write down Charles at all costs, libels his own intelligence by the almost incredible sneer:
"Whatever may have been the meaning of these painfully involved sentences, there could be no doubt what interpretation would be put upon them by Rupert."
An order that is clearly intelligible to its recipient, or anyone else with a knowledge of King's English, one would have thought to be as clear as any order need be, and much clearer than a great many famous and fatal orders have been. Gardiner in fact proceeds to stultify himself in his very next sentence by quoting the comment of Sir John Colepeper, one of the cold-footed faction at headquarters:
"By God, you are undone, for upon this peremptory order he will fight, whatever comes of it."
Which is beyond doubt just what the King intended his nephew to do. Had the gamble come off--as it so nearly did--it would have ranked in military history as a classic example of the use of the interior lines, and the military reputation of Charles and Rupert would have stood as high as that of Cromwell does now. That the gamble did, in the event, fail, is no proof that it ought not to have been undertaken. There is no gambling on certainties. But the alternative would indeed have been a certainty--of defeat.
THE RELIEF OF YORK AND CROPREDY BRIDGE
ANY temptation that Rupert might have had to spend more time in rounding off his conquest of Lancashire must have been dissipated by his uncle's orders, though he probably needed little enough spur. With the finest Cavalier army that had taken the field, an army flushed with victory and superbly confident of itself and its commander, he proceeded by way of Preston and Clitheroe through the Aire-Ribble gap in the Pennines, debouching thence on to the Yorkshire moors, and crossing them to Knaresborough, a bare dozen miles from beleaguered York. Here he received intelligence that the combined armies had thrown up the siege and were barring his path on the open moorland to the west of the city.