King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview

of uniting with Essex, and turn his face Northwards. Early in May, therefore, he started to mop up the insignificant garrisons which were all the Cavaliers had been able to spare for their recent conquests in Lincolnshire, storming Lincoln itself, and forcing the Trent at Gainsborough. Thence, moving with his accustomed deliberation, he entered Yorkshire and on June the 3rd added his army to the two that were already investing York. It was the mightiest concentration of force as yet made by either side in this war, and it boded ill for the fate of Newcastle's devoted garrison.


4
A DESPERATE SITUATION

IT had come to this: York was incapable of holding out much beyond the end of June--indeed on the 14th of that month Newcastle put out an offer to capitulate on terms, failing relief within 20 days. If York were to go, that would mean the loss of the North, and without the North the King could not reasonably hope to survive for more than a very few months. York therefore must, at all costs and without delay, be relieved. Easy enough to say--but the King had no field army remotely capable of standing up to the three that were investing it. One would have to be improvised under the only possible commander, Rupert, by sweeping up every man, horse and gun that the scattered and ill- equipped Cavalier forces could be made to yield--scraping the bottom of the military pot. But this could only be done at the cost of so fatally depleting the King's own strength in the central theatre as to render it feasible for the two remaining Roundhead armies, those of Essex and Waller, to close like a pair of nutcrackers on Oxford, while Rupert was far away struggling through the passes of the Pennines, or at death grips outside York with the superior forces of its besiegers.

That was the King's unescapable choice: whether to leave York to its fate, or whether to expose himself and his temporary capital to a mortal blow from which nothing could save him but the omission of his enemies to deliver it.

Meanwhile in whatever direction he looked, there was nothing to offer a gleam of consolation. On every front signs were manifest

-16-

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