Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Regent for Henry VI

The Duke was the son of Henry IV and brother to Henry V, and thus uncle of Henry VI. He was appointed as Regent and defender of the boy king. Reputedly a mild and gentle man, the learned Duke was a friend of the people but was not a lover of the prelates. In this respect he was in dispute with Henry Beaufort, the Bishop and Cardinal of Winchester. who was also Chancellor of England. Beaufort was envious of the position and authority of  the Duke and had aspirations to be pope.  Dispute broke out between them over the regency with Beaufort seeking to displace the Duke and replace him by his nominees. In this he was allied with one William de la Pole, later Duke of Suffolk, a greedy and vicious individual  who had interfered in the proposed marriage of the king and the daughter of the wealthy Earl of Armagnac. In the event  the marriage was effected between the king and Margaret of Anjou, with the loss of Anjou and the city of Maine to the Crown . Altogether a poor and demeaning marriage that garnered little for either king or country. After the marriage the pretentious and domineering Margaret was allied with the Duke of Buckingham in her endeavours to be rid of the Duke and to rule the country.

In 1443 the Duke objected to the conduct of Beaufort who in league with other prelates began to interfere in government. In response to their scheming the Duke presented a written complaint to the king showing how laws had been transgressed – the articles (below). The king  ducked the issue and referred the matter to his Council which having several clerics on it managed, for fear and favour, to smooth things over – at least for the time being.

In 1447 the king was convinced by Beaufort to remove himself to Windsor and plans were put in action to kill the Duke. Archers and soldiers were set to ambush the Duke and his retinue on London Bridge but came to nought as the Duke proceeded by a different route that day. The effect on London was to close it down as both sides had substantial supporters in the city and shopkeepers and businesses expected serious trouble. His enemies now plotted to kill the Duke by entrapping him, recognising that open condemnation and execution (no matter what the charges) would not be possible. A Parliament was called at Bury, far from London, at which the High Constable of England and the Duke of Buckingham arrested him and placed him in ward. Along with the Duke were taken all his retinue, thirty two of whom were sent to various prisons. Six days later, on the 24th February, the Duke was found dead in his bed. The body showed no overt signs of a murder, but some believed that he may have been strangled; that a spit had been thrust through him `privily` ( ie through his anus) or suffocated between two feather beds. Subsequently five members of his household – one knight, three squires and a yeoman, were sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered, and had already been hung and brought down alive before the Duke of Suffolk delivered up the king`s pardon. Justice was not far away as Beaufort died the following year and not all his wealth could help him. Suffolk was subsequently (1450) banished for five years in a move to appease public opinion but the ship he was on was taken and he was beheaded on board.

Certain Points or Articles objected by Duke Humphrey against the Cardinal of Winchester. [ These illustrate the extent to which the prelates went in pursuit of their self interests ]

First, To his sovereign prince, his right redoubted lord, complaineth duke Humphrey, his uncle and protector of the realm, That the bishop of Winchester, in the days of his father, king Henry V, took upon him the state of a cardinal, being denied by the king, saying, that he had as lief set his own crown beside him, as see him wear a cardinals hat and that in parliaments, he, not being contented with the place of a bishop among the spiritual persons, presumed above his order: which the said duke desired to be redressed.

II.    Item, Whereas he , being made a cardinal was voided of his bishopric of Winchester, he procured from Rome the popes bull, unknown to the king; whereby he took again his bishopric, contrary to the common law of this realm, incurring thereby the case of Provision, and forfeiting all his goods to the king, by the law of ‘ Praemuniri fascias.’

III.      Item, He complained that the said cardinal, with the archbishop of York, intruded themselves to have the governance of the king, and the doing, under the king, of temporal matters: excluding the king’s uncle, and other temporal lords of the king s kin, from having knowledge of any great matter.

IV.      Item, Whereas the king had borrowed of the cardinal four thousand pounds, upon certain jewels, and afterwards had his money ready at the day to quit his jewels; the cardinal caused the treasurer to convert that money to the payment of another army, to keep the jewels still to his own use and gain.

V. Item, He being then bishop 0f Winchester, and chancellor of England, delivered the king of Scots upon his own authority, contrary to the act of parliament, wedding his niece afterwards to the said king. Also, where the said king of Scots should have paid to the king forty thousand pounds, the cardinal procured ten thousand marks thereof to be remitted, and yet the rest very slenderly paid.

VI.    Item, The said cardinal, for lending notable sums to the king, had the profit of the port of Hampton, where he, setting his servants to be the customers, some of the wool, and other merchandise, were, under that cloak, exported, not so much to his singular advantage, being the chief merchant, as to the great prejudice of the king, and detriment to his subjects.

VII.  Item, The cardinal, in lending out great sum, to the king, yet so deferred and delayed the loan thereof, that, coming out of season, the same did the king little pleasure, but rather hinderance.

VIII Item, Where jewels and plate were prized at eleven thousand pounds in weight, of the said cardinal forfeited to the king; the cardinal, for loan of a little piece, got him a restorement thereof, to the king’s great damage, who better might have spared the commons, if the sum had remained to him clear.

lx.    Item, Where the king’s father had given Elizabeth Beauchasnp three hundred marks of livelode, with this condition, If she wedded within a year; the cardinal, notwithstanding she was married two or three years after, yet gave her the same, to the king’s great hurt, and diminishing of his inheritance.

X.      Item, The cardinal, having no authority nor interest in the crown, presumed, notwithstanding, to call before him like a king: to the king’s high derogation.

Xl.    Item, That the cardinal sued a pardon from Rome, to be freed from all disms, due to the king by the church of Winchester: giving thereby example to the clergy, to withdraw their disms likewise, and lay all the charge only upon the temporalty and poor commons,

XII.   XIII. Item, By the procuring of the said cardinal and archbishop of York, great goods of the king’s were lost and dispended upon needless ambassadea, first to Arras, then to Calais.

XIV.   Item, It was laid to the charge of the said cardinal and archbishop, that, by their means, going to Calais, the two enemies of the king, the duke of Orleans and duke of Burgundy, were reduced together inaccord and alliance; who, being at war before between themselves, and now confederated together again, joined both together against the king’s towns and countries over the sea:  to the great danger of Normandy, and destruction of the king’s people.

XV.   Item, By the archbishop of York and the cardinal, persuasions were moved openly in the king’s presence, with allurements and inducements, that the king should leave his right, his title, and the honour of his crown, in nominating him king of France, during certain years; and that he should utterly abstain, and be content, in writing, with ‘Rex Angliae` only: to the great note and infamy of the king, and all his progenitors.

XVI.   XVII, Item, Through the sleight and subtlety of the said cardinal and his mate, a new convention was intended between the king and certain adversaries of France; also the deliverance of the duke of Orleans was appointed in such sort, as thereby great dis-worship and inconvenience were likely to fall, rather on the king’s side, than on the other.

XVIII.      Item, That the cardinal had purchased great lands and livelodes of tho king, the duke being on the other side of the sea occupied in wars, which redounded little to the worship and profit of the king; and, moreover, he had the king bound to make him, by Easter next, as sure estate of all those lands as could be devised by any learned counsel, or else that the said cardinal should have, and enjoy, to him and his heirs for ever, the lands of the duchy of Lancaster in Norfolk, to the value of seven or eight hundred marks by the year.

XIX.  Item, Whereas the duke, the king’s uncle, had often offered his services for the defence of the realm of France, and the duchy of Normandy; the cardinal ever laboured to the contrary, in preferring others, after his singular affection: whereby a great part of Normandy hath been lost.

XX.     Item, Seeing the cardinal was risen to such riches and treasure, which could grow to him, neither by his church, nor by inheritance (which he then had), it was of necessity to be thought, that it came by his great deceits, in deceiving both the king and his subjects, in selling offices, preferments, livelodes, captainships, both here, and in the realm of France, and in Normandy: so that what hath been there lost, he hath been the greater causer thereof.

XXI.    Furthermore, when the said cardinal had forfeited all his goods by the statute of Provision, he, having the rule of the king, and of other matters of the realm, purchased from the pope a charter of pardon, not only to the defeating of the laws of the realm, but also to the defrauding of the king, who, I otherwise, might and should have had wherewith to sustain his wars, without I any tallage of his poor people, &c.

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– introduction.