This one was so hard to cut! I worked extremely hard on it. It’s based on two documents: Norfolk’s speech condemning Somerset and minutes of a council meeting in (iirc) April or May 1454. If I do find a way to use it, I’ll be very pleased, but I just can’t see one in the new structure!
No-one cheered as the Nevills rode into London. The citizens were getting used to it, the long trains of liveried men ahorse and afoot, the lords on their mounts, their power and strength trailing behind them in visible display. The city bristled with soldiers, people tripped over them in taverns and in the streets, holding their breath and hoping that tempers would be kept. The merchants might grumble, but they didn’t begrudge the coin that poured into their hands.
At the Erber, Lord Fauconberg was waiting. More than most, he had reason to despise Somerset and distrust the king. Another victim, his brother Salisbury said, of military incompetence.
“I can attest to his failings,” Fauconberg said. “I’ve not been two years in France for the good of my health. How far is the Duke of York prepared to go?”
Warwick listened to the conversation between his elders, his father and uncle and Lord Grey of Ruthyn, who was the one who could tell them what might be on the Duke of York’s mind. Fitzhugh sat on Warwick’s right hand, and Scrope on Fitzhugh’s. Half the strength of the north country, gathered into one room.
“He makes no move to claim the throne,” Grey said. “He’s learned his lesson, I believe, and shoots for smaller game.”
“As regent?” Salisbury said.
“That they will not give him. Nor will they give it to the queen. Protector and defender are the only words they use.”
“I can’t give you my support unless I am assured he has no greater ambitions,” Fauconberg said.
“Despite your own complaints?” Salisbury said. “You’re owed a great deal, William. What promises have been made that you can believe?”
“Henry is my king. Appointed by God, and who am I to question the Almighty?”
“There was no talk of crowns and thrones,” Grey said, shaking his head. “And that makes my Lord Cromwell breathe a little easier. You can count on his support so long as nothing changes.”
“What are the chances that this is a trap?” Warwick said. “That they offer him authority with one hand while the other holds an axe?”
“They’re desperate,” Grey said. “Even those close to the queen see the need to call on York.”
“I’ve seen no sign of Northumberland. Does he ignore this summons too?”
“That’s not a quarrel that should be brought to the streets of London.”
“Nor will it be, if he stays away.”
Warwick was beginning to see real possibilities, for himself and for his father, the positions and authority their eminence deserved. Salisbury would look north towards the Marches as he always did. If the Percies kept themselves aloof from York’s government, there might be yet more to plunder. Warwick allowed himself to imagine the north of England under the control of his father and brothers, both Marches secure in Nevill hands. That left the south, London, Westminster, for Warwick. The pickings, he knew, would be ripe and plentiful.
When York came, Viscount Bourchier not far behind him, the set was near complete. They were crowded round the table; the small beginnings of the faction that would one day help rend England in two. All that was missing was the Duke of Norfolk.
“Damned man’s always running late,” York said.
He’d come with little ceremony, preferring not to draw too much attention to himself or to where he went. Salisbury clapped him on the back and, for all his youthful hubris, Warwick felt himself a little tongue tied to be in the presence of such greatness.
The house, which to him had always seemed grand enough, now felt small and shabby, the furnishings poor and unfit to be seen. York seemed neither to notice nor to care, but took his place at the table and accepted the cup of wine Salisbury offered.
“I intend to summon all who now serve the king,” he said. “I will not be seen to play favourites, nor to exclude any who might disagree with me.”
“They exclude themselves,” Salisbury said.
“Then that is their decision and I shall have to do my best to work with what I have.”
He looked at Warwick, as if he couldn’t quite place him, then at Fitzhugh and Scrope. Are these your men? he seemed to be asking. How have they been proven?
Warwick swallowed, but didn’t look away. His confidence, so loudly proclaimed to his brothers, seemed of a sudden misplaced. He wondered if he’d still be here, in such exalted company, if he was just plain Sir Richard whose hope of advancement would only come with the death of his father. York turned away and Warwick felt dismissed.
Norfolk came in, wrapped in furs, stamping life back into frozen feet. “It’s like an armed camp out there!”
“They managing to stay out of each other’s way?” York said.
“For the most part, but tempers are bound to flare sooner or later.” Norfolk sat down heavily in a chair, puffing hard. “My wife is afraid to venture out.”
“That ought to cut your deficit for the month,” Bourchier said, with that mixture of contempt and affection that only a brother could manage.
There was some laughter but Norfolk, it seemed, wasn’t in the mood.
Warwick went to the door and shouted for someone to bring something hot to help thaw out the frozen Duke. Here at least I have some authority, he thought grimly.
“We can’t come in demanding a return to law and order if it’s the only thing we can’t ourselves provide,” Norfolk said. “Unless this is at its heart a personal vendetta.”
“Is it for you, John?” York said.
“You know what this is about for me. I’d like to think I’m not the only one who cares.”
“I spent a lot of years defending our territories in France,” York said. “Four children were born at Rouen, and one lies there still. I wasn’t given the chance to finish the job. Exiled to Ireland so that he could succeed me. It hurts me, John, to see them lost – Normandy, Guyenne, Gascony. And the man who caused it is curled up at the feet of the queen. Do we let him destroy England as well? All of us are far from home, most away from wives and children. Unless you want to live in a country where Eleanor may never be free to venture out again…”
These words, and more, he’d been repeating since his precipitate return from Ireland. His calls for the king to rid himself of bad counsel had gone unheeded time and again. When he took his stand at Dartford, Warwick and his father had stood by the king and many it was who said that York would have lost his life, or at least his title and estates, had any but the Earl of Salisbury arbitrated between them.
“They’ll listen to you, John,” York went on. “Give them a bill, give them a speech to stir their hearts and make them turn their accusing eyes towards Windsor. Let us all have Christmas with those we love while Somerset spends his alone in the Tower.”
“I have spoken to them before on this matter,” Norfolk said. “With no satisfaction.”
“That was when he stood as Henry’s chief councillor. He no longer does.”
“I do this because I believe it to be just,” Norfolk said, reaching for pen and parchment. “Not for you, Richard, but for England. And the precedents are clear. If we can prove our case, his freedom is gone if not his head.”
The Star Chamber was overflowing with lords, both spiritual and temporal. Warwick supposed he ought to be overawed by the wealth, power and weight of ancestry that surrounded him, and if he was honest with himself he’d have to admit he was, at least a little. He looked at his father and the Duke of York, their heads together, talking quietly. Counting up their support, perhaps. Or at least speculating on the potentialities.
Few were firm adherents of the Duke, the Bourchiers (both spiritual and temporal) and Norfolk, should his interest survive the condemnation of the Duke of Somerset, if he made a decision and committed himself. Others were tied to the Nevill affinity, Greystoke, Scrope, Stanley, Fauconberg and Fitzhugh among them.
The small group loyal to the queen huddled together, like hunted animals, Warwick thought. And today there was but one item on the agenda, the fall of the Duke of Somerset.
Norfolk cleared his throat and got to his feet. They’d heard all of this before, but that was in a council that had Somerset at its head. His absence today might prove costly. They could see which way the wind blew and none of them were complete fools. This ought to be interesting, Warwick thought. The stability of his uncle’s position – and by extrapolation, theirs – depended on whether the men in this room could listen to this speech with fresh ears. He wished he could tell more from their faces.
“My lords,” Norfolk said. “You know well the great pains, labour and diligence that before this time I have done, to the intent that the over great dishonours and losses that have come to this noble realm of England, by false means by some persons that have taken on themselves over great authority, should be known.”
Warwick settled back in his seat. It was going to be a long speech and he might as well get comfortable.
“And that the persons living that have done them should be corrected over the merits of their deserts.” The Duke was getting into the swing, his voice rising and falling, his gaze fixed on one councillor, then the next. “And to that intent I have denounced and delivered to you in writing certain articles against the Duke of Somerset, who is one of them that is guilty.”
Viscount Beaumont, the queen’s chamberlain, met Norfolk’s stare and didn’t look away until the Duke moved on.
“Whereto the Duke of Somerset has answered; and to that he has answered I have replied in such wise that I believe to be true enough that there was nothing that could be said to the contrary. And all that he says is but falseness and lies, and by the proofs that shall be made thereupon it shall appear.”
York whispered something to Salisbury, who nodded. The speech was going well, apart from the shuffling feet of those few who’d oppose any move against the accused.
“Howbeit that to all people of good intention, knowing how justice ought to be ministered, it is full apparent that the denunciations made against him be sufficiently proved by deeds that have followed. Whereupon I have required to have overture of justice by you, which you have not yet granted me. I am so heavy that I may no longer bear it, specially since the matter I pursue is so worshipful for all the realm and for you, and so agreeable to God, and to all the subjects of this realm.”
He’d certainly been busy, the Duke of Norfolk, consulting lawyers, drawing up indictments, reading responses and drafting further documents of accusation and charge. If Somerset survives this, Warwick thought grimly, he has a more powerful ally than the queen on his side. Though he didn’t doubt that God and all his angels would throw the weight of their mercy and justice fully behind the Duke of York. He had the Nevills now, and God was yet to forsake them.
“And it is such that for my favour of lineage, nor for any other cause there should be no dissimulation, lest others in time coming take example from it, and lest that the full noble virtue of justice be extinct or quenched by the false opinions of some, that for the great bribes that the said Duke of Somerset has promised and given them, have turned their hearts from the way of truth and justice.”
The Beauforts had been in York’s sights since his days as governor of Normandy. Somerset’s father had competed with York for men, materiel and money. To York’s lasting bitterness, these struggles had been won by the elder Somerset, who returned to England after the fall of Castillon, a beaten man, and died shortly thereafter. His son was high in the king’s esteem and higher now in the queen’s, and it was his fall, York was convinced – Norfolk was convinced – that would bring England back to good governance.
“Some say that the cases by him committed be but cases of trespass, and others are persuaded to make a universal peace. But every man that is true to the said crown had greatly to marvel that any man would say that the loss of two so noble duchies as Normandy and Guyenne, that be well worth a great realm, coming by succession of fathers and mothers to the said crown, is but trespass.”
And that set the Duke of York’s mouth into a tight line. With the fall of France came great personal loss to him and his second son. With no French lands to inherit, the young Earl of Rutland faced an uncertain future. He was by no means the only younger son in England so affected.
“Whereas it has been seen in many realms and lordships that, for the loss of towns and castles without siege, the captains that have lost them have been dead and beheaded, and their goods lost, as in France one that lost Cherbourg.”
The Duke of Gloucester had died, the Duke of Suffolk had died, Somerset’s father had died, though of the three only one had lost his head, and that through the actions of men with no nobility and no honour. The king had been satisfied with Suffolk’s exile, though those who blamed him for England’s ill had not. Someone had to pay the price for the losses in France, and who better than the man that caused it? Somerset walked out of Cherbourg, walked away from Rouen. Handed both over to the French, his own neck safe and a hey nonny no!
“And also a knight that fled for dread of battle should be beheaded. All these things may be found in the laws written. Wherefore, to abridge my language, I require you that because the more part of the deeds of the Duke of Somerset were committed in the realm of France, that, by the laws of France, process be made. And that all things that I have delivered and shall deliver be seen and understood by people learned in the laws of this land.”
There was a rustle of expensive fabric as the audience shifted in their seats. Norfolk had left no road open to them but to approve the arrest of Somerset. Warwick began to understand why York set so much store by him.
“And for proof of this commissions of enquiry should be granted. This is by reason and of customs what ought to be done. I call on God and you all, my lords, to witness the work done by me in this said matter. And this bill I will have exemplified under the king’s great seal, so that the truth of my words can be known. By this my pains and my efforts and the lack of justice shall be known through this realm.”
Norfolk sat down to silence. Viscount Beaumont, stone faced, glared at him and at the Duke of York in turn. He alone might try and speak on Somerset’s behalf, though Warwick doubted he was quite fool enough for that. The mood in England was sour, the loss of France a bitter pill to swallow. Norfolk’s words would hit a popular nerve and his cry would be taken up far beyond the walls of the city.
The Duke of York crossed his arms and leaned back. He knew he would win the day.
When Somerset was taken to the Tower, all London turned out to watch him pass. He was not well loved. Any thought that he would spend his Christmas in solitude was dashed when he crammed every available room in the Tower with his supporters. If the mob would drag him into the street for summary execution, there’d be a tide of resistance to wade through.
There was a decided reluctance amongst the assembled lords to make a commitment, any kind of commitment, to the new regime. They were backing off so fast Salisbury was surprised they didn’t crack their heads on the wall. Muttering to each other, shifting in their seats, eyes looking anywhere but at York, they rehearsed their excuses.
“My lords,” he said, raising his hands to silence them. “You have been asked by the Duke of York, Lord Protector and Defender of England, to serve the king. There has not, in the months since Christmas, been great attendance and the Lord Protector would have that remedied and your presence on this council confirmed. You will remember his words to you, that he cannot govern alone, nor without a strong committed council behind him. You will each be asked but one question. What in this regard, my lords, is your intent? My lord of Norfolk?”
The Duke got slowly to his feet. “Lord Chancellor, I will of course do what I can to serve the king, the will of this council, the common wealth and the people of England.” He stopped and took a deep breath, stilling a suddenly trembling hand. “But I fear that I cannot do all that I, or you, might wish. I am often vexed by illness and this prevents me from committing myself as wholly as I would hope.”
There was a ripple of laughter. Viscount Beaumont in particular found Norfolk’s words amusing. Salisbury frowned and looked at the Duke of York, whose face was grim. How was the scourge of Somerset to plead illness and hope to get away with it? If Norfolk felt that he could walk away from responsibility, there was little hope that the others would do any different.
“But as your constitution allows, you will serve?” York said.
“As you say, as my constitution allows.” With a great show of effort, one hand on his chest, the other mopping at his brow, Norfolk sat down.
Buckingham was next on his feet. “I, of course, am more than willing to serve the Duke of York, the council and my king, but I cannot promise daily attendance. There are times when I am beset by such a sickness that it hardly allows me to ride. If this means that I am discharged…”
“I’d rather you with us than not, Humphrey,” York said sharply. “I’m sure we can work around your bouts of indisposition.”
“In the past,” Buckingham said, switching to plan B with a smoothness that was admirable, “members of this council haven’t always received the remuneration they are entitled to. My poor health works against my attendance and unrelieved poverty would make it impossible.”
“So long as I know my wages will be paid,” the Archbishop of York said, “I will serve as far as I am able.”
“I cannot, in all conscience, give continual attendance,” the Bishop of Winchester said, “but shall be here when it doesn’t conflict with other work and duties I may have. This is true of my brother bishops also, some who will attend at one time and some another. Perhaps we could formalise this notion.”
There was a general murmur of agreement from the other lords spiritual and Salisbury wondered what the penalty might be for striking a bishop.
“I shall be ruled as the lords would have me,” the Bishop of Worcester said.
“I might,” the Bishop of Norwich said, “beg leave to visit my diocese. There are many pressing matters that I must be given leave to attend to.”
“There are many times when I cannot attend,” said the Bishop of Lincoln. “Lent, Advent…”
“I will do what I can,” the Bishop of Chester said. “But my brother bishops have it right. There are many calls on our time.”
York glared at the whole bench and none of them seemed capable of meeting his eye. With a great exertion of patience, Salisbury turned his attention to the lay lords.
Warwick stood up and his father felt a flush of relief. Here was someone at last prepared, no eager, to take up the challenge in front of him. Though a council member of some years standing, he had attended few sessions, a busy life and more personal concerns leaning heavily on his time. There’d been some hesitation, some reluctance, but they’d talked it over at length – father and son, uncle and nephew.
“You’re not just here to provide the muscle,” Salisbury had said. “We need your voice.”
Salisbury was proud of all his children, none more than Warwick. He had the boundless energy and drive of his mother, obstacles for both of them nothing more than things to be knocked down. Trampled.
“I am young in years, my lords,” Warwick said, “and younger in discretion and wisdom. I am both unworthy and unable to counsel my king or England’s Protector.”
Salisbury stared at him. From the edge of his eye he noticed that York was doing the same. Warwick stayed on his feet, the ghost of a smile on his lips.
“Having said that, I will, of course, do all that is in my power to do,” he said. “Though it be little, I will do it with right good will.”
They’d been confirmed, father and son, in their position as joint wardens of the West March. Warwick was going to have to learn that with positions of authority and potential profit came responsibility. If York didn’t have the Nevills solidly behind him, he might as well pack up and head back to Fotheringhay. Words were going to pass between them before the day was out.
“Illness may curtail my attendance more than I would like, my lords,” the Earl of Oxford said and Salisbury wondered what epidemic it was that struck down only those called upon to serve the king.
“I will be ready,” said the Earl of Shrewsbury, “to do my part as other men do.”
And if other men do nothing, Salisbury thought, you will be in good company.
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, Treasurer of England, stood up and all others fell silent. An intelligent and cultured man, his opinions were respected and his words here today could well sway others. York had had his assurances of support, but as others had already shown, that might not mean a great deal in the end.
“It is necessary and expedient,” he said, “that any lords who take upon them this charge should have knowledge of the execution and limits of their power.” There were nods of agreement. “An understanding of this should also be had by the commons. The government’s current finances and expected expenditures need to be made known to them. Means must be found by which the charges that rest upon the king should now be borne. With that in mind, I am ready to do such service to the king as I can.”
He sat down and Salisbury nodded his thanks. Maybe this would lull the remaining lords into compliance.
“I must ask to be excused,” Bourchier said, and on his bench York passed a weary hand across his eyes.
“I too must be excused,” said the Prior of St John’s. “Concerns of my order take up much of my time.”
“I am an old man,” Cromwell said. “Feeble and infirm. This prevents me from serving as I might like.”
“I have the opposite problem,” Lord Scales said, “being young and having neither experience nor wisdom.”
Salisbury closed his eyes and prayed for strength. Lord Scales, fifty if he was a day, had just scraped the bottom of the barrel of poor excuses. The Duke of York stood up. His face was dangerously calm and he looked each man in the eye for a second before moving on to the next.
“My lords,” he said. “I understand your concerns. We all have many and great pressures on our time and attention. Some of you plead illness, some youth, some age, but none of you was named to this council by mistake. My lord Bourchier, you’ve been a loyal friend and councillor to the king before this. If I must ask in the name of friendship and brotherhood that you remain, I will.”
Bourchier hesitated for a moment then gave in, nodding his curt acquiescence.
“My lord of Warwick, the only cure for youth is life and the only cure for inexperience is experience, which we offer you. Lord Cromwell, your age, experience and wisdom would be a great loss to us here and to the realm should you withdraw. None of you is expendable.”
“And none of us is here for our benefit,” Salisbury said, riding the Duke’s momentum, “but to serve the king. If my lord of York is left to take up the whole of the government without your support and advice, it will be a burden he cannot carry and England will be left without king and Protector. I urge you, reconsider.”
From the back of the chamber, Sir Thomas Stanley spoke. “I well know the only reason I am here is to do the bidding of the lords, which I will do as far as I can with right good will.”
“Sir Thomas has it right and speaks also for me,” John Say said.
Salisbury would have expected nothing less than this of Say. A member of York’s household of some years standing, personally trusted and amply rewarded, he was one the Duke had counted on.
“I cannot see,” said the Dean of St Severin’s, “what benefit I would bring. There are those here far wiser than me, yet I shall do such service as I can.”
“We need to know what we’re doing, what powers we have,” Tiptoft said.
“The establishment of this council was urged upon us all by the commons,” said the Prior of St John’s. “I am in support of the words of my lord of Worcester. Before we begin, we must establish what the situation is. And there is also the question of payment. There have been times when wages went unpaid for some considerable time.”
They’re coming around, Salisbury thought. Soon they will be clamouring to serve. Even my son.
“I agree,” Cromwell said. “Furthermore, our safety must be warranted whilst travelling to and from Westminster and while we’re here. I shall not come at all if there is any risk that I be attacked again.”
Even Viscount Beaumont was weakening. “I serve the queen,” he said, “as I need not remind you, and shall not have my loyalty tested or compromised while serving the Lord Protector. The articles of this council state that every man shall have full freedom to state what he thinks without any displeasure, indignation or wrath. This I urge you all to remember and uphold.”
They veered into a discussion of practicalities and petty detail, each man striving to find yet another obstacle that must be overcome. Salisbury turned to his brother-in-law and gave him a reassuring smile.
“I hardly know who is with us and who is not,” York said.
“They all are, I think,” Salisbury said. “Or soon will be. Their show of reluctance is masterfully done. The memory of Duke Humphrey is still fresh in their minds.”
“You think the title protector is a dangerous one?”
“You know my thoughts on that. The greatest threat to you in all this is the queen.” He looked over at Beaumont, deep in private conversation with Lord Scales. “And that is the one who will carry tales if we do anything that can be brought into question.”
“Peace is what we want. Peace and order. It’s too late to save our holdings in France, but I would keep England together. If Henry recovers…”
“When,” Salisbury said softly.
“I would give him back a kingdom that is in better shape than it was left.”