King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview

I
TERTIUM QUID

CHARLES had won the campaign, but even in winning it, he had made more certain than ever the loss of the war. For by his very success he had forced his enemies to suspend their own differences and bring the whole of their overwhelming resources into play with the sole object of destroying him.

The rebellion had originally been engineered as a means to a political end by a closely knit group of wealthy men with a clear consciousness of their own interests, but with no inconveniently positive ideal either of a religious or a political complexion. They had exploited for all it was politically worth the ideological fervour of Calvinist Protestantism among the populace, but they had had every intention of keeping it in control. Far from allowing the populace to become a law or an inspiration to itself in matters of faith and morals, they proposed to force the country into a spiritual strait waistcoat such as the most authoritarian prelate or sovereign would never have dreamed of imposing. It seems probable that they would originally have been content to do this within the framework, appropriately modified, of the existing Church, and that they were only forced into promoting a root and branch ecclesiastical revolution and finally a full-blooded Presbyterian Kirk system, by the rigour of their political game.

But this new movement that was astir in the army, and called itself Independency, was the democratic principle run riot in the spiritual sphere, and as such the flat negation of that oligarchic control which the Parliamentary bosses sought to impose on the country. A victory that deprived the King of sovereignty in order to lodge it in every unlettered and unmonied congregation where two or three enthusiasts were gathered together would, from their point of view, be worse than a defeat. The last thing they had ever intended to do was to take the sovereignty from King Charles in order to transfer it to any power but their own--least of all to that of Tom, Dick and Harry.

-73-

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