The History of England
By John Lingard
Public Domain Books
Opposite Projects Of The Presbyterians And Independents–The King Is Brought From Holmby To The Army–Independents Driven From Parliament–Restored By The Army–Origin Of The Levellers–King Escapes From Hampton Court, And Is Secured In The Isle Of Wight–Mutiny In The Army–Public Opinion In Favour Of The King–Scots Arm In His Defence–The Royalists Renew The War–The Presbyterians Assume The Ascendancy–Defeat Of The Scots–Suppression Of The Royalists–Treaty Of Newport–The King Is Again Brought To The Army–The House Of Commons Is Purified–The King’s Trial–Judgment–And Execution–Reflections.
The king during his captivity at Holmby divided his time between his studies and amusements. A considerable part of the day he spent in his closet, the rest in playing at bowls, or riding in the neighbourhood. He was strictly watched; and without an order from the parliament no access could be obtained to the royal presence. The crowds who came to be touched for the evil were sent back by the guards; the servants who waited on his person received their appointment from the commissioners; and, when he refused[a] the spiritual services of the two Presbyterian ministers sent to him from London, his request[b] for the attendance of any of his twelve chaplains was equally refused.[c]
[Footnote 1: “He frequently went to Harrowden, a house of the Lord Vaux’s, where there was a good bowling-green with gardens, groves, and walks, and to Althorp, a fair house, two or three miles from Holmby, belonging to the Lord Spenser, where there was a green well kept."–Herbert, 18.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Feb. 17.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. March 6.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1647. March 8.]
Thus three months passed away without any official communication from the two houses. The king’s patience was exhausted; and he addressed them in a[a] letter, which, as it must have been the production of his own pen, furnishes an undoubted and favourable specimen of his abilities. In it he observed that the want of advisers might, in the estimation of any reasonable man, excuse him from noticing the important propositions presented to him at Newcastle; but his wish to restore a good understanding between himself and his houses of parliament had induced him to make them the subjects of his daily study; and, if he could not return an answer satisfactory in every particular, it must be attributed not to want of will, but to the prohibition of his conscience. Many things he would cheerfully concede: with respect to the others he was ready to receive information, and that in person, if such were the pleasure of the Lords and Commons. Individuals in his situation might persuade themselves that promises extorted from a prisoner are not binding. If such were his opinion, he would not hesitate a moment to grant whatever had been asked. His very reluctance proved beyond dispute, that with him at least the words of a king were sacred.
After this preamble he proceeds to signify his assent to most of the propositions; but to the three principal points in debate, he answers: 1. That he is ready to confirm the Presbyterian government for the space of three years, on condition that liberty of worship be allowed to himself and his household; that twenty divines of his nomination be added to the assembly at Westminster; and that the final settlement of religion at the expiration of that period be made in the regular way by himself and the two houses: 2. he is willing
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. May 12.]
that the command of the army and navy be vested in persons to be named by them, on condition that after ten years it may revert to the crown; and 3. if these things be accorded, he pledges himself to give full satisfaction with respect to the war in Ireland. By[a] the Lords the royal answer was favourably received, and they resolved by a majority of thirteen to nine that the king should be removed from Holmby to Oatlands; but the Commons neglected to notice the subject, and their attention was soon occupied by a question of more immediate, and therefore in their estimation of superior importance.
The reader is aware that the Presbyterians had long viewed the army under Fairfax with peculiar jealousy. It offered a secure refuge to their religious, and proved the strongest bulwark of their political, opponents. Under its protection, men were beyond the reach of intolerance. They prayed and preached as they pleased; the fanaticism of one served to countenance the fanaticism of another; and all, however they might differ in spiritual gifts and theological notions, were bound together by the common profession of godliness, and the common dread of persecution. Fairfax, though called a Presbyterian, had nothing of that stern, unaccommodating character which then marked the leaders of the party. In the field he was distinguished by his activity and daring; but the moment his military duties were performed, he relapsed into habits of ease and indolence; and, with the good-nature and the credulity of a child, suffered himself to be guided by the advice or the wishes of
[Footnote 1: These particulars appear in the correspondence in Clar. Pap. 221-226; Journals, 19, 69, 193, 199; Commons’, Feb. 25; March 2, 9; May 21.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. May 20.]
those around him–by his wife, by his companions, and particularly by Cromwell. That adventurer had equally obtained the confidence of the commander-in-chief and of the common soldier. Dark, artful, and designing, he governed Fairfax by his suggestions, while he pretended only to second the projects of that general. Among the privates he appeared as the advocate of liberty and toleration, joined with them in their conventicles, equalled them in the cant of fanaticism, and affected to resent their wrongs as religionists and their privations as soldiers. To his fellow-officers he lamented the ingratitude and jealousy of the parliament, a court in which experience showed that no man, not even the most meritorious patriot, was secure. To-day he might be in high favour; tomorrow, at the insidious suggestion of some obscure lawyer or narrow-minded bigot, he might find himself under arrest, and be consigned to the Tower. That Cromwell already aspired to the eminence to which he afterwards soared, is hardly credible; but that his ambition was awakened, and that he laboured to bring the army into collision with the parliament, was evident to the most careless observer.
To disband that army was now become the main object of the Presbyterian leaders; but they disguised their real motives under the pretence of the national benefit. The royalists were humbled in the dust; the Scots had departed; and it was time to relieve the country from the charge of supporting a multitude of
[Footnote 1: As early as Aug. 2, 1648, Huntingdon, the major in his regiment, in his account of Cromwell’s conduct, noticed, that in his chamber at Kingston he said, “What a sway Stapleton and Hollis had heretofore in the kingdom, and he knew nothing to the contrary but that he was as well able to govern the kingdom as either of them."–Journals, x. 411.]
men in arms without any ostensible purpose. They carried, but with considerable opposition, the following resolutions: to take from the army three regiments of horse and eight regiments of foot, for the service in Ireland; to retain in England no greater number of infantry than might be required to do the garrison duty, with six thousand cavalry for the more speedy suppression of tumults and riots; and to admit of no officer of higher rank than colonel, with the exception of Fairfax, the commander-in-chief. In addition it was voted that no commission should be granted to any member of the lower house, or to any individual who refused to take the solemn league and covenant, or to any one whose conscience forbade him to conform to the Presbyterian scheme of church government.
The object of these votes could not be concealed from the Independents. They resolved to oppose their adversaries with their own weapons, and to intimidate those whom they were unable to convince. Suddenly, at their secret instigation, the army, rising from its cantonments in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, approached the metropolis, and selected quarters in the county of Essex. This movement was regarded and resented as a menace: Fairfax, to excuse it, alleged the difficulty of procuring subsistence in an exhausted and impoverished district.[a] At Saffron Walden he was met by the parliamentary commissioners, who called a council of officers, and submitted to their consideration proposals for the service of
[Footnote 1: Journals of Commons, iv., Feb. 15, 19, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27; March 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. On several divisions, the Presbyterian majority was reduced to ten; on one, to two members. They laboured to exclude Fairfax, but were left in a minority of 147 to 159.–Ibid. March 5. “Some,” says Whitelock, “wondered it should admit debate and question” (p. 239).]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. March 21.]
Ireland; but instead of a positive answer, inquiries were made and explanations demanded, while a remonstrance against the treatment of the army was circulated for signatures through the several regiments. In it the soldiers required an ordinance of indemnity to screen them from actions in the civil courts for their past conduct, the payment of their arrears, which amounted to forty-three weeks for the horse, and to eighteen for the infantry; exemption from impressment for foreign service; compensation for the maimed; pensions for the widows and families of those who had fallen during the war, and a weekly provision of money, that they might no longer be compelled to live at free quarters on the inhabitants. This remonstrance was presented to Fairfax to be forwarded by him to the two houses. The ruling party became alarmed: they dreaded to oppose petitioners with swords in their hands; and, that the project might be suppressed in its birth, both houses sent instructions to the general, ordered all members of parliament holding commands to repair to the army, and issued a declaration,[a] in which, after a promise to take no notice of what was past, they admonished the subscribers that to persist in their illegal course would subject them to punishment “as enemies to the state and disturbers of the public peace."
The framers of this declaration knew little of the temper of the military. They sought to prevail by intimidation, and they only inflamed the general discontent. Was it to be borne, the soldiers asked each other, that the city of London and the county of Essex should be allowed to petition against the army,
[Footnote 1: Journals, ix. 66, 72, 82, 89, 95, 112-115. Commons’, v. March 11, 25, 26, 27, 29.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647 March 29.]
and that they, who had fought, and bled, and conquered in the cause of their country, should be forbidden either to state their grievances or to vindicate their characters? Hitherto the army had been guided, in appearance at least, by the council of officers; now, whether it was a contrivance of the officers themselves to shift the odium to the whole body of the military, or was suggested by the common men, who began to distrust the integrity of their commanders, two deliberating bodies, in imitation of the houses at Westminster, were formed; one consisting of the officers holding commissions, the other of two representatives from every troop and company, calling themselves adjutators or helpers; a name which, by the ingenuity of their enemies, was changed into that of agitators or disturbers. Guided by their resolves, the whole army seemed to be animated with one soul; scarcely a man could be tempted to desert the common cause by accepting of the service in Ireland; each corps added supernumeraries to its original complement; and language was held, and projects were suggested, most alarming to the Presbyterian party. Confident, however, in their own power, the majority in the house[a]
[Footnote 1: Hobbes, Behemoth, 587. Berkeley, 359. This, however, was not the first appearance of the agitators. “The first time,” says Fairfax, “I took notice of them was at Nottingham (end of February), by the soldiers meeting to frame a petition to the parliament about their arrears. The thing seemed just; but not liking the way, I spoke with some officers who were principally engaged in it, and got it suppressed for that time."–Short Memorials of Thomas Lord Fairfax, written by himself. Somers’s Tracts, v. 392. Maseres, 446.]
[Footnote 2: Several bodies of troops in the distant counties had been disbanded; but the army under Fairfax, by enlisting volunteers from both parties, royalists as well as parliamentarians, was gradually increased by several thousand men, and the burthen of supporting it was doubled.–See Journals, ix. 559-583.]
[Sidebar a: A.D. 1647. April 27.]
resolved that the several regiments should be disbanded on the receipt of a small portion of their arrears. This vote was scarcely past, when a deputation from the agitators presented to the Commons a defence of the remonstrance. They maintained that by becoming soldiers they had not lost the rights of subjects; that by purchasing the freedom of others, they had not forfeited their own; that what had been granted to the adversaries of the commonwealth, and to the officers in the armies of Essex and Waller, could not in justice be refused to them; and that, as without the liberty of petitioning, grievances are without remedy, they ought to be allowed to petition now in what regarded them as soldiers, no less than afterwards in what might regard them as citizens. At the same time the agitators addressed to Fairfax and the other general officers a letter complaining of their wrongs, stating their resolution to obtain redress, and describing the expedition to Ireland as a mere pretext to separate the soldiers from those officers to whom they were attached, “a cloak to the ambition of men who having lately tasted of sovereignty, and been lifted beyond their ordinary sphere of servants, sought to become masters, and degenerate into tyrants.” The tone of these papers excited alarm; and Cromwell, Skippon, Ireton, and Fleetwood were[a] ordered to repair to their regiments, and assure them that ordinances of indemnity should be passed, that their arrears should be audited, and that a considerable payment should be made previous to their dismissal from the service.[b] When these officers announced, in the words of the parliamentary order, that they were come to quiet “the distempers in the army,” the councils replied, that they knew of no[b]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. April 30.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. May 8.]
distempers, but of many grievances, and that of these they demanded immediate redress.
Whitelock, with his friends, earnestly deprecated a course of proceeding which he foresaw must end in defeat; but his efforts were frustrated by the inflexibility or violence of Holles, Stapleton, and Glyn, the leaders of the ruling party, who, though they condescended to pass[a] the ordinance of indemnity, and to issue[b] money for the payment of the arrears of eight weeks, procured[c] instructions for the lord general to collect the several regiments in their respective quarters, and to disband them without delay. Instead of obeying, he called together the council of officers, who resolved, in answer to a petition to them from the agitators, that the votes of parliament were not satisfactory; that the arrears of payment for eight weeks formed but a portion of their just claim, and that no security had been given for the discharge of the remainder; that the bill of indemnity was a delusion, as long as the vote declaring them enemies of the state was unrepealed; and that, instead of suffering themselves to be disbanded in their separate quarters, the whole army ought to be drawn together, that they might consult in common for the security of their persons and the reparation of their characters. Orders were despatched at the same time to secure the park of artillery at Oxford, and to seize the sum of four thousand pounds destined for the garrison in that city. These measures opened the eyes of their adversaries. A proposal was made in parliament to expunge the offensive declaration from the journals, a more comprehensive bill of indemnity was introduced, and other
[Footnote 1: Journals, ix. 164. Commons’, Ap. 27, 30. Whitelock, 245, 246. Rushworth, vi. 447, 451, 457, 469, 480, 485.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. May 21.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. May 25.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1647. May 29.]
votes were suggested calculated to remove the objections of the army, when the alarm of the Presbyterian leaders was raised to the highest pitch by the arrival of unexpected tidings from Holmby.
Soon after the appointment of the agitators, an officer had delivered to the king a petition from the army, that he would suffer himself to be conducted to the quarters of their general, by whom he should be restored to his honour, crown, and dignity.[a] Charles replied, that he hoped one day to reward them for the loyalty of their intention, but that he could not give his consent to a measure which, must, in all probability, replunge the nation into the horrors of a civil war. He believed that this answer had induced the army to abandon the design; but six weeks later, on Wednesday the 2nd of June, while he was playing at bowls at Althorp, Joyce, a cornet in the general’s lifeguard, was observed standing among the spectators; and late in the evening of the same day, the commissioners in attendance upon him understood that a numerous party of horse had assembled on Harleston Heath, at the distance of two miles from Holmby.[b] Their object could not be doubted; it was soon ascertained that the military under their orders would offer no resistance; and Colonel Greaves, their commander, deemed it expedient to withdraw to a place of safety. About two in the morning a body of troopers appeared before the gates, and were instantly admitted.[c] To the questions of the commissioners, who was their commander, and what was their purpose, Joyce replied, that they were all commanders, and that they had
[Footnote 1: Whitelock, 248, 250. Holles, 92. Journals, 207, 222, 226-228. Commons’, May 14, 21, 25, 28, June 1, 4, 5. Rushworth, vi. 489, 493, 497-500, 505.]
[Transcriber’s Note: Footnote 2 not found in the text.]
[Footnote 2: Clarendon Papers, ii. 365.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. April 21] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. June 2] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1647. June 3]
come to arrest Colonel Greaves, and to secure the person of the king, that he might not be carried away by their enemies. With a pistol in his hand he then demanded admission to Charles; but the grooms of the bedchamber interposed; and, after a violent altercation, he was induced to withdraw. During the day the parliamentary guards were replaced by these strangers; about ten at night Joyce again demanded admission to the royal bedchamber, and informed the king that his comrades were apprehensive of a rescue, and wished to conduct him to a place of greater security. Charles signified his assent, on the condition that what then passed between them in private should be repeated in public; and at six the next morning, took his station on the steps at the door, while the troopers drew up before him, with Joyce a little in advance of the line. This dialogue ensued:–
KING.–Mr. Joyce, I desire to ask you, what authority you have to take charge of my person and convey me away?
JOYCE.–I am sent by authority of the army, to prevent the design of their enemies, who seek to involve the kingdom a second time in blood.
KING.–That is no lawful authority. I know of none in England but my own, and, after mine, that of the parliament. Have you any written commission from Sir Thomas Fairfax?
JOYCE.–I have the authority of the army, and the general is included in the army.
KING.–That is no answer. The general is the head of the army. Have you any written commission?
JOYCE.–I beseech your majesty to ask me no more questions. There is my commission, pointing to the troopers behind him.
KING, with a smile–I never before read such a commission; but it is written in characters fair and legible enough; a company of as handsome proper gentlemen as I have seen a long while. But to remove me hence, you must use absolute force, unless you give me satisfaction as to these reasonable and just demands which I make: that I may be used with honour and respect, and that I may not be forced in any thing against my conscience or honour, though I hope that my resolution is so fixed that no force can cause me to do a base thing. You are masters of my body, my soul is above your reach.
The troopers signified their assent by acclamation; and Joyce rejoined, that their principle was not to force any man’s conscience, much less that of their sovereign. Charles proceeded to demand the attendance of his own servants, and, when this had been granted, asked whither they meant to conduct him. Some mentioned Oxford, others Cambridge, but, at his own request, Newmarket was preferred. As soon as he had retired, the commissioners protested against the removal of the royal person, and called on the troopers present to come over to them, and maintain the authority of parliament. But they replied with one voice “None, none;” and the king, trusting himself to Joyce and his companions, rode that day as far as Hinchinbrook House, and afterwards proceeded to Childersley, not far from Cambridge.
[Footnote 1: Compare the narrative published by the army (Rushw. vi. 53), with the letters sent by the commissioners to the House of Lords, Journals, 237, 240, 248, 250, 273, and Herbert’s Memoirs, 26-33. Fairfax met the king at Childersley, near Cambridge, and advised him to return to Holmby. “The next day I waited on his majesty, it being also my business to persuade his return to Holmby; but he was otherwise resolved.... So having spent the whole day about this business, I returned to my quarters; and as I took leave of the king, he said to me, Sir, I have as good interest in the army as you.... I called for a council of war to proceed against Joyce for this high offence, and breach of the articles of war; but the officers, whether for fear of the distempered soldiers, or rather (as I suspected) a secret allowance of what was done, made all my endeavours in this ineffectual." Somers’s Tracts, v. 394. Holles asserts that the removal of the king had been planned at the house of Cromwell, on the 30th of May (Holles, 96); Huntingdon, that it was advised by Cromwell and Ireton.–Lords’ Journals, x. 409.]
This design of seizing the person of the king was openly avowed by the council of the agitators, though the general belief attributed it to the secret contrivance of Cromwell. It had been carefully concealed from the knowledge of Fairfax, who, if he was not duped by the hypocrisy of the lieutenant-general and his friends, carefully suppressed his suspicions, and acted as if he believed his brother officers to be animated with the same sentiments as himself, an earnest desire to satisfy the complaints of the military, and at the same time to prevent a rupture between them and the parliament. But Cromwell appears to have had in view a very different object, the humiliation of his political opponents; and his hopes were encouraged not only by the ardour of the army, but also by the general wishes of the people.
1. The day after the abduction of the king[a] from Holmby, the army rendezvoused at Newmarket, and entered into a solemn engagement, stating that, whereas several officers had been called in question for advocating the cause of the military, they had chosen certain men out of each company, who then chose two or more out of themselves, to act in the name and behalf of the whole soldiery of their respective regiments; and that they did now unanimously declare and promise that the army should not disband, nor volunteer for the service in Ireland, till
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. June 5.]
their grievances had been so far redressed, and their subsequent safety so far secured, as to give satisfaction to a council composed of the general officers, and of two commissioned officers, and two privates, or agitators, chosen from each regiment.
2. The forcible removal of the king had warned the Presbyterian leaders of the bold and unscrupulous spirit which animated the soldiery; yet they entertained no doubt of obtaining the victory in this menacing and formidable contest. So much apparent reverence was still paid to the authority of the parliament, so powerful was the Presbyterian interest in the city and among the military, that they believed it would require only a few concessions, and some judicious management on their part, to break that bond of union which formed the chief element of strength possessed by their adversaries. But when it became known that a friendly understanding already existed between the officers and the king, they saw that no time was to be lost. In their alarm the measures, which they had hitherto discussed very leisurely, were turned through the two houses; the obnoxious declaration was erased from the journals; a most extensive bill of indemnity was passed; several ordinances were added securing more plentiful pay to the disbanded soldiers, and still more plentiful to those who should volunteer for the service in Ireland. Six commissioners–the earl of Nottingham and Lord Delaware from the House of Lords, and Field-Marshal General Skippon, Sir Henry Vane the younger, and two
[Footnote 1: Parl. Hist. iii. 64.]
[Footnote 2: Skippon had been appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland, with the title of field-marshal, and six pounds per day for his entertainment.–Journals, ix. 122, Ap. 6. He also received the sum of one thousand pounds for his outfit–Holles, p. 250.]
others, from the House of Commons–were appointed to superintend the disbandment of the forces; and peremptory orders were despatched to the lord general, to collect all the regiments under his immediate command on Newmarket Heath on Wednesday the 9th of June, and to second to the utmost of his power the proceedings on the part of the six deputies. He professed obedience; but of his own authority changed the place of rendezvous to Triploe Heath, between Cambridge and Royston, and the day also from Wednesday to Thursday, apparently with a view to the convenience of the two houses.
It was only on the morning of Wednesday that the earl of Nottingham, with his five companions, was able to set out from London on their important mission; and, while they were on the road, their colleagues at Westminster sought to interest Heaven in their favour by spending the day, as one of fasting and humiliation, in religious exercises, according to the fashion of the time.[a] Late in the evening the commissioners reached Cambridge, and immediately offered the votes and ordinances, of which they were the bearers, to the acceptance of Fairfax and his council. The whole, however, of the next morning was wasted (artfully, it would seem, on the part of the officers) in trifling controversies on mere matters of form, till at last the lord general deigned to return an answer which was tantamount to a refusal.[b] To the proposals of parliament he preferred the solemn engagement already entered into by the army on Newmarket Heath, because
[Footnote 1: The orders of the parliament with respect to the time and place are in the Lords’ Journals, ix. 241. Yet the debates on the concessions did not close before Tuesday, nor did the negotiation between the commissioners and the military council conclude till afternoon on Thursday.–Ibid. 247, 353.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. June 9.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. June 10.]
the latter presented a more effectual way of disbanding the forces under his command without danger, and of extinguishing satisfactorily the discontent which pervaded the whole nation. If, however, the commissioners wished to ascertain in person the real sentiments of the soldiery, he was ready with his officers to attend upon them, whilst they made the inquiry. It was now one in the afternoon; every corps had long since occupied its position on the heath; and there is reason to believe, that the opportunity afforded by this delay had been improved to prepare each regiment separately, and particular agents in each regiment, against the arrival and proposals of the commissioners. The latter dared not act on their own discretion, but resolved to obey their instructions to the very letter. Proceeding, therefore, to the heath, they rode at once to the regiment of infantry of which Fairfax was colonel. The votes of the two houses were then read to the men, and Skippon, having made a long harangue in commendation of the votes, concluded by asking whether, with these concessions, they were not all satisfied. “To that no answer can be returned,” exclaimed a voice from the ranks, “till your proposals have been submitted to, and approved by, the council of officers and agitators." The speaker was a subaltern, who immediately, having asked and obtained permission from his colonel to address the whole corps, called aloud, “Is not that the opinion of you all?” They shouted, “It is, of all, of all." “But are there not,” he pursued, “some among you who think otherwise?" “No,” was the general response, “no, not one.” Disconcerted and abashed, the commissioners turned aside, and, as they withdrew, were
[Footnote 1: The correspondence is in the Journals, ibid.]
greeted with continual cries of “Justice, justice, we demand justice."
From this regiment they proceeded to each of the others. In every instance the same ceremony was repeated, and always with the same result. No one now could doubt that both officers and men were joined in one common league; and that the link which bound them together was the “solemn engagement." Both looked upon that engagement as the charter of their rights and liberties. No concession or intrigue, no partiality of friendship or religion, could seduce them from the faith which they had sworn to it. There were, indeed, a few seceders, particularly the captains, and several of the lord general’s life-guard; but after all, the men who yielded to temptation amounted to a very inconsiderable number, in comparison with the immense majority of those who with inviolable fidelity adhered to the engagement, and, by their resolution and perseverance, enabled their leaders to win for them a complete, and at the same time a bloodless victory.
3. On the next day a deputation of freeholders from the county of Norfolk, and soon afterwards similar deputations from the counties of Suffolk, Essex, Herts, and Buckingham, waited with written addresses upon Fairfax. They lamented that now, when the war with the king was concluded, peace had not brought with it the blessings, the promise of which by the parliament had induced them to submit to the evils and privations of war; a disappointment that could be attributed only to the obstinacy with which certain individuals clung to the emoluments of office
[Footnote 1: Rushworth, vi. 518. Whitelock, 251. Holles, 252.]
[Footnote 2: Nottingham’s Letter in the Lords’ Journals, ix. 253.]
and the monopoly of power. To Fairfax, therefore, under God, they appealed to become the saviour of his country, to be the mediator between it and the two houses. With this view, let him keep his army together, till he had brought the incendiaries to condign punishment, and extorted full redress of the grievances so severely felt both by the army and the people.
The chiefs, however, who now ruled at Westminster, were not the men to surrender without a struggle. They submitted, indeed, to pass a few ordinances calculated to give satisfaction, but these were combined with others which displayed a fixed determination not to succumb to the dictates of a mutinous soldiery. A committee was established with power to raise forces for the defence of the nation: the favourite general Skippon was appointed to provide for the safety of the capital; and the most positive orders were sent to Fairfax not to suffer any one of the corps under his command to approach within forty miles of London. Every day the contest assumed a more threatening aspect. A succession of petitions, remonstrances, and declarations issued from the pens of Ireton and Lambert, guided, it was believed, by the hand of Cromwell. In addition to their former demands, it was required that all capitulations granted by military commanders during the war should be observed; that a time[a] should be fixed for the termination of the present parliament; that the House of Commons should be purged of every individual disqualified by preceding ordinances;
[Footnote 1: Lords’ Journals, 260, 263, 277. Holles says that these petitions were drawn by Cromwell, and sent into the counties for subscriptions.–Holles, 256.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. June 14.]
and, in particular, that eleven of its members, comprising Holles, Glyn, Stapleton, Clotworthy, and Waller, the chief leaders of the Presbyterian party, and members of the committee at Derby House, should be excluded, till they had been tried by due course of law for the offence of endeavouring to commit the army with the parliament. To give weight to these demands, Fairfax, who seems to have acted as the mere organ of the council of officers, marched successively to St. Alban’s, to Watford, and to Uxbridge.[a] His approach revealed the weakness of his opponents, and the cowardice, perhaps hypocrisy, of many, who foresaw the probable issue of the contest, and deemed it not their interest to provoke by a useless resistance the military chiefs, who might in a few hours be their masters.[b] Hence it happened that men, who had so clamorously and successfully appealed to the privileges of parliament, when the king demanded the five members, now submitted tamely to a similar demand, when it was made by twelve thousand men in arms. Skippon, their oracle, was one of the first deserters. He resigned the several commands which he held, and exhorted the Presbyterians to fast and pray, and submit to the will of God.[c] From that time it became their chief solicitude to propitiate the army. They granted very ingeniously leave of absence to the eleven accused members; they ordered the new levies for the defence of the city to be disbanded, and the
[Footnote 1: “From the time they declared their usurped authority at Triploe Heath (June 10th), I never gave my free consent to any thing they did; but being yet undischarged of my place, they set my name in way of course to all their papers, whether I consented or not."–Somers’s Tracts, v. 396. This can only mean that he reluctantly allowed them to make use of his name; for he was certainly at liberty to resign his command, or to protest against the measures which he disapproved.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. June 12.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. June 25.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1647. June 21.]
new lines of communication to be demolished; they sent a month’s pay to the forces under Fairfax, with a vote declaring them the army of the parliament, and appointed commissioners to treat with commissioners from the military council, as if the latter were the representatives of an independent and coequal authority.
This struggle and its consequences were viewed with intense interest by the royalists, who persuaded themselves that it must end in the restoration of the king; but the opportunities furnished by the passions of his adversaries were as often forfeited by the irresolution of the monarch. While both factions courted his assistance, he, partly through distrust of their sincerity, partly through the hope of more favourable terms, balanced between their offers, till the contest was decided without his interference. Ever since his departure from Holmby, though he was still a captive, and compelled to follow the marches of the army, the officers had treated him with the most profound respect; attention was paid to all his wants; the general interposed to procure for him occasionally the company of his younger children; his servants, Legge, Berkeley, and Ashburnham, though known to have come from France with a message from the queen, were permitted to attend him; and free access was
[Footnote 1: Rushworth, vi. 518-596. Whitelock, 251-256. Holles, 104. Journals, 249, 257, 260, 263, 275, 277, 284, 289, 291, 298. Commons’, June 7, 11, 12, 15, 18, 25, 26, 28. On divisions in general, the Presbyterians had a majority of forty; but on the 28th, the first day after the departure of their leaders, they were left in a minority of eighty-five to one hundred and twenty-one.–Ibid.]
[Footnote 2: “I returned with instructions to endeavour by the best means imaginable such a compliance between his majesty and the army, as might have influence, and beget a right understanding between his majesty and the parliament"–Ashburnham’s Letter, in 1648, p. 5.]
given to some of his chaplains, who read the service in his presence publicly and without molestation. Several of the officers openly professed to admire his piety, and to compassionate his misfortunes; even Cromwell, though at first he affected the distance and reserve of an enemy, sent him secret assurances of his attachment; and successive addresses were made to him in the name of the military, expressive of the general wish to effect an accommodation, which should reconcile the rights of the throne with those of the people. A secret negotiation followed through the agency of Berkeley and Ashburnham; and Fairfax, to[a] prepare the public for the result, in a letter to the two houses, spurned the imputation cast upon the army, as if it were hostile to monarchical government, justified the respect and indulgence with which he had treated the royal captive, and maintained that “tender, equitable, and moderate dealing towards him, his family, and his former adherents,” was the most hopeful course to lull asleep the feuds which divided the nation. Never had the king so fair a prospect of recovering his authority.
In the treaty between the commissioners of the parliament and those of the army, the latter proceeded with considerable caution. The redress of military grievances was but the least of their cares; their great object was the settlement of the national tranquillity on what they deemed a solid and permanent basis. Of this intention they had suffered some hints to transpire; but before the open announcement of their plan, they resolved to bring the city, as they had brought the parliament, under subjection. London,
[Footnote 1: Journals, ix. 323, 324. Ashburn. ii. 91. Also Huntingdon’s Narrative, x. 409.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. July 2.]
with its dependencies, had hitherto been the chief support of the contrary faction; it abounded with discharged officers and soldiers who had served under Essex and Waller, and who were ready at the first summons to draw the sword in defence of the covenant; and the supreme authority over the military within the lines of communication had been, by an ordinance of the last year, vested in a committee, all the members of which were strongly attached to the Presbyterian interest. To wrest this formidable weapon from the hands of their adversaries, they forwarded a request to the two houses, that the command of the London militia might be transferred from disaffected persons to men distinguished by their devotion to the cause of the country. The Presbyterians in the city were alarmed; they suspected a coalition between the king and the Independents; they saw that the covenant itself was at stake, and that the propositions of peace so often voted in parliament might in a few days be set aside. A petition was presented[a] in opposition to the demand of the army; but the houses, now under the influence of the Independents, passed[b] the ordinance; and the city, on its part, determined[c] to resist both the army and the parliament. Lord Lauderdale, the chief of the Scottish commissioners, hastened to the king to obtain his concurrence; a new covenant, devised in his favour, was exposed at Skinners’ Hall, and the citizens and soldiers, and probably the concealed royalists, hastened in crowds to subscribe their names. By it they bound themselves, in the presence of God, and at the risk of their lives and fortunes, to bring the sovereign to Westminster, that he might confirm the concessions which he had made in his letter from Holmby, and
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. July 14.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. July 23.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1647. July 24.]
might confer with his parliament on the remaining propositions. But the recent converts to the cause of the army hastened to prove the sincerity of their conversion. Both Lords and Commons voted this engagement an act of treason against the kingdom; and the publication of the vote, instead of damping the zeal, inflamed the passions of the people. The citizens petitioned a second time, and received a second refusal. The moment the petitioners departed, a multitude of apprentices, supported by a crowd of military men, besieged the doors of the two houses; for eight hours they continued, by shouts and messages, to call for the repeal of the ordinance respecting the militia, and of the vote condemning the covenant; and the members, after a long resistance, worn out with fatigue, and overcome with terror, submitted to their demands. Even after they had been suffered to retire, the multitude suddenly compelled the Commons to return, and, with the speaker in the chair, to pass a vote[a] that the king should be conducted without delay to his palace at Westminster. Both houses adjourned for three days, and the two speakers, with most of the Independent party and their proselytes, amounting to eight peers and fifty-eight commoners, availed themselves of the opportunity to withdraw from the insults of the populace, and to seek an asylum in the army.
In the mean while the council of officers had completed their plan “for the settlement of the nation,” which they submitted first to the consideration of Charles, and afterwards to that of the parliamentary commissioners. In many points it was similar to the
[Footnote 1: Whitelock, 260, 261. Journals, ix. 377, 393. Holles, 145. Leicester’s Journal in the Sydney Papers, edited by Mr. Blencowe, p. 25.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. July 25.]
celebrated “propositions of peace;” but contained in addition several provisions respecting the manner of election, and the duration of parliament and the composition of the magistracy, which may not be uninteresting to the reader even at the present day. It proposed that a parliament should meet every year, to sit not less than a certain number of days, nor more than another certain number, each of which should be fixed by law; that if at the close of a session any parliamentary business remained unfinished, a committee should be appointed with power to sit and bring it to a conclusion; that a new parliament should be summoned every two years, unless the former parliament had been previously dissolved with its own consent; that decayed and inconsiderable boroughs should be disfranchised, and the number of county members increased, such increase being proportionate to the rates of each county in the common charges of the kingdom; that every regulation respecting the reform of the representation and the election of members should emanate from the House of Commons alone, whose decision on such matters should have the force of law, independently of the other branches of the legislature; that the names of the persons to be appointed sheriffs annually, and of those to be appointed magistrates at any time, should be recommended to the king by the grand jury at the assizes; and that the grand jury itself should be selected, not by the partiality of the sheriff, but equally by the several divisions of the county; that the excise should be taken off all articles of necessity without delay, and off all others within a limited time; that the land-tax should be equally apportioned; that a remedy should be applied to the “unequal, troublesome, and contentious way of ministers’ maintenance by tithes;” that suits at law should be rendered less tedious and expensive; that the estates of all men should be made liable for their debts; that insolvent debtors, who had surrendered all that they had to their creditors, should be discharged; and that no corporation should exact from their members oaths trenching on freedom of conscience. To these innovations, great and important as they were, it was not the interest, if it had been the inclination, of Charles to make any serious objection: but on three other questions he felt much more deeply,–the church, the army, and the fate of the royalists: yet there existed a disposition to spare his feelings on all three; and after long and frequent discussion, such modifications of the original proposals were adopted, as in the opinion of his agents, Berkeley and Ashburnham, would insure his assent. 1. Instead of the abolition of the hierarchy, it was agreed to deprive it only of the power of coercion, to place the liturgy and the covenant on an equal footing, by taking away the penalties for absence from the one, and for refusal of the other; and to substitute in place of the oppressive and sanguinary laws still in force, some other provision for the discovery of popish recusants, and the restraint of popish priests and Jesuits, seeking to disturb the state. 2. To restore to the crown the command of the army and navy at the expiration of ten years. 3. And to reduce the number of delinquents among the English royalists to be excluded from pardon, to five individuals. Had the king accepted these terms, he would most probably have been replaced on the throne; for his agents, who had the best means of forming a judgment, though
[Footnote 1: Charles’s Works, 579. Parl. History, ii. 738.]
they differed on other points, agreed in this, that the officers acted uprightly and sincerely; but he had unfortunately persuaded himself–and in that persuasion he was confirmed both by the advice of several faithful royalists and by the interested representations of the Scottish commissioners–that the growing struggle between the Presbyterians and Independents would enable him to give the law to both parties; and hence, when “the settlement” was submitted to him for his final approbation, he returned an unqualified refusal. The astonishment of his agents was not less than that of the officers. Had he dissembled, or had he changed his mind? In either case both had been deceived. They might suppress their feelings; but the agitators complained aloud, and a party of soldiers, attributing the disappointment to the intrigues of Lord Lauderdale, burst at night into the bedchamber of that nobleman, and ordered him to rise and depart without delay. It was in vain, that he pleaded his duty as commissioner from the estates of Scotland, or that he solicited the favour of a short interview with the king: he was compelled to leave his bed and hasten back to the capital.
Before this, information of the proceedings in London had induced Fairfax to collect his forces and march towards the city. On the way he was joined by the speakers of both houses, eight lords and fifty-eight commoners, who in a council held at Sion House solemnly bound themselves “to live and die with the army.” Here it was understood that many royalists
[Footnote 1: Compare the narratives of Berkeley, 364, Ashburnham, ii. 92, Ludlow, i. 174, and Huntingdon (Journals, x. 410) with the proposals of the army in Charles’s Works, 578. The insult to Lauderdale is mentioned in the Lords’ Journals, ix. 367.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. July 30.]
had joined the Presbyterians, and that a declaration had been circulated in the name of the king, condemning all attempts to make war on the parliament. The officers, fearing the effect of this intelligence on the minds of the military, already exasperated by the refusal of their proposals, conjured Charles to write a conciliatory letter to the general, in which he should disavow any design of assisting the enemy, should thank the army for its attention to his comfort, and should commend the moderation of their plan of settlement in many points, though he could not consent to it in all. The ill-fated monarch hesitated; the grace of the measure was lost by a delay of twenty-four hours; and though the letter was at last[a] sent, it did not arrive before the city had[b] made an offer of submission. In such circumstances it could serve no useful purpose. It was interpreted as an artifice to cover the king’s intrigues with the Presbyterians, instead of a demonstration of his good will to the army.
To return to the city, Holles and his colleagues had resumed the ascendancy during the secession of the Independents. The eleven members returned to the house; the command of the militia was restored to the former committee; and a vote was passed that the king should be invited to Westminster. At the same time the common council resolved to raise by subscription a loan of ten thousand pounds, and to add auxilairies to the trained bands to the amount of eighteen regiments. Ten thousand men were already in arms; four hundred barrels of gunpowder, with other military stores,
[Footnote 1: Journals, 359, 375. Heath, 140. Ludlow, i. 181. Charles afterwards disavowed the declaration, and demanded that the author and publisher should be punished.–Whitelock, 267. There are two copies of his letter, one in the Clarendon Papers, ii. 373; another and shorter in the Parliamentary History, xv. 205.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. August 3.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. August 4.]
were drawn from the magazine in the Tower; and the Presbyterian generals, Massey, Waller, and Poyntz, gladly accepted the command. But the event proved that these were empty menaces. In proportion as it was known that Fairfax had begun his march, that he had reviewed the army on Hounslow Heath, and that he had fixed his head-quarters at Hammersmith, the sense of danger cooled the fervour of enthusiasm, and the boast of resistance was insensibly exchanged for offers of submission.[a] The militia of Southwark openly fraternized with the army; the works on the line of communication were abandoned; and the lord mayor, on a promise that no violence should be offered to the inhabitants, ordered the gates to be thrown open. The next morning was celebrated the triumph of the Independents.[b] A regiment of infantry, followed by one of cavalry, entered the city; then came Fairfax on horseback, surrounded by his body-guards and a crowd of gentlemen; a long train of carriages, in which were the speakers and the fugitive members, succeeded; and another regiment of cavalry closed the procession. In this manner, receiving as they passed the forced congratulations of the mayor and the common council, the conquerors marched to Westminster, where each speaker was placed in his chair by the hand of the general. Of the lords who had remained in London after the secession, one only, the earl of Pembroke, ventured to appear; and he was suffered to make his peace by a declaration that he considered all the proceedings during the absence of
[Footnote 1: Journals, x. 13, 16, 17.]
[Footnote 2: Whitelock, 261-264. Leicester’s Journal, 27. Baillie calls this surrender of the city “an example rarely paralleled, if not of treachery, yet at least of childish improvidence and base cowardice” (ii. 259). The eleven members instantly fled.–Leicester, ibid.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. August 5.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. August 6.]
the members compulsory, and therefore null. But in the lower house the Presbyterians and their adherents composed a more formidable body; and by their spirit and perseverance, though they could not always defeat, frequently embarrassed the designs of their opponents. To many things they gave their assent; they suffered Maynard and Glyn, two members, to be expelled, the lord mayor, one of the sheriffs, and four of the aldermen, to be sent to the Tower, and the seven peers who sat during the secession of their colleagues, to be impeached. But a sense of danger induced them to oppose a resolution sent from the Lords, to annul all the votes passed from the 20th of July to the 6th of August. Four times,[a] contrary to the practice of the house, the resolution was brought forward, and as often, to the surprise of the Independents, was rejected. Fairfax hastened to the aid of his friends. In a letter to the speaker, he condemned the conduct of the Commons as equivalent to an approval of popular violence, and hinted the necessity of removing from the house the enemies of the public tranquillity. The next morning[b] the subject was resumed: the Presbyterians made the trial of their strength on an amendment, and finding themselves outnumbered, suffered the resolution to pass without a division.
The submission of the citizens made a considerable change in the prospects of the captive monarch. Had any opposition been offered, it was the intention of the officers (so we are told by Ashburnham) to have unfurled the royal standard, and to have placed Charles at their head. The ease with which they had subdued their opponents convinced them of their own superiority
[Footnote 1: Journals, 375, 385, 388, 391-398. Commons’, iv. Aug. 9, 10, 17, 19, 20.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. August 9, 10, 17, 19.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. August 20.]
and rendered the policy of restoring the King a more doubtful question. Still they continued to treat him with respect and indulgence. From Oatlands he was transferred[a] to the palace of Hampton Court. There he was suffered to enjoy the company of his children, whenever he pleased to command their attendance, and the pleasure of hunting, on his promise not to attempt an escape; all persons whom he was content to see found ready admission to his presence; and, what he prized above all other concessions, he was furnished with the opportunity of corresponding freely and safely with the queen at Paris. At the same time the two houses, at the requisition of the Scottish commissioners, submitted[b] “the propositions" once more to the royal consideration; but Charles replied,[c] that the plan suggested by the army was better calculated to form the basis of a lasting peace, and professed his readiness to treat respecting that plan with commissioners appointed by the parliament, and others by the army. The officers applauded this answer; Cromwell in the Commons spoke in its favour with a vehemence which excited suspicion; and, though it was ultimately voted[d] equivalent to a refusal, a grand committee was appointed[e] “to take the whole matter respecting the king into consideration.” It had been calculated that this attempt to amalgamate the plan of the parliament with that of the army might be accomplished in the space of
[Footnote 1: Clarendon Papers, ii. 381, Appendix, xli. Rushw. vii. 795. Memoirs of Hamiltons, 316. Herbert, 48. Ashburn. ii. 93, 95.]
[Footnote 2: Of this answer, Charles himself says to the Scottish commissioners. “Be not startled at my answer which I gave yesterday to the two houses; for if you truly understand it, I have put you in a right way, where before you were wrong."–Memoirs of Hamiltons, 323.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. August 24.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. Sept. 8.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1647. Sept. 9.] [Sidenote d: A.D. 1647. Sept. 21.] [Sidenote e: A.D. 1647. Sept. 22.]
twenty days; but it occupied more than two months; for there was now a third house to consult, the council of war, which debated every clause, and notified its resolves to the Lords and Commons, under the modest, but expressive, name of the desires of the army.
While the king sought thus to flatter the officers, he was, according to his custom, employed in treating with the opposite party. The marquess of Ormond, and the lord Capel, with the Scottish commissioners, waited on him from London; and a resolution was[a] formed that in the next spring, the Scots should enter England with a numerous army, and call on the Presbyterians for their aid; that Charles, if he were at liberty, otherwise the prince of Wales, should sanction the enterprise by his presence; and that Ormond should resume the government of Ireland, while Capel summoned to the royal standard the remains of the king’s party in England. Such was the outline of the plan; the minor details had not been arranged, when Cromwell, either informed by his spies, or prompted by his suspicions, complained to Ashburnham of the incurable duplicity of his master, who was
[Footnote 1: Ludlow, i. 184. Whitelock, 269. Huntingdon in Journals, x. 410. Journals, v. Sept. 22. On the division, Cromwell was one of the tellers for the Yea, and Colonel Rainsborough, the chief of the Levellers, for the No. It was carried by a majority of 84 to 34.–Ibid.]
[Footnote 2: In vindication of Charles it has been suggested that he was only playing at the same game as his opponents, amusing them as they sought to amuse him. This, however, is very doubtful as far as it regards the superior officers, who appear to me to have treated with him in good earnest, till they were induced to break off the negotiation by repeated proofs of his duplicity, and the rapid growth of distrust and disaffection in the army. I do not, however, give credit to Morrice’s tale of a letter from Charles to Henrietta intercepted by Cromwell and Ireton.]
[Footnote 3: Capel was one of the most distinguished of the royal commanders, and had lately returned from beyond the sea with the permission of parliament.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. October.]
at the same time soliciting the aid, and plotting the destruction of the army.
But by this time a new party had risen, equally formidable to royalists, Presbyterians, and Independents. Its founders were a few fanatics in the ranks, who enjoyed the reputation of superior godliness. They pretended not to knowledge or abilities; they were but humble individuals, to whom God had given reason for their guide, and whose duty it was to act as that reason dictated. Hence they called themselves Rationalists, a name which was soon exchanged for the more expressive appellation of Levellers. In religion they rejected all coercive authority; men might establish a public worship at their pleasure, but, if it were compulsory, it became unlawful by forcing conscience, and leading to wilful sin: in politics they taught that it was the duty of the people to vindicate their own rights and do justice to their own claims. Hitherto the public good had been sacrificed to private interest; by the king, whose sole object was the recovery of arbitrary power; by the officers, who looked forward to commands, and titles, and emoluments; and by the parliament, which sought chiefly the permanence of its own authority. It was now time for the oppressed to arise, to take the cause into their own hands, and to resolve “to part with their lives, before they would part with their freedom." These doctrines
[Footnote 1: Clarendon, iii. 70-72-75. Ashburnham, ii. 94. Of the disposition of the Scottish parliament, we have this account from Baillie: “If the king be willing to ratify our covenant, we are all as one man to restore him to all his rights, or die by the way; if he continue resolute to reject our covenant, and only to give us some parts of the matter of it, many here will be for him, even on these terms; but divers of the best and wisest are irresolute, and wait till God give more light."–Baillie, ii. 260.]
[Footnote 2: Clarendon Papers, ii. App. xl. Walker, History of Independents, 194. Rushworth, vii. 845. Hutchinson, 287. Secretary Nicholas, after mentioning the Rationalists, adds, “There are a sect of women lately come from foreign parts, and lodged in Southwark, called Quakers, who swell, shiver, and shake; and when they come to themselves (for in all the time of their fits Mahomet’s holy ghost converses with them) they begin to preach what hath been delivered to them by the spirit"–Clarendon Papers, ii. 383.]
were rapidly diffused: they made willing converts of the dissolute, the adventurous, and the discontented; and a new spirit, the fruitful parent of new projects, began to agitate the great mass of the army. The king was seldom mentioned but in terms of abhorrence and contempt; he was an Ahab or Coloquintida, the everlasting obstacle to peace, the cause of dissension and bloodshed. A paper[a] entitled “The Case of the Army,” accompanied with another under the name of “The Agreement of the People,” was presented to the general by the agitators of eleven regiments. They offered,[b] besides a statement of grievances, a new constitution for the kingdom. It made no mention of king or lords. The sovereignty was said to reside in the people, its exercise to be delegated to their representatives, but with the reservation of equality of law, freedom of conscience, and freedom from forced service in the time of war; three privileges of which the nation would never divest itself; parliaments were to be biennial, and to sit during six months; the elective franchise to be extended, and the representation to be more equally distributed. These demands of the Levellers were strenuously supported by the colonels Pride and Rainsborough, and as fiercely opposed by Cromwell and Ireton. The council of officers yielded so far as to require that no more addresses should be made to the king; but the two houses voted the papers destructive
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Oct. 18.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. Nov. 1.]
of the government, and ordered the authors to be prosecuted; though at the same time, to afford some satisfaction to the soldiery, they resolved[a] that the king was bound to give the royal assent to all laws for the public good, which had been passed and presented to him by the Lords and Commons.
It was now some time since the king had begun to tremble for his safety. He saw that the violence of the Levellers daily increased; that the officers, who professed to be his friends, were become objects of suspicion; that Ireton had been driven from the council, and Cromwell threatened with impeachment; that several regiments were in a state of complete insubordination; and that Fairfax himself doubted of his power to restore the discipline of the army. Charles had formerly given his word of honour to the governor, Colonel Whalley, not to attempt an escape: he now withdrew it under the pretence that of late he had been as narrowly watched as if no credit were due to his promise. His guards were immediately doubled; his servants, with the exception of Legge, were dismissed; and the gates were closed against the admission of strangers. Yet it may be doubted whether these precautions were taken with any other view than to lull the suspicion of the Levellers; for he still possessed the means of conferring personally with Ashburnham and Berkeley, and received from Whalley repeated hints of the dangerous designs of his enemies. But where was he to seek an asylum? Jersey, Berwick, the Isle of Wight, and the residence of the Scottish commissioners in London were proposed. At first the commissioners expressed a willingness to
[Footnote 1: Claren. Papers, ii, App. xl. xli. Journ. Nov. 5, 6. Rush. vii. 849 857, 860, 863. Whitelock, 274-277.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Nov. 6.]
receive him; the next day they withdrew their consent, and he fixed, as a last resource, on the Isle of Wight. On November 10th his apprehensions were wound up to the highest pitch, by some additional and most alarming intelligence; the next evening[a] he was missing. At supper-time Whalley entered his apartment, but, instead of the king, found on his table several written papers, of which one was an anonymous letter, warning him of danger to his person, and another, a message from himself to the two houses, promising, that though he had sought a more secure asylum, he should be always ready to come forth, “whenever he might be heard with honour, freedom, and safety."
This unexpected escape drew from the parliament threats of vengeance against all persons who should presume to harbour the royal fugitive; but in the course of three days the intelligence arrived, that he was again a prisoner in the custody of Colonel Hammond, who had very recently been appointed governor of the Isle of Wight. The king, accompanied by Legge, groom of the chamber, had on the evening of his departure descended the back stairs into the garden, and repaired to a spot where Berkeley and Ashburnham waited[b] his arrival. The night was dark and stormy, which facilitated their escape; but, when they had crossed the river at Thames Ditton, they lost their way, and it was daybreak before they reached Sutton, where they mounted their horses. The unfortunate
[Footnote 1: See Ashburnham’s letter to the speaker on Nov. 26, p. 2; his memoir, 101-112; Berkeley, 373-375; Journals, ix. 520; Rush. vii. 871; Clarendon, iii. 77; Mem. of Hamiltons, 324; Whitelock, 278. That a letter from Cromwell was received or read by the king, is certain (see Journals, x. 411; Berkeley, 377); that it was written for the purpose of inducing him to escape, and thus fall into the hands of the Levellers, is a gratuitous surmise of Cromwell’s enemies.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Nov. 11.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. Nov. 12.]
monarch had still no fixed plan. As they proceeded in a southerly direction, he consulted his companions; and after some debate resolved to seek a temporary asylum at Tichfield House, the residence of the countess of Southampton, whilst Ashburnham and Berkeley should cross over to the Isle of Wight, and sound the disposition of Hammond the governor, of whom little more was known than that he was nephew to one of the royal chaplains. When Hammond first learned[a] the object of the messengers, he betrayed considerable alarm, under the impression that the king was actually on the island; but, having recovered his self-possession, he reminded them that he was but a servant bound to obey the orders of his employers, and refused to give any other pledge than that he would prove himself an honest man. How they could satisfy themselves with this ambiguous promise, is a mystery which was never explained–each subsequently shifting the blame to the other–but they suffered him to accompany them to the king’s retreat, and even to take with him a brother officer, the captain of Cowes Castle.
During their absence Charles had formed a new plan of attempting to escape by sea, and had despatched a trusty messenger to look out for a ship in the harbour of Southampton. He was still meditating on this project when Ashburnham returned, and announced that Hammond with his companion was already in the town, awaiting his majesty’s commands. The unfortunate monarch exclaimed, “What! have you brought him hither? Then I am undone." Ashburnham instantly saw his error. It was not, he replied, too late. They were but two, and might be easily despatched. Charles paced the room a few minutes, and then rejected the sanguinary hint. Still he clung to
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Nov. 13.]
the vain hope that a ship might he procured; but at the end of two hours, Hammond became impatient; and the king, having nerved his mind for the interview, ordered him to be introduced, received him most graciously, and, mingling promises with flattery, threw himself on his honour. Hammond, however, was careful not to commit himself; he replied in language dutiful, yet ambiguous; and the king, unable to extricate himself from the danger, with a cheerful countenance, but misboding heart, consented to accompany him to the island. The governor ordered every demonstration of respect to be paid to the royal guest, and lodged him in Carisbrook Castle.
The increasing violence of the Levellers, and the mutinous disposition of the army, had awakened the most serious apprehensions in the superior officers; and Fairfax, by the advice of the council, dismissed the agitators to their respective regiments,[a] and ordered the several corps to assemble in three brigades on three different days. Against the time a remonstrance was prepared in his name, in which he complained of the calumnies circulated among the soldiers, stated the objects which he had laboured to obtain, and offered to persist in his endeavours, provided the men would return to their ancient habits of military obedience. All looked forward with anxiety to the result; but no one with more apprehension than Cromwell. His life was at stake. The Levellers had threatened to make him pay with his head the forfeit of his intrigues with Charles; and the flight of that prince, by disconcerting their plans, had irritated their former animosity. On the appointed day the first
[Footnote 1: Journals, ix. 525. Rushworth, vii. 874. Ashburnham, ii. Berkeley, 377-382. Herbert, 52. Ludlow, i. 187-191.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Nov. 8.]
brigade, that on which the officers could rely, mustered in a field between Hertford and Ware; and the remonstrance was read by order of Fairfax to each regiment in succession. It was answered with acclamations; the men hastened to subscribe an engagement to obey the commands of the general; and the sowers of discord, the distributors of seditious pamphlets, were pointed out, and taken into custody. From this corps Fairfax proceeded to two regiments, which had presumed to come on the ground without orders. The first, after some debate, submitted; the second was more obstinate. The privates had expelled the majority of the officers, and wore round their hats this motto: “The people’s freedom, and the soldiers’ rights.” Cromwell darted into the ranks to seize the ringleaders; his intrepidity daunted the mutineers; one man was immediately shot, two more were tried and condemned on the spot, and several others were reserved as pledges for the submission of their comrades. By this act of vigour it was thought that subordination had been restored; but Cromwell soon discovered that the Levellers constituted two-thirds of the military force, and that it was necessary for him to retrace his steps, if he wished to retain his former influence. With that view he made a public acknowledgment of his error, and a solemn promise to stand or fall with the army. The conversion of the sinner was hailed with acclamations of joy, a solemn fast was kept to celebrate the event; and Cromwell in the assembly of officers confessed, weeping as he spoke,
[Footnote 1: Whitelock, 278. Journals, ix. 527. Ludlow, i. 192. It was reported among the soldiers that the king had promised to Cromwell the title of earl with a blue ribbon, to his son the office of gentleman of the bedchamber to the prince, and to Ireton the command of the forces in Ireland.–Holles, 127.]
that “his eyes, dazzled by the glory of the world, had not clearly discerned the work of the Lord; and therefore he humbled himself before them, and desired the prayers of the saints that God would forgive his self-seeking.” His fellow-delinquent Ireton followed in the same repentant strain; both poured forth their souls before God in fervent and extemporary prayer; and “never,” so we are assured, “did more harmonious music ascend to the ear of the Almighty."
The king had yet no reason to repent of his confidence in Hammond; but that governor, while he granted every indulgence to his captive, had no intention of separating his own lot from that of the army. He consulted the officers at the head-quarters, and secretly resolved to adhere to their instructions. Charles recommenced his former intrigues. Through the agency of Dr. Gough, one of the queen’s chaplains, he sought to prevail on the Scottish commissioners to recede from their demand that he should confirm the covenant: he sent Sir John Berkeley to Cromwell and his friends, to remind them of their promises, and to solicit their aid towards a personal treaty; and by a message[a] to the parliament he proposed, in addition to his former offers, to surrender the command of the army during his life, to exchange the profits of the Court of Wards for a yearly income, and to provide funds for the discharge of the moneys due to the military and to the public creditors. The neglect with which this message was received, and the discouraging answer[b] returned by the officers, awakened his apprehensions; they were confirmed by the Scottish
[Footnote 1: Clarendon Papers, ii. App. xliv. Berkeley, 385. Whitelock, 284.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Nov. 16.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. Dec. 8.]
commissioners, who while they complained of his late offer as a violation of his previous engagement, assured him that many of his enemies sought to make him a close prisoner, and that others openly talked of removing him either by a legal trial, or by assassination. These warnings induced him to arrange a plan of escape: application was made to the queen for a ship[a] of war to convey him from the island; and Berwick was selected as the place of his retreat. He had, however, but little time to spare. As their ultimatum, and the only condition on which they would consent to a personal treaty, the houses demanded the royal assent to four bills which they had prepared. The first of these, after vesting the command of the army in the parliament for twenty years, enacted, that after that period it might be restored to the crown, but not without the previous consent of the Lords and Commons; and that still, whenever they should declare the safety of the kingdom to be concerned, all bills passed by them respecting the forces by sea or land should be deemed acts of parliament, even though the king for the time being should refuse his assent; the second declared all oaths, proclamations, and proceedings against the parliament during the war, void and of no effect: the third annulled all titles of honour granted since the 20th of May, 1642, and deprived all peers to be created hereafter of the right of sitting in parliament, without the consent of the two houses; and the fourth gave to the houses themselves the power of adjourning from place to place at their discretion.[b] The Scots, to delay the proceedings, asked
[Footnote 1: Memoirs of Hamiltons, 325-333. Ludlow, i. 195-201. Berkeley, 383.]
[Footnote 2: Journals, ix. 575. Charles’s Works, 590-593. Now let the reader turn to Clarendon, History, iii. 88. He tells us, that by one, the king was to have confessed himself the author of the war, and guilty of all the blood which had been spilt; by another, he was to dissolve the government of the church, and grant all lands belonging to the church to other uses; by a third, to settle the militia, without reserving so much power to himself as any subject was capable of; and in the last place, he was in effect to sacrifice all those who had served him, or adhered to him, to the mercy of the parliament. When this statement is compared with the real bills, it may be judged how little credit is due to the assertions of Clarendon, unless they are supported by other authorities.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Dec. 14.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. Dec. 15.]
for a copy of the bills, and remonstrated against the alterations which had been made in the propositions of peace. Their language was bold and irritating; they characterized the conduct of the parliament as a violation of the league and covenant; and they openly charged the houses with suffering themselves to be controlled by a body, which owed its origin and its subsistence to their authority. But the Independents were not to be awed by the clamour of men whom they knew to be enemies under the name of allies; they voted[a] the interference of any foreign nation in acts of parliament a denial of the independence of the kingdom, and ordered[b] the four bills to be laid before the king for his assent without further delay. The Scots hastened to Carisbrook, in appearance to protest against them, but with a more important object in view. They now relaxed from their former obstinacy; they no longer insisted on the positive confirmation of the covenant, but were content with a promise that Charles should make every concession in point of religion which his conscience would allow. The treaty which had been so long in agitation between them was privately signed; and the king returned[c] this answer to the two houses, that neither his present sufferings, nor the apprehension of worse treatment, should ever induce him to give his assent to any bills
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1647. Dec. 18.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1647. Dec. 24.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1647. Dec. 28.]
as a part of the agreement, before the whole was concluded.
Aware of the consequences of his refusal, Charles had resolved to anticipate the vengeance of the parliament by making his escape the same evening to a ship which had been sent by the queen, and had been waiting for him several days in Southampton Water; but he was prevented by the vigilance of Hammond, who closed the gates on the departure of the commissioners, doubled the guards, confined the royal captive to his chamber, and dismissed Ashburnham, Berkeley, Legge, and the greater part of his attendants. An attempt to raise in his favour the inhabitants of the island was instantly suppressed, and its author, Burley, formerly a captain in the royal army, suffered the punishment of a traitor. The houses resolved[a] (and the army promised to live and die with them in defence of the resolution) that they would receive no additional message from the king; that they would send no address or application to him; that if any other person did so without leave, he should be subject to the penalties of high treason; and that the committee of public safety should be renewed to sit and act alone, without the aid of foreign coadjutors. This last hint was understood by the Scots: they made a demand[b] of the hundred thousand pounds due to them by the
[Footnote 1: Journals, ix. 575, 578, 582, 591, 604, 615, 621. Charles’s Works, 594. Memoirs of Hamiltons, 334.]
[Footnote 2: Ashburnham, ii. 121. Berkeley, 387, 393.]
[Footnote 3: On Jan 11, before the vote passed, an address was presented from the general and the council of war by seven colonels and other officers to the House of Commons, expressive of the resolution of the army to stand by the parliament: and another to the House of Lords, expressive of their intention to preserve inviolate the rights of the peerage. Of the latter no notice is taken in the journals of the house.–Journ. v. Jan. 11. Parl. Hist. vi. 835.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Jan. 3 and Jan. 15.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Jan. 17.]
treaty of evacuation, and announced their intention of returning immediately to their own parliament.
The king appeared to submit with patience to the[a] new restraints imposed on his freedom; and even affected an air of cheerfulness, to disguise the design which he still cherished of making his escape. The immediate charge of his person had been intrusted to four warders of approved fidelity, who, two at a time, undertook the task in rotation. They accompanied the captive wherever he was, at his meals, at his public devotions, during his recreation on the bowling-green, and during his walks round the walls of the castle. He was never permitted to be alone, unless it were in the retirement of his bedchamber; and then one of the two warders was continually stationed at each of the doors which led from that apartment. Yet in defiance of these precautions (such was the ingenuity of the king, so generous the devotion of those who sought to serve him) he found the means of maintaining a correspondence with his friends on the coast of Hampshire, and through them with the English royalists, the Scottish commissioners in Edinburgh, the queen at Paris, and the duke of York at St. James’s, who soon afterwards, in obedience to the command of[b] his father, escaped in the disguise of a female to Holland.
[Footnote 1: The vote of non-addresses passed by a majority of 141 to 92. Journals, v. Jan. 3. See also Jan. 11, 15, 1648; Lords’ Journals, ix. 640, 662; Rushworth, vii. 953, 961, 965; Leicester’s Journal, 30.]
[Footnote 2: Journals, x. 35, 76, 220. Rushworth, vii. 984, 1002, 1067, 1109. Clarendon, iii. 129. One of those through whom Charles corresponded with his friends was Firebrace, who tells us that he was occasionally employed by one of the warders to watch for him at the door of the king’s bedchamber, and on such occasions gave and received papers through a small crevice in the boards. See his account in the additions to Herbert’s Memoirs, p. 187. The manner of the duke’s escape is related in his Life, i. 33, and Ellis, 2nd series, iii. 329.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Feb. 2.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. April. 17.]
In the mean while an extraordinary ferment seemed to agitate the whole mass of the population. With the exception of the army, every class of men was dissatisfied. Though the war had ceased twelve months before, the nation enjoyed few of the benefits of peace. Those forms and institutions, the safeguards of liberty and property, which had been suspended during the contest, had not been restored; the committees in every county continued to exercise the most oppressive tyranny; and a monthly tax was still levied for the support of the forces, exceeding in amount the sums which had been exacted for the same purpose during the war. No man could be ignorant that the parliament, nominally the supreme authority, was under the control of the council of officers; and the continued captivity of the king, the known sentiments of the agitators, and, above all, the vote of non-addresses, provoked a general suspicion that it was in contemplation to abolish the monarchical government, and to introduce in its place a military despotism. Four-fifths of the nation began to wish for the re-establishment of the throne. Much diversity of opinion prevailed with respect to the conditions; but all agreed that what Charles had so often demanded, a personal treaty, ought to be granted, as the most likely means to reconcile opposite interests and to lead to a satisfactory arrangement.
Soon after the passing of the vote of non-addresses,[a] the king had appealed to the good sense of the people through the agency of the press. He put it to them to judge between him and his opponents, whether by his answer to the four bills he had given any reasonable
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648 Jan. 18.]
cause for their violent and unconstitutional vote; and whether they, by the obstinate refusal of a personal conference, had not betrayed their resolve not to come to any accommodation. The impression made by this paper called for an answer: a long and laboured vindication of the proceedings of the House of Commons was prepared, and after many erasures and amendments approved; copies of it were allotted to the members to be circulated among their constituents, and others were sent to the curates to be read by them to their parishioners. It contained a tedious enumeration of all the charges, founded or unfounded, which had ever been made against the king from the commencement of his reign; and thence deduced the inference that, to treat with a prince so hostile to popular rights, so often convicted of fraud and dissimulation, would be nothing less than to betray the trust reposed in the two houses by the country. But the framers of the vindication marred their own object. They had introduced much questionable matter, and made numerous statements open to refutation: the advantage was eagerly seized by the royalists; and, notwithstanding the penalties recently enacted on account of unlicensed publications, several answers, eloquently and convincingly written, were circulated in many parts of the country. Of these the most celebrated came from the pens of Hyde the chancellor, and of Dr. Bates, the king’s physician.
But, whilst the royal cause made rapid progress among the people, in the army itself the principles of the Levellers had been embraced by the majority of
[Footnote 1: King’s Works, 130. Parl. Hist. iii. 863.]
[Footnote 2: Journals, v. Feb. 10, 11. Parl. Hist. iii. 847. Perrinchiefe, 44.]
[Footnote 3: Ibid. Parl. Hist. iii. 866. King’s Works, 132.]
the privates, and had made several converts among the officers. These fanatics had discovered in the Bible, that the government of kings was odious in the sight of God, and contended that in fact Charles had now no claim to the sceptre. Protection and allegiance were reciprocal. At his accession he had bound himself by oath to protect the liberties of his subjects, and by the violation of that oath he had released the people from the obligation of allegiance to him. For the decision of the question he had appealed to the God of battles, who, by the result, had decided against his pretensions. He therefore was answerable for the blood which had been shed; and it was the duty of the representatives of the nation to call him to justice for the crimes and, in order to prevent the recurrence of similar mischiefs, to provide for the liberties of all, by founding an equal commonwealth on the general consent. Cromwell invited the patrons of this doctrine to meet at his house the grandees (so they were called) of the parliament and army. The question was argued; but both he and his colleagues were careful to conceal their real sentiments. They did not openly contradict the principles laid down by the Levellers, but they affected to doubt the possibility of reducing them to practice. The truth was, that they wished not to commit themselves by too explicit an avowal before they could see their way plainly before them.
In this feverish state of the public mind in England, every eye was turned towards the proceedings in Scotland. For some time a notion had been cherished by the Scottish clergy, that the king at Carisbrook had not only subscribed the covenant, but had solemnly
[Footnote 1: 1 Kings, viii. 8.]
[Footnote 2: Ludlow, i. 206. Whitelock, 317.]
engaged to enforce it throughout his dominions; and the prospect of a speedy triumph over the Independents induced them to preach a crusade from the pulpit in favour of the kirk and the throne. But the return of the commissioners, and the publication of “the agreement” with the king, bitterly disappointed their hopes. It was found that Charles had indeed consented to the establishment of Presbyterianism in England, but only as an experiment for three years, and with the liberty of dissent both for himself, and for those who might choose to follow his example. Their invectives were no longer pointed against the Independents; “the agreement" and its advocates became the objects of their fiercest attacks. Its provisions were said to be unwarranted by the powers of the commissioners, and its purpose was pronounced an act of apostasy from the covenant, an impious attempt to erect the throne of the king in preference to the throne of Christ. Their vehemence intimidated the Scottish parliament, and admonished the duke of Hamilton to proceed with caution. That nobleman, whose imprisonment ended with the surrender of Pendennis, had waited on the king in Newcastle; a reconciliation followed; and he was now become the avowed leader of the royalists and moderate Presbyterians. That he might not irritate the religious prejudices of his countrymen, he sought to mask his real object, the restoration of the monarch, under the pretence of suppressing heresy and schism; he professed the deepest veneration for the covenant, and the most implicit deference to the authority of the kirk; he listened with apparent respect to the remonstrances of the clerical commission, and openly solicited its members to aid the parliament with their wisdom, and to state their desires. But these were mere words intended to lull suspicion. By dint of numbers (for his party comprised two-thirds of the convention), he obtained the appointment of a committee of danger; this was followed by a vote to place the kingdom in a posture of defence; and the consequence of that vote was the immediate levy of reinforcements for the army. But his opponents under the earl of Argyle threw every obstacle in his way. They protested in parliament against the war; the commissioners of the kirk demanded that their objections should be previously removed; the women cursed the duke as he passed, and pelted him with stones from their windows; and the ministers from their pulpits denounced the curse of God on all who should take a share in the unholy enterprise. Forty thousand men had been voted; but though force was frequently employed, and blood occasionally shed, the levy proceeded so slowly, that even in the month of July the grand army hardly exceeded one-fourth of that number.
By the original plan devised at Hampton Court, it had been arranged that the entrance of the Scots into England should be the signal for a simultaneous rising of the royalists in every quarter of the kingdom. But the former did not keep their time, and the zeal of the latter could not brook delay.[a] The first who proclaimed the king, was a parliamentary officer, Colonel Poyer, mayor of the town, and governor of the castle, of Pembroke. He refused to resign his military appointment at the command of Fairfax, and, to justify
[Footnote 1: Memoirs of the Hamiltons, 339, 347, 353. Thurloe, i. 94. Rushworth, vii. 1031, 48, 52, 67, 114, 132. Two circumstantial and interesting letters from Baillie, ii. 280-297. Whitelock, 305. Turner, 52.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. March 3.]
his refusal, unfurled the royal standard. Poyer was joined by Langherne and Powel, two officers whose forces had lately been disbanded. Several of the men hastened to the aid of their former leaders; the Cavaliers ran to arms in both divisions of the principality; a force of eight thousand men was formed; Chepstow was surprised, Carnarvon besieged, and Colonel Fleming defeated.[a] By these petty successes the unfortunate men were lured on to their ruin. Horton checked their progress; Cromwell followed with five regiments to punish their presumption. The tide immediately changed. Langherne was defeated; Chepstow was recovered; the besiegers of Carnarvon were cut to pieces.[b] On the refusal of Poyer to surrender, the lieutenant-general assembled his corps after sunset, and the fanatical Hugh Peters foretold that the ramparts of Pembroke, like those of Jericho, would fall before the army of the living God. From prayer and sermon the men hastened to the assault; the ditch was passed, the walls were scaled; but they found the garrison at its post, and, after a short but sanguinary contest, Cromwell ordered a retreat. A regular siege was now formed; and the Independent general, notwithstanding his impatience to proceed to the north, was detained more than six weeks before this insignificant fortress.
Scarcely a day passed, which was not marked by some new occurrence indicative of the approaching contest.[c] An alarming tumult in the city, in which the apprentices forced the guard, and ventured to engage the military under the command of the general, was quickly followed by similar disturbances in
[Footnote 1: Lords’ Journals, x. 88, 253. Rushworth, vii. 1016, 38, 66, 97, 129. Heath, 171. Whitelock, 303, 305. May, 116.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. May 1.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. May 20.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1648. April 9.]
Norwich, Thetford, Canterbury, Exeter, and several towns.[a] They were, indeed, suppressed by the vigilance of Fairfax and the county committees; but the cry of “God and the king,” echoed and re-echoed by the rioters on these occasions, sufficiently proved that the popular feeling was setting fast in favour of royalty. At the same time petitions from different public bodies poured into the two houses, all concurring in the same prayer, that the army should be disbanded, and the king brought back to his capital. The Independent leaders, aware that it would not be in their power to control the city while their forces were employed in the field, sought a reconciliation.[b] The parliament was suffered to vote that no change should be made in the fundamental government of the realm by king, lords, and commons; and the citizens in return engaged themselves to live and die with the parliament. Though the promises on both sides were known to be insincere, it was the interest of each to dissemble. Fairfax withdrew his troops from Whitehall and the Mews; the charge of the militia was once more intrusted to the lord mayor and the aldermen; and the chief command was conferred on Skippon, who, if he did not on every subject agree with the Independents, was yet distinguished by his marked opposition to the policy of their opponents.[c]
The inhabitants of Surrey and Essex felt dissatisfied with the answers given to their petitions; those of Kent repeatedly assembled to consider their grievances, and to consult on the means of redress. These meetings, which originated with a private gentleman of the name of Hales, soon assumed the character of
[Footnote 1: Journals, 243, 260, 267, 272. Commons’, April 13, 27, May 16. Whitelock, 299, 302, 303, 305, 306.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. April 28.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. May 2.]
loyalty and defiance. Associations were formed, arms were collected, and on an appointed day[a] a general rising took place. The inhabitants of Deal distinguished themselves on this occasion; and Rainsborowe, the parliamentarian admiral, prepared to chastise their presumption. Leaving orders for the fleet to follow, he proceeded[b] in his barge to reconnoitre the town; but the men, several of whom had families and relatives in it, began to murmur, and Lindale, a boatswain in the admiral’s ship, proposed to declare for the king. He was answered with acclamations; the officers were instantly arrested; the crews of the other ships followed the example; the arguments and entreaties of Rainsborowe himself, and of the earl of Warwick, who addressed them in the character of lord high admiral, were disregarded, and the whole fleet, consisting of six men-of-war fully equipped for the summer service, sailed under the royal colours to Helvoetsluys, in search of the young duke of York, whom they chose for their commander-in-chief. But the alarm excited by this revolt at sea was quieted by the success of Fairfax against the insurgents on land. The Cavaliers had ventured to oppose him[c] in the town of Maidstone, and for six hours, aided by the advantage of their position, they resisted the efforts of the enemy; but their loss was proportionate to their valour, and two hundred fell in the streets, four hundred were made prisoners. Many of the countrymen, discouraged by this defeat, hastened to their homes. Goring, earl of Newport, putting himself at the head of a different body, advanced[d] to Blackheath, and solicited admission into the city. It was a moment big with the most important consequences. The king’s friends formed a
[Footnote 1: Life of James II. i. 41.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. May 23.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. May 27.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1648. June 1.] [Sidenote d: A.D. 1648. June 2.]
numerous party; the common council wavered; and the parliament possessed no armed force to support its authority. The leaders saw that they had but one resource, to win by conciliation. The aldermen imprisoned at the request of the army were set[a] at liberty; the impeachment against the six lords was discharged; and the excluded members were permitted to resume their seats. These concessions, aided by the terror which the victory at Maidstone inspired, and by the vigilance of Skippon, who intercepted all communication between the royalists, and the party at Blackheath, defeated the project of Goring. That commander, having received a refusal, crossed[b] the river, with five thousand horse, was joined by Lord Capel with the royalists from Hertfordshire, and by Sir Charles Lucas with a body of horse from Chelmsford, and assuming the command of the whole, fixed his head-quarters in Colchester. The town had no other fortification than a low rampart of earth; but, relying on his own resources and the constancy of his followers, he resolved to defend it against the enemy, that he might detain Fairfax and his army in the south, and keep the north open to the advance of the Scots. This plan succeeded; Colchester was assailed and defended with equal resolution; nor was its fate decided till the failure of the Scottish invasion had proved the utter hopelessness of the royal cause.
It soon appeared that the restoration of the impeached and excluded members, combined with the departure of the officers to their commands in the army, had imparted a new tone to the proceedings in
[Footnote 1: Journals, x. 276, 278, 279, 283, 289, 297, 301, 304. Commons, May 24, 25, June 4, 8. Whitelock, 307, 308, 309, 310. Clarendon, iii. 133, 151, 154.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. June 3.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. June 4.]
parliament. Holles resumed not only his seat, but his preponderance in the lower house. The measures which his party had formerly approved were again adopted; and a vote was passed to open a new treaty with the king, on condition that he should previously engage to give the royal assent to three bills, revoking all declarations against the parliament, establishing the Presbyterian discipline for the term of three, and vesting the command of the army and navy in certain persons during that of ten years. But among the lords a more liberal spirit prevailed. The imprisonment of the six peers had taught them a salutary lesson. Aware that their own privileges would infallibly fall with the throne, they rejected the three bills of the Commons, voted a personal treaty without any previous conditions, and received from the common council an assurance that, if the king were suffered to come to London, the city would guarantee both the royal person and the two houses from insult and danger. But Holles and his adherents refused to yield; conference after conference was held; and the two parties continued for more than a month to debate the subject without interruption from the Independents. These had no leisure to attend to such disputes. Their object was to fight and conquer, under the persuasion that victory in the field would restore to them the ascendancy in the senate.
It was now the month of July, and the English royalists had almost abandoned themselves to despair, when they received the cheering intelligence that the duke of Hamilton had at last redeemed his promise, and entered[a] England at the head of a numerous army.[a]
[Footnote 1: Journals, 308, 349, 351, 362, 364, 367. Commons, July 5. Whitelock, 315, 316, 318, 319. Ludlow, i. 251.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. April 28.]
The king’s adherents in the northern counties had already surprised Berwick and Carlisle; and, to facilitate his entry, had for two months awaited with impatience his arrival on the borders. The approach of Lambeth, the parliamentary general, compelled them to seek shelter within the walls of Carlisle, and the necessity of saving that important place compelled the duke to despatch a part of his army to its relief. Soon afterwards[a] he arrived himself. Report exaggerated his force to thirty thousand men, though it did not in fact amount to more than half that number; but he was closely followed by Monroe, who led three thousand veterans from the Scottish army in Ireland, and was accompanied or preceded by Sir Marmaduke Langdale, the commander of four thousand Cavaliers, men of approved valour, who had staked their all on the result. With such an army a general of talent and enterprise might have replaced the king on his throne; but Hamilton, though possessed of personal courage, was diffident of his own powers, and resigned himself to the guidance of men who sacrificed the interests of the service to their private jealousies and feuds. Forty days were consumed in a short march of eighty miles; and when the decisive battle was fought, though the main body had reached the left bank of the Ribble near Preston, the rear-guard, under Monroe, slept in security at Kirkby Lonsdale. Lambert had retired slowly before the advance of the Scots, closely followed by Langdale and his Cavaliers; but in Otley Park he was joined by Cromwell, with several regiments which had been employed in the reduction of Pembroke. Their united force did not exceed nine thousand men; but the impetuosity of the general despised inequality of numbers; and the
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. July 8.]
ardour of his men induced him to lead them without delay against the enemy. From Clithero, Langdale fell back on the Scottish army near Preston, and warned the duke to prepare for battle on the following day.[a] Of the disasters which followed, it is impossible to form any consistent notion from the discordant statements of the Scottish officers, each of whom, anxious to exculpate himself, laid the chief blame on some of his colleagues. This only is certain, that the Cavaliers fought with the obstinacy of despair; that for six hours they bore the whole brunt of the battle; that as they retired from hedge to hedge they solicited from the Scots a reinforcement of men and a supply of ammunition; and that, unable to obtain either, they retreated into the town, where they discovered that their allies had crossed to the opposite bank, and were contending with the enemy for the possession of the bridge. Langdale, in this extremity, ordered his infantry to disperse, and, with the cavalry and the duke, who had refused to abandon his English friends, swam across the Ribble. Cromwell won the bridge, and the royalists fled in the night toward Wigan. Of the Scottish forces, none but the regiments under Monroe and the stragglers who rejoined him returned to their native country. Two-thirds of the infantry, in their eagerness to escape, fell into the hands of the neighbouring inhabitants; nor did Baillie, their general, when he surrendered at Warrington, number more than three thousand men under their colours. The duke wandered as far as Uttoxeter with the cavalry; there his followers mutinied,[b] and he yielded himself a prisoner to General Lambert and the Lord Grey of Groby. The Cavaliers disbanded[c] themselves in Derbyshire; their gallant leader, who travelled in
[Sidenote: A.D. 1648. Aug. 17.] [Sidenote: A.D. 1648. Aug. 20.] [Sidenote: A.D. 1648. Aug. 25.]
the disguise of a female, was discovered and taken in the vicinity of Nottingham: but Lady Savile bribed his keeper: dressed in a clergyman’s cassock he escaped to the capital; and remained there in safety with Dr. Barwick, being taken for an Irish minister driven from his cure by the Irish Catholics.
On the very day on which the Scots began their march, a feeble attempt had been made to assist their advance by raising the city of London. Its author was one who by his inconstancy had deservedly earned the contempt of every party,–the earl of Holland. He had during the contest passed from the king to the parliament, and from the parliament to the king. His ungracious reception by the royalists induced him to return to their opponents, by whom he was at first treated with severity, afterwards with neglect. Whether it were resentment or policy, he now professed himself a true penitent, offered to redeem his past errors by future services, and obtained from the prince of Wales a commission to raise forces. As it had been concerted between him and Hamilton, on the 5th of July, he marched[a] at the head of five hundred
[Footnote 1: Lords’ Journals, x. 455-458. Rushworth, vii. 1227, 1242. Barwicci Vita, 66. The narrative in Burnet’s Memoirs of the Hamiltons (355-365) should be checked by that in Clarendon (iii. 150, 160). The first was derived from Sir James Turner (Turner’s Memoirs, 63), who held a command in the Scottish army; the second from Sir Marmaduke Langdale. According to Turner, Langdale was ignorant, or kept the Scots in ignorance, of the arrival of Cromwell and his army; according to Langdale, he repeatedly informed them of it, but they refused to give credit to the information. Langdale’s statement is confirmed by Dachmont, who affirmed to Burnet, that “on fryday before Preston the duke read to Douchel and him a letter he had from Langdale, telling how the enemy had rendesvoused at Oatley and Oatley Park, wher Cromwell was,"–See a letter from Burnet to Turner in App. to Turner’s Memoirs, 251. Monroe also informed the duke, probably by Dachmont, of Cromwell’s arrival at Skipton.–Ibid, 249.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. July 5.]
horse, in warlike array from his house in the city, and having fixed his quarters in the vicinity of Kingston, sent messages to the parliament and the common council, calling on them to join with him in putting an end to the calamities of the nation. On the second day,[a] through the negligence, it was said, of Dalbier, his military confidant, he was surprised, and after a short conflict, fled with a few attendants to St. Neots; there a second action followed,[b] and the earl surrendered at discretion to his pursuers. His misfortune excited little interest; but every heart felt compassion for two young noblemen whom he had persuaded to engage in this rash enterprise, the duke of Buckingham and his brother the Lord Francis Villiers. The latter was slain at Kingston; the former, after many hair-breadth escapes, found an asylum on the continent.
The discomfiture of the Scottish army was followed by the surrender of Colchester. While there was an object to fight for, Goring and his companions had cheerfully submitted to every privation; now that not a hope remained, they offered to capitulate, and received for answer that quarter would be granted to the privates, but that the officers had been declared traitors by the parliament, and must surrender at discretion. These terms were accepted;[c] the council deliberated on the fate of the captives; Goring, Capel, and Hastings, brother to the earl of Huntingdon, were reserved for the judgment of the parliament; but two, Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas, because they were not men of family, but soldiers of fortune, were
[Footnote 1: Clarendon, iii. 121, 176. Whitelock, 317, 318, 320. Lords’ Journals, 367. Commons, July 7, 12. Leicester’s Journal, 35.]
[Footnote 2: This is the reason assigned by Fairfax himself. Memoirs, 50.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. July 7.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. July 10.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1648. August 29.]
selected for immediate execution. Both had been distinguished by their bravery, and were reckoned among the first commanders in the royal service. Lucas, tearing open his doublet, exclaimed, “Fire, rebels!” and instantly fell. Lisle ran to him, kissed his dead body, and turning to the soldiers, desired them to advance nearer. One replied, “Fear not, sir, we shall hit you.” “My friends,” he answered, “I have been nearer when you have missed me.” The blood of these brave men impressed a deep stain on the character of Fairfax, nor was it wiped away by the efforts of his friends, who attributed their death to the revengeful counsels of Ireton.
At this time the prince of Wales had been more than six weeks in the Downs. As soon as he heard of the revolt of the fleet, he repaired to the Hague, and taking upon himself the command, hastened with nineteen sail to the English coast. Had he appeared before the Isle of Wight, there can be little doubt that Charles would have recovered his liberty; but the council with the prince decided[a] that it was more for the royal interest to sail to the month of the river, where they long continued to solicit by letters the wavering disposition of the parliament and the city. While Hamilton advanced, there seemed a prospect of success; the destruction of his army extinguished their hopes. The king, by a private message, suggested that before their departure from the coast, they should free him from his captivity. But the mariners proved that they were the masters. They demanded to fight the hostile fleet under the earl of
[Footnote 1: Journals, x. 477. Rushworth, vii. 1242, 1244. Clarendon, iii, 177. Fairfax says in his vindication that they surrendered “at mercy, which means that some are to suffer, some to be spared."–Memoirs, p. 540.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. July 20.]
Warwick, who studiously avoided an engagement, that he might be joined by a squadron from Portsmouth. During two days the royalists offered[a] him battle; by different manoeuvres he eluded their attempts; and on the third day the want of provisions compelled the prince to steer for the coast of Holland, without paying attention to the request of his royal father. Warwick, who had received his reinforcements, followed at a considerable distance; but, though he defended his conduct on motives of prudence, he did not escape the severe censure of the Independents and Levellers, who maintained that the cause had always been betrayed when it was intrusted to the cowardice or disaffection of noble commanders.
It is now time to revert to the contest between the two houses respecting the proposed treaty with the king. Towards the end of July the Commons had yielded[b] to the obstinacy of the Lords; the preliminary conditions on which they had insisted were abandoned,[c] and the vote of non-addresses was repealed. Hitherto these proceedings had been marked with the characteristic slowness of every parliamentary measure; but the victory of Cromwell over Hamilton, and the danger of interference on the part of the army, alarmed the Presbyterian leaders; and fifteen commissioners, five lords and ten commoners, were appointed[d] to conduct the negotiation. At length they arrived;[e] Charles repaired[f] from his prison in Carisbrook Castle to the neighbouring town of Newport;
[Footnote 1: Lords’ Journals, x. 399, 414, 417, 426, 444, 483, 488, 494. Clarendon Papers, ii. 412, 414.]
[Footnote 2: They were the earls of Northumberland, Salisbury, Pembroke, and Middlesex, the lords Say and Seale, Lord Wenman, Sir Henry Vane, junior, Sir Harbottle Grimstone, and Holles, Pierrepoint, Brown, Crew, Glyn, Potts, and Bulkely.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. August 30.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. July 28.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1648. August 3.] [Sidenote d: A.D. 1648. Sept. 1.] [Sidenote e: A.D. 1648. Sept. 15.] [Sidenote f: A.D. 1648. Sept. 18.]
he was suffered to call around him his servants, his chaplains, and such of his counsellors as had taken no part in the war; and, as far as outward appearances might be trusted, he had at length obtained the free and honourable treaty which he had so often solicited. Still he felt that he was a captive, under promise not to leave the island till twenty days after the conclusion of the treaty, and he soon found, in addition, that he was not expected to treat, but merely to submit. How far the two houses might have yielded in other circumstances is uncertain; but, under the present superiority of the army, they dared not descend from the lofty pretensions which they had previously put forth. The commissioners were permitted to argue, to advise, to entreat; but they had no power to concede; their instructions bound them to insist on the king’s assent to every proposition which had been submitted to his consideration at Hampton Court. To many of these demands Charles made no objection; in lieu of those which he refused, he substituted proposals of his own, which were forwarded to the parliament, and voted unsatisfactory. He offered new expedients and modifications; but the same answer was invariably returned, till the necessity of his situation wrung from the unfortunate prince his unqualified assent to most of the articles in debate. On four points only he remained inflexible. Though he agreed to suspend for three years, he refused to abolish entirely, the functions of the bishops; he objected to the perpetual alienation of the episcopal lands, but proposed to grant leases of them for lives, or for ninety-nine years, in favour of the present purchasers; he contended that all his followers, without any exception, should be admitted to compound for their delinquency; and he protested that, till his conscience were satisfied of the lawfulness of the covenant, he would neither swear to it himself, nor impose it upon others. Such was the state of the negotiation, when the time allotted by the parliament expired;[a] and a prolongation for twenty days was voted.
The Independents from the very beginning had disapproved of the treaty. In a petition presented[b] by “thousands of well-affected persons in and near London,” they enumerated the objects for which they had fought, and which they now claimed as the fruit of their victory. Of these the principal were, that the supremacy of the people should be established against the negative voice of the king and of the lords; that to prevent civil wars, the office of the king and the privileges of the peers should be clearly defined; that a new parliament, to be elected of course and without writs, should assemble every year, but never for a longer time than forty or fifty days; that religious belief and worship should be free from restraint
[Footnote 1: The papers given in during this treaty may be seen in the Lords’ Journals, x. 474-618. The best account is that composed by order of the king himself, for the use of the prince of Wales.–Clarendon Papers, ii. 425-449. I should add, that a new subject of discussion arose incidentally during the conferences. The lord Inchiquin had abandoned the cause of the parliament in Ireland, and, at his request, Ormond had been sent from Paris by the queen and the prince, to resume the government, with a commission to make peace with the Catholic party. Charles wrote to him two letters (Oct. 10, 28.–Carte, ii. App. xxxi. xxxii.), ordering him to follow the queen’s instructions, to obey no commands from himself as long as he should be under restraint, and not to be startled at his concessions respecting Ireland, for they would come to nothing. Of these letters the houses were ignorant; but they got possession of one from Ormond to the Irish Catholics, and insisted that Charles should order the lord lieutenant to desist. This he eluded for some time, alleging that if the treaty took effect, their desire was already granted by his previous concessions; if it did not, no order of his would be obeyed. At last he consented, and wrote the letter required.–Journals, x. 576-578, 597, 618. Clarendon Papers, ii. 441, 445, 452.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Nov. 5.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Sept. 11.]
or compulsion; that the proceedings in law should be shortened, and the charges ascertained; that tithes for the support of the clergy, and perpetual imprisonment for debt, should be abolished; and that the parliament “should lay to heart the blood spilt, and the rapine perpetrated by commission from the king, and consider whether the justice of God could be satisfied, or his wrath be appeased, by an act of oblivion.” This instrument is the more deserving of attention, because it points out the political views which actuated the leaders of the party.
In the army, flushed as it was with victory, and longing for revenge, maxims began to prevail of the most dangerous tendency in respect of the royal captive. The politicians maintained that no treaty could be safely made with the king, because if he were under restraint, he could not be bound by his consent; if he were restored to liberty, he could not be expected to make any concessions. The fanatics went still further. They had read in the book of Numbers that “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 hence they inferred that it was a duty, imposed on them by the God who had given them the victory, to call the king to a strict account for all the blood which had been shed during the civil war. Among these, one of the most eminent was Colonel Ludlow, a member of parliament, who, having persuaded himself that the anger of God could be appeased only by the death of Charles, laboured, though in vain, to make Fairfax a convert to his opinion. He proved more successful with Ireton, whose regiment petitioned[a] the commander-in-chief,
[Footnote 1: Whitelock, 335.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Oct. 18.]
that crime might be impartially punished without any distinction of high or low, rich or poor; that all who had contrived or abetted the late war might receive their just deserts; and that whosoever should speak or act in favour of Charles, before that prince had been acquitted of shedding innocent blood, should incur the penalties of treason. The immediate object of this paper was to try the general disposition of the army. Though it did not openly express, it evidently contemplated the future trial of the king, and was followed by another petition[a] from the regiment of Colonel Ingoldsby, which, in plainer and bolder terms, demanded that the monarch and his adherents should be brought to justice; condemned the treaty between him and the parliament as dangerous and unjust; and required the appointment of a council of war to discover an adequate remedy for the national evils. Fairfax had not the courage to oppose what, in his own judgment, he disapproved; the petitions were laid before an assembly of officers; and the result of their deliberation was a remonstrance[b] of enormous length, which, in a tone of menace and asperity, proclaimed the whole plan of the reformers. It required that “the capital and grand author of all the troubles and woes which the kingdom had endured, should be speedily brought to justice for the treason, blood, and mischief of which he had been guilty;” that a period should be fixed for the dissolution of the parliament; that a more equal representation of the people should be devised; that the representative body should possess the supreme power, and elect every future king; and that the prince so elected should be bound to disclaim all pretentions to a negative voice in the passing of laws, and to subscribe to that form of government which he
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Oct. 30.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Nov. 16.]
should find established by the present parliament. This remonstrance was addressed to the lower house alone, for the reformers declared themselves[a] unable to understand on what ground the lords could claim co-equal power with the representatives of the people, in whom alone the sovereignty resided. It provoked a long and animated debate; but the Presbyterians met its advocates without fear, and silenced them[b] by an overwhelming majority. They felt that they were supported by the general wish of the nation, and trusted that if peace were once established by agreement with the king, the officers would act dare to urge their pretensions. With this view they appointed a distant day for the consideration of the remonstrance, and instructed the commissioners at Newport to hasten the treaty to a speedy conclusion.
The king now found himself driven to the last extremity. The threats of the army resounded in his ears; his friends conjured him to recede from his former answers; and the commissioners declared their conviction, that without full satisfaction, the two houses could not save him from the vengeance of his enemies. To add to his alarm, Hammond, the governor of the island, had received a message from Fairfax to repair without delay to the head-quarters at Windsor. This was followed by the arrival[c] of Colonel Eure, with orders to seize the king, and confine[d] him again in Carisbrook Castle, or, if he met with opposition, “to act as God should direct him." Hammond replied with firmness, that in military matters he would obey his general; but as to the royal person, he had received
[Footnote 1: Whitelock, 343, 346, 355. Rushworth, vii. 1298, 1311, 1331.]
[Footnote 2: Journals of Commons, Nov. 20, 24, 30. There were two divisions relating to this question; in the first the majority was 94 to 60, in the second 125 to 58.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Nov. 18.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Nov. 20.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1648. Nov. 25.] [Sidenote d: A.D. 1648. Nov. 26.]
the charge from the parliament, and would not suffer the interference of any other authority. Eure departed; but Charles could no longer conceal from himself the danger which stared him in the face; his constancy or obstinacy relented; and he agreed,[a] after a most painful struggle, and when the time was run to the last minute, to remit the compositions of his followers to the mercy of parliament; to consent to the trial of the seven individuals excepted from pardon, provided they were allowed the benefit of the ancient laws; and to suspend the functions and vest in the crown the lands of the bishops, till religion should be settled, and the support of its ministers determined by common consent of the king and the two houses. By this last expedient it was hoped that both parties would be satisfied; the monarch, because the order was not abolished, nor its lands alienated for ever; the parliament, because neither one nor the other could be restored without its previous consent.
[Footnote 1: Clarendon Papers, 449-454. Journals, x. 620-622. The royalists excepted from mercy were the marquess of Newcastle, Sir Marmaduke Langdale, Lord Digby, Sir Richard Grenville, Mr. Justice Jenkins, Sir Francis Dorrington, and Lord Byron. It appears to me difficult to read the letters written by Charles during the treaty to his son the prince of Wales (Clarendon Papers, ii. 425-454), and yet believe that he acted with insincerity. But how then, asks Mr. Laing (Hist. of Scotland, iii. 411), are we to account for his assertion to Ormond, that the treaty would come to nothing, and for his anxiety to escape manifested by his correspondence with Hopkins?–Wagstaff’s Vindication of the Royal Martyr, 142-161. 1. Charles knew that, besides the parliament, there was the army, which had both the will and the power to set aside any agreement which might be made between him and the parliament; and hence arose his conviction that “the treaty would come to nothing.” 2. He was acquainted with all that passed in the private councils of his enemies; with their design to bring him to trial and to the scaffold; and he had also received a letter, informing him of an intention to assassinate him during the treaty.–Herbert, 134. Can we be surprised, if, under such circumstances, he sought to escape? Nor was his parole an objection. He conceived himself released from it by misconduct on the part of Hammond, who, at last, aware of that persuasion, prevailed on him, though with considerable difficulty, to renew his pledge.–Journals, x. 598. After this renewal he refused to escape even when every facility was offered him.–Rushworth, vii. 1344.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Nov. 27.]
In the morning, when the commissioners took their leave,[a] Charles addressed them with a sadness of countenance and in a tone of voice which drew tears from all his attendants. “My lords,” said he, “I believe we shall scarce ever see each other again. But God’s will be done! I have made my peace with him, and shall undergo without fear whatever he may suffer men to do to me. My lords, you cannot but know that in my fall and ruin you see your own, and that also near you. I pray God send you better friends than I have found. I am fully informed of the carriage of them who plot against me and mine; but nothing affects me so much as the feeling I have of the sufferings of my subjects, and the mischief that hangs over my three kingdoms, drawn upon them by those who, upon pretences of good, violently pursue their own interests and ends.” Hammond departed at the same time with the commissioners, and the command at Carisbrook devolved on Boreman, an officer of the militia, at Newport on Rolfe, a major in the army. To both he gave a copy of his instructions from the parliament for the safety of the royal person; but the character of Rolfe was known; he had been charged with a design to take the king’s life six months before, and had escaped a trial by the indulgence of the grand jury, who ignored the bill, because the main fact was attested by the oath of only one witness.
The next morning[b] a person in disguise ordered one
[Footnote 1: Appendix to Eveyln’s Memoirs, ii. 128.]
[Footnote 2: Journals, x. 615, 345, 349, 358, 370, 390. Clarendon, iii. 234.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Nov. 28.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Nov. 29.]
of the royal attendants to inform the king that a military force was on its way to make him prisoner. Charles immediately consulted the duke of Richmond, the earl of Lindsey, and Colonel Coke, who joined in conjuring him to save his life by an immediate escape. The night was dark and stormy; they were acquainted with the watchword; and Coke offered him horses and a boat. But the king objected, that he was bound in honour to remain twenty days after the treaty, nor would he admit of the distinction which they suggested, that his parole was given not to the army, but to the parliament. It was in vain that they argued and entreated: Charles, with his characteristic obstinacy,[a] retired to rest about midnight; and in a short time Lieutenant-Colonel Cobbett arrived with a troop of horse and a company of foot. Boreman refused to admit him into Carisbrook. But Rolfe offered him aid at Newport; at five the king was awakened by a message that he must prepare to depart; and about noon he was safely lodged in Hurst Castle, situate on a solitary rock, and connected by a narrow causeway, two miles in length, with the opposite coast of Hampshire.
The same day the council of officers published a menacing declaration against the House of Commons. It charged the majority with apostasy from their former principles, and appealed from their authority to “the extraordinary judgment of God and of all good people;” called on the faithful members to protest against the past conduct of their colleagues, and to place themselves under the protection of the army; and asserted that since God had given to the officers the power, he had also made it their duty, to
[Footnote 1: Rushworth, vii. 1344-1348, 1351. Herbert, 113, 124.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Nov. 30.]
provide for the settlement of the kingdom and the punishment of the guilty.[a] In the pursuit of these objects, Fairfax marched several regiments to London, and quartered them at Whitehall, York House, the Mews, and in the skirts of the city.
The reader will recollect the pusillanimous conduct of the Presbyterian members on the approach of the army in the year 1646.[b] On the present occasion they resolved to redeem their character. They betrayed no symptom of fear, no disposition to retire, or to submit. Amidst the din of arms and the menaces of the soldiers, they daily attended their duty in parliament, declared that the seizure of the royal person had been, made without their knowledge or consent, and proceeded to consider the tendency of the concessions made by Charles in the treaty of Newport. This produced the longest and most animated debate hitherto known in the history of parliament. Vane drew a most unfavourable portrait of the king, and represented all his promises and professions as hollow and insincere; Fiennes became for the first time the royal apologist, and refuted the charges brought by his fellow commissioner; and Prynne, the celebrated adversary of Laud, seemed to forget his antipathy to the court, that he might lash the presumption and perfidy of the army. The debate continued by successive adjournments three days and a whole night; and on the last division in the morning a resolution was carried by a majority of thirty-six, that the offers of the sovereign furnished a sufficient ground for the future settlement of the kingdom.[c]
[Footnote 1: Rushworth, vii. 1341, 1350. Whitelock, 358.]
[Footnote 2: Journals, Dec. 1, 2, 3, 5. Clarendon Papers, ii. App, xlviii. Cobbett, Parl. Hist. 1152. In some of the previous divisions, the house consisted of two hundred and forty members; but several seem to have retired during the night; at the conclusion there were only two hundred and twelve.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Dec. 2.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Dec. 5]
But the victors were not suffered to enjoy their triumph. The next day Skippon discharged the guards of the two houses, and their place was supplied by a regiment of horse and another of foot from the[a] army. Colonel Pride, while Fairfax, the commander-in-chief, was purposely employed in a conference with some of the members, stationed himself in the lobby: in his hand he held a list of names, while the Lord Grey stood by his side to point out the persons of the members; and two-and-fifty Presbyterians, the most distinguished of the party by their talents or influence, were taken into custody and conducted to different places of confinement. Many of those who passed the ordeal on this, met with a similar treatment on the following day; numbers embraced the opportunity to retire into the country; and the house was found, after repeated purifications, to consist of about fifty individuals, who, in the quaint language of the time, were afterwards dignified with the honourable appellation of the “Rump."
Whether it were through policy or accident, Cromwell was not present to take any share in these extraordinary proceedings. After his victory at Preston he had marched in pursuit of Monroe, and had besieged the important town of Berwick. But his real views were not confined to England. The defeat of the Scottish royalists had raised the hopes of their opponents in their own country. In the western shires the curse of Meroz had been denounced from
[Footnote 1: Whitelock, 358, 359. Commons’ Journals, Dec. 6, 7. This was called Pride’s purge. Forty-seven members were imprisoned, and ninety-six excluded.–Parl. Hist. iii. 1248.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Dec. 6.]
the pulpit against all who refused to arm in defence of the covenant; the fanatical peasants marshalled themselves under their respective ministers; and Loudon and Eglington, assuming the command, led them to Edinburgh. This tumultuary mass, though joined by Argyle and his Highlanders, and by Cassilis with the people of Carrick and Galloway, was no match for the disciplined army under Lanark and Monroe; but Cromwell offered to advance to their support, and the[a] two parties hastened to reconcile their differences by a treaty, which secured to the royalists their lives and[b] property, on condition that they should disband their forces. Argyle with his associates assumed the name and the office of the committee of the estates; Berwick and Carlisle were delivered to the English[c] general; and he himself with his army was invited to the capital. Amidst the public rejoicing, private conferences of which the subject never transpired, were repeatedly held; and Cromwell returning to[d] England, left Lambeth with two regiments of horse, to support the government of his friends till they could raise a sufficient force among their own party. His progress through the northern counties was slow;[e] nor did he reach the capital till the day after the exclusion of the Presbyterian members. His late victory had rendered him the idol of the soldiers: he was conducted with acclamations of joy to the
[Footnote 1: This was called the inroad of the Whiggamores; a name given to these peasants either from whiggam, a word employed by them in driving their horses, or from whig (Anglicè whey), a beverage of sour milk, which formed one of the principal articles of their meals.–Burnet’s History of his Own Times, i. 43. It soon came to designate an enemy of the king, and in the next reign was transferred, under the abbreviated form of whig, to the opponents of the court.]
[Footnote 2: Memoirs of the Hamiltons, 367-377. Guthrie, 283-299. Rushworth, vii. 1273, 1282, 1286, 1296, 1325.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Sept. 26.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Sept. 30.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1648. Oct. 4.] [Sidenote d: A.D. 1648. Oct. 11.] [Sidenote e: A.D. 1648. Dec. 7.]
royal apartments in Whitehall, and received the next day the thanks of the House of Commons for his distinguished services to the two kingdoms. Of his sentiments with respect to the late proceedings no doubt was entertained. If he had not suggested, he had at least been careful to applaud the conduct of the officers, and in a letter to Fairfax he blasphemously attributed it to the inspiration of the Almighty.
The government of the kingdom had now devolved in reality on the army. There were two military councils, the one select, consisting of the grandees, or principal commanders, the other general, to which the inferior officers, most of them men of levelling principles, were admitted. A suspicion existed that the former aimed at the establishment of an oligarchy: whence their advice was frequently received with jealousy and distrust, and their resolutions were sometimes negatived by the greater number of their inferiors. When any measure had received the approbation of the general council, it was carried to the House of Commons, who were expected to impart to it the sanction of their authority. With ready obedience[a] they renewed the vote of non-addresses, resolved that the re-admission of the eleven expelled members was dangerous in its consequences, and contrary to the usages of the house, and declared that the treaty in the Isle of Wight, and the approbation given to the[b] royal concessions, were dishonourable to parliament, destructive of the common good, and a breach of the public faith. But these were only preparatory measures:
[Footnote 1: Journals, Dec. 8. Whitelock, 362. Rushworth, vii. 1339.]
[Footnote 2: Journals, Dec. 3, 13, 14, 20. Whitelock, 362, 363. Clarendon Papers, ii. App. xlix.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Dec. 12.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Dec. 13.]
they were soon called upon to pass a vote, the very mention of which a few years before would have struck the boldest among them with astonishment and terror.
It had long been the conviction of the officers that the life of the king was incompatible with their safety. If he were restored, they would become the objects of royal vengeance; if he were detained in prison, the public tranquillity would be disturbed by a succession of plots in his favour. In private assassination there was something base and cowardly from which the majority revolted; but to bring him to public justice, was to act openly and boldly; it was to proclaim their confidence in the goodness of their cause; to give to the world a splendid proof of the sovereignty of the people and of the responsibility of kings.[a] When the motion was made in the Commons, a few ventured to oppose it, not so much with the hope of saving the life of Charles, as for the purpose of transferring the odium of his death on its real authors. They suggested that the person of the king was sacred; that history afforded no precedent of a sovereign compelled to plead before a court of judicature composed of his own subjects; that measures of vengeance could only serve to widen the bleeding wounds of the country; that it was idle to fear any re-action in favour of the monarch, and it was now time to settle on a permanent basis the liberties of the country. But their opponents were clamorous, obstinate, and menacing. The king, they maintained, was the capital delinquent; justice required that he should suffer as well as the minor offenders. He had been guilty of treason against the people, it remained for their representatives to bring
[Footnote 1: Clarendon, Hist. iii. 249.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Dec. 29.]
him to punishment; he had shed the blood of man, God made it a duty to demand his blood in return. The opposition was silenced; and a committee of thirty-eight members was appointed to receive information and to devise the most eligible manner of proceeding. Among the more influential names were those of Widdrington and Whitelock, Scot and Marten. But the first two declined to attend; and, when the clerk brought them a summons, retired into the country.
[a]At the recommendation of this committee, the house passed a vote declaratory of the law, that it was high treason in the king of England, for the time being, to levy war against the parliament and kingdom of England; and this was followed up with an ordinance erecting a high court of justice to try the question of fact, whether Charles Stuart, king of England, had or had not been guilty of the treason described in the preceding vote. But the subserviency of the Commons was not imitated by the Lords. They saw the approaching ruin of their own order in the fall of the sovereign; and when the vote and ordinance were transmitted to their house, they rejected both without a dissentient voice, and then adjourned for a week.[b] This unexpected effort surprised, but did not disconcert, the Independents.[c] They prevailed on the Commons to vote that the people are the origin of all just power, and from this theoretical truth proceeded to deduce two practical falsehoods. As if no portion of that power had been delegated to the king and the lords, they determined that “the Commons of England assembled in parliament, being chosen by and representing the people, have the supreme authority:” and thence inferred
[Footnote 1: Journals, Dec. 23. Whitelock, 363.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1649. Jan. 1.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1649. Jan. 2.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1649. Jan. 4.]
that “whatsoever is enacted and declared for law by the Commons in parliament hath force of law, and concludes all the people of the nation, although the consent and concurrence of the king and the House of Peers be not had thereunto.” But even in that hypothesis, how could the house, constituted as it then was, claim to be the representative of the people? It was in fact the representative of the army only, and not a free but an enslaved representative, bound to speak with the voice, and to enregister the decrees of its masters. Two days later an act for the trial of the king was passed by the authority of the Commons only.
In the mean while Cromwell continued to act his accustomed part. Whenever he rose in the house, it was to recommend moderation, to express the doubts which agitated his mind, to protest that, if he assented to harsh and ungracious measures, he did it with reluctance, and solely in obedience to the will of the Almighty. Of his conduct during the debate on the king’s trial we have no account; but when it was suggested to dissolve the upper house, and transfer its members to that of the Commons, he characterized the proposal as originating in revolutionary phrensy; and, on the introduction of a bill to alter the form of the great seal, adopted a language which strongly marks the hypocrisy of the man, though it was calculated to make impression on the fanatical minds of his hearers.[a] “Sir,” said he, addressing the speaker, “if any man whatsoever have carried on this design of deposing the king, and disinheriting his posterity, or if any man have still such a design, he must be the greatest
[Footnote 1: Journals, x. 641. Commons, Jan. 1, 2, 4, 6. Hitherto the Lords had seldom exceeded seven in number; but on this occasion they amounted to fourteen–Leicester’s Journal, 47.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1649. Jan. 9.]
traitor and rebel in the world; but since the providence of God has cast this upon us, I cannot but submit to Providence, though I am not yet prepared to give you my advice."
The lord general, on the contrary, began to assume a more open and a bolder tone. Hitherto, instead of leading, he had been led. That he disapproved of much that had been done, we may readily believe; but he only records his own weakness, where he alleges in excuse of his conduct that his name had been subscribed to the resolves of the council, whether he consented or not. He had lately shed the blood of two gallant officers at Colchester, but no solicitations could induce him to concur in shedding the blood of the king. His name stood at the head of the commissioners: he attended at the first meeting, in which no business was transacted, but he constantly refused to be present at their subsequent sittings, or to subscribe his name to their resolutions.[A] This conduct surprised and mortified the Independents: it probably arose from the influence of his wife, whose desperate
[Footnote 1: For Cromwell’s conduct see the letters in the Appendix to the second volume of the Clarendon Papers, 1. li. The authenticity of this speech has been questioned, as resting solely on the treacherous credit of Perrinchiefe; but it occurs in a letter written on the 11th of January, which describes the proceedings of the 9th, and therefore cannot, I think, be questioned. By turning to the Journals, it will be found that on that day the house had divided on a question whether any more messages should be received from the Lords, which was carried, in opposition to Ludlow and Marten. “Then,” says the letter, “they fell on the business of the king’s trial.” On this head nothing is mentioned in the Journals; but a motion which would cause frequent allusions to it, was made and carried. It was for a new great seal, on which should be engraven the House of Commons, with this inscription:–"In the first year of freedom, by God’s blessing restored, 1648.” Such a motion would naturally introduce Cromwell’s speech respecting the deposition of the king and the disherison of his posterity.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1649. Jan. 3.]
loyalty will soon challenge the attention of the reader.
Before this the king, in anticipation of his subsequent trial, had been removed to the palace of St.[a] James’s. In the third week of his confinement in Hurst Castle, he was suddenly roused out of his sleep at midnight by the fall of the drawbridge and the trampling of horses. A thousand frightful ideas rushed on his mind, and at an early hour in the morning, he desired his servant Herbert to ascertain the cause; but every mouth was closed, and Herbert returned with the scanty information that a Colonel Harrison had arrived. At the name the king turned pale, hastened into the closet, and sought to relieve his terrors by private devotion. In a letter which he had received at Newport, Harrison had been pointed out to him as a man engaged to take his life. His alarm, however, was unfounded. Harrison was a fanatic, but no murderer: he sought, indeed, the blood of the king, but it was his wish that it should be shed by the axe of the executioner, not by the dagger of the assassin. He had been appointed to superintend the removal of the royal captive, and had come to arrange matters with the governor, of whose fidelity some suspicion existed. Keeping himself private during the days he departed in the night; and two days later Charles was conducted with a numerous[b] escort to the royal palace of Windsor.
Hitherto, notwithstanding his confinement, the king had always been served with the usual state; but at Windsor his meat was brought to table uncovered and[c] by the hands of the soldiers; no say was given; no
[Footnote 1: Nalson, Trial of Charles I. Clarendon Papers, ii. App. ii.]
[Footnote 2: Herbert, 131-136, Rushworth, vii. 1375.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1648. Dec. 18.] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1648. Dec. 23.] [Sidenote c: A.D. 1648. Dec. 27.]
cup presented on the knee. This absence of ceremony made on the unfortunate monarch a deeper impression than could have been expected. It was, he said, the denial of that to him, which by ancient custom was due to many of his subjects; and rather than submit to the humiliation, he chose to diminish the number of the dishes, and to take his meals in private. Of the proceedings against him he received no official intelligence; but he gleaned the chief particulars through the inquiries of Herbert, and in casual conversation with Witchcott the governor. The information was sufficient to appal the stoutest heart; but Charles was of a most sanguine temperament, and though he sought to fortify his mind against the worst, he still cherished a hope that these menacing preparations were only intended to extort from him the resignation of his crown. He relied on the interposition of the Scots, the intercession of foreign powers, and the attachment of many of his English subjects. He persuaded himself that his very enemies would blush to shed the blood of their sovereign; and that their revenge would be appeased, and their ambition sufficiently gratified, by the substitution in his place of one of his younger children on the throne.
But these were the dreams of a man who sought to allay his fears by voluntary delusions. The princes of Europe looked with cold indifference on his fate. The king of Spain during the whole contest had maintained a friendly correspondence with the parliament. Frederic III. king of Denmark, though he was his
[Footnote 1: Herbert, 155, 157. Whitelock, 365. Sir John Temple attributed his tranquillity “to a strange conceit of Ormond’s working for him in Ireland. He still hangs upon that twigg; and by the enquireys he made after his and Inchiquin’s conjunction, I see he will not be beaten off it."–In Leicester’s Journal, 48.]
cousin-german, made no effort to save his life; and Henrietta could obtain for him no interposition from France, where the infant king had been driven from his capital by civil dissension, and she herself depended for subsistence on the charity of the Cardinal de Retz, the leader of the Fronde. The Scottish parliament, indeed, made a feeble effort in his favour. The commissioners subscribed a protest against the proceedings of the Commons, by whom it was never answered; and argued the case with Cromwell, who referred them to the covenant, and maintained, that if it was their duty to punish the malignants in general, it was still more so to punish him who was the chief of the malignants.
As the day of trial approached, Charles resigned the hopes which he had hitherto indulged; and his removal to Whitehall admonished him to prepare for that important scene on which he was soon to appear. Without information or advice, he could only resolve to maintain the port and dignity of a king, to refuse the authority of his judges, and to commit no act unworthy of his exalted rank and that of his ancestors.[a] On the 20th of January the commissioners appointed by the act assembled in the painted chamber, and proceeded in state to the upper end of Westminster Hall.[b] A chair of crimson velvet had been placed for the lord president, John Bradshaw, serjeant-at-law; the others, to the number of sixty-six, ranged themselves on either side, on benches covered with scarlet; at the feet of the president sat two clerks at a table on which lay the sword and the mace; and directly opposite stood a chair intended for the king. After the preliminary
[Footnote 1: Memoirs of Retz, i. 261.]
[Footnote 2: Journals, Jan. 6, 22, 23. Parl. Hist. iii. 1277. Burnett’s Own Times, i. 42.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1649. Jan 19] [Sidenote b: A.D. 1649. Jan 20]
formalities of reading the commission, and calling over the members, Bradshaw ordered the prisoner to be introduced.
Charles was received at the door by the serjeant-at-arms, and conducted by him within the bar. His step was firm, his countenance erect and unmoved. He did not uncover; but first seated himself, then rose, and surveyed the court with an air of superiority, which abashed and irritated his enemies. While the clerk read the charge, he appeared to listen with indifference; but a smile of contempt was seen to quiver on his lips at the passage which described him as a “tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public and implacable enemy to the commonwealth of England.” At the conclusion Bradshaw called on him to answer; but he demanded by what lawful authority he had been brought thither. He was king of England; he acknowledged no superior upon earth; and the crown, which he had received from his ancestors, he would transmit unimpaired by any act of his to his posterity. His case, moreover, was the case of all the people of England; for if force without law could alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom, there was no man who could be secure of his life or liberty for an hour. He was told that the court sat by the authority of the House of
[Footnote 1: The commissioners according to the act (for bills passed by the Commons alone were now denominated acts), were in number 133, chosen out of the lower house, the inns of court, the city, and the army. In one of their first meetings they chose Bradshaw for their president. He was a native of Cheshire, bred to the bar, had long practised in the Guildhall, and had lately before been made serjeant. In the first list of commissioners his name did not occur; but on the rejection of the ordinance by the upper house, the names of six lords were erased, and his name with those of five others was substituted. He obtained for the reward of his services the estate of Lord Cottington, the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster, and the office of president of the council.]
Commons. But where, he asked, were the Lords? Were the Commons the whole legislature? Were they free? Were they a court of judicature? Could they confer on others a jurisdiction which they did not possess themselves? He would never acknowledge an usurped authority. It was a duty imposed upon him by the Almighty to disown every lawless power, that invaded either the rights of the crown or the liberties of the subject. Such was the substance of his discourse, delivered on three different days, and amidst innumerable interruptions from the president, who would not suffer the jurisdiction of the court to be questioned, and at last ordered the “default and contempt of the prisoner” to be recorded.
The two following days the court sat in private, to receive evidence that the king had commanded in several engagements, and to deliberate on the form of judgment to be pronounced.[a] On the third Bradshaw took his seat, dressed in scarlet; and Charles immediately demanded to be heard. He did not mean, he said, on this occasion either to acknowledge or deny the authority of the court; his object was to ask a favour, which would spare them the commission of a great crime, and restore the blessing of tranquillity to his people. He asked permission to confer with a joint committee of the Lords and Commons. The president replied that the proposal was not altogether new, though it was now made for the first time by the king himself; that it pre-supposed the existence of an authority co-ordinate with that of the Commons, which could not be admitted; that its object could only be to delay the proceedings of the court, now that judgment was to be pronounced. Here he was interrupted by the earnest expostulation of Colonel Downes, one of the members. The king was immediately
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1649. Jan. 27.]
removed; the commissioners adjourned into a neighbouring apartment, and almost an hour was spent in private and animated debate. Had the conference been granted, Charles would have proposed (so at least it was understood) to resign the crown in favour of the prince of Wales.
When the court resumed, Bradshaw announced to him the refusal of his request, and proceeded to animadvert in harsh and unfeeling language on the principal events of his reign. The meek spirit of the prisoner was roused; he made an attempt to speak, but was immediately silenced with the remark, that the time for his defence was past; that he had spurned the numerous opportunities offered to him by the indulgence of the court; and that nothing remained for his judges but to pronounce sentence; for they had learned from holy writ that “to acquit the guilty was of equal abomination as to condemn the innocent.” The charge was again read, and was followed by the judgment, “that the court, being satisfied in conscience that he, the said Charles Stuart, was guilty of the crimes of which he had been accused, did adjudge him as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good people of the nation, to be put to death by severing his head from his body.” The king heard it in silence, sometimes smiling with contempt, sometimes raising his eyes to heaven, as if he appealed from the malice of men to the justice of the Almighty. At the conclusion the commissioners rose in a body to testify their assent, and Charles made a last and more earnest effort to speak; but Bradshaw ordered him to be removed, and the guards hurried him out of the hall.
[Footnote 1: See the Trial of Charles Stuart, with additions by Nalson, folio, London, 1735.]
During this trial a strong military force had been kept under arms to suppress any demonstration of popular feeling in favour of the king. On the first day, when the name of Fairfax, as one of the commissioners, was called, a female voice cried from the gallery, “He has more wit than to be here.” On another occasion, when Bradshaw attributed the charge against the king to the consentient voice of the people of England, the same female voice exclaimed, “No, not one-tenth of the people.” A faint murmur of approbation followed, but was instantly suppressed by the military. The speaker was recognised to be Lady Fairfax, the wife of the commander-in-chief; and these affronts, probably on that account, were suffered to pass unnoticed.
When Coke, the solicitor-general, opened the pleadings, the king gently tapped him on the shoulder with his cane, crying, “Hold, hold.” At the same moment the silver head of the cane fell off, and rolled on the floor. It was an accident which might have happened at any time; but in this superstitions age it could not fail to be taken for an omen. Both his friends and enemies interpreted it as a presage of his approaching decapitation.
On one day, as the king entered the court, he heard behind him the cry of “Justice, justice;” on another, as he passed between two lines of soldiers, the word “execution” was repeatedly sounded in his ears. He bore these affronts with patience, and on
[Footnote 1: Nalson’s Trial. Clarendon, iii. 254. State Trials, 366, 367, 368, folio, 1730.]
[Footnote 2: Nalson. Herbert, 165. “He seemed unconcerned; yet told the bishop, it really made a great impression on him; and to this hour, says he, I know not possibly how it should come."–Warwick, 340.]
his return said to Herbert, “I am well assured that the soldiers bear me no malice. The cry was suggested by their officers, for whom they would do the like if there were occasion."
On his return from the hall, men and women crowded behind the guards, and called aloud, “God preserve your majesty.” But one of the soldiers venturing to say, “God bless you, Sir,” received a stroke on the head from an officer with his cane. “Truly,” observed the king, “I think the punishment exceeded the offence."
By his conduct during these proceedings, Charles had exalted his character even in the estimation of his enemies: he had now to prepare himself for a still more trying scene, to nerve his mind against the terrors of a public and ignominious death. But he was no longer the man he had been before the civil war. Affliction had chastened his mind; he had learned from experience to submit to the visitations of Providence; and he sought and found strength and relief in the consolations of religion. The next day, the Sunday, was spent by him at St. James’s, by the commissioners at Whitehall.[a] They observed a fast, preached on the judgments of God, and prayed for a blessing on the commonwealth. He devoted his time to devotional exercises in the company of Herbert and of Dr. Juxon, bishop of London, who at the request of Hugh Peters (and it should be recorded to the honour of that fanatical preacher) had been permitted to attended the monarch. His nephew the prince elector, the duke of Richmond, the marquess of Hertford, and several other noblemen, came to the door of his bedchamber, to pay their last respects to
[Footnote 1: Herbert, 163, 164.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid. 163, 165.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1649. Jan. 28.]
their sovereign; but they were told in his name that he thanked them for their attachment, and desired their prayers; that the shortness of his time admonished him to think of another world; and that the only moments which he could spare must be given to his children. These were two, the Princess Elizabeth and the duke of Gloucester, the former wept for her father’s fate; the latter, too young to understand the cause, joined his tears through sympathy. Charles placed them on his knees, gave them such advice as was adapted to their years, and seemed to derive pleasure from the pertinency of their answers. In conclusion, he divided a few jewels between them, kissed them, gave them his blessings and hastily retired to his devotions.
On the last night of his life he slept soundly about four hours, and early in the morning[a] awakened Herbert, who lay on a pallet by his bed-side. “This,” he said, “is my second marriage-day. I would be as trim as may be; for before night I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.” He then pointed out the clothes which he meant to wear, and ordered two shirts, on account of the severity of the weather; “For,” he observed, “were I to shake through cold, my enemies would attribute it to fear, I would have no such imputation. I fear not death. Death is not terrible to me. I bless my God I am prepared."
[Footnote 1: Herbert, 169-180. State Trials, 357-360.]
[Footnote 2: Herbert, 183-185, I may here insert an anecdote, which seems to prove that Charles attributed his misfortunes in a great measure to the counsels of Archbishop Laud. On the last night of his life, he had observed that Herbert was restless during his sleep, and in the morning insisted on knowing the cause. Herbert answered that he was dreaming. He saw Laud enter the room; the king took him aside, and spoke to him with a pensive countenance; the archbishop sighed, retired, and fell prostrate on the ground. Charles replied, “It is very remarkable; but he is dead. Yet had we conferred together during life, ’tis very likely (albeit I loved him well) I should have said something to him, might have occasioned his sigh."–Herbert’s Letter to Dr. Samways, published at the end of his Memoirs, p. 220.]
[Sidenote a: A.D. 1649. Jan. 30.]
The king spent an hour in privacy with the bishop; Herbert was afterwards admitted; and about ten o’clock Colonel Hacker announced that it was time to proceed to Whitehall. He obeyed, was conducted on foot, between two detachments of military, across the park, and received permission to repose himself in his former bedchamber. Dinner had been prepared for him; but he refused to eat, though afterwards, at the solicitation of the bishop, he took the half of a manchet and a glass of wine. Here he remained almost two hours, in constant expectation of the last summons, spending his time partly in prayer and partly in discourse with Dr. Juxon. There might have been nothing mysterious in the delay; if there was, it may perhaps be explained from the following circumstances.
Four days had now elapsed since the arrival of ambassadors from the Hague to intercede in his favour. It was only on the preceding evening that they had obtained audiences of the two houses, and hitherto no answer had been returned. In their company came Seymour, the bearer of two letters from the prince of Wales, one addressed to the king, the other to the Lord Fairfax. He had already delivered the letter, and with it a sheet of blank paper subscribed with the name and sealed with the arms of the prince. It was the price which he offered to the grandees of the army for the life of his father. Let them fill it up with the conditions: whatever they might be, they were already granted; his seal and signature were affixed. It is not improbable that this offer may have induced the leaders to pause. That Fairfax laboured to postpone the execution, was always asserted by his friends; and we have evidence to prove that, though he was at Whitehall, he knew not, or at least pretend not to know, what was passing.
In the mean while Charles enjoyed the consolation of learning that his son had not forgotten him in his distress. By the indulgence of Colonel Tomlinson, Seymour was admitted, delivered the letter, and received the royal instructions for the prince. He was hardly gone, when Hacker arrived with the fatal summons. About two o’clock the king proceeded through the long gallery, lined on each side with soldiers, who, far from insulting the fallen monarch, appeared by their sorrowful looks to sympathize with his fate. At the end an aperture had been made in the wall, through which he stepped at once upon the scaffold. It was hung with black; at the farther end were seen the two executioners, the block, and the axe; below
[Footnote 1: For the arrival of the ambassadors see the Journals of the House of Commons on the 26th. A fac-simile of the carte-blanche, with the signature of the prince, graces the title-page of the third volume of the Original Letters, published by Mr. Ellis.]
[Footnote 2: “Mean time they went into the long gallery, where, chancing to meet the general, he ask’d Mr. Herbert how the king did? Which he thought strange.... His question being answered, the general seem’d much surprised."–Herbert, 194. It is difficult to believe that Herbert could have mistaken or fabricated such a question, or that Fairfax would have asked it, had he known what had taken place. To his assertion that Fairfax was with the officers in Harrison’s room, employed in “prayer or discourse,” it has been objected that his name does not occur among the names of those who were proved to have been there at the trial of the regicides. But that is no contradiction. The witnesses speak of what happened before, Herbert of what happened during, the execution. See also Ellis, 2nd series, iii. 345.]
appeared in arms several regiments of horse and foot; and beyond, as far as the eye was permitted to reach, waved a dense and countless crowd of spectators. The king stood collected and undismayed amidst the apparatus of death. There was in his countenance that cheerful intrepidity, in his demeanour that dignified calmness, which had characterized, in the hall of Fotheringay, his royal grandmother, Mary Stuart. It was his wish to address the people; but they were kept beyond the reach of his voice by the swords of the military; and therefore confining his discourse to the few persons standing with him on the scaffold, he took, he said, that opportunity of denying in the presence of his God the crimes of which he had been accused. It was not to him, but to the houses of parliament, that the war and all its evils should be charged. The parliament had first invaded the rights of the crown by claiming the command of the army; and had provoked hostilities by issuing commissions for the levy of forces, before he had raised a single man. But he had forgiven all, even those, whoever they were (for he did not desire to know their names), who had brought him to his death. He did more than forgive them, he prayed that they might repent. But for that purpose they must do three things; they must render to God his due, by settling the church according to the Scripture; they must restore to the crown those rights which belonged to it by law; and they must teach the people the distinction between the sovereign and the subject; those persons could not be governors who were to be governed, they could not rule, whose duty it was to obey. Then, in allusion to the offers formerly made to him by the army, he concluded with, these words:–"Sirs, it was for the liberties of the people that I am come here. If I would have assented to an arbitrary sway, to have all things changed according to the power of the sword, I needed not to have come hither; and therefore, I tell you (and I pray God it be not laid to your charge), that I am the martyr of the people.”
Having added, at the suggestion of Dr. Juxon, “I die a Christian according to the profession of the church of England, as I found it left me by my father,” he said, addressing himself to the prelate, “I have on my side a good cause, and a gracious God.”
BISHOP.–There is but one stage more; it is turbulent and troublesome, but a short one. It will carry you from earth to heaven, and there you will find joy and comfort.
KING.–I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown.
BISHOP.–You exchange an earthly for an eternal crown–a good exchange.
Being ready, he bent his neck on the block, and after a short pause, stretched out his hand as a signal. At that instant the axe descended; the head rolled from the body; and a deep groan burst from the multitude of the spectators. But they had no leisure to testify their feelings; two troops of horse dispersed them in different directions.
[Footnote 1: Herbert, 189-194. Warwick, 344. Nalson, Trial of Charles Stuart. The royal corpse, having been embalmed, was after some days delivered to the earl of Richmond for private interment at Windsor. That nobleman, accompanied by the marquess of Hertford, the earls of Southampton and Lindsey, Dr. Juxon, and a few of the king’s attendants, deposited it in a vault in the choir of St. George’s chapel, which already contained the remains of Henry VIII. and of his third queen, Jane Seymour.–Herbert, 203. Blencowe, Sydney Papers, 64. Notwithstanding such authority, the assertion of Clarendon that the place could not be discovered threw some doubt upon the subject. But in 1813 it chanced that the workmen made an aperture in a vault corresponding in situation, and occupied by three coffins; and the prince-regent ordered an investigation to ascertain the truth. One of the coffins, in conformity with the account of Herbert, was of lead, with a leaden scroll in which were cut the words “King Charles.” In the upper lid of this an opening was made; and when the cerecloth and unctuous matter were removed, the features of the face, as far as they could be distinguished, bore a strong resemblance to the portraits of Charles I. To complete the proof, the head was found to have been separated from the trunk by some sharp instrument, which had cut through the fourth, vertebra of the neck.–See “An Account of what appeared on opening the coffin of King Charles I. by Sir Henry Halford, bart.” 1813. It was observed at the same time, that “the lead coffin of Henry VIII. had been beaten in about the middle, and a considerable opening in that part exposed a mere skeleton of the king.” This may, perhaps, be accounted for from a passage in Herbert, who tells us that while the workmen were employed about the inscription, the chapel was cleared, but a soldier contrived to conceal himself, descended into the vault, cut off some of the velvet pall, and “wimbled a hole into the largest coffin.” He was caught, and “a bone was found about him, which, he said, he would haft a knife with."–Herbert 204. See note (C).]
Such was the end of the unfortunate Charles Stuart; an awful lesson to the possessors of royalty, to watch the growth of public opinion, and to moderate their pretensions in conformity with the reasonable desires of their subjects. Had he lived at a more early period, when the sense of wrong was quickly subdued by the habit of submission, his reign would probably have been marked with fewer violations of the national liberties. It was resistance that made him a tyrant. The spirit of the people refused to yield to the encroachments of authority; and one act of oppression placed him under the necessity of committing another, till he had revived and enforced all those odious prerogatives, which, though usually claimed, were but sparingly exercised, by his predecessors. For some years his efforts seemed successful; but the Scottish insurrection revealed the delusion; he had parted with the real authority of a king, when he forfeited the confidence and affection of his subjects.
But while we blame the illegal measures of Charles, we ought not to screen from censure the subsequent conduct of his principal opponents. From the moment that war seemed inevitable, they acted as if they thought themselves absolved from all obligations of honour and honesty. They never ceased to inflame the passions of the people by misrepresentation and calumny; they exercised a power far more arbitrary and formidable than had ever been claimed by the king; they punished summarily, on mere suspicion, and without attention to the forms of law; and by their committees they established in every county a knot of petty tyrants, who disposed at will of the liberty and property of the inhabitants. Such anomalies may, perhaps, be inseparable from the jealousies, the resentments, and the heart-burnings, which are engendered in civil commotions; but certain it is that right and justice had seldom been more wantonly outraged, than they were by those who professed to have drawn the sword in the defence of right and justice.
Neither should the death of Charles be attributed to the vengeance of the people. They, for the most part, declared themselves satisfied with their victory; they sought not the blood of the captive monarch; they were even, willing to replace him on the throne, under those limitations which they deemed necessary for the preservation of their rights. The men who hurried him to the scaffold were a small faction of bold and ambitious spirits, who had the address to guide the passions and fanaticism of their followers, and were enabled through them to control the real sentiments of the nation. Even of the commissioners appointed to sit in judgment on the king, scarcely one-half could be induced to attend at his trial; and many of those who concurred in his condemnation subscribed the sentence with feelings of shame and remorse. But so it always happens in revolutions: the most violent put themselves forward; their vigilance and activity seem to multiply their number; and the daring of the few wins the ascendancy over the indolence or the pusillanimity of the many.