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II. — RICHARD'S FATHER
Genealogy of Richard Plantagenet.—Family of Edward III.—Succession of heirs in the family of Edward III.—Genealogical table of the houses of York and Lancaster.—Union of the houses of Clarence and York.—Richard Plantagenet a prisoner.—King Henry VI.—His gentle and quiet character.—Portrait.—Discontent of the people.—Arrangements made for the succession.—Character of Margaret of Anjou.—No children.—Feeble and failing capacity of the king.—Richard Plantagenet formally declared the heir.—Unexpected birth of a prince.—Suspicions.—Various plans and speculations.—Richard's hopes.—Progress of the formation of parties.—Queen Margaret's resolution and energy.—Wars.—Richard's two brothers, Edward and Edmund.—The walls of York.—Prince Richard at York.—Boldness of the queen.—The advice of Richard's counselors.—Richard's reply.—The battle.—Richard defeated.—Death of Edmund.—Death of Richard.—The head set upon a pole at York.
RICHARD'S father was a prince of the house of York. In the course of his life he was declared heir to the crown, but he died before he attained possession of it, thus leaving it for his children. The nature of his claim to the crown, and, indeed, the general relation of the various branches of the family to each other, will be seen by the genealogical table on the next page but one.
Edward the Third, who reigned more than one hundred years before Richard the Third, and his queen Philippa, left at their decease four sons, as appears by the table.[C] They had other children besides these, but it was only these four, namely, Edward, Lionel, John, and Edmund, whose descendants were involved in the quarrels for the succession. The others either died young, or else, if they arrived at maturity, the lines descending from them soon became extinct.
[Footnote C: See page 35.]
Of the four that survived, the oldest was Edward, called in history the Black Prince. A full account of his life and adventures is given in our history of Richard the Second. He died before his father, and so did not attain to the crown. He, however, left his son Richard his heir, and at Edward's death Richard became king. Richard reigned twenty years, and then, in consequence of his numerous vices and crimes, and of his general mismanagement, he was deposed, and Henry, the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, Edward's third son, ascended the throne in his stead.
Now, as appears by the table, John of Gaunt was the third of the four sons, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, being the second. The descendants of Lionel would properly have come before those of John in the succession, but it happened that the only descendants of Lionel were Philippa, a daughter, and Roger, a grandchild, who was at this time an infant. Neither of these were able to assert their claims, although in theory their claims were acknowledged to be prior to those of the descendants of John. The people of England, however, were so desirous to be rid of Richard, that they were willing to submit to the reign of any member of the royal family who should prove strong enough to dispossess him. So they accepted Henry of Lancaster, who ascended the throne as Henry the Fourth, and he and his successors in the Lancastrian line, Henry the Fifth and Henry the Sixth, held the throne for many years.
Still, though the people of England generally acquiesced in this, the families of the other brothers, namely, of Lionel and Edmund, called generally the houses of Clarence and of York, were not satisfied. They combined together, and formed a great many plots and conspiracies against the house of Lancaster, and many insurrections and wars, and many cruel deeds of violence and murder grew out of the quarrel. At length, to strengthen their alliance more fully, Richard, the second son of Edmund of York, married Anne, a descendant of the Clarence line. The other children, who came before these, in the two lines, soon afterward died, leaving the inheritance of both to this pair. Their son was Richard, the father of Richard the Third. He is called Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. On the death of his father and mother, he, of course, became the heir not only of the immense estates and baronial rights of both the lines from which he had descended, but also of the claims of the older line to the crown of England.
The successive generations of these three lines, down to the period of the union of the second and fourth, cutting off the third, is shown clearly in the table.
Of course, the Lancaster line were much alarmed at the combination of the claims of their rivals. King Henry the Fifth was at that period on the throne, and, by the time that Richard Plantagenet was three years old, under pretense of protecting him from danger, he caused him to be shut up in a castle, and kept a close prisoner there.
Time rolled on. King Henry the Fifth died, and Henry the Sixth succeeded him. Richard Plantagenet was still watched and guarded; but at length, by the time that Richard was thirteen years old, the power and influence of his branch of the royal family, or rather those of the two branches from which, combined, he was descended, were found to be increasing, while that of the house of Lancaster was declining. After a time he was brought out from his imprisonment, and restored to his rank and station. King Henry the Sixth was a man of a very weak and timid mind. He was quite young too, being, in fact, a mere child when he began to reign, and every thing went wrong with his government. While he was young, he could, of course, do nothing, and when he grew older he was too gentle and forbearing to control the rough and turbulent spirits around him. He had no taste for war and bloodshed, but loved retirement and seclusion, and, as he advanced in years, he fell into the habit of spending a great deal of his time in acts of piety and devotion, performed according to the ideas and customs of the times. The annexed engraving, representing him as he appeared when he was a boy, is copied from the ancient portraits, and well expresses the mild and gentle traits which marked his disposition and character.
Such being the disposition and character of Henry, every thing during his reign went wrong, and this state of things, growing worse and worse as he advanced in life, greatly encouraged and strengthened the house of York in the effort which they were inclined to make to bring their own branch of the family to the throne.
"See," said they, "what we come to by allowing a line of usurpers to reign. These Henrys of Lancaster are all descended from a younger son, while the heirs of the older are living, and have a right to the throne. Richard Plantagenet is the true and proper heir. He is a man of energy. Let us make him king."
But the people of England, though they gradually came to desire the change, were not willing yet to plunge the country again into a state of civil war for the purpose of making it. They would not disturb Henry, they said, while he continued to live; but there was nobody to succeed him, and, when he died, Richard Plantagenet should be king.
Henry was married at this time, but he had no children. The name of his wife was Margaret of Anjou. She was a very extraordinary and celebrated woman. Though very beautiful in person, she was as energetic and masculine in character as her poor husband was effeminate and weak, and she took every thing into her own hands. This, however, made matters worse instead of better, and the whole country seemed to rejoice that she had no children, for thus, on the death of Henry, the line would become extinct, and Richard Plantagenet and his descendants would succeed, as a matter of course, in a quiet and peaceful manner. As Henry and Margaret had now been married eight or nine years without any children, it was supposed that they never would have any.
Accordingly, Richard Plantagenet was universally looked upon as Henry's successor, and the time seemed to be drawing nigh when the change of dynasty was to take place. Henry's health was very feeble. He seemed to be rapidly declining. His mind was affected, too, quite seriously, and he sometimes sank into a species of torpor from which nothing could arouse him.
Indeed, it became difficult to carry on the government in his name, for the king sank at last into such a state of imbecility that it was impossible to obtain from him the least sign or token that would serve, even for form's sake, as an assent on his part to the royal decrees. At one time Parliament appointed a commission to visit him in his chamber, for the purpose of ascertaining the state that he was in, and to see also whether they could not get some token from him which they could consider as his assent to certain measures which it was deemed important to take; but they could not get from the king any answer or sign of any kind, notwithstanding all that they could do or say. They retired for a time, and afterward came back again to make a second attempt, and then, as an ancient narrative records the story, "they moved and stirred him by all the ways and means that they could think of to have an answer of the said matter, but they could have no answer, word nor sign, and therefore, with sorrowful hearts, came away."
This being the state of things, Parliament thought it time to make some definite arrangements for the succession. Accordingly, they passed a formal and solemn enactment declaring Richard Plantagenet heir presumptive of the crown, and investing him with the rank and privileges pertaining to that position. They also appointed him, for the present, Protector and defender of the realm.
Richard, the subject of this volume, was at this time an infant two years old....