David Bruce: John Ford’s PERKIN WARBECK: A Retelling — Act 5, Scenes 1-2

— 5.1 —

At St. Michael’s Mount, a small tidal island off the shore of Cornwall, Lady Katherine and Jane Douglas, wearing riding suits, talked together. One servantwas with them. Perkin Warbeck was away with his army, seeking to win the throne of England.

Lady Katherine said, “It is decreed, and we must yield to fate, whose angry justice, although it threatens ruin, contempt, and poverty, is all just a trial of a weak woman’s fortitude in suffering. Here, in a foreigner’s and an enemy’s land” — Lady Katherine was from Scotland and so England was foreign to her — “forsaken and unfurnished of all hopes except such as wait on misery, I wander around, to meet affliction wherever I tread. My retinue and pomp of servants is reduced to one kind gentlewoman and this servant.

“Sweet Jane, to where must we go now?”

“To your ships, dear lady, and turn home,” Jane Douglas answered.

“Home!” Lady Katherine said. “I have none. Fly thou to Scotland; thou have friends who will weep for joy to bid thee welcome, but oh, Jane, my Jane! My friends are without hope of comfort, as I must be without hope of them: The common charity — good people’s alms and the prayers of the kind-hearted — is the revenue that must support my state.

“As for my native country, since it once saw me a princess in the height of greatness my birth allowed me, here I make a vow that Scotland shall never see me after I have fallen or lessened in my fortunes. Never, Jane, never to Scotland will I return anymore.

“If I could be England’s Queen — a glory, Jane, I never aspired to — yet King James IV who gave me away in marriage has sent me with my husband away from his presence, delivered us suspected to his — my husband’s — nation, rendered us spectacles to time and pity. And is it fitting that I should return to such as only eagerly listen for our descent from enjoyed happiness to misery that they expect although it is uncertain? Never, never!

“Alas, why do thou weep? And why does that poor creature — my one male servant — wipe his wet cheeks, too? Let me alone feel hardships, I who know to give them harbor. Neither thou nor he has cause to cry: You may live safely.”

“There is no safety while your dangers, madam, are in every way apparent,” Jane Douglas said.

“Pardon me, lady,” the male servant said. “I cannot choose but show my honest heart. You were always my good lady.”

“Oh, dear souls,” Lady Katherine said. “Your shares in grief are too, too much!”

Lord Dalyell entered the sceneand said, “I bring you, fair princess, news of further sadness, more than your sweet youth has been acquainted with yet.”

“It is not more, my lord, than I can welcome,” Lady Katherine replied. “Speak it. I expect the worst — the worst!”

“All our Cornish allies attacked the city of Exeter, but they were there repulsed by the citizens, who had the help of the Earl of Devonshire and other worthy gentlemen of the country. Your husband then marched to Taunton, and he was there confronted by King Henry VII’s Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney.

“King Henry VII himself in person with his army was advancing nearer to renew the fight at the first and every opportunity, but the night before the armies were to join, your husband privately, accompanied with some few horsemen, departed from out the camp, and rode rapidly no one knows to where.”

“Fled without battle being first given?” Lady Katherine asked.

“Fled, but followed by Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney,” Lord Dalyell replied. “All his supporters were left to taste King Henry VII’s mercy — for to that they surrendered — King Henry VII was victorious without bloodshed.”

“Oh, my sorrows!” Lady Katherine said. “If both our lives had proved to be the sacrifice to Henry’s tyranny, we would have fallen like princes, and robbed him of the glory of his pride.”

“Impute your husband’s flight not to faintness or to weakness of noble courage, lady, but to foresight,” Lord Dalyell said, “for by some secret friend he had intelligence of being bought and sold — betrayed — by his base followers. Worse yet remains untold.”

“No, no, it cannot,” Lady Katherine said.

“I fear you are betrayed,” Lord Dalyell said. “The Earl of Oxford runs hot in pursuit of you.”

“He shall not need to,” Lady Katherine said. “We’ll run as hot in resolution gladly to make the Earl of Oxford our jailor.”

“Madam! Madam!” Jane Douglas said. “They come! They come!”

The Earl of Oxford and his soldiers entered the scene.

Drawing his sword, Lord Dalyell said, “Keep back! Or he who dares to rudely and discourteously violate the law of honor runs on my sword.”

“Most noble sir, don’t,” Lady Katherine said to Lord Dalyell.

She then asked the Earl of Oxford, “What reason draws you here, gentlemen? Whom do you seek?”

“Everyone, stand back!” the Earl of Oxford ordered his soldiers.

He then said to Lady Katherine, “With goodwill, lady, from Henry VII, England’s King, I would present to the beauteous princess Lady Katherine Gordon the offer of gracious treatment.”

“We are that princess whom your master-King pursues with far-reaching arms to draw into his power,” Lady Katherine said. “Let him use his tyranny. We shall not be his subject.”

“My commission extends no further, most excellent lady, than to the offer of service,” the Earl of Oxford said. “It is King Henry VII’s pleasure that you, and all who are in your service, be guarded as becomes your birth and greatness. Rest assured, sweet princess, that nothing of what you call yours shall find disturbance, or any welcome other than what suits your high status and rank.”

“By what title, sir, may I acknowledge you?” Lady Katherine asked.

“Your servant, lady, descended from the line of Oxford’s earls, inherits what his ancestors before him were owners of. I am the Earl of Oxford.”

“Your King is herein royal in that he, by a peer so ancient in merit and deserving as well as in blood, commands us to his presence,” Lady Katherine said.

“He invites you into his presence, princess,” the Earl of Oxford said. “He does not command you.”

“Please use your own phrase as you wish,” Lady Katherine said. “Both I and mine submit into your protection.”

“There’s in your number a nobleman whom public reports have spoken well of,” the Earl of Oxford said. “The King my master commanded me to say to him how willingly he courts his friendship; this is far from an enforcement, for it is more than what in terms of courtesy so great a prince may hope for.”

Lord Dalyell said, “My name is Dalyell.”

“It is a name that has won both thanks and wonder from report, my lord,” the Earl of Oxford said. “The court of England emulates your merit and covets to embrace you.”

“I must wait on the princess — Lady Katherine — in her fortunes,” Lord Dalyell replied.

“Will you please, great lady, to set forward?” Lord Dalyell asked Lady Katherine.

“Because I am driven by fate, it would be in vain to strive with Heaven,” Lady Katherine said.

They exited.

— 5.2 —

King Henry VII, the Earl of Surrey, and Christopher Urswick talked together at Salisbury. A guard of soldiers was present.

“The counterfeit, King Perkin, has escaped — escaped!” King Henry VII said. “So let him. He is surrounded too fast within the compass of our English domain to steal out of our ports or leap the walls that guard our land; the seas are rough and wider than his weak arms can tug with.

“Surrey, henceforth your King may reign in quiet; turmoils past, like some unquiet dream, have rather busied our imagination than frightened the peace of England. But, Surrey, in negotiating a peace with King James IV of Scotland, why wasn’t restitution of the losses that our subjects sustained by the Scotch raids inquired about?”

“Restitution was both demanded and urged, my lord,” the Earl of Surrey said, “to which King James IV replied, in modest merriment, but smiling earnestly, that our master Henry VII was much abler to bear the damages than he to repay them.”

“The young man, I believe, spoke the honest truth,” King Henry VII said. “He endeavors to be wise early in life.

“Urswick, have Sir Rice ap Thomas and Lord Brook our steward given the Western gentlemen who fought against Perkin Warbeck full thanks from us for their proven loyalties?”

“They have,” Christopher Urswick said. “The full thanks, as if health and life had reigned among them, they joyfully received with open hearts.”

“The young Duke of Buckingham is a fair-natured prince, of great promise, and worthy of his father, who rebelled against and was executed by King Richard III,” King Henry VII said. “Attended by a hundred knights and squires of distinguished name the young Duke of Buckingham tendered humble service, which we must never forget, and the Earl of Devonshire’s wounds, although slight, shall find sound cure and appropriate reward in our esteem and favor.”

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney, accompanied by some guards, led into the room Perkin Warbeck, Heron, John a-Water, Astley, and Skelton, all of them chained.

“Life to the King, and safety make secure his throne!” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said. “I here present to you, royal sir, a shadow of majesty, but in effect a substance of pity: a young man, grown to ripeness in nothing except the desire for your mercy: Perkin Warbeck, the Christian world’s strange wonder.”

“Giles Dawbeney, we observe no wonder,” King Henry VII replied. “I behold, it is true, an ornament of nature, fine and polished, a handsome youth indeed, but I do not wonder at him. How came he into thy hands?”

“From sanctuary at Beaulieu, near Southampton,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.“There he had registered, with these few followers, as privileged persons.”

Perkin Warbeck and these followers had taken sanctuary in an abbey that had granted them sanctuary: As long as they stayed there, they could not be arrested.

Worried that his Lord Chamberlain might have violated the protocol of sanctuary by arresting Perkin Warbeck and these few followers of his, King Henry VII said, “I must not thank you, sir; you would be to blame if you infringed the liberty of sacred houses. Dare we be irreligious?”

“Gracious lord, they voluntarily resigned themselves without compulsion,” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.

“They did?” King Henry VII said. “It was done very well; it was done very, very well.”

He then said to Perkin Warbeck, “Turn now thine eyes, young man, upon thyself and thy past actions. What revels in violent commotion and tumult through our kingdom a frenzy of aspiring youth has danced, until, lacking breath, thy feet of pride have slipped to break thy neck!”

“But not my heart,” Perkin Warbeck replied. “My heart will mount until every drop of blood is frozen by death’s perpetual winter. If the sun of majesty should be darkened, let the sun of life be hidden from me in an eclipse that is lasting and universal.

“Sir, remember there was a shooting-in of light when Richmond, not aiming at a crown, retired, and gladly, for comfort to the Duke of Bretaine’s court. Richard, who swayed the scepter, was reputed to be a tyrant then. Yet then a dawning glimmered to some few wandering remnants — a dawning promising day when first they ventured on a terrifying shore at Milford Haven.”

Perkin Warbeck was referring to King Henry VII’s past history. Henry VII had been the Earl of Richmond before becoming King of England. In 1483, he had visited the court of the Duke of Bretaine, aka Brittany. He landed at Milford Haven in Wales and then proceeded to Bosworth Field, where on 22 August 1485 he defeated King Richard III in battle.

“Whither speeds his boldness?” Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said.“Check his rude tongue, great sir.”

“Oh, let him range in his conversation and talk as he pleases,” King Henry VII said. “The player’s on the stage still: It is his part; he is only acting his part.”

He then asked Perkin Warbeck, “What followed?”

“Bosworth Field,” Perkin Warbeck said. “There, at an instant, to the world’s amazement, a morning to Richmond, and a night to Richard, appeared at one and the same time.

“The tale is soon recognized as similar to my situation.

“Fate, which crowned these attempts when least assured, might have befriended others such as myself who were like you in their resolve to be King.”

“A pretty gallant!” King Henry VII said. “Thus your aunt of Burgundy, your duchess-aunt, informed her nephew. And so, the lesson prompted and well memorized, was molded into familiar, easily understood dialogue, often rehearsed, until, learned by heart, it is now received for truth.”

“Truth, in her pure simplicity, lacks the skill to put a feigned blush on,” Perkin Warbeck replied. “Scorn wears only such fashion as directs attention to gazers’ eyes sad, irritated, ulcerated novelty, far beneath the sphere of majesty. In such a court wisdom and gravity are proper robes by which the sovereign is best distinguished from buffoonish mimics of his greatness.”

“Sirrah, change your grotesque pageantry, and now appear in your own nature, or you’ll taste the danger of fooling that is out of season and inappropriate,” King Henry VII said.

King Henry VII was telling Perkin Warbeck to act like the non-royal man he really was and to stop pretending to be the Duke of York and King Richard IV.

“I expect no less than what severity calls justice, and politicians call safety,” Perkin Warbeck said. “Let people who feed on alms beg, but if there can be mercy in a publicly asserted enemy, then may it descend to these poor creatures, my followers, whose involvement with me, for the purpose of the bettering of their fortunes, has instead incurred a loss of all they had. They hoped to better their fortunes by following me, but they have lost everything instead.

“If any charity should flow from some noble orator to them, in death I owe him the fee of thankfulness. I will be grateful from my grave if someone here will speak on their behalf.”

“So brave!” King Henry VII said. “What a bold knave is this!”

He then asked, “Which of these rebels has been the Mayor of Cork?”

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said sarcastically as he pointed to John a-Water,This wise formality.”

The sarcasm showed that “wise formality” should be better understood as “pompous fool.”

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney ordered,“Kneel to the King, you rascals!”

Perkin Warbeck’s supportersknelt.

Perkin Warbeck did not kneel.

“Can thou hope to receive pardon, where thy guilt is so apparent?” King Henry VII asked.

John a-Water replied, “Under your good favors, as men are men, they may err; for I confess, respectively, in taking great sides, the one side prevailing, the other side must go down. Herein the point is clear, if the proverb holds, that hanging goes by destiny, that it is to little purpose to say, this thing or that shall be thus or thus; for, as the Fates will have it, so it must be, and who can help it?”

In using “respectively,” John a-Water made a blunder. The word he meant was “respectfully.”

“Oh, blockhead!”Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said to John a-Water. “Thou a privy-counselor?”

John a-Water had been one of Perkin Warbeck’s privy-counselors.

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney added, “Beg for your life, and cry aloud, ‘Heaven save King Henry!’”

John a-Water said, “Every man knows what is best, as it happens; for my own part, I believe it is true, if I am not deceived, that Kings must be Kings and subjects must be subjects; but which is which, you shall pardon me for that. Whether we speak or hold our peace, all are mortal; no man knows his end.”

“We waste time with follies,” King Henry VII said.

Heron, John a-Water, Astley, and Skelton all begged, “Mercy, mercy!”

Perkin Warbeck did not join in the cries begging for mercy.

King Henry VII ordered, “Urswick, deliver the dukeling and these fellows to Sir John Digby, the lieutenant of the Tower of London. With safety let them be conveyed to London. It is our pleasure that no uncivil outrage, taunts, or abuse be suffered by their persons: They shall meet fairer law than they deserve. Time may restore their wits, which vain ambition has for many years caused to become unstable.”

Perkin Warbeck’s followers stood up.

Using the royal plural, Perkin Warbeck said, “Noble thoughts meet freedom in captivity: the Tower of London — our childhood’s dreadful nursery!”

“Speak no more!” King Henry VII ordered.

“Come, come,” Christopher Urswick orderedPerkin Warbeck and his followers. “You shall have leisure enough to think with.”

Christopher Urswick exited with Perkin Warbeck and his followers, who were in the custody of guards.

“Was there ever so much impudence in fraudulent imitation?” King Henry VII said. “The custom, surely, of being called a King has so fastened in his thought that he thinks he really is a King. But we shall teach the lad another language. It is good we have him fast.”

Lord Chamberlain Giles Dawbeney said, “The hangman’s medicine will purge this saucy humor.”

Doctors in this culture believed that the human body had four humors, or vital fluids. Each humor made a contribution to the personality, and for a human being to be sane and healthy, the four humors had to be present in the right amounts. If a man had too much of a certain humor, it would harm his personality and health.

“Very likely,” King Henry VII said, “yet we could temper — mix — mercy with extreme severity, if we were not too far provoked.”

Normally, people would speak of tempering extreme severity with mercy, but King Henry VII was too far provoked; however, his meaning was clear: He could be merciful — his rule had shown that — if he were not too far provoked and made angry.

TheEarl of Oxford, Lady Katherine, Lord Dalyell, Jane Douglas, and some attendants entered the room. Lady Katherine was wearing her richest attire.

“Great sir, be pleased to welcome the Princess Katherine Gordon with your accustomed grace,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“Oxford, herein we must censure thy knowledge of our nature,” King Henry VII said. “A lady of her birth and virtues could not have found us so unfurnished of good manners as not, on notice given, to have met her halfway in point of love. We need no reminder to treat her well.”

He then said to Lady Katherine, “Excuse, fair cousin, the oversight.”

She began to kneel, but he said, “Oh, please! You must not kneel; it is most unfitting. First, permit this welcome, a welcome to your own; for you shall find us only the guardian to your fortune and your honors.”

“My fortunes and my honors are weak champions, as both are now befriended, sir; however, both bow before your clemency,” Lady Katherine said.

“Our arms shall encircle them and protect them from malice,” King Henry VII replied.

King Henry VII spoke of her fortune, while Lady Katherine spoke of her fortunes. King Henry VII may have thought that he had decided what her fortune in life would be, while Lady Katherine may have thought that her future life could contain a choice between more than one fortune.

He added, “A sweet lady! Beauty incomparable! Here lives majesty allied with love.”

“Oh, sir, I have a husband,” Lady Katherine said.

She did not want to become his mistress, if that was what he was after.

“We’ll prove to be your father, husband, friend, and servant,” King Henry VII said. “Prove what you wish to grant us.”

What could she grant the King? Sex, perhaps. He had said that he would prove to be her “husband,” so he may have been wanting her to become his mistress.

King Henry VII ordered, “Lords, take care that a patent is immediately drawn for issuing a thousand pounds from our treasury yearly during our cousin’s life.”

He was granting Lady Katherine a stipend of one thousand pounds per year for as long as she lived.

He continued, “Our Queen, Elizabeth of York, shall be your chief companion, our own court shall be your home, and our subjects all shall be your servants.”

He made no mention of her ever returning to Scotland; in fact, Lady Katherine would spend the rest of her life in England and Wales, dying in 1537.

“But my husband?” Lady Katherine asked.

Ignoring Lady Katherine’s question about her husband, King Henry VII said to Lord Dalyell, “By all descriptions, you are noble Dalyell, whose generous loyalty has rendered famous a rare and splendid attentive care of Lady Katherine. We thank you. It is a goodness that gives an additional title to every title boasted from your ancestry, which is in everything most worthy.”

“Anything worthier than your praises, right princely sir, I need not glory in,” Lord Dalyell said.

“Embrace him, lords,” King Henry VII said.

As his lords followed his order, he said to Lady Katherine, “Whoever calls you mistress is lifted and taken into our care. A goodlier beauty my eyes have yet never encountered.”

He may have been hinting that she was the unchaste mistress of Lord Dalyell. His claim of lifting and taking into his care whoever called her mistress did not apply to her legal husband, Perkin Warbeck, if by “care,” he meant “good care.” In this society, “mistress” could mean “wife” as well as “a woman who has a long-standing sexual relationship with a man other than her husband.”

Lady Katherine said, “Cruel misery of fate! What remains to hope for?”

“Forward, lords, to London,” King Henry VII said.

He then said to Lady Katherine, “Fair lady, before long I shall present you with a glad sight, peace, and Huntley’s blessing.”

Lady Katherine would see her father, the Earl of Huntley, again. King James IV of Scotland had sent him to England as an ambassador to King Henry VII.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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