King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview

It was on the 17th of April that the King set out with his poor, sick wife on what was to be their last journey together, as far as Abingdon--the first halting place on her way to Exeter. One can dimly imagine what pain she must have suffered at every jolt of the springless conveyance over roads that were hardly more than mud tracks, and what must have been his feelings as his mind ranged back over the nineteen years of their married love, and recalled those days at Whitehall when, as would be said of an even more tragic queen, she had "glittered like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy".

Did he realize next morning as he held her in a parting embrace before setting forth at the head of his guards on the ride back to Oxford, that this time it really was good-bye, and that henceforth he would be utterly alone to the end of the journey?

Of her it is said, that after parting from him she lay in a swoon from which she did not recover until she was far on her road westward.* The story, though the authority for it is not un- impeachable, is at least in character.


6
THE KING'S STRATEGY

WHATEVER may have been his forebodings, King Charles had little time, in his headquarters at Oxford, for introspection. The departure of his Queen had set his hands free to cope--not a moment too soon--with the grim military odds that confronted him.

His trouble was that he lacked the numbers, not to speak of the equipment, to make any plan whatever more than a desperate gamble. Everything had now come to depend on the relief of York. But except for the few thousand men he had under his own hand at Oxford he could hardly, now that Newcastle was boxed up in York, have been said to possess a single field army for that or any other purpose, against the enemy's five. One would have to be improvised and of sufficient size to offer battle, with at least a possible chance of success, to the combined armies of the Alliance--which might be reckoned as totalling not far short of

____________________
*
See Henietta Maria by Carola Oman, footnote to p. 157.

-21-

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