Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

Queen Margaret and the Robber

Henry V, who was such a great soldier, died when quite a young man. His little son, who at the time was only a baby, then became king as Henry VI. When he grew up to be a man, it was quite clear to most people that he was not fitted to rule the country.

The great men, or nobles, needed a strong, firm king to keep them in order; and they thought very little of the gentle Henry, who, indeed, would have been better in a monastery, than on the throne. To make matters worse, he sometimes went out of his mind, and then someone had to rule the country in his stead.

This duty fell to the duke of York, who belonged to the royal family. Some of his friends thought he ought to be king instead of poor Henry. This led to a great quarrel between the king's friends, and the friends of the duke of York.

Shakespeare tells us that, one day, some nobles were walking in the Temple gardens in London. Among them were the duke of Somerset, a great friend of the king and queen, and the earl of Warwick, a friend of the duke of York.

They soon began to quarrel, and then the earl of Warwick, picking a white rose, said, "I choose this flower as my badge. All who love me will do the same." At this, the duke of Somerset plucked a red rose, and called upon his friends to do likewise.

Thus it was that, in the wars which followed, the king's side was known as the Red Rose party, while the followers of the duke of York called themselves the party of the White Rose.

The wars of the Roses, as they were called, led to a great deal of bloodshed. After one of the battles, it was settled that king Henry should rule while he lived, but that, after his death, the duke of York should reign. Now, queen Margaret, the wife of the king, would not hear of this for a moment, for she wanted her little son, Edward, to reign after his father's death.

Henry VI of England


So the fighting went on again, but, in most of the battles, the king's party was beaten. The queen was very brave, and she and her son were present at a fierce battle in the north of England. Her friends were beaten, and we are told that she fled into a thick wood, holding her son by the hand.

Now, the queen was richly dressed and was wearing some fine jewels. Before she had gone far, she met a band of robbers, who stole all her jewels, and what gold she had. But they could not settle how to divide the plunder, and began to quarrel over it.

Tower of London


Seeing this, queen Margaret and the little prince hurried away as quickly as they could, to a thicker part of the forest, where they thought the robbers would not find them. Soon, however, the poor queen had a great fright, for right in her path stood another fierce-looking man.

Now, I told you that Margaret was a brave woman, and, at this dreadful moment, she did just the right thing. She went straight up to the man, looked him calmly in the face, and said, "I am your queen, and this is the son of your king. Save him from the evil men who seek his life."

The man was touched by the queen's brave words, and promised to keep her and the prince from all harm. He then took them to a cave, where he gave them food and shelter. He also told the queen that he had fought on her side, and was hiding in the woods from the White Rose party.

Queen Margaret and her son remained in the cave for a few days, and then made their escape into Scotland.

Here the queen found a ship, which took her across to France. Her husband, king Henry, was at this time a prisoner in the Tower of London, and the son of the duke of York was reigning as Edward IV.

The rest of the story of the queen and her son is very sad. They stayed in France for a few years, and then returned to England to fight against king Edward IV.

Again, the queen's army was beaten, and after the battle her brave son was killed by some of the king's friends. Poor Henry VI was found dead in the Tower about the same time, and most people thought that he had been put to death.