Page images

king distrusted the Earl, who, to remove all suspicion, went with him to mass, and at the altar took an oath of fidelity. The king fell into the snare, and proceeded with the Earl for some time, till he perceived about the precipice of Renmaen Rhôs a large band of soldiers with the Percy banners. Richard would then have retired; but Northumberland, seizing hold of his bridle, forcibly directed his course onward. Richard was hurried to Rhuddlan, where he dined, and reached Flint the same night. The mock homage of Bolingbroke there, the devotion of the king's favourite greyhound, which fawned on his rival, must be in recollection. The king's prison was one of the rooms of the upper floor. As the railway traveller proceeds along the Holyhead line from Chester to Rhyl, the keep of Flint Castle is conspicuous. A portion of the fortress has been pulled down for building a county jail on the castle lands : it is a mercy that any of this interesting historic memorial was spared. Even its cold chambers were deemed too comfortable a place for Richard's wasting life ; and the council decreed that he should slowly pine away in the Castle of Pontefract.

Richard had been, however, previously conveyed to the Tower of London, where the formal deposition took place.

1 In Act v. sc. i. of Shakspeare's Richard the Second, the line, ‘You must to Pomfret, not unto the Tower,' says Mr. Staunton in his Illustrative Comments, is not historically correct. In the prose manuscript preserved in the National Library of Paris, is an extremely interesting and characteristic narrative of an interview which took place between the king and IIenry of Lancaster while the former was confined in the

There is a tradition that it was merely given out that Richard had starved himself to death, and that he escaped from Pontefract to Mull, whence he shortly proceeded to the mainland of Scotland, where for nineteen years he was entertained in an honourable but secret captivity. This tradition has been wrought into a tale, entitled “The White Rose in Mull,' in the Chameleon, 1832. Here we may remark that a large mass of contradictory evidence has exercised the ingenuity of many historical writers concerning the death of Richard 11. The question is full of difficulty, as may be seen in the Chronicque de la Traison et Mort de Richart deux Roy Dengleterre, published by the Historical Society in 1846.

The Rev. Mr. Hartshorne observes, upon the vague and Tower. This manuscript records that when the Dukes of Lancaster and York went to the Tower to see the king, Lancaster desired the Earl of Arundel to send the king to them. When this message was delivered to Richard, he replied : 'Tell Henry of Lancaster from me that I will do no such thing, and that, if he wishes to speak with me, he must come to me.' On entering, none showed any respect to the king except Lancaster, who took off his hat, and saluted him respectfully, and said to him, “Here is our cousin the Duke of Aunarle, and our uncle the Duke of York, who wish to speak to you.' To which Richard answered, “Cousin, they are not fit to speak to me.' " But have the goodness to hear them,' replied Lancaster ; upon which Richard uttered an oath, and turning to York, ‘Thou villain, what wouldst thou say to me? And thou traitor of Rutland, thou art neither good nor worthy enough to speak to me, nor to bear the name of earl, duke, or knight ; thou and the villain thy father have both of you foully betrayed me ; in a cursed hour were ye born ; by your counsel was my uncle of Gloucester put to death.' The Earl of Rutland replied to the king, that in what he said he lied, and threw down his bonnet at his feet ; on which the king said, “I am king and thy lord, and will

conflicting accounts of Richard's death : 'It is perhaps hopeless to expect that we shall gain any fresh information. Under the deficiency of any circumstantial narrative of the king's last few days, we must accept for our guidance the statement of those persons who took a leading part in the transactions of the time. Thus it has been stated by some that Richard was brutally murdered by Sir Piers of Exton ; and this story has obtained almost general belief. On the other hand, we have the credible testimony of Archbishop Scroop, an eye-witness of what was passing in public affairs. From his elevated position he must have been cognizant of what measures were adopted; whilst, living at no great distance from Pontefract, he must have become acquainted with what was actually going on. By way of palliating the

still continue king, and will be a greater lord than I ever was, in spite of all my enemies.' Upon this Lancaster imposed silence on Rutland. Richard, turning then with a fierce countenance to Lancaster, asked why he was in confinement, and why under a guard of armed men. “Am I your servant or your king? What mean you to do with me?' Lancaster replied : 'You're my king and lord, but the council of the realm have ordered that you should be kept in confinement till full decision ( jugement) in Parliament.' The king again swore, and desired he might see his wife. “Excuse me,' replied the Duke; “it is forbidden by the cuuncil.' Then the king, in great wrath, walked about the room, and at length broke out into passionate exclamations and appeals to Heaven ; called them 'false traitors,' and offered to fight any four of them ; boasted of his father and grandfather, his reign of twenty-two years ; and ended by throwing down his bonnet. Lancaster then fell on his knees, and besought him to be quiet until the meeting of Parliament, and then every one would bring forward his reason.-See Notes by the Rev. John Webb, to his translation of the French Metrical History, etc. ; Archæologia, vol. xx.

mode of the king's death, it has been stated that it was his voluntary act. But there is no reason to dispute the Archbishop's account, which positively declares that Richard lingered for a space of fifteen days, and died under starvation. He perished, says this prelate, by hunger, thirst, and cold; he died the basest death any one in England had ever undergone. Doubtless, if divine vengeance would follow this holy man's excommunication, those who instigated this merciless act would not escape a just reward for their guilt. In the succeeding reign of Henry IV., Archbishop Scroope being taken prisoner, was in Pontefract Castle condemned to death.

Yet again we are compelled to listen, and to shudder as we listen, to other tragic acts that stained the walls of Pontefract with blood. The next noble victim who suffered a violent death within the castle was Anthony Woodville, the gallant Earl of Rivers. He was the most accomplished person of the age, himself an author, and the liberal patron of that illustrious artisan who first practised the art of printing in England. No ostensible reason has been assigned for his execution ; and it was the more unjust, because the Protector, afterwards Richard 11., hurried Lord Rivers, his uncle, and his half-brother Sir Richard Grey, with Sir Thomas Vaughan, to the scaffold, without the usual form of a trial. Shakspeare makes Richard 11. to whine forth these lines :

"O Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison !
Fatal and ominous to noble peers !


Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the Second here was hack'd to death;
And for more slander to thy dismal seat,
We give to thee our guiltless blood to drink.'

' In reviewing the three great tragedies that we have witnessed at Pontefract, we must have been struck with the immunity under which these flagrant acts of barbarity and injustice were perpetrated. Even the person of the sovereign was as little respected as that of the nobility. The principles of sound government were in their infancy. The obedience due to monarchical power was little regarded, or indeed understood ; whilst the nobility on their part coerced, as they had the opportunity, the sovereign and their vassals alike. There was no real security for property or life; the exigencies of the crowd excited it to violence, and the fear of opposition from the barons first led the Plantagenets to appeal to the people in their own defence. Thus, step by step, our constitution became formed out of the pressure of circumstances.' 1

We now pass over matters of minor importance in the history of Pontefract to the time of Charles I. In the king's contest with his Parliament, this was the last fortress that held out for the unfortunate monarch. At Christmas 1644 Sir Thomas Fairfax laid siege to the castle, and on 19th January following, after an incessant cannonade of three days, a breach was made. The brave garrison would not surrender; the besiegers mined, but the besieged

· The Rev. Mr. Hartshorne, ut ante.

« PreviousContinue »