Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The official conspiracy theory

The Protector's Council meeting was about to begin. Gloucester was amiably complimenting the Bishop of Ely on his Holborn garden, particularly his strawberries, when he was called out of the chamber for an urgent message. Reliable intelligence had been received that Lord Hastings was planning to assassinate Gloucester. Gloucester dismissed the suggestion, but the informant was insistent. To humour him, Gloucester accompanied him to Hastings' quarters. The rooms were locked, and there was no sign of forced entry to any of them. A guard broke into the bedchamber and began searching it under Gloucester's watchful gaze. Several minutes passed and nothing was found, just as Gloucester expected. But then a drawer was opened revealing letters from the men held at Pontefract Castle. The letters did indeed discuss murdering Gloucester. Soon other letters were found, showing that Bishop Morton of Ely, Archbishop Rotherham of York, Lord Stanley, Queen Elizabeth and "Jane Shore" were also part of the conspiracy. Gloucester was stunned. Even now he could not believe it possible of Hastings, but how could he deny the evidence before him?

Gloucester re-entered the Council in a foul temper, and challenged the conspirators. To Hastings' consternation, Morton, Rotherham and Stanley immediately confessed their involvement in the non-existent plot, begging for mercy and blaming their involvement upon the witchcraft of Queen Elizabeth. Noticing Gloucester's scepticism on this last point, Buckingham prudently offered to take the supergrasses into his personal custody, leaving Hastings to face the white heat of Gloucester's anger. This man had served his brother with unfailing diligence and loyalty. This man had fought alongside him at Barnet and Tewkesbury. This man, of all men, was his most dependable ally. But this man was planning to kill him. It was impossible to comprehend, so raw emotion took over. Gloucester ordered the immediate execution of Hastings. The lack of a block delayed it long enough for a compassionate guard to locate a priest. A log was found adequate to the purpose, and the deed was done. Orders were sent to Pontefract Castle to deal likewise with Rivers, Grey and Vaughan.

Buckingham took advantage of the climate of fear to detach Edward IV's younger son from Queen Elizabeth, arguing that "as the boy had done nothing wrong he did not need sanctuary", re-uniting him with Edward V in the Tower of London "for his own safety".

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