— 1.3 —
In London, before the Tower of London, the Duke of Gloucester stood. With him were some serving men, dressed in blue coats; blue was the color traditionally worn by serving men. The Tower of London was a fortress, a prison, and the main armory of London.
The Duke of Gloucester said, “I have come to survey the Tower of London this day. Since King Henry V’s death, I fear, weapons have been stolen from the armory. Where are the guards who ought to be here? Open the gates. It is the Duke of Gloucester who is calling to be admitted.”
The first guard said from inside, “Who’s out there who knocks so imperiously?”
The first serving man replied, “It is the noble Duke of Gloucester.”
The second guard said, “Whoever he is, you may not be let in.”
The first serving man replied, “Villains, do you answer that way to the Duke of Gloucester, who is the Lord Protector?”
The first guard said, “May the Lord protect him! That is how we answer him. We do no otherwise than we are ordered to do.”
“Who ordered you to keep me out?” the Duke of Gloucester asked. “Whose orders ought you to take but mine? There’s no Protector of the Realm other than me.”
He ordered his serving men, “Break up the gates; I’ll be your warranty. Shall I be flouted thus by dunghill grooms?”
Dunghill grooms were servants who cleared away the dung left by horses and other animals.
The Duke of Gloucester’s serving men rushed at the Tower Gates.
Lieutenant Woodville spoke from inside the Tower of London, “What noise is this? What traitors have we here?”
The Duke of Gloucester said, “Lieutenant Woodville, is it your voice I hear? Open the gates. I am the Duke of Gloucester, and I want to enter.”
“Be calm, noble Duke,” Lieutenant Woodville said. “I may not open the gates. The Cardinal of Winchester forbids me to do so. From him I have the explicit command that neither you nor any of your servants shall be let in.”
“Faint-hearted Woodville, do you value him more than you value me? Do you value the arrogant Bishop of Winchester, that haughty prelate, whom Henry V, our late sovereign, never could endure?”
Henry Beaufort was the Bishop of Winchester. The Pope had made him also the Cardinal of Winchester, but the late King Henry V had refused to allow him to be installed as Cardinal. Now that Henry V was dead, the Bishop of Winchester was wearing the red clothing of a Cardinal, although he would not wear it while at court — yet. Later, King Henry VI would allow him to be installed as Cardinal of Winchester and so he would be addressed that way by everyone andhe would wear the red robes of a Cardinal openly.
The Bishop of Winchester and the Duke of Gloucester were related. The Duke of Gloucester’s father was King Henry IV. The Bishop of Winchester was King Henry IV’s half-brother. When the Bishop of Winchester was born, his parents were not married, but they married afterward. John of Gaunt is the Bishop of Winchester’s father and the Duke of Gloucester’s grandfather.
The Duke of Gloucester said to Lieutenant Woodville, using “thou,” which was used when speaking to men of inferior social status, “Thou are no friend to God or to the King. Open the gates, or I’ll shut thee out shortly.”
“Shut thee out” may have meant to shut him out of the Tower of London or to remove him from his job, or both.
The Duke of Gloucester’s serving men said, “Open the gates for the Lord Protector, or we’ll burst them open, if you don’t quickly obey.”
The Bishop of Gloucester arrived at the Tower gates. Accompanying him were his attendants, who wore tawny clothing.
“Greetings, ambitious Humphrey!” the Bishop of Winchester said to the Duke of Gloucester, whose given name was Humphrey. “What does all this commotion mean?”
“Peeled priest, do you command me to be shut out of the Tower of London?” the Duke of Gloucester asked.
A peeled priest was a tonsured priest. A priest of the time would shave the top of his head.
“Peeled” sounded like “pilled,” which meant “threadbare.” Priests were supposed to be humble, but the Bishop of Winchester was wearing the magnificent red robes of a Cardinal.
The Bishop of Winchester replied, “I command you to be shut out of the Tower of London, you most usurping proditor, and not Protector, of the King and realm.”
“Proditor” is an unusual word that means “traitor.”
The Duke of Gloucester said, “Stand back, you manifest conspirator, thou who contrived to murder our dead lord, King Henry V, when he was an infant — thou who gives whores indulgences to sin. I’ll toss thee in your broad Cardinal’s hat as if it were a canvas sheet if you proceed in this insolence of yours.”
The Bishop of Winchester was known for having land on which brothels stood, and so part of his income came from madams and pimps. An indulgence was a sheet of paper that supposedly gave forgiveness of sin in return for a good deed, which usually consisted of a donation to the Catholic Church.
The Bishop of Winchester replied, “No, you stand back. I will not budge a foot. This can be Damascus, and you can be cursed Cain here to slay Abel, your brother, if you want.”
In this culture, people believed that the city of Damascus was built on the location where Cain murdered Abel, his brother.
“I will not slay thee, but I’ll drive thee back,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Thy scarlet robes as a child’s bearing-cloth I’ll use to carry thee out of this place.”
A bearing-cloth was a christening cloth. The baby was carried in it to the location where it would be baptized.
“Do whatever you dare to do,” the Bishop of Winchester said. “I beard thee to your face.”
“To beard someone” meant “to grab his beard and pull it” — this was a calculated and major insult.
“What!” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Am I dared and bearded to my face? Draw your swords, men, despite this being a privileged place.”
Some places, such as the Tower of London and royal residences, were privileged. Drawn swords and violence were forbidden in those places.
He continued, “Blue coats against tawny coats. Priest, look after your beard because I mean to tug it and to beat you soundly.”
He then stamped his feet and said, “Under my feet I stamp your Cardinal’s hat in spite of Pope or dignities of church. Here I’ll drag thee up and down by your bearded cheeks.”
“Duke of Gloucester, you will answer for this before the Pope,” the Bishop of Winchester said.
“Winchester goose, I cry, ‘A rope! A rope!’” the Duke of Gloucester said.
A Winchester goose was a swelling in the groin that was caused by venereal disease; it also meant a prostitute in the area where the Bishop of Winchester owned much land. Parrots were taught to cry “A rope! A rope!” as a kind of joke. The parrot was supposedly calling for a rope to be used to hang someone.
The Duke of Gloucester ordered his serving men, “Now beat them away from here. Why do you let them stay?”
He then said to the Bishop of Winchester, “Thee I’ll chase away from here, you wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“Get out, tawny coats! Get out, scarlet hypocrite!”
The two groups of men fought, and the Duke of Gloucester’s men beat back the Bishop of Winchester’s men. While the fighting was going on, the Mayor of London and his officers arrived.
“Bah, lords!” the Mayor of London shouted, “It’s a disgrace that you, who are supreme magistrates, thus contumeliously — disgracefully and contemptuously — should break the peace!”
“Be calm, Mayor!” the Duke of Gloucester said. “You know little about my wrongs: Here’s Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester, who respects neither God nor King; he has here seized the Tower of London for his own use.”
The Bishop of Winchester said to the Mayor, “Here’s the Duke of Gloucester, a foe to citizens, a man who always proposes war and never peace, who overcharges your generous purses with large taxes and levies, who seeks to overthrow religion because he is Protector of the Realm, and who would take the armor here out of the Tower of London and use it to crown himself King and suppress the Prince who is supposed to be crowned King Henry VI.”
“I will not answer thee with words, but with blows,” the Duke of Gloucester said.
He hit the Bishop of Winchester.
“Nothing remains to be done by me in this tumultuous strife but to make open proclamation,” the Mayor said.
He ordered, “Come, officer; as loudly as you can, cry out the open proclamation.”
As the officer knew, part of the Mayor’s duty was to keep the peace.
The officer shouted, “All manner of men assembled here in arms this day against God’s peace and the King’s, we charge and command you, in his highness’ name, to go to your separate dwelling places, and we charge and command you not to wear, handle, or use any sword, weapon, or dagger, henceforward, upon pain of death.”
“Cardinal, I’ll be no breaker of the law,” the Duke of Gloucester said to the Bishop of Winchester. He used the word “Cardinal” as a gesture to show the Mayor that he would keep the peace.
He added, “But we shall meet, and break our minds at large. We will have words and thoroughly let each other know what we think.”
The Bishop of Winchester replied, “Duke of Gloucester, we will meet — to your cost, you can be sure. I will have thy heart’s blood for this day’s work.”
“I’ll call for clubs, if you will not go away,” the Mayor said.
If he were to have the officer call for clubs, the city’s apprentices would come running, carrying clubs that they would use to separate two groups who were fighting.
The Mayor then said to himself, “This Cardinal’s more haughty than the Devil.”
“Mayor, farewell,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “You are only doing your job.”
“Abominable Gloucester, guard your head,” the Bishop of Winchester said, “because I intend to have it before long.”
The Duke of Gloucester and the Bishop of Winchester exited in two separate directions, along with all their men.
The Mayor ordered, “See that the coast is cleared, and then we will depart.”
He then said to himself, “Good God, I can’t believe that these nobles should bear such anger! I myself have fought not even once in forty years.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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