Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Gloucester takes the crown

Gloucester was brooding in his room, late at night, totally demoralised. Hastings' treachery had caused him to doubt his own judgment so much that he felt he could no longer trust anyone, a lonely place to be.

There was a knock at the door. It was Waynflete, and he had brought Stillington, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, with him. Thinking he could do with some divine assistance, but with little faith that he would receive it, he invited the men in.

Waynflete related the information that Elizabeth had given him: that Lady Margaret Beaufort was plotting to make Henry Tudor King with Princess Elizabeth of York as Queen, and that Elizabeth believed that Gloucester had been tricked into believing that Hastings wanted to kill him, though she did not know how that had been done.

Gloucester was astounded. Part of him wanted to believe Elizabeth, but part of him was afraid that this was a Woodville ruse.

Waynflete then explained that as a token of her good faith, Elizabeth had sent Stillington who had information that would put Elizabeth completely in Gloucester's power.

Stillington revealed to Gloucester that he had married Edward IV to Lady Eleanor Talbot before his marriage to Elizabeth, the secret that had cost Clarence his life.

Suddenly the world made sense again to Gloucester. With renewed confidence, he acted swiftly.

Hastings would be laid to rest in a place of honour near to his master Edward IV. His wife and children would inherit his estate.

The Bishops would arrange for trustworthy ministers to preach against illegitimate children inheriting from their parents.

A law would be drawn up excluding Edward V and his brother from the throne on account of their illegitimacy, and making Gloucester King Richard III as the legitimate heir.

Sir James Tyrrell, who had served Gloucester faithfully for years, would be charged with keeping Edward V and his brother in a safe place, overseas if necessary.

Gloucester needed to protect his source. He would free the bogus conspirators Morton, Rotherham and Stanley, so no one would think that he suspected them. As for Elizabeth, his opponents had already solved the problem for him. In his law of illegitimacy, he would accuse her of obtaining her marriage by sorcery. This would give the appearance that he was displeased with her, but no one would take the charge seriously.

The plan was excecuted successfully. Buckingham was disconcerted by the departure from Lady Margaret's script. He insisted upon retaining his guide Morton as his personal prisoner, but otherwise was powerless to stand in Gloucester's way. The decorative part of the constitution, parliament, meekly passed the law of illegitimacy submitted by the executive, as remains the custom in England. Gloucester and Anne were crowned King and Queen.

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