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Martin Tarpey. The result was that the Lords came to the conclusion which the power of outward circumstances rather than their real convictions, dictated. They attempted a compromise, which, had Henry had no issue, might have succeeded, but which, as it went to disinherit the son of Henry, and much more the son of Margaret, was certain to produce fresh conflicts. The queen, whose resolute spirit would have been worthy of all admiration had it been accompanied by a spirit of liberality and conciliation, was sure never to acquiesce in the rejection of her own son while she could move a limb, or raise a soldier.
The verdict of the Lords was that York's claim was just, but should not take effect during the lifetime of the present king. The decision of the Peers was accepted by York and his two sons, March and Rutland, who swore not to molest the king, but to maintain him on his throne; and, on the other hand, Henry gave his assent to the Bill, declared any attempt on the duke high treason, and settled estates on him and his sons as the succeeding royal line. But Margaret of Anjou never for a moment conceded this repudiation of the rights of her son. She upbraided Henry for his unnatural conduct, and quitting her retreat in Scotland, appeared in the midst of her northern friends, calling on them by every argument of loyalty to the throne, and security to themselves, to take the field against the traitor York.
They assembled at York; and Margaret, roused to the highest state of indignation by the disinheriting of her son, put forth all her powers to attach adherents to her standard. She assumed the most fascinating affability, and lavished her caresses and her promises on all whom she came near. She excited the jealousy of the northern barons by depicting the bold assumption of the southern nobles, who had presumed to give away the crown as if it were their own; and she promised to every one unlimited plunder of the estates and property of the people south of the Trent.
These arts and allurements speedily brought 30, men to her standard, which was now joined by the Earls of Somerset and Devon. York and Salisbury set out in haste from London to oppose this growing force. They seem not to have been duly informed of its real strength, for they pushed forward with only 5, men. They received a rude admonitory attack at Worksop, in Nottinghamshire, on the 21st of December; but, still advancing, York threw himself, before Christmas, into the strong castle of Sandall.
Here it was the evident policy of York to await the arrival of his son, the Earl of March, who was collecting forces in the marches of Wales; but either he was straitened for provisions, or was weak enough to be influenced by the taunts of the queen, who sent him word that it did not become the future king of England to coop himself up in a fortress, but to dare to meet those whom he dared to depose.
He issued into the open country, in defiance of the warnings of Salisbury and Sir David Hall, and gave battle, on the 30th of December, to the queen's troops near Wakefield. The Duke of Somerset commanded the queen's army. He led the main body himself, and gave the command of one wing to the Earl of Wiltshire, and the other to Lord Clifford, ordering them to keep concealed till the action had commenced, and then to close in upon York.
This was done with such success that York, who fell with great fury on Somerset, found himself instantly surrounded. Two thousand of his men were speedily slain, and the greater part of the remainder compelled to surrender. He himself, with most of his commanders, was left dead upon the field; the veteran Salisbury was taken, conveyed to Pontefract Castle, with several knights and gentlemen, and there beheaded.
When the body of York was found, his head was cut off and carried to Queen Margaret, who rejoiced excessively at the sight, uttered most unfeminine reproaches upon it, and ordered it to be crowned with a paper crown in mockery, and placed upon the walls of York. Whethamstede, a cotemporary, says that the duke was taken alive, and beheaded on the field. At all events, Lord Clifford brought the head to the queen, stuck upon a spear; and this ferocious nobleman, whose father was killed at the battle of St.
Albans, not satisfied with this revenge, perpetrated the murder of York's son, Rutland, with a fell barbarity which has covered his name with infamy. This youth, who was but about seventeen years of age, handsome and amiable, was met by Clifford as he was endeavouring to escape across the bridge of Wakefield in the care of his tutor, Sir Robert Aspall.
The poor boy, seeing the bloody Clifford, fell on his knees, and entreated for mercy. The savage demanded who he was; and Aspall, thinking to save him by the avowal, said it was the younger son of York. Then swore Clifford—"As thy father slew mine, so will I slay thee, and all thy kin;" and plunging the dagger into his heart, ruthlessly bade the tutor go and tell his mother what he had done. The spirit of the "she-wolf of France" seemed to animate all her army on this occasion. There was nothing but butchery, and exultation in it. Margaret thought she had now removed the danger in destroying York.
The revenge soon came. The Earl of March, York's eldest son, was advancing to prove that York was still alive in the new possessor of the title. Yet, before his blow of vengeance fell, Margaret had one more triumph. She had pursued her march on London after the battle of Wakefield, and had reached St. But there she came in contact with the army of Warwick. Flushed with victory, her forces fell upon the enemy. Warwick had posted himself on the  low hills to the south-east of the town.
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The royalists penetrated to the very town cross, where they were repulsed by a strong body of archers. But they soon made their way by another street through the town, and the battle raged on the heaths lying betwixt St. Albans and Barnet. The last troops which made a stand were a body of Kentish men, who, maintaining the conflict till night, enabled the Yorkists to retreat from the victorious van, and disperse.
The king was found in his tent, under the care of Lord Montague, his chamberlain, where he was visited by Margaret and his son, whom he received with the liveliest joy. The Yorkists in this second battle of St. Albans, fought February 17th, , lost about 2, men. Edward, called "the late Earl of March," was proclaimed a traitor, and rewards offered for his apprehension. But the success of this action was defeated by the insubordination of the troops. They were chiefly borderers, who had been led on by hopes of plunder, and had been freely promised it by Margaret and her allies.
Nothing could induce them to advance farther. They were only bent on ravaging the neighbourhood, and the citizens of London closed their gates against them and held out for York. Edward was rapidly marching to the capital. He was at Gloucester when the news of the fall of his father and the atrocious murder of his brother reached him; and the intelligence arousing the Welsh borderers, they flocked to his standard, breathing vengeance.