King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview

17
HOBSON'S CHOICE

FEW men, in so desperate a situation as King Charles in these early months of 1646, would have failed to sink into a mood of black depression. But the face that he presented to the world was one of serenity and even cheerfulness. When he unlocked his heart in the most intimate confidence, in his letters to the Queen, he might have been playing a winning hand for anything he signified to the contrary.

"Dear heart," he had written, by way of a New Year's greeting, "... take notice that with the year I begin to number my letters, hoping to begin the year with a course of good luck."

No harm in hoping, he may perhaps have thought; and it would at any rate help to revive her drooping spirits. But as his letter to Rupert, five months before, had plainly intimated, he was under no real illusion, and what hope he still cherished was, as he had then said, to end his days with honour and a good conscience. And since he had written these words his prospects had palpably and catastrophically worsened.

There was, indeed, only one possible chance of saving the cause he had at heart, without offering himself as its victim. The forces of the rebellion were now far beyond his power to cope with, so long as they remained united--but how long would they? Charles, who had more continuous experience as a statesman than any of his subjects, was not likely to overlook what was becoming the common talk of his whole realm--that the rebel combination was becoming more and more divided against itself, and tending to fall apart into three mutually hostile elements: namely Parliament--or rather its chiefs at Westminster--the still ostensibly obedient but increasingly disgruntled New Model Army, and their snubbed and disillusioned Scottish ally.

The King would have needed to have been an abysmal simpleton not to have sensed this new turn of events, or to have shaped his own course in the light of it. Certainly from his point of view it would afford some hope that when thieves fall out, honest men may come by their own.

Such an attitude would have been no doubt prejudiced-- though in the chase after the plunder of his Church and his

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King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xiii
  • I - The Clinch 1
  • I - The Court at Oxford 3
  • 3 - Newark and Cheriton 7
  • 4 - A Desperate Situation 11
  • 5 - Adieu! 16
  • 6 - The King's Strategy 19
  • 7 - A Night March 21
  • 8 - Rupert's Flank March Through Lancashire 25
  • 9 - The Relief of York and Cropredy Bridge 30
  • 10 - Marston Moor--The Challenge 33
  • II - Marston Moor--The Decision 36
  • 12 - The Escape of the Queen 50
  • 14 - Second Newbury and the Cavalier Recovery 54
  • 15 - Artist as General 58
  • II - Defeat 71
  • I - Tertium Quid 73
  • 3 - "Three Things I Will Not Part With" 76
  • 4 - The Liquidation of the Primate 81
  • 5 - A Foredoomed Negotiation 88
  • 6 - An Irish Imbroglio 92
  • 9 - Prelude to Naseby 97
  • 10 - Naseby 102
  • 12 - The King's Cabinet Rifled 112
  • 13 - The King Takes His Stand 116
  • 15 - Meeting and Reconciliation 124
  • 16 - Last Days at Oxford 130
  • 17 - Hobson's Choice 141
  • III - Captivity 149
  • I - Confidence Trick 151
  • 2 - Third Degree at Newcastle 155
  • 4 - "Barbarously Baited" 159
  • 5 - Foreshadowing Martyrdom 162
  • 6 - A King for Cash 168
  • 7 - Holdenby Backwater 171
  • 8 - The Mutiny of the New Model 173
  • 9 - The Commission of Cornet Joyce 178
  • 10 - The King at Newmarket 189
  • 15 - The Fall of London 203
  • 16 - Cromwell on the Turn 208
  • 17 - A Darkening Prospect 219
  • 18 - Escape from Prison 224
  • 21 - The Engagement with the Scots 232
  • 22 - The Trap Shuts 244
  • 24 - Escape Barred 247
  • 26 - Jane Whorwood 256
  • IV - Martyrdom 285
  • I - The Train is Laid 287
  • 3 - Hurst Castle and Pride's Purge 295
  • 4 - Journey to Windsor 299
  • 6 - Conspiracy to Murder 301
  • 7 - High Court of Justice 308
  • 8 - By What Authority? 313
  • 13 - Cromwell Takes Charge 344
  • 14 - Preparation for Death 348
  • 16 - "Cruel Necessity" 354
  • Appendices 369
  • Index 381
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