Jacob Abbott. Richard III

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Makers of History

Richard III.






Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight

hundred and fifty-eight, by


in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District

of New York.



[Illustration: THE ROYAL CHAMPION.]


King Richard the Third, known commonly in history as Richard the Usurper, was perhaps as bad a man as the principle of hereditary sovereignty ever raised to the throne, or perhaps it should rather be said, as the principle of hereditary sovereignty ever made. There is no evidence that his natural disposition was marked with any peculiar depravity. He was made reckless, unscrupulous, and cruel by the influences which surrounded him, and the circumstances in which he lived, and by being habituated to believe, from his earliest childhood, that the family to which he belonged were born to live in luxury and splendor, and to reign, while the millions that formed the great mass of the community were created only to toil and to obey. The manner in which the principles of pride, ambition, and desperate love of power, which were instilled into his mind in his earliest years, brought forth in the end their legitimate fruits, is clearly seen by the following narrative.



The great quarrel between the houses of York and Lancaster.-Terrible results of the quarrel.-Origin of it.-Intricate questions of genealogy and descent.-Lady Cecily Neville.-She becomes Duchess of York.-Her mode of life.-Extract from the ancient annals.-Lady Cecily's family.-Names of the children.-The boys' situation and mode of life.-Their letters.-Letter written by Edward and Edmund.-The boys congratulate their father on his victories.-Further particulars about the boys.-The Castle of Ludlow.-Character of Richard's mother.-Spirit of aristocracy.-Relative condition of the nobles and the people.-Character of Richard's mother.-The governess.-Sir Richard Croft, the boys' governor.

The mother of King Richard the Third was a beautiful, and, in many respects, a noble-minded woman, though she lived in very rude, turbulent, and trying times. She was born, so to speak, into one of the most widely-extended, the most bitter, and the most fatal of the family quarrels which have darkened the annals of the great in the whole history of mankind, namely, that long-protracted and bitter contest which was waged for so many years between the two great branches of the family of Edward the Third-the houses of York and Lancaster-for the possession of the kingdom of England. This dreadful quarrel lasted for more than a hundred years. It led to wars and commotions, to the sacking and burning of towns, to the ravaging of fruitful countries, and to atrocious deeds of violence of every sort, almost without number. The internal peace of hundreds of thousands of families all over the land was destroyed by it for many generations. Husbands were alienated from wives, and parents from children by it. Murders and assassinations innumerable grew out of it. And what was it all about? you will ask. It arose from the fact that the descendants of a certain king had married and intermarried among each other in such a complicated manner that for several generations nobody could tell which of two different lines of candidates was fairly entitled to the throne. The question was settled at last by a prince who inherited the claim on one side marrying a princess who was the heir on the other. Thus the conflicting interests of the two houses were combined, and the quarrel was ended.

But, while the question was pending, it kept the country in a state of perpetual commotion, with feuds, and quarrels, and combats innumerable, and all the other countless and indescribable horrors of civil war.

[Illustration: SCENES OF CIVIL WAR.]

The two branches of the royal family which were engaged in this quarrel were called the houses of York and Lancaster, from the fact that those were the titles of the fathers and heads of the two lines respectively. The Lancaster party were the descendants of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and the York party were the successors and heirs of his brother Edmund, Duke of York. These men were both sons of Edward the Third, the King of England who reigned immediately before Richard the Second. A full account of the family is given in our history of Richard the Second. Of course, they being brothers, their children were cousins, and they ought to have lived together in peace and harmony. And then, besides being related to each other through their fathers, the two branches of the family intermarried together, so as to make the relationships in the following generations so close and so complicated that it was almost impossible to disentangle them. In reading the history of those times, we find dukes or princes fighting each other in the field, or laying plans to assassinate each other, or striving to see which should make the other a captive, and shut him up in a dungeon for the rest of his days; and yet these enemies, so exasperated and implacable, are very near relations-cousins, perhaps, if the relationship is reckoned in one way, and uncle and nephew if it is reckoned in another. During the period of this struggle, all the great personages of the court, and all, or nearly all, the private families of the kingdom, and all the towns and the villages, were divided and distracted by the dreadful feud.

Richard's mother, whose name, before she was married, was Lady Cecily Neville, was born into one side of this quarrel, and then afterward married into the other side of it. This is a specimen of the way in which the contest became complicated in multitudes of cases. Lady Cecily was descended from the Duke of Lancaster, but she married the Duke of York, in the third generation from the time when the quarrel began.

Of course, upon her marriage, Lady Cecily Neville became the Duchess of York. Her husband was a man of great political importance in his day, and, like the other nobles of the land, was employed continually in wars and in expeditions of various kinds, in the course of which he was continually changing his residence from castle to castle all over England, and sometimes making excursions into Ireland, Scotland, and France. His wife accompanied him in many of these wanderings, and she led, of course, so far as external circumstances were concerned, a wild and adventurous life. She was, however, very quiet and domestic in her tastes, though proud and ambitious in her aspirations, and she occupied herself, wherever she was, in regulating her husband's household, teaching and training her children, and in attending with great regularity and faithfulness to her religious duty, as religious duty was understood in those days.

The following is an account, copied from an ancient record, of the manner in which she spent her days at one of the castles where she was residing.

"She useth to arise at seven of the clock, and hath readye her

chapleyne to say with her mattins of the daye (that is, morning

prayers), and when she is fully readye, she hath a lowe mass in

her chamber. After mass she taketh something to recreate nature,

and soe goeth to the chapelle, hearinge the divine service and two

lowe masses. From thence to dynner, during the tyme of whih she

hath a lecture of holy matter (that is, reading from a religious

book), either Hilton of Contemplative and Active Life, or some

other spiritual and instructive work. After dynner she giveth

audyence to all such as hath any matter to shrive unto her, by the

space of one hower, and then sleepeth one quarter of an hower, and

after she hath slept she contynueth in prayer until the first

peale of even songe.

"In the tyme of supper she reciteth the lecture that was had at

dynner to those that be in her presence. After supper she

disposeth herself to be famyliare with her gentlewomen to the

seasoning of honest myrthe, and one hower before her going to bed

she taketh a cup of wine, and after that goeth to her pryvie

closette, and taketh her leave of God for all nighte, makinge end

of her prayers for that daye, and by eighte of the clocke is in


The going to bed at eight o'clock was in keeping with the other arrangements of the day, for we find by a record of the rules and orders of the duchess's household that the dinner-hour was eleven, and the supper was at four.

This lady, Richard's mother, during her married life, had no less than twelve children. Their names were Anne, Henry, Edward, Edmund, Elizabeth, Margaret, William, John, George, Thomas, Richard, and Ursula. Thus Richard, the subject of this volume, was the eleventh, that is, the last but one. A great many of these, Richard's brothers and sisters, died while they were children. All the boys died thus except four, namely, Edward, Edmund, George, and Richard. Of course, it is only with those four that we have any thing to do ...

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