David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 3

— 3.3 —

A number of people were meeting in a room of King Louis XI’s palace in Paris: King Louis XI of France, his sister-in-law Lady Bona, the French Admiral Bourbon, Prince Edward of England, Queen Margaret, and the Earl of Oxford, one of King Henry VI’s supporters.

King Louis XI said, “Fair Queen of England, worthy Margaret, sit down with us. It ill befits your royal position and lineage that you should stand while I, Louis, sit.”

“No, mighty King of France,” Queen Margaret replied. “Now Margaret must strike her sail and learn for a while to serve where Kings command.”

A lowlier vessel would strike — lower — its sail in deference to a mightier ship. Striking the sail was also used as a sign that the ship was surrendering.

Queen Margaret continued, “I was, I must confess, great Albion’s Queen in former golden days.”

“Albion” is an ancient name for Britain.

She continued, “But now misfortune has trodden my title of Queen down, and with dishonor laid me on the ground, where I must take a low seat that is like my low fortune, and I must bring myself into conformity with my humble seat.”

“Tell me, fair Queen, from what springs this deep despair?” King Louis XI asked.

“From such a cause as fills my eyes with tears and stops my tongue, while my heart is drowned in cares,” Queen Margaret said.

“Whatever that cause is, always be royalty like yourself, and sit yourself by our side,” he said, using the royal plural.

They sat down, and the King of France added, “Don’t allow your neck to yield to the yoke of fortune, but instead let your dauntless mind always ride in triumph over all misfortune.

“Be plainspoken, Queen Margaret, and tell me about your grief. It shall be eased, if the King of France can yield relief.”

Queen Margaret replied, “Those gracious words revive my drooping thoughts and give my tongue-tied sorrows permission and the ability to speak. Now, therefore, be it known to noble Louis, that Henry VI, sole possessor of my love, from being a King has become a banished man, and he is forced to live in Scotland as a forlorn man, while proud, ambitious Edward, Duke of York, usurps the regal title and the seat of England’s truly anointed and lawful King.

“This is the reason that I, poor Margaret, with this my son, Prince Edward, King Henry VI’s heir, have come to request your just and lawful aid, and if you fail us, all our hope is over.

“Scotland wants to help, but cannot help. Our common people and our noble peers are both misled, our treasury has been seized, our soldiers put to flight, and as you see, we ourselves are in a heavy plight.”

“Renowned Queen, use patience to calm the storm of your emotions, while we think about a means to bring the storm to an end,” King Louis XI said.

“The more we delay, the stronger grows our foe,” Queen Margaret said.

“The more I delay, the more I’ll help you,” King Louis XI said.

“Oh, but impatience waits on and serves true sorrow,” Queen Margaret said.

The Earl of Warwick entered the room.

 Queen Margaret said, “And see where comes the breeder — the cause — of my sorrow!”

“What is the rank of that man who boldly approaches our presence?” King Louis XI said.

Queen Margaret replied, “He is England’s Earl of Warwick, Edward IV’s greatest friend.”

“Welcome, brave Warwick! What brings you to France?” King Louis XI said.

Both King Louis XI and Queen Margaret stood up, but only King Louis XI stepped down from the dias to greet the Earl of Warwick.

Queen Margaret thought, Yes, now a second storm begins to rise, for this is the man who moves both wind and tide.

The Earl of Warwick said to King Louis XI, “From worthy Edward IV, King of Albion, who is my lord and sovereign and your vowed friend, I come in kindness and unfeigned love, first to greet your royal person and then to ask for a league of friendship, and lastly to confirm that friendship with a nuptial knot, if you will grant that the virtuous Lady Bona, your fair sister-in-law, be given to England’s King Edward IV in lawful marriage.”

Queen Margaret thought, If that happens, Henry VI’s hope of regaining his crown is finished.

The Earl of Warwick said to Lady Bona, “And, gracious madam, in our English King’s behalf, I am commanded, with your permission and favor, humbly to kiss your hand, and with my tongue to tell you about the passion of my sovereign’s heart, where reports about you, recently entering at his heedful ears, has placed your beauty’s image and your virtue.”

Queen Margaret said, “King Louis XI and Lady Bona, hear me speak before you give your answer to Warwick. His request does not spring from Edward IV’s supposed well-meant honest love, but instead from deceit bred by necessity, for how can tyrants safely govern at home, unless they acquire great alliances abroad? To prove that Edward IV is a usurper, this may suffice: Henry VI is still alive, but even if he were dead, yet here Prince Edward, King Henry’s son, stands.

“Be careful, therefore, Louis XI, that by this league and marriage you do not bring on yourself danger and dishonor, for although usurpers may rule for a while, yet the Heavens are just, and time suppresses wrongs.”

“Insulting, slandering Margaret!” the Earl of Warwick said.

“And why do you not call her Queen?” Prince Edward asked.

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Because thy father, Henry VI, usurped the crown, and thou are Prince no more than she is Queen.”

He deliberately used the — in this context — insulting “thy” and “thou” rather than the respectful “your” and “you.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “Then Warwick makes null and nothing great John of Gaunt, who subdued the greatest part of Spain, and after John of Gaunt, King Henry IV, whose wisdom was a model of excellence to the wisest, and after wise King Henry IV, King Henry V, who by his prowess conquered all France. From these our King Henry VI lineally descends.”

In his anger, the Earl of Oxford had brought up King Henry V’s French conquests, something that King Louis XI did not want to hear about.

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Oxford, how does it happen that in this smooth discourse of yours, you did not mention that Henry VI has lost all that which Henry V had gotten? I think these peers of France should smile at that.

“But as for the rest, you tell a pedigree of threescore and two years.”

Henry IV became King in 1399; Edward IV became King in 1461.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “That is a short time to make prescription for a Kingdom’s worth.”

The word “prescription” was used in a legal sense to mean “claim founded on long and uninterrupted use or possession.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “Why, Warwick, can you speak against your liege, whom you obeyed for thirty-six years, and not reveal your treason with a blush?”

“Can Oxford, who always protected the right, now shield and protect falsehood with a pedigree? For shame! Leave Henry VI, and call Edward IV King.”

The Earl of Oxford replied, “Call him my King by whose unjust and harmful order my elder brother, the Lord Aubrey Vere, was executed? And worse than that, he had my father killed — my father who was then in his old age and whom Nature had brought to the door of death?”

King Edward IV had executed them on a charge of treason.

The Earl of Oxford continued, “No, Warwick, no; while life upholds this arm, this arm upholds the House of Lancaster.”

“And I uphold the House of York,” the Earl of Warwick said.

King Louis XI said, “Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, and Oxford, please, at our request, stand aside while I have further conversation with Warwick.”

Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, and the Earl of Oxford moved away far enough that they could not hear the French King’s and Warwick’s conversation.

Queen Margaret said to Prince Edward and the Earl of Oxford, “May the Heavens grant that Warwick’s words do not bewitch King Louis XI!”

King Louis XI said, “Now Warwick, tell me, on your conscience, is Edward IV your true King? For I am loath to link myself with a King who was not lawfully chosen.”

“On my reputation and my honor, I say that Edward IV is my true and lawfully chosen King,” the Earl of Warwick replied.

“But is he popular and esteemed in the people’s eye?” King Louis XI asked.

“The more that Henry VI is unfortunate, the more that Edward IV is esteemed.”

“Tell me further — with all possible dissembling set aside — tell me truthfully the measure of Edward IV’s love for our sister-in-law Lady Bona,” King Louis XI said, using the royal plural.

“It is such as may befit a monarch like himself,” the Earl of Warwick replied. “I myself have often heard him say and swear that this his love is an eternal plant, whereof the root is fixed in virtue’s ground, the leaves and fruit maintained with beauty’s Sun. His love will not feel the effects of malice because Lady Bona has no malice, but his love will feel the effects of disdain and rejection unless the Lady Bona removes his pain by returning his love.”

King Louis XI said to Lady Bona, “Now, sister-in-law, let us hear your clear decision regarding marriage to the English King Edward IV.”

“Your decision is my decision,” Lady Bona replied. “Your agreement to, or your denial of, the marriage proposal will also be mine.”

She then said to the Earl of Warwick, “Yet I confess that often before this day, when I have heard about your King Edward IV’s merits, my ear has tempted my judgment to desire him.”

King Louis XI, picking up on the implicit statement that she was willing to marry King Edward IV, said, “So then, Warwick, this is my decision: Our sister-in-law shall be Edward’s wife, and now without delay the articles of the agreement shall be drawn up concerning the marriage settlement that your King must make. Her dower — what she will get if your King dies before she does — shall be matched by her dowry — what she brings to your King by marrying him.”

He then said, “Draw near us, Queen Margaret, and be a witness that Lady Bona shall be the wife of the English King.”

Prince Edward said, “She shall be married to Edward, who is called Edward IV, but not to the English King, who is my father.”

“Deceitful Warwick!” Queen Margaret said. “It was your plot to make void my petition to Louis XI by making this alliance with him. Before you came here, Louis XI was Henry VI’s friend.”

King Louis XI said, “And he still is friends to Henry VI and Margaret, but if your claim to the crown is weak, as may appear by Edward IV’s good success in obtaining the crown, then it is only reasonable that I be released from giving you the aid that just now I promised. Yet you shall have all kindness at my hand that your high rank requires and my estate can yield.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Henry VI now lives in Scotland at his ease, where since he has nothing, he can lose nothing. And as for you yourself, our former Queen, you have a father who is able to maintain you, and it would be better if you troubled him rather than the King of France.”

“Be quiet, impudent and shameless Warwick, be quiet,” Queen Margaret said. “Proud setter up and puller down of Kings! I will not leave from here until, with my talk and tears, both full of truth, I make King Louis XI see your sly trickery and your lord’s false love, for both of you are birds of the same feather.”

A horn sounded to announce the arrival of an express messenger.

King Louis XI said, “Warwick, this is some messenger to us or to you.”

The messenger entered the room and gave a letter to the Earl of Warwick, saying, “My lord ambassador, this letter is for you, sent from your brother, the Marquess of Montague.”

He gave King Louis XI a letter and said, “This letter is from our English King Edward IV to your majesty.

He gave Queen Margaret a letter and said, “This letter is for you; from whom it comes I don’t know.”

They all read their letters.

The Earl of Oxford said to Prince Edward, “I like it well that our fair Queen and leader smiles at her news, while the Earl of Warwick frowns at his.”

Prince Edward replied, “Look at how King Louis XI stamps his foot as he were angry. I hope all’s for the best.”

King Louis XI asked, “Warwick, what is your news? And yours, fair Queen?”

Queen Margaret said, “My news is such as fills my heart with unhoped-for and unanticipated joys.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “My news is full of sorrow and heart’s discontent.”

King Louis XI said, “Your King Edward IV has married the Lady Elizabeth Grey! And now, to smooth over your deceit and his, he has sent me a letter to persuade me to be calm and patient! Is this the alliance that he seeks with the King of France? Does he dare to presume to scorn us in this manner?”

“I told your majesty as much before,” Queen Margaret said. “This proves Edward’s ‘love’ and Warwick’s ‘honesty.’”

The Earl of Warwick said, “King Louis XI, I here protest, in the sight of Heaven and by the hope I have of Heavenly bliss after I am dead that I am blameless in this misdeed of Edward IV’s. He is no more my King, for he dishonors me, but he dishonors himself most of all, if he could see his shame.

“Did I forget that because of the House of York my father came to his untimely death?”

The Earl of Warwick’s father had fought against the House of Lancaster and had been captured and killed by Lancastrians, but the Earl of Warwick was so angry that he was blaming the Yorkists for his father’s death: If the Yorkists had not rebelled against King Henry VI, his father would still be alive.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “Did I let pass the abuse done to my niece?”

Rumor had it that King Edward IV had tried to take the virginity of the Earl of Warwick’s niece.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “Did I encircle the head of Edward IV with the regal crown? Did I take from Henry VI his right by birth to be King of England? And am I rewarded at the end with shame? Shame on Edward IV! What I deserve is honor.

“And to repair my honor that I lost for Edward IV, I here renounce him and return to Henry VI.

“My noble Queen, let former grudges pass, and henceforth I am your true servant. I will revenge Edward IV’s wrong to Lady Bona, and I will replant Henry on the throne in his former high rank as King of England.”

Queen Margaret replied, “Warwick, these words have turned my hate to love, and I forgive and quite forget old faults, and I rejoice that you have become King Henry VI’s friend.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “I am so much King Henry VI’s friend, yes, his unfeigned friend, that, if King Louis XI will agree to furnish us with some few troops of chosen soldiers, I’ll undertake to land them on our coast and force the usurper from the throne by war. His newly made marriage will not result in support for him. And as for Clarence, as my letters tell me, he’s very likely now to fall away from him and support Henry VI because Edward IV married more for wanton lust than for honor or for the strength and safety of our country.”

Lady Bona said to King Louis XI, “Dear brother-in-law, how shall I, Lady Bona, be revenged except but by your help to this distressed Queen?”

Queen Margaret said to King Louis XI, “Renowned Prince, how shall poor Henry VI live, unless you rescue him from foul despair?”

“My quarrel and this English Queen’s quarrel with Edward IV are one and the same,” Lady Bona said.

“And my quarrel with Edward IV, fair Lady Bona, joins with yours,” the Earl of Warwick said.

King Louis XI replied to the Earl of Warwick, “And my quarrel with Edward IV joins with hers, and yours, and Margaret’s.”

He said to Queen Margaret, “Therefore, at last I am firmly resolved that you shall have aid.”

“Let me give humble thanks for all at once,” Queen Margaret replied.

King Louis XI said, “So then, England’s messenger, return in haste, and tell false Edward IV, your supposed King, that Louis XI of France is sending over ‘entertainers’ — troops of soldiers — to revel with him and his new bride. You witnessed what has happened here; go and frighten your King with what you have witnessed.”

Lady Bona said, “Tell him that in hope he’ll become a widower shortly, I’ll wear the willow garland for his sake.”

A willow garland is a symbol of unrequited love.

Queen Margaret said, “Tell him that I have laid aside my mourning clothing, and I am ready to put on armor.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Tell him from me that he has done me wrong, and therefore I’ll uncrown him before long.”

He gave the messenger some money and said, “There’s your reward. Leave now.”

The messenger exited.

King Louis XI said, “But, Warwick, you and Oxford, with five thousand men, shall cross the seas, and bid false Edward IV to a battle, and when the time is right, this noble Queen and Prince shall follow you with a fresh supply of troops. But before you go, resolve for me my doubt: What pledge do we have of your firm loyalty? How can I be certain that you won’t again support Edward IV?”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “This shall assure you of my constant loyalty: If our Queen Margaret and this young Prince Edward agree, I’ll join my eldest daughter and my joy to him forthwith in holy wedlock bands. Prince Edward and my eldest daughter shall be married.”

Queen Margaret said, “Yes, I agree, and I thank you for your proposed offer.

“Son Edward, Warwick’s eldest daughter is beautiful and virtuous. Therefore, don’t delay, but give your hand to Warwick, and with your hand and your irrevocable faith, vow that only Warwick’s daughter shall be yours and unlike Edward IV, you will marry no one else in her place.”

Prince Edward said, “Yes, I accept her, for she well deserves it, and here, to pledge my vow, I give you my hand.”

He and the Earl of Warwick shook hands.

King Louis XI said, “Why are we delaying now? These soldiers shall be levied, and you, Lord Bourbon, our high Admiral, shall waft them over the English Channel with our royal fleet. I am impatient for Edward IV to fall by war’s misfortune because he mocked making a marriage with a lady of France.”

Everyone exited except the Earl of Warwick, who said to himself, “I came from Edward IV as an ambassador, but I return as his sworn and mortal foe. To arrange a marriage was the charge he gave to me, but dreadful war shall be the answer to the request he wanted me to make on his behalf.

“Had he no one else to make a dupe but me? Then no one but I shall turn his jest to sorrow. I was the chief person who raised him to the crown, and I’ll be the chief person to bring him down again. It’s not that I pity Henry VI’s misery, but that I seek revenge on Edward’s mockery of me.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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