King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview

5
A FOREDOOMED NEGOTIATION

AFTER this defiantly flaunted abomination, it would have been too much even for Charles to have entertained any but the faintest hope of success from the forthcoming peace conference. Before it had assembled he had written to the Queen bidding her warn the French court of "the improbability that the present treaty should produce a peace, considering the great, strange difference ... between the Rebels' propositions and mine".

And no wonder, since the Parliamentary Commissioners had been instructed to negotiate on the basis of the demands already presented at Oxford which were so drafted as to deprive the King of his sovereignty, his honour, his Church, his friends, and even the rights enjoyed by the humblest of his subjects, for his children were to be taken out of his control and educated by whomever his masters saw fit to appoint, his daughters made wards of Parliament in the sense that they were not to be allowed to marry without the consent of its controllers--the sons being merely restricted to certified Protestant brides. The Parliamentary bosses were to have the absolute right of appointing the King's ministers, and the control of his forces on land and sea. The Church was to be swept away, and the Presbyterian yoke imposed on the country--every citizen from the King downwards being forced to take the Covenant. The King himself was expected to cooperate in the proscription and plunder of all who had presumed to be true to him. Nothing was forgotten that could deepen his shame or add to his humiliation. The titles he had granted were to be cancelled, the truce he had arranged in Ireland repudiated. Such items were thrown in as an Act for the "due observance of the Lord's Day"--the conversion, that is, of the Christian Sunday into a Jewish Sabbath--and one for "the suppressing of interludes and stage plays, this Act to be perpetual."

That Charles, with his armies still in the field, should have been mad or base enough to subscribe to terms that even as a helpless captive he would repudiate with scorn, was not to be thought of. But he allowed not the faintest sign of what must have been his real feelings to escape him. He drafted his own counter-proposals in terms of studied moderation. He merely stipulated that such of

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