King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview

to see, on Rowton Heath. It ought to have been a complete victory, but the principal support on which he had to rely was that same northern horse of Sir Marmaduke Langdale that had let him down so badly in the Naseby operations. These, when the game seemed in the King's hands, simply turned tail and bolted. It was the sort of thing he had to expect now.

To stop in Chester now would only have entailed being captured with it, and the way to the north was barred by the victorious Roundheads--fortunately so, since within the next few days, while the King was trying a brief diversion into North Wales, came the news that the last hope had gone. As soon as Montrose, having established himself as the King's Lieutenant in the Lowlands, had made it clear that he had come to govern and not to plunder them, his Highland army had vanished, and left him with no more than what was his original nucleus of Irish regulars. This devoted handful was overwhelmed by David Leslie's returning cavalry, and after having been admitted to quarter, was slaughtered in cold blood, under the pitiless auspices of the Kirk, to the last man, with all its accompanying women. Montrose was a fugitive without an army, and Scotland more lost than ever.

It was particularly observed at this time that the King showed not the faintest outward sign of discouragement or depression. He might have been conducting a victorious campaign, to judge by his demeanour. Now that he had recovered from the shock of Rupert's failure, he had resumed the almost superhuman self- control that except for the briefest lapses, he was to preserve to the end. There was now nothing for it but to stave off the final collapse for as long as possible, and trust for some miracle to save him--or perhaps for the rebels to start fighting among themselves, an ultimately inevitable contingency.


15
MEETING AND RECONCILIATION

THERE could be no question now of saving Chester. The King could only leave Byron to hold out as long as he could, and set out again on his hopeless pilgrimage, again making for Newark, through which he had passed on a similar quest little more than

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