387 Sinews of War

Katherine Stuart, Conspirator; Henrietta Maria, Generalissima of the North; Edmund Waller, Poet and failed Conspirator
Katherine Stuart, Conspirator; Henrietta Maria, Generalissima of the North; Edmund Waller, Poet and failed Conspirator


Early 1643 was not a good idea for peace. By April, both the Scots and English parliament had tired of Charles’ negotiating style and started talking to each other instead. But for Charles it was a happy time. His Queen, Generalissima of the North, had landed in Bridlington, and made it to Oxford, bringing arms and news of her capture of Burton on Trent

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Here’s a picture of Bridlington, by the way



In the last episode we heard about the aftermath of Turnham Green; about the king’s return to Oxford, where he set up many of the functions of government, and the flood of royalists from London began. We heard about the opening salvoes in a war that was turning into a series of regional and indeed parish conflicts – with the Royalists in the lead in the North and West, Parliament with their noses ahead in south and East. And we heard about the failure of Parliaments latest appeal for peace, and the death of the Oxford Treaty in early 1643.

Now –  Plot spoiler, we are about to launch into a new world of fightiness into this full and frank exchange of views otherwise known as the English Revolution. But just to set expectations for this episode; you won’t hear much of the crack of the musket or boom of the serpentine this time. We are going to talk sinews of war – money, strategy, diplomacy, secret plans and clever tricks. That sort of thing. And also the foundations that allowed people to prosecute the shooting, pushing shoving and grunting stuff. And screaming. And bleeding. You know. Next time, for that though.

Let us start with Charles, and his hopes and fears for the other 2 of the 3 kingdoms. Well the first point is that as with both parties, the king’s thinking is already across all three kingdoms. In Scotland, he has appointed the Marquis of Hamilton, now back in favour after the nasty little misunderstanding of the Incident in August 1641,  when you know, Charles thought he’d be plotting against him and decided to throw him into the darkest dungeon to rot, you know, that little misunderstanding. That’s all in the past now. Hamilton’s job is to make the Covenanters put all that behind them, too and make sure all those concessions he made to make peace with the Scots, yields dividends. He even hoped they might fight for his cause. If not – keep them out of it at all costs.

Hamilton actually has a plan to achieve that. Now as you can appreciate, with all that’s gone on  Charles doesn’t score highly with the Covenanters on the trust score. But Hamilton was always an optimistic, sunny sort of person, and he is telling Charles that he can build a royal party with the Scottish magnates. These magnates, support the Covenant wholeheartedly. But many of their noses had been seriously adjusted joint-wise by Argyll and the more common sort of Lairds and Burgesses through the whole process. Scotland had always been a country run on behalf of the king by regional magnates who had substantially more power in terms of jurisdictional rights than their English counterparts. The greatly enhanced role of the burgesses of the towns, the lairds and particularly the Kirk had rather changed the balance of power – and some of the magnates wanted the old balance back please. Sand a king in real control would help set the world to right again.

In Ireland, Charles has appointed the Earl of Ormond as his official Lieutenant now. There are murmurs that he might like to come to an agreement with the Confederacy which has emerged, so he could get some Irish troops to help him in England. The plan is nothing but a twinkle in the royal eye for now; for the moment, Charles is pinning his hopes on Scotland, but it’s always good to have a plan B.

Plan C though would have been help from the continent, but there’s not much to say on that score; the news is enlightened self interest – the Dutch stay impartial, despite the feelings of the ordinary woman in Dam Square, Charles Mum’s family in Denmark say ‘only if you give us the Orkneys back’, and even HM’s family in France keep the pirse string tied. Blood appears to be a similar consistency to wate at this point.

Charles has a government in exile now, and establishes two more – a War Council and Privy Council to begin with. The role of the war council will be relatively limited as it ‘appens, because it became restricted to the king’s army based from Oxford, for reasons we’ll discuss later, but the Privy Council on the other hand was very influential. It met frequently, Charles attended it constantly in Oxford, and it was popular amongst moderates as a basis for political influence. The likes of Hyde and Viscount Falkland therefore manged to make sure the advice was moderate. By which I don’t mean be a door mat; Hyde wanted to defeat parliament as much as anyone; but he wanted to stick to constitutional rules. To negotiate as far as possible, at very least to make sure it looked as though Charles was looking for a compromise, to create splits among the parliamentarians by attracting the more moderate peace party already emerging, to the point of encouraging a coup against the supporters of war at Westminster.

But Charles was never limited to the Privy Council he had other voices in his ear, more aggressive ones. Because he had a royal court too her Rupert was very influential. And Rupert led a group we might call the Swordsmen War, that’s what we want, vigorously prosecuted and trammed home, followed by a settlement to be imposed on rebels who would have to just suck up it and be duly grateful if they remained in possession of their skin. Henrietta Maria and her faction, when they arrive in Oxford will agree. Crushing military victory seemed a pretty good way to implement a full absolutist monarchy at the point of a sword.  HM was generally opposed to mincing her words with Hubby:

If you make a peace and disband your army before there is an end of this perpetual parliament I am absolutely resolved to go into France, not being willing again to fall into the hands of these people.

Admirably clear.

So there he was looking at the world in winter 1642 and planning for the next campaigning season, when the sap would be rising, and young men, and indeed women, be ready and willing to go to war. What should the strategy be? Well there are differences of opinion between historians about that; Fancy! Some fell there was none. Some though that Charles planned, a massive pincer movement on London – the Earl of Newcastle would advance from the North, writing sonnets as he came; Ralph Hopton from the South and south west, Charles himself up the Thames valley. A grand plan; in point of fact, just so you are not disappointed it turn out that way; instead there a series of wars around the country, with the aim to win each one, extend territory, starve Parliament of income, men and support until they were forced to negotiate. Maybe they were trying to get to London at the same time…who knows.

It is a slightly theoretical question; because Charles never really managed to impose himself on his commanders and establish a universal strategy. One of the Charles biographies I have at my elbow uses the title for this period as ‘The Warrior’. I’ve never really thought of Charles as a warrior king, but of course he was, very much so, a war leader, even if against his own people. Well, if we are looking for a model of Charles as war leader, it would certainly not a ‘let me at ‘em’ Richard I type; rather I’m looking for suggestions for an over polite general please; answers on a postcard; because that’s really what he turned out to be – incapable of imposing a strategic vision and making his generals stick to it. Particularly with his flamboyant nephew Rupert, let it be noted. Here is a letter from Mr Warrior King to his nephew giving out what should really have been orders. He wrote recommending

To your consideration, the assisting of the west

and continued

I write not this to put the thought of Gloucester out of your mind, but only to lay all before you that you may choose the best

I mean – could you imagine Old Nosey or Boney running his campaigns in this way? ‘I say old chap wouldn’t like to put you out but would you mind terribly, if not too much bother, to see your way clear…not no course not as you were, carry on…!’ Sort of thing. I mean really.

Although Rupert was the most extreme example of a wildly autonomous commander, I should point out that this is effectively Charles’ way, his stich, his jam, the Tao of the Charles. He wrote in a similar vein to his Commander of the North, not Maximus Decimus Meridius of course, but William ‘misfortune to be a poet’ Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle.

I may propose many things to you, but I will never impose anything on you[1]

Might have been nice if he’d said that to the people of islands of course. Now this Warrior style doesn’t get a good press from all, but one historian at least takes the view that anything else wasn’t really possible. There were so many regional armies, sub regional strongmen and militias, town garrisons, that coordinating a nationwide plan was scarcely possible. And it did mean that local commanders had great autonomy to respond to local events and conditions.

Nor though did parliament really manage any close coordination either. By default as much as anything, then, the war turned into a series of regional wars, punctuated at key point by major battles or events which swing the scales one way or together. Of course there were major strategic geographical objectives, and Charles was not ignorant of them. To mention the most important; London of course goes without saying, and most argue that without control of London Charles was always up against it. But there are others. Bristol and Chester are two; very important ports, with access to trade but critically to Ireland where there’s both a war to be fought and help to be gained for Charles. York also was not only the largest and most influential city in the north, but a nightmare to besiege, because of the three rivers that converge on it. And I’d mention Newcastle because of its position but also its control of the coal trade to London – which in 1643 was controlled by the king. There are other considerations too; Charles will remain constantly dependent on buying arms and material from abroad, because he lacks London; so the Forest of Dean, in the west, is particularly important, because it is a key source of iron.

So that’s king and royalists, how does the world look from parliament’s point of view? It’s worth reminding you that Parliament doesn’t have  single leader, and won’t have one until well into the 1650s, although it did have a supreme military commander in Essex, and then more effectively with Fairfax from 1645. I’d hate to suggest the English parliamentary leaders were not interested in power; they were of course involved in a struggle for power with the king, and money and lands stick to the fingers of a not inconsiderable number. But for all the First Civil War at very least, it’s pretty collegiate. Certainly, if this point even needs making, it is nothing like the naked power struggle into which Henry VI’s incompetence and Richard of York’s ambition turns the Wars of the Roses. Pym and Junto might disagree, Ear and Peace parties split over strategy and control; but this is not about a bid for personal power by and large, it’s about a clash of ideologies.

There’s a drama called the Devil’s Whore, still available I think, look it up – called the Devil’s Mistress outside the UK I think. It paints a pretty dim view of the way women were treated, but one of the things I like about it is the journey many of these people go through together, through all the stages of the revolution, getting increasingly madder as it goes. Many of these people will remain connected all the way through and beyond, learning and changing all the way.

Parliament therefore established a way of running the war which was suitably sui generis – that it to say, it was a committee, the Committee of Safety, which sounds suitably revolutionary given the later one in 1793. Our version was composed of folks from both the Lords and Commons, and contains many of the people whose names you have been struggling to keep up with; Saye and Sele, Essex, John Pym still pre-eminent among them, our favourite country squire John Hampden, Denzil Holles staunch revolutionary and emerging leader of the peace party, Heny Marten, architect of the Protestation, and also someone of a card at Westminster.

An anecdote for a bit of colour; Henry Marten had a quick wit in debate, but also a reputation for not being able to hold his drink. He’d use this, rather sneakily, pretending to nod off, and then springing into action at a critical point in debate, startling everyone and nail it. Fascinating bloke, definitely wayward in his personal life, religiously pluralistic and tolerant to the point of being accused of atheism, and the first person to raise the idea that maybe having one person to rule it all is not the best idea – which would land him in trouble. But a hard worker, none harder, labouring away on a plethora of committees including this one, the Committee of Safety; and also one of the first lines of parliamentarian spy masters, in a line leading to the master of them all, Oliver Cromwell’s mate, John Thurloe.

The Ultimate sinew of war is of course money. Both sides created a series of regional associations to raise money and control military operations in their particular area; oddly enough there’s only one of these that really gets mentioned in the histories, which is the Eastern Association of East Anglia and Cambridgeshire; but there others, Northern, Southern, Midlands and so on. The Eastern Association is particularly famous since it has the most resolutely parliamentarian hinterland, and also contains a bloke called Oliver Cromwell, appointed Colonel of the horse by the first boss of the Eastern Association, Lord Grey; the Association would later be led by the Earl of Manchester with whom Oliver would have run ins. Manchester in particular was distressed by Cromwell’s egalitarian frame of mind; maybe being a farmer and relatively low down the social scale, Cromwell knew and trusted the quality of the men he worked with rather better. So Manchester grumbled that

Colonel Cromwell in the raising of his regiment makes choice of his officers not such as were soldiers or men of estate, but such as were common men, poor and of mean parentage, only he would give them the title of godly, precious men

There are a few famous quotes like that, but there’s plenty of time for that and Cromwell’s Ironsides.

Maybe the Associations are little mentioned because administration of the counties in terms of tax collection and the administration become the task of County Committees, which are progressively established  in parliamentarian areas, and are deeply, deeply unpopular. Who knows a popular taxman? I mean they are broadly legitimate in that they are selected by parliament, but in 1659, John Milton the poet of the Republic will advocate a local elected system to replace them, because no one is keen on the existing model.

There are two reasons for this. One, and the main one, is that the tax burden goes up exponentially. It is one of the deep, deep ironies of the English revolution that it leads to a far greater tax burden than Charles would have dreamt of, even if Salisbury’s Great Contract had passed in 1610. An ever deeper irony is that the assessment system used was based on Ship Money. Now you can see why the English are obsessed with irony. How we laughed back then. I said two reasons; the other was that we English were used to being taxed by posh people, I say would you mind awfully handing over some shrapnel, my good man. But now the County Set were having their collars felt by those lower down the social order than them; complaints abound with outraged words like ‘rogues’, ‘men not born to it, ‘men of weak fortune’. Insult[2] heaped upon injury. Well when all is said and done, and the cow has jumped over the moon – freedom does not come cheap.

Charles meanwhile has, of course, to do the same thing. Once more tradition rules for him, not for him the functional efficiency and innovation of parliament in this case; he tended to go via the old tried and tested routes – the count set, JPs and Lord Lieutenant. The general summary is that the royalist system a bit more random and disorganised.

While we are on money and organisations, there is one very early action by the parliament which is worth mentioning, and really doesn’t get mentioned often, which is a bit surprising, because it seems to me very significant in social terms. England can pat itself on the back, if I may, for having Europe’s first and most generous system of poor relief, as it replaced the chaotic and inadequate private and monastic system. England’s revolutionary parliament then also transformed the support given to their war wounded and families. The background is that, like effective Poor relief, there is some sort of system established under Elizabeth in 1593 to be able to apply to the parish for support if you were a wounded serviceman. Not if you are dead of course, and while you might think that’s Ok because you can’t buy a cup of tea and a lardy cake in heaven, but of course the family left behind was as in as much need of lardy cake as ever, and in such a patriarchal society widows were in a horribly precarious position to keep the family fed. Support was usually provided by families, but the situation was often chaotic; Carey Verney, for example was widowed by the war three months after she married leaving

A sad disconsolate widow great with child with not a penny in the house[3]

As she wrote.

All of that’s to say that the death or wounding of a husband in early modern society could result in deepest poverty and hardship. And the battle of Edgehill as the first major conflict shocked everyone as London’s hospitals failed to cope with the rush of wounded. So in October 1642, parliament passed an act; wounded parliamentary soldiers or their wives, widows or children were eligible for a pension to be provided through their parish and paid for by the state. This was established by ordnance of course, the king being, um away, and the act is thoroughly practical, with no grand words, and the rather functional hope that this would encourage other young men to fight on their side. Nonetheless it is a humane innovation, which the royalists did not emulate; though ironically on the restoration it was maintained for 20 years before being deleted, but reversed – so became available only to people who had fought for the royalist side, and all the previous pensions were rather cruelly cancelled. One more wrinkle, is that the petitions for aid that survive have all been digitised by the Civil Wars Project, so you can look at them online.  Anyway, enough of this soapy stuff, let’s get on with the war by other means.

Bridlington seems to me the obvious place to start. Bridlington is well known as a seaside resort in the East Riding of Yorkshire. But on 22nd February 1643, it was no a time for buckets, spades, sun lotion, chips and wind breakers, because history came to Bridlington in the forms of some ships, which contained Henrietta Maria, Queen of England and her little hound Mitte. Oh, and 32 canon, 10,000 small arms and 78 barrels of gunpowder. The results of more work that she had done in pawning her jewels on the continent; her work done, it was time to deliver the shipment – not the first by the way, Charles had fought with the outcome of her work at Edgehill. This time HM was chased by the admiral of the Navy, Junto leader Warwick, and so she came ashore literally in a hail of bullets.

HM was both in Bridlington and in high spirits, which on the face of it was odd, since to the north at another famous seaside resort, was the parliamentarian Hugh Cholmley at Scarborough castle and south of her parliamentarian and denier of kings John Hotham at Hull. But HM was confident – Newcastle knew she was there and had sent soldiers to take her to York. She proudly named herself Generalissima of the North and before she set off for York received some interesting visitors.

First was said John Hotham, denier of kings, and governor of the Hull fortress with a sort of neutrality pact; but what became clear to HM was that this hero the Revolution of 1642 was feeling jumpy. As in jumpy about what side he might be on and thinking of jumping. He was infuriated by the lack of money he’d been sent, frustrated at the lack of agreement with the king, and frankly more than a little out of joint at being subordinate to the upstart Fairfaxes who were two bit, pint sized gentry and not up to his standard of bloodline. He was wobbly – Jumpy.

Secondly a visitor in the form of news – Hugh Cholmley, hero of the Revolution at Scarborough, noted for fresh air and fun, then jumped ship and declared for the king

But third and third is the charm, the Earl of Antrim came with his calling card and secret plans and clever tricks, Randall McDonnel all the way from Ulster.

Now Antrim came with a plan so cunning, in the words of Blackadder, that you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel. Antrim was aware that, as Hamilton had also noted, a group of Scottish magnates, Montrose among them, were increasingly put out by Argyl and the Covenanters’ supremacy, and the effective removal from government of Scotland’s ancient centre of nationhood, the Stuart monarchy. At the same time there’s an another ancient feud going on here, a Gaelic one. Listen up, this is te detail you love so much. The McDonnels were a sprig of the MacDonald clan of the Western Isles of Scotland, who had colonised part of Ulster a few generations back. They wanted their MacDonald lands in Scotland back from the hated Campbell clan, the family of the Marquis of Argyll, as it appens. These histories and enmities ran deep, true, hot and old. So – Antrim proposed this to his Queen; he would send his Macdonald clansman, Alasdair MacColla to hook up with the Scottish MacDonalds and with Montrose. Together, they would raise the King’s standard, declare chaos and confusion on the Covenanter state, bring Argyll’s government crashing to its knees and restore the Stuart monarch to its rightful place. Oh, and regain the MacDonald lands, from the Campbells for themselves, did I mention that?

Well, HM was very keen on the idea; it’s not entirely clear how she communicated this to Charles, but he was clearly aware of this plot, he allowed it to sail on and Antrim left for Ulster and home, well satisfied. This is despite Charles and Hamilton, being in the middle of that tricky negotiation for Argyll and the Covenanter’s favour against the English parliament. In fact, the Scottish commissioners were at that very moment in Oxford, supposedly talking about peace; this was Charles’ chance to secure Scottish support or neutrality.

But hey – who cares about duplicity when you are the rightful king and everyone else are rebels? The more irons you have in the fire, the more likely, surely one of them is to get hot. No point keeping all your eggs in one basket is there now?

He therefore comprehensively mucks the Covenanter Commissioners around. He makes them sit around in anterooms for months, delays and hums and haws; I mean understandably Charles has minus enthusiasm for the introduction of the Presbyterian system in England, a core part of the Scottish security strategy. They hung around until April they finally left deciding they were getting nowhere; they were unaware he was planning an invasion anyway. But it wouldn’t stay that way.

Because in May, Antrim was captured by Munro and his new Scots Army. That’s convenient, and HM and Charles panicked; though HM assured her husband that they’d find nothing in writing from her. Well, maybe not, but they certainly found something, and the news was out. It hit Scotland like a custard pie in the face. Argyll immediately called a Convention of Estates – basically, a mini parliament, but in this case one without the supposedly essential element of a king. One Covenanter wrote that the news about Antrim

‘wakened in all a great fear for our safety and distrust of all the fair words that were or could be given to us

So for Charles, the Covenanter strategy game in Scotland was dead, long live the Montrose and Antrim strategy. Rather delightfully, he blame Hamilton for the end of said strategy, and threw him in jail for a while, showing a certain level of a lack of self-awareness. Argyle and the Covenanters now turned to the English parliament; John Pym had been putting feelers out for Scottish support for some time, and in July 1643 Harry Vane Junior appeared in Edinburgh at the head of an English delegation to talk turkey. And religion. And war. But definitely turkey.

Charles meanwhile was turning his thoughts instead towards Plan BB, otherwise known as  Ireland, and the Confederates at Kilkenny. Maybe the Irish would make a better ally after all than the Scots. Definitely better singers anyway what with all those cockles and mussels and stuff. More than anything though, Charles wanted HM back with him, at his side in Oxford, to bring her strength, love and family that gave him such strength.

HM, on the other hand she was having waaay too much fun being Generalissma to hurry home. and stayed at York for a while before coming south with Newcastle’s men, and seeing action on the way; including the capture of Burton on Trent from parliament, carried by storm after the town refused to surrender; one writer recording that inside

The women making bullets while the men fought it out bravely

The following plunder of the town was followed by accusations that many women had been raped; and 400 captured soldiers imprisoned for days without food and water. There used to be a tradition that the English Civil war was as civilised a war as was possible in the circumstances, and it rarely reaches the depths of the Thirty Years War; but war is war, and numerous brutalities there were, on both sides. as maybe we’ll cover in a specific episode of fun sometime.

One of those acts of brutality happens as Prince Rupert came north to meet with HM to bring her to Oxford; when Rupert, trained in the arts of the Thirty Years war, met resistance in Birmingham in April, and the town was burned and plundered. However, by July 1643, HM would finally arrive back in Oxford, there were celebrations and pretty speeches at Carfax, HM took up residence at Merton College, and all was happiness and joy. This is the court that one Margaret Cavendish, future poet, playwright and natural philosopher will join to be bored into desperation and depression. You can hear about Margaret if you become a member of the history of England at thehistoryofengland.co.uk. For the avoidance of doubt, HM also brought with her all those munitions she had bought on the continent; it was the second time she had more than proved her practical worth to the Royalist cause. Also, July 1643 would be a crashingly good month for the royalist cause in many other ways. We’ll come to that next time.

Now, we spoke last time about the Oxford Treaty and we’ve talked about the Tao of Charles, negotiating peace on one side of his mouth plotting for war on the other. So, here’s another one – while earnestly discussing the Oxford Treaty, keeping the Earl of Essex and his army in port, he was at the same plotting and planning to raise a spot of trouble in London.

Through 1643, London will gradually empty of many royalist supporters, but in early 1643, some had stayed, and Charles still had hopes that he could split the city of London from parliament’s cause. Many of the richer and influential aldermen and previous mayors were unhappy with the religious and social chaos, the flood of political pamphlets and worrying talk of equality. In the Oxford Treaty negotiating process, Charles had taken care to call for the arrest of the puritan Mayor Isaac Pennington, and described rebels in the capital as perverted by

Schismatical, illiterate and scandalous preachers.

He was by this means making his call to his loyal, disillusioned Londoners. In January he sent a courtier on a secret mission into the deeps of London to sound out support; he duly found supporters and potential conspirators, and drew up a commission for one Nicholas Crispe, and other local bufties. His key point of contact was a poet called Edmund Waller. A relative of William the Conqueror Waller, another example of a split family.

By this stage Charles also had around him quite a coterie of London merchants fleeing a city no longer quite their thing. I have an image of London as a colander, with drips of royalists dribbling way through the gaps in the newly constructed London Lines of Communication, into the Chiltern Hills and away onto the Oxford plains. They were of all kinds and estates; the richer had the impetus of substantial calls being made on them for money by parliament but family and household loyalties were strong. The apprentice William Faithorne wrote years later to his master remembering those days when he too sneaked out of London and picked his way through the streets and over the hills to London

When the services of the king challenged the duty of his subjects, you prompted me into loyalty.[4]

One of the grander fugitives was Marmaduke Rawdon. So far he had gone along with the new regime, and he’d long been a member of the Artillery Company, and a contemporary of the puritan John Venn, and had been there at Turnham Green opposing the king. But for a while his mind had been made up, and he had simply taken a bit of time to put his affairs in order before he legged it; doing his best to defend his worldly goods from sequestration, sending quantities of furniture to a plantation he owned in Barbados, putting property north of London under his son’s name, who was supposed to stay in London – though in the end he too would answer the siren call of loyalty.

With everything sorted, Marmaduke Rawden made his last appearance to the Clothworkers Hall in January, and by March he was in Oxford, where he took himself to Christchurch and court, and presented himself to the king

Who knew him well, and was very glad to see him

So glad in fact that Charles included Rawden in a secret commission authorising 17 Londoners around him in Oxford to organise an armed rising in London. They would raise a force of 3,000 men to be ready outside London for when the fire of rebellion was raised and burning inside London, and seize London back for the king and country, cry Harry and all that.

Meanwhile the King’s commission was to be smuggled into London, and the person who stepped forward for the role was Katherine Stuart. She was something of a rebel, having defied her parents to marry George Stuart, the seigneur d’aubigny would you believe, against the wishes of her parents, who presumably weren’t keen on all the highfalutin Frenchy stuff and would have preferred the male equivalent of good English Lardy Cake or Scottish Oatcake. But her French beefcake or gateau au boef, died on the field of Edgehill, and Katherine was given permission by goodwill and trust of parliament to come into London to settle her affairs, trusting she’d be up to no naughty business.

Well all’s fair in Love and war, and concealed in her elaborate hair-do was the king’s commission duly delivered to Edmund Waller. Katherine was to prove a keen conspirator throughout the civil wars, and as with all conspirators, loved a code or two. She is said to have sent so many coded letters to her king on the subject of Royalist Scots, that Charles began to put them aside unread, on the weary understanding that it would take all day to read them. Anyway, in May, Waller was ready to act, but before he could light the squib, sorry firework, the commission was found in his cellar and the whole plot exposed. There was no force of 3,000 men sitting outside London, so the plan had never had more than zero chance of success anyway.

But that is not to say the Waller plot had no value – au contraire mes braves. It was dynamite for Pym. Edmund Waller proved that poets could be more than dreamers by making the deeply down-to-earth approach of paying £10,000 and giving up as much information about fellow conspirators as the authorities could wish for to save his life. As a result of his helpful lists two men were hauled out into the light of day. One Tompkins was hanged outside his house in Holborn and the other Richard Chaloner was strung up outside the old Exchange, where Hugh Peters the Preacher urged him to confess and make his peace before he shuffled off the mortal coil.

The incident made Charles look thoroughly mendacious and duplicitous. At the very time he’d been plotting a violent uprising, he’d been pontificating to Parliamentary commissioners

I am always for peace and more concerned in it than any, being father of my country next under God

John Pym exercised his considerable talents to take full advantage. The Peace party in parliament were also thereby discredited, Mars and Tyr were once more in the ascendant, Eirne & Freyer cast down, and Essex began at last to trundle his army out into the Thames Valley towards Reading to exercise all the skills Mars had tried to teach him.

So, what have we heard? We’ve heard that both sides were putting structures and institutions in place on the growing assumption that they were now in it for the long haul, including in Parliament’s case, the promise of sustenance for families who suffer in their service. Charles has burnt the boats of alliance with the Scots, demonstrated his fundamental untrustworthiness, and proven once more with both Scots and English that unlike Gorbachev, this is  not a man we can do business with. But HM is home, and Charles can now turn to the Irish to find help there, while Pym and Vane go fishing in Scotland.

[1] Cust, R: ‘Charles I’, p376

[2] Healey, J: ‘The Blazing World’, p188

[3] Kenyon, j: ‘The Civil Wars: A Military History=`1       36y6ui

[4] Childs, J: ‘ The Siege of Loyalty House’, p64

2 thoughts on “387 Sinews of War

  1. David, is there any evidence that Charles’ diffidence as a military commander flowed from a desire to separate himself from the blood that would necessarily flow from actual military campaigns? And I don’t necessarily mean a hypocritical desire to pass the buck, but from a general desire to patch things up peacefully (albeit to his favor and w/o compromising his sincere belief in the divine right of kings)? After all, for all his political failings, I think he did sincerely view himself as the father of his subjects.

    1. Hi Jerry and yes you are quite right I think that he took his responsibilities as father of the Nation very seriously and deeply. But no, I don’t think reducing bloodshed ever played a part in this thinking; I could be wrong, but it seems he entirely blamed the rebels for that, and absolved himself of blame. I think his diffidence (which i should have explained, I’ll try to follow that up), came from the deep respect he had for the position of nobility and their role in the hoerarchy – comething he shared with his father. Their authority confirmed and re-inforced his own, so he paid it due respect.

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