Margaret of Anjou - Jacob Abbott

Reception In England

Notwithstanding the grand reception which the Duke of Gloucester gave to Margaret on her arrival in England, she knew very well that he had always been opposed to her marriage, and had not failed to do all in his power to prevent it. She accordingly considered him as her enemy; and though she endeavored at first, at least, to treat him with outward politeness, she felt a secret resentment against him in heart, and would have been very glad to have joined his political enemies in effecting his overthrow.

Cardinal Beaufort and the Earl of Suffolk, as has already been said, were Gloucester's rivals and enemies. The cardinal was a venerable man, now quite advanced in years. He was, however, extremely ambitious. He was immensely wealthy, and his wealth gave him great influence. He had, moreover, been the guardian of the king during his minority, and in that capacity had acquired a great influence over his mind. The Earl of Suffolk, who, with his lady, had been sent to France to bring Margaret over, had inspired Margaret with a great friendship for him. She felt a strong affection for him, and also for Lady Suffolk, not only on account of their having acted so important a part in promoting her marriage, but also on account of the very kind and attentive manner in which they had treated her during the whole period of her journey. Thus the cardinal and Suffolk, on the one hand, had the advantage, in their quarrel with the Duke of Gloucester, of great personal influence over the king and queen, while, Gloucester himself, on the other hand, enjoyed in some respects a still greater advantage in his popularity with the mass of the people. Every body perceived that the old quarrel between these great personages would now, on the arrival of the queen in England, be prosecuted with more violence than ever, and all the courtiers were anxious to find out which was likely to be the victor, so that, at the end of the battle, they might be found on the winning side.

As soon as the coronation was over, the principal personages who had been sent with Margaret by her father, for the purpose of accompanying her on her journey, and seeing her properly and comfortably established in her new home, were dismissed and allowed to set out on their return. They all received presents in money from King Henry to reimburse them for the expenses of the journey which they had made in bringing him his bride.

[Illustration] from Margaret of Anjou by Jacob Abbott


Margaret was thus left to herself in the new station and new sphere of duty to which she had been transferred. All the royal palaces had been fitted up expressly for her reception. This was very necessary in fact, for some years had elapsed since there had been a queen in England, and all the royal residences had become very much out of repair. Those were rude times, and even the palaces and castles that were built for kings and queens were at best very comfortless dwellings. But when, during a long minority, they were abandoned to the rude tenants and rough usages to which at such times they were sure to be devoted, they came, in the end, to be little better than so many barracks for soldiery. It required a great deal of time, and no little expense, to prepare the Tower and the palaces of Westminster and Richmond for the reception of a young and beautiful queen, and of the gay company of ladies that were to attend her. King Henry was so destitute of money at this time that he found it extremely difficult to provide the means of paying the workmen. There is still extant a petition which the clerk of the works sent in to the king, praying him to supply him with more money to pay the men, for the labor was so poorly paid, and the wages were so much in arrears, that it was extremely difficult for him to find men, he said, to go on with the work.

The palaces were, however, at last made ready before Margaret came. There were apartments for her in the Tower, and there were also three other palaces in and near London, in either of which she could reside at her pleasure. Besides this, the cardinal, who, as has already been remarked, was possessed of immense wealth, owned, among his other establishments, a beautiful mansion at Waltham Forest, a few miles north of London. The cardinal set apart a state chamber in this house for the exclusive use of the queen when she came to visit him, and caused it to be fitted up and furnished in a magnificent manner for her. The drapery of the bed was of cloth of gold from Damascus, and the other furniture and fittings were to correspond. The queen used often to go and visit the cardinal at this country seat. She soon became very fond of him, and willing to be guided by his counsel in almost every thing that she did. Indeed, the ascendency which the cardinal thus exercised over Margaret greatly increased his power over the king. The affairs of the court and of the government were directed almost wholly by his counsels. The Duke of Gloucester and the nobles of his party became more and more indignant and angry al this state of things. The realm of England, they said, through the weakness and imbecility of the king, had fallen into the hands of a priest and of a woman—a French woman, too.

But there was nothing that they could do. Margaret was so young and so beautiful that every body was captivated with her person and behavior, and whatever she did was thought to be right. Indeed, the general course which she pursued on her first arrival in England was  right in an eminent degree. There have been many cases in which young queens, in coming as Margaret did, away from their native land and from all their early friends, to reign in a foreign court, have brought with them from home personages of distinction to be their favorites and friends in their new position. But when this is done, jealousies and ill-will always sooner or later spring up between these relatives and friends of the foreign bride and the old native advisers of the king her husband. The result is, in the end, a king's party and a queen's party at court, and perpetual quarrels and dissensions ensue, in which at least the people of the country are sure to become involved, from their natural jealousy of the foreign influence, as they call it, introduced by the queen.

Queen Margaret had the good sense to avoid this danger. All the principal persons who came with her to England, for the purpose of accompanying her on the journey, and of carrying back to her father and friends in France authentic assurances of her having been honorably received by her husband as his bride and queen, were dismissed and sent home again immediately after the coronation, as we have already seen. Margaret retained only certain domestic servants, and perhaps some two or three private and personal friends. As for counselors and advisers, she threw herself at once upon the ministers and counselors of the king—the Cardinal Beaufort, who had been his guardian from childhood, and the Earl of Suffolk, who was one of his principal ministers, and had been sent by him, as his proxy and representative, to negotiate the marriage and bring home the bride. She made Lady Suffolk, too—the wife of the earl—her most intimate female friend. She appointed her to the principal place of honor in her household, and in other ways manifested great affection for her. The good sense and discretion which she thus manifested—young as she was, for she was not yet seventeen—in choosing for her confidential friend a lady of the age and standing of Lady Suffolk, instead of attempting to place in that position some foreign belle of her own years, whom she had brought with her for the purpose from her native land, as many young brides in her situation would have done, deserves much commendation. In a word, Margaret, in becoming a wife, gave herself up entirely to her husband. She made his friends her friends, and his interests her interests, and thus transferred herself, wholly and without reserve, to her new position; an example which all young ladies whose marriage brings them into entirely new circumstances and relations would do well to follow. Nothing is more dangerous than the attempt in such cases to bring from the old home influences in any form to be introduced with a view of sharing the control in the new.

In consequence of the discreet course of conduct that Margaret thus pursued, and of the effect produced on the court by her beauty, her vivacity, and her many polite accomplishments, public opinion—that is, the opinion of the outside world, who knew nothing of her secret designs or of her real character—turned very soon after her arrival in England entirely in her favor. As has already been said, the general sentiment of the nobles and of the people was strongly against the match when it was first proposed. They opposed it, not because they had any personal objection to Margaret herself, but because, in order to prepare the way for it, it was necessary to make peace with France, and in making peace, to grant certain concessions which they thought would weaken the power f of the English on the Continent, and, at any rate, greatly interfere with the farther extension of their power there. But when the people came to see and know the queen, they all admired and loved her.

As for the king, he was perfectly enchanted with his bride. He was himself, as has already been said, of a very sedate and quiet turn of mind; amiable and gentle in disposition; devout, fond of retirement, and interested only in such occupations and pleasures as are consistent with a life of tranquillity and repose. Margaret was as different as possible from all this. Her brilliant personal charms, her wit, her spirit, her general intellectual superiority, the extraordinary courage for which she afterward became so celebrated, and which began to show itself even at this early period, all combined to awaken in Henry's mind a profound admiration for his wife, and gave her a great and rapidly-increasing ascendency over him.

The impression which Margaret made upon the people was equally favorable. England, they thought, had never seen a queen more worthy of the throne than Margaret of Anjou. Some one said of her that no woman equaled her in beauty, and few men surpassed her in courage and energy. It seemed as if she had been born in order to supply to her royal husband the qualities which he required in order to become a great king.