David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 2 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scene 2

— 2.2 —

The Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury, and the Earl of Warwick talked together in the Duke of York’s garden.

The Duke of York said, “Now, my good Lords of Salisbury and Warwick, our simple supper ended, give me permission in this private footpath to satisfy myself. I want to know your opinion of my title and right — which are infallible — to England’s crown.”

The Earl of Salisbury said, “My lord, I long to hear in full about your claim to the crown.”

“Sweet York, begin,” the Earl of Warwick said, “and if your claim to the crown is good, the Nevilles — both I and my father, the Earl of Salisbury — are your subjects to command.”

The Duke of York said, “Then I will begin.

“King Edward III, my lords, had seven sons.

“The first son was Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales.

“The second son was William of Hatfield, who was born 16 February 1337 and died 8 July 1337.

“The third son was Lionel, Duke of Clarence.

“The fourth son was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

“The fifth son was Edmund Langley, Duke of York.

“The sixth son was Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester.

“The seventh and last son was William of Windsor, who was born 24 June 1348 and died 5 September 1348.

“Edward the Black Prince died before his father and left behind him King Richard II, his only son, who after Edward III’s death reigned as King until Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, who was the eldest son and heir of John of Gaunt, was crowned by the name of King Henry IV.

“Henry Bolingbroke seized the realm, deposed the rightful King Richard II, sent Richard II’s poor Queen to France, from whence she came, and sent Richard II to Pomfret, where, as you know, harmless Richard II was murdered traitorously.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Father, the Duke of York has told the truth. This is how the House of Lancaster got the crown.”

The Duke of York said, “And now the House of Lancaster holds the crown by force and not by right.

“Once Richard II, the first son’s heir, was dead, the issue — one of the children — of the next son of Edward III should have reigned.”

The Earl of Salisbury said, “The second son was William of Hatfield, and he died without an heir.”

The Duke of York said, “The third son, Duke Lionel of Clarence, from whose line I claim the crown, had issue: Philippa, a daughter, who married Edmund Mortimer, fourth Earl of March.

“Edmund had issue: Roger, fifth Earl of March.

“And Roger had issue: Edmund, Anne, and Eleanor.”

The Earl of Salisbury said, “This last Edmund, in the reign of Henry Bolingbroke as Henry IV, as I have read, laid claim to the crown. Edmund would have been King, but Owen Glendower kept Edmund in captivity until he died.

“But tell us the rest of what you have to say.”

The Duke of York said, “Edmund’s eldest sister, Anne, who is my mother, being heir to the crown married Richard, the Earl of Cambridge, who was the son of Edmund Langley, King Edward III’s fifth son.

“By Anne I claim the Kingdom of England. She was heir to Roger, the Earl of March, who was the son of Edmund Mortimer, who married Philippa, the only daughter of Lionel, the Duke of Clarence.

“So, if the issue of the elder son succeeds to the throne before the issue of the younger son, I am the true and rightful King of England.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “What plain proceeding — line of descent — is more plain than this?

“Henry VI claims the crown from John of Gaunt, the fourth son of Edward III.

“The Duke of York claims it from the third son of Edward III.

“Until Duke Lionel of Clarence’s line fails, the issue of John of Gaunt should not reign.

“Duke Lionel of Clarence’s line has not yet failed, for it flourishes in you, the Duke of York, and in your sons, who are the fair slips of such a stock — branches of the trunk of the family tree.

“So then, father Salisbury, let us kneel together; and in this private plot we will be the first who shall salute our rightful sovereign and acknowledge the honor of his birthright to the crown.”

The Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Warwick knelt and said, “Long live our sovereign Richard, who is both the Duke of York and England’s King!”

Using the royal plural, the Duke of York said, “We thank you, lords.”

He then said, “But I am not officially your King until I am crowned and my sword is stained with the heart-blood of the House of Lancaster; and that’s not to be performed immediately, but with deliberation and silent secrecy.

“Both of you must do what I do in these dangerous days.

“Shut your eyes and pretend not to notice the Duke of Suffolk’s insolence and arrogance, Cardinal Beaufort’s pride, the Duke of Somerset’s ambition. Shut your eyes and pretend not to notice the Duke of Buckingham and all the rest of the crew of them until they have snared the shepherd of the flock, that virtuous Prince, the good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. He is whom they seek to snare and destroy, and they in seeking that shall find their deaths, if the Duke of York can prophesy.”

The Earl of Salisbury said, “My lord, you need say no more; we know your mind at full — we know what you mean to do.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “My heart assures me that the Earl of Warwick shall one day make the Duke of York a King.”

The Duke of York replied, “And, Neville, this I assure myself: Richard, Duke of York, shall live to make the Earl of Warwick the greatest man in England except for the King.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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