Margaret of Anjou - Jacob Abbott

Bitter Disappointment

The preparations which were required for Margaret and her company to return to England in suitable state seem to have consumed several months; for, although it was as early as November that the great entrance into Paris took place, and the news of Henry's restoration was received, it was not until February that the royal party were ready to embark. There were negotiations to be made, and men to be enlisted, and ships to be procured, and funds to be provided, and appointments to be decided upon, and dresses to be made, and a thousand questions of precedence and etiquette to be considered and arranged. At length, however, all was ready, and the whole company proceeded together to the port which had been selected as the place of embarkation. This port was Harfleur. Harfleur is situated on the coast of Normandy, near the more modern port of Havre.

When the time arrived for sailing, the weather looked very unfavorable; but Margaret, who had become weary with the delays by which her return had been so long postponed, and was very impatient to arrive in her own dominions again, ordered the ships to put to sea. Three times did they make the attempt, and three times were the ships driven back into port again. Many of her friends were greatly discouraged by these failures. Some said they thought that this continued resistance of the elements to her plans ought to be regarded as an indication of divine Providence that she was not to go to England at present, and they begged her to defer the attempt. Others thought that the contrary winds were raised by witches, and they began to devise measures for finding out who the witches were.

Margaret paid no attention to either of these suggestions, but persisted in her determination to sail the moment that the weather should allow. This delay was a source of great inconvenience to her, and it occasioned a good deal of expense; for, besides her own personal officers and attendants, Margaret had collected quite a large body of soldiers to cross the Channel with her, in order to re-enforce the armies of Warwick and of Henry. This was quite necessary; for, although Henry had been nominally restored to the throne, his enemies were yet in the field in considerable force, and Margaret was very desirous of bringing with her the means of helping to put them down. In deed, she knew that the situation of her husband was extremely precarious, and that the fortune of war might at any time turn against him. And this consideration made her extremely impatient at the delay occasioned by the weather at Harfleur. She did not know but that the king might even then be engaged in close conflict with his foes, and likely to be overwhelmed by them, and that her force, by being so long: delayed, would arrive too late to save him.

Alas for poor Margaret! It was, indeed, exactly so.

It was not until the 24th of March that it was possible to leave the port; but then, although the weather was by no means settled, the queen determined to wait no longer. The Countess of Warwick, who had been left in France when the earl her husband went to England, sailed from Harfleur at the same time with the queen, though in a different vessel. Her daughter, however, the prince regent's bride elect, went with the, queen.

The weather continued very boisterous after the fleet sailed, and as the gales which blew so heavily were from the north, the ships could make very little progress. They were kept beating about in the Channel, or lying at anchor waiting for a change of wind, for more than a fortnight. During all this time Margaret was kept in a perfect fever of impatience and anxiety.

At length, about the 10th of April, they reached the land at Weymouth.

After the ships entered the port, the space of a day or two was occupied in making preparations to land. Among these preparations was included the work of arranging apartments at an abbey in the vicinity of Weymouth to receive the queen and her attendants. In the mean time, the landing of the troops was pushed forward as rapidly as possible.

The ship in which the Countess of Warwick embarked had sailed in a different direction from Margaret's fleet, and it was not known yet what had become of her.

When at last the preparations were completed, the queen and her party went on shore and took up their abode in the abbey. Margaret's mind was intensely occupied with the arrangements necessary for marshaling her troops and getting them ready to march to the assistance of Warwick, when, to her amazement and consternation, she received news, on the very next day after she took up her abode in the abbey, that the party of King Edward had mustered in great force and advanced toward London, and that a battle had been fought at a place called Barnet, a few miles from London, in which Edward's party had been completely victorious.

[Illustration] from Margaret of Anjou by Jacob Abbott


The Earl of Warwick had been killed. King Henry her husband had been taken prisoner, and their cause seemed to be wholly lost.

Warwick had gone into the battle on foot, in order the more effectually to stimulate the emulation of his men, so that when, in the end, his forces were defeated, and fled, he himself, being encumbered by his armor, could not save himself, but was overtaken by his remorseless enemies and slain.

The terrible agitation and anguish that this news excited in the mind of the queen it would be impossible to describe. She fell at first into a swoon, and when at length her senses returned, she was so completely overwhelmed with disappointment, vexation, and rage, and talked so wildly and incoherently, that her friends almost feared that she would lose her reason. Her son, the young prince, who was now nearly nineteen years of age, did all in his power to soothe and calm her, and at length so far succeeded as to induce her to consider what was to be done to secure her own and his safety. To remain where they were was to expose themselves to be attacked at any time by a body of Edward's victorious troops and conveyed prisoner to the Tower.

There was another abbey at not a great distance from where Margaret now was, which was endowed with certain privileges as a sanctuary, such that persons seeking refuge there under certain circumstances could not be taken away. The name of this retreat was Beaulieu Abbey. Margaret immediately proceeded across the country to this place, taking with her the prince and nearly all the others of her party. Either on her arrival here, or on the way, she met the Countess of Warwick, who, it will be recollected, had left Harfleur at the same time that she did. The countess's ship had been driven farther to the eastward, and she had finally landed at Portsmouth. Here she too had learned the news of the battle of Barnet and of the death of her husband, and, being completely overwhelmed with the tidings, and also alarmed for her own safety, she had determined to fly for refuge to Beaulieu Abbey too.

The two unhappy ladies, who had parted, three weeks before, on the coast of France with such high and excellent expectations, now met, both plunged in the deepest and most overwhelming sorrow. Their hopes were blasted, all their bright prospects were destroyed, and they found themselves in the condition of helpless and wretched fugitives, dependent upon a religious sanctuary for the hope of even saving their lives.