Sunday, December 25, 2011

Consolidating Power

On 16 February, Richard III sent Fauconberg to capture Oxford and Edmund Beaufort, who were last known to be in Stamford.  The King and the Nevilles disbanded the majority of their armies after paying them on top of the booty they had taken from the Beaufort encampment, however the King made it clear than any sacking or terrorizing of the population would result in the forfeiting of their liberty, if not their lives.  Richard III accompanied by Salisbury, Warwick, a chained and heavily guarded Duke of Somerset with a small army in tow headed for London.  The Royal procession took its time during which Richard III sent word to his wife in Gloucester to come to London with the rest of their family and sent word to his sons, Norfolk, and Bourchier in London to prepare for his return.  During the march south, Richard III was greeted in every town by throngs of commoners.  Meanwhile, Fauconberg had persuaded Oxford and young Edmund Beaufort to Norwich, but before he arrived the two had boarded a ship bond for Scotland. On 23 February, Richard III and the Nevilles were greeted by the Princes Edward and Edmund, Norfolk, Bourchier, and the Lord Mayor of London outside the capital before entering the city to thunderous cheers from the citizens.  The Duke of Somerset was escorted to the Tower while the rest of the procession made its way to Westminster Abbey to hold a celebratory mass.

On 1 March, Richard III called Parliament for the beginning of April and announced that his coronation would take place by the end of May.  The King also dismissed a large percentage of his remaining army that had accompanied him from Bosworth, but those not dismissed were to help keep the peace in London for the beginning of Parliament and for the coronation.  Richard III went about forming his own Great Council to help him rule the realm.  The King appointed Salisbury the Lord Chancellor, Norfolk was confirmed to his hereditary position of Earl Marshal, Warwick was appointed the Captain of Calais, Bourchier was named Lord High Treasurer, the Earl of Devon was named Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Baron Cobham was given the position of Lord Great Chamberlain due to the face that it’s hereditary holder Oxford was to be attained.  Of the other Great Offices of the Realm, Richard III retained from Henry VI’s council the Duke of Buckingham as Lord High Constable as an olive branch to those that had remained neutral through the succession crisis, Buckingham being the most powerful, and kept his son-in-law the Earl of Exeter as Lord High Admiral so as not to create a scandal upon his eldest daughter. As of yet, Buckingham and Exeter had not arrived in London.

Of the many topics taken up by Richard III and the Council, the first concern of the King was the succession.  While the King had four sons, Richard III reminded the Council that Henry IV had come to the throne with four sons as well but they had produced only one grandson among them, the late Henry VI.  The several foreign merchants were inquired upon for the eligibility of foreign princesses; they soon arrived at a consensus upon Joan of Portugal whom the King himself believed would help his dynasty counterarguments from those that would still support the Beauforts and their like.  The King sent a delegation led by the Bishop of London and the Earl of Worchester to inquire of Afonso V about the hand of his sister.  Richard III and the council then took up the question of the Scottish capture of Berwick and the siege of Roxburgh Castle.  The King and the Council agreed that after the succession crisis that the realm needed to be stabilized before Richard again rode off to battle, in the meantime the King appointed Fauconberg, recently arrived in London after his unsuccessful pursuit of Oxford, as Lieutenant of the North and charged him to relieve Roxburgh and if practicable retake Berwick.

Several times after his arrival in London, Richard III had called upon Margaret of Anjou.  The Queen dowager was still in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey and refused to see the King, under the belief that he might have had a hand in her husband’s death and the stillbirth of her child.  Her Tudor brothers-in-law finally prevailed upon her to receive the King.  In the presence of Edmund Kyrton, the Abbot of Westminster, Richard III vowed to Margaret that she would be provided lands and income if she were to remain in England as if she was his sister or if she were to leave the country she would be provided a large dowry so that she could live comfortably as she saw fit.  By all indications Margaret was courteous to the King and the meeting between the two was without incident, though after the meeting Richard III ordered discrete inquires to be made of worthy candidates of marriage for Margaret on the Continent.

Meanwhile Cardinal Kempe, the Archbishop of Canterbury, having supported the Duke of Somerset wouldn’t reconcile himself with the new King.  The Archbishop had tried to reclaim his Cathedral only for the townspeople to chase him from it, he sent out numerous excommunications to any cleric that gave ‘the traitorous York’ the mass or attempted to crown him King.  Cardinal Kempe had also sent a letter to Rome to gain support for the House of Beaufort, filling it with vastly exaggerated or inaccurate accounts of the conduct of Richard III’s campaign.  Several nobles and clergymen attempted to persuade the Archbishop to be reconciled, but were rebuffed with the threat of excommunication.  On 22 March, Kempe suddenly fell from his horse and died while on the road to Dover.  When news of the Archbishop’s death reached him, Richard III appointed Thomas Bourchier, the Bishop of Ely, who had been one of the first to support him in the clergy and brother of Viscount Bourchier, the King’s brother-in-law, to act as Archbishop of Canterbury until confirmed by the Pope.  The King ordered the Bishop to collected Cardinal Kempe’s body and to ensure he was given a proper burial before taking up his new seat.  The King sent a letter to Pope Nicholas V detailing events since the death of Henry VI in September, including the nomination Thomas Bourchier as Archbishop.

During the last week of March 1454, magnates and nobles arrived in London for the beginning of the new Parliament and the coronation but for the King the most important arrivals were that of his wife, Cicely, and the rest of his children.  Richard III had prepared Baynard’s Castle for his family’s residence after the Earl of Richmond had relinquished it back to the Crown after the King’s return from Bosworth.  For the time being the King and his two eldest sons would continue to reside at Westminster.  The most important arrival after that of his family for the King was of Humphrey Stafford, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, along with his son, another Humphrey, the Earl of Stafford, who was joined by clearly pregnant his wife, Margaret Beaufort daughter of the Duke of Somerset.  The Countess of Stafford’s condition made many joke that the younger Humphrey Stafford had made love and not war during the previous winter.  Richard III received Buckingham at Baynard’s Castle and invited him to take his place on the council as Lord High Constable, which the Duke accepted.  The King also received Henry Holland, the Duke Exeter, and his eldest daughter Anne of York at Baynard’s Castle. The King invited his son-in-law to reassume his position of Lord High Admiral on the Council so as not to embarrass his eldest daughter, but due to Exeter’s seemingly scandalous absence from the battlefield in support of his father-in-law he was relieved of his position as Constable of the Tower of London.

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