King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview
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IT was the road that passes through Calbourne to Freshwater that the little cavalcade with its attendant troopers must have taken, in order to avoid the then unbridged Yar; a tedious and a dismal drive, over a surface barely negotiable, after the night's rain, by the lumbering vehicles containing the King and the dozen or so attendants that were all they had allowed him to retain of his suite. Whatever may have been his thoughts, he showed no sign of discomposure, chatting with his gentlemen, Harrington and Herbert, and smiling at their attempts to guess their destination. From Freshwater they struck north to reach the coast opposite Hurst Castle. On the lonely stretch of beach between Sconce Point and Cliff End there stood another and smaller fortress, of which all traces have long disappeared, called Worsley's Tower. To this inhospitable lodging they consigned the King while a boat was being fetched from Yarmouth Harbour to take him across the Solent, and we have Herbert's statement--which even of the shipping of those days one finds a little hard to believe-- that with wind and tide favourable, the crossing took three hours.

Arrive they did however quite soon enough, for a more dolorous prospect it would have been hard to imagine than that presented under the leaden sky of a mid-winter evening by the isolated stone structure, compact and grey with its enormously thick walls, pierced by embrasures so narrow as to make perpetual night within, so that in the King's apartments they had to burn candles at noonday. It had the advantage, however, from the standpoint of his captors, of forming a perfectly escape-proof prison, or condemned cell, until such time as the preparations were complete for his final elimination.

Even more forbidding than the aspect of the fortress, was that of its acting commandant,* who stood waiting to receive them on the landing stage; a ferocious looking desperado with bushy black hair, a huge black beard, a partizan grasped in his hand and a long sword with a great basket hilt, Swiss fashion, at his side. He was doubtless one of the New Model ranker promotions, and

The real commandant, Colonel Eyre, seems to have been away at the time of the King's arrival.


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