Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Ch. 22 - Henry the Sixth

PART THE FIRST


IT had been the wish of the late King, that while his infant son
KING HENRY THE SIXTH, at this time only nine months old, was under
age, the Duke of Gloucester should be appointed Regent. The
English Parliament, however, preferred to appoint a Council of
Regency, with the Duke of Bedford at its head: to be represented,
in his absence only, by the Duke of Gloucester. The Parliament
would seem to have been wise in this, for Gloucester soon showed
himself to be ambitious and troublesome, and, in the gratification
of his own personal schemes, gave dangerous offence to the Duke of
Burgundy, which was with difficulty adjusted.

As that duke declined the Regency of France, it was bestowed by the
poor French King upon the Duke of Bedford. But, the French King
dying within two months, the Dauphin instantly asserted his claim
to the French throne, and was actually crowned under the title of
CHARLES THE SEVENTH. The Duke of Bedford, to be a match for him,
entered into a friendly league with the Dukes of Burgundy and
Brittany, and gave them his two sisters in marriage. War with
France was immediately renewed, and the Perpetual Peace came to an
untimely end.

In the first campaign, the English, aided by this alliance, were
speedily successful. As Scotland, however, had sent the French
five thousand men, and might send more, or attack the North of
England while England was busy with France, it was considered that
it would be a good thing to offer the Scottish King, James, who had
been so long imprisoned, his liberty, on his paying forty thousand
pounds for his board and lodging during nineteen years, and
engaging to forbid his subjects from serving under the flag of
France. It is pleasant to know, not only that the amiable captive
at last regained his freedom upon these terms, but, that he married
a noble English lady, with whom he had been long in love, and
became an excellent King. I am afraid we have met with some Kings
in this history, and shall meet with some more, who would have been
very much the better, and would have left the world much happier,
if they had been imprisoned nineteen years too.

In the second campaign, the English gained a considerable victory
at Verneuil, in a battle which was chiefly remarkable, otherwise,
for their resorting to the odd expedient of tying their baggage-
horses together by the heads and tails, and jumbling them up with
the baggage, so as to convert them into a sort of live
fortification - which was found useful to the troops, but which I
should think was not agreeable to the horses. For three years
afterwards very little was done, owing to both sides being too poor
for war, which is a very expensive entertainment; but, a council
was then held in Paris, in which it was decided to lay siege to the
town of Orleans, which was a place of great importance to the
Dauphin's cause. An English army of ten thousand men was
despatched on this service, under the command of the Earl of
Salisbury, a general of fame. He being unfortunately killed early
in the siege, the Earl of Suffolk took his place; under whom
(reinforced by SIR JOHN FALSTAFF, who brought up four hundred
waggons laden with salt herrings and other provisions for the
troops, and, beating off the French who tried to intercept him,
came victorious out of a hot skirmish, which was afterwards called
in jest the Battle of the Herrings) the town of Orleans was so
completely hemmed in, that the besieged proposed to yield it up to
their countryman the Duke of Burgundy. The English general,
however, replied that his English men had won it, so far, by their
blood and valour, and that his English men must have it. There
seemed to be no hope for the town, or for the Dauphin, who was so
dismayed that he even thought of flying to Scotland or to Spain -
when a peasant girl rose up and changed the whole state of affairs.

The story of this peasant girl I have now to tell.


PART THE SECOND: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC


IN a remote village among some wild hills in the province of
Lorraine, there lived a countryman whose name was JACQUES D'ARC.
He had a daughter, JOAN OF ARC, who was at this time in her
twentieth year. She had been a solitary girl from her childhood;
she had often tended sheep and cattle for whole days where no human
figure was seen or human voice heard; and she had often knelt, for
hours together, in the gloomy, empty, little village chapel,
looking up at the altar and at the dim lamp burning before it,
until she fancied that she saw shadowy figures standing there, and
even that she heard them speak to her. The people in that part of
France were very ignorant and superstitious, and they had many
ghostly tales to tell about what they had dreamed, and what they
saw among the lonely hills when the clouds and the mists were
resting on them. So, they easily believed that Joan saw strange
sights, and they whispered among themselves that angels and spirits
talked to her.

At last, Joan told her father that she had one day been surprised
by a great unearthly light, and had afterwards heard a solemn
voice, which said it was Saint Michael's voice, telling her that
she was to go and help the Dauphin. Soon after this (she said),
Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had appeared to her with
sparkling crowns upon their heads, and had encouraged her to be
virtuous and resolute. These visions had returned sometimes; but
the Voices very often; and the voices always said, 'Joan, thou art
appointed by Heaven to go and help the Dauphin!' She almost always
heard them while the chapel bells were ringing.

There is no doubt, now, that Joan believed she saw and heard these
things. It is very well known that such delusions are a disease
which is not by any means uncommon. It is probable enough that
there were figures of Saint Michael, and Saint Catherine, and Saint
Margaret, in the little chapel (where they would be very likely to
have shining crowns upon their heads), and that they first gave
Joan the idea of those three personages. She had long been a
moping, fanciful girl, and, though she was a very good girl, I dare
say she was a little vain, and wishful for notoriety.

Her father, something wiser than his neighbours, said, 'I tell
thee, Joan, it is thy fancy. Thou hadst better have a kind husband
to take care of thee, girl, and work to employ thy mind!' But Joan
told him in reply, that she had taken a vow never to have a
husband, and that she must go as Heaven directed her, to help the
Dauphin.

It happened, unfortunately for her father's persuasions, and most
unfortunately for the poor girl, too, that a party of the Dauphin's
enemies found their way into the village while Joan's disorder was
at this point, and burnt the chapel, and drove out the inhabitants.
The cruelties she saw committed, touched Joan's heart and made her
worse. She said that the voices and the figures were now
continually with her; that they told her she was the girl who,
according to an old prophecy, was to deliver France; and she must
go and help the Dauphin, and must remain with him until he should
be crowned at Rheims: and that she must travel a long way to a
certain lord named BAUDRICOURT, who could and would, bring her into
the Dauphin's presence.

As her father still said, 'I tell thee, Joan, it is thy fancy,' she
set off to find out this lord, accompanied by an uncle, a poor
village wheelwright and cart-maker, who believed in the reality of
her visions. They travelled a long way and went on and on, over a
rough country, full of the Duke of Burgundy's men, and of all kinds
of robbers and marauders, until they came to where this lord was.

When his servants told him that there was a poor peasant girl named
Joan of Arc, accompanied by nobody but an old village wheelwright
and cart-maker, who wished to see him because she was commanded to
help the Dauphin and save France, Baudricourt burst out a-laughing,
and bade them send the girl away. But, he soon heard so much about
her lingering in the town, and praying in the churches, and seeing
visions, and doing harm to no one, that he sent for her, and
questioned her. As she said the same things after she had been
well sprinkled with holy water as she had said before the
sprinkling, Baudricourt began to think there might be something in
it. At all events, he thought it worth while to send her on to the
town of Chinon, where the Dauphin was. So, he bought her a horse,
and a sword, and gave her two squires to conduct her. As the
Voices had told Joan that she was to wear a man's dress, now, she
put one on, and girded her sword to her side, and bound spurs to
her heels, and mounted her horse and rode away with her two
squires. As to her uncle the wheelwright, he stood staring at his
niece in wonder until she was out of sight - as well he might - and
then went home again. The best place, too.

Joan and her two squires rode on and on, until they came to Chinon,
where she was, after some doubt, admitted into the Dauphin's
presence. Picking him out immediately from all his court, she told
him that she came commanded by Heaven to subdue his enemies and
conduct him to his coronation at Rheims. She also told him (or he
pretended so afterwards, to make the greater impression upon his
soldiers) a number of his secrets known only to himself, and,
furthermore, she said there was an old, old sword in the cathedral
of Saint Catherine at Fierbois, marked with five old crosses on the
blade, which Saint Catherine had ordered her to wear.

Now, nobody knew anything about this old, old sword, but when the
cathedral came to be examined - which was immediately done - there,
sure enough, the sword was found! The Dauphin then required a
number of grave priests and bishops to give him their opinion
whether the girl derived her power from good spirits or from evil
spirits, which they held prodigiously long debates about, in the
course of which several learned men fell fast asleep and snored
loudly. At last, when one gruff old gentleman had said to Joan,
'What language do your Voices speak?' and when Joan had replied to
the gruff old gentleman, 'A pleasanter language than yours,' they
agreed that it was all correct, and that Joan of Arc was inspired
from Heaven. This wonderful circumstance put new heart into the
Dauphin's soldiers when they heard of it, and dispirited the
English army, who took Joan for a witch.

So Joan mounted horse again, and again rode on and on, until she
came to Orleans. But she rode now, as never peasant girl had
ridden yet. She rode upon a white war-horse, in a suit of
glittering armour; with the old, old sword from the cathedral,
newly burnished, in her belt; with a white flag carried before her,
upon which were a picture of God, and the words JESUS MARIA. In
this splendid state, at the head of a great body of troops
escorting provisions of all kinds for the starving inhabitants of
Orleans, she appeared before that beleaguered city.

When the people on the walls beheld her, they cried out 'The Maid
is come! The Maid of the Prophecy is come to deliver us!' And
this, and the sight of the Maid fighting at the head of their men,
made the French so bold, and made the English so fearful, that the
English line of forts was soon broken, the troops and provisions
were got into the town, and Orleans was saved.

Joan, henceforth called THE MAID OF ORLEANS, remained within the
walls for a few days, and caused letters to be thrown over,
ordering Lord Suffolk and his Englishmen to depart from before the
town according to the will of Heaven. As the English general very
positively declined to believe that Joan knew anything about the
will of Heaven (which did not mend the matter with his soldiers,
for they stupidly said if she were not inspired she was a witch,
and it was of no use to fight against a witch), she mounted her
white war-horse again, and ordered her white banner to advance.

The besiegers held the bridge, and some strong towers upon the
bridge; and here the Maid of Orleans attacked them. The fight was
fourteen hours long. She planted a scaling ladder with her own
hands, and mounted a tower wall, but was struck by an English arrow
in the neck, and fell into the trench. She was carried away and
the arrow was taken out, during which operation she screamed and
cried with the pain, as any other girl might have done; but
presently she said that the Voices were speaking to her and
soothing her to rest. After a while, she got up, and was again
foremost in the fight. When the English who had seen her fall and
supposed her dead, saw this, they were troubled with the strangest
fears, and some of them cried out that they beheld Saint Michael on
a white horse (probably Joan herself) fighting for the French.
They lost the bridge, and lost the towers, and next day set their
chain of forts on fire, and left the place.

But as Lord Suffolk himself retired no farther than the town of
Jargeau, which was only a few miles off, the Maid of Orleans
besieged him there, and he was taken prisoner. As the white banner
scaled the wall, she was struck upon the head with a stone, and was
again tumbled down into the ditch; but, she only cried all the
more, as she lay there, 'On, on, my countrymen! And fear nothing,
for the Lord hath delivered them into our hands!' After this new
success of the Maid's, several other fortresses and places which
had previously held out against the Dauphin were delivered up
without a battle; and at Patay she defeated the remainder of the
English army, and set up her victorious white banner on a field
where twelve hundred Englishmen lay dead.

She now urged the Dauphin (who always kept out of the way when
there was any fighting) to proceed to Rheims, as the first part of
her mission was accomplished; and to complete the whole by being
crowned there. The Dauphin was in no particular hurry to do this,
as Rheims was a long way off, and the English and the Duke of
Burgundy were still strong in the country through which the road
lay. However, they set forth, with ten thousand men, and again the
Maid of Orleans rode on and on, upon her white war-horse, and in
her shining armour. Whenever they came to a town which yielded
readily, the soldiers believed in her; but, whenever they came to a
town which gave them any trouble, they began to murmur that she was
an impostor. The latter was particularly the case at Troyes, which
finally yielded, however, through the persuasion of one Richard, a
friar of the place. Friar Richard was in the old doubt about the
Maid of Orleans, until he had sprinkled her well with holy water,
and had also well sprinkled the threshold of the gate by which she
came into the city. Finding that it made no change in her or the
gate, he said, as the other grave old gentlemen had said, that it
was all right, and became her great ally.

So, at last, by dint of riding on and on, the Maid of Orleans, and
the Dauphin, and the ten thousand sometimes believing and sometimes
unbelieving men, came to Rheims. And in the great cathedral of
Rheims, the Dauphin actually was crowned Charles the Seventh in a
great assembly of the people. Then, the Maid, who with her white
banner stood beside the King in that hour of his triumph, kneeled
down upon the pavement at his feet, and said, with tears, that what
she had been inspired to do, was done, and that the only recompense
she asked for, was, that she should now have leave to go back to
her distant home, and her sturdily incredulous father, and her
first simple escort the village wheelwright and cart-maker. But
the King said 'No!' and made her and her family as noble as a King
could, and settled upon her the income of a Count.

Ah! happy had it been for the Maid of Orleans, if she had resumed
her rustic dress that day, and had gone home to the little chapel
and the wild hills, and had forgotten all these things, and had
been a good man's wife, and had heard no stranger voices than the
voices of little children!

It was not to be, and she continued helping the King (she did a
world for him, in alliance with Friar Richard), and trying to
improve the lives of the coarse soldiers, and leading a religious,
an unselfish, and a modest life, herself, beyond any doubt. Still,
many times she prayed the King to let her go home; and once she
even took off her bright armour and hung it up in a church, meaning
never to wear it more. But, the King always won her back again -
while she was of any use to him - and so she went on and on and on,
to her doom.

When the Duke of Bedford, who was a very able man, began to be
active for England, and, by bringing the war back into France and
by holding the Duke of Burgundy to his faith, to distress and
disturb Charles very much, Charles sometimes asked the Maid of
Orleans what the Voices said about it? But, the Voices had become
(very like ordinary voices in perplexed times) contradictory and
confused, so that now they said one thing, and now said another,
and the Maid lost credit every day. Charles marched on Paris,
which was opposed to him, and attacked the suburb of Saint Honore.
In this fight, being again struck down into the ditch, she was
abandoned by the whole army. She lay unaided among a heap of dead,
and crawled out how she could. Then, some of her believers went
over to an opposition Maid, Catherine of La Rochelle, who said she
was inspired to tell where there were treasures of buried money -
though she never did - and then Joan accidentally broke the old,
old sword, and others said that her power was broken with it.
Finally, at the siege of Compi�gne, held by the Duke of Burgundy,
where she did valiant service, she was basely left alone in a
retreat, though facing about and fighting to the last; and an
archer pulled her off her horse.

O the uproar that was made, and the thanksgivings that were sung,
about the capture of this one poor country-girl! O the way in
which she was demanded to be tried for sorcery and heresy, and
anything else you like, by the Inquisitor-General of France, and by
this great man, and by that great man, until it is wearisome to
think of! She was bought at last by the Bishop of Beauvais for ten
thousand francs, and was shut up in her narrow prison: plain Joan
of Arc again, and Maid of Orleans no more.

I should never have done if I were to tell you how they had Joan
out to examine her, and cross-examine her, and re-examine her, and
worry her into saying anything and everything; and how all sorts of
scholars and doctors bestowed their utmost tediousness upon her.
Sixteen times she was brought out and shut up again, and worried,
and entrapped, and argued with, until she was heart-sick of the
dreary business. On the last occasion of this kind she was brought
into a burial-place at Rouen, dismally decorated with a scaffold,
and a stake and faggots, and the executioner, and a pulpit with a
friar therein, and an awful sermon ready. It is very affecting to
know that even at that pass the poor girl honoured the mean vermin
of a King, who had so used her for his purposes and so abandoned
her; and, that while she had been regardless of reproaches heaped
upon herself, she spoke out courageously for him.

It was natural in one so young to hold to life. To save her life,
she signed a declaration prepared for her - signed it with a cross,
for she couldn't write - that all her visions and Voices had come
from the Devil. Upon her recanting the past, and protesting that
she would never wear a man's dress in future, she was condemned to
imprisonment for life, 'on the bread of sorrow and the water of
affliction.'

But, on the bread of sorrow and the water of affliction, the
visions and the Voices soon returned. It was quite natural that
they should do so, for that kind of disease is much aggravated by
fasting, loneliness, and anxiety of mind. It was not only got out
of Joan that she considered herself inspired again, but, she was
taken in a man's dress, which had been left - to entrap her - in
her prison, and which she put on, in her solitude; perhaps, in
remembrance of her past glories, perhaps, because the imaginary
Voices told her. For this relapse into the sorcery and heresy and
anything else you like, she was sentenced to be burnt to death.
And, in the market-place of Rouen, in the hideous dress which the
monks had invented for such spectacles; with priests and bishops
sitting in a gallery looking on, though some had the Christian
grace to go away, unable to endure the infamous scene; this
shrieking girl - last seen amidst the smoke and fire, holding a
crucifix between her hands; last heard, calling upon Christ - was
burnt to ashes. They threw her ashes into the river Seine; but
they will rise against her murderers on the last day.

From the moment of her capture, neither the French King nor one
single man in all his court raised a finger to save her. It is no
defence of them that they may have never really believed in her, or
that they may have won her victories by their skill and bravery.
The more they pretended to believe in her, the more they had caused
her to believe in herself; and she had ever been true to them, ever
brave, ever nobly devoted. But, it is no wonder, that they, who
were in all things false to themselves, false to one another, false
to their country, false to Heaven, false to Earth, should be
monsters of ingratitude and treachery to a helpless peasant girl.

In the picturesque old town of Rouen, where weeds and grass grow
high on the cathedral towers, and the venerable Norman streets are
still warm in the blessed sunlight though the monkish fires that
once gleamed horribly upon them have long grown cold, there is a
statue of Joan of Arc, in the scene of her last agony, the square
to which she has given its present name. I know some statues of
modern times - even in the World's metropolis, I think - which
commemorate less constancy, less earnestness, smaller claims upon
the world's attention, and much greater impostors.


PART THE THIRD


BAD deeds seldom prosper, happily for mankind; and the English
cause gained no advantage from the cruel death of Joan of Arc. For
a long time, the war went heavily on. The Duke of Bedford died;
the alliance with the Duke of Burgundy was broken; and Lord Talbot
became a great general on the English side in France. But, two of
the consequences of wars are, Famine - because the people cannot
peacefully cultivate the ground - and Pestilence, which comes of
want, misery, and suffering. Both these horrors broke out in both
countries, and lasted for two wretched years. Then, the war went
on again, and came by slow degrees to be so badly conducted by the
English government, that, within twenty years from the execution of
the Maid of Orleans, of all the great French conquests, the town of
Calais alone remained in English hands.

While these victories and defeats were taking place in the course
of time, many strange things happened at home. The young King, as
he grew up, proved to be very unlike his great father, and showed
himself a miserable puny creature. There was no harm in him - he
had a great aversion to shedding blood: which was something - but,
he was a weak, silly, helpless young man, and a mere shuttlecock to
the great lordly battledores about the Court.

Of these battledores, Cardinal Beaufort, a relation of the King,
and the Duke of Gloucester, were at first the most powerful. The
Duke of Gloucester had a wife, who was nonsensically accused of
practising witchcraft to cause the King's death and lead to her
husband's coming to the throne, he being the next heir. She was
charged with having, by the help of a ridiculous old woman named
Margery (who was called a witch), made a little waxen doll in the
King's likeness, and put it before a slow fire that it might
gradually melt away. It was supposed, in such cases, that the
death of the person whom the doll was made to represent, was sure
to happen. Whether the duchess was as ignorant as the rest of
them, and really did make such a doll with such an intention, I
don't know; but, you and I know very well that she might have made
a thousand dolls, if she had been stupid enough, and might have
melted them all, without hurting the King or anybody else.
However, she was tried for it, and so was old Margery, and so was
one of the duke's chaplains, who was charged with having assisted
them. Both he and Margery were put to death, and the duchess,
after being taken on foot and bearing a lighted candle, three times
round the City, as a penance, was imprisoned for life. The duke,
himself, took all this pretty quietly, and made as little stir
about the matter as if he were rather glad to be rid of the
duchess.

But, he was not destined to keep himself out of trouble long. The
royal shuttlecock being three-and-twenty, the battledores were very
anxious to get him married. The Duke of Gloucester wanted him to
marry a daughter of the Count of Armagnac; but, the Cardinal and
the Earl of Suffolk were all for MARGARET, the daughter of the King
of Sicily, who they knew was a resolute, ambitious woman and would
govern the King as she chose. To make friends with this lady, the
Earl of Suffolk, who went over to arrange the match, consented to
accept her for the King's wife without any fortune, and even to
give up the two most valuable possessions England then had in
France. So, the marriage was arranged, on terms very advantageous
to the lady; and Lord Suffolk brought her to England, and she was
married at Westminster. On what pretence this queen and her party
charged the Duke of Gloucester with high treason within a couple of
years, it is impossible to make out, the matter is so confused;
but, they pretended that the King's life was in danger, and they
took the duke prisoner. A fortnight afterwards, he was found dead
in bed (they said), and his body was shown to the people, and Lord
Suffolk came in for the best part of his estates. You know by this
time how strangely liable state prisoners were to sudden death.

If Cardinal Beaufort had any hand in this matter, it did him no
good, for he died within six weeks; thinking it very hard and
curious - at eighty years old! - that he could not live to be Pope.

This was the time when England had completed her loss of all her
great French conquests. The people charged the loss principally
upon the Earl of Suffolk, now a duke, who had made those easy terms
about the Royal Marriage, and who, they believed, had even been
bought by France. So he was impeached as a traitor, on a great
number of charges, but chiefly on accusations of having aided the
French King, and of designing to make his own son King of England.
The Commons and the people being violent against him, the King was
made (by his friends) to interpose to save him, by banishing him
for five years, and proroguing the Parliament. The duke had much
ado to escape from a London mob, two thousand strong, who lay in
wait for him in St. Giles's fields; but, he got down to his own
estates in Suffolk, and sailed away from Ipswich. Sailing across
the Channel, he sent into Calais to know if he might land there;
but, they kept his boat and men in the harbour, until an English
ship, carrying a hundred and fifty men and called the Nicholas of
the Tower, came alongside his little vessel, and ordered him on
board. 'Welcome, traitor, as men say,' was the captain's grim and
not very respectful salutation. He was kept on board, a prisoner,
for eight-and-forty hours, and then a small boat appeared rowing
toward the ship. As this boat came nearer, it was seen to have in
it a block, a rusty sword, and an executioner in a black mask. The
duke was handed down into it, and there his head was cut off with
six strokes of the rusty sword. Then, the little boat rowed away
to Dover beach, where the body was cast out, and left until the
duchess claimed it. By whom, high in authority, this murder was
committed, has never appeared. No one was ever punished for it.

There now arose in Kent an Irishman, who gave himself the name of
Mortimer, but whose real name was JACK CADE. Jack, in imitation of
Wat Tyler, though he was a very different and inferior sort of man,
addressed the Kentish men upon their wrongs, occasioned by the bad
government of England, among so many battledores and such a poor
shuttlecock; and the Kentish men rose up to the number of twenty
thousand. Their place of assembly was Blackheath, where, headed by
Jack, they put forth two papers, which they called 'The Complaint
of the Commons of Kent,' and 'The Requests of the Captain of the
Great Assembly in Kent.' They then retired to Sevenoaks. The
royal army coming up with them here, they beat it and killed their
general. Then, Jack dressed himself in the dead general's armour,
and led his men to London.

Jack passed into the City from Southwark, over the bridge, and
entered it in triumph, giving the strictest orders to his men not
to plunder. Having made a show of his forces there, while the
citizens looked on quietly, he went back into Southwark in good
order, and passed the night. Next day, he came back again, having
got hold in the meantime of Lord Say, an unpopular nobleman. Says
Jack to the Lord Mayor and judges: 'Will you be so good as to make
a tribunal in Guildhall, and try me this nobleman?' The court
being hastily made, he was found guilty, and Jack and his men cut
his head off on Cornhill. They also cut off the head of his son-
in-law, and then went back in good order to Southwark again.

But, although the citizens could bear the beheading of an unpopular
lord, they could not bear to have their houses pillaged. And it
did so happen that Jack, after dinner - perhaps he had drunk a
little too much - began to plunder the house where he lodged; upon
which, of course, his men began to imitate him. Wherefore, the
Londoners took counsel with Lord Scales, who had a thousand
soldiers in the Tower; and defended London Bridge, and kept Jack
and his people out. This advantage gained, it was resolved by
divers great men to divide Jack's army in the old way, by making a
great many promises on behalf of the state, that were never
intended to be performed. This DID divide them; some of Jack's men
saying that they ought to take the conditions which were offered,
and others saying that they ought not, for they were only a snare;
some going home at once; others staying where they were; and all
doubting and quarrelling among themselves.

Jack, who was in two minds about fighting or accepting a pardon,
and who indeed did both, saw at last that there was nothing to
expect from his men, and that it was very likely some of them would
deliver him up and get a reward of a thousand marks, which was
offered for his apprehension. So, after they had travelled and
quarrelled all the way from Southwark to Blackheath, and from
Blackheath to Rochester, he mounted a good horse and galloped away
into Sussex. But, there galloped after him, on a better horse, one
Alexander Iden, who came up with him, had a hard fight with him,
and killed him. Jack's head was set aloft on London Bridge, with
the face looking towards Blackheath, where he had raised his flag;
and Alexander Iden got the thousand marks.

It is supposed by some, that the Duke of York, who had been removed
from a high post abroad through the Queen's influence, and sent out
of the way, to govern Ireland, was at the bottom of this rising of
Jack and his men, because he wanted to trouble the government. He
claimed (though not yet publicly) to have a better right to the
throne than Henry of Lancaster, as one of the family of the Earl of
March, whom Henry the Fourth had set aside. Touching this claim,
which, being through female relationship, was not according to the
usual descent, it is enough to say that Henry the Fourth was the
free choice of the people and the Parliament, and that his family
had now reigned undisputed for sixty years. The memory of Henry
the Fifth was so famous, and the English people loved it so much,
that the Duke of York's claim would, perhaps, never have been
thought of (it would have been so hopeless) but for the unfortunate
circumstance of the present King's being by this time quite an
idiot, and the country very ill governed. These two circumstances
gave the Duke of York a power he could not otherwise have had.

Whether the Duke knew anything of Jack Cade, or not, he came over
from Ireland while Jack's head was on London Bridge; being secretly
advised that the Queen was setting up his enemy, the Duke of
Somerset, against him. He went to Westminster, at the head of four
thousand men, and on his knees before the King, represented to him
the bad state of the country, and petitioned him to summon a
Parliament to consider it. This the King promised. When the
Parliament was summoned, the Duke of York accused the Duke of
Somerset, and the Duke of Somerset accused the Duke of York; and,
both in and out of Parliament, the followers of each party were
full of violence and hatred towards the other. At length the Duke
of York put himself at the head of a large force of his tenants,
and, in arms, demanded the reformation of the Government. Being
shut out of London, he encamped at Dartford, and the royal army
encamped at Blackheath. According as either side triumphed, the
Duke of York was arrested, or the Duke of Somerset was arrested.
The trouble ended, for the moment, in the Duke of York renewing his
oath of allegiance, and going in peace to one of his own castles.

Half a year afterwards the Queen gave birth to a son, who was very
ill received by the people, and not believed to be the son of the
King. It shows the Duke of York to have been a moderate man,
unwilling to involve England in new troubles, that he did not take
advantage of the general discontent at this time, but really acted
for the public good. He was made a member of the cabinet, and the
King being now so much worse that he could not be carried about and
shown to the people with any decency, the duke was made Lord
Protector of the kingdom, until the King should recover, or the
Prince should come of age. At the same time the Duke of Somerset
was committed to the Tower. So, now the Duke of Somerset was down,
and the Duke of York was up. By the end of the year, however, the
King recovered his memory and some spark of sense; upon which the
Queen used her power - which recovered with him - to get the
Protector disgraced, and her favourite released. So now the Duke
of York was down, and the Duke of Somerset was up.

These ducal ups and downs gradually separated the whole nation into
the two parties of York and Lancaster, and led to those terrible
civil wars long known as the Wars of the Red and White Roses,
because the red rose was the badge of the House of Lancaster, and
the white rose was the badge of the House of York.

The Duke of York, joined by some other powerful noblemen of the
White Rose party, and leading a small army, met the King with
another small army at St. Alban's, and demanded that the Duke of
Somerset should be given up. The poor King, being made to say in
answer that he would sooner die, was instantly attacked. The Duke
of Somerset was killed, and the King himself was wounded in the
neck, and took refuge in the house of a poor tanner. Whereupon,
the Duke of York went to him, led him with great submission to the
Abbey, and said he was very sorry for what had happened. Having
now the King in his possession, he got a Parliament summoned and
himself once more made Protector, but, only for a few months; for,
on the King getting a little better again, the Queen and her party
got him into their possession, and disgraced the Duke once more.
So, now the Duke of York was down again.

Some of the best men in power, seeing the danger of these constant
changes, tried even then to prevent the Red and the White Rose
Wars. They brought about a great council in London between the two
parties. The White Roses assembled in Blackfriars, the Red Roses
in Whitefriars; and some good priests communicated between them,
and made the proceedings known at evening to the King and the
judges. They ended in a peaceful agreement that there should be no
more quarrelling; and there was a great royal procession to St.
Paul's, in which the Queen walked arm-in-arm with her old enemy,
the Duke of York, to show the people how comfortable they all were.
This state of peace lasted half a year, when a dispute between the
Earl of Warwick (one of the Duke's powerful friends) and some of
the King's servants at Court, led to an attack upon that Earl - who
was a White Rose - and to a sudden breaking out of all old
animosities. So, here were greater ups and downs than ever.

There were even greater ups and downs than these, soon after.
After various battles, the Duke of York fled to Ireland, and his
son the Earl of March to Calais, with their friends the Earls of
Salisbury and Warwick; and a Parliament was held declaring them all
traitors. Little the worse for this, the Earl of Warwick presently
came back, landed in Kent, was joined by the Archbishop of
Canterbury and other powerful noblemen and gentlemen, engaged the
King's forces at Northampton, signally defeated them, and took the
King himself prisoner, who was found in his tent. Warwick would
have been glad, I dare say, to have taken the Queen and Prince too,
but they escaped into Wales and thence into Scotland.

The King was carried by the victorious force straight to London,
and made to call a new Parliament, which immediately declared that
the Duke of York and those other noblemen were not traitors, but
excellent subjects. Then, back comes the Duke from Ireland at the
head of five hundred horsemen, rides from London to Westminster,
and enters the House of Lords. There, he laid his hand upon the
cloth of gold which covered the empty throne, as if he had half a
mind to sit down in it - but he did not. On the Archbishop of
Canterbury, asking him if he would visit the King, who was in his
palace close by, he replied, 'I know no one in this country, my
lord, who ought not to visit ME.' None of the lords present spoke
a single word; so, the duke went out as he had come in, established
himself royally in the King's palace, and, six days afterwards,
sent in to the Lords a formal statement of his claim to the throne.
The lords went to the King on this momentous subject, and after a
great deal of discussion, in which the judges and the other law
officers were afraid to give an opinion on either side, the
question was compromised. It was agreed that the present King
should retain the crown for his life, and that it should then pass
to the Duke of York and his heirs.

But, the resolute Queen, determined on asserting her son's right,
would hear of no such thing. She came from Scotland to the north
of England, where several powerful lords armed in her cause. The
Duke of York, for his part, set off with some five thousand men, a
little time before Christmas Day, one thousand four hundred and
sixty, to give her battle. He lodged at Sandal Castle, near
Wakefield, and the Red Roses defied him to come out on Wakefield
Green, and fight them then and there. His generals said, he had
best wait until his gallant son, the Earl of March, came up with
his power; but, he was determined to accept the challenge. He did
so, in an evil hour. He was hotly pressed on all sides, two
thousand of his men lay dead on Wakefield Green, and he himself was
taken prisoner. They set him down in mock state on an ant-hill,
and twisted grass about his head, and pretended to pay court to him
on their knees, saying, 'O King, without a kingdom, and Prince
without a people, we hope your gracious Majesty is very well and
happy!' They did worse than this; they cut his head off, and
handed it on a pole to the Queen, who laughed with delight when she
saw it (you recollect their walking so religiously and comfortably
to St. Paul's!), and had it fixed, with a paper crown upon its
head, on the walls of York. The Earl of Salisbury lost his head,
too; and the Duke of York's second son, a handsome boy who was
flying with his tutor over Wakefield Bridge, was stabbed in the
heart by a murderous, lord - Lord Clifford by name - whose father
had been killed by the White Roses in the fight at St. Alban's.
There was awful sacrifice of life in this battle, for no quarter
was given, and the Queen was wild for revenge. When men
unnaturally fight against their own countrymen, they are always
observed to be more unnaturally cruel and filled with rage than
they are against any other enemy.

But, Lord Clifford had stabbed the second son of the Duke of York -
not the first. The eldest son, Edward Earl of March, was at
Gloucester; and, vowing vengeance for the death of his father, his
brother, and their faithful friends, he began to march against the
Queen. He had to turn and fight a great body of Welsh and Irish
first, who worried his advance. These he defeated in a great fight
at Mortimer's Cross, near Hereford, where he beheaded a number of
the Red Roses taken in battle, in retaliation for the beheading of
the White Roses at Wakefield. The Queen had the next turn of
beheading. Having moved towards London, and falling in, between
St. Alban's and Barnet, with the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of
Norfolk, White Roses both, who were there with an army to oppose
her, and had got the King with them; she defeated them with great
loss, and struck off the heads of two prisoners of note, who were
in the King's tent with him, and to whom the King had promised his
protection. Her triumph, however, was very short. She had no
treasure, and her army subsisted by plunder. This caused them to
be hated and dreaded by the people, and particularly by the London
people, who were wealthy. As soon as the Londoners heard that
Edward, Earl of March, united with the Earl of Warwick, was
advancing towards the city, they refused to send the Queen
supplies, and made a great rejoicing.

The Queen and her men retreated with all speed, and Edward and
Warwick came on, greeted with loud acclamations on every side. The
courage, beauty, and virtues of young Edward could not be
sufficiently praised by the whole people. He rode into London like
a conqueror, and met with an enthusiastic welcome. A few days
afterwards, Lord Falconbridge and the Bishop of Exeter assembled
the citizens in St. John's Field, Clerkenwell, and asked them if
they would have Henry of Lancaster for their King? To this they
all roared, 'No, no, no!' and 'King Edward! King Edward!' Then,
said those noblemen, would they love and serve young Edward? To
this they all cried, 'Yes, yes!' and threw up their caps and
clapped their hands, and cheered tremendously.

Therefore, it was declared that by joining the Queen and not
protecting those two prisoners of note, Henry of Lancaster had
forfeited the crown; and Edward of York was proclaimed King. He
made a great speech to the applauding people at Westminster, and
sat down as sovereign of England on that throne, on the golden
covering of which his father - worthy of a better fate than the
bloody axe which cut the thread of so many lives in England,
through so many years - had laid his hand.

Charles Dickens