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Queen Margaret and the Robber of Hexham

The following is a legend about Queen Margaret of Anjou after the Battle of Hexham (1464), as recounted by 19th-century popular historian Agnes Strickland. Strickland's account of the "Queen Margaret and the Robber" legend is appealing in its pathos and high romanticism; it has, however, no basis in history, as Margaret was not even in England at the time of the battle. Furthermore, there are some irregularities to Strickland's cited sources. For the history of this tale dissected, see Archaeologia, Vol 47, Part 2, 286-294.

When the victorious Yorkists broke into the camp at Levels, Margaret, seized with mortal terror for the life of her boy, fled with him on foot into an adjacent forest, where, in momentary dread of being overtaken by the foe, she pursued her doubtful way by the most unfrequented paths. Here she unfortunately fell in with a gang of robbers, who, attracted by the richness of her dress and that of the young prince, surrounded and despoiled them of their jewels and costly robes of estate. While they were quarrelling about the division of the plunder, Margaret, whose intrepidity and presence of mind had been the means of extricating her from a similar peril when captured by Lord Stanley's followers after the battle of Northampton, snatched her son up in her arms and fled to a distant thicket, unobserved by the pitiless ruffians who were deciding their dispute at swords' points.

When the shades of evening closed round, the fugitive queen and her son crept fearfully from their retreat, and, uncertain whither to turn for refuge, began to thread the tangled mazes of the forest, dreading above every other peril, the misfortune of falling into the hands of King Edward's partisans. It was possible that one random turn might lead them into this very danger. While Margaret, bewildered with doubt and alarm, was considering what course to pursue, she perceived, by the light of the moon, another robber of gigantic stature advancing towards her with a drawn sword. Gathering courage from the desperation of her situation, Margaret took her son by the hand, and presenting him to the freebooter, with the dignity of look and bearing that were natural to her, she said, "Here, my friend, save the son of your king."

Struck with astonishment at the majestic beauty of the mother and the touching loveliness of the boy, the robber dropped his weapon at the feet of the royal suppliants, and offered to conduct them to a place of safety. A few words explained to the queen that this outlaw was a Lancastrian gentleman who had been ruined in King Henry's service, and she frankly committed herself and her son to his care. Taking the prince in his arms, he led the queen to his own retreat, a cave in Hexham forest, where the royal fugitives were refreshed, and received such attention as his wife was able to afford.

Strong confirmation is given to this incident by the local traditions of Hexham, no one who has minutely surveyed the antiquities of that town can doubt of the fact. The cave is in a most secluded spot on the south bank of the little rapid stream which runs at the foot of Blackhill. It is still known by the name of Queen Margaret's cave, and at the time it gave shelter to her and the Prince of Wales, it must have been surrounded by forest. It is about two miles from Hexham. The entrance to the cave is still very low, and was formerly artfully concealed from sight. Its dimensions are thirty-four by fourteen feet; the height will barely allow a full-grown person to stand upright. A massive pillar of rude masonry in the centre of the cave seems to mark the boundary of a wall which, it is said, once divided it into two distinct apartments. When warmed and cheered by fire and lamp it would not appear quite so dismal a den as at present.

Such was the retreat in which the queen and prince remained perdu for two days of agonizing suspense. On the third morning their host encountered Sir Pierre de Breze, who, with his squire Barville, and an English gentleman, having escaped the slaughter at Hexham, had been making anxious search for her and the prince.

From these devoted friends Margaret learned the escape of her royal husband, and the terrible vengeance that had been executed on Somerset and her faithful adherents, the Lords Hungerford and Roos. Margaret is said to have received these tidings with floods of tears, the first she had shed since the overthrow of the despairing hopes of Lancaster on the red field of Hexham.

A few hours later, the English gentleman by whom Breze was accompanied, having gone into the neighbouring villages to gather tidings of public events, encountered the Duke of Exeter, and Edmund Beaufort, the brother and successor of the unfortunate Henry, Duke of Somerset. He conducted them to the retreat of the proscribed queen and the youthful hope of Lancaster.

Margaret's spirits revived at the sight of these princes, whom she had numbered with the slain of Hexham, and she determined to send them to their powerful kinsman, the Duke of Burgundy, to solicit an asylum at the court of Dijon, for herself and the Prince of Wales; while she once more proceeded to the court of Scotland, where she imagined King Henry had found refuge. On quitting the dwelling of the generous outlaw, from whom she had received such providential succour in her dire distress, she accorded all she had to bestow—her grateful thanks; but the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter afforded a portion of their scanty supply of money, as a reward to his wife for the services she had rendered to the queen. With a nobility of soul worthy of a loftier station, she refused to receive any thing of that which might be so precious to them at a time of need.




Quotation Source:

Strickland, Agnes. Lives of the Queens of England. Vol III.
Philadelphia: Lee & Blanchard, 1841. 264-266.




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Edward II
Piers Gaveston
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Roger Mortimer, Earl of March

Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Edward III
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Henry V
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John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
Richard, Earl of Cambridge
Henry, Baron Scrope of Masham
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Richard Beauchamp, E. of Warwick
Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
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Sir John Fastolf
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Charles VII, King of France
Joan of Arc
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The Battle of Castillon, 1453



The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485
Causes of the Wars of the Roses
The House of Lancaster
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The House of Beaufort
The House of Neville

The First Battle of St. Albans, 1455
The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459
The Rout of Ludford, 1459
The Battle of Northampton, 1460
The Battle of Wakefield, 1460
The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461
The 2nd Battle of St. Albans, 1461
The Battle of Towton, 1461
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, 1464
The Battle of Hexham, 1464
The Battle of Edgecote, 1469
The Battle of Losecoat Field, 1470
The Battle of Barnet, 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471
The Treaty of Pecquigny, 1475
The Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485
The Battle of Stoke Field, 1487

Henry VI
Margaret of Anjou
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville
Richard Woodville, 1. Earl Rivers
Anthony Woodville, 2. Earl Rivers
Jane Shore
Edward V
Richard III
George, Duke of Clarence

Ralph Neville, 2. Earl of Westmorland
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Edward Neville, Baron Bergavenny
William Neville, Lord Fauconberg
Robert Neville, Bishop of Salisbury
John Neville, Marquis of Montagu
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Margaret Beaufort
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Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
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Sir William Stanley
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Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex
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Henry Percy, 2. E. Northumberland
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William, Lord Hastings
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John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
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Pico della Mirandola
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Hans Holbein, the Younger
The Sweating Sickness

Dissolution of the Monasteries
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
Robert Aske
Anne Askew
Lord Thomas Darcy
Sir Robert Constable

Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The First Act of Succession, 1534
The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
The Second Statute of Repeal, 1555
The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

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The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
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George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
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John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
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King Charles I
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Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
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Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
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The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
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"Sanctuary"


Images:

Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
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Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's Panoramic View of London, 1616. COLOR
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London




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