this thing, this way with words like I said, like he could see down into their souls and what he saw there wasn’t pretty.

“We made a big mistake a few decades back,” he said. “You know, when we let Henry IV be king. That was a seriously bad move and a lot of things have gone wrong since then. But, it’s not too late to make things right. See, the Duke of York… stop me if I’m going too fast. Or if you’ve heard all this before. Have you?” They looked at him like they didn’t know what day it was but they’d believe him if he said it was Judgement Day. “All right. See the Duke of York should have been king, not Henry VI. But he’s dead now, so…” He looked at them as if he expected something from them. Could have told him he was wasting his time. “So… the person who should be king, is his s… his so…”

“His son!” a bright spark from the crowd piped up.

“Got it in one!” George said.

I was impressed, though I wouldn’t like to admit it. He had them right where he wanted them and I could get on with the next part of the plan without having to worry about what was going on here in Sin City.

Towton. Now there’s a name should strike fear into a man’s heart. Bleached white death zone of snow and ice. Not a place to take a vacation. But I wasn’t here for fun. I was here because there was a job to be done and there was only one man could do it. He was tall, hair the colour of cornstalks, eyes that undressed a woman almost as quick as his hands. Ned, my cousin and right hand man. He was another one never had to deal with a shortage of dames.

He sauntered over to me, kicking up the snow with his size thirteen boots. Men ducked out of his way when he came. Maybe they were afraid he’d trample on them. But they’d lay down their lives for him and die with a smile on their faces. Nothing but lowlife bootlickers anyway, there were plenty more were they came from.

“We ready?” he said.

Well, I was never ready, never ready for this kind of business. But sometimes a man just has to set aside his doubts, especially when there was a job to be done and we had one hell of a job on our hands. I nodded and waited for him to talk.

“Will you talk to this rabble of cannon fodder,” he said, trying to sound casual. “Or you want me to do it?”

“You got ’em wrapped round your little finger, Ned,” I said. “You go right ahead and talk.”

He got ready to give the speech of his life and I sauntered over to a tree and leaned against it, cleaning my nails with my knife. I’d heard it all before. There wasn’t going to be anything new. We’d been up against it from the start. They say sometimes its hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, but I knew which side I was on. I might not look much like it, but I was on the side of the angels. The crowd fell silent, gawping up at Ned as if he was God Almighty himself. He cleared his throat and looked at them all as if he loved each and everyone of them. Quite a trick, if you could pull it off.

“Men,” he said.

I kind of drifted away at that point. My mind just kept coming back to her. She was trash, I knew that, even though she was a queen. She had the morals of a cat and the eyes to match. Too many good men were dead because of her, and my Dad was one of them. I should have hated her, but there was something about her that kept me coming back for more. A man could get lost in a dame like that.

There was going to be a fight. A big one. If I walked away from this alive, I was going to hunt her down, get my hands around her neck and just squeeze. This one’s for you, sweetheart, I said to myself, and I raised a phantom chalice to her memory. This one is all for you.

Then it seemed like all hell had blown up in our faces. I’d never seen so much blood, so many mangled bodies. Now I may have thrown in my lot with the angels, but I’m no angel myself. I’d stab a man in the back for his shoes if my feet were cold. And the snow was getting into my boots like the sound of a dame’s voice gets into a man’s soul. I don’t know how many men I killed that day, lets just say it was more than a few. They ran like dogs and we hunted them down, sent them to hell quicker than they could let them in. It was a dirty day’s work but I consoled myself with the thought that I was on expenses.

I found Ned knee deep in bodies a stupid grin on his handsome face.

“That went well,” he said.

“Not bad,” I said. “Now all we got to do is figure out our next move.”

“Now I get to be king! The dames won’t be able to resist.”

“But what about the work?” I said. “Takes a lot of work to be king.”

“Work?” Ned’s handsome face crinkled into a frown, like bells were ringing in his head and he didn’t like the tune. “No, I don’t want to do that.”

“Ok, you just amuse yourself while I do the work. How does that sound?” It wasn’t difficult in this business to grow a little cynical. I’d been around enough kings to know just what was going on. Most of them were just in for the fancy clothes and the dames. Well, the last one, maybe he was different, but it was too late now.

“Bargain!” Ned said, turning his his million watt smile up to eleven.

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

UPDATE 2-1-15

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.

“My lord is dead,” the woman crooned, her silver-gilt hair spilling over her shoulders, glinting in the moonlight. “Foully slain by the fiend. My foe, my nemesis the Earl of Warwick.”

Her face twisted when she spoke his name rendering her extraordinary fecund beauty less. Beside her stood her mother, wizened crone, ancient magic-user, honer and wielder of lovecraft. This how she got her own man, his heart and soul stolen while he rowed her back to England from France where here husband, an old man, older even than she is now and she is an ancient raddled crone, had died. Some say her sorcerousesses hand was in that, but when they asked she just smiled mysteriously and let them jump to their own conclusion.

“Then you shall a better,” she croaked. “Come rising moon! Come depth of sea!”

Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, stealer of men’s hearts and binder of souls, like her husband a poor knight who dared to marry a dowager duchess, though she was only fifteen at the time and dowager makes her sound a lot older, and was laughed at and, truth be told, still suffered from the taunts and mockeries of others, like the young Earl of March who had mocked him most cruelly in Calais, stood at the centre of the circle of power her daughter had traced in the dirt beneath the sacred oak. She raised her boney claw like arms in supplication to the gibbous moon.

“Goddess, grant us your favour.”

Elizabeth shivered, her mother’s raw power frightening her. It was a power she was heir to and one day she’d know it. One day she’d use it to defeat those who stood against her. Like maybe by raising a mist to confuse them in a battle like has been suggested by at least one popular author recently but she probably just doesn’t get it, I mean, there’s people been writing this stuff for a long time, and researching and thinking and she thinks she can come in as if no-one’s thought of it before and Hey! I know, I’ll write about the Wars of the Roses except I’ll call them something different so that people will think I know more than anyone else who’s been writing about them for years, I can pretend I’m the first who’s ever thought of it! and write about witches raising mists to confuse their enemies in battle which is what Elizabeth Grey, newly widowed widow and witch thought maybe she’d do one day.

“See,” her mother crooned. “See, he comes. On feet light with love. His youth shines. He brings you his heart. Do you not see?”

He was there, behind her eyes, taller than any man should be. A young and handsome knight, puissant and beautiful. Elizabeth gasped. Could she dare to aim so high?

“He will be yours, daughter,” Jacquetta whispered. “But you will need to bare your soul before the goddess. Whatever she asks you must promise to give.”

“I shall,” the young witch said, her voice trembling with fear at what they did. “Whatever she asks me, I shall give her. Even if it be my mighty and mysteriously tall and handsome lover’s first born son and his little brother, both of whom will be entirely innocent and darling, I’m sure. He shall be mine.”

And she fancied she caught on the wind the echo of a tinkling laugh.

Previously, I’ve migrated what I hope are interesting posts from the Feast to Facebook. This time, I’m doing it the other way around.

More from The Last of the Barons.

First Warwick:

This princely personage, in the full vigour of his age, possessed all the attributes that endear the noble to the commons. His valour in the field was accompanied with a generosity rare in the captains of the time. He valued himself on sharing the perils and the hardships of his meanest soldier. His haughtiness to the great was not incompatible with frank affability to the lowly. His wealth was enormous, but it was equalled by his magnificence, and rendered popular by his lavish hospitality. No less than thirty thousand persons are said to have feasted daily at the open tables with which he allured to his countless castles the strong hands and grateful hearts of a martial and unsettled population. More haughty than ambitious, he was feared because he avenged all affront; and yet not envied, because he seemed above all favour.

And later:

The earl was in the lusty vigour of his age. His hair, of the deepest black, was worn short, as if in disdain of the effeminate fashions of the day; and fretted bare from the temples by the constant and early friction of his helmet, gave to a forehead naturally lofty yet more majestic appearance of expanse and height. His complexion, though dark and sunburned, glowed with rich health. The beard was closely shaven, and left in all its remarkable beauty the contour of the oval face and strong jaw,–strong as if clasped in iron. The features were marked and aquiline, as was common to those of Norman blood. The form spare, but of prodigious width and depth of chest, the more apparent from the fashion of the short surcoat, which was thrown back, and left in broad expanse a placard, not of holiday velvet and satins, but of steel polished as a mirror, and inlaid with gold. And now as, concluding his task, the earl rose and motioned Marmaduke to a stool by his side, his great stature, which, from the length of his limbs, was not so observable when he sat, actually startled his guest. Tall as Marmaduke was himself, the earl towered [The faded portrait of Richard Nevile, Earl of Warwick, in the Rous Roll, preserved at the Herald’s College, does justice, at least, to the height and majesty of his stature. The portrait of Edward IV. is the only one in that long series which at all rivals the stately proportions of the King-maker.] above him,–with his high, majestic, smooth, unwrinkled forehead,–like some Paladin of the rhyme of poet or romancer; and, perhaps, not only in this masculine advantage, but in the rare and harmonious combination of colossal strength with graceful lightness, a more splendid union of all the outward qualities we are inclined to give to the heroes of old never dazzled the eye or impressed the fancy. But even this effect of mere person was subordinate to that which this eminent nobleman created–upon his inferiors, at least–by a manner so void of all arrogance, yet of all condescension, so simple, open, cordial, and hero-like, that Marmaduke Nevile, peculiarly alive to external impressions, and subdued and fascinated by the earl’s first word, and that word was “Welcome!” dropped on his knee, and kissing the hand extended to him, said, “Noble kinsman, in thy service and for thy sake let me live and die!” Had the young man been prepared by the subtlest master of courtcraft for this interview, so important to his fortunes, he could not have advanced a hundredth part so far with the great earl as he did by that sudden, frank burst of genuine emotion; for Warwick was extremely sensitive to the admiration he excited,–vain or proud of it, it matters not which; grateful as a child for love, and inexorable as a woman for slight or insult: in rude ages, one sex has often the qualities of the other.

Then Montagu:

The Lord Montagu bore a very different character from his puissant brother. Though so skilful a captain that he had never been known to lose a battle, his fame as a warrior was, strange to say, below that of the great earl, whose prodigious strength had accomplished those personal feats that dazzled the populace, and revived the legendary renown of the earlier Norman knighthood. The caution and wariness, indeed, which Montagu displayed in battle probably caused his success as a general, and the injustice done to him (at least by the vulgar) as a soldier. Rarely had Lord Montagu, though his courage was indisputable, been known to mix personally in the affray. Like the captains of modern times, he contented himself with directing the manoeuvres of his men, and hence preserved that inestimable advantage of coolness and calculation, which was not always characteristic of the eager hardihood of his brother. The character of Montagu differed yet more from that of the earl in peace than in war. He was supposed to excel in all those supple arts of the courtier which Warwick neglected or despised; and if the last was on great occasions the adviser, the other in ordinary life was the companion of his sovereign. Warwick owed his popularity to his own large, open, daring, and lavish nature. The subtler Montagu sought to win, by care and pains, what the other obtained without an effort. He attended the various holiday meetings of the citizens, where Warwick was rarely seen. He was smooth-spoken and courteous to his equals, and generally affable, though with constraint, to his inferiors. He was a close observer, and not without that genius for intrigue, which in rude ages passes for the talent of a statesman. And yet in that thorough knowledge of the habits and tastes of the great mass, which gives wisdom to a ruler, he was far inferior to the earl. In common with his brother, he was gifted with the majesty of mien which imposes on the eye; and his port and countenance were such as became the prodigal expense of velvet, minever, gold, and jewels, by which the gorgeous magnates of the day communicated to their appearance the arrogant splendour of their power.

And not till Book IV Chapter V… The Archbishop:

The archbishop had very little of the energy of Montagu or the impetuosity of Warwick, but he had far more of what we now call mind, as distinct from talent, than either; that is, he had not their capacities for action, but he had a judgment and sagacity that made him considered a wise and sound adviser: this he owed principally to the churchman’s love of ease, and to his freedom from the wear and tear of the passions which gnawed the great minister and the aspiring courtier; his natural intellect was also fostered by much learning. George Nevile had been reared, by an Italian ecclesiastic, in all the subtle diplomacy of the Church; and his ambition, despising lay objects (though he consented to hold the office of chancellor), was concentrated in that kingdom over kings which had animated the august dominators of religious Rome. Though, as we have said, still in that age when the affections are usually vivid, [He was consecrated Bishop of Exeter at the age of twenty; at twenty-six he became Archbishop of York, and was under thirty at the time referred to in the text.] George Nevile loved no human creature,–not even his brothers; not even King Edward, who, with all his vices, possessed so eminently the secret that wins men’s hearts. His early and entire absorption in the great religious community, which stood apart from the laymen in order to control them, alienated him from his kind; and his superior instruction only served to feed him with a calm and icy contempt for all that prejudice, as he termed it, held dear and precious. He despised the knight’s wayward honour, the burgher’s crafty honesty. For him no such thing as principle existed; and conscience itself lay dead in the folds of a fancied exemption from all responsibility to the dull herd, that were but as wool and meat to the churchman shepherd. But withal, if somewhat pedantic, he had in his manner a suavity and elegance and polish which suited well his high station, and gave persuasion to his counsels. In all externals he was as little like a priest as the high-born prelates of that day usually were. In dress he rivalled the fopperies of the Plantagenet brothers; in the chase he was more ardent than Warwick had been in his earlier youth; and a dry sarcastic humour, sometimes elevated into wit, gave liveliness to his sagacious converse.

I don’t know about you, but I’m breathless!

(This is my favourite chapter heading:

Margaret, Queen of Anjou and England, was feeling quite seriously triumphant. She sat her son down on a little chair in her tent on the edge of the battlefield of St Albans, which was a street really, and had a long and serious talk with him.

“You know you’re going to be king some day, Edouard,” she said, her voice very serious. “Well zere are some zings a king as to do zat e may find… distasteful. And after we win zis battle, you are going to ave to do some of zem.”

Prince Edward looked at his mother, trying to figure out what an earth she was talking about. “Yeah, like?”

“Like maybe zere will be some bad men oo need zeir eads chopping off,” the queen intoned. “And you will ave to make ze decision. Your… fazer always finds zat difficult, but ee is a weak and saintly king. You will not be, you will be strong and ruzless. So when ze time comes for ze eads to be chopped off, I want you to enjoy it.”

“Sure,” Edward said with a shrug. “Whatever.”

And now, Margaret thought, her mind glinting like a piece of polished steel caught in moonlight. Eet ees time to come face to face wiz my lover. Only one of us can triumph ere and if I ave anyzing to say about it, it will be me!

Edward IV, Earl of March, sat on a fallen log he’d very carefully brushed the snow off of in Wales and looked up into the sky. Things weren’t going well. Quite apart from the news from Wakefield, which had seriously bummed him out, he was cold and miserable. He’d much rather be indoors in the warm, preferably surrounded by women of easy virtue who could keep him warm and amused at the same time. He liked being warm and he very much liked being amused. With a heavy sigh he heaved himself up and went into his tent. He’d think about it all tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep.

St Albans, scene of his youthful glory, was set out in front of him, its streets leading to other streets and over there was the sign of the Castle pub where he’d once had some very good beer and killed the Duke of Somerset. Happy days! The Earl of Warwick knew the queen was on her way and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it. His heart trembled at the though of her at the same time as it hardened itself against her and he knew he’d have to beat her even though secretly he just wanted to hold her in his arms and whisper her name over and over. Margaret. Margaret. Margaret, Margaret. Margaret. Like that.

He’d surrounded the town with wicked spikey defences, all except one bit where he didn’t think the queen would come. Just my luck, he thought ruefully, she’ll choose that way!

Yesterday he’d got a letter from her that he still treasured because it was from her, but he didn’t believe a word of it. Come to me my darling, it read, and we will togezer rule Angleterre. You and me, zere will be nozing we can’t do. But it was too late. He thought of his father’s lifeless eyes and blamed her for it and that meant he couldn’t just put it all behind him like she wrote in her letter and move on. He crumpled the letter in his hand like his hopes were crumpled and swore that he would win this battle just to show her!

“I will win this battle!” he swore softly. “And then you will see!”

John Neville lay in his tent on his back his arms behind his head and his head on his arms his eyes closed and his mind casting back to the last time he was with his beautiful wife Isobel who he adored and whose ground he worshipped that she walked on.  It was difficult being away from her but if he and his big brother, Warwick who he also adored but in a totally different way could win this battle, he might be home before dark. That was something pleasant to think about instead of all this killing which he hated despite the fact that he was seriously good at it. I’ll just have to kill them quickly, he thought, get it over with.

“Shit!” the Earl of Warwick ejaculated when he worked out the next day that the queen, his lover and nemesis, was coming just exactly the way into St Albans that he feared she would but thought maybe she wouldn’t. “This is not good!”

“Bugger!” John Nevill said when he realised that he was about to be captured for the second time in two years, which, things being how they were, was pushing the odds a bit if he wanted his head not to be chopped of, which it wasn’t, luckily. “This is definitely not good!”

The king was singing softly to himself, trying to get the nice men who were with him to join in, but they didn’t know the words. It had been a lovely afternoon, sitting under a tree, watching the flowers grow and the birds sing. He liked birds.

“Looks like we’ve lost this one,” Lord Bonville said. “We’ve been doing a lot of that lately.”

“Never mind,” the king sang harmoniously. “Everything will be all right.”

In his mother’s the queen’s tent at the edge of the battlefield, Prince Edward was practising ordering people’s heads to be chopped off. He was getting good at it and couldn’t wait to do it for real. His mother was watching him proudly and thinking to herself. Hah! she thought. Your fazer, your real fazer, would be proud to see you now, non? I cannot wait to see ees face when ee meets the monster I ave created! Ha ha ha! When her thoughts were interrupted by someone at the door.

“Your majesty,” bowing deeply the soldier at the door said. “Got a surprise for you. Someone here to see you. I think you’ll like it.”

Ze Earl? she thought jumping to her feet and conclusions in excited expectation. Ee is ere?

But it wasn’t it was just the king.

“Oh,” she said. “Eet ees you.”

“They sky is exploding!” one of Edward Earl of Marches soldiers said panicking. “The sun is three suns now and we’re all going to die!”

“Calm down,” he said. “That’s God that is, you know the trinity. And it means someone else is going to die. Come on!”

So they went and the Tudors got their arses kicked but not enough of them because people are still going on about them now as if they were some kind of great heroes when really they were just overblown oiks who got lucky.

“Father?” Prince Edward said looking at the strangely shabby man with the aura of piousness who stood in the doorway.

“Go outside and play, Edouard,” Margaret said dismissively. “I ave to talk to your… fazer.”

“But there’s nothing to do!” the prince whined.

“Go and find some men oos eds need chopping off,” his mother dismissed him.

So he went outside and found some men whose heads needed chopping off and chopped them of. Unreal! he thought. This is the coolest thing ever!

“All right, men,” Edward IV of March said. “We’re off to Towton to meet the Earl of Warwick!”

They all cheered raggedly because they were tired and they adored him because he was tall and handsome.

Right, bitch! the Earl of Warwick thought savagely. Think you can beat me? Well, hang onto your hat and fasten your seatbelt, sister. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. The blood drips drop by dour drop from the axe wielded by the powerful and sinister headsman who has just with a hack! and a thwack! severed the dead head from the dead shoulders of the dead Duke of York.

Betrayed! Foully and deceitfully betrayed by one he should have been able to trust! On that cold winter’s day, by year’s end, Christmas over – lonely, howling, desolate Christmas. No family near except his son. And his brother-in-law. And his nephew. Lonely Duke of York, more lonely now that he is dead.

Dead! The word thuds, echoes and spirals like a dead leaf. The wolves howl and all the world grieves. No more will his eyes fall upon the face of the most beautiful woman in England, for she is widowed, weed-clad and worn, grieving gravely, mutely mourning. His children weep and his duchess holds her youngest son, Richard or Dickon, frail and angelic® and he breaks her heart when he smiles at her with his father’s eyes.

A bag drips with the blood, hangs from the saddle of a horse who’s animal innocence shields it from the horrors of its burden. Blackhearted Clifford chortles as he rides, his prize, his gift, his paeon, his song to his mistress oozing, dripping calamitous blood.

Squelch! Upon the table it is dropped and Queen Margaret throws back her head and cackles! “The others? Where are the heads of the others?”

“On their way to York. I though you’d like to deliver this one yourself.”

Feasting her eyes on the dead face of her implacable enemy. She plays with it, strokes the lank brown hair, tweaks its nose, dabbles her fingers in its blood. Dead now! The word is a hymn, a psalm, a bright sun shooting across the firmament of her hopes. She laughs and she dances. Capering, clapping her hands like a child at Christmas. Strings of strawberry blonde hair stick to her hollow cheeks like strands of molten straw. She pushes them back with a gory finger, her enemy’s blood burns her skin and she shivers. What now, my darling? she sings to herself, trills and rills echo inside the steel trap of her mind. You took from me and now I take from you. She picks up the head by its axe-chopped hair and stares into the cold dead eyes. What now, my lord of York? What can you do to hurt me now? She drops her fell burden once more onto the board and laughs as it rolls towards the edge.  The dark blood oozes, drips, falls, spatters onto her shoes and still she dances.

“What of Salisbury?”

“The son and the brother-in-law and the nephew – all are gone. And some others…”

She waves a hand dismissing his words as if she had shrugged. “Only them. Only them. And leave a space for my Lord of Warwick and the libidinous whelp of York.”

With a bow Clifford leaves. Leaves behind his gift. Margaret dances.

Trip. Trip. Trip. Trip. Trip. Trip. Trip. Go her satin clad feet and Slip. Slip. Slip. In the royal blood of the Duke of York.

Part of the Battleground series, Peter Burley, Michael Elliott & Harvey Watson’s The Battles of St Albans deals with two battles that have little in common except the town where they took place. Everything else had changed: the commanders, the balance of power, the size of the armies and the tactics and strategies used. This makes for a more interesting comparison than was perhaps first intended.

I’m not going to talk a great deal about the first section of the book, which deals with the first battle in 1455, because I think others have done a better job. Not that this is a bad one at all; and as I’ve said, discussing both battles in the same book is an excellent idea. There are one or two minor errors that were grating rather than concerning, such as describing lord Fauconberg as Salisbury’s half brother, but these were very minor. The focus is on the battle itself rather than, as in Armstrong, the hours of negotiation beforehand.

Both battles are accompanied by copious maps and pictures and the (very) potted biographies of the major players should help keep things straight for anyone new to the Wars.

The second part of the book looks fairly closely at the second battle. The air of panic and confusion caused by the Lancastrian army’s wild march south is evoked well and the impact this had on Warwick’s decision making is well established. I’ve held the view for some time that some of the criticism levelled at Warwick for his conduct of the battle is unwarranted. A great deal of it is entirely warranted and unanswerable, I think that needs to be said. But the fog of war was thick around St Albans at the time and the one report, from Dunstable, that, had it been acted on would possibly have changed the outcome, was lost in the confusion. That this point of view is, to some extent, reflected in this book is gratifying. Edward, earl of March’s, failure to move swiftly to support Warwick after his win at Mortimer’s Cross is also highlighted. Had Warwick’s assessment of the line of the Lancastrian march been correct, his defences would probably have worked and he’d be hailed now as a great innovator, not (in words that make me grit my teeth and are burned into my brain, and I can’t for the life of me recall where this quotelet comes from) “a notable failure as a general”.

The battle itself is dealt with in a few pages, but considering how much they had to get into one volume, and the amount of background information given, it was done well. It is made clear that the Nevill brothers (Warwick and Montagu) lost contact with each other at vital times, that Warwick didn’t move as quickly as he could (or perhaps should) have when it was clear his intelligence had failed him. Warwick couldn’t have known for certain what his brother’s fate was while he was making his “fighting retreat”, and given the deaths of his father and brother Thomas at/after Wakefield, he couldn’t have been very confident that he would see John alive again. He had lost the battle, lost control of the king and some of the glory that had surrounded him since he seized the initiative at St Albans 6 years earlier. It must have been a very dark time for him, with the very real prospect of the Lancastrian army taking London leaving the Yorkist cause in ruins.

Warwick lost control of the king after (or during) the battle and the book discusses a number of different theories as to how this occurred. The deaths of Bonville and Kyriel (and Prince Edward’s reported role) are reported dryly and dispassionately. It isn’t clear whether they returned the king voluntarily on promise of their lives, or whether Henry was located and restored by a member of queen Margaret’s army. It was, oddly enough, the loss of the king that freed up the Yorkists to seize the throne.

Edward’s possible motivations for delaying his rendezvous with Warwick are also discussed, as is the received opinion that Edward was by far the most successful general of the Wars:

“The fact is that March … was the most successful general of the Wars of the Roses, but his string of victories … tend to hide the fact that on several occasions he made serious strategic errors and underestimated the opposition he faced. February 1461 seems to have been one of those occasions. Too complacent after his victory at Mortimer’s Cross, March failed to appreciate the danger that faced Warwick and he was too cautious about the possible continued Lancastrian danger in the west. He wasted two vital weeks when he should have been marching to join Warwick’s army.” (p 86)

It’s difficult to dispute this, but it must be said that it is a point of view that benefits greatly from hindsight.

The Lancastrian success is largely attributed to Andrew Trollope, of the Calais garrison, who had deserted the Yorkists two years earlier at Ludlow. The difficult position that queen Margaret was in – very much in charge in private, but in public needing to defer to the duke of Somerset, who headed the army – is highlighted.

Some space is given to speculations on what might have transpired at the meeting between Warwick and March. Whatever did take place, it’s clear that Warwick’s enviable ability to assess the situation and adjust his thinking and actions to suit must have been at work. Far from continuing as a failed military commander, he swiftly turned the situation to his (and March’s) advantage and before the Lancastrians had time to draw breath, they were in London and March was being hailed king. George Nevill’s pivotal role in this – his stirring sermon at Paul’s Cross – is acknowledged.

“According to some accounts, the first thing that March asked was, ‘Where is the king?’ to which Warwick smoothly replied, ‘But you are the king'”. (p 91)

Even if this is apocryphal, I think it’s a good summing up of the way Warwick’s mind worked.

The book continues – briefly – to recount Margaret of Anjou’s difficulties in entering London, her retreat with the king to York, the meeting of Warwick and March, their warm welcome in the capital and the battle of Towton.

The last few pages of the book are devoted to a quick history of St Albans and a walking tour of the two battlegrounds.

I wish I could find a more thorough and detailed work on second St Albans, something along the lines of Boardman’s accounts of the first battle and Towton. If there is one out there somewhere, it has hidden itself from my view. Failing that, this book is a very useful addition to any WoR library.