T HERE followed after this time a series of very rapid and sudden reverses, by which first one party and then the other became alternately the victors and the vanquished, through changes of fortune of the most extraordinary character.
At the end of the battle described in the last chapter, Margaret found herself, with the little prince, a helpless fugitive. There were only eight persons to accompany her in her flight, and so defenseless were they, and such was the wild and lawless condition of the country, that it was said her party was stopped while on their way to Wales, and the queen was robbed of all her jewels and other valuables. Both she and the prince would very probably, too, have been made prisoners and sent to London, had it not been that, while the marauders were busy with their plunder, she contrived to make her escape.
She remained a very short time in Wales, and then proceeded by sea to Scotland, where her party, and she herself personally, had powerful friends. By the aid of these friends, and through the influence of the indomitable spirit and resolution which she displayed, she was soon supplied with a new force. At the head of this force she crossed the frontier into England. The people seemed every where to pity her misfortunes, and they were so struck with the energy and courage she displayed in struggling against them, and in braving the dreadful dangers which surrounded her in defense of the rights of her husband and child, that they flocked to her standard from all quarters, and thus in eight days from the time that the mandate was issued from London commanding her to surrender herself a prisoner, she appeared in the vicinity of the city of York, the largest and strongest city in all the north of England, at the head of an overwhelming force.
The Duke of York was astounded when this intelligence reached him in London. There was not a moment to be lost. He immediately set out with all the troops which he could command, and marched to the northward to meet the queen. At the same time, he sent orders to the other leaders of his party, in different parts of England, to move to the northward as rapidly as possible, and join him there.
The duke himself arrived first in the vicinity of the queen's army, but he thought he was not strong enough to attack her, and he accordingly concluded to wait until his re-enforcements should come up. The queen advanced with a much superior force to meet him. The two armies came together near the town of Wakefield, and here, after some delay, during which the queen continually challenged the duke to come out from his walls and fortifications to meet her, and defied and derided him with many taunts and reproaches, a great battle was finally fought.
Margaret's troops were victorious. Two thousand out of five thousand of the duke's troops were left dead upon the field, and the duke himself was slain!
Margaret's heart was filled with the wildest exultation and joy when she heard that her inveterate and hated foe at last was dead. She could scarcely restrain her excitement. One of the nobles of her party, Lord Clifford, whose father had been killed in a previous battle under circumstances of great atrocity, cut off the duke's head from his body, and carried it to Margaret on the end of a pike. She was for a moment horror-stricken at the ghastly spectacle, and turned her face away; but she finally ordered the head to be set up upon a pole on the walls of York, in view of all beholders.
A young son of the duke's, the Earl of Rutland, who was then about twelve years old, was also killed, or rather massacred, on the field of battle, after the fight was over, as he was endeavoring to make his escape, under the care of his tutor, to a castle near, where he would have been safe. This was the castle of Sandal. It was a very strong place, and was in the possession of the Duke of York's party. The poor boy was cut down mercilessly by the same Lord Clifford who has already been spoken of, notwithstanding all that his tutor could do to save him.
Other most atrocious murders were committed at the close of this battle. The Earl of Salisbury was beheaded, and his head was set up upon a pike on the walls of York, by the side of the duke's. Margaret was almost beside herself at the results of this victory. Her armies triumphant, the great leader of the party of her enemies, the man who had been for years her dread and torment, slain, and all his chief confederates either killed or taken prisoners, and nothing now apparently in the way to prevent her marching in triumph to London, liberating her husband from his thraldom, and taking complete and undisputed possession of the supreme power, there seemed, so far as the prospect now before her was concerned, to be nothing more to desire.
Murder of Richard's Child.