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