Monday, January 30, 2012

The King of Fools

On 1 April 1454, Richard III presided over the opening of Parliament with those assembled declaring their loyalty to the new monarch with the Commons spontaneously shouting “Long Live the King!” to the annoyance of some of the Lords.  The King formally declared Edward of Rouen his true son and heir then granting him the titles of Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester. Parliament, with the Commons particularly enthusiastic, proclaimed their support and loyalty to Prince Edward.  The King then announced that his coronation take place 1 May before turning the session to more serious matters.  Richard III announced that Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, had been brought from the Tower and summoned him to the presence of Parliament.  The King motioned to the Speaker who readout the accusations against Somerset that included treason against his lawful sovereign, attempted to cause rebellion amongst the King’s loyal commons, and attempting to usurp the throne for himself.  Parliament the trial commenced immediately with the introduction of the proclamations in which Somerset styled himself as Edmund I.  Somerset was allowed to make a speech in his defense; however his one chance to be remembered in history for a memorable last speech was by all accounts a disaster.  As excepted Parliament unanimously proclaimed Somerset guilty.  Richard III introduced an act of attainder depriving Somerset and his posterity of land and titles that was unanimously passed by Parliament.  The King pronounced a traitor’s death for Edmund Beaufort, no longer Somerset, to be carried out immediately and recessed Parliament for the day.

Since the time of his confinement in the Tower, Edmund Beaufort had been a dead man walking and from his cell watched the construction of the scaffold built especially for his execution on Tower Hill.  Edmund after being led away from the presence of the King and Parliament was forced to dress in a suit of motley then to walk to his place of execution through the streets of London to the jeers of the populace.  The King with all of Parliament following him in procession had preceded Beaufort to Tower Hill crowded behind the scaffold with only Richard III on his horse.  As Edmund was forced up the scaffold, the crowd was held back by numerous guards.  The order of execution was read aloud then on cue from the King, the head executioner produced a “crown”, a jester’s three-pointed hat, which was strapped to Edmund’s head.  The execution then proceeded as Edmund had a noose placed around his neck before being prodded up a stool before it was kicked out from under him resulting in his strangling to near death until the rope was cut.  Edmund was then hoisted onto a table, his cloths torn open before his stomach was cut open, and then groaned has his bowels were taken out before being burnt.  Instead of his heart being taken out as well, Edmund was taken off the table and thrown down onto the chopping block barely coherent as blood gushed from his open bowel, the executioner then swung his axe and separated head from body thus ending the life of Edmund Beaufort as the crowd cheered.  The executioner then grabbed the jester’s hat and held up the severed head to the cheering crowd then to Richard III who sat upon his stead without emotion.  He nodded and motioned to which spike he wanted the traitor’s head placed then spurred his horse back towards Westminster Palace followed by the members of Parliament as the body was being dismembered.  By nightfall, the still jester hat adorned head of Edmund Beaufort was overlooking the city from a spike on the Tower while his body parts were being sent to various locations throughout England.

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