THE ESCAPE OF THE QUEEN
CROPREDY Bridge had been fought three days before Marston Moor, and King Charles had not waited to hear of the fate of Rupert's expedition before deciding on his own next move. Whatever happened in the North, the irruption of Essex into the West had presented the King with an opportunity that he did not intend to let slip, of doing what he had only just failed to do last year at Newbury--severing Essex's communications with London and forcing him to surrender at discretion. This time there was to be no hitch.
There was another consideration that added a special urgency to the King's determination. This eccentric and unexpected move of Essex's had brought the Queen, who had gone to Exeter to be out of harm's way for her accouchement, into more acute and imminent peril than she would have incurred had she remained quietly at Oxford. It is easy to sneer, as Gardiner does, at Charles for adopting this plan, "not because it was strategically the best, but because it would bring him into the neighbourhood of the Queen." Apart from the fact that it would have been suicidal to have allowed the Queen to become a blackmailing counter in the hands of the enemy, his strategy was, as the event proved, that of King Arthur with Sir Mordred:
"Tide me life, betide me death, now that I see him yonder alone, he shall never escape my hands, for at better avail I shall never have him."
Immediately after Cropredy Bridge, Charles had made another of his rapid marches to his vantage point of Evesham, again leaving the enemy in doubt, and reserving his own freedom of choice whether to strike North or South. Here he waited no longer than was necessary to make sure that Oxford could be safely left to look after itself and then, on the 9th of July, just a week after Marston Moor, intimated to his council of war his decision of marching against Essex. Within three days he was on the road.
But fast though he hurried his sweating troops along the line of the Cotswolds and through the broad pasture lands of Somerset, Charles arrived at Exeter too late to find the Queen, though he