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“My said Lord of Winchester, untruly, and against the King's peace, to the intent to trouble my said Lord of Gloucester going to the King, purposing his death in case that he had gone that way, set men at arms and archers at the end of London bridge next Southwark.”
The dramatist does not avail himself of the Chronicle for Winchester's defence, which consists in an appeal to his poverty and love of peace.
In the play, Warwick takes part with Gloucester, and Somerset, himself a Beaufort, with the Cardinal. We have then another fray between the retainers of the two parties in the very presence of the King, who endeavours to effect a reconciliation.
The little King certainly could not now interfere, but it is true that the dissensions between his two uncles were the subject of parliamentary consideration. The quarrel had begun, and had apparently produced riots, very early in the reign; the Bishop wrote his complaints to the Duke of Bedford, who came over from France to settle the dispute, which was finally referred to the parliament at Leicester. In the play, Winchester is the more difficult to be reconciled, and in an aside avows his insincerity, but the record shows that either the prelate was fairly thought to be in the wrong, or Gloucester was the more powerful in parliament, for the former was obliged to make a submission.
The dispute having been referred to the arbitration of several peers, it was decreed that the Cardinal should make the following apology :
“ My Lord of Gloucester, I have conceived to my great heaviness that you should have received by divers reports that I should have purposed and imagined against your person, honour, and estate, in divers manners, for the which you have taken against me great displeasure. Sir, I take God to witness that what reports soever have been made unto you of me, peradventure by. such as have not had great affection unto me - God forgive them-I never imagined nor purposed thing that might be hindering or prejudice to your person, honour, or estate, and for so much I pray you that you will be unto me good lord, from this time forth, for by my will I gave you never other occasion, nor purpose not to do hereafter, through God's grace.”.
And then Gloucester was to say
“ Beal* uncle, since you so declare you such a man as you say, I am right glad that it is so, and for such I take you.”
And the arbitrators added
“ Also we award, ordain, and decree, that, in token and proof of full and sad love and affection, to be had and kept betwixt my said Lords of Gloucester and of Winchester in manner abovesaid, each of them take other by the hand.”
And they did so.
The fourth scene of the second act professes to give us the origin of the Red and White Roses, as the symbols of the houses of York and Lancaster. The scene is laid in the Temple Gardens, where Richard Plantagenet (son and heir of the Earl of Cambridge, the conspirator against Henry the Fifth) appears to have had an argument with Somerset upon a topic which is not explained, but which appears to have been a point of law. York appeals to the company: Suffolkt answers
This is the word in the printed roll. It has been suggested that it may be a misprint for Leal (loyal), but that is not a likely epithet to be used. † William de la Pole, fourth earl of that name.
“ Faith, I have been a truant in the law,
And never yet could frame my will to it;
And, therefore, frame the law unto my will." And Warwick says
“But in these nice sharp quillets of the law,
Good faith, I am no wiser than a daw.” Not able to get any opinion upon this point of law, Plantagenet invites those of his companions who think him in the right to gather a white rose, while those of the contrary opinion pluck a red one. Suffolk chooses a red rose, Warwick and Vernon * the white; as does an anonymous " lawyer," who says, addressing Somerset
“Unless my study and my books be false,
The argument you held was wrong in you.” In the course of the discussion, which is conducted in the bad language too common in Shakspeare, and very characteristic of this play, Plantagenet is represented as a man of low degree, because his father was attainted. He answers in terms not very explanatory~
“My father was attached, not attainted ;
Condemn'l to die for treason, but no traitor." Yet, notwithstanding these expressions, and though Somerset was of the Lancastrian stock, I do not imagine, nor has it, so far as I know, ever been said, that this dispute, if it occurred anywhere but in the imagination of the poet, had any reference to the succession to the crown.
If we are to presume that this scene occurred (as it does in the play). immediately before the death of Mortimer, Richard was then about fifteen years old, and his rival, whom he calls young Somerset, and a peevish boy, must have been much older, having been a distinguished warrior in the time of Henry the Fifth. And at the time of this supposed rencounter with York he was a prisoner in France.f The Somerset of whom I have spoken hitherto is John Beaufort, who is said to have killed himself in 1443. I
“ Mortimer" is now introduced § a prisoner in the Tower. It is presumed that the person intended is Edmund, last Earl of March, and Shakspeare was led by Holinshed || into the mistake of making him a prisoner. He had, on the contrary, been favoured by Henry the Fifth, and, though he was so far implicated in the treason of Cambridge, Serope, and Grey, noticed in our last number, as to have received a pardon from the King, he was summoned as one of the judges to whom the cases of Cambridge and Scrope (being peers) were referred ;( and there is no notice of his being again under suspicion, or out of favour, in
* I presume that the person intended is Sir Richard Vernon, Speaker of the IIouse of Commons in the Leicester parliament, ancestor of Lord Vernon. One of the same name, perhaps the same person, is mentioned by Holinshed as a warrior. Collins, vii. 400. + Contin. Croyl., 518, where it is said that he returned in 1434 from a captivity
Cont. Croyl. 519. Holinshed says that he died about 1432, and that it was his brother Edinund who was the Duke of York's rival ; but all the genealogists place John's death in 1413 or 1444. If this be correct, York must have had a quarrel with the two brothers successively. § Act ii., Se. 5.
II P. 141.
Nicolas's Agincourt, p. 40.
of fifteen years.
the last reign or in the present. He died, in the year 1424 or 1425, not in the Tower, but in Ireland.
There is another mistake in making him an old man; he died at the age of twenty-four or thereabouts.
Richard Plantagenet, his nephew, is in the play) sent for by him just before his death, when he tells the dying man that,
“This day, in argument upon a case,
Some words there grew 'twixt Somerset and me;
And did upbraid me with my father's death." In answer to his inquiries, Mortimer tells him that his father, Cambridge, had been beheaded for the same cause which imprisoned Mor timer himself, having “levied an army to recover his right to the crown. No part of this is true, except that Cambridgc, in the concern which he had in the ill-advised plot against Henry the Fifth, probably had thi claims of his brother-in-law in view. These claims are stated correctly
“ For by my mother 1 derived am
From Lionel Duke of Clarence,* the third son
Being but fourth of that heroic line."
“ Thou art my heir.' In the Temple Gardens Warwick had promised that
“ This blot, which they object unto your house,
Shall be wiped out in the next parliament,
Call’d for the truce of Winchester and Gloucester.” And Richard himself now appears determined to push liis claim to the utmost, for he says,
“ And therefore haste I to the parliament,
Either to be restored to my blood,
Or make my ill th' advantage of my good.” Accordingly, in the next scene, which represents the Leicester parliament already noticed, Warwick urges the claim of Plantagenet, which Gloucester supports and nobody but Somerset opposes; whereupon the King creates him Duke of York, and promises to restore his whole inheritance.
This is from Holinshed :" When the great fire of this dissension, between these two noble per. sonages (Gloucester and Winchester) was thus by the arbitrators (to their knowledge and judgment) utterly quenched out and laid under board, all other controversies between other lords, taking part with the one party or the other, were appeased and brought to concord, so that for joy thereof the King caused a solemn feast to be kept on Whitsunday, on which day he created Richard Plantagenet, son and" heir of the Earl of Cambridge, (whom his father at Southampton had put to death, as before ye have heard,) Duke of York, not foreseeing that this preferment should be his destruction, nor that his seed should of his generation be the extreme and final conclusion.'
I believe this to be all error. Rapin † has shown that Plantagenet * The Earl of Cambridge, second son of Edmund Langley, Duke of York, the fifth son of Edward the Third, married Mortimer's sister; and this Richard was their son.
* V. 250, from Rymer, x, 260.
was styled Duke of York previously to the Leicester parliament; and there is no record of any proceeding respecting him in that parliament. He was not summoned as such till 1433, when he had come of age. *
But the play has not even the insufficient authority of this chronicler for
any difference, at this time, between York and Somerset.
The third act finishes with an incident, the first which we have of the quarrel of the Roses. Vernon—whom we have seen plucking a white rose—and Basset, come to high words in the court at Paris about the merits of York and Somerset, and in another scene appear before the King demanding leave to decide their difference in single combat. The king enjoins them to peace
“ Let me be umpire in this dreadful strife.
I see no reason, if I wear this rose (putting on a red rose),
I more incline to Somerset than York." The King uses here a curious method of showing his impartiality; but the whole scene is imaginary, and intended, I presume, to introduce the red rose as the badge of the house of Lancaster, The King proceeds
“ Cousin of York, we institute your grace
To be our regent in these parts of France;
After some respite, will return to Calais.” All this is placed just after Henry's coronation as King of France : that ceremony was performed in 1430, during the life of John Duke of Somerset. York was not appointed regent of France until after the death of the Duke of Bedford in 1435. But the playwright, with his usual contempt of dates, avails himself at this period of a passage in Holinshed which refers to the year 1435.
Although the Duke of York was worthy, both for birth and courage, of this honour and preferment, yet so disdained of Edmund (John ?) Duke of Somerset, being cousin to the King, that by all means possible he sought his hindrance, as one glad of his loss, and sorry of his well-doing; by means whereof, ere the Duke of York could get his dispatch, Paris, and divers others of the chiefest places in France, were gotten by the French king. The Duke of York, perceiving his evil will, openly dissembled that which he inwardly minded, either of them wishing things to the other's displeasure, till, through malice and division between them, at length by mortal war they were both consumed, with almost their whole lines and offspring.” ajo
For this beginning of strife between York and Somerset I find no older authority than Hall's, who tells us, moreover, that Somerset“ gaped for ”the regency himself. At all events, this great quarrel did not originate in a " quillet of the law.”
The historians of the time take no notice of any rivalry between York and Somerset on the occasion of York's first appointment to the regency. The quarrel is stated to have begun, when, after five years' good service, he was reappointed. I * Dugdale, 433.
+ Hol., 185. # Whethamstede, ii., 345–6 ; William of Wyrcester seems to put the quarrel in
Turn we now to the fifth act, where King Henry asks Gloucester and Exeter
“ Have you perused the letters from the Pope,
Glouc. I have, my lord, and their intent is this,-
Between the realms of England and of France."
“ The Earl of Armagnac—near knit to Charles,
A man of great authority in France-
In marriage, with a large and sumptuous dowry.” Then come a legate from the Pope, and two ambassadors, “ with Winchester in a cardinal’s habit.” The King signifies his assent to the proposal, which, from the answer, Winchester is to carry over to France. On seeing Beaufort in his new habiliments, Exeter exclaims—
“ What! is my lord of Winchester installid,
And callid unto a cardinal's degree?
He'll make his cap co-equal with the crown." Commentators have observed that Beaufort had appeared as cardinal in the very first act, and " it is strange the Duke of Exeter should not know of his advancement." The thing is wrong every way. Winchester was not a cardinal at the period intended in the first act, which is just after Henry the Fifth’s death, and he became a cardinal long before the time of this intended marriage. But the critics have not observed that at this time there was no Duke of Exeter in existence, or, if there was, it was one of a different family. Beaufort Duke of Exeter, brother to the cardinal, died in 1426 ;* and it was in 1443, subsequently, I apprehend, to the present transaction, that John Holland was raised to that dignity which his father had formerly possessed.t
Shakspeare follows Holinshed | in representing this match as offered by Armagnac, who had recently quarrelled with his kinsman, the King of France. That it was the particular project of the English council, or the peculiar favourite of Gloucester, nowhere appears. In fact, contemporaries are silent; we know nothing but that a mission was sent in
1450, ii., 473. York was reappointed to the regency on 3rd July, 1440 ; Rymer, 786. There is much doubt and confusion as to this regency. Holinshed says that York was superseded by Warwick in 1437; and though he expresses his doubts, that Earl certainly was so appointed. (Rymer, x. 675.) Holinshed also says that, when York's reappointment was proposed, Somerset successfully opposed it; but it is clear that York was appointed, as above; and the nomination of Somerset was much later; and this was Edmund, brother to John, whose death Holinshed, erroneously, as I think, (but there is still some doubt,) places about 1432, whereas, all genealogists state him to have lived to 1444.—See Hol., 185, 191, 194. Hardyng says that after Bedford's death, Burgundy was regent for a year, then Warwick one year, then Stafford (afterwards Buckingham) for two years, then Huntingdon (Holland, afterwards Duke of Exeter), and afterwards York seven years, then Somerset ; but this is clearly wrong as to York.
* Nicolas, i., 224. # The first John Holland was the third son of Thomas Earl of Kent, by Joan, daughter of Edmund, son of Edward the First. This John was attainted in 1400, after the deposition of Richard the Second.
| Hol., 205.