Edward’s bride was Elizabeth Grey, née Woodville, the widow of Sir John Grey of Groby. This was an extraordinary choice. Elizabeth had many qualities – she was beautiful, intelligent and cultured – but contemporaries were shocked. Elizabeth, we might assume, would have been regarded as an ideal mistress for Edward but certainly not an ideal queen. Elizabeth’s background was unusual. Her mother, Jacquetta de Luxembourg, was of the highest European nobility, claiming descent from Charlemagne. Jacquetta was also the widow of John, Duke of Bedford. But Elizabeth’s father, Sir Richard Woodville, now Lord Rivers, came from more modest origins: his marriage to Duchess Jacquetta had been controversial.1 Richard Woodville had carved out an impressive career in France, but his family were no more than county gentry. A king was expected to marry a princess, ideally one who was a virgin: what was Edward thinking? Edward has gained a reputation as a man driven by lust, which has some basis in contemporary sources. To some extent, though, Edward’s sexual reputation is derived from the retrospective criticisms of his brother, Richard.2 Yet it seems difficult not to conclude that Edward’s marriage was motivated purely by ‘love’, as the chronicler ‘Gregory’ tells us.3 Understandably the marriage caused consternation, which explains why Edward kept it secret for over four months. Edward had married Elizabeth on 1 May, slipping away from his attendants early in the morning. But by September, when he was pressed to make a decision about the proposed French marriage, he could no longer remain silent. The members of Edward’s council, which had convened at Reading, were furious, not least because they had not been consulted about such a great matter of state. The Earl of Warwick, who had been the chief advocate of the French marriage, was dismayed.
Traditionally Edward’s marriage has been seen as the cause of the ensuing breach with Warwick. However, the King’s marriage in itself cannot explain the breakdown in their relationship, although it certainly marked a turning point. How did things change? Naturally Warwick had benefited from Edward’s patronage after Towton, although Michael Hicks has argued the extent of Warwick’s rewards should not be overstated.4 Certainly Warwick did not receive everything he desired. He did not become a duke, for example, because Edward reserved this title for his immediate family. He initially received important offices in Wales, which had been a focus of his ambitions in the 1450s, although after reflection Edward decided these should be given to Lord Herbert instead. Nevertheless, Warwick was indisputably the greatest man after the King. On the basis of his lands alone his income dwarfed most of his peers’.5 although his agglomeration of offices could not have continued without Edward’s consent. Warwick’s brothers were also well rewarded. John, as we have seen, became Earl of Northumberland; George, who became Archbishop of York in 1465, was Edward’s Chancellor. Now, though, Edward needed to provide for his new wife’s family, as well as for the Queen herself. Elizabeth had no fewer than five brothers and six sisters, most of whom were unmarried, as well as two sons from her first marriage. Edward no longer had major resources of patronage at his disposal, so he sponsored marriages between the Woodvilles and members of the English nobility. One of these marriages may have particularly frustrated Warwick. In 1465 the Queen’s sister, Katherine, married the young Duke of Buckingham, Henry Stafford. Warwick had two daughters – Isabel and Anne, his only children – who were now approaching marriageable age: Buckingham would have provided an appropriate match for one of the girls. In some ways, though, the Woodville marriages did not really threaten Warwick’s position. His many lands and of fices ensured that he would remain England’s premier earl. But was the tide turning against him?
Personal factors also need to be considered. Closeness to the King was always one of the most important keys to power during the Middle Ages, but Edward and Warwick began to grow apart. Significantly, the Woodvilles became prominent members of the new courtly society that surrounded Edward. As we have seen, there was a renewed emphasis on chivalric display, which was inspired by the world of romance. In April 1467 Edward himself took part in a tournament at Eltham, which was described by Sir John Paston as ‘the goodliest sight that was seen in England these forty years’.6 Queen Elizabeth’s eldest brother, Anthony Lord Scales, had already begun to forge a reputation in the sporadic tournaments of the late 1450s, but now he came increasingly to the fore. In April 1465 Scales was surprised by the Queen’s ladies, who fastened a golden collar to his thigh, exhorting him to carry out a great deed of arms. The result, eventually, was Scales’ famous combat with Anthony, Bastard of Burgundy, which took place in June 1467. Warwick took no part in any of this. As A.J. Pollard observes, ‘Warwick had no time for the new Camelot. And perhaps the new Camelot had little time for him.’7 But Warwick must have understood that politics were not distinct from the courtly rituals from which he held aloof . The Woodvilles were also prominent in the council chamber. Queen Elizabeth’s father, recently promoted to Earl Rivers and Treasurer by 1466, became one of Edward’s closest advisors. Men such as Lords Herbert and Stafford, and Sir John Fogge, sometimes referred to as the ‘new’ Yorkists, also consolidated their position, both at court and in the provinces.
There can be no doubt that Warwick resented the increasing influence of the Woodvilles, as well as the power of others he considered parvenus. Lord Herbert was a particular focus of Warwick’s ire. In the 1450s Herbert had served Warwick in Wales, as well as the Duke of York, but now, at court at least, his influence rivalled Warwick’s own. However, according to the well-informed second Crowland Continuator, a disagreement about the direction of foreign policy was the main cause of Warwick’s growing disaffection.8 Warwick leaned towards a pro-French policy, whereas Edward began to adopt a more hostile attitude towards his ‘ancient enemy’. The background to diplomatic affairs in this period therefore requires some explanation. To some extent, Edward’s attitudes reflected his changed circumstances. When Edward was seeking to consolidate his position his diplomacy was necessarily defensive, but now that his throne was secure he could begin to contemplate a more aggressive stance. Edward’s position was further strengthened in July 1465 when Henry VI was finally captured and confined in the Tower.9 Margaret of Anjou, with her young son, had established a modest court in Lorraine, although the meagre support offered by Louis XI gave her little cause for hope. Louis, indeed, had his own problems. In 1465 Louis faced a serious rebellion, led by his own brother, Charles. The rebel confederation, the so called ‘League of the Public Weal’, included some of the greatest noblemen in France. It was supported by Louis’ nominal vassals Francis, Duke of Brittany, and Charles, Count of Charolais. Charolais commanded the forces of the League at the Battle of Montlhéry (16 July), in which Pierre de Brézé was killed fighting for King Louis. This battle was inconclusive, although Louis was compelled to make concessions to his enemies. Their price included, once again, the surrender of the Somme towns to Burgundy.
Relations with Count Charles became increasingly important to the English. Throughout the 1460s Edward made alliances with a host of European powers, but the key to an anti-French policy, of course, was Burgundy. By the mid 1460s power within the duchy increasingly lay with Count Charles, because the ageing Duke Philip was growing frail. Charles of Burgundy was a very different man from his father. According to contemporary chroniclers, he hated Louis XI with a passion that went far beyond political rivalry.10 Moreover, although Duke Philip continued to think of himself as a Frenchman, despite his long political struggle with the French kings, his son actively sought to downplay his French lineage. On at least one occasion he referred to himself asPortuguese,drawing attention to his mother’s origins.11 Through his mother, however, Charles was also related to the House of Lancaster. He took this kinship equally seriously. As we have seen, Charles had forged a particularly close relationship with Henry Duke of Somerset, and for much of the 1460s he sheltered Duke Henry’s younger brother, Edmund. Edmund fought with Charles in his campaigns and he was showered with favours. Understandably, Beaufort preferred life in Burgundy to the threadbare existence at Margaret’s court in France. After he became duke in 1467 Charles continued to support other Lancastrian exiles in Burgundy, notably the Duke of Exeter.12 Nevertheless, Charles understood that an alliance with Edward of fered him the best chance of protection from the King of France, and hopefully also a chance to damage his great enemy.
A crucial opportunity arose in September 1465 when Charles’s wife, Isabella, died. This raised the possibility of a marriage between Charolais and Edward’s sister, Margaret. For most princes marriage was a matter of state, and the initial overtures came from Charles himself. But the situation was complicated by an ongoing trade war between England and Burgundy. Duke Philip remained obdurate, despite his long-standing friendship with the House of York, which ensured that Edward was not yet fully committed to an anti-French policy. In the spring of 1466 Warwick was sent with powers to treat with Burgundy and France, although little was achieved. Relations with Burgundy were scarcely improved because Warwick and Charolais conceived a violent dislike of each other.13Nevertheless, as the year progressed it became clear that Edward favoured a Burgundian alliance, whereas Warwick became ever more closely associated with the French. Warwick was no longer trusted to conduct diplomacy with Burgundy. Now Earl Rivers, whose links to the Burgundian court through his wife proved invaluable, took the lead. In October Edward and Charles put their seals to a secret treaty of friendship. In public, Edward continued to play France and Burgundy off against each other. In May 1467 Warwick was sent to France, where he was splendidly received by King Louis, while a separate embassy was despatched to the Burgundian court at Bruges. The combat between Lord Scales and the Bastard of Burgundy provided an opportunity for further discussions behind the scenes, although these were abruptly halted by the news of Duke Philip’s death on 15 June. Charles was now Duke of Burgundy.
On 24 June 1467 Warwick returned to England, accompanied by a high-powered French delegation. He discovered that, in his absence, his brother, the Archbishop of York, had been dismissed as Chancellor. On 8 June Edward rode in person to demand the great seal from Archbishop Neville, who was then ill. This must have been a shock to Warwick, although worse was to come. Edward treated the French delegation with contempt. The French ambassadors were virtually ignored. At Rouen Louis had presented the English envoys with gold and silver cups; Edward reciprocated with hunting horns and leather pouches.14 It was clear to all that Warwick had lost the argument over foreign policy. If people at the French court had continued to believe that Warwick was the real master of England, now they learned the truth. Louis XI bitterly reproached Warwick for his failure to bring about the treaty he had promised. By the end of September the trade dispute between England and Burgundy was over, the pact between Edward and Charles made public, and the impending marriage of Charles and Margaret formally announced. A further alliance against France was made with the Duke of Brittany, who was already bound to Duke Charles by a treaty of mutual aid. Although the author conflates all these events with Edward’s own marriage, Warkworth’s Chronicle is probably correct to suggest this marked the point of no return: ‘And yet [Edward and Warwick] were accorded divers times: but they never loved together after.’15
Warwick retired to the north in fury. Reports reached the Continent of Warwick’s anger towards ‘traitors’ whom he believed were now directing the King’s policy.16 By the autumn of 1467 diplomatic sources in France recorded incredible rumours: it was alleged that Warwick had reached an understanding with the Lancastrians.17 A plot between Warwick and the Lancastrian exiles seems far-fetched, at least during this period, although it is clear that the earl had started to look for new allies closer to home. Warwick reached out to Edward’s younger brother, George, now Duke of Clarence, who had achieved his majority in 1466. Clarence had been well provided for by Edward, but his head was turned. Contemporary accounts describe Clarence as handsome and intelligent – he was not without ability – but he was also volatile and dangerously ambitious.18 At present he was the heir to the throne because, as yet, Edward and Elizabeth had no sons.19 But this state of affairs could not have been expected to endure. Warwick of fered Clarence the prospect of marriage to his eldest daughter, Isabel. This, considered Clarence, would make him the heir to the greatest landowner in the country – and perhaps more. Edward vetoed the match, although he soon discovered that Archbishop Neville had continued to seek a dispensation for the marriage.20 Infuriated by these intrigues, Edward cruelly mocked Archbishop Neville’s ambitions for a cardinal’s hat. In September Edward forwarded a letter from the Pope confirming that Archbishop Bourchier had instead been selected for promotion.
In October 1467 Herbert captured a messenger who was en route to Harlech, where a small force of Lancastrians, under Dafydd ap Eynon, continued to defy Edward.21 Under interrogation, the messenger implicated Warwick in Lancastrian plots. Herbert, who sensed an opportunity to damage or perhaps even destroy Warwick, sent the messenger to the King. Although Edward may have been happy to dismiss earlier rumours of Warwick’s treason, this news appeared to give them greater weight. Edward summoned Warwick to answer the charges. But Warwick refused, even when he was of fered safe conduct. Warwick, perhaps recalling the attempts on his life during the 1450s, may have genuinely feared for his safety at court. As king, Edward had the right to decide his own foreign policy – Warwick could not dispute this – but the manner of Edward’s decision had deeply humiliated the earl. Edward’s treatment of the Archbishop of York had been uncharacteristically harsh, even vindictive. Now, however, Edward realised he had pushed the Nevilles too far. He wisely decided not to provoke Warwick any further. Instead he sent the prisoner to his ‘right entirely beloved cousin’ at Sheriff Hutton.22 Edward accepted Warwick’s denials and his protestations of loyalty.
At the beginning of 1468 relations between Edward and Warwick were still strained. In January Warwick again refused a summons to court. Soon, though, there was a thaw in their relationship. This was brought about by the agency of Archbishop Neville and Earl Rivers. Warwick was persuaded to return to court, where Edward gave him an honourable reception. Warwick was publicly reconciled with a number of the ‘new’ Yorkists, including Lord Herbert. But all was not well. Warwick continued to oppose the anti-French policy, and he refused to contribute to Princess Margaret’s extravagant dowry. Edward pressed on regardless. On 17 May his new Chancellor, Bishop Robert Stillington of Bath and Wells, announced Edward’s intention to make war on his ‘ancient enemy’ of France.23 An enthusiastic Parliament granted Edward a substantial grant of taxation. In June Princess Margaret crossed the North Sea to marry Duke Charles of Burgundy at Bruges – Warwick condescended to escort her to the coast – where she was greeted with great ceremony. John Paston III, a member of Margaret’s entourage, was awestruck by the nobility of Burgundy. He compared the Burgundian court, naturally, to Camelot.24
Unsurprisingly, Louis XI retaliated. In June 1468, Louis agreed to support a modest Lancastrian invasion fleet under Jasper Tudor. In truth Louis invested very little in this enterprise, but Tudor still had many friends in Wales. Tudor enjoyed some initial success but Lord Herbert’s resources were much greater. Tudor was once again put to flight. In the wake of Tudor’s defeat, on 14 August 1468, Lord Herbert finally captured Harlech. This was the culmination of a determined and brutal campaign. Some of the Welsh bards were strong supporters of Herbert throughout the 1460s. Writing of Herbert’s exploits in the north of England, for example, Lewis Glyn Cothi describes ‘his frame ablaze on prancing steed, and his eyes glistening like glowing embers’.25 Yet others lamented Herbert’s cruelty. Traditional stories survive of an old woman of Anglesey who cursed him during the Harlech campaign.26 Despite her entreaties to spare at least one of her boys, Herbert had ordered that all seven of her sons should be put to death. Edward, however, was greatly impressed by Herbert’s achievements. As a reward for his capture of Harlech, the last Lancastrian stronghold in the British Isles, Herbert was created Earl of Pembroke.
By the autumn of 1468 plans for war with France were well advanced, although it is again uncertain that Edward planned to campaign in person. However, by 10 September preparations were being made for a force of 3,000 men to go to the aid of Brittany, which was then under attack from France. This force was to be commanded by Sir Walter Blount, now Lord Mountjoy. It was intended that an equally strong force, under Lord Scales, was to land in southern France. The problem was that Brittany had been under considerable pressure since mid July. Duke Francis, never the most resolute of men, felt compelled to come to terms with Louis. He agreed to abandon his allies in return for a truce. Although he continued to maintain close ties with England, Charles of Burgundy was also unwilling to engage in full-scale war with France at this time. On 14 October he and Louis XI signed a treaty at Peronne. The English fleet had put to sea nonetheless, under the command of Lord Scales. There were rumours that Margaret of Anjou had assembled an invasion force at Harfleur, although this fleet failed to materialise. With few enemies to fight except the weather, there was little for Scales to achieve. The English did manage to recapture Jersey, although this was a paltry return for the money expended. Edward had raised and spent £18,000, which was a considerable sum.27
If Warkworth’s Chronicle can be trusted, many of the common people became disillusioned with Edward’s rule.28 They had been subjected to heavy taxation and they felt Edward had failed to provide the peace and order he had promised. Towards the end of 1468 there was widespread disaffection throughout the country, which gave fresh hope to Lancastrian sympathisers. In November Edward’s spies uncovered a conspiracy involving Henry Courtenay, the heir to the Earl of Devon, and Thomas Hungerford, the heir of Lord Hungerford. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, also came under suspicion; his father and brother had been executed in 1462 for their part in a Lancastrian plot. Oxford was committed to the Tower, where he disclosed the names of a number of Lancastrian agents. Oxford managed to convince Edward’s men of his own innocence, although Courtenay and Hungerford were found guilty of treason. On 12 January 1469, in Edward’s presence, they endured the full horrors of a traitor’s death. There was no indication that Warwick was involved in any of the Lancastrian plans, although several people had been implicated who were very close to the earl. Oxford was Warwick’s brother-in-law, and he had become closely associated with the Nevilles. Earlier in the year a captured Lancastrian agent, John Cornelius, had implicated Warwick’s deputy in Calais, Lord Wenlock. Warwick’s complicity cannot be proved, although he cannot have failed to contrast his own continued popularity with Edward’s unpopularity. By the spring of 1469 Warwick was ready to move against Edward. He had resolved to put forward his own policies by force of arms.
The crisis began in April, when there were two local risings in Yorkshire. The leaders of the revolts were shadowy figures who were known, respectively, as ‘Robin of Redesdale’ and ‘Robin of Holderness’. Initially, Robin of Holderness appeared the more dangerous: his rising was aimed at the restoration of the Percy family. But both rebellions were quickly suppressed by the Earl of Northumberland. Robin of Redesdale slipped the net, although Robin of Holderness was captured and executed.29 It appeared that John Neville, whose service was as valuable to Edward as ever, had restored order. In June Edward set out on a pilgrimage to East Anglia. He was accompanied by his youngest brother Richard, now Duke of Gloucester, and many others. Edward planned to visit the shrines at Bury St Edmunds and Walsingham. By 18 June, though, Edward’s devotions were interrupted when he was informed of new disturbances in Yorkshire, which were again instigated by ‘Robin of Redesdale’. This time Edward resolved to go north in person.30 From Norwich he commanded that coat armour, livery jackets and banners, ‘together with such other stuff for the field’, should be made ready for the coming campaign. Two days later orders were sent to mobilise the royal artillery. Edward also sent word to the Earl of Pembroke and to Humphrey Stafford, whom he had recently promoted to Earl of Devon, instructing them to raise troops in Wales and the West Country. Evidently Edward did not feel under great pressure, because his progress north was slow. From Walsingham, now accompanied by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, Edward moved on to his ancestral castle of Fotheringhay, where he spent a week with his wife. On 5 July Edward had only reached Stamford, where he wrote to the burghers of Coventry, asking the city to send 100 archers to join his army.
From Stamford Edward rode north to Newark, via Grantham and Nottingham. By 9 July disturbing rumours of Warwick and Clarence’s treachery had been brought to his attention, although even now Edward was reluctant to believe it. He wrote to Warwick and Clarence, calling on them to show they were not ‘of any such disposition towards us, as the rumour here runs’. But on the next day Edward learned the truth, together with other alarming news. Edward wrote again to Coventry, this time with more urgency. Edward called again for the hundred archers, although ‘with more if you goodly may […] without failing, all expenses laid apart, upon the faith and liegance you owe us’. Edward now understood that Robin of Redesdale’s rising was something much more dangerous than a local disturbance; Robin was currently marching south at the head of a great host. The rebel army was vast, estimated at more than three times the King’s strength. Edward must also have realised that the rebels were no mere rabble. Although many commoners had joined the rising, motivated by a wide range of factors, its core was provided by Warwick’s northern affinity: Warwick had shown his hand. There can be no doubt that Warwick had instigated this latest rising. On this occasion ‘Robin of Redesdale’ is generally accepted to have been a member of the Conyers family, important members of Warwick’s affinity in Yorkshire.31 The head of the family, Sir John Conyers, was steward of the lordship of Middleham, the centre of Warwick’s power in the north. Other rebel leaders were Warwick’s kinsmen, including his nephew, Sir Henry FitzHugh, and a cousin, Sir Henry Neville, who was the son of Lord Latimer. Manifestos that were issued by the rebels matched all of Warwick’s own grievances.
Meanwhile, as Robin of Redesdale raised the men of the north, Warwick and Clarence had been active in the south. On 13 May Warwick attended the annual Garter Ceremony at Windsor, where the order was conferred on Duke Charles of Burgundy. From here he moved to Sandwich, where he supervised the refitting of his most formidable ship, the Trinity. His brother, George, joined him by 12 June, on the pretext that the Archbishop was to bless the refurbished ship. By the end of the month Warwick had returned to London, where he was joined by Clarence. Warwick now began to make his intentions clear.
On 28 June he wrote to his supporters in Coventry, announcing the imminent marriage between Clarence and his daughter Isabel, for which Archbishop Neville had now secretly obtained a dispensation. On 4 July they were joined by the Earl of Oxford at Sandwich, and from here the party crossed to Calais. On 11 July Clarence and Isabel were married by Archbishop Neville.32 On 12 July Warwick and Clarence openly embraced rebellion. They issued a manifesto, designed for a wide audience, which set out their grievances in full.33 They deplored the exclusion of the true nobility from Edward’s secret council in favour of ‘certain seducious persons’. These were revealed to be Earl Rivers and his wife, Lord Scales and his brothers, the Earls of Pembroke and Devon, Lord Audley, and Sir John Fogge. This, according to the manifesto, had caused the ‘realm to fall in great poverty and misery’, because Edward’s advisors were concerned only for their ‘own promotion and enriching’. Warwick and Clarence called on their supporters to join them at Canterbury on 16 July, in order to seek a ‘remedy and reformation’. The rebels received a rapturous reception in Kent, and from Canterbury they marched towards London, raising troops en route. The rebels were given a reluctant and nervous reception in London, however, where the City Fathers were induced to grant them a loan. From London Warwick and Clarence set out towards Coventry, where they hoped to join with Robin of Redesdale.34
Edward retreated to Nottingham in the face of the northern rebels’ advance, where presumably he hoped to join with Pembroke and Devon. Soon, though, Edward was cut of f from support. Redesdale outflanked the royal army, speeding south towards a rendezvous with Warwick and Clarence. But near Banbury, at Edgecote, Redesdale’s forces encountered the army raised by the Earls of Pembroke and Devon. The royalists were probably several thousand strong. All sources agree that Pembroke and Devon became separated: Pembroke’s forces were compelled to face the northerners alone. According to Warkworth’s Chronicle and Hearne’s Fragment, Pembroke and Devon ‘fell to variance over lodgings’, although Wavrin tells us that poor reconnaissance was to blame.35According to Wavrin the two armies first became aware of each other late on 25 July. They camped for the night on opposite sides of a river, presumably the Cherwell. Next morning there was a fierce struggle to secure the river crossing, in which the northerners were worsted. Although the bards may have later coloured their exploits, it is clear that Pembroke’s Welshmen fought hard. The northerners experienced heavy casualties. Of the nobility and gentry, Sir Henry Neville and Sir John Conyers’ son, also called John, were killed; Robert Lord Ogle, died later of his wounds.36 Their morale was shaken, but late in the day the northerners were reinforced by an advance party from the Earl of Warwick’s army. Sir Geoffrey Gate and Sir William Parr persuaded the northerners to attack again. Now Pembroke was outnumbered and his forces overwhelmed. Devon, either through fear or spite, left Pembroke and his Welshmen to their fate. Pembroke and his brother, Richard, were both captured. The following day they were taken to Northampton, where Warwick presided over their summary execution.
On 29 July Edward moved south from Nottingham. It is clear that Edward suffered from faulty sources of intelligence during this campaign, because he remained blissfully unaware of the disaster that had overtaken his supporters. Edward walked into a trap. At Olney, in Buckinghamshire, Edward was taken captive by Archbishop Neville. Presumably Warwick sent his brother because he wished to avoid the impression of using force, although the Archbishop must have been supported by an armed escort. But what happened to Edward’s army? Earlier in the campaign he had been supported by at least two peers, Suffolk and Norfolk, as well as his brother Richard, although the Woodvilles are said to have been sent away to safety. Most historians have accepted without question the testimony of Warkworth’s Chronicle, which tells us that ‘all his people raised were fled from him’.37 But it is also possible that Edward’s men were scattered throughout the surrounding villages and he was taken by surprise.38 Edward’s enemies had avoided a direct confrontation with him on the battlefield, but, on this occasion, he had been comprehensively out-thought.
Edward was taken first to Warwick Castle, where he encountered the Earl of Warwick himself. We may assume that Warwick knelt before Edward and of fered him formal respect as king, just as Edward had knelt before Henry VI almost a decade before. In mid August Edward was taken north, to Middleham. What were Warwick’s plans, now that Edward was in his power? For the moment, Warwick ruled in Edward’s name; Edward appeared to accept his constricted role. As the historian Paul Kendall plausibly suggests, he gave his captors ‘fair words, he smiled, he signed whatever they put before him’.39 While Edward was powerless to resist, Warwick continued to strike against Edward’s supporters. Earl Rivers and his son Sir John Woodville were captured and executed; the Earl of Devon was lynched by a mob at Bridgwater. Although Queen Elizabeth and her daughters were left in peace, her mother was charged with sorcery. Yet Edward could not be content as a puppet king and he would not give in to despair. As Kendall puts it, the lion would become a fox.40 But Edward’s time was short. Warwick had called a Parliament to convene at York, where the government of the realm was to be discussed.
Was Edward’s deposition to be on the agenda of the planned Parliament? The rebels’ manifesto from Calais had ominously compared Edward’s policies to those of Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI. These were all kings, of course, who had been deposed. Rumours were also now circulating, probably encouraged by Warwick, that Edward was illegitimate, the son of an archer called ‘Blancborgne’.41 Edward’s effective removal caused chaos, however, and Warwick found it was impossible to restore order. In East Anglia, for example, the Duke of Norfolk took advantage of the opportunity to wrest control of Caister Castle from the Paston family. More seriously, Sir Humphrey and Charles Neville, from the Lancastrian branch of the family, took the opportunity to raise rebellion in the name of Henry VI. Men refused to follow orders to join a royal army until they could be sure the orders really came from Edward himself. Warwick was therefore compelled to let Edward appear in public. An army was now quickly raised and the Lancastrian revolt was quashed. Edward witnessed the execution of the leaders at York, and this gave him his chance to act. He sent word to his brother, Richard, and to other noble supporters, and they quickly came to his side. The Earl of Northumberland, who had held aloof from his brother’s rebellion, also answered Edward’s call. Edward announced his intention to travel south. Warwick had continued to maintain the fiction of loyalty to Edward in public, and so he could no longer prevent Edward from carrying out his own wishes. Edward proceeded in state to London, where he resumed the rule of the kingdom.
For a while there was a curious standoff. Oxford and George Neville were near London, at the Archbishop’s palace at the Moor, although Edward brusquely refused to grant them an audience. Presumably Warwick and Clarence remained in the Midlands. But then, remarkably, there was a reconciliation:
There were frequent missions and embassies going between the King and the disaffected lords. Eventually, on the appointed day, in the great chamber of Parliament, the Duke of Clarence, the Earl of Warwick and their supporters appeared before a Great Council of all the lords of the realm where peace was made and it was agreed that all disagreements should be abandoned.42
Once again, Edward had forgiven his enemies, but had he forgotten? Sir John Paston was not convinced:
The king himself hath good language of the lords of Clarence, of Warwick, saying they be his best friends. But his household men have other language.43
Similarly, the second Crowland Continuator considered that ‘there probably remained, however, a sense of outraged majesty, deep in the heart, on the one side, and, on the other, a guilty mind conscious of an over-daring deed’.44
Edward’s true feelings cannot be known. It must be said that he negotiated from a position of strength, and not all of the decisions could have been to Warwick’s liking. Although the Earl of Pembroke had been removed, Warwick was forced to accept a check to his ambitions in Wales. The king’s own brother, Richard, was to be groomed as a successor to William Herbert. More significantly, Edward had resolved there must be a counterweight to the Nevilles’ power in the north. He therefore resolved to restore the Percy heir, Henry, to the earldom of Northumberland.45 Of course, this would entail the dispossession of John Neville, who had remained loyal to Edward during his brother Warwick’s rebellion. John therefore needed to receive compensation and evidently Edward gave this serious thought. John Neville was to lose an earldom, although he was promoted to Marquess Montagu. For the loss of some of his lands in the north he was to be compensated with lands forfeited by the Courtenays in the south-west. Finally – and this was surely a major concession to Neville pride – John’s young son, George, was betrothed to Edward’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth. George was given the title Duke of Bedford.
A fragile peace had been achieved, although shortly afterwards a new crisis arose. Once again local events took on national significance. In early 1470 there were serious disturbances in Lincolnshire. These had their origin in a feud between Sir Thomas Burgh, a member of Edward’s household, and Lord Welles. Edward learned from his mistakes. No longer willing to tolerate local disorder in the north, Edward’s reaction was quick and decisive. Lord Welles and his associate Sir Thomas Dymmock were summoned to court to account for their transgressions; they obediently obeyed. By early March Edward was moving north in person to restore order; an army had been summoned to join him at Grantham on 12 March. Ironically, however, Edward’s actions caused an escalation. Rumours arose that Edward’s intention was not to restore peace but rather to seek vengeance on the commons for the risings of the previous year. On Sunday 4 March Sir Robert Welles, the eldest son of Lord Welles, declared himself‘great captain of the commons of Lincolnshire’, claiming that Edward was coming to ‘destroy the commons’, and called for supporters to join him two days later at Ranby Hawe near Lincoln.46 Sir Robert stated his actions were motivated purely in self-defence, although by now he was part of a much larger conspiracy. Possibly Sir Robert had taken the initiative to contact Warwick or Clarence, although the two magnates quickly resolved to manipulate the disaffection in Lincolnshire to their own ends. Their hastily planned strategy was similar to that of the previous year. Warwick would instigate another rising in the north, while Clarence encouraged rebellion in the south-west. Edward was to be diverted and confused by the various risings. Warwick and Clarence would maintain a fiction of loyalty until the time was right to strike.
At Fotheringhay, on 11 March, Edward was informed that the Lincolnshire rebels, now several thousand strong, had bypassed Grantham and were heading for Leicester. Here, according to Sir Robert Welles’ later confession, they planned to join with Warwick and Clarence.47 Apparently Edward was still not aware of the involvement of Warwick and Clarence in the rebellion, because they had both been trusted (albeit belatedly) to raise troops. The two nobles had both sent Edward comforting messages of support, saying they would join him soon. But the curious movements of the Lincolnshire rebels, which echoed those of Robin of Redesdale, must have aroused Edward’s suspicions. Even so, Edward had resolved not to wait passively on events. He maintained his focus on the suppression of the Lincolnshire rising. Two days earlier the captive Lord Welles had been forced to send a message to his son: if the rebels did not submit Lord Welles and Dymmock would be executed. In response the rebels suddenly changed direction and marched towards the King. Sir Robert had resolved to rescue his father. Welles’ decision was as rash as it was brave. Presumably his plan was to surprise the royal army at Stamford, but Edward was alert and ready for battle. On 12 March Edward reached Stamford, where he discovered the rebel army was only 5 miles away at Empingham. Edward immediately advanced on the rebels, who were hastily drawn up into battle array. As noted by Anthony Goodman, ‘Edward’s generalship is seen at its best in his determination to force the issue that day, after a hard march.’48 Before the battle began, Edward showed he could match the ruthlessness shown by his enemies, and he ordered the execution of Lord Welles and Sir Thomas Dymmock.
The Battle of Empingham was scarcely a battle at all. According to Warkworth’s Chronicle the encounter commenced with a barrage from Edward’s artillery, which may have forced the rebels to attack.49 But little else is known except that the rebels were quickly put to flight.50 Strategically, Edward’s victory ensured control of the south and east, but its real significance was political. According to the Chronicle of the Rebellion of Lincolnshire, the battle provided certain evidence of Warwick and Clarence’s treachery.51 It tell us that as the two armies closed the rebels cried out ‘A Clarence! A Clarence! A Warwick!’ A ‘casket’ [helmet] was found on the battlefield, apparently, which contained incriminating letters from Warwick and Clarence. Sir Robert Welles, who was captured shortly afterwards, is said to have been wearing Clarence’s livery. Welles confessed the role of Warwick and Clarence under interrogation. He swore their aim was to make Clarence king. But the most detailed sources for this series of events, including the Chronicle of the Rebellion, are ‘of ficial’ productions, produced shortly afterwards by Edward’s clerks. Some modern writers have argued, therefore, that Warwick and Clarence were not really involved in the Lincolnshire rising at all: did Edward, with an army at his back, seize the opportunity to destroy Warwick and Clarence? He would not have been the only medieval king to act in such an arbitrary manner, although the ‘conspiracy theories’ are ultimately unconvincing.52 Edward had again ‘laboured himself into forgetfulness’, or at least he had tried. But sadly for Yorkist England, the bond of trust between Edward and Warwick had been irreparably broken. It is possible, on this occasion, that Clarence was the driving force behind the rebels’ plans, such as they were, and that Warwick was reluctantly drawn in. Nevertheless, ultimately the disturbances in Lincolnshire gave Warwick another opportunity, which he decided he must take.
Edward allowed his men some rest, although by now he was aware of the rising in Yorkshire, under the leadership of Lord Scrope of Bolton and Sir John Conyers. Edward marched north: by 16 March his army had reached Newark. Here Edward received messages from Warwick and Clarence, who were now in arms to his west. Edward ordered Warwick and Clarence to dismiss their army and summoned them to his presence.53 Warwick and Clarence replied that they would agree to come if Edward provided safe-conducts, as well as full pardons for themselves and ‘all the lords and others that had taken their part’. Now convinced of their guilt, Edward responded with kingly anger. Warwick and Clarence could expect treatment only, he said, ‘as a sovereign lord ought to use and entreat his subjects, for his ancient enemies of France would not desire so large a surety for their coming to his royal presence’. Edward had pardoned many rebels in the past, and he would do so again, but to give in to Warwick’s demands would show dangerous weakness: ‘it should be too perilous and too evil an example to all other subjects in like case’. The implications were clear: Warwick and Clarence would have to submit on Edward’s terms. Otherwise he would pursue them and destroy them.
Warwick and Clarence decided to run. On 19 March Edward was at Doncaster, where he presided over the execution of Sir Robert Welles and his lieutenant Richard Warren. The following day Edward advanced towards the rebels, whom he had learned were at Chesterfield. Edward’s army was growing every day: it was said there ‘were never seen in England so many goodly men, and so well arrayed a field’.54 That evening Edward encountered the rebels’ ‘foreriders’ at Rotherham. Perhaps Warwick and Clarence had considered making a stand, but their support, such as it was, was now crumbling.55 Attempting to use the advance of their scouts as a feint, Warwick and Clarence retreated westwards towards Manchester. They made a desperate plea for help to Lord Stanley, but Stanley refused to commit himself to their cause. Doubtless Edward was inclined to continue the pursuit, but he was counselled by his lords to march towards York instead.56 Here Edward would be able to replenish his supplies, because a full wagon train would be necessary if his army was to cross the Pennines. There was an additional advantage in that the royal army would be well placed to disrupt a junction between Warwick and his northern adherents. Edward concurred. In the event, however, the northern rising fizzled out. Scrope and Conyers submitted to Edward at York, where they were received into his grace. On 25 March Edward confirmed the restoration of Henry Percy to the earldom of Northumberland.
Now bereft of support in the north, Warwick and Clarence pinned their last hopes on the Courtenay affinity, who had risen in the southwest, although they may already have decided to take flight overseas. On 26 March Edward despatched commissions of array to the south-western counties, although these were not really effective because the rebels were moving south at speed. On 27 March Edward himself left York in pursuit, making equally rapid progress. By 25 April he was at Salisbury, having already gone as far south as Exeter. From Salisbury he released the names of fifty-three rebels who had not secured pardons, and ordered that their lands and property be seized.57 The list shows that Warwick and Clarence’s cause had once again failed to rouse much enthusiasm among the aristocracy. Their supporters included a substantial number of gentlemen, although many of them had long-standing connections with Warwick; others had Lancastrian ties. However, although there were question marks over the loyalty of Lord Stanley and the Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Scrope was the only peer who had been active on the rebels’ behalf. Evidently the Earl of Oxford feared he would be implicated in the rebellions, because he fled to France, but he had provided no active support. On the whole the nobility remained loyal to Edward, as they had done the previous year.
By now, though, Warwick and Clarence had made good their escape. Marching via Bristol, where Warwick abandoned his artillery train, the rebels had made their way to the Devon coast. Accompanied by the countess of Warwick and her two daughters – Duchess Isabel was heavily pregnant – Warwick and Clarence sailed for Calais. Warwick was able to gather a fleet at Dartmouth, although his flagship, the Trinity, was still berthed at Southampton. Warwick therefore attempted to repeat the exploits of 1460, when his men had captured much of the royal fleet at Sandwich. A number of ships were despatched under Sir Geof frey Gate. But Anthony Woodville, now Earl Rivers, was in command at the port. He had not forgotten the events at Sandwich nor his subsequent humiliation at Calais. This time Rivers was ready and waiting, eager to avenge the deaths of his father and brother. Warwick’s force was beaten of f, losing both ships and men, and Gate himself was captured. Gate was spared, although some of his men were executed. Edward’s constable, Worcester, now earned his soubriquet – ‘the Butcher of England’ - because their bodies were impaled.58
Repulsed from Southampton, the rebels pushed on towards Calais, but even here they could find no sanctuary. Warwick must have been counting on the loyalty of the garrison, but their commanders were divided. One of Warwick’s lieutenants, the Gascon Lord Duras, remained staunchly loyal to Edward; his influence prevailed. To Warwick’s consternation, the guns of Calais opened fire on the rebel fleet. Warwick withdrew out of range; a delegation from Calais, headed by Lord Wenlock, went out to speak with the earl. According to Commynes, who met him shortly afterwards, Wenlock remained true to the Earl of Warwick at heart.59 Wenlock warned Warwick that Calais was a trap, and he implored the earl to look for safety in France instead. When the right time came, Wenlock assured Warwick, he would restore Calais to its captain. Wenlock was to be true to his word, but his promises of fered Warwick little consolation now. The rebels were forced to depart, although not before Warwick and Clarence suffered a personal tragedy. Denied a refuge, Duchess Isabel was forced to give birth on board ship. Isabel recovered, but her son did not survive. Warwick’s fleet put out to sea, where they began to terrorise merchant ships. They were joined by Warwick’s nephew, Thomas Neville, the Bastard of Fauconberg. But Edward’s naval commanders, Earl Rivers and Sir John Howard, were now also at sea and they were relentless in their pursuit of the rebels. Warwick lost fourteen ships to Rivers in one conflict, in which over 500 sailors are said to have been killed.60 The rebels were compelled to seek shelter in the Seine estuary, in France, where Warwick resolved to seek further assistance.
Yet Warwick received a lukewarm reception. Apparently Louis XI was embarrassed by Warwick’s presence; he encouraged him to depart as soon as possible. Eventually, though, Louis XI did agree to of fer Warwick asylum and assistance, but at a price. Louis had displayed scant hospitality to his kinswoman, Margaret of Anjou, but now ‘the universal spider’ decided she could become a useful pawn. And so Warwick was forced to come to terms with Margaret, an extraordinary alliance that was as unpalatable to both parties as it was necessary. King Louis acted as an intermediary, although the negotiations were fraught. According to one contemporary account, Margaret was ‘right difficult’, although this is hardly surprising.61 Warwick was scarcely more amenable: seeking to justify his earlier actions, when he had driven her husband from the throne, Warwick stated he had done nothing ‘but that a noble man outraged and despaired [sic] ought to have done’. Eventually, however, terms were agreed, and both parties committed themselves to an aggressive alliance with Louis against Burgundy. Margaret and Warwick met at Angers, on 22 July. Warwick was forced to swallow his pride. He endured a humiliating ceremony in which he sued for Margaret’s forgiveness on his knees. But Margaret also made concessions: the alliance was to be sealed by marriage. It was agreed that Warwick’s younger daughter, Anne, would be betrothed to Prince Edward. Now seventeen years old, the Prince was an aggressive youth, anxious to reclaim his lost inheritance. Like a young Mordred, Prince Edward appears to have been raised with only one purpose in mind, to destroy the House of York by force of arms.62 Nevertheless, Margaret was reluctant to release her precious son until success was assured. Warwick, therefore, would go ahead to conquer England on the Lancastrians’ behalf. Accompanied by Jasper Tudor, Oxford and Clarence – who would now have to be content with the duchy of York – Warwick made ready to invade.
Warwick’s preparations could not be kept secret, but on the Continent some writers believed that Edward was complacent and ill-prepared. According to Commynes, the Duke of Burgundy issued repeated warnings to Edward about Warwick’s plans, but Edward ‘paid no attention to him [Charles] and only continued his hunting’.63 Chastelain’s comments are more favourable towards Edward, but he makes essentially the same point:
he [Edward] was a valiant prince, and he was always confident that he would be able to recover against him [Warwick] quickly enough […] for he was certain that once he found himself on the field of battle with Warwick, the latter would not oppose him, for he was a faintheart and a coward.64
Perhaps it is true that Edward did not respect Warwick’s abilities as a commander, although Chastelain’s comments may be derived from Edward’s bravado at the Burgundian court in the following year. Yet it is difficult to accept Commynes’ conclusions.65 For instance, Edward drew upon his own experience of exile in 1459–60, and his agents took steps to ensure that neither Calais or Ireland could be used as a rebel base. Furthermore, Edward made a personal visit to Sandwich and Dover, to ensure the defences were in good order and that his captains were alert. Edward also used Warwick’s own methods against him. Some of the earl’s ships, including the Trinity, became part of the royal fleet.66 Edward’s ships were supported by a substantial fleet from Burgundy, where Warwick’s piracy had caused great anger. Warwick’s ships had continued to engage in piracy, from their bases in the Seine, but the Anglo-Burgundian fleet achieved an effective blockade. This caused Warwick immense frustration. It took great tenacity on Warwick’s part to persuade Louis’ agents, and the French king himself, of the need to provide him with renewed financial support.67 There were tensions between Warwick’s men and the local people; a mutiny was narrowly averted.
In early August Edward was informed of yet another rising in the north, under the leadership of Lord FitzHugh, Warwick’s brother-in-law. Presumably this rebellion was intended to create a diversion, in order to assist Warwick’s invasion, although the earl remained confined to the Seine estuary. Edward, now ever conscious of the dangers of rebellion in the north, resolved to deal with the matter himself: ‘the King has sent for his feedmen to come to him, for he will go to put them down’.68 By 16 August Edward was at Ripon, and FitzHugh’s rebellion crumbled in the face of the determined royal advance. FitzHugh fled to Scotland. To an extent, though, FitzHugh’s rebellion succeeded, because Edward was still in the north when Warwick finally arrived. In early September storms broke up the Anglo-Burgundian blockade, meaning that Warwick’s invasion fleet was finally able to sail. On 9 September Warwick and Clarence set out for England. Their journey was unopposed and they landed safely in Devon. Jasper Tudor made for Wales, as ever, although the rest of the army moved rapidly north-east. Warwick recovered his artillery at Bristol, and by the time they reached Coventry the invaders had raised a large army. This time they attracted some noble support, as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Lord Stanley appear to have joined their army. Should Edward be criticised for his decision to move north? Some contemporaries did suggest it was a mistake,69 although most recent historians have appreciated Edward’s dilemmas.70Edward’s experience had taught him that a northern rebellion could not be allowed to grow unchecked, and how could he have known for certain where the invaders would land? It is not as though Edward was completely isolated. York was an important supply centre, on the Great North Road to London. Assuming that his rear was now secure, Edward was well placed to acquire provisions and then to move rapidly south towards a confrontation with the rebels. Ultimately Edward was to be defeated by treachery, not by his enemies’ strategy.
Further north Edward had delegated the preparations for war to John Neville, Marquess Montagu, in whom he continued to have the utmost trust. As always, Montagu carried out Edward’s instructions diligently and effectively. He raised a substantial force, estimated to be 6,000 strong.71 But now Montagu faced a terrible dilemma. For the last ten years he had provided Edward with sterling service, and he had received many rewards in return. He had twice ignored his brother’s appeal to blood kinship, but whether this was the result of a personal loyalty to Edward, ambition, or more abstract considerations, is unclear. Now, though, even if Edward had made a serious attempt to compensate him for his losses, he had his own grievances against the King. Montagu may indeed have considered the Courtenay lands to be a ‘magpie’s nest’, as Warkworth claims.72 Although these lands could have become a source of great wealth and power, Montagu made no attempt to establish his presence in the south-west. What is more, to a northerner, the imported foreign title of ‘Marquess’ probably meant far less than the ancient title of Northumberland. Neville’s possession of the Earldom of Northumberland had symbolised his family’s triumph over their ancestral enemies, the Percys, who were now restored to power. A number of factors may have induced Montagu to betray Edward, although we cannot know which of these was the most important. Eventually Montagu resolved to join his brother, although contemporaries suggested that he did so with a heavy heart.73
Alexander Carlisle, Sergeant of the Minstrels, brought the awful news to Edward at Doncaster, where the King was hastily roused from sleep: Montagu was preparing to attack. Edward had never lost a battle, but for the second time in just over a year he tasted defeat. A small army was still at Edward’s disposal, but he rapidly came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to make a stand. If Edward did not fear Warwick, evidently he had more respect for Montagu. He must also have understood that on this occasion, if he was captured, he would not be spared. Edward dismissed his levies. Now accompanied by a much smaller following, Edward took to flight. He made for the port of Lynn in Norfolk, by way of Lincolnshire and a hazardous crossing of the Wash. There was only one way for Edward to survive: exile.