King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview
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as good as told them to mind their own business. His position was not an easy one, for in the midst of a hostile area, it was hard for him to obtain intelligence of the enemy's strength or movements. He therefore waited for the situation to clarify before committing himself to any irrevocable step.

On the 12th of June all doubt was at an end. The appearance of some cavalry of Fairfax's advance guard caused the King hastily to call in his scattered detachments and draw back to a carefully chosen position near Market Harborough in which he hoped to get the enemy to attack him. Fairfax, several miles behind with the main body, was making all speed on his tracks, not even disdaining to foot slog in the mud with his infantry to silence their grousing. Early on the morning of the 13th, just as they were falling in for another day's march, there was a burst of cheering that was taken up by the whole camp, as the news spread from unit to unit that Oliver Cromwell, riding all night after them at the head of six hundred troopers, had arrived to take up his post as Lieutenant-General. The demand for him from the City, the Council of War, and the rank and file, had indeed become irresistible, and he had lost no time in satisfying it.

Things were now hurrying to the supreme crisis, but this latest event had gone far to determine the result.


ON that memorable morning of Saturday, the 14th of June, both armies were astir with the first light of dawn, the Roundheads to press what they imagined to be the pursuit, the Cavaliers to complete their preparations for receiving them. But by eight in the morning no tidings of the enemy's approach having come to Cavalier headquarters, Rupert, who could only guess at Fairfax's strength and intentions, sent forward his scoutmaster Ruce to ascertain the enemy's whereabouts.

It is an entire mistake to imagine that Rupert was spoiling for a fight at all hazards. At the Council of War, his had been the one voice in favour of a delaying policy. With an army reduced by its losses in taking Leicester and the necessity of garrisoning it to a


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