Edward V.—The Story of the King Who Was Never Crowned
WHEN Edward IV. died, his eldest son was only thirteen, but the people willingly chose him to be King.
The young Prince of Wales, now Edward V., was living at Ludlow Castle with his uncle, Lord Rivers, when the news of his father's death was brought to him. He at once set out for London, accompanied by his uncle and some gentlemen.
On the way he was met by another uncle, Richard of Gloucester, who was a wicked, hard-hearted man. He sent Lord Rivers and his friends to prison, and himself took charge of the young King.
Edward was very fond of Lord Rivers, and was afraid of his ugly uncle Richard. He cried when Lord Rivers and his friends were taken away from him. That did no good, but the poor little King was only a boy, and he did not know what else to do.
When the Queen heard of what happened, she was so frightened that she ran away from the palace in which she had been living, taking her daughters and her other little son, who was called Richard, with her. She ran to Westminster Abbey and there took sanctuary, as Hubert de Burgh did, you remember, many years before, in the days of Henry III.
The Duke of Gloucester had the young King in his power, but he was not satisfied with that. He wanted to have Prince Richard too. Queen Elizabeth, however, would not give up her little boy, who was only ten years old. And the Duke of Gloucester, bad though he was, was afraid to take him by force, because he was still trying to pretend to be a good, kind uncle to the little boys.
At last the duke sent a bishop to the Queen to try to persuade her to give up her little son. This bishop said everything he could think of to make her do so, but all in vain.
"My little boy has been ill," said the Queen; "he is not well enough yet to leave his mother."
"Ah, lady," said the bishop, "it is not kind to his brother, the King, to keep him here. They should be together so that they could play with each other."
"Oh, surely some other little boy could play with the King," said the Queen. "Little boys, even if they are kings, do not ask that their playmates should be princes. I cannot, I will not, let my little boy go."
"Let him but come to me, and I will guard his life as my own," said the bishop.
At these words the Queen stood for a long time thinking silently. It seemed to her as if she must give up her boy sooner or later. It would be better to give him to this kind bishop, who would perhaps keep him safe, than to his wicked uncle.
So, taking the Prince by the hand, she led him to the bishop. "I know you are faithful and true," she said. "You are strong and powerful too, and oh, for the trust his father put in you, I now charge you, guard my boy."
Then kneeling beside her little son, and putting her arms round him, she held him close to her heart. "Farewell, my own sweet son," she said. "God give you good keeping. Let me kiss you yet once before you go, for God knows when we shall kiss together again." Then she kissed him and blessed him, and kissed him again and again, and at last, crying bitterly, put him into the arms of the bishop and turned her face from him. But, weeping as bitterly, little Richard clung to her and would not go, until the bishop, taking him strongly in his arms, carried him away.
The bishop led the Prince straight to his uncle, who was very glad to see him. His ugly face shone with joy as he took his nephew in his arms and kissed him. "Now, welcome, my lord," he said, "with all my heart you are right welcome."
King Edward, too, was very glad to see his brother, for they had been parted for a long time. The duke led them through the streets with great pomp, and put them into the Tower.
Now that the Duke of Gloucester had both the princes in his power he began to show his wickedness. He sent to the prison in which Lord Rivers and his friends were imprisoned and ordered their heads to be cut off, because he knew that they were the Queen's friends.
Then he called a council to arrange, he said, about the coronation. Only a very few lords were asked to this council. When they were all gathered together he came into the room seemingly very much disturbed.
"What should be done to people who try to murder me?" he asked.
At first every one was so astonished that no one spoke. Then Lord Hastings, who was a brave man, and true to the King, and the Queen, his mother, said, "If any one has tried he deserves to be punished, whoever he is."
"The Queen has tried with her sorcery," cried the duke, "and others have helped her." And pulling up his sleeve, he showed his arm which was all puckered and withered.
In those days it was believed that people had power to hurt their enemies by saying wicked words and rhymes, and wishing evil to them. It was thought that people could even kill others who were quite far away, and who they could not even see nor touch. This was called sorcery. Of course, it was a very foolish belief, and every one knew that the Duke of Gloucester's arm had always been withered up, but when he said that the Queen had done it by sorcery, no one dared to contradict him.
There was silence in the hall till Lord Hastings said, "If the Queen has done this—"
"You answer me with ifs and ands," cried the duke, "you are a traitor. A traitor, I say," and with that he struck with his hand upon the table.
Immediately soldiers rushed into the room.
"Seize him," he said, pointing to Lord Hastings, "cut off his head."
"My lord," said Hastings, "I am no traitor."
"You are a traitor!" yelled the duke, "and, by Heaven, I will not dine till I see your head cut from your body. Obey your orders," he added, turning to the soldiers.
Lord Hastings was hurried away, and, without being allowed to defend himself, without a trial of any kind, he was made to lay his neck upon a rough plank of wood which happened to be at hand, and his head was at once cut off. So another of the King's friends was dead.
The Duke of Gloucester next made a clergyman, called Shaw, preach to the people and tell them that the little princes were not really the sons of King Edward IV. and his Queen and that, therefore, they had no right to the throne of England.
"Our true King," said this wicked clergyman, "is Richard, Duke of Gloucester."Then he waited, expecting every one to cry out, "King Richard! King Richard!" But there was not a sound. The people stood as if they had been turned into stone. Pale and trembling they went away to their homes, wondering what would happen next. The clergyman, too, went home. He was so ashamed to have preached such a wicked sermon that he never again showed himself to the people, and died soon after.
The Duke of Gloucester was very angry and disappointed when he heard of the bad success of his wicked plans, but he did not give them up. He again gathered a lot of people together, and this time his friend, the Duke of Buckingham, talked to them. The Duke of Buckingham said much the same things as the clergyman had said. When the people heard these wicked lies for the second time, they began to whisper among themselves, till it seemed as if a swarm of buzzing bees filled the hall. But not a single person shouted, "King Richard!"
Then some of the duke's servants and friends came into the hall, and they shouted, "King Richard! King Richard! Long live King Richard!" but the cries sounded very feeble, for they came from only a few.
The Duke of Buckingham, however, pretended that all the people had shouted for King Richard. He thanked them, and he and his friends went to the Duke of Gloucester and told him that the people had chosen him as their King, and were cheering and shouting for King Richard.
Richard then pretended to be very unwilling to take the crown, and only consented to do so after a great deal of persuasion. This was all a part of his wickedness and cunning.
Richard was crowned with much splendour and grandeur. And poor little King Edward, who had never been crowned at all, and who had only been called King for a few weeks, was kept shut up in the Tower of London.