Margaret of Anjou - Jacob Abbott
Margaret had not been long in Kirkcudbright before she was accidentally seen by a man who knew her. This man was an Englishman. His name was Cork. He was of the Yorkist party. He said nothing when he saw the queen, but he immediately formed the resolution to seize her and all her party, and to convey them to England and give them up to King Edward. He contrived some way to carry this plot into execution. He seized de Brezé and his squire, and also the queen and the prince, and carried them on board a boat in the night, having first bound and gagged them, to disable them from making resistance or uttering any cries. It seems that De Brezé was not with the queen when he was taken, and as it was dark when they were put on board the boat, and neither could speak, neither party knew that the others were there until the morning, when they were far away from the shore, out in the wide part of the Solway Bay.
In the night, however, De Brezé, who was a man of address and of great personal strength, as well as of undaunted bravery, contrived to get free from his bonds, and also to free his squire, without letting the boatmen know what he had done. Then, in the morning, watching for a good opportunity, they together rose upon the boatmen, seized the oars, and, after a violent struggle, in which they came very near upsetting the boat, they finally succeeded in killing some of the men, and in throwing the others overboard. They immediately liberated Margaret and the prince, and then attempted to make for the shore.
After having been tossed about for sometime in the Gulf or Firth of Solway, the boat was carried by the wind away up through the North Channel more than sixty miles, and finally was thrown upon a sand-bank near the coast of Cantyre, a famous promontory extending into the sea in this part of Scotland. The boat struck at some distance from the dry land, and the sea rolled in so heavily upon it that there was danger of its being broken to pieces; so De Brezé took the queen upon his shoulders, and, wading through the water, conveyed her to the shore. Barville, the squire, carried the prince in the same way. And so they were once more safe on land.
They found the coast wild and barren, and the country desolate; but this was attended with one advantage at least, and that was that the queen was in little danger of being recognized; for, as one of Margaret's historians expresses it, the peasants were so ignorant that they could not conceive of any one's being a queen unless she had a crown upon her head and a sceptre in her hand.
They all went up a little way into the country, and at length found a small hamlet, where Margaret concluded to remain with the prince until De Brezé could go to Edinburgh and learn what the condition of the country was, and so enable her to consider what course to pursue.
The report which De Brezé brought back on his return was very discouraging. Margaret, however, on hearing it, determined to go to Edinburgh herself, to see what she could do. She found, on her arrival there, that the government were not willing to do any thing more for her. They would furnish her with the means, they said, if she wished, of going back to England in a quiet way, with a view of seeking refuge among some of her friends there, but that was all that they could do.
So Margaret went back to England, and remained for some little time in the great castle of Bamborough, which was still in the hands of her friends. She tried here to contrive some way of reassembling her scattered adherents and making a new rally, but she found that that objest could not be accomplished. Thus all the resources which could be furnished by France, Scotland, or England for her failing cause seemed to be exhausted, and, after turning her eyes in every direction for help, she concluded to cross the German Ocean into Flanders, to see if she could find any sympathy or succor there.
Compared with the number of attendants that were with her in her flight into Scotland, the retinue of friends and followers by which she was accompanied in this retreat to the Continent was quite large, though it is probable that most of this company went with her quite as much on their own account as on the queen's. The whole party numbered about two hundred. They embarked from Bamborough on board two ships, but very soon after they had left the land a storm arose, and the two ships were separated from each other, and for twelve hours, the one which Margaret and the prince had taken was in imminent danger of being overwhelmed. The wind rose to a perfect hurricane, and no one expected that they could possibly escape.
At length, however, the gale subsided so as to allow the ship to make a port; not the port of their destination, however, but one far to the southward of it, in a territory belonging to Philip, Duke of Burgundy, between whom and Margaret there had been, during all Margaret's life, a hereditary and implacable enmity. Margaret was greatly alarmed at finding herself thus at the mercy of a person whom she considered as one of her deadliest foes.
But, very much to her surprise, the duke, as soon as he heard of her arrival in the country, took pity on her misfortunes, forgot all his former enmity, and treated her in the most generous manner. He was not at Lille, his capital, when she arrived, but he sent his son to receive her, and to conduct her to the capital, with every possible mark of respect. When she went on afterward to meet the duke, he sent a guard of honor to escort her, and when she arrived at his court, which was at that time at a place called St. Pol, he received her in a very distinguished manner, and prepared great entertainments and festivities to do her honor.
He rendered her, also, still more substantial services than these, by furnishing her with an ample supply of funds for all her immediate wants. He gave to each of the ladies in her train a hundred crowns, to Brezé a thousand, and to Margaret herself an order on his treasurer for ten thousand.
King René, Margaret's father, was very much touched with this generosity and kindness on the part of his old family enemy. He himself, at that time, was wholly destitute, and unable to do anything for his daughter's relief. He, however, wrote a letter of warm thanks to Philip, in which he declared that he had not merited, and did not expect such kindness at his hand.
We have in the conduct of the Duke of Burgundy on this occasion, one single and solitary example, among all the Christian knights, and nobles, and princes that figure in this long and melancholy story of contention, cruelty, and crime in which the Savior's rule, Forgive your enemies, do good to them that hate you, was cordially obeyed and what happy fruits immediately resulted to all concerned How much of all the vast amount of bloodshed and suffering which prevailed during these gloomy times would have been prevented, if those who professed to be followers of Christ had been really what they pretended.
With the money which Margaret obtained from the of Burgundy she was enabled to continue her journey in some tolerable, degree of comfort to the old home of her childhood in Lorraine. All that her father could do for her was to furnish her, a humble place of refuge in a castle at Verdun, on the River Moselle, which flows through the province. She went there, attended with a small number of followers, and here she remained, in utter seclusion from the world and almost forgotten, for seven long years.
During all this time she enjoyed the comfort and satisfaction of having her son, the prince, with her, and of watching his progress to manhood under her own personal charge and that of one or two accomplished men who still adhered to her, and who aided her in the education of her boy. She was, however, hopelessly separated from her, husband. For a long time she did not know what had become of him. During this time he was leading a very precarious and wandering life in England, going from one hiding-place to another, wherever his friends could most conveniently secrete him. At length, however; the heavy tidings came to the queen, in her retreat at Verdun, that her husband had been betrayed in one of his retreats, and had been seized and carried to London as a prisoner in a very ignominious manner. It was to have been expected that he would be immediately put to death; but, as a matter of policy, the York party thought it not best to proceed to that extremity, especially as all his kingly right would have immediately descended to his son, in whose hands, with such a mother to aid him, they would have become more formidable than ever. Thus, on many accounts, it was better for his enemies to allow the old king to live.
But very special precautions were taken by King Edward's government to prevent Margaret and the young prince from coming into England again. A coast guard was set all along the shore, and every one in England who was suspected of being in communication with the exiled queen was watched and guarded in the closest manner possible. Some were tortured and put to death in the attempt to force them to give up letters or papers supposed to be in their possession. A certain wealthy merchant of London was accused of treason, and very severely punished, simply because he had been asked to loan money to Margaret, and, though he refused to make the loan, did not inform the authorities of the application which had been made to him.
Among other examples of the shocking cruelty of which those in power were guilty, in their hatred of Margaret and her cause, it is said that one man, who was found out, as they thought, in an attempt to convey letters to and fro between Margaret and some of her friends in England, was torn to pieces with red-hot pincers in a fruitless attempt to make him confess who the persons were in England for whom the letters were intended. But he bore the torture to the end, and died without betraying the secret.