Richard III - Jacob Abbott

Richard's Marriage

When the affairs of the kingdom were settled, after the return of King Edward to the throne, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the subject of the present volume, was found occupying a very exalted and brilliant position. It is true, he was yet very young, being only about nineteen years of age, and by birth he was second to Clarence, Clarence being his older brother. But Clarence had been so wavering and vacillating, having changed sides so often in the great quarrels, that no confidence was placed in him now on either side. Richard, on the other hand, had steadily adhered to his brother Edward's cause. He had shared all his brother's reverses, and he had rendered him most valuable and efficient aid in all the battles which he had fought, and had contributed essentially to his success in all the victories which he had gained. Of course, now, Edward and his friends had great confidence in Richard, while Clarence was looked upon with suspicion and distrust.

Clarence, it is true, had one excuse for his instability, which Richard had not; for Clarence, having married the Earl of Warwick's daughter, was, of course, brought into very close connection with the earl, and was subjected greatly to his influence. Accordingly, whatever course Warwick decided to take, it was extremely difficult for Clarence to avoid joining him in it; and when at length Warwick arranged the marriage of his daughter Anne with the Prince of Wales, King Henry's son, and so joined himself to the Lancaster party, Clarence was placed between two strong and contrary attractions—his attachment to his brother, and his natural interest in the advancement of his own family being on one side, and his love for his wife, and the great influence and ascendency exerted over his mind by his father-in-law being on the other.

Richard was in no such strait. There was nothing to entice him away from his fidelity to his brother, so he remained true.

He had been so brave and efficient, too, in the military operations connected with Edward's recovery of the throne, that he had acquired great renown as a soldier throughout the kingdom. The fame of his exploits was the more brilliant on account of his youth. It was considered remarkable that a young man not yet out of his teens should show so much skill, and act with so much resolution and energy in times so trying, and the country resounded with his praises.

As soon as Edward was established on the throne, he raised Richard to what was in those days, perhaps, the highest office under the crown, that of Lord High Admiral of England. This was the office which the Earl of Warwick had held, and to which a great portion of the power and influence which he exercised was owing. The Lord High Admiral had command of the navy, and of the principal ports on both sides of the English Channel, so long as any ports on the French side remained in English hands. The reader will recollect, perhaps, that while Richard was quite a small boy, his mother was compelled to fly with him and his little brother George, to France, to escape from the enemies of the family, at the time of his father's death, and that it was through the Earl of Warwick's co-operation that she was enabled to accomplish this flight. Now it was in consequence of Warwick's being at that time Lord High Admiral of England, and his having command of Calais, and the waters between Calais and England, that he could make arrangements to assist Lady Cecily so effectually on that occasion.

Still, Richard, though universally applauded for his military courage and energy, was known to all who had opportunities of becoming personally acquainted with him to be a bad man. He was unprincipled, hard-hearted, and reckless. This, however, did not detract from his military fame. Indeed, depravity of private character seldom diminishes much the applause which a nation bestows upon those who acquire military renown in their service. It is not to be expected that it should. Military exploits have been, in fact, generally, in the history of the world, gigantic crimes, committed by reckless and remorseless men for the benefit of others, who, though they would be deterred by their scruples of conscience or their moral sensibilities from perpetrating such deeds themselves, are ready to repay, with the most extravagant honors and rewards, those who are ferocious and unscrupulous enough to perpetrate them in their stead. Were it not for some very few and rare exceptions to the general rule, which have from time to time appeared, the history of mankind would show that, to be a good soldier, it is almost absolutely essential to be a bad man.

The child, Prince Edward, the son of Edward the Fourth, who was born, as is related in a preceding chapter, in the sanctuary at Westminster, whither his mother had fled at the time when Edward was expelled from the kingdom, was, of course, King Edward's heir. He was now less than a year old, and, in order to place his title to the crown beyond dispute, a solemn oath was required from all the leading nobles and officers of Edward's government, that in case he survived his father they would acknowledge him as king. The following is the form of the oath which was taken:

I acknowledge, take, and repute you, Edward, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwayll, and Erl of Chestre, furste begoten son of oure sovereigne lord, as to the corones and reames of England and of France, and lordship of Ireland; and promette and swere that in case hereafter it happen you by Goddis disposition do outlive our sovereigne lord, I shall then take and accept you for true, veray and righteous King of England, and of France and of Ireland; and feith and trouth to you shall bere, and yn all thyngs truely and feithfully behave me towardes you and youre heyres, as a true and feithful subject oweth to behave him to his sovereigne lord and rightiiys King of England, France and Ireland; so help me God, and Holidome, and this holy Evangelist.

Richard took this oath with the rest. How he kept it will hereafter appear.

The Lady Anne, the second daughter of the Earl of Warwick, who had been betrothed to the Prince of Wales, King Henry's son, was left, by the fall of the house of Lancaster and the re-establishment of King Edward the Fourth upon the throne, in a most forlorn and pitiable condition. Her father, the earl, was dead, having been killed in battle. Her betrothed husband, too, the Prince of Wales, with whom she had fondly hoped one day to sit on the throne of England, had been cruelly assassinated. Queen Margaret, the mother of the prince, who might have been expected to take an interest in her fate, was a helpless prisoner in the Tower. And if the fallen queen had been at liberty, it is very probable that all her interest in Anne would prove to have been extinguished by the death of her son; for Queen Margaret had never felt any personal preference for Anne, and had only consented to the marriage very reluctantly, and from political considerations alone. The friends and connections of her father's family, a short time since so exalted in station and so powerful, were now scattered and destroyed. Some had been killed in battle, others beheaded by executioners, others banished from the realm. The rest were roaming about England in terror and distress, houseless, homeless, friendless, and only intent to find some hiding-place where they might screen themselves from Edward's power and vengeance.

There was one exception, indeed, the Lady Isabella, Clarence's wife, who, as the reader will recollect, was Warwick's oldest daughter, and, of course, the sister of Lady Anne. She and Clarence, her husband, it might be supposed, would take an interest in Lady Anne's fate. Indeed, Clarence did take an interest in it, but, unfortunately, the interest was of the wrong kind.

The Earl of Warwick had been immensely wealthy. Besides the ancient stronghold of the family, Warwick Castle, one of the most renowned old feudal fortresses in England, he owned many other castles, and many large estates, and rights of property of various kinds all over the kingdom. Now Clarence, after Warwick's death, had taken most of this property into his own hands as the husband of the earl's oldest daughter, and he wished to keep it. This he could easily do while Anne remained in her present friendless and helpless condition. But he knew very well that if she were to be married to any person of rank and influence on the York side, her husband would insist on a division of the property. Now he suspected that his brother Richard had conceived the design of marrying her. He accordingly set himself at work earnestly to thwart this design.

It was true that Richard had conceived the idea of making Anne his wife, from the motive, however, solely, as it would seem, to obtain her share of her father's property.

Richard had been acquainted with Anne from her childhood. Indeed, he was related to the family of the Earl of Warwick on his mother's side. His mother, Lady Cecily Neville, belonged to the same great family of Neville from which the Warwicks sprung. Warwick had been a great friend of Lady Cecily in former years, and it is even supposed that when Richard and his brother George were brought back from the Continent, at the time when Edward first obtained possession of the kingdom, they lived for a time in Warwick's family at Middleham Castle. This is not quite certainly known, but it is at any rate known that Richard and Anne knew each other well when they were children, and were often together.

There is an account of a grand entertainment which was given by the Warwick family at York, some years before, on the occasion of the enthroning of the earl's brother George as Archbishop of York, at which Richard was present. Richard, being a prince of the blood royal, was, of course, a very highly honored guest, notwithstanding that he was but a child. So they prepared for him and some few other great personages a raised platform, called a dais, at one end of the banquet-hall, with a royal canopy over it. The table for the distinguished personages was upon this dais, while those for the other guests extended up and down the hall below. Richard was seated at the centre of the table of honor, with a countess on one side of him and a duchess on the other. Opposite to him, at the same table, were seated Isabella and Anne. Anne was at this time about twelve years old.

Now it is supposed that Isabella and Anne were placed at this table to please Richard, for their mother, who was, of course, entitled to take precedence of them, had her seat at one of the large tables below.

From this and some other similar indications, it is supposed that Richard took a fancy to Anne while they were quite young, as Clarence did to Isabella. Indeed, one of the ancient, writers says that Richard wished, at this early period, to choose her for his wife, but that she did not like him.

At any rate, now, after the re-establishment of his brother upon the throne, and his own exaltation to such high office under him, he determined that he would marry Anne. Clarence, on the other hand, determined that he should not marry her. So Clarence, with the pretense of taking her under his protection, seized her, and carried her away to a place of concealment, where he kept her closely shut up. Anne consented to this, for she wished to keep out of Richard's way. Richard's person was disagreeable to her, and his character was hateful. She seems to have considered him, as he is generally represented by the writers of those times, as a rude, hard-hearted, and unscrupulous man; and she had also a special reason for shrinking from him with horror, as the mortal enemy of her father, and the reputed murderer of the husband to whom she had been betrothed.

Clarence kept her for some time in obscure places of concealment, changing the place from time to time to elude the vigilance of Richard, who was continually making search for her. The poor princess had recourse to all manner of contrivances, and assumed the most humble disguises to keep herself concealed, and was at last reduced to a very forlorn and destitute condition, through the desperate shifts that she resorted to, in her endeavors to escape Richard's persecutions. All was, however, in vain. Richard discovered her at last in a mean house in London, where she was living in the disguise of a servant. He immediately seized her, and conveyed her to a place of security which was under his control.

Soon after this she was taken away from this place and conveyed to York, and placed, for the time, under the protection of the archbishop—the same archbishop at whose enthronement, eight or ten years before, she had sat at the same table with Richard, under the royal canopy. But she was not left at peace here. Richard insisted on her marrying him. She insisted on her refusal. Her friends—the few that she had left—turned against her, and urged her to consent to the union; but she could not endure the thought of it.

[Illustration] from Richard III by Jacob Abbott


Richard, however, persisted in his determination, and Anne was finally overcome. It is said she resisted to the last, and that the ceremony was performed by compulsion, Anne continuing to refuse her consent to the end. It was foreseen that, as soon as any change of circumstances should enable her to resume active resistance to the union, she would repudiate the marriage altogether, as void for want of her consent, or else obtain a divorce. To guard against this danger, Richard procured the passage of an act of Parliament, by which he was empowered to continue in the full possession and enjoyment of Anne's property, even if she were to divorce him, provided that he did his best to be reconciled to her, and was willing to be re-married to her, with her consent, whenever she was willing to grant it.

[Illustration] from Richard III by Jacob Abbott


As for Richard himself, his object was fully attained by the accomplishment of a marriage so far acknowledged as to entitle him to the possession of the property of his wife. There was still some difficulty, however, arising from a disagreement between Richard and Clarence in respect to the division. Clarence, when he found that Richard would marry Anne, in spite of all that he could do to prevent it, declared, with an oath, that, even if Richard did marry her, he, Clarence, would never "part the livelihood," that is, divide the property with him.

So fixed was Clarence in this resolution to retain all the property himself, and so resolute was Richard, on the other hand, in his determination to have his share, that the quarrel very soon assumed a very serious character. The lords and nobles of the court took part in the controversy on one side and on the other, until, at length, there was imminent danger of open war. Finally Edward himself interposed, and summoned the brothers to appear before him in open council, when, after a full hearing of the dispute, he said that he himself would decide the question. Accordingly, the two brothers appeared before the king, and each strenuously argued his own cause. The king, after hearing them, decided how the property should be divided. He gave to Richard and Anne a large share, but not all that Richard claimed. Richard was, however, compelled to submit.

When the marriage was thus consummated, and Richard had been put in possession of his portion of the property, Anne seems to have submitted to her fate, and she went with Richard to Middleham Castle, in the north of England. This castle was one which had belonged to the Warwick family, and it now came into Richard's possession. Richard did not, however, remain long here with his wife. He went away on various military expeditions, leaving Anne most of the time alone. She was well contented to be thus left, for nothing could be so welcome to her now as to be relieved as much as possible from the presence of her hateful husband.

[Illustration] from Richard III by Jacob Abbott


This state of things continued, without much change, until the end of about a year after her marriage, when Anne gave birth to a son. The boy was named Edward. The possession of this treasure awakened in the breast of Anne a new interest in life, and repaid her, in some measure, for the sorrows and sufferings which she had so long endured.

Her love for her babe, in fact, awakened in her heart something like a tie to bind her to her husband. It is hard for a mother to continue long to hate the father of her child.