[Queen Margaret and the Robbers]
Engraver: E. Dalziel
1862, rpt. 1910
8.5 cm wide by 13 cm high
Facing p. 190, from "England Under Edward the Fourth," chapter 23 in Dickens's A Child's History of England in the Centenary Edition
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Queen Margaret [of Anjou, the wife of King Henry the Sixth and leader of the Lancastrian party in the War of the Roses] however, was still active for her young son [Edward of Westminster, born in 1453]. She obtained help from Scotland and from Normandy, and took several important English castles. But, Warwick soon retook them; the Queen lost all her treasure on board ship in a great storm; and both she and her son suffered great misfortunes [after the Battle of Hexam in 1464]. Once, in the winter weather, as they were riding through a forest, they were attacked and plundered by a party of robbers; and, when they had escaped from these men and were passing alone and on foot through a thick dark part of the wood, they came, all at once, upon another robber. So the Queen, with a stout heart, took the little Prince by the hand, and going straight up to that robber, said to him, "My friend, this is the young son of your lawful King! I confide him to your care." The robber was surprised, but took the boy in his arms, and faithfully restored him and his mother to their friends. In the end, the Queen's soldiers being beaten and dispersed, she went abroad again, and kept quiet for the present. [Chapter 23, "England Under Edward the Fourth"]
For each of the three small volumes of A Child's History of England — originally published as series of articles in Household Words between 25 January 1851 and 10 December 1853 — Francis W. Topham provided a wood-engraved frontispiece. The volumes were not published simultaneously, but rather, like the stories themselves, over a number of years (1852, 1853, and 1854). More memorable than Topham's rondelle vignettes are the eight full-page wood engravings of Marcus Stone for the Library Edition of 1862 (repeated in the 1865 People's Edition), and J. McLean Ralston's fifteen large-scale illustrations for the Household Edition of the book in 1878, one of the very last in the Chapman and Hall series. Stone's work on the children's book has been overshadowed since by his more significant Chapman and Hall commissions: Great Expectations (1862) and Our Mutual Friend (1864).
The incident itself, as Stone's selection of it as the basis for one of his eight illustrations suggests, seems to have had a certain appeal for Victorian readers as it shows a vulnerable but resourceful mother who also happens to be a queen. Stone, a New Man of the Sixties, poses the three-dimensional figures, and exploits the jeopardy into which the resourceful Queen has fallen as a suspenseful moment which compels the reader to examine the text for the resolution. Stone enjoys giving Queen Margaret an elaborate medieval costume which contrasts the homespun of the robber. She confronts the outlaw boldly, shrewdly studying him as she protects her son with her embrace. Thus, she serves as a prototype for the Victorian heroine in that, like the bride in Perrault's "Blue Beard," she uses intelligence and diplomacy to overcome physically superior adversaries. This is not an historically verifiable account, but a legend touching in its pathos, and instructive as to the value of personal courage in the face of extremity. Historians might scoff at Dickens's including such an anecdote in an historical account, but Dickens relished a good story above an evidence-based text lacking in any moral precept or meaningful observation of human nature.
Avery, Gillian, ed. Charles Dickens: "A Holiday Romance" and Other Writings for Children with All the Original Illustrations. Everyman edition. London: J. M. Dent, 1995.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. A Child's History of England in Works. Centenary Edition. 36 vols. London: Chapman and Hall; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910-12.
Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens; being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings, by Fred Barnard, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz); J. Mahoney; Charles Green; A. B. Frost; Gordon Thomson; J. McL. Ralston; H. French; E. G. Dalziel; F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes; printed from the original woodblocks engraved for "The Household Edition." New York: Chapman and Hall, 1908. Copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.
Last modified 6 March 2013