Croyland Chronicle

Croyland Chronicle is in Late Medieval Books.

1461 Battle of Wakefield

1476 Reburial of Richard and Edmund of York

1478 Execution of George Duke of Clarence's Servants

1478 Execution of George Duke of Clarence

Late Medieval Books, Croyland Chronicle 1476

1453. In these recent times sprang up between our lord, king Henry the Sixth and Richard, the most illustrious duke of York, those dissensions, never sufficiently to be regretted, and never henceforth to be allayed : dissensions indeed, which were only to be atoned for by the deaths of nearly all the nobles of the realm. For there were certain persons enjoying the royal intimacy, who were rivals of the said duke, and who brought serious accusations against him of treason, and made him to stink in the king's nostrils even unto the death ; as they insisted that he was endeavouring to gain the kingdom into his own hands, and was planning how to secure the sceptre of the realm for himself and his successors. For this reason he was often summoned by threatening letters to appear in the royal presence, and was as often prevented by his rivals, as he was never allowed to gain admission to the royal presence, nor yet so much as to gain a sight of the king.

At last, a solemn oath was demanded of him npon the sacrament at the altar, to the effect that, so long as he should live he would never aspire to the rule of the kingdom, nor in any way attempt to usurp the same. Without any further delay, he was forbidden all intercourse with his adherents, and was most strictly ordered not to presume publicly to go beyond his own estates, or to pass the boundaries of his castles. Upon this, many of the nobles of the realm, who held the said duke in some degree of honor, took it very much to heart that injuries so monstrous and so great should be inflicted upon an innocent man: nay more, for want of free breathing, they were unable to bear this state of things any longer, but determined to watch for an opportunity to inflict due vengeance for their malice upon their malignant rivals ; in case they could find any means of removing them from the side of the king, in whose presence they were in continual attendance.

In the meantime, you might, plainly perceive public and intestine broils fermenting among the princes and nobles of the realm, so much so, that in the words of the Gospel,1 "Brother was divided against brother and father against father;" one party adhering to the king, while the other, being attached to the said duke by blood or by ties of duty, sided with him. And not only among princes and people had such a spirit of contention arisen, but even in every society, whether chapter, college, or convent, had this unhappy plague of division effected an entrance ; so much so, that brother could hardly with any degree of security admit brother into his confidence, or friend a friend, nor could any one reveal the secrets of his conscience without giving offence. The consequence was, that, from and after this period of time, the combatants on both sides, uniting their respective forces together, attacked each other whenever they happened to meet, and, quite in accordance with the doubtful issue of warfare, now the one and now the other, for the moment gained the victory, while fortune was continually shifting her position. In the meantime, however, the slaughter of men was immense ; for besides the dukes, earls, bai'ons, and distinguished warriors who were cruelly slain, multitudes almost innumerable of the common people died of their wounds. Such was the state of the kingdom for nearly ten years.

Note 1. Alluding to St. Matt. x. 21, and St. Mark xiii. 12.

1460. While, however, this whirlwind and tempest was still impending, in order that he might, for a short time, ayoid the force of the coming storm, king Henry, being inspired hj feelings of devotion, came to Croyland, in order to present his humble offerings at the tomb of our holy father Guthlae ; this was during the season of Lent, in the year from the Incarnation of our Lord, 1460. Here he stayed, in the full enjoyment of tranquillity, three days and as many nights, taking the greatest pleasure in the observance of his religious duties, and most urgently praying that he might be admitted into the brotherhood of our monastery; ariequest which was accordingly complied with. Shortly after, being desirous to present us with a due return, of his royal liberality he graciously granted and confirmed unto us the liberties of the whole vill of Croyland, to the end that its inhabitants might be rendered exempt from all demands on part of the servants and tax-gatherers of the king. Of this grant we think it not amiss here to set forth the tenor and form.

"Henry, by the grace of God, king of England and France, and lord of Ireland, to all to whom these present letters shall come, greeting. Know ye that we have, of our own free will and certain knowledge, and out of reverence for the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Saint Bartholomew, and Saint Guthlae, in honor of whom the monastery of Croyland is founded, granted unto John Lytlington, abbat of the before-named monastery and the monks of the same place and their successors, that they shall henceforth for ever have all fines for all kinds of transgressions, offences, misprisions, negligences, ignorances, falsifications, contempts, deceits, concealments, and aU other kinds of lapses whatsoever, and all amercements, ransoms, payments and penalties incurred or to be incurred, by themselves and all men, tenants, and residents whatsoever in the vill of Croyland in the county of Lincoln, in all Courts whatsoever of ourselves and our heirs, to be adjudged against them, the said men, tenants and residents, as well before ourselves and our heirs as before our barons of the Exchequer and those of our heirs, and before our justices of the Common Fleas and those of our heirs ; as also before our seneschal, marshal, and clerk of the market of our house and those of our heirs, and before the justices at the assizes to be held in the county aforesaid .... or to be taken or assigned ; and before the justices in eyre hereafter to be assigned to hold pleas of the crown, common pleas, and pleas of the forest ; and before the justices for gaol delivery, and for hearing and determining upon felonies, offences, and other misdeeds, to be assigned ; and before all other the justices and ministers whatsoever of ourselves and our heirs, whose duty it shall be to exact fines and amercements, and to levy forfeitures and penalties. And that the said abbat and monks, and their successors shall be at liberty, themselves or by their bailiffe or servants, to levy, receive, and take the said fines, amercements, ransoms, payments and penalties, so due from themselves, the men, tenants, and persons there residing, without let or hindrance on part of ourselves or our heirs, as freely and fully as we ourselves should have been enabled to levy, receive and take the same, if we had not granted them imto the before-named abbat and monks, and their successors. We have tnoreover granted unto the before-named abbat and monks and their successors that they shall for ever have return of our writs, precepts, mandates, and biUs of all kinds whatsoever, and execution of the same, by their own bailiff within the vill aforesaid, so far as concerns ourselves or our heirs, or the said abbat and monks or their successors 'y so that no Sheriff, Escheator, Coroner, Feudary,1 Bailiff, or any other officer or servant whatsoever, of us, or of our heirs, shall in any way intermeddle with any return of writs of this kind, or with the execution thereof, or shall under such pretence enter the said vill in any maimer whatsoever, under pain of our heavy displeasure. Witness, &c."

Note 1. An officer of the court of wards, whose duty it was to be present with the escheator, at. the surrey of the lands of the king's wards.

30 Dec 1461. After the conclusion of these matters, towards the close of the same year, it being the week of our Lord's Nativity, the said Richard, duke of York, incautiously engaged the northern army at Wakefield which was fighting for the king, without waiting to bring up the whole of his own forces ; upon which, a charge was made by the enemy on his men, and he was without any mercy or respect relentlessly slain. There fell with him at the same place many noble and illustrious men ; and countless numbers of the common people, who had followed him, met their deaths there, and all to no purpose.

The duke being thus removed from this world, the northmen, being sensible that the only impediment was now withdrawn, and that there was no one now who would care to resist their inroads, again swept onwards like a whirlwind from the north, and in the impulse of their fury attempted to overrun the whole of England. At this period too, fancying that every thing tended to insure them freedom from molestation, paupers and heggars flocked forth from those quarters in infinite numhers, just Hke so many mice rushing forth from their holes, and imiversally devoted themselves to spoil and rapine, without regard of place or person. For, besides the vast quantities of property which they collected outside, they also irreverently rushed, in their unbridled and frantic rage, into churches and the other sanctuaries of God, and most nefariously plimdered them of. their chalices, bookstand vestments, and, unutterable crime I broke open the pixes in which were kept the body of Christ and shook out the sacred elements therefrom. When the priests and the other faithful of Christ in any way offered to make resistance, like so many abandoned wretches as they were, they cruelly slaughtered them in the very churches or church yards. Thus did they proceed with impunity, spreading in vast multitudes over a space of thirty miles in breadth, and, covering the whole surface of the earth just like so many locusts, made their way almost to the very walls of London ; all the moveables which they could possibly collect in every quarter being placed on beasts of burden and carried off. With such avidity for spoil did they press on, that they dug up the precious vessels, which, through fear of them, had been concealed in the earth, and with threats of death compelled the people to produce the treasures which they had hidden in remote and obscure spots.

Jul 1476. In the meantime, and while the king was, for some years, as we have already stated, intent upon accumulating these vast quantities of wealth, he expended a considerable part of them in a solemn repetition of the Funeral rites of his father, Richard, the late duke of York. For this most wise monarch, recalling to mind the very humble place of his father's burial (the house of the Mendicant Friars at Pomfret, where the body of that great prince had been interred, amid the disturbances of the time at which he perished), translated the bones of his father, as well as those of his brother Edmund, earl of Rutland, to the fine college of Fodringham [Map]1, which he had founded, in the diocese of Lincoln, attended by two processions, which consisted both of persons distinguished by birth and high rank: the one being of ecclesiastics, and consisting of the prelates, the other of various peers and lords temporal. This solemnity was performed on certain days in the month of July, in the sixteenth year of the said king, being the year of our Lord, 1476.

Note 1. Fotheringay [Map].

Late Medieval Books, Croyland Chronicle 1478

Before 18 Feb 1478. The indignation of the duke (age 28) was probably still further increased by this; and now each began to look upon the other with no very fraternal eyes. You might then have seen, (as such men are generally to be found in the courts of all princes), flatterers running to and fro, from the one side to the other, and carrying backwards and forwards the words which had fallen from the two brothers, even if they had happened to be spoken in the most secret closet. The arrest of the duke for the purpose of compelling him to answer the charges brought against him, happened under the following circumstances. One Master John Stacy, a person who was called an astronomer, when in reality he was rather a great sorcerer, formed a plot in conjunction with one Burdet, an esquire, and one of the said duke's (age 28) household; upon which, he was accused, among numerous other charges, of having made leaden images and other things to procure thereby the death of Richard, lord Beauchamp (age 43), at the request of his adulterous wife1. Upon being questioned in a very severe examination as to his practice of damnable arts of this nature, he made confession of many matters, which told both against himself and the said Thomas Burdet. The consequence was, that Thomas was arrested as well; and at last judgment of death was pronounced upon them both, at Westminster, from the Bench of our lord the king, the judges being there seated, together with nearly all the lords temporal of the kingdom. Being drawn to the gallows at Tyburn [Map], they were permitted briefly to say what they thought fit before being put to death; upon which, they protested their innocence, Stacy indeed but faintly; while, on the other hand, Burdet spoke at great length, and with much spirit, and, as his last words, exclaimed with Susanna28, 'Behold! I must die; whereas I never did such things as these."

Note 28. History of Susanna, verse. 43.

Note 1. This is somewhat confusing since Elizabeth Stafford (age 43), wife of Richard Beauchamp 2nd Baron Beauchamp Powick (age 43) is reported by some sources as dying on 27 Jan 1466?

Before 18 Feb 1478. On the following day, the duke of Clarence (age 28) came to the council-chamber at Westminster, bringing with him a famous Doctor of the order of Minorites, Master William Goddard by name, in order that he might read the confession and declaration of innocence above-mentioned before the lords in the said council assembled; which he accordingly did, and then withdrew. The king (age 35) was then at Windsor, but when he was informed of this circumstance, he was greatly displeased thereat, and recalling to mind the information formerly laid against his brother, and which he had long kept treasured up in his breast, he summoned the duke to appear on a certain day in the royal palace of Westminster: upon which, in presence of the Mayor and aldermen of the city of London, the king began, with his own lips, amongst other matters, to inveigh against the conduct of the before-named duke, as being derogatory to the laws of the realm, and most dangerous to judges and jurors throughout the kingdom. But why enlarge? The duke was placed in custody, and from that day up to the time of his death never was known to have regained his liberty.

The circumstances that happened in the ensuing Parliament my mind quite shudders to enlarge upon, for then was to be witnessed a sad strife carried on before these two brethren of such high estate.29 For not a single person uttered a word against the duke (age 28), except the king (age 35); not one individual made answer to the king except the duke (age 28). Some parties were introduced, however, as to whom it was greatly doubted by many, whether they filled the office of accusers rather, or of witnesses: these two offices not being exactly suited to the same person in the same cause. The duke met all the charges made against him with a denial, and offered, if he could only obtain a hearing, to defend his cause with his own hand. But why delay in using many words? Parliament, being of opinion that the informations which they had heard were established, passed sentence upon him of condemnation, the same being pronounced by the mouth of Henry, duke of Buckingham (age 23), who was appointed Seneschal of England for the occasion. After this, execution was delayed for a considerable time; until the Speaker of the Commons, coming to the upper house with his fellows, made a fresh request that the matter might be brought to a conclusion. In consequence of this, in a few days after, the execution, whatever its nature may have been, took place, (and would that it had ended these troubles!) in the Tower of London [Map], it being the year of our Lord, 1478, and the eighteenth of the reign of king Edward.

Note 29. One would think that "tantae himanitatis," can hardly mean "of such humanity," when applied to such persons as Edward the Fourth and his brother Clarence.

After the perpetration of this deed, many persons left king Edward, fully persuaded that he would be able to lord it over the whole kingdom at his will and pleasure, all those idols being now removed, towards the faces of whom the eyes of the multitude, ever desirous of change, had been in the habit of turning in times past. They regarded as idols of this description, the earl of Warwick, the duke of Clarence (age 28), and any other great person there might then happen to be in the kingdom, who had withdrawn himself from the king's intimacy. The king however, although, as I really believe, he inwardly repented very often of this act, after this period, performed the duties of his office with such a high hand, that he appeared to be dreaded by all his subjects, while he himself stood in fear of no one. For, as he had taken care to distribute the most trustworthy of his servants throughout all parts of the kingdom, as keepers of castles, manors, forests, and parks, no attempt whatever could be made in any part of the kingdom by any person, however shrewd he might be, but what he was immediately charged with the same to his face.