Book 1, Ch. 6: Cade's Rebellion to Henry VII

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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John Noorthouck, 'Book 1, Ch. 6: Cade's Rebellion to Henry VII', in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark( London, 1773), British History Online [accessed 22 July 2024].

John Noorthouck, 'Book 1, Ch. 6: Cade's Rebellion to Henry VII', in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark( London, 1773), British History Online, accessed July 22, 2024,

John Noorthouck. "Book 1, Ch. 6: Cade's Rebellion to Henry VII". A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. (London, 1773), , British History Online. Web. 22 July 2024.

In this section


From the rebellion of Jack Cade, to the accession of Henry VII.

We now arrive at troublesome times; to which the natural circumstances of the nation in general did not a little contribute. Though the people, by the influence of trade, had, in good measure, broke the bands which linked them under feudal subjection; yet, as no other system had as yet taken place, this unsettled state of political society bred much confusion. The nation was now at full leisure to occupy itself with intestine broils; Henry, who had been crowned at Paris, was so compleatly expelled the country, that he had lost even the antient provinces of Normandy and Guienne, and retained only the town of Calais to support his empty title of king of France. A great alteration of affairs was taking place; the ensuing contests between the princes of the houses of York and Lancaster, the convulsions in changing the national religion, all tended to reduce the antient power of the nobles, on whom, during these changes, both the king and people continually gained ground. The property diffusing by commerce, raised up a rival, monied interest, to that of land, and at length produced a new frame of government, better suited to the general rights of mankind. This, however, was long in effecting: the great crisis did not take place, until the important struggle between king Charles I. and the house of commons: nor was it decided until the Revolution. It was thought proper to anticipate thus much, that this general view may conduct us through the detail of events, in which the city of London often acted a considerable part; and because the chain of these transactions will be often broken by particulars of a more local nature.

Henry VI. was a prince of very slender abilities, and his private good qualities could not ensure a quiet reign to him, when he was surrounded by a boisterous nobility; men, whose ambitious projects, unrestrained by virtuous principles, led them to take advantage of their prince's weakness. His grandfather, Henry, of Lancaster, had, by strong talents, supported a weak claim to the crown, under circumstances similar to the present: and Richard, duke of York, also a descendant from Edward III. prepared to attempt a revolution in his own favour. His cautious temper, however, with-held him from bold efforts; and his plan was to take a more deliberate advantage of public discontents: hence he only prepared the way for the advancement of his son, whose character was better suited to hazardous enterprizes.

The royal demesnes had been greatly impoverished by the wars in France during Henry's minority; he was involved in debt, and the expences of the crown were supported by arbitrary exactions. The popular clamours were all directed against his minister, the duke of Suffolk; and as some sacrifice must be made on such occasions, Suffolk was impeached in parliament ; and, submitting to the king's mercy, was banished, and murdered on his passage. What share the duke of York had in this transaction, is not decided, as he was then in Ireland; but the following insurrection has been ascribed to his intrigues.


John Cade, an Irish refugee, from his resemblance to Sir John Mortimer, of the family of March, who had been irregularly put to death early in this reign, on an accusation of treason, assumed the character of his son; and during the present discontents, A. D. 1450, on the profession of redressing grievances, assembled 20,000 men under his standard in Kent. A force was sent to reduce him under Sir Humphrey Stafford; who being defeated and killed, he encamped on Blackheath; from whence he sent very plausible propositions to the court. The gates of the city were obliged to be opened to him; and Cade, who assumed the merit of exact discipline, published severe edicts against all excesses; leading his men out into the fields every night. He sacrificed the treasurer, lord Say, and Sir James Cromer, the high sheriff of Kent, however, to the fury of his adherents; and the king and council withdrew to Kenelworth. But as popular insurrections under vulgar leaders seldom preserve that moderation and order, which give permanent success to better-concerted enterprizes; Jack Cade and his men could not long bear the power their strength so suddenly procured them. Some merchants had their houses plundered, particularly two, wherein Cade had been generously entertained; the citizens, therefore, resolved, that when Cade was marched into Southwark, they would shut the gates, and oppose his return. This resolution was communicated to the lord Scales, constable of the Tower of London, and his lieutenant; who greatly encouraged the citizens to persevere in their laudable design: and not only promised them his utmost assistance, but assured them, that, if the rebels should attack the bridge, he would drive them from thence by his artillery in the Tower.

Cade no sooner understood that he was excluded the city, than he advanced to attack and force his passage over the bridge; but the citizens being prepared to receive him, the drawbridge was obstinately disputed; great numbers of citizens were killed; but, at last, Cade was obliged to retire. By this gallant defence of the citizens, the rebels were much discouraged; and Cade found himself obliged to recruit his army with the prisoners of the King's-Bench and Marshalsea prisons. But John Stafford, archbishop of Canterbury, and high chancellor, being informed, that the rebels by their bad success in the late engagement were greatly dispirited, wisely improved the opportunity, and, with the bishop of Winchester, immediately drew up an act of indemnity to all who should disperse, giving it the sanction of the great seal. This being proclaimed in Southwark the night following, produced so sudden an effect, that before day Cade was deserted by most of his followers; who returning home, left him to shift for himself.

Perceiving that his affairs were now become desperate, Cade thought it adviseable to provide for his own safety, together with that of his rich booty, which he sent by water to Rochester; and he himself in disguise fled into the woody part of Sussex. A proclamation was issued by the government, offering 1000 marks to any person that should bring him, either dead or alive. He was discovered lurking in a garden at Hothfield in Sussex, by Alexander Eden, a Kentish gentleman, who killed him, and, having put his body into a cart, brought it to London, where he received the promised reward. His head with those of nine of his associates, were placed on London Bridge; and some other of the ringleaders were tried and executed. Quiet was thus restored; but the dispersed populace carried home with them sentiments, which fomenting the public discontent, disposed the people to listen to the duke of York's pretensions, which now became a general topic of discussion.


It was probably for services during this insurrection, that Godfrey Fielding, who was elected mayor in 1452, was appointed a privy counsellor.

A bull was obtained in 1453 from pope Nicholas, to inforce the payment of a halfpenny in the pound on all rents in the city of London, as offerings to the parish priests, on Sundays and festivals. This payment had been long demanded, and refused by the citizens; but the penalty of the greater excommunication now denounced on the refusal, prevailed on them to enter into a composition with the clergy for this demand, which was concluded afterward in 1457.


The present custom of the lord mayor of London going by water to Westminster to qualify himself for that office, had its origin in the year 1454. Before this time they used to ride; but John Norman, lord mayor elect, now built a stately barge at his own expence, and the city companies building others for themselves in like manner, their former cavalcade was altered to a naval solemnity, to the great joy of the watermen, who composed a song on the occasion.

The duke of York had in the year 1452 raised a force of 10,000 men, with which he marched toward London, demanding a reformation of government, and the dismission of the duke of Somerset from his authority. Finding the city gates shut against him, he retired into Kent, hoping probably to increase his force with some of those who had before joined Jack Cade; but the king followed him with a superior army, and by persuading him to a parley, had got possession of his person. He was too powerful to proceed to extremities with; so was only dismissed to his seat on the borders of Wales. Though he thus lost the fruits of this armament, yet the king at this time having his natural weakness of mind increased by disorder, his party had influence enough to get him appointed protector, and to send Somerset to the Tower. The whole power of the kingdom was now in his hands; yet, instead of improving it to establish himself in the royalty which he aimed at, his irresolution appeared in the cautious use of the powers conferred on him. He was too moderate for the time and for the occasion; as a more decisive conduct might have saved much of the blood afterward shed in the contest.


The king's recovery once more altered the state of affairs, by his resuming the regal power, and reinstating the duke of Somerset. The duke of York, sensible of his danger, levied an army; and the battle of St. Alban's (fn. 1), in which the duke of Somerset was killed, put him in possession of the king's person. Though a prisoner, Henry was treated with great respect; he was sent to London, and lodged in the bishop's palace, till the parliament called to sit at Westminster, again constituted the duke of York protector of the kingdom, and removed from the king all his evil counsellors.


During convulsions of government, the authority of civil magistrates under it cannot be duly maintained, and the London populace were now guilty of many outrages and tumults. Those of the liberty of St. Martin's-le-Grand insulting the citizens, the magistrates forced the monastery there, where the rioters had taken refuge, and seized them; which the dean of Westminster complained of as a violation of his privileges. A young mercer having wounded an Italian in a fray, he was apprehended, but rescued by the mob, who availing themselves of the occasion, plundered the houses of some Italian merchants; and blood was shed before the tumult was quelled. The queen, who suspected the York party to foment these disorders, sent the dukes of Exeter and Buckingham, with others impowered by a special commission, to assist the magistrates in trying the offenders. The mob however put a stop to these proceedings, and so intimidated the commissioners, that they left the city; until the mayor by a proper exertion of his authority, restored quiet, when the commissioners returned, and justice was executed upon several of the offenders.

Several small schools being now set up by illiterate persons, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London, added five more schools to the four lately mentioned; namely, in St. Paul's church-yard; the collegiate church of St. Martin-le-Grand, at St. Mary de Arcubus, or Bow church, at St. Dunstan in the east, and at the hospital of St. Anthony.


Queen Margaret still maintained a party in her husband's favour, which with the hesitating conduct of the duke of York, kept the nation for some time in suspence. In his absence she produced her husband in the house of lords; where declaring an intention of resuming his power, he was reinstated, and yet no disturbance ensued. A general reconciliation was even attempted, and it was agreed that all the principal leaders of both sides should meet for this purpose in London. They arrived with numerous retinues; and Godfrey Buloine, the mayor, during this formidable congress, caused 5000 armed citizens to keep guard every day, and 2000 by night, under the command of three aldermen, to secure the peace of the city. An outward reconciliation was effected; and to give public manifestation of cordiality, a solemn procession was made to St. Paul's, in which the duke of York led queen Margaret; and the chiefs of the York and Lancaster parties marched hand in hand with each other (fn. 2).


This accommodation wanted however only an occasion to be broken. A quarrel happened between a servant of the king, and one belonging to the earl of Warwick; their comrades on each side took part; a fray ensued; the earl fled to his government of Calais, and both parties renewed their preparations for hostilities. Though a history of these transactions, where London is not immediately concerned, is rather beyond our plan, yet some particulars seemingly foreign to it must necessarily be hinted at, to preserve a chain of connexion. The earls of Warwick, Salisbury, and March (fn. 3) landed with forces in Kent; lord Scales secured the Tower for the king, and demanded admission into the city, to defend it, as he said, from the attempts of the traiterous invaders. But the Londoners favouring the York party, the mayor replied, that he wanted no help either to defend or govern the city, and that he would not permit an armed force to come within his jurisdiction. Scales threatened to batter the town and lay it in ashes; but these menaces failed of effect; for upon the arrival of the earl of March, the gates were immediately opened, and he entered into London saluted with loud acclamations.

While the earl of March set out to face the royal army, he left the earl of Salisbury with a considerable power to defend the city against the attempts of the lord Scales in the Tower, who incessantly plied the town with his ordnance, and beat down a number of houses. Salisbury on this blocked up that fortress on all sides; and, by erecting a battery on the adverse bank of the Thames, he annoyed the garrison so much, that Scales was soon obliged to desist.

The earl of March routed the king's army near Northampton ; he was again taken prisoner, brought to London, and lodged once more in the bishop's palace. Lord Scales, now despairing of relief, delivered up the Tower upon terms; imagining, however, that the articles of surrender were not sufficient to secure him from the fury of the citizens, whom he had so highly injured, he endeavoured to escape by water: but, being unfortunately discovered by some of the earl of Warwick's watermen, they knocked him on the head, and, stripping him, left his naked corpse on the shore.

The duke of York had not hitherto openly made pretensions to the crown: he now arrived from Ireland; and a parliament meeting in the king's name, he pleaded his title to the crown in so cool and mild a manner, that as he inspired no courage into his friends, so he derived no encouragement from them. He left the peers to consider his claim; they admitted his title, acknowledged him heir to the monarchy, vested him with the present administration, but adjudged Henry to retain the dignity in consideration of his long reign.


The queen, after the defeat at Northampton, retired to the north of England, where she raised forces; the duke of York followed her, but was killed in an imprudent engagement: she ordered his head to be cut off, and in ridicule placed it on the gate of York, decorated with a paper crown. Upon this lucky turn of affairs, she began her march southward; but at Barnard's Heath near St. Alban's, met the earl of Warwick's army from London. A terrible battle ensued; which, by the treachery of Lovelace, in keeping back the principal part of Warwick's army, went in favour of the queen; who not only became a second time victorious, but also recovered the king from captivity.

This success emboldened the queen, while she lay at St. Alban's, to demand a supply of provisions from London; the mayor readily complied; but the populace stopped the carts at Cripplegate, and would not let them proceed. The mayor sent a deputation to account for his non-compliance; but young Edward, now duke of York, soon rendered these apologies needless, by giving her a defeat, after which he was received with great joy into London.

Edward, graced with victory, and possessed of the popular favour, resolved with the ardor of youthful courage to claim the crown while circumstances enabled him; by which stroke the other party would at once become traitors against lawful authority. He did not wait for a parliament, but assembled his army in St. John's fields, where a well calculated harangue procured him an election by the mixed multitude thus collected. By a convention of nobility at Baynard's castle, Henry was formally deposed, and Edward IV. was proclaimed the next day, March 5, 1461. He left it to the parliament to ratify these acts at leisure.

Thus ended the long reign of Henry VI. a reign full of the most whimsical vicissitudes of fortune. His insipid character rendered him equally a tool to which-ever party got possession of him; he was too inoffensive in himself to be ill used even by his enemies, who had him often in their hands; nor had fortune even now done making her sport of him.

It was in this reign that the qualification of electors of knights of shires, was fixed to the possession of 40 shillings clear annual income in land, which was then nearly equal to 20l. of present money (fn. 4).

Edward stained his character by the first act of his reign, which all historians have thought worthy of notice, as it shewed what the nation might expect in future. While he remained at Baynard castle, Walter Walker, a grocer, who lived at the sign of the Crown in Cheapside, had jocosely said he would make his son heir to the crown: this harmless pun was officiously carried to the king, who with a mean cruelty ordered the grocer to be beheaded in Smithfield. He set out the same day in quest of Henry, and having defeated him at Towton in Yorkshire, where he gave no quarter to his enemies, he returned; and, June 29, was crowned with great solemnity and rejoicing at the abbey church of St. Peter, Westminster.


The city of London, which had always shewn an inclination in favour of his family, obtained, in the second year of his reign, the ample charter, No. XXXII. in the Appendix.

Beside confirming all the antient privileges of the corporation, the following rights were now added by this charter. The mayor, recorder, and aldermen past the chair, were appointed perpetual justices of the peace, and justices of Oyer and Terminer for the trial of malefactors within the city jurisdiction. The mayor and aldermen, by the mouth of the recorder, might decide all points of controversy as to the customs of the city. They were exempted from serving in all foreign assizes or public duties without the jurisdiction of the city; the grant of the borough of Southwark was confirmed, with power to hold an annual fair there, at the antient fee-farm rent of 10 l. per annum.


Another charter was soon after obtained, which granted the tronage, weighing, and measuring of wool, at Leadenhall: in consequence of which, certain persons were appointed to regulate the prices for the execution of this power. See Appendix, No. XXXIII.

The high idea the magistrates of London entertained of their dignity, appeared by an incident that now happened. On a call of new serjeants at law, a grand feast was given at Ely house, Holborn; to which the magistrates and some principal citizens of London were invited. On sitting down at table, the lord treasurer, baron Ruthen, took the most honourable place; this the lord mayor disputed with him, insisting, that, as the king's representative, he had the pre-eminence of all persons within the liberties of the city. As the treasurer would not give place, the mayor resented it with becoming spirit, by withdrawing and giving an entertainment to his brother magistrates and company in the city.


On occasion of the queen's coronation, Thomas Cook, lord mayor of London, was installed a knight of the Bath, in the Tower, May 15, 1465.

The unfortunate Henry once more fell into the hands of his enemies; for after being secreted by some friends in Lancashire, he was at length betrayed to Edward, who shut him up in the Tower of London. His queen having before retired to her father's court, Edward now found himself in full possession of the government.


Edward had employed the earl of Warwick to negociate a marriage for him with the sister to the queen of France; the treaty was concluded, but in the interim Edward had indiscreetly suffered himself to be enticed to marry the widow of Sir John Gray (fn. 5). Warwick resented this indignity, and soon entered into cabals against Edward's government; of which historians have left us but unsatisfactory particulars, and which we cannot spare time to enter into: such rapid revolutions deserving only a brief mention. Thus much is certain, however unlikely, that Warwick obliged the king to fly beyond sea; his queen, Elizabeth, leaving the Tower, took sanctuary in Westminster, and the custody of that fortress was entrusted to Sir Richard Lee, lord mayor of London, and the aldermen, who took possession of it. Henry was once more exalted to the throne, and the parliament concurred in the revolution; but, on account of Henry's known incapacity, the earl of Warwick and the duke of Clarence obtained the regency.

There are always violent men void of principle, ready to take advantage of confusion. Sir Geoffrey Gates, a man of abandoned character, collected a number of men as profligate as himself in the city, and plundered the houses of some Flemish merchants. He then retired to Kent, where augmenting his strength, he returned to pillage the city; but not being able to effect this, he plundered Southwark, St. Catharine's, Ratcliffe, and Limehouse, until he was reduced by the earl of Warwick, and the duke of Clarence.


Affairs, however, soon underwent another change; for the duke of Burgundy, Edward's brother-in-law, fitted out a small armament in his favour, with which Edward landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire. Warwick assembled an army at Leicester to march against him; but Edward passing him by another road, arrived at London, the gates of which were joyfully thrown open to receive him. Two reasons have been assigned for this attachment of the city to Edward; he was deeply indebted to the citizens, whose hopes of payment depended on his restoration; and the wives of some of the principal citizens are said to have retained an affection for a young gallant prince on the score of reciprocal favours that had formerly passed between them.

Edward thus reinstated in the seat of government, the metropolis, took particular care to put it in a posture of defence, and then marched out to meet the earl of Warwick, who advanced toward London with a strong army. He came as far as Barnet; where, the night before the battle, the duke of Clarence deserted to Edward, and carried with him a body of 12000 men. Notwithstanding this loss, Warwick engaged Edward; and, after an obstinate battle, in which no quarter was given on the royal side, his defeat and death gave security to the king, who was now fully restored, after an exile of six months. Henry was finally remanded to his old prison in the Tower; his queen, and her young son, who landed after the battle at Barnet, hazarded an action with a small force, and were taken prisoners at the batle of Teukesbury. The young prince was ungenerously put to death, and his mother confined in the Tower; where Henry died suspiciously soon after.

During Edward's absence, Thomas Neville, natural son of Lord Falconbridge, known by the name of the bastard of Falconbridge, and who subsisted by piracy; under colour of assisting the captive king, laid a scheme for plundering the city of London. He collected a force of 17,000 freebooters, and partisans of the house of Lancaster, at the head of whom he marched for London; and not being able to enter the city, quartered his men in Southwark. His strength was wasted in several attacks at Aldgate, Bishopsgate, and the Bridge, from whence the citizens repulsed him with great spirit, being assisted by a detachment from the Tower under earl Rivers. The king returning, pursued them into Kent, and totally dispersed them; the ringleaders were executed, together with the bastard, who was soon after taken; and their heads fixed on the bridge. Twelve aldermen, together with the recorder, were knighted for their services on this occasion.


Sir William Hampton, lord mayor in 1472, ordered stocks to be placed in every ward, for the punishment of vagrants; the city stocks in the market which they gave name to, not being found sufficient. He also endeavoured to suppress the common prostitutes which infested the city, by corporal punishment, and exposing them through the streets in an ignominious manner.


It was ordained in 1473, that the sheriffs of London and Middlesex should each have sixteen serjeants, and every one his yeoman; and also six clerks, viz. a secondary, clerk of the papers, and four others, beside the under-sheriff's clerks.

Edward now found himself at leisure to endeavour at popularity; and no means at that time being more favourable than attempts to recover the national losses in France, he listened to overtures from the duke of Burgundy to unite their arms against that crown. Disposed as the people were to undertake a French war, they had been so much harrassed by internal commotions, that the parliament voted but small supplies, and so cautiously, that the money levied was not put into the king's hands, but placed in religious houses, to be refunded, should the French expedition not take place. Edward therefore had recourse to the arbitrary exactions, then termed benevolences, which every one was to give in proportion to his substance; and thus raised money from the wealthy Londoners and other gentlemen of property, which enabled him to carry an army over to Calais. But his foreign allies, and even the duke of Burgundy himself, failing in their engagements, he was obliged to listen to the overtures made him by Lewis for peace; who purchased his absence for 75,000 crowns, agreed to pay him 50,000 crowns yearly during their joint lives, and ransomed queen Margaret for 50,000 more. Peace was thus concluded at Pecquigni, without striking a blow, little to the credit of either prince, though the pecuniary advantage rested with Edward.

The year 1474 is rendered memorable by the introduction of the art of printing into England. What little learning hitherto existed, remained in the hands of the clergy, who perverted it to suit sinister purposes. Few books were written except idle legendary tales to keep up a spirit of superstition; and manuscript copies bore too high a price to come into common hands. The easy multiplication of books at the printing press, first enabled people to read, and then to write; and diffused useful knowledge through the nation. The importation of this invaluable art we owe to William Caxton, mercer of London; and the first book he printed in England was a Treatise on the game of Chess, translated by himself from the French. He was patronised by the earl of Rivers, who translating A collection of the dictates and sayings of the Philosophers, this is reputed to be the second of Caxton's impressions. We are informed by the honourable Mr. Walpole, that a fair manuscript of this translation is preserved in the archbishop's library at Lambeth; with an illumination representing the earl introducing Caxton to Edward IV. his queen and the prince. A copy of this drawing is prefixed as a frontispiece to that gentleman's Catalogue of royal and noble Authors.

By the treaty concluded between Edward IV. and the Hanseatic league, (fn. 6) those merchants, beside other privileges, had their great hall, then called Guyballda Teutonicorum, but now the Stillyard or Steelyard in Thames-street, confirmed to them, on the payment of 70 l. a year to the corporation of London, with some other petty rents to private persons for houses adjoining. In their warehouses here, they kept such commodities as they imported into England; and by the same treaty two other houses were assigned them at Boston and Lynn.



By act of common council in 1475, the election of lord mayor and sheriffs was vested in the masters, wardens, and liveries of the city companies, in the form that continues to this day. Farther privileges were soon after purchased of the crown, as will appear by the charters No. XXXIV. XXXV. in the Appendix. The next year Sir Ralph Joceline the mayor, with the court of common council, took the repair of the city wall into consideration; bricks for that purpose being prepared in Moorfields. Several of the city companies undertook each of them a part of this great work; and, by act of common council, each parishioner was ordered to pay six pence every Sunday at church toward these repairs. The town ditch was cleansed the year after.

The plague attacked the city of London in September 1479, and continued to November in the following year, during which unhappy visitation incredible numbers of people perished.

The princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter to Edward IV. had been contracted to the Dauphin of France, by the treaty of Pecquigni mentioned above; but other views now taking place with the French monarch, he married his son to the daughter of Maximilian. Edward, in resentment of this affront, projected another attack on France; and Lewis, to divert the blow, prevailed on the Scots king to invade England. The king negociated a loan of 5000 marks from the city to enable him to repel the invasion; which was effected by the duke of Gloucester, who reduced the Scots to peace. During these transactions, the king, to shew his regard for the corporation of London, invited the mayor, aldermen, and chief citizens, to a grand hunt on Waltham forest; and entertained them in a stately arbour erected for the occasion. He did not forget the city ladies, but preserved his good understanding with them the August following, by a present of two harts, six bucks, and a ton of wine, to the lady mayoress, who entertained the aldermen's ladies and others with this royal donation at Draper's-hall.


Edward IV. died April 9th 1483; and the conduct of his brother the duke of Gloucester toward his young nephew Edward V. whose person he seized out of the hands of the earl of Rivers, who was conducting him from Ludlow to London, in a manner that made his bad intentions justly suspected; alarmed the nation in general, and the city of London in particular. It was of importance to Gloucester to keep the metropolis quiet; he therefore sent forward the Lord Hastings to assure the Londoners of the uprightness of his intentions. Having succeeded in deceiving the citizens, and got the king in his power, his next step was to get possession of the duke of York. He lodged the king in the Tower; and the queen, justly apprehensive of treachery, taking sanctuary at Westminster with her younger son the duke of York; he prevailed on the archbishops of Canterbury and York, to persuade her to deliver him up also; and then procured himself to be appointed protector.

His principal prey being thus secured, Gloucester, prompted by his headlong ambition, determined to remove every one out of the way that would not cooperate in his perfidious purpose. The earl of Rivers, who was the queen's brother, her son Sir Richard Gray, and other principal persons of the household, being prisoners in Pomfret castle, he first sent orders for them to be beheaded; and formed a scheme to take off the Lord Hastings in the Tower, on the very day those murders were committing at Pomfret. His invention was too gross to deceive, and he gave himself little trouble to save appearances; he complained at council of a conspiracy between the Lord Hastings and Jane Shore, a mistress of the late king, to destroy him by witchcraft; and before the persons present recovered from their consternation, Hastings was hurried out of the chamber and beheaded on a log that lay in the court of the Tower. Desirous however to excuse himself to the city, he instantly sent for the lord mayor and aldermen, pleaded the emergency of the occasion for thus punishing Hastings without legal process; and, left this apology should fail in appeasing the public apprehensions, he sent a herald into the city, who read a long laboured proclamation to the same effect fairly written on parchment, to account for the death of so popular a nobleman. This being within two hours after the event, convinced people that his death was predetermined; and a merchant remarked that this proclamation was certainly drawn up by the spirit of prophecy.

To strengthen his interest in the city, he took Sir Edmund Shaw the lord mayor into the privy council, and thus gained over his brother Dr. Shaw a popular preacher; who in a sermon at Paul's cross the following Sunday from the words in the Wisdom of Solomon, Bastard slips shall take no deep root, endeavoured to prove not only Edward's sons illegitimate, but the father also, and therefore that they had no title to the crown. Then raising his voice, he added—"But my lord protector, that noble prince, that pattern of all virtue and heroic actions, carries in his air, in his mein, and in his soul, the perfect image of his illustrious father the late duke of York." Gloucester was to have appeared as by accident at the pronouncing those words, but not coming at the proper time, the preacher was disconcerted; and when he came, the audience shewed no signs of this discourse having had the desired effect on them. The mayor was next ordered to summon a common hall, where the duke of Buckingham addressed the livery on the vices of Edward, and on the virtues of the duke of Gloucester, whom he recommended to their choice for king, as the best expedient for avoiding the inconveniences of a minority. The amazement of the people kept them silent: but after he had repeated his harangue, and the recorder had assisted him; the duke's servants, with a few rabble throwing up their hats, and crying out God save King Richard, he was forced to rest upon this as a popular election. Buckingham and the mayor went the next day to Baynard'scastle, where they made the duke a tender of the crown, which he accepted with great seeming reluctance.

After Richard had thus obtained the supream power, it is almost needless to add that the murder of the two young princes followed. They were smothered by Sir James Tyrrel, who buried their bodies under a staircase; where, upon some repairs of that part of the Tower, their bones were found in the reign of king Charles II. (fn. 7)

Richard, with the suspicion which usually attends evil minds, distrusting the fidelity of the city of London, preparatory to his coronation sent for 5000 men from the northern parts of the kingdom to guard him during that solemnity; they arrived ill conditioned and badly armed, and returned soon after: not venturing also to ask money from his doubtful subjects, he defrayed his present expences by the sale of parcels of the crown plate to his friend Sir Edmund Shaw the mayor.

The great resort of foreign merchants and artificers to London, occasioning heavy complaints by the citizens, Richard gratified them by renewing the restrictions formerly laid on merchant aliens, to prevent their carrying away the balance of trade in specie; they were also prohibited from carrying on manufactures in England. (fn. 8) A great fire this year consumed a number of houses, together with Leadenhall, and all the merchandize and warlike stores contained in it.


The battle of Bosworth field fought August 22, 1485, put an end to the short usurpation of Richard III. and placed the crown on the head of Henry earl of Richmond, of the line of Lancaster; whose pretensions to the throne, however weak, were greatly strengthened by the uneasiness of the people under a subjection to a prince stained with so many enormous crimes. He was received by the magistrates of London in their formalites at Highgate, as their deliverer; and conducted to St. Paul's cathedral, where he offered the standards taken in the battle, and then took up his residence in the episcopal palace.


  • 1. Fought May 22, 1455.
  • 2. Hume.
  • 3. Son of the duke of York, afterward Edward IV.
  • 4. Stat. 8 Hen. VI. c. 7. 10 Hen. VI. c. 2. To recur to the original intention of this regulation the nominal sum should be raised; but this would contract the privilege of voting, under an extension of property, and thus include a contradiction: again, while the great alteration in the value of money has destroyed the original purpose of this limitation; the greater alteration in our political constitution, now renders it absurd. To conform to present circumstances, the privilege for voting for members of parliament ought to be extended to every householder paying taxes; the number of which would render bribery impracticable—and it is feared, that very reason will prove an effectual one against the measure.
  • 5. Hume.
  • 6. Anderson's Hist. Comm. vol. I. p. 291.
  • 7. Mr. Walpole in his Historic Doubts concerning the life of Richard III. has taken great pains to exculpate that prince from the heavy accusations cast upon him: on the pleas that his successor was interested in blackening his character, and that our accounts of him are through the medium of the Lancastrian historians, strengthened by the poetical misrepresentations of him in Shakespeare's plays. But without entering into a justification of the character of Henry VII. it may be observed, that so total a perversion of facts happening in our own country, could not be effected in the growing state of literature: and that whatever becomes of other accusations, the manner of his assuming the crown, to the prejudice of his nephews, their total disappearance under his custody, the discovery of their bones in the place where they were reported to have been laid; all these particulars tend to leave the character of Richard nearly in the same point of view in which his ingenious apologist found it.
  • 8. Stat. I. Rich. III. c. 9.