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which document it is also averred that some of the Kentish rebels avowed on the scaffold their intention to make the Duke of York king. The contemporary, Wyrcester, adds, that York's demand was, that a parliament should be called, and it would appear that this was done.
The fifth act of the play exhibits the King and York both encamped between Dartford and Blackheath; but this is an anticipation.
History tells us, that after York had retired from court, and before parliament met, Somerset came from France, having lost Normandy. * He was immediately taken into favour, and made high constable ; but he had made himself so unpopular by his ill success in France, that he was attacked by the populace of London, and only saved by getting into the Earl of Devonshire's barge.t
In this parliament the Commons; petitioned for the removal of Somerset, and several other persons,
* W. Wyrc., 473; Paston, iii. 88.
† W. Wyrc., 474; Fab. 453. Thomas Courtenay, fifth earl of that name. It has been supposed that he was at first a Yorkist, though he and his sons were afterwards distinguished Lancastrians. Surely it was most probably as a friend that be rescued Somerset, whose sister he married. I may, perhaps, take an opportunity of attempting to vindicate this Courtenay from the charge of ratting.
1 It met at Westminster, in Nov., 1450, but prorogued, and nothing was done before May, 1451.
but the king refused to part with “any lord named in the said petition."* An unsuccessful motion was made to declare York heir to the crown, which (since Henry had as yet no issue) he assuredly was. t
After parliament was up, York again raised forces: he informed his friends that the advice which he had given to the king was “ laid apart, and to be of none effect, through the envy, malice, and untruth of the Duke of Somerset, which for my trust, faith, and allegiance that I owe unto the king, and the good-will and favour that I have to all the realm, laboureth continually about the King's highness for my undoing, and to corrupt my blood, and to disherit me and my heirs, and such persons as be about me, without any desert or cause done or attempted on my part or theirs.
I am fully concluded to proceed in all haste against him with the help of my kinsmen and friends. I
The King marched against the Duke, and, in February, 1452, the two parties finally encamped near Dartford, as in the play.
The King promised to call a new council, of
Rolls, 411. + Turner says that the Duke of York exbibited articles of impeachment against Somerset; see vol. iii., p. 183. They are not in the Rolls. See Norfolk's speech in support of them in Paston Letters, iii., 109.
Ellis, First Series, i. 11.
which York should be a member; * and now it was agreed that the Duke of Somerset should be committed, to answer charges against him ; but the Duke of York found his party weak, broke up his host, and submitted himself to the King, with whom he found the Duke of Somerset.f York accompanied the King to London almost as a prisoner ; but, having sworn allegiance to Henry, was not further detained.
Holinshed chiefly follows Stow, whose narrative agrees pretty much with the above; but Shakspeare does not implicitly follow his usual authority.
There is in the play some semblance of all that I have related, especially as to Somerset's committal, and perfidious release. The queen's part in this is suggested by Fabyan. I For the arrival of Edward and Richard Plantagenet at this critical moment, there is no foundation but the opinion of a Chronicler that it was the rumour of the Earl of March's coming that prevented York's arrest. But Edward was at this time only fourteen years old at the most, and Richard not four.
Throughout this scene, York asserts his claim to
* Correspondence in Stow, 395; but whence taken ? See Fabyan, 626. † Leland, ii., 495.
I P. 628. § According to W. Wyrc., p. 462 and 477, Edward was born in 1442, and Richard in 1452.
I do not find that this claim had been made.
In the play, the battle of St. Alban's immediately follows; but more than two years, and some important events, intervened, as Shakspeare might have learned from Holinshed.
In 1453, while the parliament sat at Reading, Henry fell into a sickness which incapacitated him for government. * His imbecile state is graphically described in the Record. Certain lords were sent to him to take his pleasure upon certain public matters :
“ The said matters were opened and declared by the mouth of the Bishop of Chester, right cunningly, sadly, and worshipfully ... to the which matters, nor to any of them, they could get no answer nor sign, for no prayer nor desire, lamentable cheer nor expectation, nor anything that they or any of them could do or say, to their great sorrow and discomfort. After dinner they came to the king's highness in the same place where they were before, and there they moved and stirred him by all the ways and means that they could think, to have answer of the said matters, but they could have no answer, word, nor sign, and therefore with sorrowful hearts came their way.”+
The Duke of York was now, by the lords spiri
* W. Wyrc., 477; Rolls, 241; Wheth., 349.
tual and temporal, elected Protector.* Somerset was committed to the Tower ;t but the king got well and released him. Nominally, the disputes between the two dukes were referred to arbitration, but York did not wait for the award. He took up arms once more, with Salisbury and Warwick, and the two parties met near St. Alban's.
Buckingham was sent by the king $ to know the reason of the hostile array, and received the usual answer-Somerset. This mission is by Shakspeare transferred to the former meeting. ||
The battle immediately followed, I in which Somerset and Clifford were slain. ** This was the first battle between the two houses ; but there was still, I believe, no claim to the crown.
The events of dramatic battles are generally fanciful. Clifford and Somerset, however, are cor
March 27, 1454. The appointment was afterwards confirmed by the Commons, to last till the prince should cone of age. Rolls, 242-3, York had previously been appointed the king's lieutenant to hold the parliament.
† Nicolas, vi., p. lix. Lingard says that he was committed before the meeting of parliament; but his own statement is that he was committed during the king's illness. See Rymer, xi. 362.
Lingard, 145. ♡ Wheth., 352; Hol., 240. || Act v., Sc. 1. 9 St. Alban’s, 22d May, 1455.
** Thomas, twelfth Lord de Clifford. The present Baroness de Clifford is his female representative. Lord Clifford of Chudleigh is his male heir.