— 3.1 —
In the Abbey at Bury St. Edmund’s, several people walked into the Parliament: King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Cardinal Beaufort, the Duke of Suffolk, the Duke of York, the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Salisbury, and the Earl of Warwick. Attendants and guards were also present.
King Henry VI said, “I wonder why my Lord of Gloucester has not come. It is not his custom to be the last man to arrive, whatever reason keeps him from us now.”
“Can you not see?” Queen Margaret said. “Or will you not observe the aloofness of his altered countenance? With what majesty he bears himself? How insolent and disdainful he has recently become? How proud, how peremptory and dictatorial, and unlike himself?
“We know the time when he was mild and affable, and if we did but cast a far-off look at him, immediately he was upon his knee, so that all the court admired him for his submission.
“But meet him now, and if it is in the morning, when everyone will give each other the time of day and exchange greetings, he knits his brow and shows an angry eye, and passes by with stiff unbowed knee, disdaining to do the respect that belongs to us.
“Small curs are not regarded when they grin — snarl and show their teeth — but great men tremble when the lion roars, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, is no little man in England.
“First note that he is near you in descent, and should you fall, he as the next of kin will mount the throne. To me it seems not to be politically wise, considering what a rancorous mind he bears toward us and his advantage that would follow your decease, that he should come about your royal person or be admitted to your highness’ council.
“By using flattery the Duke of Gloucester won the hearts of the common people, and when he pleases to stir up insurrection, it is to be feared they all will follow him.
“Now it is the spring, and weeds are shallowly rooted. Tolerate them now, and they’ll overgrow the garden and choke the herbs for want of husbandry and good management.
“The reverent care I bear unto my lord — you, Henry VI — made me see these dangers in the Duke of Gloucester.
“If this is foolish, call it a woman’s fear. If better reasoning and evidence can supplant this fear, I will concur and say I wronged the Duke of Gloucester.
“My Lords of Suffolk, Buckingham, and York, disprove my allegation, if you can, or else conclude that my words are to the point.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “Well has your highness seen into this Duke of Gloucester, and if I had been the first to speak my mind, I think I would have told your grace’s tale — I would have said what you said.
“The Duchess of Gloucester, I swear upon my life, began her Devilish practices because of his subornation. Or, if he were not privy to those sins and crimes, yet through his holding in esteem his high descent, as being next of kin to the King he is next in succession to the throne if the King dies without children, and through his high boasts about his nobility, he instigated the bedlam — insane — brain-sick Duchess by wicked means to plan our sovereign’s fall.
“Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep, and in his simple show — appearance of being an honest man — he harbors treason. The fox does not bark when it wants to steal the lamb.
“No, no, my sovereign. The Duke of Gloucester is a man unsounded and with still unrevealed depths, and he is full of deep deceit.”
Cardinal Beaufort said, “Didn’t he, contrary to the form of law, order strange, cruel, and unusual deaths as punishment for small offences?”
The Duke of York said, “And didn’t he, in his Lord Protectorship, levy great sums of money through the realm of England for soldiers’ pay in France, and never sent it? Because of this, the towns each day revolted.”
The Duke of Buckingham said, “Tut, these are petty faults in comparison to faults unknown. Time will bring to light these unknown faults that lie in smooth Duke Humphrey.”
Using the royal plural, King Henry VI said, “My lords, I will say at once that the concern you have about us that makes you want to mow down thorns that would annoy our foot is worthy of praise, but I shall speak my conscience and say that our kinsman the Duke of Gloucester is as innocent of intending treason to our royal person as is the sucking lamb or harmless dove.
“The Duke of Gloucester is virtuous, mild, and too well disposed to dream about evil or to work toward my downfall.”
Queen Margaret said, “Ah, what’s more dangerous than this foolish confidence and trust!
“Does the Duke of Gloucester seem to be a dove? His feathers are only borrowed, for his disposition is that of the hateful raven.
“Does he seem to be a lamb? His skin is surely lent him, for his inclination is that of the ravenous wolf.
“Who cannot steal a shape that means deceit? The deceitful man can assume a fake appearance.
“Take heed, my lord; be careful. The welfare of us all hangs on the cutting short that fraudulent man.”
One way to cut a man short is to behead him; this will shorten him by a head.
The Duke of Somerset entered and said, “I wish all health to my gracious sovereign!”
“Welcome, Lord Somerset,” King Henry VI said. “What is the news from France?”
As Regent of France, the Duke of Somerset was responsible for ruling and protecting the King’s territories in France.
“That all your interest in those territories is utterly taken away from you; all is lost.”
“This is cold news, Lord Somerset,” King Henry VI said, “but God’s will be done!”
The Duke of York thought, This is cold news for me, for I had hope of obtaining France as firmly as I hope to obtain fertile England. Thus are my blossoms blasted in the bud and caterpillars eat my leaves away, but I will remedy this business before long, or sell my title for a glorious grave.
The Duke of Gloucester arrived and said, “All happiness unto my lord the King! Pardon me, my liege, for having stayed away so long.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “No, Duke of Gloucester, know that you have come too soon, unless you were more loyal than you are. I arrest you on a charge of high treason here.”
The Duke of Gloucester replied, “Well, Duke of Suffolk, you shall not see me blush or change my countenance as a result of this arrest.
“A heart unspotted by sin or crime is not easily daunted. The purest spring is not so free from mud as I am clear from treason to my sovereign.
“Who can accuse me? Of what am I supposed to be guilty?”
The Duke of York said, “It is thought, my lord, that you took bribes from the King of France, and as Lord Protector, you kept back the soldiers’ pay with the result that his highness has lost France.”
“Is it only thought so?” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Who are they who think it?
“I never robbed the soldiers of their pay, nor ever had even one penny as a bribe from the King of France.
“So help me God, I have stayed awake all night, yes, night after night, in studying how to do good for England.
“May any doit — small coin — that ever I wrested from the King, or any groat — another small coin — I hoarded to my use, be brought against me on the Day of Judgment!
“No; many pounds of my own personal money, because I would not tax the needy common people, have I disbursed to the garrisons, and I have never asked for restitution.”
Cardinal Beaufort said, “It serves you well, my lord, to say so much.”
“I say no more than what is the truth, so help me God!” the Duke of Gloucester said.
The Duke of York said, “In your Lord Protectorship, you devised strange tortures never heard of for offenders, with the result that England was defamed and dishonored by your tyranny.”
The Duke of Gloucester replied, “Why, it is well known that, while I was Lord Protector, pity was the only fault that was in me, for I would melt at an offender’s tears, and humble, submissive words were the ransom for the offenders’ crime.
“Unless it were a bloody murderer, or a foul, felonious thief who fleeced poor travelers, I never gave them their deserved punishment. Murder indeed, that bloody sin, I tortured more than other felonies or crimes.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “My lord, these faults are easily and quickly answered, but mightier crimes are laid to your charge, whereof you cannot easily purge yourself. I arrest you in his highness’ name, and here I commit you to my lord Cardinal Beaufort to keep under guard until your future time of trial.”
King Henry VI said, “My lord of Gloucester, it is my special hope that you will clear yourself from all suspicion. My conscience tells me you are innocent.”
“Ah, gracious lord, these days are dangerous,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Virtue is choked with foul ambition and charity is chased away from here by rancor’s hand. Foul subornation is in the ascendant and justice has been exiled from your highness’ land.
“I know that their plot is to have my life, and if my death might make this island happy, and prove to be the end of their tyranny, I would expend my life with all willingness. But my death is made the prologue to their play, for the deaths of thousands more, who yet suspect no peril, will not conclude their plotted tragedy.
“Cardinal Beaufort’s red sparkling eyes blab and betray his heart’s malice, and the Duke of Suffolk’s cloudy appearance blabs and betrays his stormy hate. Sharp Buckingham unburdens with his tongue the envious load that lies upon his heart, and dogged, spiteful York, who reaches at the moon and at other things it is impossible to get, whose overweening arm I have plucked back, by false accusation aims at my life. And you, my sovereign lady, my Queen, along with the rest, without justification have laid disgraces on my head, and with your best efforts have stirred up my most cherished liege — Henry VI — to be my enemy.
“Yes, all of you have laid your heads together — I myself had notice of your secret meetings — all to take away my guiltless life.
“I shall not lack false witnesses to condemn me, nor shall I lack an abundance of ‘treasons’ attributed to me to augment my guilt.
“The ancient proverb will be well fulfilled: ‘A staff is quickly found to beat a dog.’”
Cardinal Beaufort said to King Henry VI, “My liege, his railing is intolerable. If those who care to keep your royal person from treason’s secret knife and traitors’ rage be thus upbraided, criticized, and berated, and the offender be granted scope of speech, it will make them cool in zeal toward your grace.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “Has he not taunted our sovereign lady the Queen here with ignominious words, though clerkly couched — learnedly expressed — as if she had suborned some to swear false allegations to overthrow his greatness?”
Queen Margaret said, “But I can give the loser permission to chide and scold.”
The Duke of Gloucester said, “That is far truer spoken than meant. I lose, indeed. Damn the winners, for they have played me false! They have betrayed me! And well such losers may have permission to speak.”
The Duke of Buckingham said, “He’ll twist the meaning of whatever we say and hold us here all day.
“Lord Cardinal Beaufort, he is your prisoner.”
Cardinal Beaufort ordered, “Sirs, take away the Duke of Gloucester, and guard him securely.”
The Duke of Gloucester said, “Ah! Thus King Henry VI throws away his crutch before his legs are robust enough to bear his body. Thus is the shepherd beaten from your side, and wolves are snarling over who shall gnaw you first. Ah, I wish that my fear were false! Ah, I wish that it were! For, good King Henry, I fear that you will be destroyed.”
Guards took away the Duke of Gloucester.
King Henry VI said, “My lords, whatever your wisdoms think to be best, do or not do, just as if we ourself were here.”
Queen Margaret asked, “Will your highness leave the Parliament?”
“Yes, Margaret,” King Henry VI said. “My heart is drowned with grief, whose flood begins to flow within my eyes. My body is engirdled by misery, for what’s more miserable than discontent?
“Ah, uncle Humphrey! In your face I see the embodiment of honor, truth, and loyalty. Good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the hour is yet to come that ever I experienced you being traitorous or I feared your loyalty. What louring, ominous star now envies your high rank and standing, with the result that these great lords and Margaret our Queen seek the destruction of your harmless life? You never did them wrong, nor did you ever do any man wrong.
“Just like the butcher takes away the calf and binds the wretch, and beats it when it strays, bearing it to the bloody slaughterhouse, even so remorselessly have they borne the Duke of Gloucester away from here, and as the mother of the calf runs lowing up and down, looking in the direction her harmless young one went, and can do nothing but bewail her darling’s loss, even so I myself bewail good Gloucester’s case with sad, unhelpful tears, and with dimmed eyes look after him and cannot do him any good, so mighty are his vowed enemies.
“His fortunes I will weep, and in between each groan I will say, ‘Who’s a traitor? Gloucester is not a traitor.’”
Everyone exited except Queen Margaret, Cardinal Beaufort, the Duke of Suffolk, and the Duke of York. The Duke of Somerset stayed, but he watched the others and did not take place in their plotting.
Queen Margaret said, “Free, honorable, worthy lords, cold snow melts with the Sun’s hot beams. My lord — Henry VI — is cold in great affairs. He is too full of foolish pity, and the Duke of Gloucester’s performance beguiles him as the mournful crocodile with its crocodile tears of sorrow snares soft-hearted travelers — it cries to entice travelers to come near it, and then it snatches at them — or as the snake coiled in a flowering bank, with shining, multicolored skin, bites a child who thinks the snake is excellent because of its beauty.
“Believe me, lords, if no one were wiser than I — and yet herein I judge my own intelligence to be good — this Duke of Gloucester would be quickly rid — removed from — the world, in order to rid — free — us of the fear we have of him.”
Cardinal Beaufort said, “That the Duke of Gloucester should die is a sensible policy and good statesmanship, but yet we need a pretext for his death. It is a good idea for him to be condemned by the course of law.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “But, in my mind, that would not be a good idea; it won’t work. The King will labor always to save the Duke of Gloucester’s life. The common people perhaps will rise to save the Duke of Gloucester’s life. As of yet we have only trivial evidence, other than mistrust of him, that shows him to deserve a death sentence.”
The Duke of York said, “Judging by what you say, you would not have him die.”
“Ah, York, no man alive is as eager as I am to see him dead!” the Duke of Suffolk said.
The Duke of York said, “It is I, the Duke of York, who has more reason to want the Duke of Gloucester to die.
“But, my lord Cardinal Beaufort, and you, my Lord of Suffolk, say what you think, and speak it from your souls, isn’t it the same thing to set a hungry eagle to guard the chicken from a hungry kite — a bird of prey — and to make Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the King’s Protector?”
Queen Margaret said, “Either way, the poor chicken would be sure to die.”
“Madam, it is true,” the Duke of Suffolk said, “and isn’t it madness, then, to make the fox the guardian of the sheepfold? Should a person accused of being a crafty murderer have his guilt only frivolously looked at because his purpose is not executed and he has not yet committed the murder? No. Let him die. Why? Because he is a fox. And therefore his nature proves him to be an enemy to the flock even before his jaws are stained with crimson blood. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as proven by this reasoning, is like a fox to my liege: King Henry VI.
“And so we ought not to insist on niceties when it comes to slaying him. The main thing is that he die, whether it be by traps, by snares, by treacherousness, whether sleeping or awake, none of that matters as long as he dies, for good deceit checkmates first the man who first intends deceit.”
“Thrice-noble Suffolk, you have resolutely spoken your mind,” Queen Margaret said.
The Duke of Suffolk replied, “What I have said is not resolute, except in so much that is done, for things are often spoken about and seldom meant.
“But because my heart accords with my tongue, seeing the deed is meritorious and deserves to be rewarded by God because it will preserve my sovereign the King from his foe, say but the word, and I will be his priest. I will metaphorically give him his last rites — by literally making his last rites necessary.”
Cardinal Beaufort said, “But I want him dead, my Lord of Suffolk, before you can take due orders for and become a priest. Say that you consent and judge the deed to be good, and I’ll provide an executioner to kill the Duke of Gloucester because I care so much for the safety of my liege the King.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “Here is my hand. The deed is worthy and worth doing.”
They shook hands.
Queen Margaret said, “And I also say the deed is worthy and worth doing.”
The Duke of York said, “And so do I, and now that we three have agreed with Cardinal Beaufort to have the Duke of Gloucester murdered, it does not much matter who disputes the validity of what we have decided.
A messenger entered the room and said, “Great lords, from Ireland I have come at full speed to report that rebels there are up in arms and have put the Englishmen to the sword. Send reinforcements, lords, and stop the rage quickly before the wound grows incurable because since the rebellion is fresh and green, there is great hope that help can stop it.”
Cardinal Beaufort said, “This is a rebellion that needs a quick and expeditious stop!
“What advice do all of you give in this important affair?”
The Duke of York said, “I advise that the Duke of Somerset be sent as Regent there in Ireland. It is fitting that this lucky ruler be employed there. Just look at the fortune he has had in France.”
The Duke of York was being sarcastic. While the Duke of Somerset had been Regent in France, all the French regions controlled by England had been lost to the French.
The Duke of Somerset said, “If the Duke of York, with all his scheming and cunning political policy had been the Regent there instead of me, he never would have stayed in France so long.”
“No, not to lose it all, as you have done,” the Duke of York replied. “I would have lost my life speedily rather than bring a burden of dishonor home by staying there a long time and losing all the English-controlled French territories.
“Show me one scar engraved on your skin. Men whose flesh is preserved so whole seldom win.”
Queen Margaret said, “Don’t engage in this wrangling. This spark will prove to become a raging fire, if wind and fuel are brought to feed it with.
“Say no more, good York; sweet Somerset, be still and quiet. Your fortune, York, if you had been Regent there, might perhaps have proven to be far worse than his.”
“What, worse than nothing?” the Duke of York said. “In that case, then, may a shame take all!”
The Duke of Somerset said, “And among that number of people shamed, count yourself — you who wish shame on others!”
Cardinal Beaufort said, “My Lord of York, try what your fortune is. The uncivilized kerns of Ireland — lightly armed Irish foot soldiers — are in arms and moisten clay with blood of Englishmen. Will you lead a band of men, collected and chosen carefully, some from each county, and try your fortune against the Irishmen?”
“I will, my lord, if it pleases his majesty,” the Duke of York said.
The Duke of Suffolk said, “Why, our authority is his consent: Whatever we decide to do he will confirm. So then, noble York, take this task in hand. Take an English army to Ireland.”
“I am content,” the Duke of York said. “I agree. Provide soldiers for me, lords, while I make arrangements for my own affairs.”
“This charge, Lord York, I will see performed,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “I will see that you get soldiers. But now we return to the false and traitorous Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.”
Cardinal Beaufort said, “We need talk no more about him, for I will deal with him in such a way that henceforth he shall trouble us no more.
“And so let us break off our meeting; the day is almost spent.
“Lord Suffolk, you and I must talk of that event. I will get the murderers and you will tell them what to do and how to do it.”
The Duke of York said, “My Lord of Suffolk, within fourteen days I will expect my soldiers to be at Bristol because from there I’ll ship them all to Ireland.”
“I’ll see it truly done, my Lord of York,” the Duke of Suffolk said.
Everyone exited except the Duke of York, who began speaking to himself:
“Now, York, or never, steel your fearful thoughts, and change doubtfulness to resolution. Be what you hope to be, or resign to death what you are — it is not worth the enjoying. Let pale-faced fear stay with the lowly born man, and find no harbor in a royal heart.
“Faster than springtime showers comes thought on thought, and every thought thinks about high rank. My brain more busily than the laboring spider weaves wearyingly intricate snares to trap my enemies.
“Well, nobles, well, it is shrewdly done, to send me packing with an army of men. I fear that you are only warming the frozen snake that, once warmed against your chests, will sting your hearts.
“It was men I lacked and you will give them to me. I take this army kindly; and yet be well assured that you are putting sharp weapons in a madman’s hands.
“While I in Ireland nourish a mighty band of soldiers, I will stir up in England some black storm that shall blow ten thousand souls to Heaven or Hell, and this fell tempest shall not cease to rage until the golden circle is placed on my head — a crown like the glorious Sun’s transparent beams will calm the fury of this mad-bred squall. This squall will be produced by a madman — me.
“And, for the agent of my intention, I have persuaded a headstrong Kentish man, John Cade of Ashford, whose nickname is Jack, to make a rebellion, as he very well is capable of doing, while pretending to be John Mortimer.
“In Ireland I have seen this stubborn, ruthless, fierce Cade oppose himself against a troop of Irish kerns, and he fought so long that his thighs with darts — arrows and light spears — were almost like a sharp-quilled porcupine.
“And, after he was finally rescued, I have seen him caper upright like a wild Morris dancer, shaking the bloody darts as the Morris dancer shakes his bells.
“Very often, disguised as a shaggy-haired crafty Irish kern, he has conversed with the enemy, and undiscovered come back to me again and given me notice of their villainies.
“This Devil — John Cade — here shall be my substitute because John Cade resembles in face, in gait, and in speech John Mortimer, who now is dead.
“By this I shall perceive the commoners’ minds, how they think about the House and claim of York to the crown. If they follow John Cade, they will follow me.
“Let’s say that John Cade is captured and tortured on the rack. I know that no pain they can inflict upon him will make him say I persuaded him to take up those weapons.
“Let’s say that he thrives, as it is very likely he will, why, then from Ireland I will come with my strong army and reap the harvest that the rascal John Cade has sowed.
“With Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, dead, as he shall be, and Henry VI put aside, then the next King of England will be me.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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