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abroad, whether by error, or the cunning of malecontents, that the King had a purpose to put to death Edward Plantagenet closely in the Tower: whose case was so nearly paralleled with that of Edward the fourth's children, in respect of the blood, like age, and the very place of the Tower, as it did refresh and reflect upon the King a most odious resemblance, as if he would be another King Richard. And all this time it was still whispered every where, that at least one of the children of Edward the fourth was living: which bruit was cunningly fomented by such as desired innovation. Neither was the King's nature and customs greatly fit to disperse these mists, but contrariwise, he had a fashion rather to create doubts than assurance. Thus was fuel prepared for the spark: the spark, that afterwards kindled such a fire and combustion, was at the first contemptible.
There was a subtile priest called Richard Simon*, that lived in Oxford, and had to his pupil a baker's son, named Lambert Simnell, of the age of some fifteen years, a comely youth, and well favoured, not without some extraordinary dignity, and grace of aspect. It came into this priest's fancy, hearing what men talked, and in hope to raise himself to some great bishoprick, to cause this lad to counterfeit and personate the second son of Edward the fourth, supposed to be murdered; and afterward, for he changed his intention in the manage, the lord Edward Plantagenet, then prisoner in the Tower, and accordingly to frame him and instruct him in the part he was to play. This is that which,as was touched before, seemeth scarcely credible; not that a false person should be assumed to gain a kingdom, for it hath been seen in ancient and late times; nor that it should come into the mind of such an abject fellow, to enterprise so great a matter; for high conceits do sometimes come streaming into the imaginations of base persons; especially when they are drunk with news, and talk of the people. But here is that which hath no
* The priest's name was William Simonds, and the youth was the son of.... an organmaker in Oxford, as the priest declared before the whole convocation of the clergy at Lambeth, Feb. 17, 1486. Vide Reg. Morton. f. 34. MS. Sandcroft.
appearance: That this priest, being utterly unacquainted with the true person, according to whose pattern he should shape his counterfeit, should think it possible for him to instruct his player, either in gesture and fashions, or in recounting past matters of his life andeducation; or in fit answers to questions, or the like, any ways to come near the resemblance of him whom he was to represent. For this lad was not to personate one, that had been long before taken out of his cradle, or conveyed away in his infancy, known to few; but a youth, that till the age almost of ten years had been brought up in a court where infinite eyes had been upon him. For King Edward, touched with remorse of his brother the duke of Clarence's death, would not indeed restore his son, of whom we speak, to be duke of Clarence, but yet created him earl of Warwick, reviving his honour on the mother's side; and used him honourably during his time, though Richard the third afterwards confined him. So that it cannot be, but that some great person that knew particularly and familiarly Edward Plantagenet, had a hand in the business, from whom the priest might take his aim. That which is most probable, out of the precedent and subsequent acts, is, that it was the Queen dowager, from whom this action had the principal source and motion. For certain it is, she was a busy negociating woman, and in her withdrawing-chamber had the fortunate conspiracy for the King against King Richard the third been hatched; which the King knew, and remembered perhaps but too well; and was at this time extremely discontent with the King, thinking her daughter, as the King handled the matter, not advanced but depressed: and none could hold the book so well to prompt and instruct this stage-play, as she could. Nevertheless it was not her meaning, nor no more was it the meaning of any of the better and sager sort that favoured this enterprise, and knew the secret, that this disguised idol should possess the crown; but at his peril to make way to the overthrow of the King; and that done, they had their several hopes and ways. That which doth chiefly fortify this conjecture is, that as soon as the matter brake forth in any strength,
it was one of the King's first acts to cloister the Queen dowager in the nunnery of Bermondsey, and to take away all her lands and estate; and this by a close council, without any legal proceeding, upon far fetched pretences that she had delivered her two daughters out of sanctuary to King Richard, contrary to promise, Which proceeding being even at that time taxed for rigorous and undue, both in matter and manner, makes it very probable there was some greater matter against her, which the King, upon reason of policy, and to avoid envy, would not publish. It is likewise no small argument that there was some secret in it, and some suppressing of examinations, for that the priest Simon himself, after he was taken, was never brought to execution; no not so much as to public trial, as many clergymen were upon less treasons, but was only shut up close in a dungeon. Add to this, that after the earl of Lincoln, a principal person of the house of York, was slain in Stoke-field, the King opened himself to some of his council, that he was sorry for the earl's death, because by him, he said, he might have known the bottom of his danger.
But to return to the narration itself: Simon did first instruct his scholar for the part of Richard, duke of York, second son to King Edward the fourth; and this was at such time as it was voiced, that the King purposed to put to death Edward Plantagenet, prisoner in the Tower, whereat there was great murmur. But hearing soon after a general bruit that Plantagenet had escaped out of the Tower, and thereby finding him so much beloved amongst the people, and such rejoicing at his escape, the cunning priest changed his copy, and chose now Plantagenet to be the subject his pupil should personate, because he was more in the present speech and votes of the people; and it pieced better, and followed more close and handsomely, upon the bruit of Plantagenet's escape. But yet doubting that there would be too near looking, and too much perspective into his disguise, if he should shew it here in England; he thought good, after the manner of scenes in stage-plays and masks, to shew it afar off; and
therefore sailed with his scholar into Ireland, where the affection to the house of York was most in height. The King had been a little improvident in the matters of Ireland, and had not removed officers and counsellors, and put in their places, or at least intermingled, persons of whom he stood assured, as he should have done, since he knew the strong bent of that country towards the house of York; and that it was a ticklish and unsettled state, more easy to receive distempers and mutations than England was. But trusting to the reputation of his victories and successes in England, he thought he should have time enough to extend his cares afterwards to that second kingdom.
Wherefore through this neglect, upon the coming of Simon with his pretended Plantagenet into Ireland, all things were prepared for revolt and sedition, almost as if they had been set and plotted beforehand. Simon's first address was to the lord Thomas Fitz-Gerard, earl of Kildare, and deputy of Ireland; before whose eyes he did cast such a mist, by his own insinuation, and by the carriage of his youth, that expressed a natural princely behaviour, as joined perhaps with some inward vapours of ambition and affection in the earl's own mind, left him fully possessed, that it was the true Plantagenet. The earl presently communicated the matter with some of the nobles, and others there, at the first secretly; but finding them of like affection to himself, he suffered it of purpose to vent and pass abroad; because they thought it not safe to resolve, till they had a taste of the people's inclination. But if the great ones were in forwardness, the people were in fury, entertaining this airy body or phantasm with incredible affection; partly, out of their great devotion to the house of York; partly, out of a proud humour in the nation, to give a King to the realm of England. Neither did the party, in this heat of affection, much trouble themselves with the attainder of George, duke of Clarence; having newly learned by the King'sexample, that attainders do not interrupt the conveying of title to the crown. And as for the daughters of King Ed
ward the fourth, they thought King Richard had said enough for them; and took them to be but as of the King's party, because they were in his power and at his disposing. So that with marvellous consent and applause, this counterfeit Plantagenet was brought with great solemnity to the castle of Dublin, and there saluted, served, and honoured as King; the boy becoming it well, and doing nothing that did bewray the baseness of his condition. And within a few days after he was proclaimed King in Dublin, by the name of King Edward the sixth; there being not a sword drawn in King Henry his quarrel.
The King was much moved with this unexpected accident when it came to his ears, both because it struck upon that string which ever he most feared, as also because it was stirred in such a place, where he could not with safety transfer his own person to sup, press it. For partly through natural valour, and partly through an universal suspicion, not knowing whom to trust, he was ever ready to wait upon all his atchievements in person. The King therefore first called his council together at the charter-house at Shine; which council was held with great secrecy, but the open decrees thereof, which presently came abroad, were three.
The first was, that the Queen dowager, for that she, contrary to her pact and agreement with those that had concluded with her concerning the marriage of her daughter Elizabeth with King Henry, had nevertheless delivered her daughters out of sanctuary into King Richard's hands, should be cloistered in the nunnery of Bermondsey, and forfeit all her lands and goods.
The next was, that Edward Plantagenet, then close prisoner in the Tower, should be, in the most public and notorious manner that could be devised, shewed unto the people: in part to discharge the King of the envy of that opinion and bruit, how he had been put to death privily in the Tower; but chiefly to make the people see the levity and imposture of the proceedings of Ireland, and that their Plantagenet was indeed but a puppit or a counterfeit.
The third was, that there should be again proclaimed