Friday, 25 March 2011

The Aftermath of Towton - King Edward on Tour

It was perhaps no more than common sense for Edward to remain at York for some weeks after Towton. The North was strongly Lancastrian in sympathy, and he had to at least try to reconcile its people to his rule. (It must be remembered that, apart from Warwick's immediate family and their supporters most of the northern nobility and gentry had been engaged against him at Towton. Many husbands, fathers, sons and brothers had died there, and there was no doubt considerable bitterness against him, as well as uncertainty about the future. Moreover, the leadership of northern society had been - in some cases literally - decapitated.)

Edward moved on to Durham (22 April) where he appointed the Bishop, Lawrence Booth, as his confessor. This was an act of conciliation as Booth had previously been associated with Queen Margaret. He then progressed to Newcastle, where he witnessed the execution of James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde, who had escaped the rout at Mortimer's Cross but now paid the penalty for being too prominent a member of the Lancastrian establishment. This execution was perhaps something of a show of force, because the Yorkist hold on the far north was tenuous at best. The strong local loyalty to the Percy family was never successfully overcome and was to lead eventually to the reinstatement of the Percy heir.

The King did not linger in this area but returned south by way of Lancashire and Cheshire. Again, it was useful to 'show the flag' in these counties, which were very far from being Yorkist in sympathy. He then moved into the north midlands, where the Lancastrian element was also strong. I think it's a safe bet that Edward used all of his personal charm, and was to an extent successful in winning 'hearts and minds'. His coronation was being arranged in London, but Edward was in no hurry to arrive there or to take charge of the Westminster machinery of government. Instead he made his way to Norwich.

Norfolk was, in contrast to much of the tour, pretty much Yorkist territory. The dukes of Norfolk (especially) and Suffolk were Edward's men while the Earl of Oxford, the other local magnate, was a moderate Lancastrian who suffered from ill health that had certainly been bad enough to keep him from Towton.

Edward would therefore have received a good welcome in East Anglia. Here I turn to speculation. The Duke of Norfolk had a son, John, Earl of Warenne, whose wife was Elizabeth Talbot. Her sister, Eleanor, Lady Butler, was already a widow at this time and quite possibly living in Norfolk's household under Elizabeth's protection. She had legal problems with her lands that needed the King's favour to resolve. Was this when they met? It's impossible to say, one way or the other. All we can say is that Edward was to prove that he had an eye for a good-looking widow.

More on this another day. Whatever delights he found or did not find in Norwich, duty eventually called him away. On Friday, 26 June he made his state entry into London.

No comments: