King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview
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get away from the pursuit, which was pressed almost to the gates of Leicester. Except for the cavalry everything was lost--guns, baggage, camp-followers, everything. And even such as had survived of the cavalry were reduced to half, by the fact that the Northern horse, mutinous before, had now no thought but of making the best of their way to their own part of the country, and leaving the King to shift for himself. It was a decision absolute, and without appeal. The King's main army had been knocked out of the war.


WHEN nearly three years previously, the King had hoisted his standard at Nottingham, the combat had been between the defenders of what was left of the old Constitution, and the combination of plutocratic revolutionaries that had annexed to itself the question-begging designation of "Parliament". It was ostensibly the Parliament's army that had shattered the King's at Naseby. But it was not Parliament that had scored the victory, but the army itself--for the effect of Naseby was to put it into the power of the army to make itself master of Parliament, King and nation alike, because there was no other force capable of standing up to it. That was the plain logic of the situation, and it remained to be seen whether, or when, it would be pushed to its total conclusion.

This army was no ordinary army. No effort had been spared to work it up into a state of ideological fever. It might have been thought that recruitment by compulsion would have stopped the New Model from becoming such a forcing house of Independent Puritanism as Cromwell's command had been in the Old. But the men, nearly all recruited from Puritan districts, were quick to take their tone from their officers and preachers, and now that they had come to form a united professional force instead of a fluctuating concourse of local militias, they were so much the more ready to take their tone from those already famous units that formed its acknowledged élite.

And indeed, a dreadful proof was to be given on the very evening of the battle of the way in which they were becoming


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King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649
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