Born: Fisher Ames, American statesman, President of Harvard College, 1758, Dedham, Massachusetts; George Peacock, Dean of Ely, mathematician, 1791, Denton.
Died: Constantine II, Roman emperor, assassinated, 340; Zenon, Emperor of the East, 491; Pope Constantine, 715; Edward IV, King of England, 1483; Gabrielle d'Estrees ('La Belle Gabrielle', 1599; Francis Bacon, 1626, St. Albans; William, Earl of Craven, 1697; Simon, Lord Lovat, beheaded, 1747; Christian Wolf, philosophical writer, 1754, Halle; Jacques Necker, French financial minister (1788), 1804, Geneva; John Opie, painter, 1807; Dr. William Prout, scientific writer, 1850, London.
Feast Day: Roman captives, martyrs in Persia, 362. St. Mary of Egypt, 5th century. Massylitan martyrs in Africa. St. Eupsychius, martyr. St. Dotto, abbot in Orkney, 6th century. St. Waltrude, 686. St. Gautier, abbot in Limousin, 1130.
On this day, in the year 1483, died Edward IV, a king who makes a figure in history rather through the circumstances of the period in which he lived, than from the personal influence he exercised over them. He was the instrument of a revolution rather than the hero of it. That revolution was virtually the overthrow of feudalism, which had, through its own inherent defects and its increasing incongruity with the advance in the political and social condition of the world, been long tending to its fall. The disastrous government of a weak monarch on the throne, Henry VI, and the violent animosities of the feudal nobles, fomented by the intrigues of the Duke of York, the representative of a rival dynasty which had been displaced by a former revolution, brought on the long and furious civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses, in which the feudal nobles and great families were occupied much more in the indulgence of personal hatred and in mutual destruction than in carrying out any important political principles.
When the power of the aristocracy had exhausted itself, the fortunes, perhaps we may say the accidents of war had left the party of the house of York the stronger of the two divisions into which the country had fallen; and to this circumstance, without any remarkable merits of his own, Edward owed the throne. His claim on the score of descent was no doubt according to strict law better than that of the dynasty he displaced, inasmuch as he was descended from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the second son of Edward III, while the branch of Lancaster was descended only from that monarch's third son.
In the savage war of feudal rivalry in which the old aristocracy had almost worn itself out, Edward's father, Richard, Duke of York, perished at the moment when the crown of England was within his grasp, in consequence chiefly of his own want of caution and foresight in the battle of Wakefield, fought on the 30th of December 1460. Edward, who now succeeded his father in his claim to the crown, was a brave and able soldier, with more perseverance and less hesitation in pursuing his object. After having inflicted a severe defeat on the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross, on the northern borders of Herefordshire, he advanced upon London, to which place Queen Margaret had also directed her retreat after the defeat and death of the Duke of York. She had gained a victory over the Yorkists near St. Albans and delivered her husband from imprisonment, when consciousness of the superiority of Edward's forces obliged her to retrace her steps northward. Edward, who was then only in the nineteenth year of his age, was proclaimed King of England on the 2nd of March 1461.
Edward possessed many of the qualities which then in a prince conciliated the attachment of the multitude. He was bold and active, princely in bearing, one of the handsomest men of his time, and popular in his manners. Even his more apparent vices were such as were easily pardoned by popular opinion; but under a brilliant exterior he was selfish and unscrupulous, eager of pleasure, and at the same time treacherous and cruel. The precarious character of the tenure by which he held the throne was shewn within the first few years of his reign. He had hardly ascended the throne, before he was obliged to hurry to the north to meet his opponents, who had already brought together a very powerful army under Queen Margaret and the Duke of Somerset.
On Palm Sunday, the 29th of the same month of March 1461, Edward defeated the Lancastrians with frightful slaughter, at Tow ton, in Yorkshire; and Queen Margaret, with her husband, Henry VI, and their son, the young prince Edward, were obliged to seek safety in Scotland. Queen Margaret subsequently entered England, and renewed the struggle, but the only result was the capture of the deposed king, who was imprisoned in the Tower.
King Edward was at this time popular among his subjects, but he seems to have given himself up entirely to his pleasures, and to have neglected the great feudal chiefs to whom he owed his throne. Perhaps they, on the other side, were unreasonable in their wishes to monopolise favour and power. The great Earl of Warwick had formed a design for the marriage of his daughter with the Duke of Clarence, to which Edward refused his consent; and Warwick is said to have been further offended by the neglect which the king shewed to him in the circumstances of his marriage with the Lady Elizabeth Grey.
The powerful nobleman now quitted Edward, and became reconciled to Queen Margaret, and the civil war having recommenced, King Edward was taken prisoner, but he succeeded in making his escape, and fled to Holland. During his absence, Henry VI was restored to the throne, and Edward was deposed, and proclaimed a traitor. But within a short time Edward returned with the assistance of the Duke of Burgundy, landed in Yorkshire in March 1471, and directing his march south, entered London and recovered the throne almost without resistance.
On Easter Sunday, the 14th of April, Edward gained a great victory over the Lancastrians at Barnet, in which the Earl of Warwick was slain; and on the 4th of May he defeated Queen Margaret's army in the battle of Tewkesbury. King Henry had again become a prisoner at Barnet; and Queen Margaret and her son Edward, Prince of Wales, were captured at Tewkesbury, and the young prince was barbarously murdered in King Edward's presence. King Henry himself was murdered in the Tower, on the 21st of May, so that Edward could now enjoy the crown without a competitor. Queen Margaret was some time afterwards set at liberty on the payment of a considerable ransom by her brother the King of France.
Edward, thus relieved from further uneasiness, now gave himself up to his pleasures, in which he is said to have indulged indiscriminately, and not always with dignity. He died of the results of a surfeit, on the 9th of April 1483, in the forty-second year of his age. He exercised little influence on the political or social condition of his country, although the parliament took the opportunity of his weakness or inattention to obtain some concessions which were important for the strengthening of the national liberty.
It was under Edward IV that the art of printing was introduced into England, and it received encouragement from him personally, and from his ministers. Otherwise King Edward's reign seems best known, in popular remembrance, as the age of Jane Shore, his favourite mistress. The dynasty which Edward had founded was short-lived, and was soon driven out to give place to the house of Tudor, which destroyed the feudal power, only weakened by the successor of the Yorkists.
WILLIAM, EARL OF CRAVEN
In the latter half of the sixteenth century, a poor lad, named Craven, trudged his weary way from Yorkshire to London, with the laudable design of seeking his fortune. Assisting to drive a long string of pack-horses, he found protection and companionship on the road; and when the carrier was delivering a pack of Yorkshire cloth to a draper in Watling Street, he recommended the boy to the service of the citizen. The youth was soon advanced to be an apprentice; steady industry claiming its due reward, he in course of time set up for himself in Leadenhall; and ultimately becoming Lord Mayor, received the honour of knighthood from King James. The accession of wealth and honour did not cause him to forget his native Wharfdale. He beautified and repaired the church of Burnsall, in which he had sat when a poor boy; founded and endowed alms-houses and other charitable institutions for indigent Yorkshiremen, and when death called him, full of years, he left an immense fortune to his only son William.
At that period, wealth alone, without the addition of a long pedigree, had not the position which it now enjoys; though military renown was considered a sufficient cover for any deficiency of birth. Probably for this reason, William Craven, the wealthy grandson of a Yorkshire peasant, at an early age took service in the army of Henry, Prince of Orange, and acquitted himself with honour and distinction. Afterwards, being one of the English volunteers who joined Gustavus Adolphus, he led the forlorn hope at the storming of Creutznach. Though the first assault was repulsed, Craven, with determined bravery, led on a second, which proved gloriously successful. Though smarting under a severe wound, our hero generously granted quarter to the vanquished enemy, and Gustavus coming up knighted him as he lay wounded on the ground.
One of the avowed objects of Gustavus was the reinstatement of the Count-Palatine Frederick in the palatinate. The character of Frederick was not of a description to excite the respect or admiration of bold and politic men; but his wife, the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, was endowed with all the romantic qualities of a true heroine, as certainly as she was the heroine of a sad but true romance. The days of chivalry had not then quite passed away. Harte tells us that the courage and presence of mind of the princess were so conspicuous, and her figure and manners so attractive-though not to be termed a consummate beauty-that half the army of Gustavus was in love with her. The ferocious Christian, Duke of Brunswick, was her most tractable slave; so was young Thurm, and so was Sir William Craven. But the death of Gustavus destroyed the last hope of recovering the palatinate, and Sir William Craven entered the service of the States of Holland, and continued in their army till the Restoration.
Though Sir William took no part in the civil war of England, yet from his great wealth, combined with his exceedingly simple, soldier-like habits of life, he was enabled to afford the exiled royal family very considerable pecuniary supplies. As a single instance of his liberality in this respect, he gave Charles II. no less than fifty thousand pounds in one sum and at one time. On this account the Parliament confiscated his estates, and though the States-General interfered through their ambassador, no effect ensued from the mediation. At the Restoration he regained his estates, and Charles conferred upon him the title of Earl.
On returning to England, Craven's first care was to purchase a grand old edifice called Drury House, from its having belonged to the knightly family of that name, and from which also the street called Drury-lane derives its appellation. This building, part of which was in existence within the memory of persons now living, stood on the site of the Olympic Theatre and the adjoining tavern called the 'Craven Arms.' After he had fitted up this house in a style of regal magnificence, the Princess Elizabeth, then twelve years a widow, came to reside in it with Lord Craven. Whether any stronger tie than pure friendship existed between them, it is not our place to inquire. When she came to live in Drury House, Craven was fifty-three years of age, and the Princess was sixty-five. It has been said, however, that they had previously been privately married on the Continent, and that the fifty thousand pounds given to Charles II was the price of his consent to the marriage of his unfortunate aunt.
When the Princess arrived in England, Earl Craven began to build a magnificent palace for her, on his estate of Hampstead Marshall, in Berkshire; but Elizabeth scarcely lived a year after her return from the Continent, and this house, intended to rival the castle of Heidelberg, was burned to the ground ere its completion. During the great plague of 1665, Lord Craven remained in London to succour the wretched, encourage the timid, and preserve order. On the death of Monk, he received the colonelcy of the Coldstream Guards, and during the latter part of the seventeenth century, the stout old Earl was one of the most conspicuous characters in London. Whenever a fire took place, he was sure to be present, to render assistance and preserve order; so it became a common saying that his horse could smell a fire ere it happened. His city birth, warlike fame, and romantic connection with a queen-for Elizabeth was always styled in England by her fatal title of Queen of Bohemia-rendered him the most popular man in London, and his quiet remonstrances would disperse a riotous mob more effectively than a regiment of soldiers. He died in 1696, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years.
Across the end of Craven Buildings in Drury-lane, there will be observed a wall, on which is inscribed, at the present day, the name and business of a neighbouring tradesman. There was formerly a fresco painting on this wall, representing Lord Craven on a white charger, with a marshal's baton in his hand. This portrait was frequently repainted in oil, and down to the present century was considered one of the sights of London; but it is now completely obliterated.
LA BELLE GABRIELLE
The gallant, chivalrous, favourite French monarch, Henri Quatre, when starting on one of his warlike exploits in 1590, sojourned for a night at the Chateau de Cauvers, belonging to an artillery officer whom he had much befriended, the Chevalier D'Estrees. The daughter of the house, Gabrielle, a gentle, beautiful creature, about nineteen, had long honoured the king secretly, as belonging to the type of heroes whom women love. Her enthusiasm gave a warmth to the grace that naturally belonged to her; and she fairly captured the heart of Henri, without, so far as appears, any predetermined design of so doing.
The king could not then delay his military proceedings; but he carried away with him recollections that were not likely to die. He found opportunities to see her again, and to work both upon her love and her gratitude. The state of court morals in those days in France, as in many other countries, points to what followed-how that she was married to Damerval de Liancourt, as a means of appeasing or blinding her father; how that the king procured a divorce for her on some pretext, well or ill founded; and how that she then lived with Henri during the remainder of her brief life, ennobled as a duchess, in order to give her station at court.
Abating the one fact that she was his mistress and not his wife, all other parts of her career have met with the general encomiums of French writers. She was exceedingly beautiful, and was known everywhere as 'La Belle Gabrielle.' She spent her life royally, almost as a queen; yet she was without haughtiness or arrogance. She never abused the favour she received, and withal was so affable, gentle, and benevolent, that she won the good-will of courtiers and people alike. The king loved her deeply; once, when engaged in a military enterprise of which the issue was doubtful, he wrote to her:
'If I am defeated, you know me well enough to be certain I shall not flee; my last thought will be of God-my last but one, of thee.'
Her only quarrels were with the great minister, Sully, who disapproved of some of the persons promoted or rewarded through her means. The king well knew what an inestimable servant or friend he had in his unyielding minister; and once, when Gabrielle appealed to him, he told her honestly that he would rather lose her than Sully, if one must be lost. Her good sense came to the aid of her other qualities, and she no longer opposed Sully's views. Gabrielle's end was a sad one. On the 9th of April 1599, a fit of apoplexy carried her off, accompanied by such frightful contortions as to induce a suspicion that she had been poisoned; but no proof of such a crime ever came to light. The king mourned for her as he would for a princess of the blood royal, and felt her loss deeply. French song and poem, drama and opera, have had much to say concerning Henri Quatre and La Belle Gabrielle.
THE PONY EXPRESS
The Pacific States, as they are called, of America, being separated from the rest by the wide sierra of the Rocky Mountains,-canal, railway, or even good roads not yet being practicable in that region,-communication necessarily becomes a difficulty. Even to convey letters over two thousand miles of prairie, mountain, and forest, was a task of a sufficiently formidable character. This difficulty was, however, overcome in 1860, by the enterprise of a private firm. Messrs. Russell, Major, and Waddell, who had been engaged as contractors for the conveyance of government stores, determined to establish a kind of express mail, by which letters should be conveyed in about a week between the two extreme points; depending partly on the commercial public and partly on the government for an adequate return.
The contractors first built stations along the line of route, at convenient intervals, stocking them plentifully; then purchased six hundred ponies, or strong service-able horses; then engaged a corps of fearless and trustworthy riders; and finally provided an equipment of riding-dress, letter-bags, revolvers, and rifles for the men. On the 9th of April 1860, the service commenced. Two pony-couriers started on the same day; one from St. Francisco, to come east; the other from St. Joseph on the Missouri, to go west. When a pony had done his stage, at twelve miles an hour, he was replaced by another; and when a courier had done as many stages as he could accomplish without rest, another took his place. Thus the mail-bags were travelling incessantly at the rate of twelve miles an hour. Each mail accomplished the nineteen hundred miles of distance in about seven days and a half. The system very soon became comparatively consolidated. The men suffered from fatigue, hunger, cold, heat, and especially from the attacks of Indians, but they persevered undauntedly; and the Pony Express might be considered as an established fact, so to remain till something better could be devised.