David Bruce: John Ford’s PERKIN WARBECK: A Retelling — Act 4, Scenes 4-5

— 4.4 —

The Earl of Oxford and Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney talked together in the Palace of Westminster.

“No news from Scotland yet, my lord?” the Earl of Oxford asked.

“Not any but what King Henry VII knows himself,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney replied. “I thought that our armies were to have marched that way; the King, it seems, has changed his mind.”

“Victory attends his battle standard everywhere,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“Wise princes, Earl of Oxford, fight not only with military forces,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeneysaid. “Providence, aka foresight, directs and tutors strength; else war elephants and armored horses might as well prevail as the subtlest stratagems of war. Both cunning and strength are necessary to win battles.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “The Scottish King James IV showed more than common bravery in his offer of a combat hand to hand with the Earl of Surrey.”

“And he only showedit,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeneysaid. “Northern bloods are gallant being fired, but the cold climate, without good store of fuel, quickly freezes the glowing flames.”

“Surrey, upon my life, would not have shrunk a hair’s-breadth,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“May he or any Englishman who would not have embraced it with a greediness as violent as hunger runs to food forfeit the honor of an English name and nature!” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeneysaid. “It was a mark of distinction and honor that any worthy spirit would covet, next to immortality, which is above all the joys of life. We all missed shares in that great opportunity.”

King Henry VII, in close conversation with Christopher Urswick, entered the room.

“The King!” the Earl of Oxford said. “Look, he comes smiling.”

“Oh, then the game runs smoothly on his side — believe it,”Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeneysaid. “Cards well shuffled and dealt with cunning bring some gamblers success, but others must rise from the gambling table as losers.”

King Henry VII, as usual, had gathered intelligence, which Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeneywas comparing to dealing cards with cunning. King Henry VII was expecting Perkin Warbeck to invade England.

In fact, after leaving Scotland, Perkin Warbeck and Lady Katherine sailed to Cork, Ireland. They landed on 26 July 1597, and Perkin Warbeck began making plans to land in Cornwall, England, where he expected to meet with support.

“The lure is working?” King Henry VII asked.

“Most prosperously,” Christopher Urswick replied.

King Henry VII had wanted to lure King James IV away from supporting Perkin Warbeck; he had been successful in doing that.

Christopher Urswick, of course, knew of this plan, but the Earl of Oxford and Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney did not, and so Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney had been surprised that King Henry VII’s armies had not marched to Scotland.

King Henry VII said, “I knew it would not miss. He foolishly fishes who will stop fishing and hurl his bait into the water because the fish at first plays round about the line and dares not bite. Some plots take time to work.”

He said to the others present, “Lords, we may reign as your King yet. Giles Dawbeney, Oxford, Urswick, must Perkin wear the crown?”

“He is a slave!” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.

“He is a vagabond!” the Earl of Oxford said.

“He is a glow-worm!” Christopher Urswick said.

King Henry VII said, “Now, if Frion, his politically practiced schemer, wears a tried and tested brain, ‘King’ Perkin will in royal procession ride through all his large dominions; let us meet him, and ‘tender homage’ — ha, sirs! Liegemen ought to pay their fealty.”

A liegeman pledged to provide support to a superior lord; in turn, the superior lord pledged to protect the liegeman. Fealty was the duty that a liegeman owed to the superior lord.

Of course, King Henry VII was being sarcastic. He would not offer tender homage to Perkin Warbeck.

“I wish the rascal were, with all his rabble, within twenty miles of London!” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.

“Farther off is near enough to lodge him in his home,” King Henry VII said.

They were using metaphors related to animals. A “rascal” is an inferior deer. To “lodge” a buck meant to discover the buck’s lodge, aka sleeping place.

King Henry VII added, “I’ll wager odds that the Earl of Surrey and all his men are either idle or hastening back here; they don’t have work, I suspect, to keep them busy.”

King Henry VII had intelligence that peace had been made with King James IV of Scotland, and so the Earl of Surrey was not fighting. Most of the lords present were unaware of this.

“It is a strange idea, sir,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.

Lacking information, he was confused about why King Henry VII would say that.

King Henry VII began to talk about his kingship. He collected taxes but did not waste them. They were spent on such things as intelligence and armies to keep England and his throne safe. He had been merciful — for example, he had pardoned many Cornish rebels — but those to whom he had been merciful were not appreciative and loyal.

He said, “Such voluntary favors” — this was his phrase for tax revenues — “as our people in duty aid us with, we never scattered on cobweb parasites — insubstantial flattering parasites — or lavished out in riotous living or a needless hospitality.

“No undeserving favorite boasts that his income issues from our treasury; our expenses flow through all Europe, proving us to be only the steward of every contribution which provides against the creeping canker of disturbance.

“Is it not striking, then, in this toil of state wherein we are embarked, with breach of sleep, worries and concerns, and the noise of trouble, that our mercy returns neither thanks nor comfort?

“People in the west — Cornwall — still murmur and threaten rebellion, whisper that our government is tyrannical, deny us the tax revenues that are ours, indeed, spurn their lives, of which they are but owners by our gift.

“It must not be.”

“It must not and should not be,” the Earl of Oxford said.

King Henry VII began, “So then —”

A messenger carrying a packet of letters entered the room.

King Henry VII asked, “To whom are you carrying this packet?”

“This packet is for your sacred majesty,” the messenger said, handing the King the packetof letters.

“Sirrah, wait outside,” King Henry VII said.

The messenger exited.

“This is news from the North, upon my life,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“Wise King Henry VII divines events beforehand; with him attempts and executions are one act,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.

“Urswick, lend me thine ear,” King Henry VII said. “Frion has been caught. The man of cunning is outwitted, and we’re bound to be safe. Should the reverend John Morton, our aged Archbishop of Canterbury, move to a translation higher yet — if he should become Pope, or die — I tell thee that my Bishop of Durham owns a brain that deserves that see.”

A “see” is the area where a Bishop or Archbishop has ecclesiastical jurisdiction. “Translation” is the movement of a person from one place to another.

He continued, “He’s nimble in his industry, and ambitious — do thou hear me?”

“I hear you, and I understand your highness fitly,” Christopher Urswick, the King’s chaplain, answered.

“Giles Dawbeney and Oxford, since our army stands fully intact, it would be a weakness to permit the rust of laziness to eat among them,” King Henry VII said. “Set forward toward Salisbury; the plains are most commodious for their exercise. Ourself will take a muster and conduct a review of them there and/or disband them with reward or else dispose of them as we think best.”

“Salisbury!” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said. “Sir, all is at peace at Salisbury.”

“Dear friend, the responsibility must be our own,” King Henry VII said. “We would a little partake in the pleasure of our subjects’ ease.”

The packet contained letters that informed King Henry VII that Perkin Warbeck was landing at Cornwall. Salisbury was midway between the cities of London and Exeter. After landing in Cornwall, Perkin Warbeck and his supporters would head to Exeter.

“Shall I entreat your loves?” King Henry VII asked.

“Command our lives,” the Earl of Oxford replied.

“You are men who know how to take action, not how to forethink and make plans,” King Henry VII said. “My Bishop of Durham is a jewel tried and perfect — a jewel, lords. The messenger who brought these letters must speed another letter to the Mayor of Exeter.

“Urswick, do not dismiss the messenger.”

“He waits at your pleasure,” Christopher Urswick replied.

“Perkin a King?” King Henry VII said. “A King!”

“My gracious lord —” Christopher Urswick began.

King Henry VII interrupted, “Thoughts busied in the sphere of royalty fix not on creeping worms without their stings — these worms are mere dregs of earth. The good use of time results in thriving safety and a wise anticipation of expected ills. We’re resolved to go to Salisbury.”

— 4.5 —

In September 1497, Perkin Warbeck, Lord Dalyell, Lady Katherine, and Jane Douglaslanded on the coast of Cornwall. In the distance, many Cornish citizens shouted in support of them.

Perkin Warbeck said, “After so many storms as wind and seas have threatened our weather-beaten ships, at last, sweet fairest, we have safely arrived on our dear mother earth, ungrateful only to Heaven and us in yielding sustenance to sly usurpers of our throne and right. These general acclamations are an omen of happy progress to their welcome lord. They flock in troops, and with wings of duty fly from all parts to lay their hearts before us.”

He then said to his wife, “Unequalled model of a matchless wife, how fares my dearest yet?”

Lady Katherine replied, “I am confirmed in good health, by which I may the better undergo the roughest face of change; but since silence courts affliction, I shall learn the patience to hope. I shall then administer comfort to this truly noble gentleman, Lord Dalyell — a rare unmatched model of a friend! — and to my beloved Jane, the willing follower of all misfortunes.”

In addition to their abstract meanings, “silence” referred to Lord Dalyell and Jane Douglas, while “affliction” referred to the afflicted Lady Katherine. Lord Dalyell and Jane Douglas uncomplainingly waited on Lady Katherine, who suffered. By learning how to better bear her suffering, Lady Katherine would comfort Lord Dalyell and Jane Douglas.

Both Lord Dalyell and Jane Douglas denied any special virtue.

Lord Dalyell said, “Lady, I yield only barren crops of premature avowals that are frost-bitten in the spring of fruitless hopes.”

Jane Douglas said, “I serve only as the shadow to the body. Madam, without you, let me be nothing.”

“Let no one talk of sadness,” Perkin Warbeck said. “We are on the way that leads to victory. Let cowards’ thoughts dwell with desperate sullenness and despairing melancholy! The lion does not faint when locked in a cage, but when it is loose it disdains all force that bars it from its prey — and we are lion-hearted, or else we are no King of beasts.”

Again, his followers shouted in support in the distance.

He said, “Listen to how they shout, triumphant in our cause! Bold confidence marches on bravely and cannot quake at danger.”

Skelton the tailor entered the scene and said, “God preserve King Richard IV! God preserve thee, King of hearts! The Cornish blades are men of mettle; throughout the Cornish town of Bodmin and the whole county they have proclaimed my sweet prince to be the Monarch of England. Four thousand brave yeomen — respectable foot-soldiers — with bow and sword already vow to live and die at the foot of King Richard IV.”

Astley the legal clerk arrived and said, “The mayor, our fellow counselor, is servant for an emperor. The city of Exeter is appointed for the rendezvous, and nothing lacks for victory but courage and resolution. Sigillatum et datum decimo Septembris, anno regni regis primo, et cetera, confirmatum est. All’s cocksure and absolutely certain.”

The Latin means, “Sealed and dated the tenth of September, in the first year of the reign of our King, etc., it is confirmed.”

The King was Perkin Warbeck, aka King Richard IV.

“To Exeter!” Perkin Warbeckordered. “To Exeter, march on! Commend us to our people. We in person will lend them double spirits; tell them so.”

Skelton the tailor and Astley the legal clerk said, “King Richard IV! King Richard IV!”

They exited.

“A thousand blessings guard our lawful arms!” Perkin Warbeck said. “A thousand horrors pierce our enemies’ souls! Pale fear unedges their weapons’ sharpest points! And when they draw their arrows to the head, numbness shall strike their muscles!

“Such advantage has Majesty in its pursuit of justice that in respect of the proppers-up of Truth’s old throne it both enlightens counsel and gives heart to action, while the throats of traitors lie bare before our mercy.

“Oh, divinityof royal birth!”

In this culture, true Kings were believed to get their authority to rule from God.

He continued, “How the divinity of royal birth strikes dumb the tongues whose prodigality of breath is bribed by the partisans to greatness!”

These partisans are bribed to support those who have the crown but are not worthy of it. To Perkin Warbeck, who apparently believed that he really was the Duke of York, one such person was King Henry VII.

He continued, “Princes are only men distinguished because of the fineness of their mortal condition, yet they are not so gross and common in beauty of the mind, for there’s a fire more sacred that purifies the impure that is in a mixture of pure and impure.”

According to Perkin Warbeck, Kings are fine in their mortal condition, and they are fine in the beauty of their mind, for their divine right to rule purifies even their impurities.

He finished, “Herein stand the differences between subjects and Kings: Subjects are men on earth, while Kings are both men and gods.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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