King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview

Introduction

THE very mention of Charles the Martyr is notoriously a reaction stimulus, or slogan, of the most thought-killing kind. It is, however, a title so uniquely appropriate to this concluding act of the King's tragedy, as to leave practically no alternative. That he did, in fact, after the failure of his appeal in arms to the country, elect to take the way of martyrdom constitutes the vital point of the story and gives it its human and historical significance. It was Charles the King whose power was smashed, beyond hope of recovery, on Naseby field. It was Charles the Martyr who triumphed at the Restoration and who, though dead, proved strong enough to break the power of armed tyranny in Britain, and to maintain inviolate every one of those objects for which he had taken his stand in the field and in captivity.

May I, however, be permitted to explain that in speaking of Charles as a martyr I am stating the plain fact, and not pre- judging the case in his favour. A martyr--if we may trust Saint Paul--is not necessarily a saint. He is simply one who, of his free choice, lays down his life for a cause that he considers worthy. It is not enough merely to risk or to stake his life. The soldier who falls in battle is not a martyr. Not even when he implored the King to sip his own death warrant, was Strafford, by this reckoning, a martyr--he had staked and lost, and knowing it, paid up in the spirit of the hero he was. Laud, when they did him to death, was not given the opportunity of achieving martyrdom. But Charles was, and he deliberately embraced it. Almost up to the last moment, as I shall hope to show, it was open for him to have saved his life and even his crown, by what he at least would have considered an ignoble betrayal of things that he valued more than either. He was, if my reading of his mind be correct, more resolved to die than Oliver Cromwell to kill him. Cromwell was no fool, nor by choice would he have been accessory to murder. But his hand--to his ruin--was forced, and forced by his victim. It would have required a far greater moral strength than ever Cromwell possessed to have stood firm against the forces that

-v-

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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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