King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview
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loss of York would mean the loss of the North, and the loss of the North--by all rational calculation--would mean the loss of the war.

Up to this point, Newcastle had played his master's game with unexceptionable correctness. He could now only sit tight for the couple of months or so his provisions would last, and trust to the King to relieve him before he was forced to capitulate. That was the problem set to Headquarters at Oxford, a problem so tough as almost to defy solution.


FOR indeed the situation on the King's military chessboard after the intervention of the Scots, was on any sane calculation one of practically certain defeat and surrender long before the close of the campaigning season, failing almost a genius for blundering on the part of his opponents, or a military miracle on his own. The utmost he could have done was what in fact he did--to play his own hand without a mistake, taking advantage of every false move, and relying for the miracle on the one commander of outstanding brilliance the war had yet produced (for nobody would as yet have thought in these terms of Cromwell), the amazing young prince whose exploits had made the name of Rupert to his own side legendary and to his opponents demoniacal.

In the New Year Prince Rupert, only stimulated by the odds piling up against his uncle's cause, had lost no time in getting to work, and in March he brought off a coup in his most dazzling style. For besides threatening York, the rebels had been able to find forces to undertake the investment of another of the King's main bases at Newark, where the Great North Road crosses the Trent. Rupert had scraped together a force for this task in the only way possible by sweeping up various Cavalier garrisons; and by one of his lightning marches, and by attacking with his cavalry alone, without even waiting for the infantry to catch up, he achieved a complete surprise. "Let the old drum on the North side be beaten early on the morrow morning", was the cipher


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