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Think'st thou that I will leave my kingly throne,
Wherein my grandsire and my father sat?
Yet, in a moment
"I know not what to say; my title's weak."
And when he endeavours to satisfy his conscience, that Henry IV. was lawful king, as the adopted heir of Richard II., Exeter turns against him, and gives an opinion in favour of York.
Warwick then summons the soldiers who were without. York bargains with the king.
Confirm the crown to me, and to mine heirs,
Here we have an anticipation of five years. This compromise was made in 1460, after an interval full of important events, which I must briefly relate; though I am aware that not even a play in three parts could, with any regard either to theatrical propriety, or human patience, dramatize
After the battle of St. Alban's the parliament met,* in which that occurrence was treated as an affray occasioned by the treason of Somerset, who had kept back the letters which the complainants had addressed to the king. York and his friends were solemnly acquitted of disloyalty.+
Before the next session ‡ the king suffered a relapse, and York was appointed to open the parliament as his lieutenant. He was afterwards ap pointed protector, when he gave to Salisbury the great seal, and to Warwick the government of Calais. On the recovery of Henry, York relinquished the protectorate,§ and Salisbury the great seal.
About two years after the battle, parliament began to exhibit a feeling of discontent at the ambitious practices of York, who, be it nevertheless observed, had not even now put forward his claim to the crown: complaints against him came principally from the lords whose fathers were killed at St. Alban's; and Buckingham, on the part of the peers, besought the king that such conduct as that of the duke might not go unpunished.||
* Westm., May 26, 1455. Parl. Hist., i. 396. Rolls, v. 278. Lingard, v. 150. Hol., 242.
† Rolls, 280, 282; Wheth., 369.
Parl. Hist., 398; Rolls, 284.
§ Feb. 25, 1556, Rolls, 421; Hol., 243.
|| Lingard, 342; but this is all from the Lancastrian recital. See p. 307. Leland, ii. 496.
York once more swore fealty, and engaged, with the rest, that all differences should be arbitrated by the sovereign; a tacit condemnation of his taking redress into his own hands at St. Alban's. In June 1458, the two parties met in and near London, and Henry pronounced an award,* the principal article of which appears to have been, that "a chantry should be erected at the expense of York, Salisbury, and Warwick, for the souls of the three lords (Somerset, Clifford, and Northumberland) who were slain at St. Alban's. +
This award, however, as might have been expected, was not effectual in contenting either party, and preparations appear to have been made throughout 1459 for a contest, the causes and objects of which were still, however, not very definite.‡ The court, we are told, distributed "white swans, § the badge of Prince Edward" (for we hear nothing of the red and white roses). Salisbury and York were preparing to unite their forces on the borders of Wales, when the former was met at Bloreheath|| by Lord Audley, I at the head of a royalist force, which was defeated or successfully repulsed,** and Salisbury pursued his march.
** Wheth., 418.
Ibid., 454; Cont. Croyl., 529.
Leland, 496; Wheth., 456.
|| Sept. 30, 1459.
But a large royal army, under the king in person, was assembled at Worcester, which approached the camp of the Yorkists; offers of conciliation were made to the duke, and rejected. York was now deserted by some of his followers, and retired into Ireland; his friends and sons being elsewhere dispersed.
A parliament met at Coventry,* in which York and his adherents were attainted by that act of parliament which we have already cited. The Duke of Exeter was now appointed to supersede Warwick in the command of the fleet, and Somerset to replace him in the government of Calais; but Warwick successfully resisted his entrance into the port. After this act of rebellion, Warwick joined York in Dublin,† and concerted further measures. The result was the landing of Warwick in Kent. His army increased as he marched, being joined even by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Articles were circulated, complaining of the mismanagement of the king's household, the oppression of the people by taxes, the murderous designs entertained against York, Salisbury, and Warwick, and especially the extreme enmity of Shrewsbury, Wiltshire, and Beaumont. The insurgents marched
* Nov. 20, 1459. Parl. Hist., 401; Rolls, 345. + W. Wyrc., 478.
James Lingard, 158, from Stow, 407; but where did
through London, and met the royal army at Northampton,* where an action of no long duration, in which Buckingham, Shrewsbury,+ and many other considerable persons were killed, put Warwick in possession of the king's person.
A parliament was called at Westminster,‡ which repealed all the acts passed at Coventry against the Yorkists. To this parliament York repaired, with a retinue of five hundred horsemen, and then occurred the incident from which, as I apprehend, Shakspeare took that of the occupation of the chair of state, in the first scene of this play.
For the duke entered the parliament-house, and stood for some time, with his hand upon the throne. Nobody, however, invited him to ascend; but, when he withdrew, he occupied the royal apartments in the palace of Westminster. He then delivered to the chancellor a written claim to the crown, as the lineal descendant of Lionel, son of Edward III. The story is thus told by Holinshed
'He came to the city of London, which he entered the Friday before the feast of Edward the Confessor, with a sword borne naked before him, with trumpets
Stow find them? Wiltshire was James Butler, so created. Beaumont, John, first viscount.
* July 20, 1460. Wheth., 479; Hol., 260. + John, eldest son of the famous Talbot. Rolls, v. 373.
|| Wheth., 484; W. Wyrc., 483.