King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview
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Cropredy Bridge had been fought on the 29th of June, two days before Rupert's relief of York. So far the success of the King in executing his part of their combined strategy had been as complete as that of his nephew. He had set himself to play out time against two armies, each superior to his own, that had seemed on the very point of closing on him and crushing him. Now the King's army was not only safe, but dominant, in the Upper Thames area, and Oxford had ceased, for the nonce, to be seriously threatened, so that the King was now free to strike out himself, in whatever direction he might choose, without waiting for Rupert.

The choice was soon made. Waller was out of it for the time being; Browne had never been in it; but Essex, with all his forces intact, was moving westwards, drawing nearer and nearer to Exeter, where the Queen was having her baby. Well, if Essex would not fight the King, the King would go after Essex.


EVERYTHING now--not only the campaign but the war itself-- depended on what the next day or two would bring forth on the Yorkshire front. York was relieved, but the Grand Army of the rebellion hovered intact and unbeaten within sight of the Minster towers. And the King's orders were not only to relieve York, but to beat the rebel armies before it. Could the young hero, who had carried everything before him up to this point, achieve the decisive victory to which all the marching and fighting of these last six weeks had been leading up?

Rupert had wisely decided to halt his Cavaliers outside the city, with its only too numerous temptations to straggling and indiscipline, and it is characteristic of Newcastle that he should have put off coming in person to consult with his superior commander until the following morning. Newcastle, in fact, saw no need for hurry, or indeed for fighting. Most of his military thinking was done for him by his chief of staff (as we should now say) Lord Eythin, one of those numerous Scottish soldiers of fortune who had learnt their trade in the German wars. It was not the first time Rupert and Eythin had been comrades in arms, for in a


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