The PARLIAMENTARY GENERAL
- Chapter XI – The Arrest of the Five Members
- Chapter XII – The Paper War
- Chapter XIII – The King Beats All but Cromwell
- Chapter XIV – Marston Moor
- Chapter XV – Naseby
- Chapter XVI – Close of the First Civil War
- Chapter XVII – The Army Against the Parliament
- Chapter XVIII – The Second Civil War
- Chapter XIX – The Chief Delinquent
The Arrest of the Five Members
About the time of his last visit to Scotland, Charles I had conceived the design of regaining his authority by destroying the leaders of the Parliamentary party. While in Edinburgh, he had in vain sought for the evidence of that correspondence between the members of his Parliament and the Scottish malcontents which he believed had led to the two Bishops’ Wars. Failing in this, he had bided his time, impatient and sick at heart to see each day taking from him something of his kingly power.
But it was religion more than politics that was now pushing the revolution forward. Had there been a satisfactory understanding on religion between the people and their King, the loyalty of British hearts would long since have restored contentment to the nation, and a sufficient authority to the King. But the prejudiced spirit of that age was stirred to distraction by the fear of a papal thraldom, and the knowledge which reached Pym, that Henrietta Maria was soliciting the pope for an armed force and for money with which to overthrow the Parliament, led to a secret discussion of the feasibility of impeaching the Queen.
Even the vacillating Charles could no longer delay. He loved his Queen with an ardor which now led him to imperil life and kingdom for her sake. Strafford, the far-seeing and fearless victim of Puritan prejudice, had counseled an attack on the Parliamentary leaders more than a year before, and Charles had hesitated to act. It was the brilliant and erratic Lord Digby who now proposed to save the Queen by destroying the conspirators.
John Pym, who ruled the House of Commons by the force of his genius; John Hampden, who had won the affection of all Englishmen in opposing ship-money; Sir Arthur Hazelrig, a stalwart agitator and afterwards one of the regicide judges; and Denzil Hollis and William Strode, who had held the Speaker in his chair twelve years before while the Remonstrance was read, were the five members selected for punishment; Lord Kimbolton, better known as Mandeville, in the House of Lords, was included with them. The impeachment was fixed for January 3, 1642. Sir Edward Herbert, the Attorney General, had received instructions, written in the King’s own hand, commanding him, as soon as the charge was laid before the Lords, to ask for a secret committee to examine the evidence. If any of the Puritan Lords were named as members of it, he was to object on the ground that the King intended to use them as witnesses.
On the appointed day, as soon as the Lords met, Herbert appeared and made the charge of high treason against the six persons named in his instructions. It was specified that they had traitorously endeavored to subvert the fundamental laws and government of the kingdom, and deprive the King of his regal power, and to place on his subjects an arbitrary and tyrannical power. That they had endeavored by many foul aspersions on His Majesty, and his Government, to alienate the affections of his people, and to make the King odious to them. That they had endeavored to draw the late Army into disobedience to the King’s command, and to side with them in their machinations. That they had invited the Scots to invade England. That they had endeavored to subvert the very rights and beings of Parliament. That they had endeavored, by force and terror, to compel the Parliament to join with them in their traitorous designs, and to that end had raised and countenanced tumults against the King and Parliament. Lastly, “that they have traitorously conspired to levy, and actually have levied war against the King.”
The House of Lords was thunderstruck at this audacious move. The majority of the fifty-nine members present that day were loyal to the King, and only twenty-one of them afterwards opposed him in the Civil War. But they dared not to invite the imperious wrath of the Commons. The Attorney General asked for the arrest of the members. They took time to consider it till the next day, that they might see how the Commons would receive this attack. Lord Digby, who had volunteered to move for Kimbolton’s incarceration, whispered to that Lord that the King was ill advised, and hurried out of the House.
In the House of Commons, Pym had just stated that his own study, as well as those of Hampden and Hollis, had been sealed by the King’s orders; and it was resolved that to do this without leave from the House was a breach of privilege. A sergeant-at-arms now appeared with orders from the King to arrest the five members. A committee was named to acquaint the King that the demand concerned their privileges, and a reply would be returned as soon as they had given the subject full consideration. In the meantime, the five members would be ready to answer a legal accusation, and they were ordered to appear in their places from day to day.
If the charge of high treason against Strafford was a just charge, then the charge of high treason against Pym and his associates was likewise a just charge. If “to subvert the fundamental laws” meant to overthrow the uncertain precedents of former times, if it referred to the controversy between the prerogatives of the Crown and the privileges of the subject, which had started with King John’s barons at Runnymede, then Strafford was guilty, and Pym was guilty. For each had sought to efface the misty lines of the old constitution in accordance with the notions of power or right which he cherished as the correct theory of modern government. But it was a time of revolution, and revolutions are not governed by the solution of fine-spun ethical questions.
That night the King privately determined to arrest the five members himself. The next morning he wavered, and took the Queen aside to tell her his doubts of the wisdom of the act. Her quick French spirit would not hear him with patience. “Go, poltroon,” she cried, “pull these rogues out by the ears, or never see my face more!” There is some palliation for her fierce words in the fact that it was her dignity and honor, perhaps her very life, that the Commons were preparing to attack. Charles obeyed her imperious command, knowing at the time that it was unwise, and referring to it afterwards as “a casual mistake.” Had he seized the five members at early morning while they slept, his project might have been attended with success. He waited until three o’clock in the afternoon of January 4, and taking with him his young nephew, the Elector Palatine, he hurried down stairs, calling out, “Let my faithful subjects and soldiers follow me.” At the door he entered his coach, and drove off followed by some four hundred armed men.
As the King and his retinue disappeared from her window, the Queen, impetuous and triumphant, communicated the secret of his purpose to the Countess of Carlisle. Lady Carlisle, who was believed to cherish a tender regard for the Puritan widower, Mr. Pym, stole out of the Queen’s presence, and dispatched a hasty note to Pym by a French messenger, whose swift foot would enable him to reach Westminster in advance of the King. The messenger ran breathless to the House of Commons, and delivered his message to Pym.
The House was instantly advised of the King’s approach, and the five members were requested to withdraw. Pym, Hampden, Hazelrig, and Hollis obeyed this prudent injunction, and left the House. Strode rashly proposed to remain, but a member seized him by the cloak and dragged him to the bank of the Thames where he took a boat for the city.
And indeed there was no time to be lost. As the King approached, followed by a fierce band of armed men, he struck terror into the hearts of the shopkeepers who gathered about Westminster. As he neared the Commons’ door, Charles, ever precise in his deportment, assumed a repose of manner which must have been foreign to his feelings at that fatal moment. Passing between the ranks of the armed throng, he opened the Commons’ door, and commanded his followers on their lives not to enter. He then passed in, accompanied only by Prince Charles Henry, the Elector Palatine. The members rose and uncovered, and the King himself took off his hat, and gained the Speaker’s stand. “By your leave, Mr. Speaker,” he said, “I must borrow your chair a little.” Standing in front of it, he darted a quick look on the right hand, near the bar of the House, looking for Pym whom he knew well. Not seeing him, he took another step towards the chair, which the Speaker vacated for him, but stopped again to search long and earnestly among the sullen faces of the standing members for the five fugitives.
The moment was a thrilling one. It was the first time that ever a King of England had appeared in the House of Commons. The door of the chamber was held open by the Earl of Roxburgh, and by his side stood Captain Hyde, a man of unsavory reputation. Beyond, in plain view of the members, were the soldiers handling their swords and pistols, and it was remarked that many of the King’s followers had thrown away their cloaks for the purpose of having their sword arms free.
The King at length sat down, and as his eyes still failed to detect the men he sought, he became somewhat embarrassed.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “I am sorry for this occasion of coming unto you. Yesterday I sent a sergeant-at-arms upon a very important occasion, to apprehend some that, by my command, were accused of high treason, whereunto I did expect obedience, and not a message; and I must declare unto you here that albeit no King that ever was in England shall be more careful of your privileges, to maintain them to the uttermost of his power, than I shall be, yet you must know that in cases of treason no person hath a privilege, and therefore I am come to know if any of these persons that were accused are here.”
Once more he cast his eyes around the House, and called aloud on Mr. Pym. “I do not see any of them,” he said. “I think I should know them.” And then, continuing his address, he went on, “For I must tell you, gentlemen, that so long as these persons that I have accused, for no slight crime, but for treason, are here, I cannot expect that this House will be in the right way that I do heartily wish it. Therefore I am come to tell you that I must have them wheresoever I find them.”
He mentioned the name of Denzil Hollis, but there was no reply. He turned to Speaker Lenthall and inquired, “Are any of these persons in the House?” The Speaker, who was deeply affected, made an ingenious answer. Falling upon his knees, he said, “May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as this House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here; and I humbly beg Your Majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what Your Majesty is pleased to demand of me.”
“Well,” said Charles, baffled, but attempting to assume an air of cheerfulness, “since I see all the birds are flown, I do expect from you that you will send them unto me as soon as they return hither. But I assure you, on the word of a King,” he continued with great solemnity, as if in a last effort to impress them with a desire for a better understanding, “I never did intend any force, but shall proceed against them in a legal and fair way, for I never meant any other. And now, since I see I cannot do what I came for, I think this no unfit occasion to repeat what I have said formerly, that whatsoever I have done in favor and to the good of my subjects, I do mean to maintain it. I will trouble you no more, but tell you I do expect, as soon as they come to the House, you will send them to me, otherwise I must take my own course to find them.”
The King stepped down from the Speaker’s chair, and left the House with gloom and disappointment on his brow. “Privilege, Privilege!” were the ominous words that were hurled at him by the members whom he had left behind. The Cavaliers who waited without were exasperated at the failure of his mission. They were ready for bloody work if the command had been spoken. “I warrant you,” said one, looking through the open doorway at the Commons, “I am a good marksman. I will hit sure.” An officer said the next day that they had gone to Westminster because they heard that the House of Commons would not obey the King, and therefore they came to force them to it. He thought if the word had been given they certainly would have fallen upon the members.
When the King returned to Henrietta Maria with the news of his failure, she was overcome with grief, and acknowledged that she had indiscreetly betrayed him to Lady Carlisle. Long afterwards she told Madame de Motteville that, although she had ruined his affairs, the King had never upbraided her for her lack of prudence.
The Commons instantly adjourned until one o’clock the next day, with the feeling that they had barely escaped violent death.
But the King could not stop now. He at once issued a proclamation, directing that the ports should be closed to prevent the escape of the five members and forbidding any person to harbor them.
The next day, January 5, he rode to the city, having with him in his coach the Duke of Hamilton and the Earls of Essex, Holland, and Newport, who were in high favor with the London populace. Arriving at Guildhall he demanded the five members from the Common Council. The feeling was divided. One faction shouted, “Parliament! Privileges of Parliament!” Others cried, “God bless the King!” Charles made a move for popularity by asking that those who had anything to say would speak their minds. “It is the vote of this Court,” cried one, “that Your Majesty hear the advice of your Parliament.” “It is not the vote of this Court,” shouted another, “it is your own vote.” The King took up this thought. “Who is it,” he said, “that says I do not take the advice of my Parliament? I do take their advice, but I must distinguish between the Parliament and some traitors in it.” A man shouted, “Privileges of Parliament!” “I have and will observe all the privileges of Parliament,” answered the King, maintaining his patience, “but no privileges can protect a traitor from a legal trial.” The five members were not surrendered, and the alternating shouts of “Privilege!” and “God save the King!” followed him to his coach. He stopped to dine with one of the sheriffs. On his way to Whitehall after dinner, a bold Puritan threw into his coach a paper on which was written, “To your tents, O Israel!”—a significant allusion to the war cry of the Israelites in their revolt against King Rehoboam.
As soon as Charles had left Guildhall the Common Council agreed on a petition in favor of the five members. The city thus arrayed itself officially on the side of the Parliament. In the meantime the Commons met at Westminster at one o’clock, drew up a declaration of their violated privileges, and adjourned until the 11th. They continued to meet as a Committee of the Whole at Guildhall, under the protection of the city, where the unlawfulness of the impeachment was daily discussed. It has been declared that the only way to have legally prosecuted the five members was by trial before a petit jury on an indictment by the grand jury. But there was one precedent on the King’s side—a precedent established in his own reign in the impeachment of the Earl of Bristol. But it was now resolved that the King could not issue a warrant. The King was not accountable for his acts, and a warrant must be issued by one of the King’s ministers, who would be accountable. If the King made a false arrest, he could not be sued for damages. If the King’s officers made a false arrest, the injured party could obtain redress.
On the 7th, a herald, standing in front of Whitehall, proclaimed the six impeached persons traitors, and an official was sent to the city to arrest them, but was compelled to return without them, having been badly treated by the mob.
On the 8th, the Commons, sitting as a committee, passed a resolution declaring it to be legal to require the sheriffs to bring the militia forces of the county for the security of Parliament; and they called upon the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen, and the Common Council, on such a pressing and extraordinary occasion, to provide officers and men for their defense.
The next day was Sunday, doubtless a Sunday of great excitement. On Monday the 10th, Philip Skippon, a plain, pious man, destined to win renown in the Parliamentary army, but now the Captain of the Artillery Garden, was appointed Sergeant Major-General, to take command of the city trained bands. Some of the members of the House of Lords, sitting in a similar manner as a committee, approved of these measures of protection. The sailors on the Thames offered to assist in the defense of Parliament, and their offer was accepted.
The five members were the heroes of the hour. Great crowds gathered around the lodgings of Pym, and four thousand horsemen of Buckinghamshire held themselves ready at a moment’s notice to ride to London to defend their representative, John Hampden. The other three accused members were guarded with equal solicitude.
Charles saw that he was beaten. He had frightened the Commons away from Westminster, but he had not crushed them. They were more formidable now as an oppressed committee in Guildhall than as a free Parliament in Westminster. The King felt certain that their next move would be to tear his Queen away from him. He determined to make his flight from the capital. The Earls of Holland and Essex, loyal to the Monarch though they opposed his assumptions of power, besought some who were in the King’s confidence to plead with him for delay. Heenvliet, the Dutch Agent, who was known to have the King’s ear, was finally appealed to, but as he beheld the mournful look of grim determination on that usually irresolute face, he could only reply, “Who would dare to do it?”
Charles turned his back upon his throne to save his wife. Acknowledging by flight the supremacy of his Parliament, he could take with him the consolatory conviction that he had denied them nothing which they had demanded in preservation of the liberties of Englishmen. He had sacrificed his favorite Minister, Strafford, who, guiltless of a capital crime, yet stood for the theory of autocratic authority. He had signed the bills which destroyed those arbitrary courts, the Star Chamber, the High Commission, and the Council of York, by the use of which his prerogative had been upheld. He had allowed this Parliament to exist during its own pleasure. He had assented to the bill for the compulsory assembling of triennial Parliaments. He had resigned his claims to the right of taxation without the consent of Parliament. By no single step, not even after they had the entire power of the State in their own hands, did the Parliament advance the political amelioration of England beyond the concessions which Charles had granted to them at the time of his flight. In fact, the revolution was already accomplished. Why, then, did they push the King to civil war? There were two reasons for it. They feared that Charles, still clinging to the ancient theories of monarchy, would overthrow the civil reforms which they had wrested from his unwilling hands, at any moment when, by possessing a sufficient army, he might feel himself strong enough to defy them. They likewise were in deadly apprehension lest his too Catholic Queen, whose influence in matters of faith they much over-rated, would turn the King to her own views, and then attempt to overwhelm the Protestant religion by an inundation of the dogmas of Rome.
On the 10th of January, the King set out from Whitehall accompanied by a modest retinue. He was never to see that place again but as a prisoner condemned to death. It must have cut him to the heart when Essex and Holland refused to go with him, and told him that his proper place was with his Parliament. When the royal party reached Hampton Court that evening, no preparation had been made for their reception, and the King and Queen and three of their children slept in one room.
The Paper War
On the day following the King’s flight from the capital the Parliament returned to Westminster in triumph.
The Thames was covered with gaily-decorated craft, and its banks were lined by joyous citizens whose loud huzzas proclaimed the vindication of the privileges of Parliament. Two rows of boats were formed, reaching from London Bridge to Westminster Hall, and between these, in a vessel manned by sailors who had volunteered their services, the five members returned in a halo of popular glory to the seats from which an angry King had driven them one week before. As soon as Pym—now indeed “King Pym”—reached his old seat, he rose, and with Hampden, Hazelrig, Hollis, and Strode standing uncovered beside him, he gratefully, in behalf of himself and his companions, returned thanks to the citizens of London for the favors and protection which they had extended to the five men who were under the ban of a Monarch’s wrath. The sheriffs were then similarly thanked by a unanimous vote of the House, and orders were issued that a guard, selected from the train-bands of the city, should attend daily to watch over the safety of the Parliament.
It was a great day for the Parliamentary leaders. With more than half the nation at their back they never faltered in pressing on the revolution. They would employ peaceful means if possible; if not, they would endure bloodshed and war. The threatened arrest had cemented some discordant fractures in the Parliamentary ranks, it had brought over some wavering Lords to the popular side, and, above all, it had kindled in the hearts of the five members a sense of personal injury which nerved them to aggressions at which patriotism would have timidly paused. Lord Clarendon has observed that “Mr. Hampden was much altered after this accusation; his nature and courage seeming much fiercer than before.” And it is certain that Pym and Hampden inspired and led those extremists for root-and-branch measures, both as to the Crown and the Church, whose fiery and uncompromising zeal overthrew all overtures for peace, and finally produced war. Among these men were Oliver Cromwell, Oliver St. John, and young Sir Harry Vane. Of the conduct of the Parliament after the King’s flight, the great Lord Chatham has justly said, “There was ambition, there was sedition, there was violence; but no man shall persuade me that it was not the cause of liberty on one side, and of tyranny on the other.”
The purpose of the Commons to regard themselves as the principal part of the government was rather ludicrously shown in a vote that had passed not long before, in which it was declared that a majority vote of their House, together with a minority vote of the House of Lords, would be sufficient to enact laws. A perspicacious member who suggested that this principle could be reversed so as to make a majority of the Lords and a minority of the Commons defeat such legislation vas instantly committed for contempt, and made to retract his words before he could again assume his seat.
But the Lower House soon gave a more formidable expression to this assumption of superiority. They were desperately in need of money, and applied to the City of London for a loan. The authorities, under the dictation of Pym, refused to advance the funds except upon certain conditions, which were delivered in the form of twelve specific grievances, for which they demanded instant redress. These grievances consisted of those crying evils which had afflicted the nation since the beginning of the present reign. In a conference between the two Houses, Pym asked for the concurrence of the Lords in further restrictive legislation, and concluded a long speech in these words:
“The Commons will be glad to have your concurrence and help in saving of the kingdom; but, if they fail of it, it shall not discourage them in doing their duty. And whether the kingdom be lost or saved (I hope, through God’s blessing, it will be saved!), they shall be sorry that the story of this present Parliament should tell posterity that, in so great a danger and extremity, the House of Commons should be enforced to save the Kingdom alone, and that the Peers should have no part in the honor of the preservation of it, having so great an interest in the good success of those endeavors in respect of their great estates and high degrees of nobility.”
The first step towards the beginning of the Civil War was now taken. At Hull, a town on the Humber, in the North of England, and commanding the sea, were still stored the munitions which had been collected for the second Bishops’ War. Besides, the place was convenient for the landing of such foreign troops as Charles might be able to enlist for the subjugation of his kingdom. The Parliament learned that the King had appointed the Earl of Newcastle to be Governor of Hull, and that he had given instructions to Captain Legg, an officer who had been concerned in the army plots, to hasten to Hull and secure the good will of the people in the North to their new Governor. The Parliament issued orders to Sir John Hotham to secure Hull by means of the Yorkshire trained bands, and not to deliver it up until he was ordered to do so by “the King’s authority, signified unto him by the Lords and Commons now assembled in Parliament.” In a few minutes young John Hotham, the son of Sir John, and himself a member of Parliament, was spurring his horse over the frozen road, and it was a race for Hull between him and Captain Legg, in which Hotham arrived first, and secured the adherence of the old Knight to the Parliament.
In the face of such a stirring incident, the Lords joined with the Commons in measures looking to the common safety. A bill was promptly passed enabling Parliament to adjourn itself to any place it would, the intention being to enable it to sit at Guildhall instead of at Westminster. This was sent to the King, who was now gone to Windsor, and who returned answer that he would take time to consider the bill; and he took occasion to announce to the Parliament that, as the legality of his impeachment of the accused members had been disputed, he would now abandon it and proceed against them “in an unquestionable way.” This declaration that he would not drop the prosecution threw the Commons into a greater irritation. Four thousand of Hampden’s constituents rode up from Buckinghamshire, and announced that they were ready to live and die in defense of the privileges of Parliament.
As the King’s friends were meeting in armed parties from time to time, the Parliament invited all the counties of England to call out their trained bands for drilling and defense. The declaration stated that all that had occurred amiss was caused by the papists. It was the firm belief of Parliament that there was a vast conspiracy for the restoration jointly of absolute monarchy and popery, and the Irish rebellion, the impeachment of the five members, and the growing cloud of civil war were considered to be due to the unfolding of that plot.
On January 17, 1642, Heenvliet, the agent of the Prince of Orange, was requested by the King to mediate with the Parliament. In this interview, Charles exhibited that singular insensibility to his environments which marked all his negotiations with the Parliament. Heenvliet asked him what message he should carry to them. “Tell them,” replied Charles, “that you find me hard to satisfy, and then they will be anxious to secure your help.” With his power and Crown already taken away, it was a bad time to tell them that he was hard to satisfy. The Queen was present and made bitter complaints of the Commons for their accusations against her. She declared that she had never given evil counsels to the King, and affirmed that she detested the Irish rebellion. The King, she said, would be content to enjoy his revenue as he had had it before these troubles, and would have his Parliament meet every three years instead of remaining in perpetual session. He would wait two days at Windsor for an answer. If none came he would take her and the Princess to Portsmouth where they would be put in safe custody, while he and the Prince of Wales would go on to Yorkshire. The King’s name, she said, was reverenced everywhere outside of London. He would issue a manifesto announcing his desire for peace and forbidding the trained bands to obey anyone but himself. But if they went to Portsmouth, she concluded, the Prince of Orange must not allow the King to perish. Nothing of good or ill resulted from Heenvliet’s interposition.
The two Houses passed a bill excluding the bishops from their seats in the House of Lords. It was a blow which paralyzed the power of the Church to interfere in temporal affairs. The King was much displeased. “How am I to take away the bishops,” he said, “having sworn at my coronation to maintain them in their privileges and preeminences? At the beginning I was told that all would go well if I would allow the execution of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; then it was, if I would grant a triennial Parliament; then it was, if I would allow the present Parliament to remain sitting as long as it wished; now it is, if I will place the ports, the Tower, and the militia in their hands; and scarcely has that request been presented, when they ask me to remove the bishops.” But Charles, anxious for peace, signed the Exclusion Bill, and appointed Conyers, a Puritan, to the Lieutenancy of the Tower, in place of Byron.
Beyond all that he had heretofore granted, he now consented to give them the control of the militia if they would but set a limit to the time at which their control should expire. Both Houses thanked him warmly for his concessions, but immediately impeached his loyal adherent, Lord Digby, for high treason, on account of a letter to the Queen in which Digby had only used expressions which proved his unswerving loyalty to the King. The King and Queen had now reached Dover in their hapless wanderings. Henrietta Maria, accompanied by her daughter and carrying with her the Crown jewels and much precious plate, set sail for Holland, entertaining a high hope of her ability to obtain both men and money for the rehabilitation of the King’s dignity. Charles bade her a most tender farewell, and galloped along the high gray cliffs with the vessel’s course, until the ship, bearing its precious burden, put out to sea and was lost to view. The Queen being out of danger, he refused to sign the militia ordinance.
The “Paper War,” which name has been applied to the exchange of the messages between the King and his Parliament, was waxing warm. The King sent them word that he was willing to accept the persons to command the militia whom they would nominate, but they must receive their commissions from himself, and those commissions must cease whenever he should so desire it. As this arrangement would give them no security against the King’s caprice, the Houses voted that the answer was equivalent to a denial of their request. They begged him to fix his residence nearer to Westminster, as his peripatetic course was stirring up excitement and danger. “For my residence near you,” the King answered, “I wish it might be so safe and honorable that I had no cause to absent myself from Whitehall; ask yourselves whether I have or not.” The day after this answer was dispatched (March 2, 1642), Charles started for the North. On March 5, the Houses passed their ordinance putting the militia in charge of their own officers, and thus seized the power of the sword into their own custody. On the 9th the King was overtaken at Newmarket by a Parliamentary committee. Would not His Majesty approve their control of the militia for a limited time? “No, by God,” thundered the aroused King, “not for an hour. You have asked that of me in this, was never asked of a king, and with which I will not trust my wife and children.” They read him a list of grievances. “That’s false!” “That’s a lie!” were the comments which he passed upon each article. “What would you have?” he cried. “Have I violated your laws? Have I denied to pass one bill for the ease and security of my subjects? I do not ask you what you have done for me. God so deal with me and mine, as all my thoughts and intentions are upright for the maintenance of the true Protestant profession, and for the observation and preservation of the laws of this land; and I hope God will bless and assist those laws for my preservation.” The Earl of Pembroke begged Charles to come nearer to Westminster, and to say clearly what he desired. “I would whip a boy in Westminster School,” he replied, “who could not tell that by my answer.”
The King’s proclamation that the ordinances of the two Houses were not to be obeyed without his consent, drew forth a sharp answer from Parliament, which was revolutionary to the core, “that when the Lords and Commons in Parliament, which is the supreme court of judicature in the kingdom, shall declare what the law of the land is, to have this not only questioned and controverted, but contradicted, and a command that it should not be obeyed, is a high breach of the privilege of Parliament.” The King adroitly quoted a speech of Pym’s against the present course of the Commons:
“Mr. Pym himself tells you, in his speech against the Earl of Strafford (published by the order of the House of Commons), ‘The law is the safeguard, the custody of all private interests; your honors, your lives, your liberties and estates are all in the keeping of the law; without this, every man hath a like right to anything.’ And we would fain be answered, what title any subject of our own kingdom hath to his house or land, that we have not to our town of Hull… We conclude with Mr. Pym’s own words: ‘If the prerogative of the King overwhelm the liberty of the people, it will be turned to tyranny; if liberty undermine the prerogative, it will grow into anarchy’; and so we say into confusion.”
The Commons, in their reply to this deft thrust, struck the keynote of their own feelings in the controversy. “If,” they answered, “we have done more than our ancestors have done, we have suffered more than ever they have suffered.”
Their many denunciations of the King’s conduct, in which they dutifully charged its reprehensible parts to “his evil counselors,” led Charles to say to them that “he could wish that his own immediate actions, which he avows on his own honor, might not be so roughly censured under that common style of evil counselors.” This evoked a reply which showed that one principle, at least, of the old constitution remained intact and alive in the respect of the nation. “We, His Majesty’s loyal and dutiful subjects,” said they, “can use no other style, according to that maxim in the law, The King can do no wrong, but if any ill be committed in matter of state, the council must answer for it; if in matters of justice, the judges.” This ancient and humane concession to the individuality of the sovereign was swept away at a later day in that burst of fanaticism and party spirit which brought Charles to the block.
Charles, notwithstanding all the errors of his government, was intensely in earnest in striving to stop the tide of incivism which was overthrowing public order. In a further message to Parliament he quoted a fine passage from one of Pym’s speeches in the Strafford trial, thus showing his respect for Pym’s intellect and at the same time thrusting upon the Commons a rebuke in Pym’s own words. The King appealed to them thus:
“It was well said in a speech made by a private person (Mr. Pym), ‘The law is that which puts a difference betwixt good and evil, betwixt just and unjust. If you take away the law, all things will fall into a confusion; every man will become a law unto himself, which, in the depraved condition of human nature, must needs produce many great enormities. Lust will become a law, and envy will become a law; covetousness and ambition will become laws; and what dictates, what decisions such laws will produce, may easily be discerned.’ So said that gentleman, and much more, very well, in defense of the law, and against arbitrary power. It is worth looking over and considering; and if the most zealous defense of the true Protestant profession and the most resolved protection of the law be the most necessary duty of a Prince, we cannot believe this miserable distance and misunderstanding can be long continued between us; we have often and earnestly declared them to be the chiefest desires of our soul, and the end and rule of all our actions.”
When Parliament asked his permission to bring the military stores from Hull to London, he correctly referred to their appointment of Hotham as an illegal act, and then made a candid appeal to their sense of right. He wrote:
“And now let us ask you; … Will there never be a time to offer to, as well as to ask of us? We will propose no more particulars to you, having no such luck to please or to be understood by you. Take your own time for what concerns our particulars; but be sure you have an early speedy care of the public, that is, of the only rule which preserves the public, the law of the land; preserve the dignity and reverence due to that.”
The “Paper War” was feeding a bitterness of spirit between the two parties which must soon break out into a sanguinary conflict. Charles firmly believed that the Puritan majority in the House of Commons was endeavoring to strip him of his lawful and regal authority in order to destroy the Established Church. The Commons just as firmly believed that Charles, under the inspiration of his Catholic spouse, was engaged in a wicked plot to establish the pope’s authority throughout the British dominions. Civil liberty had long since ceased to be the goal of this revolution. It was Protestantism, and all that Protestantism had done to make free the minds and the consciences of men, which was inspiring the conduct of the Commons. It was the old theory of the divine right and the individual power of the sovereign which led Charles to resist. And however exalted may have been the motives of the Commons, or however selfish the motives of the King, the candid historian cannot but acknowledge that the two parties were at cross-purposes, and that they were led into war rather by an overpowering suspicion which each held against the other’s rectitude, than by those irremediable oppressions which have always justified revolutions in the past, and will ever palliate them in the future.
The Queen was busily at work in Holland, and expected to be able to embark a band of mercenary soldiers whenever the King’s affairs might require their aid. She wrote to Charles that he must seize Hull in order to possess a seaport for landing troops, for the Parliament now controlled the Navy.
On the 19th of March, 1642, the King and his retinue rode into York, and Charles exerted every art of his princely manner to win the cordial sympathy of his northern subjects. He likewise sought favor with the Puritans by ordering the execution of all the laws against the Catholics. The people received him loyally. Indeed, Charles had by this time gathered a party to his side in the pending controversy. In 1640 he had stood alone. In 1642, having yielded his assent to measures which made the formation of a model government possible, the fear of arbitrary power, which had once been held with full justice against him, was now held—shall we say with equal justice?—against the House of Commons. A large preponderance of the nobility and gentry was heartily in sympathy with the King. But up to this time there was a very small number indeed who would proclaim themselves ready to take arms against a Parliament to which the nation indubitably owed the establishment of its civil liberty.
Under the pretext of a wish to keep state at Easter and at the Feast of St. George, but really to demonstrate that the center of the State was present wherever his own person was, the King summoned the Lords Holland and Essex, with others from the Upper House at Westminster, to attend him at York. The House of Lords refused to let them go, and ordered them to remain in attendance upon their Parliamentary duties.
On March 25, the grand jury of Kent drew up a petition to the Parliament praying for the protection of the Episcopal religion, the prevention of the spread of sectarianism, the execution of the anti-Catholic laws, and the settlement of the militia by and with the King’s consent. This Kentish petition was the first formal declaration of any portion of the people in favor of the King’s cause. Its reading in the House of Commons excited the gravest indignation, and the persons who were instrumental in its preparation were summoned to Westminster as offenders against the privilege and dignity of Parliament, and two of them were committed to the Tower. Thus the Parliament, while giving the widest publicity to the petitions which favored their side of the dispute, violently attempted to throttle a fair discussion of the principles involved as seen from the Cavaliers’ point of view. With the vote which made prisoners of these Kentish petitioners, the outraged feelings of those in the minority brought the party spirit to a condition where war seemed to be the inevitable solution of the vexing question. It at once became apparent that this perpetual Parliament no longer represented the nation, but only a part—and no man could say how large a part—of the nation. The Commons were clearly aiming at arbitrary power under the sway of Pym, as much as the King had aimed at arbitrary power under the sway of Strafford. And men began to ponder, while forming themselves on the party lines of Roundhead or Cavalier, whether it were not better to preserve the ancient form of the government under the now limited prerogative of the King, than to tacitly permit the Commons to establish further new and untried theories in the organic constitution.
Orders were sent from Parliament to Hotham to reinforce his garrison at Hull, and a few days later a body of horsemen rode out of London to join the King at York. Pym still believed, or professed to believe, that he had all England at his back, but when a member proposed to send a delegation into each county to inquire into the state of public feeling, he was not willing to submit his popularity to such a test.
The King now informed the Parliament of his desire to lead an army into Ireland for the suppression of the rebellion which was still raging there, but the Parliament interpreted this offer as an attempt to place himself at the head of an armed host for their own subjugation, and they therefore begged him not to endanger the safety of his sacred person in such a laudable but hazardous expedition. Both parties were waiting for an overt act of war, each fearful to take the initiative.
The Queen was rashly importuning the King to begin hostilities by seizing Hull. She said in one of her letters:
“As to what you wrote me that everybody dissuades you concerning Hull from taking it by force, unless the Parliament begins, is it not beginning to put persons into it against your orders? … For your having Hull is not beginning anything violent, for it is only against the rascal who refuses it to you… Think that if you had not stopped so prematurely, our affairs would perhaps be in a better state than they are, and you would at this moment have Hull.”
The King accepted this logic, bad as it was. On the 22nd of April he sent the Elector Palatine and his own son, the Duke of York, to visit the town, as if in the way of friendly inspection. With them were some fifty true men. The following day the King approached the town with only three hundred of his followers. When almost in sight of the walls he sent a message to Hotham informing him that he was coming to view his magazines. Had Charles ridden into the town unannounced, Hotham would hardly have dared to oppose his King’s entry into his own possessions. But forewarned, he had time to act. He closed the gates and raised the drawbridges, sending word to the King that he could not break his trust with the Parliament. In a few moments Charles appeared, and his men cried out to the garrison to kill Hotham and throw him over the wall. Charles offered to take only twenty men with him if the gates were opened. Hotham, fearing the royalist sentiment of the populace, on which the King doubtless counted, refused. The repulsed Monarch ordered the herald to proclaim Hotham a traitor, and rode away. The advantage was certainly with the Parliament. They at once issued an order for the removal of the Hull magazine to London; and on May 10 both Houses reviewed the London trained bands, to the number of 8,000, in Finsbury Fields.
On the 14th the King issued an order requiring the gentry of the county to appear under arms at York on the 20th as a guard for his person. He also sent instructions to Skippon, in command of the London trained bands, to come to York, and ordered the Lord Keeper to remove the law courts from Westminster to York. The Parliament promptly voted these orders illegal, and on the 20ththey declared that the King intended to make war on his Parliament, and begged him to desist from his purpose of raising troops.
The King’s guard was becoming formidable. He had now a regiment of trained bands, and about two hundred gentlemen of Yorkshire well mounted. He had summoned such of the Lords and Commons as were willing to support him to come to him, and many of them accepted his invitation. Indeed, a stream of persons of the better conditions began to set in towards York.
On June 2nd a further step was made in the “Paper War” by the Parliament sending their Nineteen Propositions off to the King. In these propositions the Parliament sought to establish their own complete sovereignty. They were to select the King’s Council, his officials, the judges of the land. They were to control the Army and the Navy. The King’s guard was to be dismissed. The laws against Catholics were to be executed, and the children of Catholics educated as Protestants. The Episcopal Church was to be reformed according to the desires of Parliament. The boldness of these propositions was startling even to Charles, who would not expect to be startled by any demand they might make. Their adoption would completely abrogate the ancient constitution, and yet, except for the provisions against the Catholics and the references to merely temporary affairs, they were no more than a recital of those principles of popular government which prevail in England today.
Four days later they went still further in their claim of a right to administer all the functions of government, and that, too, in the King’s name. They declared that “what they do herein hath the stamp of royal authority, although his Majesty, seduced by evil counsel, do in his own person oppose or interrupt the same; for the King’s supreme and royal pleasure is exercised and declared in this high court of law and counsel, after a more eminent and obligatory manner than it can be by personal act or resolution of his own.”
On the 3rd of June there was a vast meeting of the farmers and freeholders of Yorkshire, by the King’s order, on Heyworth Moor, the gathering being variously estimated at from 40,000 to 80,000persons. An effort to engage the sympathy of this mixed crowd wholly for the King did not fully succeed, as there were shouts all day for both King and Parliament.
The King had issued a proclamation forbidding the execution of the Militia Ordinance, but, finding his prohibition without avail, he determined to organize his own forces, and to that end he issued commissions of array, directing the trained bands to place themselves only at the disposal of officers appointed by himself.
In the meantime the Queen had sold her jewels and purchased arms in Amsterdam. She then successively applied for armed assistance from Holland, Denmark, Bavaria, France, and Spain, but received no encouragement; and the King, learning of these futile efforts, resolved then, as he should long ago have resolved, to depend upon Englishmen alone to correct whatever evils were arising from the encroachments of Englishmen. On June 13, he publicly declared that he would maintain the just privileges of Parliament, and would not make war upon them except in the necessary defense of himself and of the loyal subjects who surrounded his person. All the Peers at York, there being thirty-five, then joined in a protest that no aggressive war was intended, but that they, who were on the ground and familiar with the King’s designs, would testify to the world that all his endeavors were intended to secure the true Protestant religion, the just privileges of Parliament, the liberty of the subject, and the law, peace, and prosperity of the kingdom. This declaration of the Peers was the most important event that had occurred since the King’s flight from London, for it was the first distinct notice the world received that Charles had formed a Royalist party upon firm constitutional principles, led by the nobility of the realm, who were even now prepared to defend him with their swords.
Money and plate began to pour in both at Westminster and at York. The people were taking sides, and were willing to sacrifice all their possessions in defense of the cause they espoused. So narrow was the dividing line that families were often parted by a son choosing for the Parliament and a father for the King; and it has been said that there were families owning large estates, who, out of a fear of future confiscation, would send one member to the King and another to the Parliament, so that he who might be on the winning side could protect the interests of all.
Under the commissions of array the King’s officers attempted to assemble the trained bands. In some of the counties the militia obeyed them. In others they refused.
The greatest disadvantage which Charles had incurred when he fled from his capital was the abandonment of those financial resources which were his according to the law. He had but £600 when he left Whitehall, and he would long since have yielded through inanition had it not been for the generosity of two of his Catholic Peers, the Earl of Worcester and his accomplished son, Lord Herbert. By the time the King arrived at York he had received £22,000 from these devoted subjects, and when war appeared to be inevitable, Lord Herbert (afterwards, as the Marquis of Worcester, to become the inventor of that “fire-water machine” which preceded Watt’s discovery of steam by more than a century) drained all the resources of his family’s estates, and presented Charles with £100,000, which enabled the delighted King to prepare for war.
Charles now dismissed the Earl of Northumberland from his office of Lord High Admiral, and appointed Pennington in his place. The Parliament instantly appointed the Earl of Warwick, who arrived at the coast first, and, boarding the flagship, summoned the Captains of the fleet to accept him as their Admiral. Five of them stood for the King, but their crews were for the Parliament, and before the day had closed, Warwick’s authority had been conceded by the entire fleet.
On July 6, the Parliament resolved to raise an army in London and the surrounding country of ten thousand men. There were some staunch Puritans in the House of Commons who were appalled at this apparent inaugural of war. Sir Simonds D’Ewes, adhering to the majority, made this significant declaration, at a moment when the war cloud was already rolling overhead, and which posterity must accept as at least a partial vindication of the concessions which Charles I had already made to his people: “In respect of civil affairs,” said D’Ewes, “I dare be bold to say that the liberty and property of the subject were never so clearly asserted to them as they are at present. The main matter then which yet remains to be secured to us is the reformation of religion.”
The King was actively massing his troops in the North, and he now appointed the Earl of Lindsey General of his Army. On the 11th of July the Parliament passed a declaration that the King had actually begun the war, and on the 12th the Earl of Essex was appointed to command the Parliamentary Army. It was a stirring time at Westminster, and both Houses solemnly united in a declaration to live and die with Essex in the cause for which he had accepted their commission.
The great universities were with the King. Oxford sent him 10,000 pounds and Cambridge 6,000 pounds. On August 9th Charles proclaimed Essex and his officers traitors, but offered a free pardon to all who would within the week throw down their arms. Colonel George Goring, who had betrayed the King in the army plot one year ago, now betrayed the Parliament, and held Portsmouth in the King’s name. In Warwickshire the Earl of Northampton took some guns that were sent by the Parliament for the defense of Warwick Castle. The Earl of Hertford had organized an enthusiastic band of Royalists in Somerset. On August 12, the King issued a proclamation inviting his loyal subjects to rally round the royal standard, which was shortly to be set up. On the 18ththe Parliament denounced as traitors all who gave assistance to the King. On the 20th the King appeared before the walls of Coventry and demanded that the gates be opened. A sally followed, and some of his followers were killed.
On the 22nd the King arrived at Nottingham, accompanied by his two sons and his nephew, Prince Rupert, together with a proper retinue. The royal standard was presently brought from the castle and firmly erected, and its silken folds were defiantly flung to the breeze, while a blare of trumpets from the heralds proclaimed that the Civil War had begun. An inauspicious wind blew down the standard the same night.
Prince Rupert, a heroic and splendid figure, now comes upon our story, and simultaneously with his advent into England are heard the loud alarums of war.
“This Prince,” says an extravagant biographer, “began to be illustrious many ages before his birth, and we must look back into history above two thousand years, to discover the first rays of his glory.” His father was Frederick, Prince Palatine of the Rhine and King of Bohemia, and his mother was Elizabeth Stuart, the beautiful sister of Charles I, called the Pearl of Britain, and beloved by one half of Europe for her sweetness and virtue and her sufferings in the Protestant War. Rupert, the young Palatine, was born on the 18th of December, 1619, at Prague, and was the second son of his parents. He was ushered into the world amid the panoply and pomp of war. A knight in complete armor received the babe from the physicians’ hands, and the assembled nobles declared that he should be their future Grand Duke of Lithuania. But the fortunes of war drove the royal family out of Prague, and when the future Cavalier was one year old, his mother, then a fugitive from pursuing hosts, gave birth to her third son, the Prince Maurice (December 25, 1620). Then came those futile negotiations on the part of the English Court for the restoration of the Palatinate to this unfortunate family, which lasted through many years, and which have in part already been related. Young Rupert was sent to school at the University of Leyden, where he was “made Jesuit-proof,” so that those “subtle priests with whom he had been much conversant, could never make him stagger.”
The bigoted and tyrannical oppressions of Austria and Spain were suddenly opposed by the mailed hand of Sweden’s King, Gustavus Adolphus, and through his brilliant victories Protestantism was invincibly advanced on the Continent of Europe. The death of Gustavus on the field of Lutzen (1632) at the moment when his adversaries were dispersed in flight, deprived a victorious army of a powerful personal force. But the cause flourished; the Prince of Orange continued the warfare, and under him Rupert gained his first experience in arms. His earliest encounters on the field were marked by that gallant but reckless courage which afterwards, in the English Civil Wars, made him so illustrious a soldier and so unfortunate a commander. When he was sixteen years of age he accompanied his elder brother, Charles Louis, to England, where he was received with great favor at the Court of Charles. On his return he was made a Colonel in the Prince of Orange’s army, and in a fight in which he displayed great bravery was taken prisoner by the Austrians, and was for a long time confined in the fortress of Lintz, on the Danube River. Shortly after his release from this irksome captivity, the affairs of his royal uncle had reached a pass which caused the young Palatine to hasten to England, and he reached the harassed Monarch barely in time to attend the raising of the standard at Nottingham.
He was now nearly twenty-three. His portrait by Vandyke presents the figure of a tall and powerful youth, full of grace and dignity. He had large, dark eyebrows, a chiseled Norman nose, a firm and handsome mouth. His “love-locks” fell below his neck. His face was clean shaven. His eye was like that of the hawk, and like the hawk was his swoop upon the battlefield, audacious, swift, and cruel. He was a beautiful and indomitable Prince, whose life at the time of his arrival in England was sufficiently marked by romance to win the adoration of those gay horsemen of the King’s army over whom he was now appointed General. Rupert had great bodily vigor, quick decision, and an unfaltering but rash courage which would have made him an ideal cavalry leader if his authority had been subordinated to a capable commander. The time is coming when he must be held responsible for his share in the failure of the royal cause. Yet the strange paradox must be remembered that in all the battles in which he engaged he won his part of the fight. It was so at Edgehill, at Newbury, at Marston Moor, at Naseby. The forces which he personally opposed were put to slaughter or to flight, but while he swept like a whirlwind of death in the pursuit, disaster inevitably smote the friends who were battling behind him.
The King Beats All But Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell, hitherto unknown to the English nation, now found a field in which the vast stature of his abilities was soon revealed. At the commencement of the Civil War he emerged from the obscurity of a Parliamentary career to which he was not suited, and embraced the soldier’s life like one born to the profession of arms.
He placed himself promptly on the side of the Puritans by subscribing £500 for the service.
In the middle of July (1642), he spent his own money to purchase arms which were sent to Cambridge for the defense of the county. Through the influence of his cousin, John Hampden, he was made captain of a troop of horse. His activity and energy were conspicuous at the outset. Riding into Cambridge early in August with a few followers, he found the University about to send its plate, valued at £20,000, to the King at Nottingham. He seized this fine offering and presented it to the Parliament. Two sons of Bramston, the ship-money judge, who were riding from York to London on the King’s business about the middle of August, were stopped by Cromwell and made to give an account of themselves.
The intelligence that came from Nottingham of the continued accessions to the King’s camp induced the Parliament with grim earnestness to prepare an army.
There was a natural hesitation in drawing up the commission for the Earl of Essex as Commander-in-Chief. It was a flagrant kind of high treason, compared with which, anything they had previously done could have been easily overlooked. But at length Essex was appointed “Lord General for King and Parliament,” with instructions to deliver the person of His Sacred Majesty from malignant traitors and evil counselors who had seduced him. The Earl of Peterborough was General of the Ordnance. The Earl of Bedford was General of the Horse, with seventy-five troops of sixty men each. In troop sixty-seven the captain was Oliver Cromwell, the member for Cambridge. In troop eight there was another Oliver Cromwell, cornet, a son of the member for Cambridge, and then about twenty years old. Hampden was a colonel; Hazelrig and Hollis enlisted, making three of the five members to draw their swords against the King. Many other members preferred the Army to the legislature, and followed Essex; while still others joined the Royal Army at Nottingham. Thus it went on until the Parliament had mustered 15,000 men and the King about 12,000.
There is a story told in the old books of a visit which Cromwell made to Huntingdon, during which he learned of the active participation his uncle, that fine old Knight, Sir Oliver Cromwell, was taking in the Cavalier uprising. Sir Oliver was a staunch King’s man, and both he and his sons served the King with fidelity and zeal throughout the war. He had collected a store of arms for the Royal Army when the future Protector came riding into his country place, followed by a stout troop of Roundheads. The old Royalist entertained but small patience for the Puritan opinions of his nephew, and received him coldly. But Oliver was not to be rebuffed. He took off his hat dutifully, and insisted on keeping it off while in his uncle’s presence for near two hours, and even besought the old Knight’s blessing. When this favor had been reluctantly granted, he seized all the arms and ammunition about the place, and appropriated them, together with all of Sir Oliver’s plate, for the public service. The Journals of the House of Commons six years later (April 17, 1648) contain an entry which makes some reparation for this harsh conduct. When the Royalist cause had compassed the ruin of every man who adhered to the King, the sequestration of the estates of this broken Knight was, through the influence of his nephew, taken off, and he was permitted to enjoy his property in the day of Puritan ascendancy.
While making the most active preparations for war, both parties continued to utter the loudest asseverations for peace. The “Paper War” grew hotter as the time for actual conflict approached. The Parliament continued to demand the control of the Church and the Sword. The King continued to insist that he had already granted all that made the liberty and happiness of his people secure.
The Earl of Essex at length felt himself ready to move. On the 9th of September, 1642, he set out from London in great state, accompanied by many members of both the Houses, and proceeded to St. Albans, where the full strength of the Parliamentary forces assembled. The appearance of the troops was extremely picturesque. The old feudal notion of military individuality was still popular. Hampden’s stout yeomen were arrayed in green coats; Colonel Meyrick’s in gray. Lord Saye and Lord Mandeville had dressed their men in blue. Purple distinguished Lord Brooke’s men; and Denzil Hollis led the London recruits in bright scarlet. The guards of Lord Essex adopted the buff leather coats, which afterwards became the uniform dress of the Roundheads. The Parliamentary standard was black, with a buff Bible, and the motto, in letters of gold, “God With Us.” The men were supplied with arms and ammunition gathered from the fortress of Hull and from the Tower of London.
The King appointed Shrewsbury for the rendezvous of his army. In the meantime Prince Rupert was making his name a terror through the land. “This Prince,” says a Parliamentary historian, “was a fiery youth, and with his flying squadrons of horse burnt towns and villages, destroying the countries where he came, and indulging his soldiers in plunder and blood.” He levied ruthlessly on the possessions of all the enemies of the King, and the new word plunder, which had been brought into England from the wars of Gustavus Adolphus, was appropriately given to his marauding methods. He paused in his meteor-like progress long enough to send a challenge to the Earl of Essex to decide their cause by a duel, and the Earl declared his readiness to meet him. But King Charles I was the only man living whose sacrifice in single combat could have appeased the nation’s quarrel.
Sir John Byron was holding Worcester for the King; and Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes and Colonel Sandys, with a force of Parliament troops, marched thither (September 24) to drive him out. The attack was not well planned. Fiennes expected Essex to support him, but when he arrived he found Prince Rupert and the Cavaliers there, who put him to flight with a loss of four hundred slain. Essex came up on the 25th with the main force, and Rupert and Byron retired with the prestige of first victory.
Late in September the King arrayed his army in the park at Shrewsbury. His forces were not so well equipped as those of the Parliament. There were more men from the organized county militia with the Parliament than with the King. But the Cavalier Lords had contributed their wealth with extraordinary liberality, and many of them rode into Shrewsbury with companies of soldiers who were dressed, armed, and mounted out of their private fortunes. Foremost in the array was the King’s troop of Life Guards under Lord Bernard Stuart, and composed of all the lords and gentlemen who had no separate commands. They still wore the casque and plume of the old Knights, and each guard was laced in a glittering cuirass with gay scarf and gilded sword belt. Steel pieces protected their shoulders and arms, and mailed gauntlets their hands. Cuisses over their thighs completed the defensive armor of the Cavaliers from the top of the head to the saddle-seat. Great leather boots capable of reaching the hip, though usually worn doubled down below the knee, covered their legs. An embroidered lace collar was worn for ornament, and their curled locks fell long and loosely on their shoulders. For arms they carried long, but rather slight straight swords, half basket-hilted, and a brace of clumsy pistols; some carried, besides, a short battle axe at the saddle-bow.
The ordinary cavalry troops were appointed after the same general fashion, though with less magnificence. Most of them were men who were able to bring their own horses into the field; others were fitted out by their great neighbors from the armories in the old baronial halls. Harquebusier was the name applied to these yeoman troopers, and they wore a lighter headpiece than the Cavalier, with bars of iron to protect the face, instead of a visor, and only a back- and breast-piece of steel. They carried the harquebuss or carbine, three feet in length, and a long straight sword. The dragoon was the third class of cavalry, dressed in a buff coat with long skirts, and wearing an iron skullcap, with cheek-pieces of the same metal. His musket was slung by a leathern belt across the right shoulder. Another belt carried his powder flask, priming box, bullets, and sword. There were a few lancers, though their service was not conspicuous except at Marston Moor. This cavalry was invincible throughout the war, and it broke the opposing ranks in every charge it made; but the high spirits of the men could never be subjected to a proper discipline, and its usual fortune was to sweep one wing of the opposing army off the field, and, while pursuing it in slaughter and pillage, leave the remaining troops to disaster at the hands of the other wing.
But the King’s reliance was mainly on his infantry. The pikeman was dressed in leathern doublet, steel cap, cloth hose, and square-toed shoes. Over his coat, when it could be obtained, was a back- and breast-piece of steel, with an iron hook at the back on which to hang his steel cap while marching. The musketeer wore a broad belt for his powder and bullets over his left shoulder, and a sword belt over his right. These were the prescribed dresses of the infantry. But it must be told that there were hundreds of them who came to Shrewsbury wearing their farming clothes, and armed with nothing but the rude implements of husbandry; and indeed, at the opening of the war, there were a few who viewed the conflict empty-handed, incapable for the time either to attack or defend.
The King began his march with about 2,000 cavalry, 6,000 infantry, and 1,500 dragoons. His artillery and his non-combatant followers swelled his total force to 12,000. The line of his march was straight to London.
Essex, as we have seen, commanded an army of 15,000 men. He sat still at Worcester until the King had advanced a day ahead of him towards the capital. This situation threw the Parliament into great terror, and there was a suspicion that a large part of the London citizens would grant aid and comfort to the King as soon as he came within safe distance. They sent messengers to Essex, commanding him to make all speed to their relief, and they themselves exhausted every effort to strengthen their defenses. On Sunday, October 23, 1642, Essex came in sight of the King at Edgehill, near Keinton, on the south edge of Warwickshire.
The King was astir at sunrise. Taking with him his sons, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, then in their tender youth, he ascended the hill. Prince Rupert and the Cavalier officers were already there. The King applied his prospective glass. The air was cold and clear. Far below him lay the vale of Red-Horse, extending in an unbroken plain to the town of Keinton. About one mile distant was the Lord General and the Parliamentary army, forming for the first battle of the Civil War. There was no haste on either side, and each seemed reluctant to make the first attack.
When Essex had completed his preparations he sat still on the plain. Far up on the hillside the Cavaliers began to move. But a dispute arose as to the order of battle. Lord Lindsey, the King’s General, had fought with Essex in the continental wars, and he now desired to follow the Low Country rules of cautious maneuver. Rupert, on the other hand, urged that a bold dash on the raw levies of the Roundheads would end it all. The King yielded to Rupert, and Lindsey, refusing to draw up a battle on another’s plan, declared that he would fight for his King as a simple colonel at the head of his Lincoln regiment. His son, Lord Willoughby, who commanded a troop in the Prince of Wales’ regiment, refused after this affair to fight under Rupert, and he took his post at his father’s side on foot. Charles then appointed Lord Ruthven, an experienced commander, to the post of General, thus, in his usual absence of tact, fostering private grievances on a most inopportune occasion. The formation of the King’s line then proceeded slowly. The infantry did not arrive until eleven o’clock, and the artillery not until one. The royal troops came down the hill, and the cautious Essex permitted them to form their lines on the plain without molestation. There were earnest prayers said in both armies. In the Puritan ranks the preachers rode through every regiment, exhorting their men in God’s name. Among the King’s men this prayer from old Sir Jacob Astley has been preserved. “O Lord!” he said, “thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me!” Then rising from his knees, he cried, “March on, boys!”
It was near three o’clock when three shots from the Parliament guns opened the battle. The King’s artillery instantly responded. There was a blaze of fire along both lines, and the Cavaliers advanced rapidly. The King’s Life Guard, impatient of restraint, had obtained permission to charge with Prince Rupert, leaving Charles under inadequate protection. As the royal cavalry rode on, Sir Faithful Fortescue and his entire regiment left the Parliamentary ranks and joined the Cavaliers, although some of his men were killed before their desertion was understood. Essex knew not how many others would behave with similar treachery, but the defection was forgotten in the assault that ensued. The Prince was charging their left wing. A thousand swords flashed in the afternoon sun. “For God and the King!” was the shout that came from every throat. The mettled steeds were urged onward with spur and voice. No foe could withstand that charge. It was the chivalry of England attacking the rude train-bands of the Midland counties. There was no resistance. Denzil Hollis and young Colonel Essex vainly strove to hold the Puritans. They turned and fled, throwing away their arms as they ran, but even then too slow to avoid the slaughter. Tired out with chasing the fleeing enemy, the Cavaliers turned to pillage the wagon trains, and found spoil enough to complete the equipment of their army.
From the King’s left wing the Cavaliers charged with equal impetuosity, and Meldrum’s Puritans fled with equal haste. The forces under Sir Arthur Aston, General Wilmot, Sir John Byron, and Lord Digby routed and pursued the Puritan right wing. With victory nearly won, the King’s infantry now stood unsupported in the center. In their extreme rear was the King, almost alone. It was the Lord General’s opportunity. Colonel Ballard charged in upon the royal artillery and cut down the gunners. His cry was “God with us!” Then, wheeling round, he struck the infantry in rear. Bad generalship on the King’s side was now apparent. The Cavaliers had held no reserve. Their center was broken and put to flight with disaster equal to any that had befallen the Roundheads. The King’s person was in danger. Threescore men fell dead in front of him. The Parliament men cut through the guard that had remained about him, and after a fierce fight captured the royal standard, killing Sir Edmund Verney, who bravely defended it. At the same time Lord Lindsey fell, mortally wounded, and his son, Lord Willoughby, was taken prisoner by his side. Charles had now less than a hundred of his guard with him. The Duke of Richmond and Sir John Culpepper urged the King to fly, but he sternly refused. His physical courage was beyond dispute. His fortunes were staked on this day’s fight, and he would abide the result. He saw that Ruthven and Astley were still keeping the division under Essex hotly engaged. His guards continued to fight. The royal standard was floating over the heads of a body of exultant Puritans, and Captain John Smith, of the King’s Life Guard, spurred his charger into the very midst of them, recaptured it, and, returning it to the King, was knighted on the spot. At this moment Prince Rupert appeared, and desired to re-form for another charge. He would probably have carried the day, as Essex, having spent all his ammunition and seeing half his army in flight, believed himself defeated, and had taken his stand in front of his pikemen, resolved to die with them in the next assault. But night was falling on the field. Nearly six thousand on both sides had fallen. Both men and horses were spent. The battle was undecisive. The King, while not beaten, could not claim a victory. “In this doubt on all sides,” says Lord Clarendon, who was with the King all day, “night, the common friend to wearied and dismayed armies, parted them.”
Of Oliver Cromwell, we only know that he was in this battle. The part he took was not important.
King Charles retired with his much weakened forces to the hill, while Essex, equally broken, bivouacked upon the field. The night was cold, and there was neither tree nor hedge to protect the men from the biting wind. Provisions were scarce, and wounded men died from lack of nourishment and care, while many of those who were unhurt slept supperless upon the stony ground.
The next day the two armies faced each other in sullen quiet. Essex had received during the preceding night fresh troops to the number of twenty-five hundred, including John Hampden’s regiment of horse, and he was advised to renew the battle, but refused to do so.
On Monday evening the King retired in order, and on Wednesday he reached Banbury, where the castle and town surrendered to him without a blow, and a regiment of the Parliamentary troops joined his army. After appointing a governor and garrison for Banbury Castle, he proceeded to Woodstock, and thence to Oxford, the one entirely loyal spot in England. Here he held his quarters through the winter, while Lord Essex established himself at Warwick.
In the meantime Prince Rupert was marauding fiercely over the country, and coming dangerously near to London, so that Essex was summoned back to Westminster, where he received the thanks of Parliament and a gratuity of 5,000 pounds. The Prince captured Lord Saye’s house at Broughton, and at other places laid rude hands on money, clothing, forage, and goods of every variety, wheresoever he could find them. The King’s cause was highly prosperous. In Yorkshire the Earl of Cumberland had raised large levies, and Lord Newcastle had beaten the Fairfaxes, Sir Hugh Cholmondeley, and the Hothams. Sir Ralph Hopton, one of the ablest of the King’s generals, was recruiting a powerful army in the West. In Wales the Earl of Worcester, with a great body of the Welsh, maintained the authority of the Crown.
The Parliament sent to Scotland imploring the aid of that kingdom, and began to talk about making a treaty of peace. During the first year of the war there was a much larger degree of success on the King’s side than on that of the Parliament. As soon as Charles had established himself in Oxford and sufficiently fortified the town, he began a gradual approach to London. As he neared Reading, Henry Marten, the Parliament’s governor, and himself a member of the House of Commons, fled to London with his garrison, leaving the place to Prince Rupert’s men. At Reading the King received the Parliament’s request for a safe-conduct for their committee on a treaty of peace. He instantly issued the pass, only objecting to Sir John Evelyn whom he had previously proclaimed a traitor. Thereupon the Parliament declared that it was a high breach of privilege to except any one of their House. The King then moved to Colebrooke, on the outskirts of the capital, when the Parliament, yielding to their own fears and the clamor of the citizens of London, sent again to sue for peace, passing over the breach of privilege, and asking him to appoint a place near London for the conference. He proposed Windsor Castle, or, if that were refused, he would receive their proposals even at the gates of London. While these topics were under discussion the King moved on Brainford, still nearer to London, where Prince Rupert furiously attacked the Parliamentary troops, and after beating back Hampden, Hollis, and Brooke, he held the place, and captured five hundred prisoners and fifteen guns. The assault was unexpected by the Roundheads, and there was a loud outcry that the King had taken advantage of a cessation of hostilities to attack them. Essex drew near with the city forces, and the Royalists retired to Reading, and thence to Oxford for the winter. Essex advanced to Tedstock, only ten miles from Oxford, and sat down there, where the pickets of the two armies were in sight of each other for many weeks.
The King kept his troops in good humor by paying them regularly, their weekly earnings amounting to three thousand pounds. These and other enormous expenses were met wholly by the voluntary contributions of the King’s friends.
The Parliament, possessing larger resources, paid the expenses of the war with less difficulty. They had, even prior to the battle of Edgehill, confiscated all the King’s revenues, which were now augmented by their seizure of all the income of the Church and by the sequestration of the property of Cavaliers.
In January (1643) the Parliament sent a committee to treat for peace, but there was no spirit of accommodation on either side; the Parliament made demands which the King would not grant, and the negotiations came to nothing. While the treaty was still sitting intelligence was received that Rupert had taken Cirencester, the most important capture yet made on the King’s account.
In February the Queen arrived in the North from Holland with a large escort and plenty of money and arms. She was met at Burlington by a party of Cavaliers dispatched thither by the Earl of Newcastle, the brave Marquis of Montrose being with them. Henrietta Maria began a triumphal march to York, and the power of Majesty attracted to her standard hundreds of the men of Yorkshire who were loyal to the King’s cause. At York, where she was most enthusiastically received by the people, she assumed a residence, being unable to journey to the King at Oxford, through fear of the many Parliamentary troops who lay between that city and York.
Charles was impatient to enjoy the society of his beloved Queen, and he dispatched Prince Rupert to cut his way to the North and bring her to him. The bold Prince eagerly accepted this commission, and on his way thither he captured Birmingham and Lichfield after hard fighting. At Gloucester the King’s forces, under Lord Herbert of Glamorgan, were beaten by Sir William Waller, and Rupert was recalled from his northward march by the unexpected action of Lord Essex in laying siege to Reading. Before the Prince could arrive in time to succor the garrison, the place was indiscreetly surrendered by Colonel Fielding, who was permitted to retire with his forces to Oxford. For this unsoldierly behavior Fielding was sentenced to death, but was afterwards pardoned and fought through the war as a common soldier. In the West of England, the Royalists, under Sir Ralph Hopton, Lord Hertford, and Prince Maurice, were winning victories over the Earl of Stamford. In the North the Earl of Newcastle was disputing every inch of ground with the Fairfaxes.
Oliver Cromwell, now a colonel, had been active all winter in organizing the military forces of the “Eastern Association,” composed of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridge, Herts, Hunts, and Lincoln. When the high sheriff of Herts attempted to read the King’s commission of array, Cromwell attacked him, captured him, and sent him down to London, where the Parliament ordered him into confinement. In Norfolkshire Cromwell dispersed a party of Royalists at Lowestoft, and crushed out all open sympathy for the Cavalier cause in the territory of the Eastern Association. There were 12,000 militia organized in these counties, which Cromwell assembled at Cambridge upon information that Lord Capel intended to make an attack on the town; but, as the Royalists thought it prudent not to approach the place, Cromwell permitted them to return to their various counties, advising them to stand ready for another alarm.
Cromwell had said to John Hampden, after the battle of Edgehill, that the army must be recruited from better men. He continued:
“Your troops are most of them old decayed serving men and tapsters, and such kind of fellows; and their troops (i.e., the Cavaliers) are gentlemen’s sons, younger sons, and persons of quality. Do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will be ever able to encounter gentlemen, that have honour and courage and resolution in them? You must get men of a spirit; and take it not ill what I say—I know you will not—of a spirit that is likely to go on as far as gentlemen will go: or else you will be beaten still.”
What he meant was that they should have the spirit of religion in them. Hampden replied that it was a good notion if it could be executed. Cromwell was guided by this theory in his selection of men from that moment. He was not bigoted as to the religious opinions of his men, provided only that they were not papists. One of his recruiting officers had objected to a certain man because he was an Anabaptist, which, coming to the ears of Cromwell, drew from him the following forcible letter, outlining a broad and wise policy in the handling of men, and disclosing his own invincible views of justice and right:
“To Major-General Crawford: These.
“Cambridge, 10th March, 1643.
“Sir: The complaints you preferred to my Lord against your Lieutenant-Colonel, both by Mr. Lee and your own Letters, have occasioned his stay here my Lord being so employed, in regard of many occasions which are upon him, that he hath not been at leisure to hear him make his defence: which, in pure justice, ought to be granted him or any man before a judgment be passed upon him.
“During his abode here and absence from you, he hath acquainted me what a grief it is to him to be absent from his charge, especially now the regiment is called forth to action: and therefore, asking of me my opinion, I advised him speedily to repair unto you. Surely you are not well advised thus to turn off one so faithful to the Cause, and so able to serve you as this man is. Give me leave to tell you I cannot be of your judgment; cannot understand, if a man is notorious for wickedness, for oaths, for drinking, hath as great a share in your affections as one who fears an oath, who fears to sin—that this doth commend your election of men to serve as fit instruments in this work!
“Ay, but the man ‘is an Anabaptist.’ Are you sure of that? Admit he be, shall that render him incapable to serve the Public? ‘He is indiscreet.’ It may be so in some things: we have all human infirmities. I tell you, if you had none but such ‘indiscreet men’ about you, and would be pleased to use them kindly, you would find as good a fence to you as any you have yet chosen.
“Sir, the State, in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of their opinions; if they be willing faithfully to serve it, that satisfies. I advised you formerly to bear with men of different minds from yourself: if you had done it when I advised you to it, I think you would not have had so many stumbling-blocks in your way. It may be you judge otherwise; but I tell you my mind. I desire you would receive this man into your favour and good opinion. I believe, if he follow my counsel, he will deserve no other but respect from you. Take heed of being sharp, or too easily sharpened by others, against those to whom you can object little but that they square not with you in every opinion concerning matters of religion. If there be any other offence to be charged upon him, that must in a judicial way receive determination. I know you will not think it fit my Lord should discharge an Officer of the Field but in a regulate way. I question whether you or I have any precedent for that.
“I have not farther to trouble you: but rest, your humble servant,
This bold and tolerant doctrine was not in sympathy with the Presbyterian sentiment which was fast becoming a part of the Puritan character. Baillie, the Scottish Commissioner, writes at this period that Cromwell “is a very wise and active head, universally well beloved as religious and stout, but a known Independent; the most of the soldiers who loved new ways put themselves under his command.” From the start he exacted of his soldiers that they should be God-fearing and devout, and it was his art in every action to stir their religious enthusiasm until they were transported with an irresistible valor.
He was persistent and inexorable in his rule of enlisting for the war only men of good character. A society of young men and women had written to him offering to assist in the work of recruiting. He replied in these practical words:
“I approve of the business: only I desire to advise you that your ‘foot company’ may be turned into a troop of horse, which indeed will, by God’s blessing, far more advantage the Cause than two or three companies of foot, especially if your men be honest godly men, which by all means I desire. I thank God for stirring-up the youth to cast in their mite, which I desire may be employed to the best advantage; therefore my advice is, that you would employ your Twelve-score Pounds to buy pistols and saddles, and I will provide Four-score horses; for 400 l. more will not raise a troop of horse. As for the muskets that are bought, I think the Country will take them of you. Pray raise honest godly men, and I will have them of my regiment. As for your Officers, I leave it as God shall or hath directed to choose.”
These principles are unusual in the history of wars. The demand of most generals is for men, it matters not what kind of men so that they be able to march and carry guns. But Cromwell would have none but those he delighted to describe as “God-fearing” and “sober.” This was the secret of his success, and all the fruits of his wars sprang from his knowledge of men and his power to ennoble whole regiments by stamping his own character upon them. Let us transcribe the following letter as evincing his insistence on this point, and displaying at the same time his correct military foresight and judgment:
“To my noble Friends, Sir William Spring, Knight and Baronet, and Maurice Barrow, Esquire: Present these.
“Cambridge, September, 1643.
“I have been now two days at Cambridge, in expectation to hear the fruit of your endeavours in Suffolk towards the public assistance. Believe it, you will hear of a storm in a few days! You have no Infantry at all considerable; hasten your Horses; a few hours may undo you, neglected. I beseech you be careful what Captains of Horse you choose, what men be mounted: a few honest men are better than numbers. Some time they must have for exercise. If you choose godly honest men to be Captains of Horse, honest men will follow them; and they will be careful to mount such.
“The King is exceedingly strong in the West. If you be able to foil a force at the first coming of it, you will have reputation; and that is of great advantage in our affairs. God hath given it to our handful; let us endeavour to keep it. I had rather have a plain russet-coated Captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, than that which you call ‘a Gentleman’ and is nothing else. I honour a Gentleman that is so indeed!
“I understand Mr. Margery hath honest men will follow him: if so, be pleased to make use of him; it much concerns your good to have conscientious men. I understand that there is an Order for me to have 3000 l. out of the Association; and Essex [i.e., the county] hath sent their part, or near it. I assure you we need exceedingly. I hope to find your favour and respect. I protest, if it were for myself, I would not move you. That is all, from your faithful servant,
“P.S.: If you send such men as Essex hath sent, it will be to little purpose. Be pleased to take care of their march; and that such may come along with them as will be able to bring them to the main Body; and then I doubt not but we shall keep them and make good use of them. I beseech you, give countenance to Mr. Margery! Help him in raising his Troop; let him not want your favour in whatsoever is needful for promoting this work; and command your servant. If he can raise the horses from Malignants, let him have your warrant: it will be of special service.”
By and bye there come officious persons among the committees who dislike some of the soldiers and their doings. Cromwell is vigorous and high-minded in their defense. The letter which he here answers must have contained something very much like “horse-stealing”; his reply indicates that, and there is so much ebullition of spirit in his pen that he signs his letter and then writes again, and in the postscript mentions a beast which he himself has had assigned to his use, and which, if the owner can prove himself not a malignant Royalist, he is most anxious to pay for:
“To his honoured friends, Sir William Spring and Mr. Barrow: These present.
“Holland, Lincolnshire, 28th Sept., 1643.
“It hath pleased God to bring off Sir Thomas Fairfax his Horse over the river from Hull, being about One-and-twenty Troops of Horse and Dragoons. The Lincolnshire Horse laboured to hinder this work, being about Thirty-four Colours of Horse and Dragoons: we marched up to their landing place and the Lincolnshire Horse retreated.
“After they were come over, we all marched toward Holland; and when we came to our last quarter upon the edge of Holland, the Enemy quartered within four miles of us, and kept the field all night with his whole body; his intendment, as we conceive, was to fight us; or hoping to interpose betwixt us and our retreat; having received, to his Thirty-four Colors of Horse, Twenty fresh Troops, ten companies of Dragoons, and about a Thousand Foot, being General King’s own Regiment. With these he attempted our guards and our quarters; and, if God had not been merciful, had ruined us before we had known of it; the Five Troops we set to keep the watch failing much of their duty. But we got to horse, and retreated in good order, with the safety of all our Horse of the Association; not losing four of them that I hear of, and we got five of theirs. And for this we are exceedingly bound to the goodness of God, who brought our troops off with so little loss.
“I write unto you to acquaint you with this; the rather that God may be acknowledged; and that you may help forward, in sending such force away unto us as lie unprofitably in your country. And especially that Troop of Captain Margery’s, which surely would not be wanting, now we so much need it!
“I hear there hath been much exception taken to Captain Margery and his officers for taking of horses. I am sorry you should discountenance those who (not to make benefit to themselves, but to serve their Country) are willing to venture their lives, and to purchase to themselves the displeasure of bad men, that they may do a Public benefit. I undertake not to justify all Captain Margery’s actions: but his own conscience knows whether he hath taken the horses of any but Malignants; and it were somewhat too hard to put it upon the consciences of your fellow Deputy Lieutenants, whether they had not freed the horses of known Malignants? A fault not less, considering the sad estate of this Kingdom, than to take a horse from a known honest man; the offence being against the Public, which is a considerable aggravation! I know not the measure every one takes of Malignants. I think it is not fit Captain Margery should be the judge; but if he, in this taking of horses, hath observed the plain character of a Malignant, and cannot be charged for one horse otherwise taken, it had been better that some of the bitterness wherewith he and his have been followed had been spared! The horses that his Cornet Boulry took, he will put himself upon that issue for them all.
“If these men be accounted ‘troublesome to the Country,’ I shall be glad you would send them all to me. I’ll bid them welcome. And when they have fought for you, and endured some other difficulties of war which your ‘honester’ men will hardly bear, I pray you then let them go for honest men! I protest unto you, many of those men which are of your Country’s choosing, under Captain Johnson, are so far from serving you, that, were it not that I have honest Troops to master them, although they be well paid, yet they are so mutinous that I may justly fear they would cut my throat! Gentlemen, it may be it provokes some spirits to see such plain men made Captains of Horse. It had been well that men of honour and birth had entered into these employments; but why do they not appear? Who would have hindered them? But seeing it was necessary the work must go on, better plain men than none; but best to have men patient of wants, faithful and conscientious in their employment. And such, I hope, these will approve themselves to be. Let them therefore, if I be thought worthy of any favour, leave your Country with your good wishes and a blessing. I am confident they will be well bestowed. And I believe before it be long, you will be in their debt; and then it will not be hard to quit scores.
“What arms you can furnish them withal, I beseech you do it. I have hitherto found your kindness great to me; I know not what I have done to lose it; I love it so well, and price it so high, that I would do my best to gain more. You have the assured affection of your most humble and faithful servant,
“P.S.: I understand there were some exceptions taken at a Horse that was sent to me, which was seized out of the hands of one Mr. Goldsmith of Wilby. If he be not by you judged a Malignant, and that you do not aprove of my having the Horse, I shall as willingly return him again as you shall desire. And therefore, I pray you, signify your pleasure to me herein under your hands. Not that I would, for ten thousand horses, have the Horse to my own private benefit, saving to make use of him for the Public; for I will most gladly return the value of him to the State. If the Gentleman stand clear in your judgments, I beg it as a special favour that, if the Gentleman be freely willing to let me have him for my money, let him set his own price; I shall very justly return him the money. Or if he be unwilling to part with him, but keeps him for his own pleasure, be pleased to send me an answer thereof; I shall instantly return him his Horse; and do it with a great deal more satisfaction to myself than keep him. Therefore I beg it of you to satisfy my desire in this last request; it shall exceedingly oblige me to you. If you do it not, I shall rest very unsatisfied, and the Horse will be a burden to me so long as I keep him.”
Cromwell received his training in the art of war from Colonel Dalbier, a soldier who had fought in the Low Countries, and who gave vast assistance to Oliver in drilling and marching his recruits. But the real discipline of war they received from Cromwell himself. At first unskillful in handling their arms and managing their horses, they soon became, by diligence and industry, excellent soldiers. Cromwell required them daily to look after, feed, and groom their horses, and, on occasion, to lie with them upon the ground. He taught them to keep their arms bright and clean, and to have them ready for service; to choose the best armor, and to be armed for action when danger was impending. At the outbreak of the war he devised a stratagem to test their spirit. Twelve of his men were, unknown to their fellows, placed in ambush and the rest of the troops were marched thither. At a signal the twelve charged furiously with trumpet blast and battle cry upon the unsuspecting soldiers, who were thrown into much confusion, and many of them turned and fled. When they paused for breath and discovered that the attack was made by their own comrades, they were so overcome with shame that they all vowed never to run again; and they never did.
Sir Philip Warwick, the Royalist writer, says that Cromwell taught his men, “as they too readily taught themselves, that they engaged for God, when he led them against His vicegerent, the King; and where this opinion met with a natural courage, it made them the bolder, and too often the crueller. … And these men, habited more to spiritual pride than carnal riot or intemperance, so consequently having been industrious and active in their former callings and professions, where natural courage wanted, zeal supplied its place; and at first they chose rather to die than fly; and custom removed fear of danger.” And Lord Clarendon, who mournfully characterizes the King’s army, at the time that Lord Hopton was appointed its commander, as “a dissolute, undisciplined, wicked, beaten army,” says that Cromwell’s host was “an army whose order and discipline, whose sobriety and manners, whose courage and success hath made it famous and terrible over the world.”
One evening in May (1643), Cromwell came unexpectedly upon a party of Royalists, near Grantham. Hastily drawing up his men, he charged and routed the Cavaliers, pursuing them for two miles, slaying many and taking forty-five prisoners.
The war feeling was growing stronger in the Parliament. On May 10, the King proposed a peace. The Parliament committed his messenger to prison, and proceeded to impeach the Queen of high treason for aiding the King in his warfare.
On May 20, Sir Thomas Fairfax defeated the Royalists at Wakefield under General (Lord) Goring, and captured Goring and 1,500 of his men. Goring was soon afterwards exchanged and resumed his important commands in the King’s army.
On Sunday, June 18, 1643, that disastrous fight took place in which John Hampden met his death. Prince Rupert was making one of his swift dashes over the country and Hampden sought to stop him. An engagement occurred at Chalgrove Field in which Rupert had the advantage of numbers. The fight was fierce, and, while spurring his horse into the thickest part of the battle, the brave Puritan received two carbine balls in the shoulder. Feeling that he was badly wounded, he turned and rode off the field in the direction of his father-in-law’s house. But the Cavaliers covered the ground between, and he took the way to Thame. Coming to a brook which it was necessary for him to cross, he spurred his horse and cleared it at a leap, by this time suffering intense agony from his wound. Almost fainting, he reached Thame, and was taken to the house of Ezekiel Browne, where his wounds were dressed. As soon as this was done, he dictated letters to the Parliament urging them to a more active military policy. He felt sure that while Essex continued his Fabian tactics the war would be fatal to Puritan hopes, and he held grave fears that the close proximity to London of the King’s victorious troops was a standing menace to the safety of the capital. After six days of great pain his dissolution drew near. He partook of the Lord’s Supper, declaring that “though he could not away with the governance of the Church by bishops, and did utterly abominate the scandalous lives of some clergymen, he thought its doctrine in the greater part primitive and conformable to God’s word, as in Holy Scriptures revealed.” As he felt his spirit passing away, he turned to die in prayer. “O Lord God of Hosts,” he said, in a fast sinking voice, “great is thy mercy, just and holy are thy dealings to us sinful men. Save me, O Lord, if it be thy good will, from the jaws of death. Pardon my manifold transgressions. O Lord, save my bleeding country. Lord Jesus, receive my soul!” Thus died Hampden.
He was the hope of England, and the most beloved man in the King’s dominions. Already there had been talk of putting him in Essex’s place as Lord General, and if this had been done he doubtless possessed sufficient vigor and ability to push the war to a speedy conclusion. He was the one altogether pure and upright patriot of that age, doing what he did only for the sake of his country. To his participation in the Parliament’s designs, more than to that of any other man, was due that large support which the cause of modern liberty received from the nation. His body was carried from Thame to Hampden, and deposited with great military honors, and amid universal sorrow, in his father’s tomb. He was fifty years old at his death.
The death of Hampden threw the Parliament party into consternation, and it was followed by a series of disasters which reduced their hopes to the lowest ebb. On July 5, Sir William Waller, a general of whom the Roundheads expected so much that they foolishly named him William the Conqueror, engaged Sir Ralph Hopton and Prince Maurice at Lansdown, and after a well-fought and sanguinary but indecisive action, both armies were glad to welcome the night. Eight days later, Lord Wilmot commanding the Royalists, another battle was fought on Roundway Down, where Waller was badly beaten and his army dispersed. Lord Essex lay only ten miles away, yet he permitted Wilmot to lead his reinforcements from Oxford, a distance of thirty miles, to Roundway, without molestation. Henrietta Maria had marched the length of the kingdom from York with three thousand well-appointed troops, and was met at Edgehill by the delighted King, together with Prince Rupert and a gay throng of Cavaliers, who conveyed her to Oxford.
The Royalists then besieged Bristol, the second city in the kingdom, held for the Parliament by Nathaniel Fiennes; and after an assault which left the field strewn with the bodies of the Cavaliers, Fiennes, in a moment of weakness, surrendered to Prince Rupert and the Marquis of Hertford. This loss of Bristol, with the defeat of Waller in the West, and of Fairfax at Bramham Moor, and again at Adderton Moor, in the North, produced a great discouragement among the Roundhead party. Essex was heaped with reproaches for having failed to harass the Queen’s progress to Oxford, insomuch that he drew off his army to Uxbridge, and seemed to abandon any intention to fight the King for the present.
The Parliament had tried its favorites, and they had failed. They waited for a new deliverer, and a fight at Gainsborough on the 27th of July, 1643, in a time of general defeat, brought Oliver Cromwell before the eyes of all men as a victorious soldier. The Roundhead forces consisted of some of Cromwell’s men in the Eastern Association, by this time a well-drilled organization. The Cavaliers were commanded by young Charles Cavendish, second son to the Earl of Devonshire. After the first charge it became a hand-to-hand fight. “We disputed it,” says Cromwell, “with our swords and pistols a pretty time.” The Royalist foot were put to flight, and the Roundheads pursued them for five miles. Cromwell remained on the ground with his regiment to engage the reserve. Cavendish led this body in person, and with great courage, putting some Lincolnshire troops to flight. Cromwell then charged in on his rear, and forced him down a steep declivity, fighting at every step, until the young Cavalier found himself fast in a quagmire with only a handful of his followers. In this situation, scorning to ask quarter, he fell from a sword thrust given by Cromwell’s lieutenant, and expired.
The defeat and death of so considerable a person naturally caused Cromwell to be a subject of universal talk. “This was the beginning of his great fortunes,” says Whitelock, “and now he began to appear in the world.” His energy and spirit at this time are perceived in his letters. He was fully conscious of the ill fortunes of his party, and he rightly laid the blame on the inactive military policy. He wrote vigorous letters to those in charge of the Eastern Association, urging them always to procure men, money, and supplies. He begins his report of the fight with Cavendish thus:
“Huntingdon, 31st July, 1643.
“No man desires more to present you with encouragement than myself, because of the forwardness I find in you, to your honour be it spoken, to promote this great Cause. And truly God follows us with encouragements, who is the God of blessings; and I beseech you let Him not lose His blessings upon us! They come in season, and with all the advantages of heartening; as if God should say, ‘Up and be doing, and I will stand by you, and help you!’ There is nothing to be feared but our own sin sloth.”
After describing with much detail the military events which we have briefly recounted, he draws to a conclusion in this manner:
“Thus you have this true relation, as short as I could. What you are to do upon it, is next to be considered. If I could speak words to pierce your hearts with the sense of our and your condition, I would! If you will raise 2000 Foot at present to encounter this army of Newcastle’s, to raise the siege, and to enable us to fight him, we doubt not, by the grace of God, but that we shall be able to relieve the Town, and beat the enemy on the other side of Trent. Whereas if somewhat be not done in this, you will see Newcastle’s Army march up into your bowels; being now, as it is, on this side Trent. I know it will be difficult to raise thus many in so short time: but let me assure you, it’s necessary, and therefore to be done. At least do what you may, with all possible expedition! I would I had the happiness to speak with one of you: truly I cannot come over, but must attend my charge; the Enemy is vigilant. The Lord direct you what to do. Gentlemen, I am your faithful servant,
Already he was teaching his men the discipline of self-control, the forgetfulness of fear, which in the end was to win for them the memorable name of Ironsides. A newspaper of that time (May 1643) notes that “As for Colonel Cromwell, he hath 2000 brave men, well disciplined; and no man swears but he pays his twelve-pence; if he be drunk, he is set in the stocks, or worse; if one calls the other Roundhead he is cashiered.” This was the foundation of piety which he had told John Hampden it was necessary to build their army on in order to vanquish the men of honor on the King’s side. Wherever he came in contact with men he seemed to impress a part of his own fervid and indomitable courage upon them, and thereby to make them straightway better soldiers.
In August, Lord Kimbolton, or Mandeville, now become the Earl of Manchester—whose name as a member of the House of Lords had been included in the warrant for the arrest of the five members—was appointed to the command of the Eastern Association, and Cromwell soon became his second in command. While the Roundhead soldiers under other leaders were deserting, or exhibiting a bad and mutinous spirit, Cromwell’s men, unpaid and suffering for shoes and clothing, were maintaining a hearty enthusiasm. His great control over his men—the ascendency, by the strong force of character, of one man over many—is shown in this extract from a letter to Oliver St. John imploring him for money to pay his troops. The comparison which is drawn between his men and those of Lord Manchester is striking:
“Of all men I should not trouble you with money matters, did not the heavy necessities my Troops are in, press me beyond measure. I am neglected exceedingly! I am now ready for my march towards the Enemy; who hath entrenched himself over against Hull, my Lord Newcastle having besieged the Town. Many of my Lord Manchester’s Troops are come to me: very bad and mutinous, not to be confided in; they paid to a week almost; mine nowise provided-for to support them, except by the poor Sequestrations of the County of Huntingdon! My Troops increase. I have a lovely company; you would respect them, did you know them. They are no ‘Anabaptists’; they are honest, sober Christians: they expect to be used as men!”
And then he says that he has spent already eleven or twelve hundred pounds out of his private funds for the expenses of the war, and can raise no further supply until the counties contribute for the pay of his men.
In this manner opposition to the tyranny of the Crown, which had, in a ruder age, produced Wat Tyler and Jack Cade, was now, after centuries of progress, when guided by a better understanding of popular rights, manifesting itself irresistibly and with permanent force in the career of the modern deliverer, Oliver Cromwell.
In June (1643) Sir John Hotham, whose refusal to admit the King to Hull had incensed the Royalists, was detected in a treasonable correspondence with the Earl of Newcastle, and, after attempting to escape, was captured, tried before a Parliamentary tribunal, and executed. His son, young John Hotham, was also executed for a similar offense about the same time.
There now began to be factions in the King’s army, and the gay Cavaliers at Oxford were intriguing for place and power. After the capture of Bristol, a dispute arose between Prince Rupert and the Marquis of Hertford as to the governorship of the city. The Prince claimed the post for himself, while Lord Hertford desired the appointment for Sir Ralph Hopton. The contention waxed so warm that Charles felt impelled to go in person to Bristol, where, by a compromise that made no one happy, he named Rupert as Governor, but appointed Sir Ralph Hopton Lieutenant-Governor to enjoy the powers pertaining to the superior title. It must be said that in the strife over his appointment Sir Ralph took no part, and any feeling that may have been engendered in his breast was appeased when, within a few days, he was made Lord Hopton by his grateful King.
A question of the precedence of the Palatine Princes then arose. Rupert, as a prince of the royal blood, would receive orders from no one but the King, and this resolution interfered with the usefulness of the cavalry as a part of the whole army under Lord Brentford. The policy of massing the King’s troops for a march to London was discussed in the royal council, and was put aside because in that case Prince Maurice could have been only a private Colonel. Prince Maurice, indeed, was not quite satisfied that a nephew to the King should be Lieutenant-General to a Marquis; and with the aid of Rupert and his friends he prevailed on Charles to attach the Marquis of Hertford to his private service as a Gentleman of the Bed-Chamber, sending the Earl of Carnarvon into the West with the horse and dragoons, and permitting Maurice to follow with the foot a day behind. Lord Hopton remained at Bristol, and Lord Hertford at Oxford.
The King now marched to Gloucester, and on the 10th of August, after summoning it to surrender and receiving a defiant reply, he sat down before it. This was perhaps his greatest mistake in the war. His successes had filled the citizens of London with alarm. A mob of women had marched to Westminster and shrieked for the sacrifice of John Pym. The King’s oft-repeated overtures to treat for peace had been recounted in every street. The Lords had implored the Commons to effect a treaty. The soldiers themselves had lost their military spirit, the Lord General seemingly to a greater extent than any others. And a large party in the House of Commons had joined their voices to the cry for peace. Indeed, many members of both Houses had lately fled to the King at Oxford. But the spirit that had started this revolution was not so easily discouraged. John Pym, Sir Harry Vane, and a few others were able to hold in check what seemed to be a universal demand for peace; and while the subject was still in earnest controversy they all learned that the King had marched to Gloucester instead of London, and they breathed freely once more. The war feeling was revived. It was resolved to enlist further recruits for Essex and Waller, and Lord Manchester was empowered to raise an army in the Eastern Association. The negotiations for Scottish assistance were pressed energetically, and under Vane’s direction the English Parliament agreed to sign the Scottish Covenant in return for military succor from beyond the Tweed.
When the King had sat before Gloucester for sixteen days, Essex, who had employed himself with unaccustomed zeal in recruiting men, felt his army strong enough to march to its relief. On the 5th of September the beleaguered city saw his signal fires, and the King, whose cavalry had harassed the Lord General’s progress, but who was unwilling to risk a battle, drew off his forces. Essex was received with acclamations of joy, and after a fitting celebration of the rescue, he marched back for London. The King followed him briskly, and at Newbury (September 20) forced him to a battle. Essex again, as at Edgehill, used his Low Country tactics, and stood on the defensive through the action. His horse was dispersed, but his infantry, composed chiefly of the well-drilled train-bands of London, presented their pikes resistlessly to every charge, preserving an unbroken line, and leaving the issue not decided. The next day the Earl proceeded on towards London, Prince Rupert distressing his rear for a considerable distance. He stopped to refresh his men at Reading and thence entered London, where he was received with the honors of a conqueror. The King, following him, took Reading again without resistance, and leaving a garrison there, returned to Oxford with his army.
Charles lost some of the best of his chivalry at Newbury, among the slain being the Earl of Sunderland, the Earl of Carnarvon, and especially the accomplished Lord Viscount Falkland, upon whose death Clarendon pathetically observes, “that if there were no other brand upon this odious and accursed Civil War than that single loss, it must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity.”
Upon the return of Essex to London the Parliament subscribed the Scottish Covenant, and copies for the signatures of the people were immediately distributed through all those parts of England that were under Puritan control. This proceeding created an extraordinary impression on the minds of Englishmen. The Covenant was a visible injection of religion into the existing strife, and all sectarian differences were put aside in the enthusiasm with which men and women eagerly signed their names to it. From the moment in which the Solemn League and Covenant was officially presented to the people, the subject of religion became uppermost in the minds of the Puritans; and the subject of unjust oppressions in the government, out of which the war had avowedly grown, assumed a minor importance.
There was fine politics in the adoption of the Covenant, and that astute Puritan, young Sir Harry Vane, had led in the negotiations which secured this new source of inspiration from Scotland. Vane was an Independent; so were Cromwell and many of the other Parliamentary leaders; and as Independents they were jealous of the ascendency of the Presbyterians. Yet they one and all signed the Presbyterian Covenant, doubtless justifying their conduct as a necessary measure of the war. Henceforward the Parliamentary plea was the protection of the Protestant religion. In this Covenant, the subscribers engaged mutually to defend each other against all opponents; bound themselves to endeavor, without respect of persons, the extirpation of popery and prelacy, superstition, heresy, schism, and profaneness; to maintain the rights and privileges of Parliaments, together with the King’s authority; and to discover and bring to justice all incendiaries and malignants. The Scottish Parliament immediately began to raise an army. The King, apprised of their design, cast an eye to his military forces in Ireland.
The Cavaliers continued to win some light successes. Prince Maurice had taken Exeter and Dartmouth, and the King’s power was secure in the West. Prince Rupert had captured Bedford in the midland. The Earl of Newcastle was laying siege to Hull in the North.
Lincolnshire had recently (September 20, 1643) become a part of the Eastern Association, and Manchester and Cromwell were working with their usual energy to clear the county of Royalist troops, as they had already cleared every other county in the territory under their charge. At Winceby, a small hamlet among the Wolds, a fight occurred on October 11 between their forces and a large body of Royalists. The Cavalier cry was “Cavendish,” in memory of him who had fallen in the bog at Gainsborough. That of the Roundheads was “Truth and Peace.” The Parliament charge was led by Cromwell impetuously; but, as he advanced in full career, his horse was killed and fell upon him. Endeavoring to rise, he was knocked down by Sir Ingram Hopton, to whose sword his life would have been yielded up, but for the prompt and gallant succor of his men. Being quickly rescued from his peril he mounted a trooper’s horse, and shouting “Truth and Peace,” pressed onward. The fury of his assault forced the Royalists back on their reserves in great disorder; the combat was sharp and bloody, and soon the Cavaliers fled away before the indomitable Puritan, but not until they had left their Commander, Sir Ingram Hopton, dead on the field, and near one thousand of their fellows killed or taken.
Cromwell had been appointed Governor of Ely, and the services in the cathedral there under the English ritual were exceedingly offensive to the Puritans of the place. Cromwell accordingly addressed a note to the rector, the Reverend Mr. Hitch, in these sharp words:
“Ely, 10th January, 1643.
“Lest the Soldiers should, in any tumultuary or disorderly way, attempt the reformation of the Cathedral Church, I require you to forbear altogether your choir service, so unedifying and offensive; and this as you shall answer it, if any disorder should arise thereupon.
“I advise you to catechise, and read and expound the Scripture to the people; not doubting but the Parliament, with the advice of the Assembly of Divines, will direct you further. I desire your Sermons too, where usually they have been, but more frequent.
“Your loving friend,
But the rector gave it no attention. This brought Cromwell one day into the church with a file of soldiers, and he discovered Mr. Hitch in the very act of chanting the choir service to the surpliced attendants. Cromwell never removed his hat. “I am a man under authority,” he cried, “and am commanded to dismiss this assembly.” The rector attempted to be oblivious of his presence, and proceeded with the service: “As it was in the beginning!” “Leave off your fooling, and come down, Sir!” thundered the Puritan leader in a voice which brought Mr. Hitch down straightway, and the choir service was absent from those parts for many years thereafter.
Towards the close of the year the Puritan party was shocked by the death of John Pym (December 8, 1643). Pym was the ablest member of that famous Parliament, and he had molded the opinion of his associates until their opposition to the Crown resulted in the Civil War. From the outset of his public life until his eyes closed forever on the world, he was an implacable foe of the ancient monarchal government. He used his power in the great council of the nation to strike down every defender of the Prerogative of the Crown. He framed those measures which forced the King to grant concessions that brought the constitution into resemblance to its modern form. Swayed by the popular mistrust of the King’s sincerity, and by his own uncompromising and imperious will, he led his party, under cold expressions of loyalty and respect, in a series of addresses on the never-ceasing plea of Privilege, which finally frightened Charles out of his capital. Controlling the public sentiment of London, and supported by the City Corporation with its immense financial resources, his faith in the ultimate success of the Parliament’s cause never wavered for an instant; and the cry of Peace, which was ingeminated at times by every other man in England, had no charm for his ear. When Essex himself was longing for peace, Pym went to his tent, and besought him to continue the war until the last resource was spent.
Death came to him in perfect tranquility. His body, escorted by the two Houses, was carried to Westminster Abbey on the shoulders of ten of his chief associates in the House of Commons, among them, Denzil Hollis, Sir Arthur Hazelrig, young Sir Harry Vane, Oliver St. John, and William Strode. Three of them were of the five members. Hampden had passed away, and his own death occurred just at the time when the fortunes of his party began to rise.
During the winter the King summoned to Oxford all the members of either House who adhered to his cause, and established them in Parliament. The House of Lords was numerically larger than that at Westminster, notwithstanding that many of the Cavalier Lords were employed in military service in different parts of the country. The House of Commons consisted of near one hundred and forty members, about one half the number of those at Westminster. The King again proposed a peace, but the Parliament at Westminster refused to treat.
In January, 1644, a Scottish army of about 20,000 men under the command of General Leslie (sometime since made Earl of Leven) invaded England. This was a fearful menace to the royal cause, and it carried alarm to the heart of every Cavalier. The Marquis of Newcastle gathered a large army, and marched north to fight Leslie, leaving Colonel John Bellasis in charge of affairs in Yorkshire. Sir Thomas Fairfax attacked Bellasis and captured him and the larger part of his men. This defeat put York in danger, and Newcastle returned in all haste to that city, leaving the way open for the Scots to advance whither they pleased.
The King now received some troops from Ireland, who, under Lord Byron, took the castles of Hawarden, Beeston, Acton, and Deddington. Sir Thomas Fairfax, a noted general since his victory over Bellasis, met them at Nantwich, and totally defeated them, capturing Colonel George Monk, who, after suffering a short captivity, engaged in the service of the Parliament, and lived to become illustrious by restoring Charles II to his throne.
The Cavalier siege of Hull was abandoned, Newcastle being forced to prepare himself for a siege at York. The Roundheads threatened Newark, and Prince Rupert hastened there from Oxford and beat them off. After relieving Newark the Prince began his march northward for the relief of York. On his way thither he paused to succor a distressed lady, whose history is one of the most romantic of that age.
Charlotte de la Tremouille, Countess of Derby, was at Lathom House, when, on the 22nd of February, 1644, Sir William Waller summoned her to surrender that stately castle to his army. Her husband, the Earl of Derby, was absent in the King’s military service, and was unable to come to her relief. She was a lady of the most eminent virtue and of rare courage, and she returned a defiant answer to the summons. Waller laid siege to the castle, leaving Colonel Rigby in charge, and passed on with the principal part of his army. The Countess, by conducting a number of parleys with Rigby, managed to gain a sufficient time to arrange for her defense, and to strengthen and recruit her little garrison. The walls of the great mansion were high and strong, being six feet in thickness; and seven lofty towers and two lesser ones added to their strength, besides the great gate, and the Eagle Tower, high over all, in the center of the building. The house itself stood so low, that the shots from the Roundhead guns on the surrounding slopes could scarcely reach it. Around the walls was a wide moat with strong palisades, and it could be crossed only over the bridge at the postern gates, which were now guarded by trusty sentinels. The garrison consisted of three hundred men, over which the Countess had appointed six captains, arraying herself in semi-armor as their commander-in-chief. The house was stocked with arms and provisions, and was well appointed to endure a siege.
The besieging force numbered about three thousand, and the first gun was fired on the 12th of March. There was but one cannon that wrought any considerable damage to the castle, and one night the Countess sallied out with a party who cut their way to this gun, hoisted it on a wheeled carriage which they had brought with them, and returned with it in triumph to the garrison. The Roundheads were unable to make their muskets tell on the discreet guards on the walls, but suffered many losses themselves from the well-aimed shots of the garrison. On the 23rd of May, Rigby, who was apprehensive of Rupert’s approach, sent his final summons to the Countess, demanding that she and her children submit themselves to the mercy of the Parliament. She replied that she would set her castle on fire and perish in the flames before she would accept the mercies of the wicked and cruel! Rigby assaulted the castle, but was unable to make any impression on its walls. The conflict was growing hotter and the beautiful defender’s peril was momentarily increasing, when Prince Rupert and the Earl of Derby opportunely arrived and put the Puritans to flight. The gallant Prince pursued them to Bolton and gave them battle, securing a full revenge for the discomforts which the Countess had sustained in resisting this memorable siege for more than three months.
The Marquis of Montrose arrived from Scotland to pay homage to King Charles, and received a commission to return to Scotland and conduct a war of diversion there, which might make Leven wish himself and his troops at home. Lord Hopton, with an army of nearly six thousand men, marched into the West after Sir William Waller, and captured Arundel Castle. He then offered battle to Waller, and was severely beaten at Cheriton, on March 29, 1644.
The Queen, being now in delicate health, left Oxford. The King accompanied her as far as Bath, where, on the 3rd of April, 1644, the loving and faithful pair separated with streaming eyes, never to meet on earth again. The Queen was then conveyed to Exeter, and on the 16th of June she gave birth to a daughter. Two weeks later, while the Queen was extremely ill, the Earl of Essex sat down before Exeter, and began a siege. Henrietta Maria sent to him, beseeching his permission to retire to Bath for the completion of her health, to which the Lord General made answer “That it was his intention to escort Her Majesty to London, where her presence was required to answer to Parliament for having levied war in England.” The suffering Queen then made her escape from the city in disguise, and after many painful adventures she sailed for France. In a few days after her departure, Charles, who was hastening to her succor, drew near, and Essex retired.
When the King returned to Oxford, Essex and Waller approached from the opposite direction in such a way as they would surely have taken him prisoner; but he passed out during the night and escaped between their two armies. Essex then marched into the West, and drove Prince Maurice away from Lyme, which he had been besieging, while Waller followed the King.
The Parliamentary forces under Waller came up with the King on the 29th of June, and Charles attacked and defeated them at Cropredy Bridge, distinguishing himself by his usual bravery and correct military judgment when in personal command. While Waller retreated to recruit his army, the King marched west, instructing Hopton to follow him with all the men that could be spared from Bristol, and intending to form a junction with the army of Prince Maurice, and then fall on Essex and destroy him. On July 15, he arrived at Bath, but long ere that he received the news of Marston Moor, a battle which resulted in the permanent and rapid decline of his fortunes.
The Scottish troops under the Earl of Leven, united with the forces of Lord Fairfax, had sat down before York, 20,000 strong; and they were soon joined by the forces of the Eastern Association, led by the Earl of Manchester and Oliver Cromwell, and consisting of 6,000 foot and 3,000 horse, a total of 29,000 men. Prince Rupert approached York with an army that cannot be so accurately counted. Cromwell says it amounted to 20,000 men at Marston Moor; it was near that number, which included about 2,500 men of Newcastle’s garrison. Lord Fairfax had endeavored to intercept the Prince, and had drawn up his men on Hessam Moor in a manner that presented an impassable barrier to the Cavaliers. But Rupert, by a brilliant stratagem that was not usual in his impulsive methods, discovered a ford in the Ouse River, which was unknown to the allies, crossed over with his army after dark, and entered York on another side on the night of July 1, 1644.
There were dissensions among the Scottish and English factions in the Parliament armies, Fairfax and Cromwell desiring to offer battle, while Leven stood out for a retreat. Leven’s counsel was reluctantly accepted, and the army took up its winding march in the direction of Long Marston village, about five miles west of York.
At the same instant a discussion of like importance was taking place between Prince Rupert and the Marquis of Newcastle behind the walls of York. The Marquis urged that the Roundheads be permitted to retreat, arguing correctly that their abandonment of the siege would be equal to the prestige of a victory. But the impetuous Prince pleaded that he had received written instructions from the King to fight the rebellious Scots, and he insisted upon instantly following the Puritans with all the available forces, and giving them battle.
It was on July 2, 1644, and the Roundheads had gone as far as Marston Moor, when Sir Thomas Fairfax, who commanded the rear of the column, began to feel the hot breath of Rupert’s pursuit. The alarm was sent forward—the Scots were far in advance—and quick preparations were made to form the armies in the line of battle. The Earl of Leven, as Commander-in-chief, held the reserve of horse in the rear of the center, which was composed of two long lines of Scottish infantry under Lord Fairfax. The right wing was commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax, and embraced, beside his own regiment, those of Lambert, Eglinton, Balgony, and Dalhousie. On his extreme right was a troop of lancers, and in his rear a reserve of horse. The left wing was in charge of Oliver Cromwell with his own regiment, destined to win their name of Ironsides by their conduct that day. In this wing were also Manchester’s foot and Crawford’s horse. Leslie’s cavalry composed the reserve. The artillery was placed between the two wings on each flank of the center. The hoarse commands directing the formation of battle were frequently interrupted by the fierce exhortations of the preachers, or the shout of psalms proclaiming the glory of the Lord, and the word that was given to the soldiers to inspire them in the approaching conflict was, “God and our Cause!”
As the Prince came up he prepared to meet this preparation with equal energy. Over his shining corselet he wore his cloak of scarlet, and a flowing plume waved from his helmet. His face was lighted with the happy confidence of youth. A huge white dog, “Boy,” which he had trained in Germany, and which had followed him through the glory of his career, bounded upon the heels of his gallant steed. He was now, as ever, the idol of his soldiers. His left wing contained Sir George Goring, Sir John Hurry, Sir Charles Lucas, and Rupert’s life-guard. In the center were General James King and the foot, with the Marquis of Newcastle’s regiment of white coats, called “the Lambs,” and led that day by Newcastle’s brother, Sir Charles Cavendish. On the right were Newcastle’s own two regiments and other troops from the midland counties, with Lord Byron and the Irish horse, and Lords Grandison and Bellasis. Back of all were strong reserves of horse and foot, and the Prince’s artillery was placed where it was designed to work the deadliest execution. The Royalist word was “God and our King!”
Since three o’clock there had been an occasional cannon shot, but it was now past six and the battle had not begun.
The day was drawing to a close. The Marquis of Newcastle, feeling that there would be no engagement at that late hour, had retired to his traveling carriage to nurse his wrath, when a wild alarm smote his ear, and he emerged to fight bravely, but as a volunteer soldier, as Lord Lindsey had fought under a similar personal grievance at Edgehill.
A ditch called “the White Syke,” running across the Moor, divided the two armies. Suddenly a stir was seen on the left of the Parliament side, and Manchester’s infantry advanced and plunged across the ditch. As by an electric touch the whole machinery of war responded, and fifty thousand Englishmen sprang forward, meeting each other in the shock of battle. Shout answered shout, and the clash of sabers, the roar of guns, and the plunge of mettled steeds shook the plain. It was after six o’clock in the evening, and a summer storm broke over the field, so that the booming guns were echoed in the thunders of Heaven. Sir Thomas Fairfax and his right wing were hampered in their advance by the broken ground, and while they were struggling forward through a rather narrow lane, they were struck with fearful force by the Cavaliers. Rupert and his life-guard were in that charge, and no army had ever yet withstood his onslaught. Nor could the Parliament men resist it that day. For one moment they stood and looked, and then they fled. Fairfax bravely tried to rally them, forcing his horse forward in the thick of danger, until a flashing saber struck him in the face, and he himself was swept back wounded and bleeding. The whole right wing was utterly broken and routed, and Rupert found himself occupying their ground, and flanking the Parliament center. These were the invading Scots, and Charles had written him to “beat the rebel armies of both kingdoms.” Moved by the inspiration of his uncle’s command, he fell upon them, and they, too, fled, Leven himself leading the mad retreat under the impression that all was lost. With shouts of victory the Cavaliers pursued them; but the day was not yet decided.
Far over on the Parliament left was a body of 2,300 riders, whose fine discipline, high courage, and religious zeal were the wonder of that army. They were the God-fearing men whom Oliver Cromwell had wisely chosen to beat the younger sons and men of honor in the King’s army. When Manchester’s infantry sprang across the White Syke ditch, they were mowed down in platoons by a murderous fire from the Prince’s artillery. Cromwell, watching for the result of the first onset to govern his own course, saw them falter before the awful flame and smoke of Rupert’s cannon. With a passionate word of command he led his Ironsides around to the right in order to avoid the ditch. The movement occupied some moments, during which the infantry met with increasing distress. But their deliverer was near.
The stern Puritans went charging down the Moor, striking the Royal right wing like a tornado of death. The Cavaliers in their turn were appalled. No such solid and compact body of men as Cromwell then led had ever been seen in England before. The Royalists were stricken with panic. “God made them as stubble to our swords,” wrote Cromwell, three days afterwards. “We charged their regiments of foot with our horse, and routed all we charged.” Cromwell was wounded in the neck, which for a moment checked his pursuit. The men at his side were alarmed until they heard him say cheerily, “A miss is as good as a mile.” Refusing to consider it anything but a trifling hurt, he pressed in on the enemy’s guns, struck down the men who served them, and turned their flaming mouths upon the fleeing Cavaliers. He then struck the enemy’s center on the flank, just as Rupert had done on the other side of the ditch. There he met Lord Newcastle’s “White Coats,” embracing the flower of Yorkshire manhood, and not even the Ironsides could make them flinch. Oliver and his men went at them shouting, “God and our Cause!” at every charge. They fell, indeed, like “stubble” before saber-thrust and carbine, but still they answered, “God and our King!” until the last man fell. Out of that gallant band of a thousand men only forty were breathing when the battle ended. Then Cromwell and his men turned and approached the ditch in the quiet satisfaction of victory.
The storm had ceased with the temporary cessation of the fight. The sun was sinking in the West, and the soft gloaming of a summer night was falling on the field. On the other side of the ditch Prince Rupert was returning from the pursuit. The position of Cavalier and Puritan had been nearly reversed, and each now occupied in part the ground at first held by his enemy. Suddenly each of the conquerors found himself confronted by an advancing army, and instantly the battle was renewed. Cromwell struck the jaded Cavaliers in front. Sir Thomas Fairfax, having gathered the larger part of his men together in Willstrop Wood at the back edge of the Moor, charged them in the rear. The Prince strove to hold his troops steady, but Cromwell was upon them before they could re-form. Attacked on every side, they were soon put to flight leaving the spoils of victory behind them. The retreat became a rout, and the Prince narrowly escaped capture by leaping his good horse over a fence and making his way to York. The Roundheads captured 3,000 prisoners, 25 cannon, 130 barrels of powder, 10,000 arms, and the Prince’s wagon train, while more than 4,000 men died on the field, the larger part being Cavaliers.
The slaughter was kept up nearly to the walls of York. At last it was over; and the battle of Marston Moor, after three Parliamentary generals had been put to flight by the invincible Prince, was won by their subordinate, Oliver Cromwell, and by the devout men who had received their whole training in warfare from him.
Prince Rupert, crestfallen by the failure of the first great battle in which he had held the chief command, left York with a few thousand broken soldiers early the next morning, and went across to Lancashire and south to Shropshire to gather reinforcements. The Marquis of Newcastle, who had enjoyed almost sovereign power in the North, having received a commission from the King which authorized him to raise armies, coin money, and confer knighthood, now perceived that the Royal cause was hopeless of ultimate success, and so, smarting with rage over the Prince’s rash and unfortunate conduct in forcing this battle, he, too, fled from York, followed by about eighty of his kinsmen and friends, and left England, to remain in exile for many years.
Sir Thomas Glenham, having been put in charge of York, was forced to surrender that city on the 16th of July, having first stipulated for leave to march to the King with his garrison under all the honors of war.
By the victory won at Marston Moor, Cromwell’s reputation became firmly established as the first soldier in England. But he was slow to covet the honor of the highest rank; and while his personal spirit and influence dominated the Puritan hosts from that day, he did not receive nor would he accept the chief command until six years later when the unready Fairfax stepped aside, and Oliver led the army into Scotland as its General.
In this battle of Marston Moor, Cromwell’s sister’s son, young Captain Walton, was killed by a cannon ball. This bereavement threw a sad shade over Cromwell’s victory, not only out of his affection for the young man, but because it vividly recalled the death of his own son Oliver a short time before. The contemplation of these family losses, weighing heavily upon his heart, drew from him the following letter to the young man’s father:
“To my loving brother, Colonel Valentine Walton: These.
“Leaguer before York, 5th July, 1644.
“It’s our duty to sympathise in all mercies; and to praise the Lord together in chastisements or trials, that so we may sorrow together.
“Truly England and the Church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord, in this great victory given unto us, such as the like never was since this war began. It had all the evidences of an absolute victory obtained by the Lord’s blessing upon the Godly Party principally. We never charged but we routed the enemy. The Left Wing, which I commanded, being our own horse, saving a few Scots in our rear, beat all the Prince’s horse. God made them as stubble to our swords. We charged their regiments of foot with our horse, and routed all we charged. The particulars I cannot relate now, but I believe, of Twenty-thousand the Prince hath not Four-thousand left. Give glory, all the glory, to God.
“Sir, God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannon-shot. It brake his leg. We were necessitated to have it cut off, whereof he died.
“Sir, you know my own trials this way; but the Lord supported me with this, That the Lord took him into the happiness we all pant for and live for. There is your precious child full of glory, never to know sin or sorrow any more. He was a gallant young man, exceedingly gracious. God give you His comfort. Before his death he was so full of comfort that to Frank Russell and myself he could not express it, ‘It was so great above his pain.’ This he said to us. Indeed it was admirable. A little after, he said, One thing lay upon his spirit. I asked him, What that was? He told me it was, That God had not suffered him to be any more the executioner of His enemies. At his fall, his horse being killed with the bullet, and as I am informed three horses more, I am told he bid them, Open to the right and left, that he might see the rogues run. Truly he was exceedingly beloved in the Army, of all that knew him. But few knew him; for he was a precious young man, fit for God. You have cause to bless the Lord. He is a glorious Saint in Heaven; wherein you ought exceedingly to rejoice. Let this drink up your sorrow; seeing these are not feigned words to comfort you, but the thing is so real and undoubted a truth. You may do all things by the strength of Christ. Seek that, and you shall easily bear your trial. Let this public mercy to the Church of God make you to forget your private sorrow. The Lord be your strength; so prays your truly faithful and loving brother,
“My love to your Daughter, and my Cousin Perceval, Sister Desborrow, and all friends with you.”
While the Parliamentary armies had achieved a splendid success in the North, the King was pursuing Essex in the West with able strategy. The war had come to a pass where those Puritans who were of aristocratic birth perceived that a final victory for the Parliament in arms would lead to the extirpation of both the King and his nobility. On the other hand, a military conquest by the King would tempt him to a further exercise of autocratic power. The conservative men of both parties were therefore in favor of an honorable peace. Charles had made many overtures for peace, and the Parliament had confessed an equal desire to put an end to the present miseries. But neither party would make the necessary concessions to this end.
Lord Essex was extremely solicitous for peace, and the King, failing to secure terms from the Parliament, applied to Essex in a direct and specific proposal to end the war forthwith. But the loyalty of this Puritan soldier was superior to his severe temptation. He declined to treat with the Royalists and promptly forwarded the correspondence to the Parliament, which thanked him profusely for having preserved his own honor and their safety.
The King pressed in on Essex and followed him into Cornwall. On the 1st of September (1644) he had so encompassed the Puritans that, after their horse had forced their way through his lines and Essex himself had fled from his army and put to sea in a small boat for Plymouth, the entire Parliamentary infantry surrendered their train of artillery, their ammunition and baggage, and all their arms, and were then permitted to disperse in disorder and contempt.
The Parliament condoled with their General and recruited his forces. On October 27th the two armies fought the second battle of Newbury without a positive result. Essex was sick, and the Earl of Manchester commanded the Puritans, the subordinate direction resting with Waller and Skippon. Cromwell did not take part in this engagement. “Where those horses were that Lieutenant-General Cromwell commanded,” says Manchester in his account of this battle, “I have as yet had no certain account.” The truth is, that Cromwell and the Ironsides had been on a hard march for eight days preceding the battle. The opening of the engagement late in the day found them on the wrong side of the river, with no ford convenient. Manchester was clearly unequal to the task of leadership. There were bitter dissensions between himself and Cromwell, and Cromwell gravely suspected his willingness to beat the King. The Parliamentary forces therefore fought without unity of purpose and there was no bold and masterful generalship to inspire them to victory. The King made a charge or two, and then drew off his army in the moonlight without opposition, taking with him a lot of Manchester’s cannon. A few days afterwards Manchester sent an order to Cromwell to bring his troops to a rendezvous, and Cromwell, who knew that the horses were jaded, replied by inquiring with some heat whether the Earl intended to flay the horses, for if he called them to a rendezvous “he might have their skins, but no service from them.” The King, who had marched away from Newbury after the fight, was now returning. Dennington Castle, lying close to Newbury, was under siege by the Puritans, and it was given out that the King was coming to its relief. Manchester’s order to mass the troops was made with an intention to stop the King. But the chiefs of the Parliamentary army were still at cross-purposes, and before their misunderstandings could be adjusted, Charles had forced his way to the castle and given the garrison abundant relief (November 9). He then drew out “leisurely and soldierlike,” says General Skippon, took his cannon train with him, and sent a party of his horse to attack some of the Puritans and put them to flight. Both armies then withdrew to their winter quarters.
The recent Parliamentary reverses in the West had produced the gravest discontents both in the Army and in the two Houses, and as soon as military operations had ceased for the winter, some of the members under the inspiration of Cromwell began to devise a plan for a complete reorganization of the Army.
The quarrel between Cromwell and Manchester was fiercely renewed, and Cromwell made a speech in the House of Commons (November 25, 1644) in which he boldly accused the Earl of being “indisposed and backward” in his military duties, being against ending the war by the sword and in favor of a disadvantageous peace. He said that since the capture of York, Manchester had made no effort to oppress the enemy, “as if he thought the King too low and the Parliament too high,” and that he had neglected many opportunities of bettering the popular cause in direct opposition to his Council of War and the Committee of Both Kingdoms. Cromwell declared that at the last moment of the campaign which had just closed so ingloriously, after the King had relieved Dennington Castle and was withdrawing his army in triumph to Oxford, he had vehemently urged Manchester to attack Charles with the combined strength of his own force and those of Essex and Waller. But Manchester stubbornly refused to risk a battle, telling the Lieutenant-General that, “if we beat the King ninety-nine times, he would be King still, and his posterity, and we subjects still; but if he beat us but once, we should be hanged and our posterity undone.”
This outburst drew from Manchester, by way of recrimination, a statement which was intended to be very damaging to Cromwell’s reputation. On a certain occasion when Oliver had proposed a measure which Manchester thought the Parliament would not approve, Cromwell said, “My lord, if you will stick firm to honest men, you shall find yourself at the head of an army which shall give law both to King and Parliament.” “This discourse,” said the Earl, “made the greater impression on me, because I knew the Lieutenant-General to be a man of very deep designs; and he has even ventured to tell me, that it never would be well with England till I were Mr. Montague, and there were ne’er a lord or peer in the Kingdom.”
This quarrel was espoused on Manchester’s behalf by the Presbyterians, comprising a majority of both Houses. But the Independents, devoted to the complete toleration of everything in religion except popery, had become a powerful faction in the Puritan party. Their leaders were young Sir Henry Vane, Nathaniel Fiennes, and Oliver St. John. Their ideal soldier and champion militant was Oliver Cromwell. A large part of the Army, including the Ironsides, were Independents. The powerful influence of these men was exerted in Cromwell’s interest. They were opposed to peace except under conditions which they knew the King would never grant. They purposed to conquer him thoroughly before laying down their arms. In no other way would they believe that liberty could be established. The Presbyterians in Parliament and in the Army were noxious to them both for their desire for a speedy termination of the war, and for their opposition to liberty of conscience. A game for supremacy was now played by these two parties which first brought to the surface the wonderful political ability of Cromwell.
In coming to the consideration of this part of his character we are met with the charge, so frequently made, that he constantly practiced a deep dissimulation. In reply to this we ask, Has the world produced a statesman who did not dissimulate? Is not dissimulation a faculty of the diplomatic mind? The word is used to denote a concealment of motives and designs. What, then, would be thought of a man who, in the perilous times of revolution, and while acting the supreme part in his country’s history, would make a frivolously candid disclosure of his motives and designs? What would be the outcome of a revolution under such a leader? Cromwell did dissimulate. When encompassed with political difficulties, and surrounded by secret enemies on the Puritan side, dissimulation was the weapon which he employed to accomplish his designs. Major Huntingdon asserts that Cromwell told him it was “lawful to play the knave with a knave.” If Oliver used this blunt assertion he used it to fit a particular case. “Cromwell,” says Prof. Gardiner, “was certainly not one of those simple-minded men who wear their hearts upon their sleeves, and he undoubtedly did not think it in accordance with his duty to inform his political opponents what means he was about to adopt to countermine their machinations.”
One night late in November (1644) the Lord General Essex secretly invited some very prominent persons to his house. Essex was no longer the idol of his party, and the sting of public disfavor rankled in his mind. Among those who came to see him were Whitelock, Maynard, Denzil Hollis, Sir Philip Stapleton, and the Scottish Commissioners. Lord Loudon, Chancellor of Scotland, addressed these members and informed them that Cromwell was no friend to the Scottish Army, that he had used the arts of an incendiary to detract from their honor and merit, and that he was no friend to Lord Essex. He desired to know whether it would be deemed expedient to draw up a prosecution against Cromwell before Parliament, demanding his punishment as an incendiary under the agreement between the two countries, and an enemy to the common weal. Whitelock and the others discussed this audacious proposition, but they all came to the wise conclusion that Cromwell’s influence in Parliament was too powerful to be overthrown by such a proceeding, and they resolved that no move should be made until absolute proofs against him could be collected.
Cromwell was promptly informed of these designs to destroy him, and he prepared at once to crush his enemies and establish his own position firmly in the Army. On the 9th of December, in the House of Commons, after there had been a general silence for a good space of time, each member waiting to see whether his neighbour would broach this embarrassing business, Oliver Cromwell rose and spoke upon the Self-Denying Ordinance. This ordinance provided that no member of either House should henceforth hold office in either the Army, the Navy, or the civil Government. His speech was brusque and practical. He said:
“It is now a time to speak, or forever hold the tongue. The important occasion now is no less than to save a nation out of a bleeding, nay, almost dying condition; which the long continuance of this war hath already brought it into; so that without a more speedy, vigorous, and effectual prosecution of the War—casting off all lingering proceedings like those of soldiers of fortune beyond sea, to spin out a war—we shall make the kingdom weary of us, and hate the name of Parliament.
“For what do the Enemy say? Nay, what do many say that were friends at the beginning of the Parliament? Even this, that the members of both Houses have got great places and commands, and the sword into their hands; and, what by interest in Parliament, what by power in the Army, will perpetually continue themselves in grandeur, and not permit the war speedily to end, lest their own power should determine with it. This that I speak here to our own faces is what others do utter abroad behind our backs. I am far from reflecting on any. I know the worth of those commanders, members of both Houses, who are yet in power; but if I may speak my conscience without reflection upon any, I do conceive if the Army be not put into another method, and the war more vigorously prosecuted, the People can bear the War no longer, and will enforce you to a dishonorable peace.
“But this I would recommend to your prudence, not to insist upon any complaint or oversight of any Commander-in-chief upon any occasion whatsoever; for as I must acknowledge myself guilty of oversights, so I know they can rarely be avoided in military affairs. Therefore, waiving a strict inquiry into the causes of these things, let us apply ourselves to the remedy, which is most necessary. And I hope we have such true English hearts, and zealous affections towards the general weal of our Mother Country, as no Members of either House will scruple to deny themselves, and their own private interests, for the public good, nor account it to be a dishonor done to them, whatever the Parliament shall resolve upon in this weighty matter.”
Sir Harry Vane also spoke, accusing himself for holding a gainful office, that of Treasurer of the Navy. Other members were eloquent in their praise of this plan for establishing their patriotism on sure foundations.
The Presbyterians opposed the ordinance. The Independent design of leveling social and family distinctions was darkly hinted at. Whitelock told them that their present commanders were trained to military authority, that greater confidence might safely be reposed in men of family and fortune than in mere adventurers, that the Army should be held in strict subordination to the civil power, and that those who now enjoyed these trusts should not be disturbed.
Then Cromwell replied briefly to all the other speeches. He said:
“I am not of the mind that the calling of the members to sit in Parliament will break or scatter our armies. I can speak this for my own soldiers, that they look not upon me, but upon you, and for you they will fight, and live and die in your cause; and if others be of that mind that they are of, you need not fear them. They do not idolize me, but look upon the cause they fight for. You may lay upon them what commands you please; they will obey your commands in that cause they fight for.”
Too modest indeed was Cromwell in saying that his soldiers did not idolize him.
It was a hard struggle, but the Self-Denying Ordinance was at length passed in both Houses, and among those who immediately resigned their commands were Essex, Waller, Manchester, Warwick, Denbigh, and Brereton—all Presbyterians. Skippon, being an Independent, was retained as Major-General to please the City of London.
The Earl of Essex had been chosen to lead the Parliamentary hosts because his noble birth, his elevated character, and his military experience in the Continental wars had commended him to the Puritans as an ideal general. He had been upheld in every reverse by the loyalty and devotion of his party. His inactive policy of watch-and-wait had been accepted with deference by those who yearned to see him fight a crushing battle. When he did meet the King, as at Edgehill and Newbury, he maneuvered his troops with the skillful judgment of an unbeaten soldier. But he never struck a decisive blow; he always permitted the enemy to withdraw in order, and in time there were those who cried vehemently that his Lordship was a King’s man at heart, and that he was not striving in good faith for the Parliament’s supremacy. The bad condition of the Roundhead cause under his leadership, and the good fortune which quickly followed when Cromwell, Manchester, and Fairfax were separated from his authority, convinced the Puritans, after long forbearance, that he was not available for the post of conqueror in the revolution which they were resolved to accomplish. The Self-Denying Ordinance was the engine which swept him and his friends aside. Essex was voted a pension of £10,000 a year, but he died in less than two years after his resignation—that is, on September 14, 1646, at the age of fifty-five years. He was buried in great state in the presence of both Houses of Parliament.
The passage of the Self-Denying Ordinance was due to Cromwell’s personal management. Under its indiscriminating provisions he should at once have resigned from the Army. But there are no grounds for believing that he ever intended to resign. Says William Godwin:
“It is sufficiently singular that at this time when the names of the General, the Major-General, and twenty-four colonels were voted, the appointment of Lieutenant-General was passed over in silence. It cannot be reasonably doubted that there was a special reason for keeping the name of the officer second in command in reserve; and that reason, as appeared in the sequel, was that the situation was destined for Cromwell.”
At the time the resignations of the other officers were received, he was on his way to Taunton to relieve a siege there. Comment having naturally been made on his absence, orders were dispatched for his immediate attendance in Parliament, and Sir Thomas Fairfax, the new General, was instructed to employ some other officer in that service. A day was accordingly named on which he would return and take his seat in the House. But Fairfax, having appointed a rendezvous for the Army, forwarded a petition to the Parliament, bearing the signatures of himself and sixteen colonels, in which they begged permission for Cromwell to remain at headquarters for a few days, as his advice would be useful in supplying the places of those officers who had resigned. Shortly afterwards, he earnestly besought the Parliament to allow Cromwell to serve for three months, which was granted, and then four months more, and six months again, as Lieutenant-General. And his martial achievements during these times were so colossal that even his enemies could not again press the matter of his retirement, while the great body of the people viewed his performances in the field with wonder and admiration; and the soldiers broke out into fierce denunciation when it was proposed to revoke his commission.
Soon after the retirement of the Presbyterian generals from the Army had been accomplished, the Self-Denying Ordinance was forgotten, and the Independent officers in the Army were elected to Parliament to fill vacancies, among them being Sir Oliver and Sir Samuel Luke, Henry Ireton, Thomas Rainsborough, Algernon Sidney, Richard Ingoldsby, Edmund Ludlow, and Charles Fleetwood. The political and strategic purpose of this measure is therefore plain, but it opened the way to a reform in the personnel of the Army which was much needed.
The ordinance for the “New Model” of the Army quickly followed the Self-Denying Ordinance. This provided for recruiting the Parliamentary Army to 21,000 men, Sir Thomas Fairfax being General. Fairfax was a man of humane nature, and esteemed for his bravery. At the time of his elevation to the chief command, he was only thirty-four years of age, and as he had a narrow understanding of all affairs other than those of war, it was natural that he should lean on Cromwell and imbibe some part of the religious zeal and personal enthusiasm of that masterful man. And to the end of his military service, Fairfax, nominally the General, was really a trusting follower of Cromwell in all the important measures of the war. A noticeable thing in the commission of Fairfax was the omission of those instructions which the Parliament had formerly given to Essex for the care of the King’s person.
The ordinance for the New Model gave to Fairfax and Cromwell, and to their adherents in Parliament, an opportunity to reconstruct the Army in a manner that gave the chief official places to Independents. The Covenant, never regarded by them as more than a political expedient to gain the Scottish Army, was now practically suspended. The new recruits were not required to subscribe it. The efficiency of the military service was greatly enhanced, jealousies disappeared, and every soldier seemed possessed by a wild and weird zeal to fight the enemies of Zion—who, of course, were the Cavaliers—to the death. Religious enthusiasm was at its height when the New Model was completed. Those Puritan hosts performed every action in the name of God. When they were not fighting, they were either preaching or reading, and expounding the Scriptures. Conversation was often carried on in Biblical phrases. Every argument was clinched with a text from the sacred book. The private soldiers, disciplined to perfect obedience in the drill or on the field, forgot their subordination in the relaxed freedom of the camp, and often lectured their officers fiercely when they were suspected of a weakness of the flesh. They adopted the old Jewish theory of the personal leadership of Jehovah. The Old Testament was explored for instances of modern application. They delighted to quote the inspired promise that the saints shall possess the earth. They proclaimed that they had drawn the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. Agag, the hated Amalekite King, was the name by which they referred to Charles. They were in arms against the Ammonites and the Moabites. The children of Belial were opposing them. The popish soldiers were led by the priests of Baal. They would overcome their foes at Armageddon. The Scarlet Woman would be slain. Agag would be covered with confusion. Then would peace come to Shiloh.
The placing of the whole power of the sword in the hands of the Independents under the New Model speedily awakened a jealousy among the Presbyterian majority in the Parliament, which was to grow into a bitterness nearly equal to that which now existed between the King and the Commons. But momentous affairs obscured this incipient strife for the time being.
While Fairfax and Cromwell were thus reconstructing and re-inspiring the Army, the Parliament found time to bring the aged Archbishop Laud to trial, he having lain in prison ever since the days of the Strafford agitation. His trial bore much resemblance to that of Strafford, and it has been equally a subject of heated controversy. He was accused, in the same manner as Strafford had been accused, of high treason, in endeavoring to subvert the fundamental laws of the kingdom. The same specious but illegal theory of a cumulative crime and a constructive evidence was adopted. After more than one hundred and fifty witnesses had testified, the Parliament found, as in the Strafford trial, that there was so little likelihood of obtaining a verdict, that they fell back upon the old expedient of an ex-post-facto law, and passed an ordinance to take away his life. The Lords made some show of opposition, but so far had their influence declined that they soon withdrew their virtuous objections, and concurred with the lower House. It is but fair to say that when the question was put, only seven of the Peers were present to vote, the others having purposely remained away in a conscious shame of the act. The original sentence was that he should be hanged, drawn, and quartered, but upon an earnest solicitation from the Lords, the Commons, after once refusing, finally granted, with much reluctance, a petition from Laud that he might be beheaded, which was accordingly done on the 10th of January, 1645, in the face of a free pardon which Charles formally issued to him from Oxford.
About the same time the Parliament, endeavoring to give a finishing blow to the English Church, passed an ordinance abolishing the Book of Common Prayer.
The King sent several messages for peace, and at length succeeded in having commissioners appointed by the Parliament, who met his own representatives at Uxbridge; and thence ensued the treaty which took its name from that place.
In order to secure this commission, Charles had been compelled to recede from his former resolution, and address the Houses at Westminster as the Parliament of England. This concession apparently stultified his Oxford Parliament, but he ordered a secret entry to be made in the council books, that, though he had called them the Parliament, he had notacknowledged them for such, and a letter to his Queen in which this casuistry was set forth was taken at Naseby, and was made one of the grounds for the charge of political perfidy which has ever since been stoutly advanced against him. But straightforward dealing is not the ruling virtue of either party in times of war.
At the time that the treaty of Uxbridge was commenced, there was no sincere belief in the breast of any of the Commissioners that a peace would be secured. The Presbyterians were naturally afraid of punishment if they restored the King to power. The Independents were openly demanding a pure Republic. The Royalists were unwilling to grant any further concessions than those which had been yielded before the war began.
The Parliamentary commissioners demanded that the power of the sword should forever be entrusted to such persons as the Parliament would appoint, but afterwards seven years was named as the time. They required that the truce with the Irish rebels should be abrogated, and the management of the war and of the civil administration in Ireland be placed with the Parliament. They desired the King and all his party to sign the Covenant and adopt the worship of the Presbyterian Church, forsaking Episcopacy. They then set forth other demands, that the King should attaint and except from a general pardon forty of the most considerable of his English subjects, and nineteen of those of Scotland, together with all the Catholics in both kingdoms who had borne arms for him. Forty-eight others, with all the members who had sat in either House at Oxford, and all lawyers and ministers who had embraced the King’s party, should be made incapable of holding office, be forbidden the exercise of their professions, be prohibited from attending the Court, and should forfeit one third of their estates to the Parliament. Whoever had borne arms for the King should forfeit one tenth of their estates, or, if that were not sufficient for the payment of the public debts, one sixth. Finally, it was demanded, that the Court of Wards should be abolished, that all the important officers of the Crown, and all the judges should be appointed by the Parliament, and that the prerogative of peace or war should not be exercised without the Parliament’s consent. Some of these proposals were in exact accord with the correct understanding of a nation’s liberty. But some of them were barbarous. After twenty days had been spent in fruitless debates, the treaty was abandoned.
In April, a body of troops from the new-modeled Army was overtaken by the intrepid Prince Rupert near Lidbury, and put to rout, two hundred of them being taken prisoners. Cromwell, who had come to Windsor ostensibly to resign his commission, received orders to intercept the King, who, it was reported, intended to march from Oxford, and join Rupert at Worcester. He met the advance guard at Islip Bridge, and defeated them, he likewise taking two hundred prisoners. The fugitives were pursued to Blechington House, a strongly fortified and well garrisoned castle commanded by Colonel Windebank, a son of the King’s former Secretary. Cromwell, as a mere formality of war, summoned them to surrender, but he never expected their compliance, and would have passed on without assaulting them. But Windebank, who was enjoying his honeymoon, hastily surrendered, and reaching Oxford in disgrace, was immediately shot by sentence of court-martial. Cromwell was overcome with surprise at the yielding of this stronghold, and as usual when unexpected advantages fell to him, his fervid soul attributed it all to divine interposition. In his official report, he said:
“This was the mercy of God, and nothing is more due than a real acknowledgment. And though I have had greater mercies, yet none clearer; because, in the first place, God brought them to our hands when we looked not for them; and delivered them out of our hands when we laid a reasonable design to surprise them, and which we carefully endeavoured. His mercy appears in this also, that I did much doubt the storming of the House, it being strong and well manned and I having few dragoons, and this being not my business; and yet we got it. I hope you will pardon me if I say, God is not enough owned. We look too much to men and visible helps. This hath much hindered our success. But I hope God will direct all to acknowledge him alone in all things.”
Leaving a guard at Blechington, Cromwell marched to Witney, and beat up the Royalist quarters at Brampton Bush, capturing a number of prisoners. He then summoned Farrington Castle in this fierce style:
“To the Governor of the Garrison in Farrington.
“29th April, 1645.
“I summon you to deliver into my hands the house wherein you are, and your ammunition, with all things else there; together with your persons, to be disposed of as the Parliament shall appoint. Which if you refuse to do, you are to expect the utmost extremity of war. I rest, your servant,
But Roger Burgess, a stout Cavalier, who had the Blechington affair and Windebank’s fate in his mind, defied him to do his worst. Cromwell assaulted the walls at three in the morning, and was repulsed, leaving fourteen of his men killed, and ten other prisoners.
By this time, Fairfax believed the new Army to be sufficiently well organized to take the field. The Parliament ordered a day of public humiliation and prayer for its success; and on April 30, 1645, he marched from Windsor, and reaching Newbury on May 2, he was joined by Cromwell. The Lieutenant-General learned from some prisoners of a design of General Goring’s to attack his troops, which had been left at Farrington that night, and he made haste thither, but arrived just in time to see his troops, under Major Bethel, attacked on the opposite side of the river. The skirmish occurred at Radcot Bridge, and as soon as Cromwell came over the fight became furious, Bethel was taken prisoner, and four or five Roundheads were slain. Cromwell had barely reached the front when darkness came on, much to Goring’s delight, who, being unwilling to risk a general engagement, drew off his men with the purpose of intercepting Fairfax’s march to the relief of Taunton, then under siege by the Royalists. In this endeavor he was not successful, as Fairfax dispatched a large body of men under Colonel Weldon, who drew up before Taunton on May 12, causing the Royalists to withdraw. They were soon met, however, by Goring and Hopton, under whose command the Cavaliers again took up the siege of Taunton, immuring Weldon and his relief party close prisoners within the beleaguered walls.
In the meantime, the King had left Oxford, accompanied by Prince Rupert and 8,000 soldiers, and after taking some Puritan castles on his march, he forced the Parliamentarians to raise the siege of Chester. Retracing his march, the King stopped before the city of Leicester, and summoned it to surrender. Receiving a refusal, he planted his batteries and stormed the walls (May 30), carrying them after a brilliant and heroic assault. This victory was a great one, as he captured 1,500 prisoners and a vast store of war materials, together with much money, plate, and goods.
While the King was winning these victories, Fairfax had sat down before Oxford, where he had been surprised by a sally in which one hundred of his men were killed. On receiving intelligence of the successful storming of Leicester the Parliament peremptorily commanded him to quit Oxford and go into the Associated Counties, where it was feared the King would next wend his way. It was this period of disaster which evoked from the Parliament a formal authority for Cromwell, still the only Roundhead who was winning victories, to serve as Lieutenant-General, commanding the horse.
It was the intention of General Goring in the West to join his forces with the King’s Army, and he wrote letters to Charles dissuading him from risking a battle until this junction could be effected. But the Parliament intercepted these letters and their wise counsel was lost to the ill-fated Sovereign, who was widening the distance every day between himself and Goring by pursuing his march northward towards Pontefract Castle.
The Scottish Army was still in the far North. Its Presbyterian generals had perceived with much disfavor the establishment of Independent ascendency in the New-Model Army of the Parliament, and the natural jealousies which already existed between the armies were fanned into new heat by the religious and political prejudices which had grown out of the operations of the Self-Denying Ordinance. This was one reason why Fairfax could not look for any immediate assistance from the invaders. But there was a more potent excuse for Scottish inactivity in the North.
James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, who, as a zealous Covenanter, had opposed Charles in the two Bishops’ Wars, had since become his most devoted adherent. Young, ardent, and brave, he had offered his sword to his King, and Charles had granted him supreme authority to conduct a war of diversion in Scotland, hoping that he could force Leven to re-cross his Army over the Tweed and transfer the field of war to Scotland. Montrose, returning to Scotland alone, was laughed at for his pretensions. But in a very short period of time he had gathered under his banner a goodly number of the hereditary followers of his house, and was soon reinforced by the Earl of Antrim, who came over from Ireland with 1,500 soldiers. Possessing courage equal to that of Rupert, but withal a better judgment, Montrose entered into his campaign with so much fervency and zeal that he very shortly became almost the conqueror of Scotland. His Army increased as victory followed victory. At Tippermuir, Perth, and Aberdeen he had broken the strength of the Covenanters; and, with the intelligence of this havoc of war ringing in his ears, yet still unwilling to leave England, General Leven dared not march too far away from the borders of his native land.
But as soon as Fairfax was permitted to raise the irksome siege of Oxford, he made quick marches on the heels of the King, intent to give him battle.
Charles was in excellent spirits. A courier from Montrose had just brought word of a new victory. The King wrote to Henrietta Maria, “Never since the beginning of the rebellion have my affairs been in so good a position.” He and his courtiers rode away from the Army to hunt the stag. He had reached Naseby on his march, when, on the night of June 13, Henry Ireton, with the Roundhead advance guard, beat up his quarters and compelled him at midnight to fly to Harborough, where a council of war was held with Prince Rupert, and a rash resolve was taken to fight the next day.
The hamlet of Naseby stands on a hilltop, on the northwestern border of Northamptonshire, in the very heart of England. The high moor-ground is covered with clay hills, undulating for miles in extent. Early on the morning of June 14 (1645) the King marched his soldiers out on the moor and formed them on the elevated ground known as Dust Hill. A little later, General Fairfax, marching out from Naseby, ascended Mill Hill to reconnoiter the ground. Beside him was Cromwell, just arrived the day before with 600 horse from the fen country and received with a mighty shout of welcome by his Ironsides, who believed that victory abided in his presence. After inspecting the field the two generals began to withdraw into a hollow behind Mill Hill, seeking a better position; whereupon, the chafing and impatient Rupert, who was acting as his own scout-master, sent back a hasty message announcing to the King that the Roundheads were retreating and begging him to advance with all speed. The vantage ground on Dust Hill was accordingly forsaken, and the Cavaliers marched across the field for a mile and a half to meet the foe. Behind Lantford Hedge on the west side of the field, flanking the Cavaliers’ march, Cromwell had placed his Anabaptist major, Okey. He himself took charge of the right wing with six regiments of horse. The left wing was commanded by Henry Ireton, the most uncompromising Republican of his time, a scholar, lawyer, and soldier, a man of good brain and stout heart, who, through Cromwell’s good opinion of him, had that day been raised into high command from a Captain to Commissary-General of the Horse. In front of the Parliament center was the “forlorn hope,” or skirmish guard, who were expected to draw the first fire and feel the pulse of the enemy. In charge of the center with Fairfax was old Philip Skippon, a Low Country soldier, the leader of the London trained bands, who had won the hearts of his men by this cheerful shout, “Come, my boys, my brave boys! Let us pray heartily and fight heartily. I will run the same fortunes and hazards with you. Remember the cause is for God and for the defense of yourselves, your wives, and your children!” Behind the center with the reserve stood Colonel Pride and Colonel Hammond—the one to win future renown in the “Purge” of the Presbyterians from the Parliament, the other to meet his wandering King on an island and make him a hapless captive.
On the opposite side, as Generalissimo and directly commanding the main body, was the King, in full armor and splendidly mounted, destined that day to snatch from the wreck of his kingdom a reputation as one of the most gallant and courageous captains of his time. On the right wing was the fiery Prince and his invincible cavalry, smarting to meet Cromwell and avenge the beating inflicted on him at Marston Moor, but now facing Ireton. With Rupert was his brother, Prince Maurice, a saturnine but brave soldier. In Rupert’s rear was the reserve, under the Earl of Lindsey and Sir Jacob Astley. The left wing, facing Cromwell, was commanded by Sir Marmaduke Langdale, a pale and thin Yorkshireman, a stranger to fear, but the possessor of a temper which at times somewhat disturbed the equilibrium of his men. The Roundheads numbered nearly 14,000 men, and the Cavaliers about 7,500.
Every division had its standard, and every regiment its colors. The buff standard of the Parliament, with its Bible and sacred inscription, was planted on Mill Hill. Over the King’s center waved the royal crimson banner, embroidered with a gold crown and lion. Near it was the Queen’s white ensign with its fleur-de-lis. The flag of light-blue color on the right wing, emblazoned with the arms of the Palatinate, was Rupert’s.
The Royal Army advanced with so much alacrity across the rolling ground dividing Dust Hill from Mill Hill, that there was no time for turning their cannons ere the battle began. The guns of the Roundheads were placed so high on Mill Hill that they were equally useless, their fire going over the heads of the Cavaliers.
A rattling fire from the Anabaptist muskets behind the hedge emptied a few saddles as the Cavaliers charged past Okey’s ambush. On they came, to the foot of Mill Hill, crying their battle word, “Queen Mary.” The “forlorn hope” beheld their approach, and then turned with discretion and sought security amid the main ranks. Then came a shout from the Puritans, “God Our Strength,” and the battle was on.
Rupert charged up the hill, his followers mowing a wide pathway through Ireton’s squadrons. The gallant Roundhead tried to hold his men, but they were overridden and sabered by the young Palatine, swept down as by a wave from the sea, and covered with confusion and despair. Ireton’s horse was shot under him. Regaining his feet, a pike was thrust into his thigh, and a halbert wounded his face. He was taken prisoner, but in the excitement of the pursuit he soon escaped and rallied some of his panic-stricken followers. And Rupert sped on over the sloping hills, his Cavaliers dealing death to a flying victim with every stroke of their flashing swords. Exhilarated by this chase for human game, they forgot about the battle on the plain, forgot their King, and left him to his defeat, never dreaming but they had won the day. When they turned back they stopped to plunder the wagon train, where John Rushworth was taking notes for the Parliament and for posterity; but a sudden thought of the King occurred to them, and they spurred back to the field, paying no heed to a parting volley from the wagon train.
When the Puritan main body was struck by the Cavaliers under the leadership of Charles, a like disaster seemed about to ensue. With the exception of Fairfax’s own regiment, which held the Royalists in check, the front ranks broke and fled, but their enraged officers brought forward the reserves, which encouraged the others to advance again, and soon the two opposing hosts were battling at point of pike and thrust of sword, and clubbing their muskets, in the endeavor to win the day. Skippon was painfully shot in the side, and Fairfax urged him to leave the field, but he answered he would not stir so long as a man would stand. A blow from a sword beat off Fairfax’s helmet, and he rode about the field bareheaded, refusing to accept another from one of his officers. When his troops had become hardened to their work, he pointed to a division of the royal infantry which had seemed impregnable to every assault. “Can’t those people be got at?” he inquired of one of his most active colonels, “have you charged them?” “Twice, General, but I could not break them.” “Well, take them in front, I will take them in the rear, and we will meet in the middle,” and under these tactics the Royal foot gave way. Fairfax killed with his own hand an ensign, and caught the Royal flag from his relaxing grasp. For three hours the fight was stubborn and furious, and long afterwards the regicide witnesses testified that the most fell where the King stood.
But there was another quarter of the field where the Parliamentary troops met a better fortune. On the right wing, Cromwell, with 3,600 of the Ironsides, had charged Sir Marmaduke Langdale and his 2,000 veterans, and again the gay Cavaliers fell like stubble to their swords. They made, indeed, a stout resistance; Whalley charged them once for Cromwell, and they repelled him. But when Oliver led his men, a new inspiration seized them. Shouting their psalms, they rushed to victory, and literally pushed the Royalists off the field. Then the military caution of Cromwell was made to appear. He left a sufficient body of horse on the spot where he stopped his pursuit to keep Sir Marmaduke’s squadrons from returning to the King’s succor, perceiving, by the disappearance of Rupert, that the main body, bereft of the support of both wings, would be doomed to defeat. He then took the flower of his command and fell upon the King’s center.
In the meantime, Charles had carried himself with magnificent courage. At the moment when Cromwell had turned from his pursuit of Langdale, there had been a cessation of the conflict. This was caused by Fairfax calling off his troops to reform, while Ireton joined him with some of his fugitive horse on the left, and Cromwell was returning on the right. He had thus an army well formed in a manner as at the start, and he permitted his men to breathe before renewing the struggle. The sight struck the practiced eye of Charles with dismay. But at that moment, Rupert, having perceived too late his fatal mistake, dashed on the field. There was still a large body of horse with the King, but they were weary and despondent.
Charles, with despair stamped on every feature, waved his sword. “One charge more, gentlemen,” he cried. “One charge more, and the day is ours!” There was an answering shout, and Charles would have put his life into that attempt. But the Earl of Carnwarth, seizing his bridle, checked his horse and turned him round. With a great oath the Earl cried, “Will you go upon your death in an instant?” The golden moment was lost. Before Charles could release his charger from the Earl’s grasp, his followers had likewise turned their steeds. Cromwell was thundering on their rear. Fairfax and Ireton were charging on their flank. The retreat became a rout; and the Puritans, after killing 800 men, capturing the entire infantry, numbering nearly 5,000, and taking the wagon train and all the artillery, arms, and ammunition, pursued the Cavaliers for twelve miles, until they sought shelter behind the walls of Leicester.
The devout soul of Cromwell had but one explanation for this superb victory. He wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons thus:
“Sir, this is none other but the hand of God; and to him alone belongs the glory, wherein none are to share with him. The General served you with all faithfulness and honour; and the best commendation I can give him is, that I daresay he attributes all to God, and would rather perish than assume to himself. Which is an honest and thriving way: and yet as much for bravery may be given to him, in this action, as to a man. Honest men [here he alludes to his own followers, the Independents] served you faithfully in this action. Sir, they are trusty; I beseech you, in the name of God, not to discourage them. I wish this action may beget thankfulness and humility in all that are concerned in it. He that ventures his life for the liberty of his country, I wish he trust God for the liberty of his conscience and you for the liberty he fights for. In this he rests who is your most humble servant,
Close of the First Civil War
The King and Prince Rupert tarried but a few hours in Leicester, and then fled on with a broken following, riding all night to Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and all the next day to Hereford, by which time they had begun to cherish a fatuous hope of raising a new army in a part of the country which was already exhausted by the ravages of the war. As soon as the King had established himself in some comfort at Hereford, Rupert, ever impatient in the presence of superior authority, rode off to Bristol to look after the defenses of that great city. Within a few days Leicester was surrendered back to the Parliament.
The Parliament then published the King’s letters which had been taken at Naseby. Under the title of “The King’s Cabinet Opened,” this correspondence was spread before the eyes of Englishmen, and from it they learned that their King, although amiable and pure in his private character, was, in his political aspect, a creature of duplicity, whose conscience could not be bound by his most solemn asseverations.
On July 10th Fairfax met Goring at Langport and forced him to fight, severely defeating him. On July 23 he took Bridgewater, and on the 29th Bath surrendered to the Parliament, Rupert hovering four miles away, but not strong enough to give succor.
About this time the waste of war had produced violent discontent among a class of men who had refrained thus far from actively participating with either side. Under the name of Clubmen, these men banded together for the purpose of enforcing a peace. They had their greatest strength in the southwest counties. Prince Charles had recently been met with their importunities, and now, upon the approach of the Parliamentary Army, they renewed their demonstrations insomuch that Cromwell was dispatched to disperse them. On August 4, he spied a party of about 4,000 of them on a high hill near Shaftesbury, and sent to ask them the reason for their assembling. They fired on his guard, but with great forbearance he sent a second time commanding them to depart to their homes. They told his messengers they were Royalists, and that Lord Hopton was coming to command them, and then fired another volley, whereupon Cromwell charged them in front and rear, killed a few, wounded a great many, took 300 prisoners, and permitted the others to fly to their homes. This ended the trouble with the Clubmen.
Soon after this, the King, who was still an alert and energetic commander, rode into the counties of the Eastern Association and took Cromwell’s own town of Huntingdon. Going into the West again, he was attacked by the Roundhead troops under Poyntz and Jones on Rowton Heath (September 24, 1645), and after a spirited fight, was beaten with much loss, Lord Bernard Stuart being slain. After retreating into Wales, the King returned with Sir Marmaduke Langdale and 3,000 men, and stormed and captured the Earl of Chesterfield’s Castle at Shelford (November 3).
It was now a question with the Parliamentary generals whether to follow Hopton and Goring into the South, or turn back and give their attention to Rupert. That Prince was again powerful. As Governor of Bristol he had recruited his forces, and was daily marauding the country, and inflicting terror and loss on all who were known to be well-affected to the Parliament. Besides, it was feared that if the Roundheads marched south, the Clubmen would join Rupert, and as there were some twelve or fifteen thousand of them, this was considered a sufficient reason for the determination which was now formed to march upon Bristol.
Bristol was the second city of importance in the kingdom. It was well prepared for a siege, being protected by stone walls and huge forts, in the midst of which was a feudal castle of great strength. The garrison numbered more than 2,500 men, although Rupert afterwards claimed that he could never muster over 1,500 at any one time during the siege. There was ample store of provision, the Prince having procured immense supplies of corn from Wales and driven in all the cattle from the surrounding country. While there was no Royalist army in the vicinity to give him immediate succor, Rupert could reasonably have assumed that either the King, Hopton, or Goring, being themselves relieved from pursuit, would recuperate their forces and march to his relief ere he could come to the last extremity of distress, and he had written to the King that he could hold the place for four months if there was no mutiny.
The siege began on Friday, August 22, 1645, and Fairfax and Cromwell placed their men on all sides, completely surrounding the city. Rupert displayed his usual heroic spirit and kept his cannon playing from the Great Fort. Watching for opportunities to catch the Puritans unawares, he led out his men in various sallies, once making an attack with almost his entire command.
The Parliamentarians had been led to believe that a large portion of the inhabitants were in sympathy with their cause, and the two generals succeeded in passing printed circulars into the town, promising protection to anyone who would commence a demonstration of revolt, and they even suggested that an effort be made to seize the Prince’s person. But finding that they had been falsely informed in this, they determined to storm the walls. Before putting this plan in execution, Fairfax, undoubtedly at the instigation of Cromwell, addressed a curious letter to the Prince, and it is hard to say by how much his conduct afterwards was influenced by this epistle. After making the usual formal demand for the surrender of the city, Fairfax spoke of the Prince’s royal birth, his relation to the Crown of England, the present troublous times, and the desire of all good men that peace might come. He praised Rupert’s valor, and reminded him how much of the nation’s gratitude would be his if, instead of wasting the blood of Englishmen, he would yield the city, and thus permit the approach of peace. He made the old arguments pointing to a distinction between the King’s person and his office, promised punishment to the “evil counselors,” and said they were fighting for the constitutional principle of a government responsible to the whole nation as represented by the Parliament. He then urged him to surrender the city, and named an hour by which he would expect a reply. This letter is not mentioned in some of the modern histories, but the present author believes that it was a stroke of diplomacy which affected the youthful Prince’s judgment more powerfully than any actual military demonstration that was made during the siege. Rupert perceiving, as did all other Cavaliers, the utter hopelessness of a further protraction of the war, had only recently advised the King to sue for peace on the best terms he could get, to which Charles had made the mournful reply that, while ruin was indeed inevitable, he would not give up either his religion or his friends. With this desolate situation before his eyes, Rupert, who lacked both the patience and the discretion which are essential to the commander of a beleaguered city, and whose boisterous spirit pined under the tedious restraints of a siege, may have secretly looked forward to some share of public approbation in the approaching day of the Parliament’s triumph. But his loyalty never faltered, and he refused to deliver up his charge, although the correspondence concerning its evacuation was spun out for a full week’s time in the hope that encouragement would be received from the King.
On the 10th of September, after learning of another victory to Montrose in Scotland, Fairfax and Cromwell stormed the walls, commencing their assault at one o’clock in the morning. They met with a desperate resistance, and as some of the besiegers were required to mount scaling ladders of thirty steps, their undertaking was most hazardous. But by daybreak the Puritans had possessed themselves of the outer walls and forts, and driven the Prince and his garrison into the Great Fort and Castle. This was an almost impregnable position, which the Prince might have maintained for several weeks, but as some of his subordinate commanders were cut off from him in the lesser forts, and were in imminent peril of the last fate of soldiers, he sent a trumpeter to Fairfax to treat for a surrender, and on the next day, September 11, having received fair terms, he marched out of Bristol at the head of his troops with all the honors of war, but carrying a broken heart under his steel corselet, and took his way to Oxford. Three days later a proclamation was issued by the King, revoking all the Prince’s military commissions. An angry letter enclosed it to Rupert, directing him to leave the kingdom and seek his subsistence beyond seas, which in due time he did, accompanied by his brother Maurice.
Cromwell, who had been the chief actor in the scenes connected with the siege and capture of Bristol, was directed by Fairfax to write the official report to the Parliament, and after giving them a history of the affair, his deep conviction of a divine ordering of the result was set forth in these stern and glowing words:
“Thus I have given you a true, but not a full account of this great business; wherein he that runs may read, that all this is none other than the work of God. He must be a very Atheist that doth not acknowledge it. It may be thought that some praises are due to those gallant men, of whose valour so much mention is made—their humble suit to you and all that have an interest in this blessing, is that in the remembrance of God’s praises they be forgotten. It’s their joy that they are instruments of God’s glory and their country’s good. It’s their honour that God vouchsafes to use them. Sir, they that have been employed in this service know, that faith and prayer obtained this City for you: I do not say ours only, but of the people of God with you and all England over, who have wrestled with God for a blessing in this very thing. Our desires are, that God may be glorified by the same spirit of faith by which we ask all our sufficiency and have received it. It is meet that He have all the praise. Presbyterians, Independents, all have here the same spirit of faith and prayer; the same presence and answer; they agree here, have no names of difference: pity it is it should be otherwise anywhere! All that believe, have the real unity, which is most glorious; because inward, and spiritual, in the Body, and to the Head. For being united in forms, commonly called Uniformity, every Christian will for peace-sake study and do, as far as conscience will permit. And for brethren, in things of the mind we look for no compulsion, but that of light and reason. In other things, God hath put the sword in the Parliament’s hands, for the terror of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well. If any plead exemption from that, he knows not the gospel: if any would wring that out of your hands, or steal it from you under what pretence soever, I hope they shall do it without effect. That God may maintain it in your hands, and direct you in the use thereof, is the prayer of your humble servant,
After the taking of Bristol, the Parliamentary forces divided, Fairfax with the main body going to Bath for rest and refreshment, while Cromwell, with the horse, went on an expedition against various small but troublesome garrisons which occupied the Royalist strongholds between London and the West. His first capture was the castle of the Devizes. The governor, Sir Charles Lloyd, when summoned to surrender, defiantly replied that Cromwell “must win and wear if.” But when the redoubtable Roundheads made a breach in the walls, and began to inflict the penalties of war on the defenders, the governor made haste to come to terms.
Cromwell then approached Winchester Castle and what ensued shall be read in his own spirited account:
“To the Right Honourable Sir Thomas Fairfax, General of the Parliament’s Army: These.
“Winchester, 6th October, 1645.
“I came to Winchester on the Lord’s day the 28th of September; with Colonel Pickering, commanding his own, Colonel Montague’s, and Sir Hardress Waller’s regiments. After some dispute with the Governor, we entered the Town. I summond the Castle; was denied; whereupon we fell to prepare batteries, which we could not perfect (some of our guns being out of order) until Friday following. Our battery was six guns; which being finished, after firing one round, I sent in a second summons for a treaty; which they refused. Whereupon we went on with our work, and made a breach in the wall near the Black Tower; which after about 200 shot, we thought stormable; and purposed on Monday morning to attempt it. On Sunday night about ten of the clock, the Governor beat a parley, desiring to treat. I agreed unto it; and sent Colonel Hammond and Major Harrison in to him, who agreed upon these enclosed Articles.
“Sir, this is the addition of another mercy. You see God is not weary in doing you good: I confess, Sir, His favour to you is as visible, when He comes by His power upon the hearts of your enemies, making them quit places of strength to you, as when He gives courage to your soldiers to attempt hard things. His goodness in this is much to be acknowledged: for the Castle was well manned with Six-hundred-and-eighty horse and foot, there being near two-hundred gentlemen, officers, and their servants: well victualled, with fifteen hundred-weight of cheese, very great store of wheat and beer; near twenty barrels of powder, seven pieces of cannon; the works were exceeding good and strong. It’s very likely it would have cost much blood to have gained it by storm. We have not lost twelve men: this is repeated to you, that God may have all the praise, for it’s all His due. Sir, I rest, your most humble servant,
The messenger who brought this welcome tidings to London, who chanced to be the celebrated army chaplain, Hugh Peters, was voted fifty pounds for his good news.
It appears that “these enclosed articles” were violated by the Roundhead soldiers in plundering their prisoners, whereupon, complaint being made to Cromwell, he instantly brought six of his soldiers before a court-martial. They were duly found guilty and one was by lot hanged, and the other five were marched off to Oxford for such punishment as the Royalist governor desired to mete to them. But that officer returned the prisoners to Cromwell with a polite acknowledgment “of the Lieutenant-General’s nobleness.”
Cromwell then turned towards Basing House, the most formidable castle in the South, which had already resisted both siege and assault. Its walls were a mile around. The old castle had stood for several centuries and a newer one had recently been reared beside it. Its owner, the Marquis of Winchester, had used a refined taste and an ample purse to adorn it with pictures, sculpture, and furniture, and his own private bed-chamber had been supplied with a luxury which amazed the stiff-necked Roundheads when they plundered it. Cromwell planted his batteries the night before the assault, and then, with his Ironsides about him, he called on the Most High to sustain him on the morrow. “He spent much time with God in prayer the night before the storm,” said Chaplain Hugh Peters, in his narration to the Parliament, “and he seldom fights without some text of Scripture to support him.” The Psalm which he chose for the edification of his men was the 115th. The pleading tones of his voice in the solemn quiet of that dark night resound in fancy’s ear now:
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory; for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the Heathen say, Where is now their Lord? Our God is in the Heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold; the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not; they have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat! They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them!”
With a firm faith in the righteousness of this denunciation of their foes, they stormed the breastworks at daybreak with irresistible fury, and soon were masters of the place. A large part of the garrison was put to the sword, the stately pile was burned, and all its costly treasures which escaped the flames were carried off for spoil. This was an achievement of the highest importance, and Cromwell wrote the following account of it to the Parliament:
“To the Honourable William Lenthal, Speaker of the Commons’ House of Parliament: These.
“Basingstoke, 14th October, 1645.
“I thank God, I can give you a good account of Basing. After our batteries placed, we settled the several posts for the storm; Colonel Dalbier was to be on the north side of the House next the Grange; Colonel Pickering on his left hand, and Sir Hardress Waller’s and Colonel Montague’s regiments next him. We stormed, this morning, after six of the clock: the signal for falling-on was the firing four of our cannon; which being done our men fell on with great resolution and cheerfulness. We took the two houses without any considerable loss to ourselves. Colonel Pickering stormed the New House, passed through, and got the gate of the Old House; whereupon they summoned a parley, which our men would not hear.
“In the meantime Colonel Montague’s and Sir Hardress Waller’s regiments assaulted the strongest work, where the Enemy kept his Court of Guard; which, with great resolution, they recovered; beating the Enemy from a whole culverin, and from that work: which having done, they drew their ladders after them, and got over another work, and the house-wall, before they could enter. In this Sir Hardress Waller, performing his duty with honour and diligence, was shot in the arm, but not dangerously.
“We have had little loss: many of the enemy our men put to the sword, and some officers of quality; most of the rest we have prisoners, amongst whom the Marquis of Winchester himself, and Sir Robert Peak, with divers other officers, whom I have ordered to be sent up to you. We have taken about ten pieces of ordnance, with much ammunition, and our soldiers a good encouragement.
“I humbly offer to you, to have this place utterly slighted, for these following reasons: It will ask about Eight-hundred men to manage it; it is no frontier; the country is poor about it; the place exceedingly ruined by our batteries and mortar pieces, and by a fire which fell upon the place since our taking it. If you please to take the Garrison at Farnham, some out of Chichester, and a good part of the foot which were here under Dalbier, and to make a strong Quarter at Newbury with three or four troops of horse, I dare be confident it would not only be a curb to Dennington, but a security and frontier to all these parts; in as much as Newbury lies upon the River, and will prevent any incursion from Dennington, Wallingford, or Farrington into these parts; and by lying there, will make the trade most secure between Bristol and London for all carriages. And I believe the gentlemen of Sussex and Hampshire will with more cheerfulness contribute to maintain a garrison on the frontier than in their bowels, which will have less safety in it.
“Sir, I hope not to delay, but to march toward the West to-morrow; and to be as diligent as I may in my expedition thither. I must speak my judgment to you, That if you intend to have your work carried on, recruits of Foot must be had, and a course taken to pay your Army; else, believe me, Sir, it may not be able to answer the work you have for it to do.
“I entrusted Colonel Hammond to wait upon you, who was taken by a mistake whilst we lay before this Garrison, whom God safely delivered to us, to our great joy; but to his loss of almost all he had, which the Enemy took from him. The Lord grant that these mercies may be acknowledged with all thankfulness: God exceedingly abounds in His goodness to us, and will not be weary until righteousness and peace meet; and until He hath brought forth a glorious work for the happiness of this poor Kingdom. Wherein desires to serve God and you, with a faithful heart, your most humble servant,
When Cromwell drew up his men before Langford House, the terror of his name and the uselessness of a defense united to produce a surrender without opposition.
Indeed, strong castles could now be had almost for the asking, so swift was the decline of the King’s fortunes. Fairfax was taking his share of them. Tiverton Castle was stormed and captured, likewise the town of Dartmouth, and then Hopton, the best of the King’s generals, was beaten at Torrington.
The King turned his eyes to Scotland. From the blackness of his ruin he saw the star of Montrose rise luminous with glory across the Tweed. Charles determined to join him, and, reclaiming Scotland, rest content with the single crown of his ancestors. Already David Leslie had been dispatched to Scotland to command the Covenanters, who were in terror now with Montrose thundering at the gates of Edinburgh. The King was prepared to go to his successful general, who had only recently won two great victories, at Alford and Kilsyth, when a messenger brought him the gruesome tidings that Leslie had met and vanquished Montrose at Philiphaugh (September 13, 1645). Oxford was now the only spot in his kingdom which Charles could claim as his own, and thither he repaired and passed a cheerless winter. Before the snows of early March (1646) had melted, Lord Hopton surrendered his army in Cornwall to Fairfax, and followed the Cavaliers who had already gone beyond seas. A few days later that fine old knight, Sir Jacob Astley, while on his way to Oxford, was defeated and captured at Stow, among the wolds of Gloucestershire, surrendering himself with these scornful words: “You have now done your work and may go to play—unless you will fall out among yourselves.”
The Parliamentary Army made no attempt to capture the King’s person. That was the one thing which, all through the war, they had tried not to do. It was their policy to waste him, to wear him out. But to take him prisoner, to see him absolutely at their mercy, was a climax which would bring many embarrassments in its train, and they had avoided it.
Charles had begun earnestly to sue for peace. He sent three several messages to the Parliament on this subject in the month of December (1645), to the last of which they made a cold reply that they would in due time present to him some propositions for peace. He continued to write frequently to the Parliament, his last message bearing date the 23rd of March, 1646, but his urgent, even humble, appeals were received with silent disdain. Two hundred and thirty-five new members had recently been elected to Parliament to fill the seats of the disqualified Royalist members, and that body, now compact and victorious, was in no mood for a peace which would extend any generous concessions to the beaten foe.
Fairfax, returning victorious from the capture of Hopton’s army in the West, stopped to take Exeter, and then drew on towards Oxford. Charles sent a message to Ireton, who was with Fairfax, offering to place himself in the custody of the Commissary-General if Ireton would attend him with the Army to the Parliament and prevail on them to receive him with honor and freedom. The bearer of this desperate message was never permitted to return.
There was now but one step left for the King to take. To be carried back to London a prisoner would be an insufferable indignity. But his expatriated Queen had been urging him from her Parisian retreat to seek his safety in the Army of the Scots. A French ambassador had obtained the promise of the Scottish chiefs that they would receive Charles under their protection. The King determined to fly to their camp. Always visionary in his statemanship, he imagined that he could magnify the jealousies which were well known to exist between the Scottish and the English Armies, so that he might still be enabled in the end to dictate terms by military force.
On Monday, near midnight of the 27th of April, 1646, the King rode out of Oxford in disguise, accompanied by only two persons, Dr. Hudson, a clergyman, and John Ashburnham, groom of the bed-chamber, whose servant the King assumed to be. They went quietly to Newark, where Leven was conducting a siege, and there the King gave himself into the custody of the Scottish invaders, and ordered the Governor of Newark to surrender his city to the Parliament, which was accordingly done. He likewise dispatched instructions to those loyal garrisons which were still suffering the hardship of siege, to surrender on honorable terms. In a short time the Marquis of Ormond in Ireland, the Marquis of Montrose in Scotland, and the Marquis of Worcester in Wales laid down their arms, while Oxford and all the King’s castles in England were given over to the Parliament, and in August, 1646, the First Civil War was ended, after having raged with great bitterness and much bloodshed for four years.
While the army of Fairfax lay before Oxford waiting only for the completion of the articles of surrender to take possession of the last royal stronghold, Bridget Cromwell, now a little past twenty-one years old, and escorted by her father, came to Lady Whorwood’s house at Holton, which was the headquarters of Fairfax. Thither also came Commissary-General Henry Ireton, who had found opportunity in spite of battles and sieges to win the heart of Cromwell’s daughter. So on June 15, 1646, Mr. Dell, the General’s chaplain, performed the ceremony which made Ireton and Bridget husband and wife.
With the cessation of war, Cromwell resumed his seat in Parliament, passing frequently, however, between Westminster and the Army. His letters disclose many times the kindness of his heart which made him ever ready to speak in behalf of those who sought his influence. Here is one in the interest of some “Honest poor neighbors,” the exact nature of whose oppression we cannot now discover, but they had doubtless gone or sent to London to see Cromwell, who took up their affair with compassionate attention:
“For my noble Friend Thomas Knyyett, Esquire, at his House at Ashwellthorpe: These.
“London, 27th July, 1646.
“I cannot pretend any interest in you for anything I have done, nor ask any favour for any service I may do you. But because I am conscious to myself of a readiness to serve any gentlemen in all possible civilities, I am bold to be beforehand with you to ask your favour on behalf of your honest poor neighbours of Hapton, who, as I am informed, are in some trouble, and are likely to be put to more, by one Robert Browne, your Tenant, who, not well pleased with the way of these men, seeks their disquiet all he may.
“Truly nothing moves me to desire this more than the pity I bear them in respect of their honesties, and the trouble I hear they are likely to suffer for their consciences. And however the world interprets it, I am not ashamed to solicit for such as are anywhere under pressure of this kind; doing even as I would be done by. Sir, this is a quarrelsome age; and the anger seems to me to be the worse, where the ground is difference of opinion; which to cure, to hurt men in their names, persons or estates, will not be found an apt remedy. Sir, it will not repent you to protect those poor men of Hapton from injury and oppression: which that you would is the effect of this Letter. Sir, you will not want the grateful acknowledgement, nor utmost endeavours of requital from your most humble servant,
But the real sweetness and tenderness of Cromwell’s disposition were reserved for his immediate family. He loved his children with touching affection, and the meager lot of letters preserved from those which he wrote to them, reveal better than any other existing evidence his true piety and greatness. There is a spirit of playfulness in this one to Ireton’s bride, and yet his solicitude for her happiness and spiritual welfare is reflected in every line. Her “Sister Claypole” is Elizabeth Cromwell, married in the preceding spring, now but seventeen, and always her father’s favorite child. “Your friends at Ely” implies that the Cromwell family had not yet removed from Ely to London:
“For my beloved Daughter Bridget Ireton, at Cornbury, General’s Quarters: These.
“London, 25th Oct., 1646.
“I write not to thy Husband; partly to avoid trouble, for one line of mine begets many of his, which I doubt makes him sit up too late; partly because I am myself indisposed at this time, having some other considerations.
“Your Friends at Ely are well: your Sister Claypole is, I trust in mercy, exercised with some perplexed thoughts. She sees her own vanity and carnal mind; bewailing it: she seeks after (as I hope also) what will satisfy. And thus to be a seeker is to be of the best sect next to a finder; and such an one shall every faithful humble seeker be at the end. Happy seeker, happy finder! Who ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, without some sense of self, vanity and badness? Who ever tasted that graciousness of His, and could go less in desire, less than pressing after full enjoyment? Dear Heart, press on; let not Husband, let not anything cool thy affections after Christ. I hope he [i.e., thy Husband] will be an occasion to inflame them. That which is best worthy of love in thy Husband is that of the image of Christ he bears. Look on that and love it best, and all the rest for that. I pray for thee and him; do so for me.
“My service and dear affections to the General and Generaless. I hear she is very kind to thee; it adds to all other obligations. I am thy dear Father,
The Army against the Parliament
The unexpected surrender of King Charles to the Scottish Army produced a profound emotion among the English Puritans. Before receiving intelligence of his arrival at Newark, they feared that he had come secretly to London, and the Parliament gave notice that instant death would be the portion of any one who should harbor or conceal him. An official communication from the Scots soon informed them of the King’s whereabouts, and assured them of the undying fidelity with which their existing engagements with the Parliament would be discharged. The English at once asserted their right to the custody of the King’s person; and the Scots, not ready to yield so splendid an advantage, folded their tents and marched into the North, never pausing until they reached Newcastle.
In truth, King Charles, as soon as he laid aside the armor of a heroic commander, had again assumed the character of a purblind politician. His surrender to the Scots was but part of a visionary expectation of reclaiming his authority by exciting the jealousy of his foes. His Queen had shortly before dispatched Montreuil with plenary powers from the Court of France to negotiate for Scottish aid, and on the eve of departing from Oxford Charles had written to the Marquis of Ormond in Ireland in these words:
“Having lately received very good security that We, and all that do and shall adhere to Us, shall be safe in our persons, honours, and consciences in the Scottish army; and that they shall really and effectually join with us, and with such as will come in to us, and join with them for our preservation, and shall employ their armies and forces to assist us to the procuring of an happy and well-grounded peace, for the good of Us and our Kingdoms, in the recovery of our just right; we have resolved to put ourselves to the hazard of passing into the Scots’ army, now lying before Newark. And if it shall please God that we come safe thither, we are resolved to use our best endeavour, with their assistance and with the conjunction of the forces under the Marquis of Montrose, and such of our well affected subjects of England as shall rise for us, to procure, if it may be, an honourable and speedy peace with those who have hitherto refused to give any ear to any means tending thereto.”
How far Montreuil had failed to procure for the King that dutiful homage which Charles had fondly hoped to receive, was shown on the first night of his entrance into the Scottish camp. He was treated with outward marks of extreme respect; but under the pretext of furnishing a guard for his person he was immediately surrounded by armed sentries, and when, endeavoring to ascertain his real position, he attempted to give out the watchword for the night, the Earl of Leven interrupted him with, “Pardon me, Sire. I am the oldest soldier here: Your Majesty will permit me to undertake that duty.”
The Scottish Army soon presented a petition to the King praying him to sign the Covenant. If he had yielded promptly to them in this desire, it is possible that they, as Presbyterians, would have turned upon the Parliamentary Independents, and begun another war. But Charles refused.
Then came propositions from the Parliament for peace, containing the old conditions requiring him to destroy the Episcopal Church, to sign the Covenant, to give over all his old commanders, including the two Palatine Princes, to punishment, to incapacitate all who had borne arms on his side for public employment, and to confiscate the estates of the Cavaliers for the payment of the public debts. The King spurned these proposals.
Alexander Henderson, a noted Scotch divine, about this time entered into a controversy with the King concerning the true religion. James I had long ago said of Charles, “I tell ye, Charles shall manage a point in controversy with the best studied divine of ye all.” In these arguments with Henderson, Charles confirmed the high opinion which his father had expressed. Deprived of books and of the company of the Episcopal doctors, he met every statement of Henderson with so much learning and adroitness that the Scot was completely discomfited, and retired to Scotland to die within a few weeks, some said on account of his deep vexation.
On an occasion when Charles attended their religious services, a stern preacher ordered this psalm to be sung:
Why dost thou, tyrant, boast thyself Thy wicked deeds to praise?”
The King stood up, and plaintively requested this one to be substituted:
Have mercy, Lord, on me, I pray; For men would me devour.”
From May 1646 to January 1647, the negotiations between the English Parliament and the Scottish commissioners, touching the disposal of the King’s person, were carried on with much circumlocution, the end of which was that Scotland agreed to recall her Army and leave the King behind, in consideration of the payment of £400,000, one half of which was in cash. It was a cruel and heartless affair of money, which has left an ineffaceable stigma upon the Scots. They stipulated, indeed, that, until a formal peace was executed between the King and his Parliament, no harm, prejudice, injury, or violence should be done to his person, nor his posterity be prejudiced in their succession to the Crown. But no hostages were taken for the performance of these conditions, and they were forgotten in the madness which ensued. The Scots had indeed endeavored to reconcile the King and his people. The Scottish Chancellor, Loudon, had implored Charles to yield to the Parliament’s terms. “All England will rise against you,” he had said, “they will process and depose you, and set up another government.” But these prophetic words could not provoke Charles to a wise policy. He rejected the overtures. On January 30, 1647, the Scots marched out of Newcastle, leaving the King, who was anxious to accompany them to Edinburgh, in the hands of General Skippon and the English commissioners. His Majesty was then conveyed to Holmby (or Holdenby) House, in Northamptonshire, under the escort of Fairfax, where he was kept in the state pertaining to his rank, but a prisoner to his Parliament.
The war being ended, the nation was surprised to see that their happiness was not yet secured. In fact, the situation was graver and more perilous than ever. The Presbyterian majority in Parliament, supported by the entire populace of the City of London, conceived a jealousy and mistrust of the Army, as representing the Independent party out of which it was organized. In this Parliamentary faction were some of the supplanted commanders of the old Army, among them Sir William Waller and Denzil Hollis. It was proposed to send 12,000 men of the Army to Ireland under Skippon, and to disband the others. The soldiers refused to march except under their present commanders, nor would they consent to disband until large arrearages of pay were settled, and other grievances redressed.
Cromwell, for the most part, kept his seat in Parliament, although his passages between Westminster and the Army, which was now forbidden to approach nearer than twenty-five miles to London, were frequent. He wrote to Fairfax:
“We have had a very long petition from the City; how it strikes at the army, and what other aims it has, you will see by the contents of it; and also what is the prevailing temper at this present, and what is to be expected from men. But this is our comfort, God is in Heaven, and He doth what pleaseth Him; His, and only His counsel shall stand, whatsoever the designs of men, and the fury of the people be.”
But the course of the Presbyterians in dealing with the Army became very obnoxious to the Independents, and on one occasion, when there was a heated debate, Cromwell, indicating the policy which already filled his mind, whispered to Edmund Ludlow, “These men will never leave till the Army pull them out by the ears.” In a letter to Fairfax he wrote:
“There want not, in all places, men who have so much malice against the army as besets them: the late Petition, which suggested a dangerous design upon the Parliament in your coming to those quarters, doth sufficiently evidence the same: but they got nothing by it, for the Houses did assoil the army from all suspicion, and have left you to quarter where you please. Never were the spirits of men more embittered than now. Surely the Devil hath but a short time. Sir, it’s good the heart be fixed against all this. The naked simplicity of Christ, with that wisdom he is pleased to give, and patience, will overcome all this. That God would keep your heart as he has done hitherto, is the prayer of your Excellency’s most humble servant,” etc.
The various troops composing the Army appointed commissioners to represent their grievances, the private soldiers of each troop or company choosing two persons to form a kind of subordinate council, while the officers elected themselves into a higher assembly; but this plan was soon changed, and two persons, either privates or officers, were elected for each regiment. These men were called Agitators, or Agents of the Army. The Agitators held many conferences with the Parliamentary committees, but without arriving at satisfactory conclusions. How far the events, which soon forced this controversy into a quarrel, were controlled by Cromwell, is a matter which recent research has lifted out of the obscured realm of conjecture, and we now know that he was steadfastly opposed to violence so long as there was hope for the ultimate potency of reason and right. “No one rises so high,” Cromwell declared to the French Ambassador, “as he who knows not whither he is going.” And it was this philosophic observation which led Cardinal de Retz, through a mistake of judgment, to call him a fortunate fool. From the time of the Self-Denying Ordinance, he was the dominant force and spirit of his age. It must be admitted that the adoption of a definite policy, at the close of the war, by the Army and its adherents, against the ascendancy of the Presbyterian Parliament, unquestionably had its birth in the profound depths of his intellect. In the committee rooms at the camp he soon displayed that mastery over the minds of men which had made them the instruments of his will on the field of war. By whatever could honestly appeal to their private interest, their individual ambition, their religious zeal, or their self-love, he brought the faithful companions of his battles to join with him in working out the salvation of England. His own enthusiasm for religious and political liberty the Independents could not resist. His belief in the destiny of the Army to cure the present evils inflamed the ardor of his soldiers. Without treachery or tergiversation, he was all things to all men. Ireton, a zealous and intellectual Republican, followed him with implicit faith. Lambert, ambitious, vain, and brilliant, gave him a soldier’s devotion. Harrison, seeking after righteousness, found a kindred spirit in Cromwell’s pious soul. Hammond was under obligations to him for promoting his marriage with a daughter of John Hampden. Pride, Rainsborough, and the others adhered to him, because his superior soul forced their homage.
“What misery” he said, when deftly sounding young Ludlow, “to serve a Parliament! to whom, let a man be never so faithful, if one pragmatical fellow amongst them rise up and asperse him, he shall never wipe it off; whereas, when one serves under a General, he may do as much service, and yet be free from all blame and envy. If thy father were alive”—and there is the voice of Cassius in this incitement—”he would soon let some of them hear what they deserve.” But the genius of Cromwell had begun to dominate his country now insomuch that he had become an object of hatred and envy to all those who opposed him on either religious or political grounds. This feeling had recently made itself manifest by a vote in the Commons (March 8, 1647) that there should be no officer in the Army with rank above that of Colonel; that no member of the House of Commons should hold command in England, and that no person who refused to sign the Covenant should be an officer at all. The good fortune of the Lieutenant-General, however, was steadfast in this emergency, and while the vote was aimed at him and at him alone, no attempt was made to enforce it.
The spirit of mutiny in the Army was now become ominous. The soldiers had not received their pay for many months, and they learned with much disfavor that there was an intention on the part of the government to disband some of the forces and send others to Ireland. Most of the regiments had refused to obey the commands of their officers, and they forced Fairfax to call a council of war at which the officers and the Agitators voted that the proposals of the Parliament were not satisfactory.
The Parliament and the city with one accord turned their eyes towards the King at Holmby House. That Monarch had not been treated with great magnanimity. In its contempt for the Episcopal Church the Parliament had twice refused him the attendance of his chaplains, and would have compelled him to accept the services of their own divines; his trusted servants had been removed from him; his correspondence with his wife, his children, and his nearest friends had been cut off. Yet they had permitted him to enjoy the ceremonies of his Royal state. Their commissioners were treated kindly by him; they attended him at his games and in his walks. The Lords requested the King to reside nearer London; the Commons, without joining in the vote, entertained the same wish. There were mysterious letters passing back and forth, and a hope began to take deep root in the breast of the Londoners that the King would soon return to his Parliament, and tranquility in all things ensue. Suddenly, the news was brought to the startled Parliament, that the Army had seized the King’s person.
It was on the 2nd of June, 1647, after dinner, while the King was playing at bowls on Althorpe Down, two miles from Holmby, that the commissioners who accompanied him remarked the presence of a stranger in the uniform of Fairfax’s regiment. When they demanded his name, he answered them haughtily and with reserve. A report was circulated that a large body of horse was approaching, and the players immediately returned to the castle. Near midnight five hundred troops arrived under the walls, and demanded entrance. When asked who commanded them, they replied, “We all command.” Then the stranger who had appeared on Althorpe Down, came forward. “My name is Joyce,” said he. “I am a cornet in the General’s guard; I want to speak to the King.” “From whom?” said they on the wall. “From myself,” answered Joyce, whereat they all laughed derisively. “It’s no laughing matter,” cried the midnight intruder, “I come not hither to be advised by you; I have no business with the commissioners; my errand is to the King, and speak with him I must, and will presently.” The commandant of the garrison ordered his soldiers to hold themselves in readiness to fire, but they had by this time been in free conversation with Joyce’s men, who, entering the gates and dismounting, announced that they had come, by order of the Army, to place the King in safety, as there was a plot to carry him off, take him to London, raise other troops, and begin another civil war; and the chief conspirator, they said, was Colonel Greaves, the commandant of Holmby House. Greaves fled and Joyce took command of the castle. By this time it was past noon of the 3rd, and Joyce retired until evening to give his men repose.
At ten o’clock that night he requested to be taken to the King, but was told that he was in bed. He replied that he did not care; he had waited long enough, and he must see him. With a cocked pistol in his hand he approached the apartments occupied by Charles. “I am sorry,” said he to the attendants, “to disturb the rest of His Majesty, but I cannot help it; I must needs speak with him, and that at once.” The altercation aroused the King, who gave orders shat he should be admitted, and Joyce entered the royal presence still carrying his pistol. The King sent for the commissioners, and, after a long interview, assured Joyce that, if his soldiers confirmed what the Cornet had promised, he would go with him. The next morning at six o’clock the King appeared at the top of the stairs and beheld Joyce’s men on horseback in the castle yard. He demanded by what authority Joyce pretended to seize him and take him away. “Sir,” replied the bold young man, “I am sent by authority of the Army, to prevent the designs of its enemies, who would once more plunge the Kingdom in blood.” Charles pressed him to specify by whom he had been sent, but Joyce refused to be more explicit than simply to say, the Army, and when the King asked him where was his commission, he pointed behind him to his men, and said, “There!” “Believe me,” answered the King, smiling, “your instructions are written in very legible characters; it is truly a fair commission.” The King then rode off with them to Hinchinbrook, and thence to Childersley, near Cambridge.
At the same moment a messenger was dispatched to London bearing a letter from Joyce to Cromwell that all had succeeded. Oliver was with the Army, and the letter was given to Colonel Fleetwood. Fairfax was undoubtedly in complete ignorance of what had occurred until Cromwell told him, and he was much troubled. “I do not like it,” he said to Ireton, “who gave such orders?” Ireton replied that he had ordered that the King be secured at Holmby, but not carried away. And Cromwell, who had inspired it all, said sternly that it was quite necessary, or the King would have been taken back to the Parliament. Fairfax sent Whalley with two regiments to meet the King and escort him back to Holmby House, but Charles refused to return, and two days afterwards (June 7) Fairfax and his staff, Cromwell, Ireton, Skippon, Hammond, Lambert, and Rich, presented themselves to the King at Childersley, where all respectfully kissed his hand. Fairfax protested that he knew nothing of the King’s removal. “I will not believe it,” said Charles, “unless you have Joyce forthwith hanged.” But in spite of his assumed indignation, Charles was secretly pleased to see the dissensions between the Parliament and the Army take this violent turn.
On receiving intelligence of the King’s seizure, the Parliament expressed disapprobation of the act, and their indignation was so intense that Cromwell thought it prudent to go at once to the Army, fearing arrest. The Parliament (August 2, 1647) sent an invitation to Charles to come to London, assuring him that he should reside there with honor, freedom, and safety, and that they would at once endeavor to secure a safe and well grounded peace.
“Cromwell began now,” says Whitelock, “to mount still higher, and carried his business with great subtlety.” His enemies attempted to ruin him, and Sir Harbottle Grimstone made an accusation against him in the House of Commons of plotting to destroy the Parliament. Two witnesses related the story of how he had told them that he would use the Army to purge the House of Commons. When they had withdrawn, Cromwell arose, and falling on his knees, and in a passion of tears, sobs, and exclamations, vowed before High Heaven that no man in the kingdom was more faithful to that House than he. His vehemence prevailed on the members so overwhelmingly, that Grimstone said, thirty years afterwards, “if he had pleased, the House would have sent us to the Tower, me and my officers, as calumniators.” But on the next day Cromwell wisely went to the Army and there boldly became the leader of the Army measures.
The Army now began a gradual approach to London. The Parliament, in terror, called out the militia and made every preparation for defense. Fairfax ordered a rendezvous at Royston, on June 10, where 21,000 men assembled—the finest army that England had ever known. Fairfax and Cromwell rode to each regiment and inquired whether they would obey the Parliament, and to the last man they shouted, No!
After the rendezvous, on the same day, a letter was written by Cromwell and signed by all the leading officers, warning the City of London not to arm against them. As this letter contains a candid statement of the policy of the Army in its dispute with the Parliament, and reveals so fairly and frankly the motives of Cromwell and his brother officers in the military coercion which they had now set on foot, we have copied it in full as containing a valuable illumination of the controversy:
“To the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of London: These.
“Royston, 10th June, 1647.
“Right Honourable and Worthy Friends:
“Having, by our letters and other Addresses presented by our General to the Honourable House of Commons, endeavoured to give satisfaction of the clearness of our just Demands; and having also, in Papers published by us, remonstrated the grounds of our proceedings in prosecution thereof; all of which being published in print, we are confident they have come to your hands, and received at least a charitable construction from you.
“The sum of all these our Desires as Soldiers, is no other than this: Satisfaction to our undoubted Claims as Soldiers; and reparation upon those who have, to the utmost, improved all opportunities and advantages, by false suggestions, misrepresentation and otherwise, for the destruction of this Army with a perpetual blot of ignominy upon it. Which [injury] we should not value, if it singly concerned our own particular persons; being ready to deny ourselves in this, as we have done in other cases, for the Kingdom’s good; but under this pretence, we find, no less is involved than the overthrow of the privileges both of Parliament and People; and rather than they [i.e., The Presbyterian leaders in Parliament—Hollis, Stapleton, Harley, Waller, etc.] shall fail in their designs, or we receive what in the eyes of all good men is our just right, the Kingdom is endeavoured to be engaged in a new War. [In a new War,] and this singly by those who, when the truth of these things shall be made to appear, will be found to be the authors of those [said] evils that are feared; and who have no other way to protect themselves from question and punishment but by putting the Kingdom into blood, under the pretence of their honour of and their love of the Parliament. As if that were dearer to them than to us; or as if they had given greater proof of their faithfulness to it than we.
“But we perceive that, under these veils and pretences, they seek to interest in their design the City of London—as if that City ought to make good their miscarriages, and should prefer a few self-seeking men before the welfare of the Public. And indeed we have found these men so active to accomplish their designs, and to have such apt instruments for their turn in that City, that we have cause to suspect they may engage many therein upon mistakes, which are easily swallowed, in times of such prejudice against them that have given (we may speak it without vanity) the most public testimony of their good affections to the Public, and to that City in particular.
“[As] for the thing we insist upon as Englishmen—and surely our being Soldiers hath not stript us of that interest, although our malicious enemies would have it so—we desire a Settlement of the Peace of the Kingdom and of the Liberties of the subjects, according to the Votes and Declarations of Parliament, which, before we took arms, were, by the Parliament, used as arguments and inducements to invite us and divers of our dear friends out, some of whom have lost their lives in this War. Which being now, by God’s blessing finished, we think we have as much right to demand, and desire to see, a happy settlement, as we have to our money and [to] the other common interest of Soldiers which we have insisted upon. We find also the ingenious and honest People, in almost all parts of the Kingdom where we come, full of the sense of ruin and misery if the Army should be disbanded before the Peace of the Kingdom, and those other things before mentioned, have a full and perfect Settlement.
“We have said before, and profess it now, We desire no alteration of the Civil Government. As little do we desire to interrupt or in the least to intermeddle with, the settling of the Presbyterial Government. Nor did we seek to open a way for licentious liberty, under pretence of obtaining ease for tender consciences. We profess, as ever in these things, when once the State has made a Settlement, we have nothing to say but to submit or suffer. Only we could wish that every good citizen, and every man who walks peaceably in a blameless conversation, and is beneficial to the Commonwealth, might have liberty and encouragement; this being according to the true policy of all States, and even to justice itself.
“These in brief are our Desires, and things for which we stand; beyond which we shall not go. And for the obtaining of these things, we are drawing near your City; professing sincerely from our hearts, [That] we intend not evil toward you; declaring, with all confidence and assurance, That if you appear not against us in these our just desires, to assist that wicked Party which will embroil us and the Kingdom, neither we nor our Soldiers shall give you the least offence. We come not to do any act to prejudice the being of Parliaments, or to the hurt of this Parliament in order to the present Settlement of the Kingdom. We seek the good of all. And we shall wait here, or remove to a farther distance to abide there, if once we be assured that a speedy settlement of things is in hand, until it is accomplished. Which done, we shall be most ready, either all of us, or so many of the Army as the Parliament shall think fit, to disband, or to go for Ireland.
“And although you may suppose that a rich City may seem an enticing bait to poor hungry Soldiers to venture far to gain the wealth thereof, yet, if not provoked by you, we do profess, Rather than any such evil should fall out, the soldiers shall make their way through our blood to effect it. And we can say this for most of them, for your better assurance, that they so little value their pay, in comparison of higher concernments to a Public Good, that rather than they will be unrighted in the matter of their honesty and integrity (which hath suffered by the men they aim at and desire justice upon), or want the settlement of the Kingdom’s Peace, and their own and their fellow-subject’s Liberties, they will lose all. Which may be a strong assurance to you that it is not your wealth they seek, but the things tending in common to your and their welfare. That they may attain these, you shall do like Fellow-Subjects and Brethren if you solicit the Parliament for them, on their behalf.
“If after all this, you, or a considerable part of you, be seduced to take up arms in opposition to, or hindrance of, these our just undertakings, we hope we have, by this brotherly premonition, to the sincerity of which we call God to witness, freed ourselves from all that ruin which may befall that great and populous City; having thereby washed our hands thereof. We rest, your affectionate friends to serve you,
“Thomas Fairfax, “Oliver Cromwell, “Robert Hammond, “Thomas Hammond, “Hardress Waller, “Nathaniel Rich, “Henry Ireton, “Robert Lilburn, “John Desborough, “Thomas Rainsborough, “John Lambert, “Thomas Harrison, “Thomas Pride.”
They then advanced to St. Albans. On June 14, laying aside their grievances, they addressed to the Parliament, under the title of An Humble Representation, an expression of their views as to public affairs, the conclusion of this Parliament, the elections, the right of petition, and the general reform of the State. To these demands was joined an accusation of treason against eleven of the most prominent of the Presbyterian members—Hollis, Waller, Stapleton, Lewis, Clotworthy, Maynard, Glyn, Long, Harley, Nichols, and Massey. The Commons objected that the specifications were vague and general. The Army answered reproachfully that the first accusation against Strafford was also vague and entirely general; “as you did then,” they said, “we will do now, furnish our proofs afterwards.” The accused members, after much indignant protesting, relieved the embarrassment of the situation by offering to retire beyond seas for six months with the consent of Parliament.
But the Army drew nearer to the capital, and on June 26 its headquarters were at Uxbridge. Commissioners hastened thither, but with no effect, and the Parliament acceded to all the demands of the Army, voting at once a month’s pay, agreeing to provide for its support, to appoint commissioners in conjunction with those of the Army for settling the affairs of the kingdom, and to refrain from bringing the King again into their own custody by drawing him to Richmond, as they declared they would do. With these concessions granted to them, the Army drew back a few miles, and (June 30) appointed ten commissioners to treat with the Parliament, of whom Cromwell was the first named.
The King was much depressed at the failure of the plans for his immediate return to London. And now a great desire filled his heart to meet once more with his children. He spoke to Fairfax on this subject, who wrote at once to the Parliament urging that the favor be granted. “Who, if he imagine it to be his own case,” he inquired, “cannot but be sorry if His Majesty’s natural affection to his children, in so small a thing, should not be complied with.” Since the surrender of Oxford his younger children, the Duke of York, the Princess Elizabeth, and the Duke of Gloucester, had resided either at St. James’ Palace or at Sion House, near London, under the care of the Earl of Northumberland to whom the Parliament had committed them. This affecting interview took place at Maidenhead (July 15), and it excited the liveliest emotions among the people, who flocked to the town in large numbers and strewed the path of the Monarch and his little ones with flowers and evergreens. Nor were the officers of the Army less tenderly touched by this pathetic scene, for they permitted the King to take his children to Caversham, where he then resided, and keep them with him for two days.
Cromwell’s own fatherly heart was deeply stirred by this incident. In speaking of it soon afterwards to Sir John Berkeley, he said that he had lately seen the tenderest sight that ever his eyes beheld, which was the interview between the King and his children. He wept plentifully at the remembrance thereof, saying that never man was so abused as he in his sinister opinion of the King, who, he thought, was the most upright and conscientious of his kingdom. He declared that they of the Independent party had infinite obligations to him for not consenting to the propositions sent to him at Newcastle, which would have totally ruined them, and which His Majesty’s interest seemed to invite him to. And then he confirmed all with this solemn wish, that God would be pleased to look upon him according to the sincerity of his heart towards the King. In short, the lovable qualities in Charles’ character had completely won the regard of Cromwell, who, in the contemplation of his personal gentleness and worth, seemed to lose sight of the King’s incurable political duplicity. But at this very instant, Charles was writing official commands to Ormond to cease his negotiations with the Irish Catholics, and with the same pen was privately instructing him to continue them. Cromwell, unaware of this, said to Berkeley that the officers were all convinced that if the King did not resume possession of his just rights, no man in England could enjoy in security his life and property; and a decisive step on their parts would soon leave no doubts on His Majesty’s mind of their true sentiments.
When Berkeley hastened to the King with this surprising assurance from Cromwell, he was amazed at the cold reception which Charles gave it. Ireton, observant and suspicious, boldly said to the King, “Sir, you have an intention to be arbitrator between the Parliament and us, and we mean to be so between you and the Parliament.” The King, still thinking he must naturally reap the advantage by promoting the strife, believed that neither party could succeed without his affiliation. Ireton consented to draw up very liberal propositions, in which the Episcopal Church was left intact; the King was required to give up the command of the militia for ten years, and the nomination to the great offices of state; seven of his councilors were to remain banished from the kingdom; all civil and coercive power should be withdrawn from the Presbyterian clergy; no Peer created since the outbreak of the war should sit in the House of Lords, and no Cavalier should be admitted into the next Parliament. Nothing so moderate had yet been offered to the King, but he objected to them. Ireton insisted that there must be a difference between conquerors and those whom they had beaten, and naturally declined to consider the King’s counter-proposition for a Parliament in which the Royalists would have the ascendency.
Cromwell became impatient at the King’s slowness to accept the Army’s terms, and Berkeley, who represented Charles, expostulated with his Royal master, and reminded him that men who had come through so many dangers and difficulties were entitled to their advantages, and he would mistrust their sincerity if they offered less; and that a crown that was so near lost was never recovered so easily as this would be, if the proposals were accepted.
But Charles was fatally blinded to his own interests. He had lately been privately assured by some of the Presbyterians at London that they would oppose the Army to the last extremity, and when the officers waited on him for his reply he spoke to them with a sharp and bitter tongue, indiscreetly repeating his regret that he had consented to Strafford’s death or to the abolition of Episcopacy in Scotland. “You cannot be without me,” he said with rising voice, “You will fall to ruin if I do not sustain you.” Berkeley whispered angrily in his ear, “Sir, you speak as if you had some secret strength and power which I do not know of; and since you have concealed it from me, I wish you had done it from these men also.”
The failure to arrive at a satisfactory peace not only incensed the Army, but it threw London again into turbulent emotions. Mobs of excited men surrounded the Parliament building, and even invaded the two Houses, forcing the Commons’ Speaker back into the chair which he had endeavored to vacate and compelling him to put their own question, whether the King should return with honor and safety to London. Ludlow alone had courage to speak a loud “No!” Massey, Waller, Poyntz, and other officers of the old Army, took measures to enlist men, and then Fairfax and Cromwell advanced again on London. They came as far as Hounslow Heath where a rendezvous was held, the King in the meantime going to Hampton Court under Whalley’s escort. Many members of the Parliament fled to the Army for safety. Had Charles for one moment been gifted with moderate political wisdom, he could now have yielded a little to the Army and made himself master of the kingdom. But out of all this tumult the deep disgust which the soldiers had imbibed against the King’s tergiversation led to the formation of a sentiment of revenge which had hitherto been absent. They began to cry for justice on offenders. They called themselves The Levelers, and, as a means of leveling all distinctions in those guilty of crimes against the state, they named Charles as the Chief Delinquent. At first it was a whisper, and then it grew into a loud and fierce demand for his blood.
On the 8th of August, the Army entered London, and made a magnificent, but quiet and solemn, march through the city. Fairfax was in the van, surrounded by many notable members of his staff. Skippon was in the center, while Cromwell, the real hero, rode at the rear. The object of this military demonstration was simultaneously to overawe and reassure the city and the Parliament. There was no disorder, nor plunder, nor licentiousness, but the dignity, the sobriety, the stern resolution, which appeared on the faces of 21,000 Puritan veterans, convinced all beholders that here was a force which could not be safely defied. But it was ominous of future woe. It marked the triumph of the Army over the civil power, and the ascendency of the Independents over the Presbyterians.
The King was at his old palace of Hampton Court, in full intercourse with his former friends, and with some of his “evil councilors “attending him,” vainly imagining that these fast-crowding events portended his own restoration to power. Cromwell and Ireton were with him much, urging him to a peace while there was yet time. So zealous was Cromwell at this period to restore the King, that he incurred the violent jealousy of the Army by the assiduity of his attentions to Charles. His wife and his daughter, Bridget Ireton, were graciously received by the King. It was said by Berkeley, who was in the King’s full confidence, that Cromwell had secured a promise of the office of Commander-in-chief, the colonelcy of the King’s Guards, and the Order of the Garter; and that he was to receive the title of Earl of Essex, which, through his ancient relationship with that house, would have gratified him exceedingly. Ireton was to receive the Government of Ireland. There was danger in all this for Cromwell. “If you despise as hitherto, my warnings,” wrote Freeborn John Lilburne, “be sure I will use against you all the power and influence I have, and so as to produce in your fortune changes that shall little please you.” The Lieutenant-General became more cautious and begged the King’s friends, Ashburnham and Berkeley to visit him no more, but “if I am an honest man,” he said, “I have done enough to convince His Majesty of the sincerity of my intentions; if not, nothing will suffice.” Ireton sent word to the King that they were determined to purge the House, and purge it again, and purge it still, until it should be disposed to arrange amicably His Majesty’s affairs.
The Scottish commissioners once more besought the King to adopt the Covenant and to throw his power with the Presbyterians, assuring him that their party alone was sincere in its desire to save him. The military party redoubled its efforts to hold the King fast. Charles, however, would not treat either side with sincerity. Cromwell’s good opinion of him began to wane. There was talk of a Scottish Army and a rising of English Cavaliers. The Levelers were goaded to fury and they now publicly demanded the death of the Chief Delinquent.
The precise circumstance which finally set Cromwell against the King cannot now be discovered. The old story tells that Cromwell and Ireton learned that Charles had dispatched a letter to his Queen, which was sewed up in a saddle; that they disguised themselves as private soldiers, overtook the King’s messenger at the Blue Boar tavern, quaffed a tankard of old ale with him, and then, after ripping open the saddle with their swords, read the letter, in which Charles told Henrietta Maria that he was coquetting with both parties, but favored the Scots, and that the Army leaders expected much of him, but that instead of a garter he would give the rogues a halter. That Charles would be capable of writing such a letter there can be no doubt; that he did write it has not been clearly proved. But his vacillations between the Scots and the Parliament, and between the Parliament and the Army at length convinced Cromwell that he could not be trusted. And, after withdrawing his trust from him, Cromwell made a magnanimous effort to save his life, and counseled him to seek his safety in flight.
Charles was dumbfounded, but he now saw that his ruin was complete. Assassination was already designed for him. His custodian, Whalley, a cousin of Cromwell’s, had received a letter from Oliver, written for the King’s eye, calling on him to have a care of his guards. The letter is brief and terrible:
“Dear Cos. Whalley:
“There are rumors abroad of some intended attempt on His Majesty’s person. Therefore I pray have a care of your guards. If any such thing should be done, it would be accounted a most horrid act. Yours,
The King was thrown into a great agitation and left Hampton Court on the night of the 11th of November, with Ashburnham and Berkeley, a hunted fugitive, going he knew not whither, and at length arrived at the Isle of Wight where his presence was indiscreetly discovered to Colonel Robert Hammond, the Parliamentary governor, and he was confined a prisoner in Carisbrooke Castle. His escape from Hampton Court was not seriously investigated. It was very clear that it had been connived at by Cromwell, Ireton, and Whalley, and it afforded relief to those who dreaded his murder to learn that he had fled.
On November 15, during a rendezvous of the Army at Ware, the discontent of the soldiers broke out into open mutiny. Cromwell rode to the head of each regiment, and addressed them in a manner so vehement that he subdued the wrath of most of them and won the cheers with which his presence was always greeted. But there were two regiments which would not be pacified. They had expelled all their officers above the rank of lieutenant with the exception of one Captain Bray who now commanded them. Every soldier wore in his hat an incendiary paper, and as Cromwell rode toward them he was greeted by defiant and seditious shouts.
“Take that paper from your hats!” he cried, but they refused to obey him. Spurring his horse into the midst of them, his face being inflamed with passion, he pointed out fourteen of the ringleaders and placed them under arrest. Then dragging them to the front, he assembled a court-martial on the spot and condemned three of them to death, one of whom was instantly shot. The mutiny was quelled, and there was never again any lack of obedience among his soldiers. The Speaker of the House of Commons publicly thanked Cromwell for his bravery in suppressing this refractory outburst.
It was near this time that Cromwell wrote a letter to the Parliament contributing £1,000 annually to the public Treasury out of the estates of the Marquis of Worcester which had been bestowed upon him, and releasing the Parliament from the payment of £1,500 back pay that was now due for his services as Lieutenant-General.
Charles, amidst the gloom of his confinement in the Isle of Wight, had received exaggerated accounts of the mutiny at Ware, and his love of intrigue prompted him to immediately dispatch Sir John Berkeley to the Army headquarters to remind the generals of their duty to him. But Berkeley met with a harsh reception. Ireton threatened to send him under arrest to the Parliament. Cromwell would not see him, but sent him word, “I will do my best to serve the King, but he must not expect I shall ruin myself for his sake.” The same messenger whispered the fearful warning, “If the King can escape, let him do it, as he loves his life!”
At the opening of the year 1648, the Presbyterian majority in the House of Commons had prepared grounds for a safe peace in the form of four bills, which were sent to the King at Carisbrooke Castle. These bills provided (1) that the command of all military and naval forces should rest with the Parliament for twenty years, (2) that the King should revoke all his proclamations against the legality of the past proceedings of the Parliament, (3) that he should annul all the patents of peerage which had been issued since he left London, (4) that the Parliament should be empowered to adjourn for whatever time, and to whatever place it might think proper. Charles, although almost in his last extremity, had no intention of approving these bills, which would have made the Puritan revolt a legitimate resistance to his authority. Besides, the Scottish Parliament, now controlled by the Duke of Hamilton, had likewise sent commissioners to treat for peace, and they were offering Charles better terms than he could hope to obtain from his English subjects. The King dallied with the English while he secretly concluded a treaty with the Scots. This paper was completed in two days and hidden in a garden until it could be taken away safely. It provided for a Scottish Army to reestablish him in his just rights, on condition that he would confirm the Presbyterian establishment in England for three years, himself and his friends not being compelled to conform to it, and that at the end of that time the Assembly of Divines should, in conjunction with the King and the Parliament, settle the religious constitution of the kingdom. The Cavaliers were to rise in England, and the Marquis of Ormond was to return to Ireland and conduct a war there. The King was to reject the four propositions of the English Parliament, then fly to Scotland, and wait for the outbreak of another war. In compliance with this treaty Charles rejected the English proposals.
There was deep wrath in the House of Commons when the failure of the four bills was reported. They could easily surmise the dangerous negotiations with the Scots which had been carried on under the very eyes of their commissioners at Carisbrooke Castle. On January 3, they voted that they would make no more addresses to the King, nor receive any from him, and that death should be the portion of any member who would correspond with him.
The King had resolved to make his escape from the Isle of Wight, but Colonel Hammond, suspecting his design, dismissed all the royal attendants and shut the King up in the castle. A stormy interview ensued. Charles was filled with vexation and uneasiness, and after demanding in vain to know by whose orders Hammond had so abused him, and being denied even a chaplain, the King said, “You use me neither like a gentleman nor a Christian.” Hammond answered that he would speak with him when he was in a better temper. “I have slept well tonight,” said Charles. “Why do you not use me civilly?” “Sir, you are too high,” answered Hammond. “My shoemaker’s fault, then,” was the King’s angry retort, and Hammond left the room with tears in his eyes, but firm in his purpose to secure the King.
Cromwell undertook to pacify the factious spirit existing between the Parliament and the Army, and a meeting of all the leaders was held at his house in King Street for a restoration of mutual confidence and esteem. Passages from the Scriptures were read, and words of exhortation were spoken, but no agreement was reached, and the meeting broke up with an exhibition of buffoonery, in which Cromwell sometimes innocently indulged for the relief of his feelings. He seized a cushion and flung it at Ludlow’s head, and then frivolously started to run down the stairs, but Ludlow threw another after him which struck him on the shoulders and “made him hasten down faster than he desired.”
The tramp of a great Army could now be heard on the borders of Scotland, and the Cavaliers were rising in all parts of England. Cromwell and the leaders of the English Army assembled themselves together in prayer meeting. They called upon the name of Jehovah with all the stern piety of former days. They resolved, not any dissenting, to go forth and destroy their enemies with a humble confidence in the name of the Lord only. “And we were also enabled then,” says one who was present, “after serious seeking His face, to come to a very clear and joint resolution, on many grounds at large there debated amongst us, that it was our duty, if ever the Lord brought us back in peace, to call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to an account for that blood he had shed and mischief he had done to his utmost against the Lord’s cause and people in these poor nations.”
The Second Civil War
The domestic events in this period of Cromwell’s life necessarily occurred under the storm cloud of civil strife. His eldest son, Richard, was now twenty-two years old, and he had never evinced any ambition to win fame in the big wars. He was an idle youth, whose thoughts turned to matrimony, and Cromwell’s respect for the sacredness of marriage led him, with the deepest solicitude, to counsel his son in the choice of a wife.
Colonel Richard Norton, Member of Parliament for Hants, and a fellow soldier of Cromwell’s in the days of the Eastern Association, was a family friend who could advise young Richard in this tender affair. To him Oliver wrote a letter, showing both a worldly and a spiritual comprehension of his son’s settlement. The “Mr. M.” is Richard Mayor, who had a lovely daughter. Had Oliver at this time cherished the bold schemes for dominion which his enemies impute to him, he would never have sought this obscure alliance with the daughter of a country gentleman, but would have accepted the “very great proposition” which he here discards:
For My Noble Friend, Colonel Richard Norton: These.
“London, 25th February, 1648.
“I have sent my son over to thee, being willing to answer Providence; and although I had an offer of a very great proposition from a father, of his daughter, yet truly I rather incline to this in my thoughts, because, though the other be very far greater, yet I see difficulties, and not that assurance of godliness—though indeed of fairness. I confess that which is told me concerning the estate of Mr. M. is more than I can look for as things now stand.
“If God please to bring it about, the consideration of piety in the parents, and such hopes of the gentlewoman in that respect, make the business to me a great mercy; concerning which I desire to wait upon God.
“I am confident of thy love; and desire things may be carried with privacy. The Lord do His will—that’s best—to which submitting, I rest, your humble servant,
Soon after writing this letter Cromwell was stricken with what he apprehended to be a fatal illness. But his rugged constitution enabled him to recover from the attack, which produced this fervent acknowledgment of his faith:
“For His Excellency, Sir Thomas Fairfax, General of the Parliament’s Armies, at Windsor; These.
“London, 7th March, I648.
“It hath pleased God to raise me out of a dangerous sickness; and I do most willingly acknowledge that the Lord hath, in this visitation, exercised the bowels of a Father towards me. I received in myself the sentence of death, that I might learn to trust in Him that raiseth from the dead, and have no confidence in the flesh. It’s a blessed thing to die daily. For what is there in this world to be accounted of! The best men, according to the flesh, and things, are lighter than vanity. I find this only good, To love the Lord and His poor despised people, to do for them, and to be ready to suffer with them: and he that is found worthy of this hath obtained great favour from the Lord; and he that is established in this shall (being confirmed to Christ and the rest of the Body) participate in the glory of a Resurrection which will answer all.
“Sir, I must thankfully confess your favour in your last Letter. I see I am not forgotten; and truly, to be kept in your remembrance is very great satisfaction to me; for I can say in the simplicity of my heart, I put a high and true value upon your love, which, when I forget, I shall cease to be a grateful and an honest man.
“I most humbly beg my service may be presented to your Lady, to whom I wish all happiness, and establishment in the truth. Sir, my prayers are for you, as becomes your Excellency’s most humble servant,
He is soon well enough to take up Richard’s marriage again; and he alludes to some startling war rumors.
“For my noble Friend Colonel Richard Norton: These.
“Farnham, 28th March, 1648.
“It had been a favour indeed to have met you here at Farnham. But I hear you are a man of great business; therefore I say no more: if it be a favour to the House of Commons to enjoy you, what is it to me! But, in good earnest, when will you and your brother Russel [i.e., a brother member] be a little honest, and attend your charge there? Surely some expect it; especially the good fellows who chose you!
“I have met with Mr. Mayor; we spent two or three hours together last night. I perceive the gentleman is very wise and honest; and indeed much to be valued. Some things of common fame did a little stick: I gladly heard his doubts, and gave such answers as was next at hand, I believe, to some satisfaction. Nevertheless, I exceedingly liked the gentleman’s plainness and free dealing with me. I know God has been above all ill reports, and will in His own time vindicate me; I have no cause to complain. I see nothing but that this particular business between him and me may go on. The Lord’s will be done.
“For news out of the North there is little: only the malignant Party is prevailing in the Parliament of Scotland. They are earnest for a war; the Ministers oppose as yet. Mr. Marshall is returned, who says so. And so do many of our Letters. Their Great Committee of Danger have two Malignants for one right. It’s said they have voted an army of 40,000 in Parliament; so say some of Yesterday’s Letters. But I account my news ill bestowed, because upon an idle person.
“I shall take speedy course in the business concerning my Tenants; for which, thanks. My service to your lady. I am really your affectionate servant,
This marriage turned out to be an affair requiring much negotiation. Mr. Mayor had many stipulations to make on behalf of his daughter, nor was Cromwell behindhand in remembering Richard’s welfare. The lands that are referred to in the following letter had but recently been bestowed upon him by the Parliament, as his share of the spoils of war. “My two little wenches” are Mary and Frances Cromwell, the former aged twelve, the latter ten. Mary was afterwards married to Lord Fauconberg, and Frances, who was gossiped about as a possible bride for Charles II, became the wife of Robert Rich, grandson of the Earl of Warwick, and, afterwards, of Sir John Russell.
“For my noble Friend, Colonel Richard Norton: These.
“London, 3rd April, 1648.
“I could not in my last give you a perfect account of what passed between me and Mr. Mayor; because we were to have a conclusion of our speed that morning after I wrote my Letter to you. Which we had; and having had a full view of one another’s minds, we parted with this: That both would consider with our relations, and according to satisfactions given there, acquaint one another with our minds.
“I cannot tell better how to do, in order to give or receive satisfaction, than by you; who, as I remember, in your last, said, That, if things did stick between us, you would use your endeavour towards a close.
“The things insisted upon were these, as I take it: Mr. Mayor desired 400 l. per annum of Inheritance, lying in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, to be presently settled [i.e., on the young couple], and to be for maintenance; wherein I desired to be advised by my Wife. I offered the land in Hampshire for present maintenance; which I dare say, with copses and ordinary fells, will be, communibus annis, 500 l. per annum: and besides this, 500 l. per annum in Tenants’ hands holding but for one life; and about 300 l. per annum, some for two lives, some for three lives. But as to this, if the latter offer be not liked of, I shall be willing a farther conference be held in regard to the first.
“In point of jointure I shall give satisfaction. And as to the settlement of lands given me by the Parliament, satisfaction to be given in like manner, according as we discoursed. And in what else was demanded of me, I am willing, so far as I remember any demand was, to give satisfaction. Only, I having been informed by Mr. Robinson that Mr. Mayor did, upon a former match, offer to settle the Manor wherein he lived, and to give 2,000 l. in money, I did insist upon that; and do desire it may not be with difficulty. The money I shall need for my two little Wenches; and thereby I shall free my Son from being charged with them. Mr. Mayor parts with nothing at present but that money; except the board [of the young Pair], which I should not be unwilling to give them, to enjoy the comfort of their society; which it’s reason he smart for, if he will rob me altogether of them.
“Truly the land to be settled—both what the Parliament gives me, and my own—is very little less than 3,000 l. per annum, all things considered, if I be rightly informed. And a Lawyer of Lincoln’s Inn, having searched all the Marquis of Worcester’s writings, which were taken at Ragland, and sent for by the Parliament, and this Gentleman appointed by the Committee to search the said writings, assures me there is no scruple concerning the title. And it so fell out that this gentleman who searched was my own lawyer, a very godly, able man, and my dear friend; which I reckon no small mercy. He is also possessed of the writings for me.
“I thought fit to give you this account; desiring you to make such use of it as God shall direct you: and I doubt not but you will do the part of a friend between two friends. I account myself one; and I have heard you say Mr. Mayor was entirely so to you. What the good pleasure of God is, I shall wait; there alone is rest. Present my service to your Lady, to Mr. Mayor, &c. I rest, your affectionate servant,
“P.S.: I desire you to carry this business with all privacy. I beseech you to do so, as you love me. Let me entreat you not to lose a day herein, that I may know Mr. Mayor’s mind; for I think I may be at leisure for a week to attend this business, to give and take satisfaction; from which perhaps I may be shut up afterwards by employment. I know thou art an idle fellow: but prithee neglect me not now; delay may be very inconvenient to me: I much rely upon you. Let me hear from you in two or three days. I confess the principal consideration as to me, is the absolute settlement (by Mr. Mayor) of the Manor where he lives; which he would not do but conditionally, in case they have a son, and but 3,000 l. in case they have no son. But as to this, I hope farther reason may work him to more.”
But Cromwell could stay no longer to press his son’s courtship. The marriage of Richard must wait for a year, while Oliver once more leads his devoted Ironsides to battle.
The Second Civil War, in 1648, was the result of an outburst of popular discontent against the Parliament and the Army, as the First Civil War, in 1642, had been the result of popular discontent against the King. In Wales, Colonel Poyer and his troops, being angered at the failure of the Parliament to pay their arrears, seized Pembroke Castle, an almost impregnable fortress, and held it for the King. In the North of England, Colonel Morris had seized Pontefract Castle, stronger even than Pembroke, having entered it with a party of Cavaliers, disguised as laborers, and had hoisted the royal ensign. Then tumult, riot, and insurrection followed each other in every part of England. The troops no sooner dispersed one turbulent multitude, but they were called in haste to disperse another in an opposite quarter.
Sir Marmaduke Langdale and Colonels Glenham and Musgrave were enlisting large numbers of men in the North for the King’s service, and had already occupied Berwick and Carlisle. In Essex, Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Northampton, Lincoln, and Sussex, the old Cavalier leaders were calling their friends to arms. The Royalists in Kent chose General Goring (now Earl of Norwich) to lead them, and he took possession of Sandwich, Dover, and other strongholds with his usual alacrity. Some of the ships in the Navy mutinied, and, sending their officers ashore, sailed for Holland, where the Duke of York, who had lately escaped the Parliament’s custody, and soon after, the Prince of Wales himself, took command of them. Even in London the revolt was almost equally open. The apprentices captured two of the city gates, and came to much grief at the hands of the troops. The young Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Holland, and other noblemen, left London with a large body of followers in the King’s interest, but they were overtaken by the Parliamentary forces, and routed, a brother of the Duke being killed, and the Earl of Holland shortly losing his head for high treason.
In Scotland an army was ready to march. In Ireland the Lord Inchiquin, Lord Lieutenant of the Province of Munster, a trusted Parliamentary governor, had come over to the King’s side.
Fairfax pursued Goring, who shut himself up in Colchester and bade defiance to the Parliament. Wales seemed hopelessly lost, and Cromwell marched thither with five regiments, to regain Pembroke Castle and crush the Cavaliers. Lambert was dispatched to the North to keep watch on Langdale.
In the midst of this unhappy strife all men feared to see a decisive victory fall to either party. But the Presbyterian party was now plainly inclining towards the King. On April 28, the Commons voted that the government of the kingdom should still be by King, Lords, and Commons, and the former vote of non-addresses was rescinded. The proscription of the eleven members was annulled, and they were invited to resume their seats (June 8). A new treaty was proposed with the King, who was to be invited to come to London, but this met with violent opposition. “If you treat with this enraged King in London,” said Thomas Scott, an Independent member, “who can secure the Parliament that the city will not make their peace with him by delivering up your heads to him for a sacrifice, as the men of Samaria did the heads of the seventy sons of Ahab?” Colonel Harvey said, if the King promised to reside in one of his houses not nearer London than ten miles, what security would his word be that he would remain there till the treaty was concluded? “The King’s promise hath been broken over and over again: put not your trust in princes.” Sir Simonds D’Ewes, always for a moderate course, combated these views. He said:
“I am quite of a contrary opinion. The House not only ought, but must trust the King. Mr. Speaker, if you know not in what condition you are, give me leave, in a word, to tell you it. Your silver is clipped, your gold shipped, your ships are revolted, yourselves contemned, your Scots friends enraged against you, and the affection of the city and kingdom quite alienated from you. Judge, then, whether you are not in a low condition, and also if it be not high time to endeavor a speedy settlement and reconcilement with His Majesty.”
These were the conflicting views which were tearing at the vitals of the Parliament.
The Scottish Army invaded England July 8. Their number was near 20,000, and the Duke of Hamilton was their commander. Lambert began an orderly retreat before them. Cromwell was still before Pembroke, and Fairfax before Colchester, and the march of the Scots was not seriously impeded.
Colonel Poyer was giving Cromwell much trouble in his stubborn defense of Pembroke. One of the soldiers wrote of him, “The man is certainly in two dispositions every day, in the morning sober and penitent, but in the afternoon drunk and full of plots.” On one occasion he sent out five of his men in the dark and received them back in daylight with a salute of guns, endeavoring to convey the impression that they were an embassy sent to him from France. When a wayfaring gentleman fell into his hands, he demanded whether he was Independent or Presbyterian. “Neither,” he replied, “for I am a Protestant.” “Why, so am I,” answered Poyer, “therefore let us be merry.” And the chronicle relates that they went in and drank so hard that neither was able to stir for twenty-four hours.
Cromwell wrote to Speaker Lenthall on the 14th of June that he would take the castle in fourteen days, but in spite of all his efforts Poyer held out for nearly a month. Finally, he was starved out, and surrendered his command on quarter for his men, himself to be at the mercy of the Parliament. On July 11, Cromwell reported the capture of Pembroke Castle, explaining to the Parliament that certain prisoners were excepted from pardon “because they have sinned against so much light, and against so many evidences of Divine Providence going along with and prospering a just cause, in the management of which they themselves had a share.”
Cromwell then turned to the North, and joined his forces with Lambert early in August, England in the meantime holding its breath to watch the result of the inevitable meeting between him and Hamilton.
The Duke of Hamilton was a man who, though endowed with rare gifts, never succeeded in anything he undertook to perform. Intriguing and ambitious, yet brave and generous; vain in his estimate of his own powers as a statesman and a general, yet utterly inefficient as either; a kinsman and trusted friend of the King, yet always suspected of cherishing designs on the Crown; contradictory in all the elements of his character; he is one of the most enigmatical men of that period. When a young man he was remarked at the gay Court of Charles for the melancholy cast of his countenance, and he seems ever to have been distrustful and unhappy. He once led an army of 6,000 Scots to aid the heroic Gustavus Adolphus, but failed to make any impression in those stirring wars. In the first days of the Covenant in Scotland, he had been Charles’ High Commissioner, but did little to assuage the bitterness of that controversy. When the attempt to enforce Episcopacy led to the Bishops’ Wars, he raised an army of 5,000 men for the King, but never performed any action except to unload them from their ships on an island in the Frith, whence they dwindled away and disappeared.
When the Covenanters invaded England in 1644, just previous to the fatal battle of Marston Moor, it was urged by Montrose and other courtiers that he had participated in the call to arms, and Charles was forced by their suspicion to imprison him in Cornwall; but he obtained his liberty, and, appearing once more in Scotland, had secured a majority in Parliament which enabled him to raise this army for the restoration of the King. While Argyle and the clergy opposed him, he carried all against their influence. But he encountered many disappointments. The Court of France had promised him arms and ammunition, but none were sent. The Prince of Wales was expected to come over to take the command, but he remained in Holland. When Hamilton set his foot on English soil, the chivalrous Langdale could not join him intimately, because the English Cavaliers would not take the Covenant, and the Scots would therefore have no fellowship with them. Langdale’s command was treated as a separate body. The main Army was practically split in two, Sir George Monro, with the Scottish horse being always a day’s march in the rear, and not at hand when the battle was joined, while Hamilton and his lieutenant-general, Calender, were fiercely jealous of each other, and had divided the Army into factions. The Scottish Parliament had authorized the enlistment of 40,000 men, but the premature outbreak of the insurrections in England had compelled Hamilton to take the field with less than half that number.
The only considerable battle of this second war was that which was fought at Preston, on the northern border of Lancashire, on August 7, 1648. Cromwell had marched over the river Ribble the night before, and camped in a field about nine miles from Preston. At daybreak he marched to Preston, and the fight was commenced on a ground so rough and muddy from the recent tempestuous weather that the operations of his cavalry were conducted with great difficulty and toil. His center line advanced through a deep and narrow lane, and the two wings, commanded by his colonels, moved forward on either side of this hedge-lined road. Cromwell’s force consisted of between eight and nine thousand, and the Scots and the English Royalists he computed at 21,000. As his advance guard came in sight of Langdale’s cavalry, the Puritans in the lane paused and desired to wait for the reserves to come up. But Cromwell thundered the order to charge, and the well-disciplined Roundheads sprang forward with the songs of David on their tongues, their leader in the front of the fight. Hamilton supposed this army to be the forces of Colonel Ashton, a singular lack of intelligence; and Sir Marmaduke never knew until he was beaten that he was once more face-to-face with Oliver and his Ironsides. The whole line of battle was now in action, and the field was fiercely contested. But the Scots were undisciplined and for the most part poorly officered. They could not long hold together under the unwavering advances of the Parliamentarians. They did indeed fight to push of pike and thrust of sword. Hamilton, Calender, Langdale, Baillie, and Turner spurned all danger and kept their men in spirit as long as daring courage could do it. For three hours Royalty and the Parliament were locked together in a death struggle. Then the Scots were halted, pushed back, made one or two gallant charges, retreated again, and finally broke and fled.
Cromwell’s men were so jaded and distressed by the fatigue of their long march from Wales, and the country was so obstructed by the impediments of the weather, that the pursuit was irksome and slow.
“If I had a thousand horse that could trot but thirty miles,” wrote Cromwell, “I should not doubt but to give a very good account of them: but truly we are so harassed and haggled out in this business, that we are not able to do more than walk at an easy pace after them.” But the rout of the Scottish Army was kept up for three days. When the invaders arrived at Wigan on the second day, they made a stand and fought until a thousand of them were slain. Night came on and the moon broke through the clouds while the carnage continued. In the fury of their despair the Scots had forced the Roundheads to retreat, but reinforcements coming up, a shout that Cromwell was there spread an instant panic. General Turner tried to rally his men, when two of them in an extremity of terror assaulted him and ran a pike through his thigh. Enraged at his wound he ordered his cavalry to attack his infantry, thus enhancing the horrors of that scene. The retreat was resumed, the fight lasting all through the night, Cromwell keeping close on the heels of the fugitives until they reached Warrington, where a third battle was fought. Here the Scots had the protection of “a town, a river, and a bridge,” but the next day the whole infantry under Baillie and Turner surrendered.
For more than thirty miles Cromwell had chased them. The fruits of this victory were several thousand killed, nearly ten thousand prisoners, the capture of the Scottish artillery, baggage, guns, and ammunition, and the annihilation of Hamilton’s military power. Hamilton fled south to Uttoxeter, in Staffordshire, and surrendered with the remainder of his forces there on August 25. Being an English Peer, Earl of Cambridge, he was beheaded the next year for this invasion, as an act of high treason against the Parliament.
In his letter to the Speaker of Parliament describing this battle, Cromwell’s change of mind concerning the fate of the King is for the first time dimly suggested. He says:
“Surely, Sir, this is nothing but the hand of God; and wherever anything in this world is exalted, or exalts itself, God will pull it down; for this is the day wherein He alone will be exalted. It is not for me to give advice, nor to say a word what use you should make of this, more than to pray you, and all that acknowledge God, that they would exalt Him, and not hate His people, who are as the apple of His eye, and for whom even Kings shall be reproved; and that you would take courage to do the work of the Lord, in fulfilling the end of your magistracy, in seeking the peace and welfare of this land, that all that will live peaceably may have countenance from you, and that they that are incapable and will not leave troubling the land may speedily be destroyed out of the land. And if you take courage in this, God will bless you, and good men will stand by you, and God will have glory, and the land will have happiness by you in despite of all your enemies.”
Cromwell had crushed the second war. Eleven days after the beginning of the fight at Preston (August 28), Goring surrendered Colchester to Fairfax without terms, and was sent prisoner to the Tower. Two of the most gallant Cavaliers in England, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, were shot on the place, on a fierce suggestion from Ireton. Lord Capel was beheaded at London. Having been the first man to complain of grievances at the opening of the Long Parliament, he was an object of especial dislike. Sir Marmaduke Langdale was captured, but afterwards escaped. The Prince of Wales, who had arrived in the Downs with the revolted ships, made haste back to Holland. The lagging Monro, who had never seen the battle, beat a hasty retreat beyond the Tweed with his cavalry. When the royal captive in Carisbrooke Castle learned of Hamilton’s defeat, he observed that “it was the worst news that ever came to England.” In Scotland the Presbyterian zealots arose in what was called “the Whiggamore raid,” and the party appellation of Whig was thenceforth applied to those who evinced a disposition to oppose the Court, and to treat Protestant Nonconformists with indulgence. The old Earl of Leven and David Leslie, backed by Argyle and the Kirk party, regained their control of the military power.
But Cromwell was not yet satisfied with his performance. He marched north and recaptured Berwick and Carlisle without a struggle. Then (about September 20) he entered the kingdom of Scotland and marched to Edinburgh, where he was received by all the well-affected notables with some trepidation and much respect. He impelled the Scottish Parliament to disqualify all persons who had taken part in the late invasion from employment in any public place or trust whatever, thus causing the unseating of many of its members. When he had done this, and had impressed the fear of his strength upon the intriguing Scots, he was banqueted with elaborate honor at Edinburgh Castle; and then, leaving Lambert with two regiments behind, he departed, arriving back in England in the middle of October. Proceeding to Yorkshire, he sat down before Pontefract Castle (November 9). The governor of this stronghold had recently driven in all the cattle of the surrounding country to the number of two hundred and forty, and was prepared to stand a siege for a year. He could expect no mercy, so that he stubbornly refused to surrender. The place was well watered and situated upon a rock, so that to resort to mining was impossible. The walls were very thick and high, with strong towers. The outside country was so poor that the subsistence of the Parliamentarians was a grave difficulty. But the reduction of this castle was the last necessity of the war, and Cromwell set himself to accomplish it.
But at Westminster Cromwell’s Presbyterian rivals beheld with undisguised dismay the indications of his continued ascendency. His triumph presaged their ruin, and they had taken advantage of his absence with the Independent Army to reopen an ever-hopeless treaty with the King. Forty days had been devoted to the solemn discussion of this treaty by the Parliamentary commissioners and the King and his friends, at the Isle of Wight. Denzil Hollis, Oliver’s most bitter foe, who had been banished with the eleven to appease the jealousies of the Army, was now back in his seat in the House of Commons. Robert Huntington, a Major in Cromwell’s own regiment, had presented a vindictive memorial to the House of Lords, denouncing the Lieutenant-General for his intrigues, his broken promises, his perfidy to the King, his ambition, his contempt of Parliament and of the law, his disregard of the rights of men, his pernicious principles, and his threatening designs. The Peers received this charge with private satisfaction, and sent their messengers with the malignant document to the House of Commons, but Cromwell’s friends shrewdly prevented its introduction before the lower House, although Huntington placed a copy of it in the Speaker’s hands. Cromwell by this time stood too high to be successfully attacked.
The Independents in Parliament were greatly alarmed by the evident approach of an agreement between the King and the Presbyterian section, and Ludlow was sent by them to interview Fairfax at Colchester in regard to a policy for the preservation of the Army. Ludlow stated the question to be, whether the King should govern as a god by his will, and the nation be governed by force like beasts, or, whether the people should be governed by laws made by themselves, and live under a Government derived from their own consent.Fairfax refused to commit himself to any direct engagement, contenting himself with a general expression of his intention to discharge his duty to the people. Ludlow thereupon sought Ireton, whom Cromwell had left with the Lord General for his own purposes. That astute soldier was not in the least alarmed by the disclosures of the Presbyterian designs which were made to him. “Let them go on,” he said, “until the King and the Parliament make an agreement. We will wait until we have made a full discovery of their intentions, and then oppose them.”
An answer was at length obtained from the King. He refused to abolish the bishops, but consented that those who had bought the Church lands from the Parliament should enjoy them by lease for a term of years. As a satisfaction for the blood that had been shed, he agreed to except six considerable persons from pardon, taking care to name those who had found a safe asylum beyond seas. The Parliament was to control the Army for ten years. These concessions were not those which would naturally be expected from a conquered monarch, but in the absence of better terms, the Presbyterians resolved to stem the tide of anarchy by accepting them as a basis for peace. The Army leaders preserved an ominous silence before the public, but they had long since arrived at a grim determination to prevent the consummation of this treaty at the proper time.
But the duplicity of Charles was never exercised with less conscience than in the days of this treaty. He had combated the commissioners with skill and learning at every point in the discussion. “If you call this a treaty,” he said to one of them, “consider whether it be not like the fray in the comedy where the man comes out and says, ‘There has been a fray and no fray,’ and being asked how that could be, ‘Why,’ says he, ‘there hath been three blows given, and I had them all.’ Look whether this be not a parallel case; I have granted absolutely most of your propositions, and with great moderation limited only some few of them, and you make me no concessions.” After having promised to stop all hostilities in Ireland, he secretly wrote to Ormond, “Obey my wife’s orders, not mine, until I shall let you know I am free from all restraint, nor trouble yourself about my concessions as to Ireland; they will not lead to anything.” In regard to the concessions of the Army, he wrote to Sir William Hopkins, “To tell you the truth, my great concession this morning was made only with a view to facilitate my approaching escape; without that hope, I never should have yielded in this manner.” In short, Charles believed implicitly in his moral right to hoodwink those whom he viewed simply as rebels against his lawful authority, and the most solemn engagements which they deemed necessary to secure their own safety and the prosperity of the people at large, had no binding force upon his conscience. This, once more, was the kingcraft of his father.
Of this period, Sir Philip Warwick writes, “There are no words in the Army, but that the King hath been a man of blood, and therefore must be prosecuted to blood.” Edmund Ludlow quoted this Scripture for the act that was coming to pass: “Blood defileth the land, and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.” And Cromwell, from the leaguer at Pontefract, wrote this letter to Fairfax, enclosing numerous petitions from his soldiers that justice be done to the Chief Delinquent:
“Knottingly, 20th Nov., 1648.
“I find in the Officers of the Regiments a very great sense of the sufferings of this poor Kingdom; and in them all a very great zeal to have impartial justice done upon Offenders. And I must confess, I do in all, from my heart, concur with them; and I verily think and am persuaded they are things which God puts into our hearts.
“I shall not need to offer anything to your Excellency: I know, God teaches you; and that He hath manifested His presence so to you as that you will give glory to Him in the eyes of all the world, I held it my duty, having received these Petitions and Letters, and being [so] desired by the framers thereof, to present them to you. The good Lord work His will upon your heart, enabling you to it; and the presence of Almighty God go along with you. Thus prays, my Lord, your most humble and faithful servant,
He likewise wrote a long and very remarkable letter to Hammond, the Governor of the Isle of Wight, endeavoring to persuade him that the intentions of the Army in this matter were just and lawful in the sight of God.
Five times had the Parliament voted the King’s concessions insufficient (October 2, 11, and 27; November 2 and 24). They were trusting to Hammond to preserve the King from the machinations of the Army. But on the 27th of November, Fairfax recalled Hammond to Windsor, where his own headquarters were now established, and Colonel Ewer, a Leveler, took charge of the King at the Isle of Wight. The Royal prisoner was removed to Hurst Castle, a small, dark, and gloomy stronghold on the mainland across the narrow channel known as the Solent. His friends were dismissed, and he was left alone with the terror of assassination at the hands of his fanatical guards constantly before him.
The Presbyterian majority at Westminster now rejected a Remonstrance from the Army, and the Army moved nearer to London. Cromwell had returned from the North, leaving Pontefract Castle to Lambert, and was with them.
On Friday, the 1st of December, on Saturday, and again on Monday, the Commons debated the question, whether his Majesty’s concessions are a ground of settlement. All of Monday night they continue the debate, and so many have spoken that the Independents know they will be beaten when the vote comes. Nathaniel Fiennes, an Independent and a soldier, is speaking now for the King. They will not be overawed by the advancing tread of the Army. At five o’clock in the morning it is voted that the King’s concessions are sufficient. One hundred and twenty-nine vote yea, eighty-three vote nay—a majority of forty-six. Cromwell and the Army spend all of that day in praying and planning.
The next day, by an order from Commissary General Ireton, Colonel Rich’s regiment of horse and Colonel Pride’s regiment of foot came to Westminster as a guard to the Parliament, and dismissed the city train-bands from that service. Fairfax knew nothing of their errand; Cromwell and Ireton had arranged all. As the members began to arrive, Lord Grey of Groby, standing beside Colonel Pride, whispered the names of the Presbyterians who approached. Among them were Sir Simonds D’Ewes, William Prynne, Sir William Waller “the Conqueror,” Sir Benjamin Rudyard, Sir Harbottle Grimstone, William Strode, and Nathaniel Fiennes. Pride promptly seized them until forty-seven were in his custody, and hurried them off to the Queen’s Court. Each and every one of them demanded, “By what law? By what law?” And when Chaplain Hugh Peters visited them, and they repeated this solemn question, he replied, with stern satisfaction, “It is by the law of Necessity, truly, by the power of the Sword!”
This was Pride’s Purge.
The next day, Thursday, Cromwell quietly took his seat in the House, and received a vote of thanks from the Speaker for his services in the war. He had not, he said, been acquainted with this design; yet, since it was done, he was glad of it, and would endeavor to maintain it. In addition to the forty-seven imprisoned members ninety-six others were personally denied entrance to the House by Colonel Pride, so that only seventy-eight members were present to discuss Cromwell’s course under this vote, and twenty-eight of them opposed him, and came no more to Parliament. This left a “Rump” at that time of fifty members. A few days later it was necessary, in order to obtain a quorum, to bring one of the imprisoned members out of his incarceration to the House. The city was now full of troops. The Independents controlled both the civil power and the sword.
On Wednesday, December 13, the purged House renewed the vote for non-addresses, declared the recent revocation of this vote to have been highly dishonorable, and annulled the vote for a treaty with the King.
Four of the Lords and about twenty of the Commons, together with many other Independents, attended at St. Margaret’s Church at Westminster. Chaplain Hugh Peters occupied the pulpit and took his text from the Book of Psalms:
“Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud in their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishment upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron. This honour have all his saints.”
In his discourse Peters compared the state of the kingdom with the bringing of the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. He declared that there were 5,000 men in the Army who were no less saints than those who conversed with God himself in heaven. He then dropped his head suddenly upon the cushion, and, raising it after a while, he shouted that he had had a vision, and that the way to be brought out of their bondage was to extirpate monarchy, both here and in all other places. Then, with the flow of tears which seemed to be one of the arts of exhortation in that age, he begged them to execute justice upon that great Barabbas at Windsor.
On the 14th, Cromwell went to Windsor. On the 16th, a detachment of horse led by Colonel Harrison was sent from headquarters with orders to bring the King from Hurst Castle to Windsor. Harrison was the son of a butcher, but withal was a man of military capacity who had won Cromwell’s esteem and patronage. After the party of soldiers had brought the King some distance from Hurst Castle, Charles, who believed it to be a part of their design to assassinate him at the first fitting opportunity, spoke frankly to Harrison of the rumor he had heard that he himself had declared he would do the deed. “Nothing can be more false,” said Harrison, “this is what I said, and I can repeat it; it is, that the law was equally obligatory to great and small, and that justice had no respect to persons.” The last words were spoken with an emphasis which stirred the King to great alarm, and he did not again address Harrison.
On leaving Farnham, the King expressed his desire to stop and dine in the forest, at the house of Lord Newburgh, who was one of his most devoted adherents. Harrison tried to dissuade him, but the King uttered his wish so persistently, that the Roundhead chief consented. Newburgh was the owner of a fine stable, among which was a horse reputed to be the fleetest in England. It had secretly been planned that Charles should mount this horse and speed away into the forest, whose by-paths were well known to him, where he could easily find a shelter from his guards on their slow service horses. He accordingly, before arriving at Lord Newburgh’s, began to complain loudly of a lameness in the horse he was then riding, and when this was later mentioned to his Cavalier confidant, Newburgh instantly offered him a fresh horse. Ill fate, however, frustrated his enterprise, when the fleet steed was found to have been badly injured by a kick from another horse. The King would have attempted flight on his present mount, but Harrison, whose suspicions had been aroused, surrounded him with bold troopers on every side, and escape was impossible. That evening he arrived at Windsor Castle, where he was received by many of his old friends and servants, who were permitted to attend him with the ceremonies which were due to his exalted rank.
The Chief Delinquent
Cromwell’s part in the King’s trial and death is the least creditable portion of his history. And yet he had sincerely endeavored to save the life of Charles. When the King was a prisoner at Hampton Court, Cromwell had purposely frightened him away with that letter about assassination. When Charles fatuously strayed into captivity at Carisbrooke Castle, Cromwell again warned him, through Sir John Berkeley, to escape if he loved his life. When, after he had discovered the King’s duplicity, he was importuned by the friends of Charles to engage himself in his behalf, he had replied that he would do what he could, but the King must not expect him to ruin himself for his sake. But when, after two civil wars the demand of the Army for the punishment of the Chief Delinquent became irresistible, Cromwell abandoned his scruples, and he and Ireton became the foremost among those who brought the King to the block. He declared that this second war was “a more prodigious treason than any that had been perfected before; because the former quarrel was that Englishmen might rule over one another, this to vassalise us to a foreign nation.”
On the day following the King’s enforced return to Windsor Castle (Saturday, December 23, 1648), the Commons appointed a committee of thirty-eight to draw up a charge against him in order that he might be brought to judgment. Petitions were coming in from every quarter of England, under the manipulations of the Agitators, praying for the trial of the Chief Delinquent, and all the arts which could be used to excite the public mind to approbation of their design were skillfully employed. On the 27th, the Council of War, which had taken charge of the King’s person, ordered that no ceremonies of State should longer be performed with respect to him. On the 28th an ordinance was reported for attainting the King of high treason, prescribing that he should be tried by a tribunal to be erected for that purpose and to be known as the High Commission Court. There was a storm of horrified protest from many members, some of whom did not think until then that the Levelers would dare to go to the last extremity. Cromwell’s public expressions were most cautiously framed. We have already seen that on at least two occasions he had in his letters expressed the increasing desire of the soldiers for the King’s punishment without himself abhorring it. But now he affected moderation. “If anyone,” he said, “had moved this upon design, I should think him the greatest traitor in the world, but since Providence and necessity have cast us upon it, I pray God to bless our counsels, though I am not prepared on the sudden to give my advice.” But there was no real difficulty in obtaining a majority for the ordinance; Pride’s Purge had assured the Independents of the successful termination of their design. It was necessary, however, even for these zealous enthusiasts to preserve the appearance of law, and this could only be done by the expedient of an ex post facto law, for there was none on the statute books at present that would sanction their proceedings. On the 2nd of December they had voted that it was high treason for a King of England to make war against his Parliament. They then adopted their ordinance for the erection of the High Court of Justice. It was to be composed of one hundred and fifty persons, including six peers, three judges, eleven baronets, ten knights, six aldermen of London, and the prominent Independents in the Army and the city, excepting St. John and Vane, who declared that they disapproved of the scheme and would take no part in it.
On January 2, 1649, the ordinance was sent to the Lords, who, servile until now under the lash of the Commons, indignantly spurned this measure. The illegal pretensions of the ordinance were very clearly exposed by the debate in the upper House. The Earl of Manchester, to whom Cromwell had made that radical outburst in 1644 concerning the leveling of peers and titles, was the first speaker. He said that by the fundamental laws of England, the Parliament consisted of three estates, of which the King is the first; that the King only had power to call and dissolve them, and to confirm all their acts, and that without him there can be no Parliament; and therefore it was absurd to say that the King could be a traitor against the Parliament. The Earl of Northumberland contended that the greatest part, even twenty to one, of the people of England were not yet satisfied whether the King did levy war against the Houses first, or the Houses first against him; and besides, if the King did levy war first, they had no law extant, or that could be produced, to make it treason in him to do so; “And for us, my Lords,” he said, “to declare it treason by an ordinance, when the matter of fact is not yet proved, nor any law in being to judge it by, seems to me very unreasonable.” The Earl of Pembroke said, briefly, that he loved not to meddle with businesses of life and death, and, for his part, he would neither speak against the ordinance nor consent to it. And the Earl of Denbigh declared that whereas the Commons were pleased to put his name into the ordinance, as one of the commissioners he would choose to be torn in pieces, rather than have any share in so infamous a business. These were Puritan Lords who spoke thus. It was resolved that the ordinance should be cast out, after which the Lords adjourned for one week without vouchsafing to send the lower House a message.
The next day the Commons seized their journal, and found that the Lords had refused to concur in the declaration that it was high treason for a King to make war, and that they had unanimously rejected the ordinance for the King’s trial. On the 4th they voted that the people being, after God, the original of all just powers, and they themselves being the representatives of the people, they were possessed of the sovereign power, and that whatsoever they should enact, though lacking the concurrence of the King and the Lords, should have the force of law. On the 7th they passed a fresh ordinance, instituting the High Court of Justice in the name of the Commons only, reducing the membership to 135, and empowering twenty or more to be a quorum. A proclamation was made throughout the city that the King would be tried, and that all who had anything to say against him would be heard.
The High Court met in private on the 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 18th, and 19th of January. John Bradshaw, a cousin of Milton, was chosen President. He was a Puritan of the strictest type, fanatical and ready to die for his opinions, yet ambitious and a lover of gold. Fearing assault, he prudently wore a shot-proof hat. Fairfax, Cromwell, and Ireton were the first three names that appeared in the ordinance creating the court. Fairfax sat the first day and never took part in the proceedings again. Other prominent members were Skippon, Harrison, Pride, Whalley, Desborough, Lambert, Ludlow, and Hazelrig. The court was unwieldy, and dissensions crept in at the very start. Many who attended the first meetings did so to announce their opposition to the trial. Young Algernon Sidney opposed the proceedings with fervid eloquence, and expressed the fear that the people would rise up in a sudden insurrection, and by saving the King, lose the projected Commonwealth. “No one will stir,” said Cromwell, who, first and last, controlled the court absolutely, “I tell you we will cut his head off with the Crown upon it.” Dissenting members were discouraged from attending, and the court began to arrange the forms of the trial. Steel was chosen Attorney-General, Cook was appointed Solicitor, and Henry Scobill, clerk. It was decided that the trial should take place at Westminster, and the 20th of January was appointed as the day on which the King should appear before the court.
On Friday, the 19th of January, a troop of horse under the command of General Harrison was sent to Windsor for the King. Charles entered a coach drawn by six horses, and was conveyed to London, and thence to St. James’ Palace, where he was strictly guarded by the soldiers. But one of his friends, Sir Thomas Herbert, Groom of the Chamber, was allowed access to him.
The next day, the 20th, about noon, while the High Court was discussing the final preparations for the trial, their attention was attracted by the approach of the King, who was carried in a sedan-chair between two files of soldiers. Cromwell, looking from the window, said, “My masters, he is come—he is come and now we are doing that great work that the whole nation will be full of. Therefore, I desire you to let us resolve here what answer we shall give the King, when he comes before us, for the first question he will ask us will be, by what authority and commission we do try him.” Cromwell’s astute surmise was correct, for the King’s first words questioned their authority to bring him to trial.
The High Court entered Westminster Hall in solemn procession, Bradshaw at their head preceded by the Sword and Mace, and twenty halberdiers. A strong guard surrounded the building. Bradshaw, as President, occupied a chair of crimson velvet, and sixty-seven members of the court took their seats. The King soon appeared under the guard of Colonel Tomlinson and thirty-two halberdiers, and advanced towards a chair of crimson velvet which had been placed for him at the bar. Pausing he cast a long and searching look on the court, and then sat down without removing his hat. Rising suddenly, he looked behind him at the guards and at the great crowd of spectators who had been freely admitted, then gazed once more into the severe faces of his judges, and again sat down amidst a general silence.
The names of the members of the court were read, and when that of Fairfax was called, the assembly was startled to hear a woman in the gallery say, “He had more wit than to be here.” Afterwards, when the impeachment was read in the name of all the good people of England, the same voice cried, “No, not the hundredth part of them. Where are they or their consents? Oliver Cromwell is a traitor!” An officer bade his soldiers fire at the woman, who could be but dimly distinguished, but when they drew nearer to her the astonishing discovery was made that the indignant disturber was the General’s wife, Lady Fairfax, who thereupon withdrew.
Bradshaw rose and addressed the King.
“Charles Stuart, King of England,” said he, “the Commons of England, assembled in Parliament, being deeply sensible of the evils and calamities that have been brought upon this nation, and of the innocent blood that has been spilt in it, which is fixed on you as the principal author of it, have resolved to make inquisition for this blood, and to bring you to trial and judgment for it, for which purpose this High Court of justice has been constituted.”
Solicitor Cook then began to read the charges, when the King laid his cane softly on Cook’s shoulder two or three times and bade him hold. The handle of his cane came off and fell to the floor, and as his attendants were not near him, he stooped and picked it up himself, and then sat down.
The Solicitor read the charge against him, laying upon Charles the responsibility for all the evils arising from his tyrannical government and from the war, and demanding judgment on him as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and an enemy to his country. The King smiled at these words, but said nothing.
“Sir,” said Bradshaw to the King, “you have heard the charge; the court awaits your answer.”
Charles rose and looked calmly into the eyes of his questioner, and demanded to know by what lawful authority he was brought there. Bradshaw replied, In the name of the Commons of England. Charles retorted that he saw no Lords there which should make a Parliament, including the King, and urged that the kingdom of England was hereditary, not successive, and that he should betray his trust if he acknowledged or answered to them, for he was not convinced that they were a lawful authority. But lately, he said, he was treating with the commissioners of Parliament in the Isle of Wight for a peace, and the treaty was near perfection. “I desire to know,” he continued, “by what authority I was hurried thence hither; I mean lawful authority, for there are many unlawful powers, such as that of highwaymen. I desire to know this, I say, before I answer your charge.”
Bradshaw pressed him to plead to the charge, and the King continued to demand their authority. Looking round upon the members of the House of Commons, he asked, with scorn, “Is this what you call bringing the King to his Parliament?”
Bradshaw replied, “Sir, the court awaits from you a definitive answer. If what we tell you of our authority is not sufficient for you, it is sufficient for us; we know it is founded on the authority of God and of the kingdom.” As Charles still refused to plead he was ordered to be taken away, and his guards conveyed him to the house of Sir Robert Cotton, which was near at hand, and where his residence was fixed during the trial. After his departure some of the judges desired to pass sentence at once, but in order to avoid the reproach of a hasty and rash judgment it was decided to require his appearance at two other sittings and to press him to answer to the accusation.
On Monday, January 22, he was brought a second time before them, sixty-two of the judges being present, where much the same ground was covered. Bradshaw demanded an answer, and the King argued against their authority with much learning and dignity. As often as his reasoning brought him to this point he was interrupted by Bradshaw, who refused to permit him to discuss the question. The King claimed his right as an Englishman to raise a demurrer to their proceedings; but Bradshaw said his demurrer was overruled, and spoke of precedents, when the King quickly said, “Show me one precedent.” Bradshaw was unable to answer his challenge, and, falling back upon his dignity, rebuked him for interrupting the court. The King said, “I require that I may give my reasons why I do not answer,” and Bradshaw replied, “Sir, it is not for prisoners to require.” “Prisoners!” thundered the King, “Sir, I am not an ordinary prisoner.” A few more hot words were exchanged, the King demanding to speak for the liberty of his people, when he was again taken away. As he passed down the stairs the soldiers repeated their cry of “Justice, justice!” but the populace cried, “God save the King! God save Your Majesty!”
The next day he appeared a third time, and Bradshaw sternly commanded him to answer, and forbade his discoursings. The King said, “For the charge, I value it not a rush; it is the liberty of the people of England I stand for. For me to acknowledge a new court, that I never heard of before—I, that am your King, that should be an example to all the people of England—to uphold justice, to maintain the old laws, indeed, I do not know how to do it.” Still refusing to plead, he was hurried away by his guards. As he passed out, one of the soldiers cried, “Sire, God bless you!” An officer struck the man with his cane. “Sir,” said the King, “the punishment exceeds the offense.” He disappeared amid the same exclamations of sympathy and of reproach which had followed him on the preceding days.
Indeed, the King’s bearing in his perilous situation was so majestic, and his conduct was marked by so much patience and forbearance, that the people were turning to him in multitudes. Outside of the Army there were few Englishmen who could view with complacence the end that was felt to be approaching so swiftly. Besides, their tardy sympathy was accelerated by the energetic efforts which one half the world seemed to be making in his behalf. The States-General of Holland, under the filial persuasion of the Prince of Wales, had sent an ambassador to intercede with the Parliament and with Cromwell for his life. A commission came from Scotland to recall to the Lord-General’s mind that provision in the Covenant which bound them all to preserve His Majesty’s person, but Cromwell told them his crimes were beyond pardon. Another came from France on a like errand of mercy. Henrietta Maria, who, with the royal family of France, was under restraint in the siege of Paris during an insurrection there, found opportunity to send a letter to the English Parliament, making a passionate lamentation for the sad condition of her husband, and desiring that they would grant her a pass to come over to him. She offered to exercise all her influence with him to give them satisfaction; but, if they would not consent to this, then she implored that she might at least be near him to perform the duty she owed him in his last extremity. John Cromwell, a cousin to Oliver, and now employed in the Dutch service, besought the Lieutenant-General with entreaties, reproaches, almost with threats, to interpose his power in behalf of Charles. All was without avail. Cromwell and the High Court of Justice were inexorable.
On the 24th and 25th they examined thirty-two witnesses who testified to seeing the King present when his standard was set up at Nottingham; that he was on the field at Edgehill and Newbury, and before Gloucester during the siege; that he dismounted from his horse at Cropredy Bridge and led his troops with sword in hand, putting Waller’s army to flight; and that he was in the front of his army at Naseby. This was the sum of the evidence against him. On the 25th, towards the close of the day, Ireton and five others were appointed to draw up the sentence. There were forty-six members present that day. On the 26th, with sixty-two members, the court passed on the form of the sentence.
On the 27th the court met, with sixty-seven present, to pass their sentence. Charles entered the hall, pale, inwardly agitated, but every inch a king. Before taking his seat, he said to Bradshaw, “Sir, I shall ask to speak a word; I hope I shall not give you occasion to interrupt me.”
Bradshaw: “You may answer in your turn. Hear the court first.”
The King: “If it please you, Sir, I desire to be heard, and I shall not give any occasion of interruption, and it is only in a word. A sudden judgment—”
Bradshaw (interrupting): “Sir, you shall be heard in due time, but you are to hear the court first.”
The King: “Sir, I desire it, it will be in order to what I believe the court will say; and therefore, Sir, a hasty judgment is not so soon recalled.”
Bradshaw: “Sir, you shall be heard before the judgment be given, and in the meantime you may forbear.”
The King sat down, and Bradshaw addressed the court, censuring the King for his contumacy in impeaching the jurisdiction of the court. He then gave the King permission to speak in his own defense, but warned him that he must not again question their authority.
It had never penetrated the soul of Charles that they would dare to put him to death otherwise than by assassination until he was brought before them on this occasion for judicial sentence. He had spoken a short time before of holding in reserve three resources, the least of which would enable him to save his life. The first two of these were probably a fanciful power to treat with either the Parliamentary or the Army party in a last extremity. The final alternative was his abdication of the Crown in favor of his son. This was what he now resolved to perform. Before the law he would be considered legally dead as soon as sentence was passed upon him. Hence his impassioned appeal to be allowed to speak as soon as he had come before them.
He arose and began to speak amid a profound silence. He said that, since he had been forbidden to further discuss the lack of authority of those who had brought him to trial, which he himself considered the most material question in the proceedings, he would make no further allusion to it. He had not entertained a tenacious hold upon his life, else he would have chosen to conduct his defense in a different manner. He had prized the peace of the kingdom and the liberty of his subjects more highly than the life of their King, all of which were involved in this affair, otherwise he would have been tempted to at least delay the passing of an ugly sentence which he now believed would be laid upon him. But now he thought that a hasty sentence once passed may sooner be repented of than recalled. Desiring the peace of the kingdom and the liberty of his subjects more than his own particular ends, he asked that he might be privileged to meet with the two Houses of Parliament in the Painted Chamber, as he had a communication to make to the Lords and Commons which was of the greatest importance to the nation. If they refused, then these offers of liberty and peace were pure shows.
The King’s speech had been followed closely by the court, and by the vast audience, and when he made that mysterious reference to a plan of settlement, his purpose to abdicate was inferred by all, and a wave of excitement swept over the whole assembly. Charles had outwitted the court and had taken them completely by surprise. They had held a secret meeting that morning, and planned a line of conduct for their own guidance in any one of half a dozen things which they conjectured the King might say. But they had never anticipated his request to meet with his Parliament for such an obvious and important communication. Bradshaw attempted to break the force of the speech by denouncing it as a further aspersion on the authority of the High Court of justice, and a subterfuge to gain time. The King answered that if his message was not found to be worthy of the importance which he had ascribed to it, the shame would be his. Bradshaw resumed his speech, in which he continued to deny the King’s request, when the excitement that possessed both court and spectators broke out into a disturbance. The soldiers, urged on by Axtell, their Colonel, cried, “Justice! Execution!” and when Charles, in the deepest agitation, cried, “Hear me! hear me!” the same shouts were repeated. Colonel Downs, who was one of the judges, rose up, while two of his colleagues, Cawley and Wanton, endeavored to pull him down. “Have we hearts of stone?” he asked. “Are we men?” “You will ruin us and yourself,” said Cawley. “No matter,” replied Downs, “if I die for it, I must do it.” Cromwell turned to him angrily, and said, “Colonel, are you yourself? What mean you? Can’t you be quiet?” “No, Sir,” answered Downs, “I cannot be quiet.” He then formally addressed the President, and told him that he could not give his consent to the sentence, and desired that the court would retire in order that he might state his reasons. Bradshaw, wishing to preserve the decorum of the court, unwillingly consented, and the judges withdrew for conference.
There was a stormy interview in the Court of Wards, whither they had retired, but all opposition was silenced, and at the end of half an hour they returned to the hall and Bradshaw informed the King that the court rejected his proposal. When Charles still insisted on the urgency of his communication, Bradshaw made the unjudicial retort, “Sir, you have not owned us as a court, and you looked upon us as a sort of people met together, and we know what language we received from your party.” The King replied, “I know nothing of that.” The clerk then read the sentence, which, after reciting the charge against him, provided, “for all which treasons and crimes, this court doth adjudge, that he, the said Charles Stuart, as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and a public enemy, shall be put to death by the severing of his head from his body.”
The sentence having been read, Bradshaw said, “The sentence now read and published, is the act, sentence, judgment, and resolution of the whole court.” Each one of the Regicides thereupon stood up in token of consent. The soldiers gathered round the King. “Sir,” said Charles, suddenly, “will you hear me a word?”
Bradshaw: “Sir, you are not to be heard after the sentence.”
The King: “No, Sir?”
Bradshaw: “No, Sir, by your favor, Sir. Guard, withdraw your prisoner.”
The King: “I may speak after sentence by your favor, Sir. I may speak after sentence, Ever! By your favor (to the guards), Hold! The sentence, Sir—I say, Sir, I do !—I am not suffered to speak, expect what justice other people will have!”
With these broken words of fallen but courageous majesty, Charles was hurried from the bar. His ejaculation of the word “Ever” was supremely dramatic. As he walked down the stairs, some of the soldiers blew the smoke from their pipes into his face, and jeered him. Others shouted, “Justice! Execution!” Still others on the outskirt cried, “God save your Majesty! God deliver your Majesty from the hands of your enemies!” Amid this turbulence he was taken to Whitehall.
The next day, Sunday the 28th, Dr. Juxon, Bishop of London, came to give the King the consolations of religion. On Monday the Commons sent his young children, the Princess Elizabeth, aged twelve, and the Duke of Gloucester, aged eight, to see him, they being the only members of his family in England. Charles took them upon his knees, and mingled his tears with theirs. He told his daughter to assure her mother that he loved her as much as on their marriage day, and charged his son not to let them make him a King, as long as his elder brothers, Charles and James, were alive. He then fervently kissed them, again and again, and at last ordered them to be taken away. When they reached the door, they flew back to his arms, sobbing aloud, until Charles tore himself from their caresses, and blessed them, and then fell upon his knees, and prayed.
The court drew up a warrant for his execution the next day, which was addressed to Colonels Hacker, Huncks, and Phayr, and which required them to see it executed. This was signed by Bradshaw, Cromwell, and fifty-seven other members of the court. When it came Cromwell’s turn to affix his signature, he wrote his name hastily, and then, in a nervous burst of mirth, he smeared the ink on his pen across the face of Henry Marten, who, after signing, did likewise in the face of Oliver.
On Monday the King was removed to the Palace of St. James, in order that full preparations for his execution might be made at Whitehall. On Tuesday morning Cromwell met Ireton, Harrison, and Axtell, together with the three colonels who were to have charge of the execution. Cromwell told Huncks to draw up the order to the headsman, but Huncks stoutly refused to do so, whereupon Oliver sat down and penned the fatal instrument himself, Hacker signing it.
Charles, after having slept soundly through the night, left his bed at four o’clock. Herbert, who had watched in deep agitation beside his master’s bed, related a dream in which he had seen Archbishop Laud come in and kiss the King’s hand. Charles merely said it was remarkable, and then, “Let me be as trim today as may be,” said he, “this is my second marriage day, for before night I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.” In dressing he put on an extra shirt. “The season is so sharp,” he said, “as may make me shake, which some observers will imagine proceeds from fear. I would have no such imputation; I fear not death; death is not terrible to me. I bless my God I am prepared.” At dawn Bishop Juxon arrived, and read to him the twenty-seventh chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which recites the last sufferings and death of the Savior. “My Lord,” asked Charles, “did you choose this chapter as being applicable to my present condition?” “May it please Your Majesty,” replied the bishop, “it is the proper lesson for the day, as the calendar indicates.” Charles answered, “I bless God it has thus fallen out.”
About ten o’clock in the morning Hacker knocked gently on his door, and told him in a kindly voice that it was time to go to Whitehall, but assured him that he would have some further time to rest there. After saying a few more prayers the King stepped forth on his march to the execution. A detachment of halberdiers preceded him, and a regiment of infantry followed him. Their drums were beating, and their colors flying. Charles walked with a firm tread; his face was serene, his eye was bright. On his right hand was Bishop Juxon, on his left, Colonel Tomlinson, who had charge of his person. Many of his gentlemen walked before him uncovered. A soldier maliciously inquired whether he had not concurred with the late Duke of Buckingham in the death of the King, his father. “Friend,” answered Charles, with mild scorn, “if I had no other sin—I speak it with reverence to God’s Majesty—I assure thee I should never ask him pardon.” Arrived at Whitehall, the King entered the chamber where he had formerly slept, and partook of the sacrament. He refused to dine, but about twelve o’clock he drank a glass of wine, and ate a piece of bread. While he was on his knees, some of the Puritan preachers came to the door, and desired to be permitted to pray with him. He sent Dr. Juxon to thank them; “But tell them plainly,” he said, “that they that have so often and causelessly prayed against me, shall never pray with me in this agony.”
Hacker’s knock was again heard at the door. “Now,” said the King, rising from his devotions, “let the rogues come; I have heartily forgiven them, and am prepared for all I am to undergo.” A double rank of soldiers stood beyond his door, and behind them a great crowd of men and women who offered their prayers and shed their tears without restraint. Charles walked through the banqueting hall and stepped out of a window upon the scaffold. He then made a speech to the people, defending himself against the charges upon which he had been tried. He told them he died a martyr to the people. In one sentence he defined his whole theory of monarchal Government. “A subject and a sovereign,” he said, “are clean different things; the liberty and freedom of the people consist in having of the government those laws by which their lives and their goods may be most their own, but for having a share in the government is nothing pertaining to them.” He declared himself a Protestant according to the Church of England, and he reproached himself for consenting to Strafford’s death; and, turning to Dr. Juxon, he said, “I have a good cause, and a gracious God on my side.” A soldier struck his foot against the axe, and Charles, fearing he might blunt its edge, said, “Take heed of the axe, pray, take heed of the axe!” Then to Colonel Hacker he said, “Take care that they do not put me to needless pain.” Bishop Juxon said, “Sire, there is but one stage more. This stage is turbulent and troublesome. It is a short one. But you may consider, it will soon carry you a very great way; it will carry you from earth to heaven, and there you shall find to your great joy the prize; you haste to a crown of glory.” The King replied, “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be.” He then laid aside his cloak, and taking off his George, handed the decoration to the bishop with the secret word “Remember.” As his eyes fell upon the block he smiled to perceive that they had arranged a contrivance to fasten him down in case he should offer resistance. He said to the executioner, a man disguised and wearing a black mask, “Place it so it may be firm.” “It is firm, Sir,” answered the headsman. “I will say a short prayer,” said Charles, “and when I hold out my hands, then.”
He stood in silent devotion for a moment, then raised his eyes to heaven. Kneeling, he laid his head upon the block. The executioner stooped to put his hair under the white satin nightcap which he wore. “Wait for the signal,” said Charles, thinking he was going to strike. “I shall wait for it, Sir,” answered the man. In a moment the King held out his hands, and the judgment of the Regicides was consummated by a single blow from the axe. “This is the head of a traitor,” cried the executioner holding it aloft, and the soldiers shouted their approbation of the deed. A deep groan arose from the multitude, and many pressed forward to dip their handkerchiefs in his blood. The body was put in a coffin, which was covered with black velvet, and carried through the fallen snow to his apartment in Whitehall. Cromwell came that night, and, uncovering the King’s body and gazing long upon it, muttered the words, “Cruel necessity.” Noting its apparent vigor and strength, he remarked that it was sound and well made for longevity. A soldier profanely asked him what government they should have, and he replied hastily, the same that then was.
Viewed as an act of public policy, the execution of Charles I was the greatest political blunder of the age. The people regarded it as needless cruelty and oppression upon a monarch who was already dethroned and a captive. It aroused for Charles all those popular sympathies which the misfortunes of a good man invariably excite. Even a hostile poet sang these words:
He nothing common did or mean, Upon that memorable scene, But with his keener eye, The axe’s edge did try; Nor called the gods, with vulgar spite, To vindicate his helpless right; But bowed his comely head Down, as upon a bed.
He was universally known to be, in his private life, as pure a King as ever wore a crown. His passionate attachment for his wife and his deep love for his children, were the uppermost affections in his heart. The violence by which his end had been accomplished, and the heroic manner of his death, had effaced the memory of his encroachments upon the liberties of the people. Aside from those fanatics in the Army who had, under their plan to introduce a republic, brought him to the scaffold as the Chief Delinquent, the whole nation looked upon his execution with emotions varying from mild regret to absolute horror. But beyond all this was the fact which had been established for more than a thousand years in the English Constitution, that the King’s son inherited the Crown. Charles I, beholding him in the Puritan point of view, was a man who had misgoverned and oppressed his people, and then made war upon them. Stained with these malversations, his death would appease the wrath of his enemies, while at the very instant of his dissolution, the whole nation, longing to be at rest from civil war, must inevitably turn its eyes and its heart to his legal and natural successor in the Government—a prince having all the attractions of youth, esteemed as capable of being guided by a fruitful experience, and who was now become, by the law of the land, Charles the Second. They might interrupt the operation of the law for a time by violence and force; others might usurp the functions of the Crown; but from the day of the death of Charles I the desire for a lawful succession steadily increased, until eleven years later it secured the restoration of Charles II. But blessings come in disguise; and the candid reader will not lose sight of the fact that out of all the bloodshed and turbulence, past, present, and to come, the Sovereign Power of the English People was evolved and confirmed. When the unhappy Charles perished so pitiably upon the block, there perished with him that ancient theory of the Royal Prerogative which had led him to tell his people, with his last breath, that “having a share in the government is nothing pertaining to them.”