Edward IV.—The Story of Queen Margaret and the Robbers
IT was in 1461 A.D. that the people chose Edward IV. as their King, and so there were two kings in England—Henry VI. the head of the Red Rose, and Edward IV. the head of the White Rose party.
There could be no peace in the country so long as there were two kings each claiming the throne, so, without waiting to be crowned, Edward marched to meet the Red Rose army and to fight for the crown.
On a cold, bleak day in March the two forces met at Towton in Yorkshire, and fought amid a wild storm of wind and snow. For ten hours the battle raged. The white snow was stained and the river which flowed near ran red with blood, till it seemed as if the earth and the sky had taken sides with the red and white roses. Never since Hastings had such a terrible battle been fought on English ground.
The White Rose was victorious. Henry's cause seemed utterly lost and he and his wife and their little son fled to Scotland.
If Henry had been left to himself he would have given up fighting for the crown, for he loved quiet and peace. But Queen Margaret loved power and would not rest until she had again won the kingdom. She got help from the French king and in three years was back in England once more.
But Edward and the great Earl of Warwick, who had helped to put Edward upon the throne, were too strong for Margaret, and she was utterly defeated.
Without a single friend or servant, Margaret and her little son, who was now about eleven years old, fled into the forest to hide. The night came on, it grew dark, and they lost their way among the winding paths. Hungry and tired, they did not know which way to turn. Afraid to stop, afraid to go on, starting and shrinking at every sound, they clung to each other trembling.
Presently they heard men's voices and saw the glimmer of a fire. Margaret whispered to her little son to be very, very still, as they crept near to find out who these people were, whether friends or enemies.
Hidden by the trees, the Queen and her little boy came quite close to the fire and stood listening and watching.
In a few minutes they found out that these men were robbers. Holding the Prince tight by the hand, Queen Margaret made ready to run away. But suddenly one of the robbers looked towards them. He saw the glitter of jewels in the firelight. With a cry he made a spring at the Queen and, in spite of her screams and struggles, she was dragged into the circle round the fire.
"Ah, ah, what have we here?" cried one robber.
"A fine prize, truly," said another.
"Here is gold enough," said a third, roughly pulling at the chain round Margaret's neck. "Come, lady, we will have all these things," he went on, pointing to her jewels.
The Queen began to take off her rings and jewels, for she was very much afraid. But one robber pushed the other aside. "Let be," he said, "the prize is mine. I took her."
"Nay, nay, share and share alike."
"It is mine, I say."
"I took her, I say, it is mine."
So the robbers began to quarrel fiercely about the treasure, and while they quarrelled, Margaret took the Prince in her arms and ran away.
Where she ran she did not know. On and on she went, stumbling through the dark forest. At last, breathless and weary, unable to go another step, she sank down on a grassy bank. Scarcely had she done so when another robber appeared.
Seeing no escape, Margaret went towards this robber, and putting the little Prince into his arms, "Friend," she said, "take care of him, he is the son of your true King."
The hard, rough man, accustomed only to murder and rob, felt sorry for the poor, tired lady and her little boy. He held the Prince in his arms saying, "Lady, I will not hurt you. Come with me and I will show you where you can rest safely."
The robber led the Queen and Prince through the forest till he came to his secret cave. There he fed them and kept them safe for some days, and at last took them to the shore, where they found a ship in which to sail over the sea.
But King Henry was not so fortunate. He escaped and hid in various places for nearly a year, but he was discovered at last and taken prisoner to London.
As he rode a prisoner into the city, he was met by the Earl of Warwick, and the poor unfortunate King was made to ride through the streets like a common criminal, with his feet tied under his horse. Then he was shut up in the Tower of London.