22. Edward IV, A.D. 1461—1483
Though Edward IV. was made king, the wars of the Red and White Roses were not over yet. Queen Margaret and her friends were always trying to get help for poor King Henry. Edward had been so base and mean as to have him led into London, with his feet tied together under his horse, while men struck him on the face, and cried out, "Behold the traitor!" But Henry was meek, patient, and gentle throughout; and, when shut up in the Tower, spent his time in reading and praying, or playing with his little dog.
Queen Margaret and her son Edward were living with her father in France, and she was always trying to have her husband set free, and brought back to his throne. In the meantime, all England was exceedingly surprised to find that Edward IV. had been secretly married to a beautiful lady named Elizabeth Woodville—Lady Grey. Her first husband had been killed fighting for Henry, and she had stood under an oak tree, when King Edward was passing, to entreat that his lands might not be taken from her little boys. The king fell in love with her and married her, but for a long time he was afraid to tell the Earl of Warwick; and when he did, Warwick was greatly offended—and all the more because Elizabeth's relations were proud and gay in their dress, and tried to set themselves above all the old nobles. Warwick himself had no son, but he had two daughters, whom he meant to marry to the king's two brothers—George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Edward thought this would make Warwick too powerful, and though he could not prevent George from marrying Isabel Nevil, the eldest daughter, the discontent grew so strong that Warwick persuaded George to fly with him, turn against his own brother, and offer Queen Margaret their help! No wonder Margaret did not trust them, and was very hard to persuade that Warwick could mean well by her; but at last she consented, and gave her son Edward—a fine lad of sixteen—to marry his daughter, Anne Nevil; after which, Warwick—whom men began to call the king-maker— went back to England with Clarence, to raise their men, while she was to follow with her son and his young wife. Warwick came so suddenly that he took the Yorkists at unawares. Edward had to flee for his life to Flanders, leaving his wife and his babies to take shelter in Westminster Abbey—since no one durst take any one out of that holy place—and poor Henry was taken out of prison and set on the throne again. However, Edward soon got help in Flanders, where his sister was married to the Duke of Burgundy. He came back again, gathered his friends, and sent messages to his brother Clarence that he would forgive him if he would desert the earl. No one ever had less faith or honor than George of Clarence. He did desert Warwick, just as the battle of Barnet Heath was beginning; and Warwick's king-making all ended, for he was killed, with his brother and many others, in the battle.
And this was the first news that met Margaret when, after being long hindered by foul weather, she landed at Plymouth. She would have done more wisely to have gone back, but her son Edward longed to strike a blow for his inheritance, and they had friends in Wales whom they hope to meet. So they made their way into Gloucestershire; but there King Edward, with both his brothers, came down upon them at Tewkesbury, and there their army was routed, and the young prince taken and killed—some say by the king himself and his brothers. Poor broken hearted Queen Margaret was made prisoner too, and carried to the Tower, where she arrived a day or two after the meek and crazed captive, Henry VI., had been slain, that there might be no more risings in his name. And so ended the long war of York and Lancaster —though not in peace or joy to the savage, faithless family who had conquered.
Edward was merry and good-natured when not angered, and had quite sense and ability enough to have been a very good king, if he had not been lazy, selfish, and full of vices. He actually set out to conquer France, and then let himself be persuaded over and paid off by the cunning King of France, and went home again, a laughing-stock to everybody. The two kings had an interview on a bridge over the River Somme in France, where they talked through a kind of fence, each being too suspicious of the other to meet, without such a barrier between them. As to George, the king had never trusted him since his shameful behavior when Warwick rebelled; besides, he was always abusing the queen's relations, and Richard was always telling the king of all the bad and foolish things he did or said. At last there was a great outbreak of anger, and the king ordered the Duke of Clarence to be imprisoned in the Tower; and there, before long, he too was killed. The saying was that he was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine, but this is not at all likely to be true. He left two little children, a boy and a girl.
So much cruel slaughter had taken place, that most of the noble families in England had lost many sons, and a great deal of their wealth, and none of them ever became again so mighty as the king- maker had been. His daughter, Anne, the wife of poor Edward of Lancaster, was found by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, hidden as a cook-maid in London, and she was persuaded to marry him—as, indeed, she had always been intended for him. He was a little, thin, slight man, with one shoulder higher than the other, and keen, cunning dark eyes; and as the king was very tall, with a handsome, blue-eyed face, people laughed at the contrast, called Gloucester Richard Crook-back and were very much afraid of him.
It was in this reign that books began to be printed in England instead of written. Printing had been found out in Germany a little before, and books had been shown to Henry VI., but the troubles of his time kept him from attending to them. Now, however, Edward's sister, the Duchess of Burgundy, much encouraged a printer named Caxton, whose books she sent her brother, and other presses were set up in London. Another great change had come in. Long ago, in the time of Henry III., a monk name Roger Bacon had made gunpowder; but nobody used it much until, in the reign of Edward III., it was found out how cannon might be fired with it; and some say it was first used in the battle of Crecy. But it was not till the reign of Edward IV. that smaller guns, such as each soldier could carry one of for himself, were invented— harquebuses, as they were called;—and after this the whole way of fighting was gradually altered. Printing and gunpowder both made great changes in everything, though not all at once. King Edward did not live to see the changes. He had hurt his health with his revellings and amusements, and died quite in middle age, in the year 1483: seeing, perhaps, at last, how much better a king he might have been.