Edward IV.—The Story of the King-Maker
EDWARD IV. now felt quite sure of the throne, and he married secretly a beautiful lady called Elizabeth Woodville. When this marriage became known, the Earl of Warwick was very angry, because he thought the King should have married some one more great and powerful.
The Earl of Warwick himself was so great and powerful that he was called the King-maker, and he had done much to make Edward king.
Edward soon acted in many ways which displeased the earl, and they quarrelled, and plots were formed to drive Edward from the throne. Among the people who plotted against him was the Duke of Clarence, King Edward's own brother.
At last the Earl of Warwick became so angry with Edward that he took him prisoner, and shut him up in a castle called Middleham. So there were two kings in England, both of them prisoners.
The King-maker, having made and unmade the King, now ruled the country himself for a year. He really had intended to make the Duke of Clarence king, but he found that even he was not powerful enough to do that.
In about a year's time Warwick set Edward free again and, strange to say, they made up their quarrels, and were friends once more.
But in a very short time they again quarrelled; so badly this time that the Earl of Warwick, who had fought so hard for the White Rose of York, forsook it and joined the Red Rose of Lancaster. He went to France, where Margaret and her son were, and offered to help them to conquer England and place Henry again on the throne.
So one morning Edward awoke to hear the Red Rose war-cry, and two friends, running into his room, begged him to fly. "For," they said, "even in your own army we know not who is true and who is false, many like Warwick having turned traitor."
Hardly waiting to dress, without money or armour, Edward threw himself upon his horse and rode as fast as possible to the coast. There he found some ships, and with a few friends and two or three hundred faithful soldiers, he sailed over to Holland.
They were very poor, they had no money nor goods nor indeed anything except the clothes they wore. Edward, who had one day been King of England, Wales and Ireland, found himself the next a homeless, penniless wanderer. And Warwick, in little more than a week, had deposed the King whom he had helped to set on the throne, and had placed Henry VI. once more there.
Henry was brought out of prison and dressed in beautiful robes, and, riding upon a splendid horse, was led through the town, while the people cheered and shouted, "God save the King! Long live King Harry!" Did he remember that the last time he rode through the same streets it had been as a wretched prisoner, bound and disgraced by the very man who now set him again on the throne? And did he remember that the people, who now cheered, had then cursed and laughed at him?
Although Henry was once more on the throne, he could not rule. He was like a wooden doll in the hands of a clever man such as the Earl of Warwick, and it was the earl and the Duke of Clarence who ruled.
Henry would have been far happier had he been left alone to his books and prayers. He loved peace, yet he was made the cause of war by the proud and powerful men and women around him.
Edward had been obliged to fly from the country penniless and almost friendless, yet he did not despair. He persuaded the Duke of Burgundy to help him, and soon returned to England with an army.
No sooner had he landed than people began to flock to him. By the time he reached Barnet, near London, he had a large army. Many who had joined Warwick now forsook him and returned to Edward, among them Edward's own brother, the Duke of Clarence, who brought twelve thousand men with him. There seemed to be no faith nor loyalty in those days. It was hard to know who was friend and who was foe.
At Barnet, on Easter Day, 14th April 1471 A.D., another terrible battle was fought. What made it more terrible was that it was begun and ended in a thick mist. In the white dimness, which wrapped both armies, it was difficult to know the Red Roses from the White, and indeed at one time the Red Roses fought against themselves. King Edward's men wore a golden sun embroidered upon their coats. The Duke of Oxford's men, who were fighting for King Henry, wore a golden star. In the mist the Red Rose soldiers, mistaking the star for the sun, attacked the Duke of Oxford's men, thinking that they were King Edward's men, and killed many of them.
From dawn to midday the battle raged. Then the Earl of Warwick's army broke and fled, leaving the White Rose victorious. The great King-maker was found dead upon the field, and Edward IV. was once more King.
On the very day of this battle Queen Margaret and her son, who was now about eighteen, landed in England. They had hoped to find Warwick victorious, and Henry on the throne. Instead they found Warwick dead, his army shattered, and Edward on the throne.
But Margaret was as bold as ever. She marched through England, gathering soldiers as she went, and at Tewkesbury another great battle was fought. Here again the Red Rose was utterly defeated, and Margaret and her son were taken prisoner.
Prince Edward was led before King Edward. The King looked fiercely at the young and handsome Prince. He hated him more than he had ever hated his poor, weak, gentle father.
"How dare you come into my kingdom to stir up my people to rebellion?" he asked.
"It is not your kingdom, but my father's," replied Prince Edward proudly. "You are a traitor. I should sit where you are. You should stand before me as a subject."
Then King Edward, pale with rage and hate, struck the boy in the face with his steel-gloved hand. The Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester, the King's brothers, dragged the Prince away and stabbed him to death.
Queen Margaret was put in prison, and a few days later King Henry died mysteriously in the Tower of London. Many people thought that he was murdered by King Edward's brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
At last it seemed as if all Edward's enemies were either dead or in prison, and that he might really rule in peace. The Red Rose party was for the time utterly crushed; some of the great nobles even were seen barefoot and in rags, begging for bread from door to door.
Edward never quite forgave his brother, the Duke of Clarence, for having, at one time, sided with Warwick. Clarence, too, was jealous of the Queen Elizabeth and her relatives, many of whom had the chief posts at court, so he quarrelled with them and with his brother the King.
At last, an old wizard prophesied that some one whose name began with "G" would bring about the death of King Edward and the ruin of his house. The Duke of Clarence was called George, and King Edward made the prophecy an excuse for shutting him up in the Tower. He never came out again.
It is supposed that he was murdered, some say by being drowned in a cask of wine by the order of his brother, the Duke of Gloucester.
Edward IV. died in 1483 A.D. He was brave, but cruel and revengeful, handsome but wicked, caring little for the happiness of his people, and his reign was dark with many battles and murders. He had ruled for twenty-two years, during twelve of which King Henry still lived.