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One word here apparently points at something like assassination; otherwise the contemporary Yorkist Chronicle, recently published* agrees with Croyland.
“In the winning of the field, such as abode handstrokes were slain incontinent. Edward, called prince, was taken, fleeing to the townwards, and slain in the field. There were also slain, Thomas, called the Earl of Devonshire,t John of Somerset, called Marquess Dorset, Lord Wenloke, with many others in great number.”
The English Chronicle in Leland says,
“ There was slain, Prince Edward, crying on the Duke of Clarence, his brother-in-law, for help.” I
It is quite clear, that there is nothing like evidence either of Prince Edward's smart reply to the king, or of his assassination by any body; and that there is not even the report of one who lived
cibus quorandum manibus, ipso principe Edvardo unigenito regis Henrici, dicto duce Somersetiæ, Comite Devoniæ, ac aliis dominis omnibus singulis memoratis.”- p. 556. Even Walpole has not observed that these words were not appliea to the prince alone. Lingard (p. 211) sees no reason to discredit Stow's narrative, that is, Fabyan's, but he introduces the king's brothers, who are not mentioned in this narrative, into his tent, with a rather unfair perhaps. Comines says, that Edward was killed in the field, p. 50. * P. 30.
+ John Courtenay, I think; brother to him who was be. headed at Towton.
I Leland, 506.
near to the time, of the participation of either of the king's brothers in the assassination, if it occurred. There is little in reason for believing any part of the story, though there is not—as there seldom can be—any proof of the negative.
I have already noticed the anachronisms of Shakspeare, dependant upon the ages of his heroes. His Richard calls the prince scornfully, brat ; the prince was just one year younger than Gloucester; the one was then about nineteen, and the other eighteen years of age.
The presence of Margaret, at her son's examination and death, is a dramatic incident; as is Gloucester's attempt to murder her. She was taken, kept prisoner for five years, and then ransomed by Louis IX.*
We have now Richard's crime the second, the murder of King Henry in the Tower. The address of the unhappy king to Gloucester, which is but slightly altered from the old play, exhibits, I think, evident traces of Shakspeare's hand :“Hadst thou been kill'd when first thou didst presume,
Thou hadst not lived to kill a son of mine.
* Lingard, 214.
Men for their sons, wives for their husbands' fate,
And so does Gloucester's soliloquy, in which he traces the deformity of his mind to that of his body :“Then, since the heaven's have shap'd my body so, Let hell make crook'd my mind to answer it. I have no brother I am like no brother ; And this word love which grey-beards call divine, Be resident in them like one another, And not in me, I am myself alone!"
As to this murder, Shakspeare is justified by Holinshed, who, however, contrary to what we have just heard, makes Richard a very zealous brother, willing to imbrue his hands in blood, for his brother's sake:-
“Poor King Henry the Sixth, a little before deprived (as we have heard), of his realm and imperial crown, was now in the Tower, despoiled of his life by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, (as the constant fame ran,) who (to the intent that his brother Edward might reign in more surety) murdered the King and Henry with a dagger."*
Going back to Fabyan, we find, that upon Ascension evet the corpse of Henry VI. was exposed to public view in London:
“Of the death of this prince, divers tales were told, but the most common fame went, that he was sticked with a dagger by the hands of the Duke of Gloucester.” I
The Croyland continuation is very mysterious:“I forbear to say that at this time, the body of Henry the Sixth was found lifeless in the Tower of London. May God forgive, and afford time for repentance to him, whoever he may be, who dared to lay sacrilegious hands upon the anointed of the Lord! Hence the doer may obtain the name of a tyrant, the sufferer of a glorious martyr."
The Yorkist manuscript, after mentioning the death of the prince, and the total discomfiture of the Lancastrians:
“ The calamity of all which came to the knowledge of the said Henry, late called king, being then in the Tower of London; not having, afore this, knowledge of the said matters, he took it to so great despite, ire, and indignation, that of pure displeasure and melancholy, he died the 23d day of the month of May.”*
The Leland Chronicler goes nearer to the point :
“A none after came King Edward to London, with three thousand men. And the same night, being the 21st day of May, and Tuesday, at night, betwixt eleven and twelve of the clock, was King Henry, being prisoner in the Tower, put to death ; the Duke of Gloucester and divers others being there that night.”+
This passage contains the only approach to evi
• P. 38, 47.
† Leland, ii. 507. I have necessarily gone over the same ground with others, and my quotations are nearly the same as those of Mr. Bruce, the editor of the Camden MS. I subjoin his note. “The contradiction between the date of the exposition of the corpse, as related by the Leland Chronicler, who is a very good authority, and by Fabyan, who is generally pretty accurate respecting matters which took place in London, and the date of the death as given by the author, now published, if considered with reference to the position of the various persons interested in Henry's death on thosedays, and the circumstances of his hurried interment, will be found, to the destruction of the credit of our author's version, of what was, in all probability, an infamous murder."p. 47.