David Bruce: John Ford’s PERKIN WARBECK: A Retelling — Act 3, Scene 1

— 3.1 —

King Henry VII, wearing his gorget (armor protecting the throat) and carrying his sword, plume of feathers for his headgear, and truncheon (staff representing command), talked with Christopher Urswick in the palace at Westminster. On this day, 17 June 1497, King Henry VII’s army would meet the Cornish rebels in the Battle of Deptford Bridge (also known as the Battle of Blackheath).

“How runs the time of day?” King Henry VII asked. “What time is it?”

“Past ten, my lord,” Christopher Urswick answered.

“A bloody hour will it prove to some whose disobedience, like the sons of the earth, throws a defiance against the face of Heaven,” King Henry VII said.

The sons of the earth were the mythological Giants, who rebelled — unsuccessfully — against the Olympian gods.

King Henry VII said, “Oxford, with Essex and brave De la Pole, have quieted the Londoners, I hope, and set them safe from fear.”

King Henry VII had sent these men and their soldiers to oppose the rebels.

“The Londoners are all silent,” Christopher Urswick said.

“From their own battlements — the city walls — they may behold the big open space of Saint George’s fields overspread with armed men, among whom our own royal standard threatens destruction to opposers. We must learn to practice war again in time of peace, or lay our crown before our subjects’ feet, Urswick, mustn’t we?”

“The armed forces who seated King Henry VII — you — on his lawful throne will forever rise up in his defense,” Christopher Urswick said.

“Rage and violence shall not frighten the bosom of our confidence,” King Henry VII said. “Our Cornish rebels, deceived in their hopes of getting aid in Kent, met brave resistance there by that country’s Earl, George Abergeny, and by Cobham, Poynings, Guilford, and other loyal hearts.

“Now, if Blackheath must be preserved in order to be the fatal tomb to swallow such stiff-necked, obstinate, downtrodden people as with weary marches have travelled from their homes, their wives, and children, to pay, instead of taxes, their lives, we may continue as sovereign. Yet, Urswick, we’ll not abate one penny of what in Parliament has freely been contributed; we must not. Money gives soul to action.

“Our competitor, the Flemish counterfeit, with King James IV of Scotland, will prove through experience what courage can be nourished by need and want, lacking the food of fit supplies.”

King Henry VII believed that soon Perkin Warbeck would learn through experience that unsatisfied need and shortage of supplies take away courage. Well-equipped, well-nourished soldiers fight more courageously.

He continued, “But, Urswick, I have a secret charm that shall unloose the witchcraft wherewith young King James IV is bound, and free it at my pleasure without bloodshed.”

Skilled at political maneuvering, King Henry VII was saying that he had a secret plan that would make King James IV of Scotland abandon Perkin Warbeck.

“Your majesty’s a wise King sent from Heaven, the Protector of the just,” Christopher Urswick replied.

“Let dinner cheerfully be served in,” King Henry VII said. “This day of the week is ours, our day of providence; for Saturday has never yet failed in all my undertakings to yield me rest at night.”

Saturday was his lucky day.

Trumpets sounded.

King Henry VII asked, “What is the meaning of this warning? Good fate, speak peace to Henry VII!”

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney, the Earl of Oxford, and some attendants entered the scene.

“Live the King, triumphant in the ruin of his enemies!”Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.

“The head of strong rebellion is cut off, and the body hewed in pieces,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“Giles Dawbeney, Oxford, favorites to noblest fortunes, how yet stands the comfort of your wishes?” King Henry VII asked. “What has happened in the battle?”

“Briefly thus,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.“The Cornish under Audley, disappointed in their exaggerated expectation of aid from the Kentish — who are your majesty’s right-trusty liegemen and faithful subjects — flew, feathered and winged by rage and heartened by presumption, to take the field even at your palace-gates, and face you in your royal chamber. Arrogance aggravated their ignorance; for they, supposing, misled by rumor, that the day of battle would fall on Monday, they instead defied your armed forces with bravado rather than feared any onset of battle.”

King Henry VII had spread the rumor that he would attack on Monday; instead, he had attacked two days earlier, on Saturday.

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney continued, “Yet this morning, when in the dawning I, by your direction, strove to get Deptford-strand bridge, there I found such a resistance as might show what strength could make. Arrows hailed in showers upon us a full yard long at least, but we prevailed.”

The arrows were shot from longbows.

He continued, “My Lord of Oxford circling round the hill with his fellow peers, fell fiercely on them on the one side, and I on the other, until, great sir — pardon my oversight — eager of doing some memorable act, I was engaged almost a prisoner, but was freed as soon as became sensible of danger.”

He was unclear in his speech due to glossing over his error: He had attempted to do a notable deed on the battlefield, and almost became a prisoner (actually, he was briefly captured), but when he and/or other soldiers on his side became aware of the danger, he moved away from the danger (actually, the enemy freed him, perhaps because they were losing the battle and were hoping for clemency after the battle).

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney continued, “Now the fight began in heat, which was then quenched in the blood of two thousand rebels. As many more rebels are reserved to test your mercy — they are our prisoners. This battle has brought back a victory with safety.”

“Have we lost a number of soldiers equal to the number the rebels lost?” King Henry VII asked.

“In the total we have lost scarcely four hundred,” the Earl of Oxford said.

He added, “Audley, Flammock, and Joseph — the ringleaders of this rebellion — are tied up in a line in ropes, which are fit ornaments for traitors since ropes can be used as nooses. They await your sentencing.”

King Henry VII said, “We must pay our thanks where they are alone due, to God and Heaven.

“Oh, lords, here is no victory, nor shall our people conceive that we can triumph in their falls. Alas, poor souls! Let such as have escaped steal back to the country without pursuit. There’s not a drop of blood spilt but has drawn as much of mine; their swords could have wrought wonders on their King’s part — their swords that half-heartily were unsheathed against their prince, but which wounded their own breasts.

“Lords, we are debtors to your care; our payment shall be both sure and befitting your merit.”

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney asked, “Sir, will you please to see those rebels who were the heads and leaders of this wild monster-like multitude?”

King Henry VII replied, “Dear friend, my faithful Giles Dawbeney, no.”

King Henry VII had been merciful to the common soldiers, but he would not be merciful to their leaders.

He continued, “On the leaders, our justice must frown in terror. I will not deign to cast an eye of pity on them. Let false, traitorous Audley be drawn upon a hurdle — a frame or sled — from the Newgate Prison to Tower Hill in his own coat of arms painted on paper, with the arms reversed, defaced and torn; there let him lose his head.”

Nobles such as Lord Audley were beheaded after being found guilty of treason. Commoners suffered different fates.

King Henry VII continued, “The lawyer and the blacksmith shall be hanged and cut into four quarters; their quarters shall be sent into Cornwall to be examples to the rest, whom we are pleased to pardon and dismiss from further pursuit and from further judicial inquiry.”

He then ordered, “My Lord of Oxford, see that it is done.”

“I shall, sir,” the Earl of Oxford replied.

“Urswick!” King Henry VII said.

“My lord?” he replied.

“Say to Dinham, our High Treasurer, that we command commissions be newly granted for the collection of our taxes through all the west, and that very speedily.”

He was sending tax collectors to Cornwall.

King Henry VII then said, “Lords, we acknowledge our obligations due for your most constant and loyal services.”

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney gave credit where credit was due — the common soldiers had fought well: “Your soldiers have manfully and faithfully acquitted their several and individual duties.”

“And for it we will throw a largess — a gift of money — freely among them, which shall hearten and encourage their loyalties,” King Henry VII said. “More yet remains of this kind of employment; not a man can be dismissed until our enemies abroad — Perkin Warbeck and his supporters — who are more dangerous than these at home, have felt the puissance and force of our arms.

“Oh, happy are the Kings whose thrones are raised in their subjects’ hearts!”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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