— 2.2 —
King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, Lord Clifford, and the Earl of Northumberland stood in front of the town of York. With them were soldiers, including a drummer and a trumpeter.
Queen Margaret said to her husband, King Henry VI, “Welcome, my lord, to this brave town of York. Yonder is the head of that archenemy, the Duke of York, who sought to have your crown encircle his head. Doesn’t the object cheer your heart, my lord?”
“Yes,” King Henry VI said, “as much as the rocks cheer those who fear their ship will wreck on them. To see this sight irks my very soul. Withhold revenge, dear God! It is not my fault, for I have not deliberately infringed my vow.”
King Henry VI was worried that he had violated his oath. He had sworn to allow the Duke of York and the Duke’s heirs to have the crown after he died, but Queen Margaret and Lord Clifford had been waging war to have the oath annulled.
Lord Clifford said, “My gracious liege, this excessive mildness and gentleness and harmful pity must be laid aside. To whom do lions cast their gentle looks? Not to the beast that would usurp their den. Whose hand does the wild forest bear lick? Not his who carries away her young before her face. Who escapes the lurking serpent’s deadly sting? Not he who sets his foot upon her back. The smallest snake will attack after being trodden on, and doves will peck to safeguard their brood.
“The ambitious York aimed at your crown, and you smile while he knits his angry brows. He, who was only a Duke, wanted his son to be a King, and he wanted to elevate in rank his offspring, like a loving sire.
“You, who are a King, blest with an excellent son, gave your consent to disinherit him, which argued that you are a very unloving father.
“Creatures that are incapable of reason feed their young, and although man’s face is frightening to their eyes, yet who has not seen them protect their tender ones with those wings that sometimes they have used in fearful flight and make war against that person who climbed to their nest, and offer their own lives in their young’s defense?
“For shame, my liege, make them your precedent! Wouldn’t it be a pity that this excellent boy should lose his birthright by his father’s fault, and long hereafter say to his child, ‘What my great-grandfather and grandfather got, my heedless father foolishly gave away’?”
The great-grandfather and grandfather of Edward, Prince of Wales, were King Henry IV, who took the crown from King Richard II, and King Henry V, who became a national hero because of his victories in France.
Lord Clifford continued, “Ah, what a shame that would be! Look on the boy, and let his manly face, which promises a successful fortune, steel your melting heart to hold your own and leave your own with him. Look at your son and resolve to be King and let him be King after you.”
King Henry VI replied, “Very well has Clifford played the orator, making arguments of mighty force. But, Clifford, tell me, did you never hear that things ill gotten always have bad outcomes? And were things always happy for that son whose father went to Hell because of his hoarding? I’ll leave behind my virtuous deeds for my son, and I wish that my father had left me no more than that! For all the rest is held at such a rate as brings a thousand-fold more care to keep than possession brings jot of pleasure.”
He then said to the Duke of York’s decapitated head, “Ah, kinsman York! I wish your best friends knew how much it grieves me that your head is here!”
Queen Margaret said to him, “My lord, cheer up your spirits. Our foes are near, and this soft courage makes your followers fainthearted. You promised knighthood to our early-maturing son. Unsheathe your sword, and dub him a knight immediately.
“Edward, Prince of Wales, kneel down.”
Prince Edward knelt, and King Henry VI tapped his shoulders with a sword and then said, “Edward Plantagenet, arise a knight, and learn this lesson: Draw your sword in justice.”
The House of Lancaster and the House of York were both descended from King Edward III, whose family name was Plantagenet.
Prince Edward said, “My gracious father, by your Kingly leave, I’ll draw my sword as heir apparent to the crown, and in that cause use it to the death.”
Lord Clifford said, “Why, that is spoken like a promising Prince.”
A messenger arrived and said, “Royal commanders, be in readiness, for with a band of thirty thousand men comes Warwick, with the support of Edward, the new Duke of York, and in the towns, as they march along, people proclaim him King, and many run to him. Arrange your troops in fighting position, for the enemy soldiers are near at hand.”
Lord Clifford said to King Henry VI, “I wish that your highness would depart from the battlefield. The Queen has best success when you are absent.”
Queen Margaret said, “Yes, my good lord, depart and leave us to our fortune.”
King Henry VI replied, “Why, that’s my fortune, too; therefore, I’ll stay.”
The Earl of Northumberland said, “If you stay, stay with resolution then to fight.”
“My royal father,” Prince Edward said, “cheer these noble lords and hearten those who fight in your defense. Unsheathe your sword, good father; cry ‘Saint George!’”
A marching drum sounded, and the three surviving sons of the Duke of York — Edward, George, and Richard — arrived. With them were the Earl of Warwick, the Duke of Norfolk, the Marquess of Montague, and some soldiers. They had come for a parley.
Edward said, “Now, perjured Henry, will you kneel for grace and set your diadem upon my head, or will you endure the deadly fortune of the battlefield?”
Queen Margaret said, “Go and berate your minions, proud insulting boy! Is it becoming for you to speak so boldly before your sovereign and lawful King?”
“I am his King, and he should bow his knee to me,” Edward said. “I was adopted heir by his consent. Since that time, his oath has been broken, for as I hear, you, Margaret, who are King although he wears the crown, have caused him by a new act of Parliament to blot me out of the succession and put his own son in.”
“And with good reason, too,” Lord Clifford said. “Who should succeed the father but the son?”
Richard said, “Are you there, butcher? Oh, I cannot speak!”
Richard was calling Lord Clifford a butcher because he had killed young Rutland.
Lord Clifford replied, “Yes, crookback, here I stand to answer you or any man who is the proudest of your gang.”
“It was you who killed young Rutland, wasn’t it?” Richard asked.
“Yes, and the old Duke of York, and I am not yet satisfied,” Lord Clifford replied.
“For God’s sake, lords, give the signal to begin the battle,” Richard said.
“What do you say, Henry?” the Earl of Warwick asked. “Will you yield the crown?”
Queen Margaret said, “Why, what is this, long-tongued, chattering Warwick! Do you dare to speak? When you and I last met at Saint Albans, your legs did better service for you than your hands.”
“Then it was my turn to flee, and now it is yours,” the Earl of Warwick said.
“You said that before,” Lord Clifford said, “and yet you fled.”
“It was not your valor, Clifford, that drove me away,” the Earl of Warwick said.
“No,” the Earl of Northumberland said, “nor was it your manhood that dared to make you stay.”
“Northumberland, I regard you with great esteem,” Richard said.
He added, “Break off the parley; for I can scarcely refrain from putting into action the passions of my big-swollen heart against Clifford, that cruel child-killer.”
“I slew your father,” Lord Clifford said. “Do you call him a child?”
Richard ignored that comment, but he said, “Like a dastardly and treacherous coward, you killed our young brother Rutland, but before sunset I’ll make you curse the deed.”
“Have done with words, my lords, and hear me speak,” King Henry VI said.
“Defy them then, or else close your lips,” Queen Margaret said to him.
“Please, put no limits on my tongue. I am a King, and I have the privilege of speaking,” Henry VI said.
“My liege,” Lord Clifford said, “the wound that bred this meeting here cannot be cured by words; therefore, be still and quiet.”
“Then, executioner, unsheathe your sword,” Richard said. “By Him Who made us all, I am resolved that Clifford’s manhood lies upon his tongue. His tongue is more manly than his sword.”
“Tell me, Henry, shall I have my rights, or not?” Edward asked King Henry VI. “A thousand men have broken their fasts today who shall never eat the evening meal unless you yield the crown to me.”
The Earl of Warwick said to King Henry VI, “If you deny Edward the crown, the blood of the soldiers who will die is upon your head because Edward, the new Duke of York, puts his armor on for a just cause.”
Prince Edward said, “If that is right which Warwick says is right, then there is no wrong, but everything is right.”
Richard said to Prince Edward, “Whichever man begot you, there your mother stands, for I know well that you have your mother’s tongue.”
Queen Margaret said to Richard, “But you are like neither your sire nor your dam.”
This was an insult because “dam” is a word used for an animal’s mother.
She continued, “But you are like a foul misshapen deformed individual, marked by the destinies as a person to be avoided just like venomous toads or lizards’ dreadful stings.”
Richard replied, “You are iron of Naples hidden with a covering of English gilt, and your father bears the title of a King — as if a gutter should be called the sea. Aren’t you ashamed, knowing from whom you are descended, to let your tongue reveal your basely born heart?”
Richard was pointing out that Margaret had married above her social rank. Her father was a titular King with little money, and yet she had married the King of England.
Edward, Duke of York, said, “A wisp of straw would be worth a thousand crowns if it were possible to make this shameless whore know herself.
“Helen of Greece was fairer far than you, although your husband may be Menelaus, and never was Agamemnon’s brother wronged by that false woman, as this King has been wronged by you.”
Edward, Duke of York, thought little of Helen of Greece, who became Helen of Troy. He believed that she had cuckolded Menelaus, her lawful husband, by running away with the Trojan Prince Paris.
Edward, Duke of York, continued, “Henry VI’s father reveled in the heart of France, and tamed the King of France, and made the French King’s oldest son — the Dauphin — stoop.
“And if Henry VI had married according to his rank and position, he might have kept that glory of being King of England to this day. But when he took a beggar to his bed, and graced your poor father by marrying you, even then that sunshine brewed a shower for him — a shower that washed away the victories that his father — Henry V — had won in France.
“That shower also heaped sedition on his crown at home. For what has broached this tumult but your pride? Had you been meek, our title to the crown would have continued to sleep because we, in pity of the gentle King Henry VI, would have not asserted our claim to the crown until another age.”
George said, “But when we saw our sunshine made your spring, and we saw that your summer bred us no growth, we set the axe to your usurping root, and although the edge of the axe has to some extent hit ourselves, yet you should know that since we have begun to strike, we’ll never stop until we have hewn you down, or bathed and fertilized your growth with our heated blood.”
Duke Edward of York said, “And with that resolution, I defy you. I am not willing any longer to engage in talk, since you will not allow the gentle King to speak.
“Let the trumpets sound! Let our bloodthirsty battle flags wave! And let us get either victory, or else a grave.”
“Stay, Edward,” Queen Margaret said.
“No, wrangling woman, we’ll no longer stay,” Duke Edward of York said. “These angry words we have exchanged will cost ten thousand lives this day.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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