— 4.4 —
Standing in front of the palace, old Queen Margaret said to herself, “So, now prosperity begins to ripen, grow soft, and drop into the rotten mouth of death. I was prosperous, I matured, and soon I will die. The same is happening to my enemies. Here in these confines I have slyly lurked in order to watch the waning of my adversaries.
“I am witnessing the dire beginning of a tragedy, and I will go to France, hoping that what follows will prove to be as bitter, black, and tragic as the beginning.”
Hearing a noise, she said to herself, “Withdraw out of the way and hide yourself, wretched Margaret. Who is coming here?”
Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York, wearing mourning clothes because of the deaths of the two Princes, walked onto the scene.
Queen Elizabeth was the widow of King Edward IV and the mother of the two Princes. The Duchess of York was King Richard III’s mother and the grandmother of the two Princes; she was the widow of Richard, the third Duke of York, Richard III’s father. In 1460, Richard, the third Duke of York, had died in the Battle of Wakefield.
“My young Princes!” Queen Elizabeth mourned. “My tender babes! My flowers with the buds unopened; my newly appearing sweets! If yet your gentle souls fly in the air and have not yet been judged and gone to Heaven, hover about me with your airy wings and hear your mother’s lamentation!”
Old Queen Margaret said to herself, “Hover about her, and say that justice for the sake of justice has dimmed your infant morn to aged night.”
Old Queen Margaret had suffered, and now Queen Elizabeth was suffering. Old Queen Margaret regarded this as just and rightful retribution — a just punishment for a crime against justice. Queen Elizabeth had aged due to grief, and old Queen Margaret also regarded that as just. She also regarded the deaths of the two Princes — they had gone quickly from the beginning to the end of their lives — as a just punishment for the deaths of her own loved ones.
The Duchess of York said, “So many miseries have cracked my voice that my woe-wearied tongue is mute and dumb. Edward Plantagenet, why are you dead?”
Edward Plantagenet was Edward, Prince of Wales, the older of the two Princes who had been murdered in the Tower of London.
Old Queen Margaret said, “Plantagenet does requite Plantagenet. Edward for Edward pays a dying debt.”
Both Edwards were Princes of Wales. Old Queen Margaret had had her only son, Edward, with her husband, King Henry VI. This Edward had married Lady Anne. The other Edward was the older of the two Princes who had been murdered in the Tower of London. Old Queen Margaret believed that the only way the murder of her Edward could be requited or avenged was by the death of another person. That person turned out to be the older of the two Princes who had been murdered in the Tower of London.
Queen Elizabeth said, “Will you, God, flee from such gentle lambs as the two Princes, and throw them in the belly of the wolf? When have you ever slept when such a deed was done?”
Still talking to herself, Old Queen Margaret answered in place of God: “When holy Harry died, and my sweet son.”
Holy Harry was Old Queen Margaret’s husband, King Henry VI, and “my sweet son” was their son, Edward, Prince of Wales.
Regretting that she had lived long enough to experience the grief caused by the murders of the two Princes, the old Duchess of York sat and said, “Blind sight, dead life, poor mortal living ghost, woe’s scene, world’s shame, grave’s due by life usurped, brief summary and record of tedious days, rest your unrest on England’s lawful earth, unlawfully made drunk with the blood of the two innocent Princes!”
Queen Elizabeth sat by her and said, “Oh, that you — England’s lawful earth — would as well give me a grave as you give me a melancholy seat! Then I would hide my bones in my grave, not rest them here. I wish that I were dead.”
Old Queen Margaret revealed herself and said to them, “Who has any cause to mourn but I?”
She sat down by them.
She continued, “If ancient sorrow be most reverend, give my sorrow the benefit of seniority, and let my woes frown on the upper hand. If sorrow can admit society, count your woes again by viewing mine.
“I had an Edward, until a Richard killed him.
“My son, Edward, was killed by Richard, who is now Richard III.
“I had a Harry, until a Richard killed him.
“My Harry was my husband, King Henry VI, who was killed by Richard, who is now Richard III.
“You, Queen Elizabeth, had an Edward, until a Richard killed him.
“Your son Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed in the Tower of London, by Richard, who is now Richard III.
“You, Queen Elizabeth, had a Richard, until a Richard killed him.
“Your son Richard, the young Duke of York, was killed in the Tower of London, by Richard, who is now Richard III.”
The old Duchess of York said to old Queen Margaret, “I had a Richard, too, and you killed him.
“You killed my husband, Richard, the third Duke of York, Richard III’s father.
“I had a Rutland, too, and you helped to kill him.
“Rutland was one of my sons, and he was murdered just before my husband was murdered.”
Old Queen Margaret replied to the old Duchess of York, “You had a Clarence, too, and Richard killed him. Richard, who is now Richard III, killed his brother Clarence in the Tower of London.
“From forth the kennel of your womb has crept a Hellhound that hunts us all to death. That Hellhound is Richard, who was born with teeth. That dog, which had his teeth before he had his eyes, since dogs are born blind, to bite lambs and lap their gentle blood, that foul defacer of God’s handiwork, that killer of humans created in the image of God, that excellent grand tyrant of the earth, who reigns in the inflamed eyes of weeping souls — that is the creature your womb let loose to chase us to our graves.
“Oh, upright, just, and true-disposing God, how do I thank you that this carnal cur preys on the children who came from his mother’s body, and makes her share a pew in church with other mourning mothers!”
The old Duchess of York said to old Queen Margaret, widow of King Henry VI, “Oh, Harry’s wife, do not triumph in my woes! May God witness with me that I have wept for your woes.”
“Bear with me,” old Queen Margaret said. “I am hungry for revenge, and now I fill myself by beholding it.
“Your Edward is dead, who stabbed my Edward.
“Your son, King Edward IV, stabbed and helped kill my son: Edward, Prince of Wales.
“Your other Edward — the older of the two young Princes, died, to requite Edward, my son.
“Young Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two Princes, is only a little something added to the revenge, because both your Edward IV and your Edward, Prince of Wales, together cannot match the loss of the high perfection of my Edward, Prince of Wales.
“Clarence, your son, is dead who helped kill Edward, Prince of Wales, my son.
“And the beholders of this tragedy that is the murder of my son by your Edward IV, Clarence, and Richard III are all untimely smothered in their dusky graves. Those beholders — bystanders — are the adulterer Hastings, and Rivers, Vaughan, and Grey.
“Richard III still lives. He is Hell’s black agent, kept alive only to serve Hell by buying souls and sending them there. But at hand is his deplorable and unpitied end. Earth gapes, Hell burns, fiends roar, and saints pray to have Richard III die and suddenly be conveyed away from the Land of the Living. Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I pray, so that I may live to say, ‘The dog is dead’!”
Queen Elizabeth said, “You prophesied that the time would come that I would wish for you to help me curse that bottle-bodied spider, that foul hunchbacked toad, that Richard!”
Old Queen Margaret said, “I called you then the worthless ornamentation of my fortune. I called you then a poor shadow and image, a painted — not real — Queen. I called you the mere semblance of what I was. I called you the flattering preface of a dreadful pageant.
“You are a person who has been heaved high on the Wheel of Fortune, only to be hurled down below.
“You are a mother who has been only mocked — not blessed — with two sweet babes who have so quickly been taken from you.
“You are only a dream of what you used to be; you are a breath, a bubble, an empty symbol of dignity, a garish flag that is the target of every dangerous soldier. You are a Queen only in jest, brought onto the scene only to be an extra.
“Where is your husband now?
“Where are your brothers?
“Where are your children?
“What makes you rejoice?
“Who pleads to you and cries, ‘God save the Queen’?
“Where are the bowing peers who flattered you?
“Where are the thronging troops who followed you?
“Go through all this point by point, and see what now you are.
“Instead of being a happy wife, you are a very distressed widow.
“Instead of being a joyful mother, you are one who mourns the name.
“Instead of being a Queen, you are a very wretched creature who is crowned with care and worry.
“Instead of being a person to whom people plead, you are a person who humbly pleads.
“Instead of being a person who scorns me, you are now scorned by me.
“Instead of being a person who is feared by all, you now fear one person — Richard III.
“Instead of being a person who commands all, you are obeyed by none.
“Thus has the course of justice wheeled about, and it has left you a prey to time. Now if you think about what you have been, you are tortured all the more, because of what you are now.
“You usurped my position as Queen of England, and therefore don’t you usurp the just and proper proportion of my sorrow? Now your proud neck bears half of my burdensome yoke, from which now and here I slip my weary neck, and leave the burden of it all on you.
“Farewell, York’s wife, and farewell, Queen of sad mischance. These English woes will make me smile in France.
“Goodbye, old Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth. I am going to France, where I shall enjoy your misery.”
Queen Elizabeth pleaded, “You are well skilled in making curses. Stay awhile, and teach me how to curse my enemies!”
Old Queen Margaret replied, “Cease sleeping during the nights, and fast during the days. Compare the dead happiness of the past with the woe that lives today. Think that your babes were fairer and better than they were, and think that he who slew them is fouler than he is. Magnifying your loss makes the bad causer of your loss worse. Meditating on these things will teach you how to curse.”
“My words are dull,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Make my words lively like your words!”
“Your woes will make them sharp and make them pierce like mine,” old Queen Margaret said, and then she exited.
The old Duchess of York asked, “Why should calamity be full of words?”
Queen Elizabeth replied, “Words are windy attorneys that plead the woes of their client, they are the heirs of joys that died without leaving a will to pass on good things, and they are poor breathing orators of miseries!
“Let words have scope. Although the content that they impart helps not at all, yet words do ease the grieving heart.”
“If that is true, then do not be tongue-tied,” the old Duchess of York said. “Go with me, and in the breath of bitter words let’s smother my damned son, Richard III, who smothered your two sweet sons. I hear his army’s drums. Let’s be copious in our outcries.”
King Richard III and his army entered the scene. The old Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth stood in his way. Because they were wearing veils as part of their mourning clothing, Richard III did not recognize them.
He asked, “Who intercepts my setting out for war?”
His mother, the old Duchess of York, said, “I am she who might have intercepted you, by strangling you in her accursed womb, and kept you from committing all the slaughters, wretch, that you are responsible for!”
Queen Elizabeth asked, “Do you hide your forehead with a golden crown? On your forehead should be engraved, if justice prevailed, the slaughter of the true Prince who owned and possessed by right that crown, and the dire deaths of my two sons and brothers!
“Tell me, you villain slave, where are my children?”
The old Duchess of York asked, “You toad, where is your brother Clarence? And where is little Ned Plantagenet, his son?”
Queen Elizabeth asked, “Where are kind Hastings, Rivers, Vaughan, and Grey?”
Queen Elizabeth had no reason to call Hastings kind except to magnify one of Richard’s sins.
King Richard III called for martial music to drown out the cries of the two women: “A flourish, trumpets! Strike the call to battle, drums! Let not the Heavens hear these telltale, gabbling women rail against the Lord’s anointed King. Play, I say!”
Military music filled the air, and Richard III said to his mother and sister-in-law, “Either be calm, and talk to me with respect, or with the clamorous noise of war I will thus drown out your exclamations.”
“Are you my son?” the old Duchess of York asked.
“Yes, I thank God, my father, and yourself.”
“Then patiently hear my impatience.”
Richard III replied, “Madam, I have a touch of your temperament, which cannot endure the tone of reproof.”
“Let me speak!” the old Duchess of York demanded.
“Speak, then, but I’ll not listen to you.”
“I will be mild and gentle in my speech.”
“Also be brief, good mother, because I am in a hurry.”
“Are you so hasty?” his mother asked. “I have waited for you, God knows, in anguish, pain, and agony. I gave birth to you.”
“And didn’t I come at last to comfort you?”
“No, you did not, by the Holy Cross. You well know that you came on Earth to make the Earth my Hell. Your birth was a grievous burden to me. In your infancy you were peevish and disobedient. Your schooldays were frightening, desperate, wild, and furious. Your time of prime of manhood was daring, bold, and venturous. Your time of maturity was proud, subdued, bloodthirsty, and treacherous; it was milder, but yet more harmful because you appeared to be kind when actually you felt hatred. What cheerful hour can you name that ever graced me in your company?”
“Indeed, I can name only one cheerful hour — Humphrey Hour,” Richard replied. “Hegraced you in my company by calling you away from my company — he asked you to go and eat breakfast. If I am so disgracious and displeasing in your sight, then let me march on, and not offend your grace.”
He then ordered, “Strike the drum.”
The old Duchess of York said, “Please, hear me speak.”
Richard III replied, “You speak too bitterly.”
“Hear me speak briefly to you because I shall never speak to you again.”
“Either you will die, by God’s just ordinance, before you return as a conqueror from this war, or I with grief and extreme old age shall perish and never look upon your face again. Therefore take with you my most heavy and serious curse, which, on the day of battle, will tire you more than all the full and heavy suit of armor that you are wearing!
“My prayers will fight on the side of the party opposing you, and there the little souls of Edward IV’s children — the two Princes — will whisper to the spirits of your enemies and promise them success and victory.
“Bloodthirsty you are, and bloody will be your end. Shame serves your life and does your death attend.”
Having cursed her son, the old Duchess of York exited.
“Although I have far more cause, yet I have much less spirit to curse you,” Queen Elizabeth said, “but I say ‘amen’ to everything that your mother said.”
“Wait, madam,” Richard III said. “I must speak with you.”
“I have no more sons of the royal blood for you to murder,” Queen Elizabeth said. “As for my daughters, Richard, they shall be praying nuns, not weeping Queens, and therefore you ought not to aim at them and take their lives.”
“You have a daughter called young Elizabeth of York,” Richard III said. “She is virtuous and fair, royal and gracious.”
“And must she die for that? Oh, let her live, and I’ll corrupt her manners and morals, stain her beauty, and slander myself by saying that I was false to Edward IV’s bed and cheated on him. I will throw over her the veil of a bad and infamous reputation so she may live unscarred by bleeding slaughter. I will confess — falsely — that she is not Edward’s daughter.”
“Do not wrong her birth,” Richard III said. “She is of royal blood.”
“To save her life, I’ll say she is not of royal blood.”
“Her life is safest only if she is of royal blood,” Richard III said.
He wanted to marry young Elizabeth of York in order to make his hold on the throne tighter; if she were not believed to be the legitimate daughter of King Edward IV, marrying her would not help him do that.
Queen Elizabeth said, “And only in that safety died her brothers.”
Young Elizabeth of York’s brothers — the two Princes — had died because they were the legitimate sons of King Edward IV.
“At their births, the good stars were hostile to them,” Richard III said.
“No, bad family members were hostile to their lives.”
“Entirely unavoidable is the doom of destiny,” Richard III said.
“True, when avoided grace — you, Richard, lack the grace of God — makes destiny. My babes were destined to have a fairer death, a death without violence, if grace had blessed you with a fairer life, a life with fewer blemishes.”
“You speak as if I had slain my nephews.”
“They were your nephews, indeed, and by their uncle they were cheated of comfort, Kingdom, kindred, freedom, and life,” Queen Elizabeth said. “No matter whose hand pierced their tender hearts, your head, all indirectly, gave the order. No doubt the murderous knife was dull and blunt until it was whetted on your stone-hard heart, to revel in the entrails of my lambs.
“Except that continual experience of grief makes wild grief tame, my tongue should to your ears not name my boys until my fingernails were anchored in your eyes, and I, in such a desperate bay of death, like a poor ship bereft of sails and tackling, would rush against you and be wrecked all to pieces on your rocky bosom.”
Richard III said, “Madam, may I so thrive and prevail in my enterprise and dangerous success of bloody wars to the extent that I intend to do more good to you and yours than ever you or yours were by me wronged!”
“What good is covered by the face of Heaven that can yet be uncovered and do me good?”
“The advancement of your children, gentle lady,” Richard III replied.
“Advancement up to some scaffold, there to lose their heads.”
“No, advancement to the dignity and height of honor, the high imperial symbol of this Earth’s glory.”
“Flatter my sorrows by telling me about it,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Tell me: What rank, what dignity, what honor can you give to any child of mine?”
“Everything I have; yes, I will endow a child of yours with myself and all I have as long as in the Lethe of your angry soul you drown the sad remembrance of those wrongs that you suppose I have done to you.”
The Lethe was a river in the Land of the Dead that causes forgetfulness in the souls who drank from it. Richard III wanted Queen Elizabeth to forget the sins that he had committed against her and her family.
“Be brief, lest the report of your kindness last longer in the telling than in the duration of your kindness,” Queen Elizabeth said.
Richard III lied, “Then know that from my soul I love your daughter.”
Richard III had said that he loved her daughter with all his soul, but Queen Elizabeth deliberately misunderstood him to be saying that he loved her daughter apart from his soul — that is, not with his soul, and not at all.
“My daughter’s mother thinks it with her soul,” Queen Elizabeth said.
“What do you think?”
“That you love my daughter from your soul. So from your soul’s love you loved her brothers; and from my heart’s love I thank you for it.”
“Don’t be so hasty to misinterpret my meaning,” Richard III said. “I mean that with my soul I love your daughter, and I mean to make her Queen of England.”
“Tell me, who do you mean shall be her King?”
“He who makes her Queen. Who else should he be?”
“Do you mean yourself? You shall be her King?”
“I, yes, I. What do you think about it, madam?”
“How can you woo her?”
“How to woo her is something that I want to learn from you, as you are the one who is best acquainted with her temperament.”
“And will you learn how to do that from me?”
“Madam, with all my heart,” Richard III said.
“Then do what I tell you to do. Send to her, by the man who slew her brothers, a pair of bleeding hearts. On those hearts engrave the names Edward and York. Perhaps then she will weep. Therefore present to her — as once old Queen Margaret gave a handkerchief steeped in your brother Rutland’s blood to your father — a blood-soaked handkerchief. Say to her that this handkerchief soaked up the red blood that drained from her sweet brothers’ bodies and tell her to dry her weeping eyes with it. If this inducement does not force her to love you, send her a story of your noble acts. Tell her you killed her uncle Clarence. Tell her you killed her uncle Rivers. Yes, and tell her that for her sake you killed her good aunt Anne.”
“Come, come, you mock me; this is not the way for me to win your daughter.”
“There is no other way unless you could put on some other shape, and not be the Richard who has done all this.”
“Say that I did all this because of love of her,” Richard III said.
“Then indeed she cannot choose but hate you since you have bought love with such a bloody spoil.”
“Look, what is done cannot be now undone,” Richard said. “Men sometimes make mistakes, which later hours give leisure to repent. If I took the Kingdom from your sons, then to make amends I’ll give the Kingdom to your daughter. If I have killed the children born from your womb, then to rejuvenate your offspring I will beget children with your daughter.
“A grandmother’s name is little less in love than is the loving title of a mother. Grandchildren are like children, but they are one step below. Grandchildren are of your substance and your character and your blood. Children and grandchildren cause the same amount of effort and pain, save for a night of groans in childbirth that will be endured by her, young Elizabeth of York, for whom you have already endured a night of groans.
“Your children were a vexation to your youth, but mine shall be a comfort to your old age. The loss you have is only a son who was only briefly King — Edward V— and never crowned, and by that loss your daughter will be made Queen.
“I cannot make you what amends I would like to make, so therefore accept such kindness as I can give to you.
“This fair alliance between your daughter and me shall quickly call home Dorset, your son, who now with a frightened soul leads discontented steps in foreign soil, and his returning home will result in him getting high promotions and great dignity.
“I, the King, who will call your beauteous daughter wife, shall familiarly call your son Dorset brother.
“Again you shall be mother to a King — this time you shall be a mother-in-law to a King.
“And all the ruins of distressful times shall be repaired with double riches of content.
“We have many good days to see in the future. The liquid drops of tears that you have shed shall come again, transformed to orient pearls, advantaging their loan with interest of ten times double gain of happiness.
“Go, my mother-in-law to be, go to your daughter and make bold her bashful years with your experience. Prepare her ears to hear a wooer’s tale that will put in her tender heart the aspiring flame of golden sovereignty. Acquaint the Princess with the sweet silent hours of marriage joys, and when this arm of mine has chastised and punished the petty rebel, dull-brained Buckingham, I will return wearing triumphant garlands, and I will lead your daughter to a conqueror’s bed. To her I will tell about the conquest I have won, and she shall be the sole victress, the conqueror of Caesar — Caesar’s Caesar.”
“Who would it be best I say is wooing her?” Queen Elizabeth asked. “Shall I say her father’s brother wants to be her husband? Or shall I say her wooer is her uncle? Or, he who slew her brothers and her uncles? What title shall I call you that God, the law, my honor, and her love can make seem pleasing to her young and tender years?”
“Say that fair England shall enjoy fair peace as a result of this alliance and marriage.”
“Fair peace that England shall purchase with forever-lasting war.”
“Say that the King, who may command, begs her to marry him.”
“You beg her to do what the King of Kings forbids.”
The church forbids marriage between uncle and niece.
“Say that she shall be a high and mighty Queen,” Richard III said.
“That is a title that she shall bewail, as does her mother,” Queen Elizabeth said.
“Say that I will love her everlastingly.”
“But how long shall that ‘everlastingly’ last?”
“It shall remain sweetly in force until her fair life ends.”
“But how long fairly shall her sweet life last?”
“As long as Heaven and nature lengthen it.”
“As long as Hell and Richard want it to last.”
“Say that I, her sovereign, am her subject love.”
“But she, your subject, loathes such sovereignty.”
“Be eloquent on my behalf when you speak to her,” Richard III said.
“An honorable tale succeeds best when it is plainly told.”
“Then in plain terms tell her my loving tale.”
“Plain and nothonorable is too harsh a style.”
“Your arguments for going against my wishes are too shallow and too quick.”
One meaning of “quick” is “alive,” and Queen Elizabeth deliberately misunderstood Richard to use that meaning rather than “hasty.”
“Oh, no, my arguments are too deep and dead,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Too deep and dead are my poor infants in their grave.”
“Harp not on that string, madam; that is past,” Richard said.
“Harp on it I always shall until my heartstrings break.”
“Now, by my George, my garter, and my crown —”
“You have profaned your George, dishonored your garter, and usurped your crown,” Queen Elizabeth said.
The George is a jeweled ornament depicting Saint George. The garter is a decorative leg-band showing membership in the Order of the Garter, the highest order of English knighthood. Both the George and the garter are emblems of chivalry.
Richard III began to say, “I swear —”
“— by nothing,” Queen Elizabeth interrupted, “because this is no oath. The George, profaned by you, has lost its holy honor. The garter, blemished by you, has pawned its knightly virtue. The crown, usurped by you, has disgraced its Kingly glory. If you want to swear by something that will make your oath be believed, swear by something that you have not wronged.”
“Now, by the world —”
“The world is full of your foul wrongs.”
“My father’s death —”
“Your life has dishonored your father’s death.”
“Then, by myself —”
“You misuse yourself. You are not the person you ought to be.”
“Why then, by God —”
“You have wronged God most of all,” Queen Elizabeth said. “If you had feared to break the oath you made by Him, the unity between opposing factions that King Edward IV, your brother, made would not have been broken, nor had my brother — Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers— been slain. If you had feared to break the oath you made by Him, the imperial metal, the crown that now circles your brow, would have graced the tender temples of my child, and both of the young Princes would still be breathing here in this world, but now they are two young playfellows to dust — your broken faith has made them a prey for worms.
“What can you swear by now?”
“The time to come,” Richard III said.
“You have wronged the future, for I myself have many tears to wash my face in the future because of wrongs that you have committed in the past. Some children live, whose parents you have slaughtered, who will spend their youths without parental guidance, and they will wail for it in their old age. Some parents live, whose children you have butchered, parents who are now old, withered, barren plants, and in their old age they bewail the loss of their children.
“Swear not by the time that is to come; for that you have misused before it is used, by misusing time that has already passed.”
“As I intend to prosper and repent, so may I thrive in my dangerous battle against hostile arms! May I destroy myself if I do not intend to prosper and repent! May Heaven and Lady Fortune keep happy hours away from me! Day, do not give me your light; night, do not give me your rest! Oppose me, all planets of good luck, and ruin my proceedings. May all this happen to me if I do not regard your beauteous Princessly daughter with the love of a pure heart, with immaculate devotion, and with holy thoughts. In her consists my happiness and yours. Unless I have her, what will follow to this land and me, and to you, herself, and many a Christian soul, will be death, desolation, ruin, and decay. These bad things cannot be avoided except by my marrying her. These bad things will not be avoided except by my marrying her.
“Therefore, good mother-in-law to be — I must call you so — be the attorney of my love to her. Plead what I will be, not what I have been. Do not plead what I deserve, but what I will deserve. Urge the necessity and the state of times, and do not be obstinately foolish when great affairs of the world are at stake.”
“Shall I thus be tempted by the devil?” Queen Elizabeth asked.
“Yes, if the devil tempt you to do good,” Richard III replied.
According to Christian belief, the devil tempts people to do good only when the result will be a greater evil.
“Shall I forget myself to be myself? Shall I forget that I was the mother of a King — Edward V — whom you killed? Shall I forget that simply so that I can be the mother of a Queen?”
“Yes, you should forget that memory if that memory hurts you.”
“But you killed my children.”
“But I will bury them in your daughter’s womb, where in that nest of spicery they shall breed copies of themselves, to your consolation.”
Richard III was referring to the myth of the phoenix, a bird that sets itself on fire in a nest of spices. After burning, the phoenix arises, newly young, from the ashes.
“Shall I go now and persuade my daughter to do what you want her to do?” Queen Elizabeth asked.
“Yes, and by doing so, you will be a happy mother.”
“I am going now,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Write to me very soon, and I will let you know what she thinks.”
Richard III kissed her and said, “Carry to her my true love’s kiss; and so, farewell.”
Queen Elizabeth exited.
King Richard III, who thought that he had persuaded Queen Elizabeth to persuade her daughter, young Elizabeth of York, to marry him, said about her, “Relenting, soft-hearted fool, and shallow, naïve, changing woman!”
Ratcliff, with Catesby following him, came over to Richard III, who said, “How are you, Ratcliff? What is the news?”
“My gracious sovereign, on the western coast of England rides a powerful navy; to the shore throng many doubt-filled hollow-hearted friends, who are unarmed and who are not determined to beat your enemies back. It is thought that the Earl of Richmond is the navy’s admiral, and there they drift, expecting that the forces of Buckingham will welcome them ashore.”
“Some swift-footed friend needs to ride to my ally, the Duke of Norfolk,” Richard III said. “You yourself, Ratcliff, or Catesby. Where is Catesby?”
“Here I am, my lord.”
“Fly to the Duke of Norfolk.”
Richard III then said to Ratcliff, “You ride to Salisbury. When you arrive there —”
Seeing Catesby, Richard III said, “Dull, unmindful villain, why are you standing still? Why aren’t you on the way to see the Duke of Norfolk?”
“First, mighty sovereign, let me know your mind,” Catesby said. “Tell me what message from your grace I shall deliver to him.”
“True, good Catesby,” Richard III said, “tell him immediately to raise the greatest, strongest, and most powerful army he can, and then to meet me soon at Salisbury.”
“I am going now,” Catesby said as he exited.
Ratcliff asked Richard III, “What is your highness’ pleasure I shall do at Salisbury?”
“Why, what would you do there before I go there?” Richard III asked.
“Your highness told me I should ride there before you do.”
“I have changed my mind, sir,” Richard III said. “I have changed my mind.”
Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby, arrived and walked over to Richard III.
“How are you?” Richard III asked. “What news have you brought?”
“None so good, my lord, as to please you with the hearing, nor none so bad, but it may well be told.”
“A riddle!” Richard III said sarcastically. “Neither good nor bad! Why are you running your mouth so many miles in a circle, when you could tell your tale simply and directly? Once more, what news have you brought?”
“Richmond’s navy is on the seas.”
“There let him sink, and let the seas be on him!” Richard III said. “That white-livered renegade, what is he doing there?”
“I don’t know, mighty sovereign, but I can make a guess,” Lord Stanley said.
“Well, sir, since you can make a guess, what guess do you make?”
“Stirred up by Dorset, Buckingham, and the Bishop of Ely, he is making for England, and he intends there to claim the crown.”
“Is the throne empty? Is the sword of state unwielded? Is the King dead? Is the empire unpossessed?” Richard III said.
Using the royal plural, he said, “What heir of York is there alive but we? And who is England’s King but great York’s heir?”
He ignored any claims the House of Lancaster could make to the throne. As far as the House of York was concerned, Clarence’s son was still alive.
Richard III next asked, “So tell me what is he doing upon the sea?”
“Unless for the reason I have already stated, my liege, I cannot guess.”
“Unless for the reason that he comes to be your liege, you cannot guess why the Welshman comes,” Richard III said.
The Earl of Richmond was Welsh; he was descended from the Welshman Owen Tudor and Katherine of Valois, the widow of King Henry V.
Richard III then said to Lord Stanley, “You will revolt and fly to him, I fear.”
“No, I won’t, mighty liege,” Lord Stanley replied. “Therefore, do not mistrust me.”
“Where is your army, then, to beat him back?” Richard III asked. “Where are your tenants and your followers? They should be soldiers opposing the Earl of Richmond. Aren’t they now upon the western shore, safely conducting the rebels from their ships?”
“No, my good lord,” Lord Stanleysaid. “My friends are in the north.”
“They are cold friends to Richard. What are they doing in the north, when they should be serving their sovereign in the west?”
“They have not been commanded, mighty sovereign, to come and serve you. If it pleases your majesty to give me leave, I’ll muster my friends and meet your grace where and at what time your majesty shall please.”
“Yes, yes,” Richard III replied. “You want to leave so you can join forces with the Earl of Richmond. I will not trust you, sir.”
“Most mighty sovereign, you have no cause to doubt my friendship. I never have been and never will be false to you.”
“Well, go muster men, but — listen to me carefully — leave behind your son and heir, George Stanley,” Richard III said. “Look that your faith to me is firm, or else his head’s assurance is frail. If you are not loyal to me, your son will lose his head.”
“Deal with him in the same way as I prove true and faithful to you,” Lord Stanley said, and then he exited.
A messenger arrived and said, “My gracious sovereign, I am well informed by friends that now in Devonshire several people are in arms against you: Sir Edward Courtney, and the haughty prelate the Bishop of Exeter, his brother there, and many more confederates.”
Another messenger arrived and said, “My liege, in Kent the Guildfords are in arms against you, and every hour more confederates flock to their aid, and continually their power increases.”
A third messenger arrived and said, “My lord, the army of the Duke of Buckingham —”
Angry, King Richard III said, “Damn you, owls! Do you sing nothing except songs of death?”
The cry of the screech owl was thought to be ominous — an omen of death.
Richard III struck the third messenger and said, “Take that, until you bring me better news.”
The third messenger replied, “The news I have to tell your majesty is that because of sudden floods and rainstorms, Buckingham’s army has been dispersed and scattered, and Buckingham himself has wandered away alone, no man knows where.”
This was good news for Richard III, and he said, “I beg your pardon. Here is some money to cure any injury caused by that blow I gave you. Has any well-advised, prudent friend proclaimed a reward to the man who brings the traitor Buckingham in?”
The third messenger replied, “Such proclamation of a reward has been made, my liege.”
A fourth messenger arrived and reported, “It is said, my liege, that Sir Thomas Lovel and Lord Marquess Dorset in Yorkshire are in arms against you. Yet I bring to your grace some good news and comfort. The French navy of the Earl of Richmond has been dispersed by a tempest. Richmond, in Yorkshire, sent out a boat to the shore to ask those on the banks if they were on his side, yes or no. They answered him that they came from Buckingham and were of his party. Richmond, mistrusting them, hoisted sail and set off to return to Brittany, France.”
“March on, march on, since we are up in arms,” Richard III said. “If don’t fight against foreign enemies, yet we can beat down these rebels here at home.”
Catesby returned and said, “My liege, the Duke of Buckingham has been captured — that is the best news. That the Earl of Richmond has with a mighty army landed at Milford Haven, on the coast of Wales, is colder tidings, yet they must be told.”
“Let’s march towards Salisbury!” Richard III said. “While we talk here, a battle to determine who sits on the throne might be won and lost. Someone deliver an order that Buckingham be brought to Salisbury; the rest march on with me.”
— 4.5 —
In the house of Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby, Sir Christopher Urswick and Lord Stanley talked.
Lord Stanleysaid, “Sir Christopher, tell the Earl of Richmond this from me. In the sty of this most bloody boar named Richard, my son and heir, George Stanley, is imprisoned and under guard. If I revolt against Richard, off goes young George’s head. The fear of that keeps me from offering aid to Richmond right now.”
The Earl of Richmond was Lord Stanley’s stepson.
Lord Stanley added, “But, tell me, where is Princely Richmond now?”
“He is at Pembroke, or at Haverfordwest, in Wales.”
“What men of name — men with titles — resort to him?”
“Sir Walter Herbert, who is a renowned soldier, as well as Sir Gilbert Talbot, Sir William Stanley, the Earl of Oxford, respected Pembroke, Sir James Blunt, and Rice ap Thomas with a valiant crew. Also, many more of noble fame and worth.”
“Ap” was part of some Welsh surnames.
Sir Christopher added, “They will march toward London if they don’t encounter any resistance. If they do encounter resistance, they will fight.”
Lord Stanley said, “Return to Richmond, your lord. Give him my greetings. Tell him that Queen Elizabeth has heartily consented that he shall marry her daughter, young Elizabeth of York.”
He handed Sir Christopher Urswick a letter and said, “This letter will inform him about what I think. Farewell.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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