394 Lost With It All

The defeat at Marston Moor in July 1644 raised the very, very strong possibility of the king’s defeat. In the Midlands, a small force under the king faced the much larger combined armies of Essex and Waller. Against all expectations, the showdown came in Cornwall.

“When the King enjoys his Own Again” was played by Band of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall

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Cromwell’s Letter to his brother-in-law, Valentine Walton

Cromwell’s (private) letter to his brother in Law Valentine Walton has been poured over and analysed to death. It’s an interesting read, right enough, but too much is loaded into what is after all – a private letter of condolence. Anyway. follow the link to read an article about it

Deare Sir,

Its our duty to sympathise in all mercyes, that wee may praise the Lord together, in chastisements or tryalls, that soe wee may sorrowe together.

Truly England, and the church of God hath had a great favor from the Lord in this great victorie given unto us such as the like never was since this warr begunn. Itt had all the evidences of an absolute victorie obtained by the Lords blessinge upon the godly partye principally. Wee never charged but wee routed the enimie, the left winge which I commanded beinge our owne horse, savinge a few Scotts in our rear, beat all the Princes horse, God made them as stubble to our swords, wee charged their Regiments of foote with our horse, routed all wee charged. The perticulars I cannott relate now but, I beleive of 20000 the prince hath not 4000 left. Give glory, all the glory to God.

Sir, God hath taken away your eldest sonn by a cannon shott, itt brake his legg, wee were necessitated to have itt cutt off, wherof he died.

Sir, you know my tryalls this way, but the Lord supported mee with this, that the Lord tooke him into the happinesse wee all pant after, and live for. There is your precious child, full of glory, to know sinn nor sorrow any more. Hee was a gallant younge man, exceedinge gracious. God give you his comfort. Before his death hee was soe full of comfort, that to Franke Russell and myselfe hee could not expresse itt, itt was soe great above his paine. This hee sayd to us. Indeed itt was admirable. A little after hee sayd one thinge lay upon his spirit. I asked him what that was. Hee told mee, that it was, that God had not suffered him to bee noe more the executioner of his enimies. Att his fall, his horse being killed with the bullett and as I am enformed 3 horses more, I am told, hee bid them open to the right, and left, that hee might see the rouges runn. Truly hee was exceedingly beloved in the Armie of all that knew him, but few knew him, for hee was a precious younge man, fitt for God. You have cause to blesse the Lord, hee is a glorious saint in heaven, wherin you ought exceedingly to rejoyce. Lett this drinke up your sorrowe, seeing theise are not fayned words to comfort you, but the thinge is soe real and undoubted a truth. You may doe all thinges by the strength of Christ, seeke that, and you shall easily beare your tryall. Lett this publike mercie to the church of God make you to forgett your private sorrowe. The Lord bee your strength, soe prayes your truly faythfull and lovinge brother,

Oliver Cromwell

My love to youre daughter and my cousin Percevall, sistere Desbrowe and all freinds with you.”


Now then, if you were hanging about in alehouses or wandering around Oxford in 1644 you might well have heard this tune. In fact you might well have heard it wherever you went in England where the King lived still in the hearts of his people, because it was the most popular ballad of the period.

The broadside ballad was printed on large sheets of cheap paper, and were hugely popular; they were mass-produced, cheap as chips and produced to tell the story of any occasion, from battles, to murders – there’s a lot of that – a wondrous event or some romance or popular traditional song.

This particular one was written by one Martin Parker, a Londoner and probably a publican, and he’d acquired a name for himself as a writer of broadside ballads and chapbooks, partly for the source of his muse

He always bath’d his Beak in Ale, Toping whole Tubs off, like some thirsty Whale.’

But more because people came in their droves to buy the latest one, because

For a penny you may have all the Newse in England, of Murders, Flouds, Witches, Fires, Tempests, and what not, in one of Martin Parkers Ballads‘[1]

This Ballad, for When the King Enjoys his Own Again, is a lament, wondering at the violence and turmoil, for which Martin knew there was only one solution

But all’s to no end,

For the times will not mend

Till the King enjoys his own again

Yes, this I can tell

That all will be well

When the King enjoys his own again

The song would have a long life, played at the Restoration, and then become a Jacobite song in the 18th century, before one day popping up again in an obscure podcast.

Ok, so last time, we heard about how Charles rallied the team through the Oxford parliament, promoting the legitimacy of his cause based on the ancient constitution of the England, King, Lords and Commons, striking at the legitimacy of the Westminster parliament, based erroneously as it was on king Lords and Commons. We heard how the arrival of the Scots transformed the strategic situation, and yet how some masterly royalist generalship looked set to confound them all. Newcastle’s skilled obfuscation for 4 months slowed them down, Charles’ masterly campaign in the midlands and Cotswolds made space for some pyrotechnics from his Nephew, Prince Rupert, relieving Newark where he captured 32 pounds of Sweet Lips. At which point I must issue an apology. Last week, I made a connection between said Sweet Lips, and Major Houlihan. I have ben informed, by many actually, that the good Major’s lips were in fact Hot, not sweet. And while I would content there is no evidence to contradict the view that they were also sweet, I must apologise, and thank my good listeners for educating me.

After Newark, Rupert swept on liberating Lancashire and York. Until it all turned to dust outside York at Marston Moor. And all seemed dead for the royalist. Maybe now Charles would be forced to the negotiating table.

This week is a game of two halves. For the first half, we need to finish up Marston Moor and talk about the fallout, which is considerable, I am sorry to say. Then we are going to hear about how Charles snatches if not victory, at least survival from the jaws of defeat, together with not inconsiderable assistance from the Earl of Essex.

So the scene at Marston moor – the carnage visited on royalist forces at Marston Moor was complete. 4,000 killed, 1,500 captured, among them Charles Lucas the cavalry captain; as against 300 dead of the Allies; but more importantly the army was no more, completely shattered; Rupert manages to re-assemble about 2000 horse and 800 infantry, neatly making the point about just how much better off you are fighting on the back of a horse than just on top of your feet.

Among the dead was Rupert’s doggie Boye, not so invulnerable after all.  And the death of the devil dog was probably the one most celebrated by parliament, and maybe as that myth died, the myth of Rupert’s own invincibility died with it – for the first time the king’s unbeatable general had proved fallible after all.

The evening and night of the battle was a combination of celebration and utter grisliness. At 11 that night, the army was formed up, many singing psalms as they did, and in the moonlight Manchester rode along the ranks and thanked his men personally[2]. Or Ronald Hutton talks about moonlight, so I am forced to remind us all that not long before it had been absolutely tipping it down, so the moon may not have had her hat on.

The grisliness that night and the following morning was the normal striping of the bodies, some of whom probably still contained living spirits but look, that’s a good shirt I can use. Relatives who were close by, came out to try and find the people they loved and that must have been particularly desperate among all that carnage, and one Mary Townley came looking for her husband who had fallen in the royalist ranks. As she watched the soldiers searching and stripping the bodies, an officer came up and asked what she was doing ‘in this vale of tears’. When she told him, he assigned her a bodyguard to look after her and take her home afterwards once she was done; Lady Townley learned the man was Oliver Cromwell.

Charles Lucas the cavalry colonel had been captured and came round identifying soldiers and went full cavalier, sobbing

Alas for King Charles

He also saw a bracelet of hair round one dead soldiers’ wrist, and asked that it be removed and sent to ‘an honourable lady’. Hopefully a suitable honourable lady.

Newcastle retreated to York which would have been rammed with misery, screaming and dying and bleeding and all of that and the horror of defeat and what happens next. He was done with this war. He saw no hope of recovery what so ever, the military situation seemed hopeless, but also he felt personally humiliated that such a great lord had been brought so low. But what to do, where to go? To Oxford to carry on the fight with his friend, king Charles? Not for William Cavendish

I could not bear the laughter of the court

He wrote, and he took the last train for the coast the night the king’s cause died, taking not the father son and holy ghost but the next best thing, his senior officers, and took a ship from Scarborough for the continent. Where there would once more be music, and he would find his inspiration and true love with Margaret Lucas, Charles Lucas’s sister. King Charles wrote him a very generous letter on hearing the news telling him not to blame himself and that

One day, God willing, peace will return and he will be able to reward friends as is their due

Leven meanwhile returned from Leeds, where he had run in a panic if you remember, having announced the utter defeat of all their hopes while in town. As senior commander, Marston Moor was essentially his victory. It was he that had seen the royalists standing down for the day, the dropping of their guard and that by a swift attack he would gain enormous advantage – possibly the single most crucial element across the whole battle. But nonetheless – he was understandably a little embarrassed at the extravagance and completeness of his legging it. By the way, it’s also said that Fairfax fled the field, but I just couldn’t work out when he’d have had time, so I left it out.

Anyway, the victor of the king’s hopes in the North returned, surveyed the field and is reported to have said

‘I would to God I had dyed upon the place’

so deep was his embarrassment. His chaplain explained it all by saying that God had decided to send Leven’s cavalry forces away so that the victory of the rest would be even more glorious for the them, which is a nice way to try to save your boss’ blushes.

York’s position was hopeless of course. Within two weeks, terms had been agreed with its new governor, Thomas Fairfax, and all the remaining royalists, soldiers and civilians, were allowed to march out of the city, with their arms and colours. There was no murder and mayhem. Also, Thomas earned the grateful thanks of all of us by not allowing any iconoclastic desecrations to take place in the minster. Not the least reason to love Fairfax.

Rupert had lost none of his energy. Although Cromwell had been set to chase him and George Goring down, he moved once more like the wind, probably even angrier than he had been on the way up. On the way to Chester, North Wales and eventually to Bristol and Oxford, Rupert met up with a couple of rather bedraggled looking noblemen, who hailed him and asked for his help.

They turned out to  the Marquis of Montrose and the son of the Earl of Gordon, Huntly – Lord Aboyne. They were trying to revive their invasion of Scotland as commanded by their king. They asked if Rupert could spare some cavalry. Obviously the answer was no, hopefully politely put. So it looked as though Montrose’s plans lay in the scuppers with a hosepipe on ‘em. But in August Montrose would learn that the Earl of Antrim had finally come through on his promises to provide an army to invade Scotland. And one Alasdair MaColla had set off from the shores of Ulster for the Campbell lands of Argyll in Scotland with a couple of handy tools in his satchel – namely fire and sword. So, that’s an adventure then, and off Montrose set. For his date with destiny. Just the sort of dates your Montrose types like to hook up with, not for them a nice cup of tea and a slice of lardy cake.

In the aftermath, Oliver Cromwell sat down to get the most important and unpleasant tasks done, and wrote a letter to Valentine Walton, his brother in law, married to his sister Margaret. It was written in his own hand. Because Valentine’s son, also called Valentine, had been killed in the battle by a cannonball.

He starts by warning Valentine there is heavy news on the way

Dear Sir,

It’s our duty to sympathise in all mercies, that we may praise the Lord together, in chastisements or trials, that so we may sorrow together.

He continues with as short a report of the battle as he can manage, 126 words

Truly England, and the church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord in this great victory given unto us such as the like never was since this war begun. It had all the evidences of an absolute victory obtained by the Lords blessing upon the godly party principally. We never charged but we routed the enemy, the left wing which I commanded being our own horse, saving a few Scots in our rear, beat all the Princes horse. God made them as stubble to our swords, we charged their Regiments of foot with our horse, routed all we charged. The particulars I cannot relate now but, I believe of 20,000 the prince hath not 4000 left. Give glory, all the glory, to God.

but the letter focusses on Valentine, describing how the cannonball smashed his leg and going on

Sir, you know my trials this way, but the Lord supported me with this, that the Lord took him into the happiness we all pant after, and live for.

There is your precious child, full of glory, to know sin nor sorrow any more. He was a gallant young man, exceeding gracious. God give you his comfort. Before his death he was so full of comfort, that to Franke Russell and myself he could not express it, it was so great above his pain.

Truly he was exceedingly beloved in the Army of all that knew him, but few knew him, for he was a precious young man, fit for God. You have cause to blesse the Lord, he is a glorious saint in heaven, wherein you ought exceedingly to rejoice. Let this drink up your sorrow, seeing these are not fained words to comfort you, but the thing is so real and undoubted a truth… The Lord be your strength, so prays your truly faithful and loving brother, Oliver Cromwell

The letter has been much analysed, and I think what you take out of it maybe depends on your ultimate view of the man; I have put the full version and a link to a very interesting article about it on the website. Edward Hyde hated Cromwell when he wrote his history as Clarendon after the war, basically recognising him as a force of nature, but describing him as a ‘brave, bad man’. Another contemporary, the preacher Richard Baxter rather nicely sums up the confusion, which this letter and Cromwell’s entire career have given posterity for close to 400 years

Never man was higher extolled, and never man was baselier reported of and vilified than this man. No mere man was better and worse spoken of than he, according as men’s interests led their judgement.

So in brief; there is much rather beautifully expressed human sympathy in the letter. The absolute centrality of faith to Cromwell of course come through, and it’s been noted that whereas for other military commanders like Fairfax and Manchester, military success and political resolution were the leading motivation; for Cromwell, both were subsidiary to his faith.

But a load of negative things have also been emphasised. If you are really being harsh, and some are, you interpret the comfort being an implied ticking off that Valentine should not grieve his son’s death since he is in God’s hand. That does seem to be trying a bit hard to me, but who am I. More reasonably it’s noted that the letter glorifies God, but doesn’t fail to glorify Cromwell either, which is definitely a thing for Cromwell, he likes to blow his own trumpet; but bear in mind this is not a public report, it’s a private letter to his brother in law. It seems to rather marginalise the Scots – same point that this is not an official military report it to his brother. It is though, bloodthirsty – ‘they were as stubble to our swords’, stubble, not men; although again, it’s borrowing biblical language – Isiah I think is often quoted. Anyway, an interesting letter, have a look at the website and article if you are interested.

The battle was reported, would cause upset, and reflected the growing tensions in the alliance. News dribbled back as news does, and was seized on by the newsbooks who put their own spin on thing. Early news came to parliament from two members of Cromwell’s horse, Thomas Harrison and Charles Fleetwood and it was a Cromwell story.

Then a Scottish soldier turned up with letters which played up the Scottish contribution. To be honest as far as I can see there’s then a deal of even handedness; one of Manchester’s chaplains published a tract which gave all the credit to the Eastern Association but then heard more and issued an apology which gave due prominence to David Leslie’s contribution. Lord Saye and Sele’s report certainly bigged Cromwell up, but also the Scot, David Leslie. Another English writer marked Leven out for the chief praise.

But Robert Baillie, one of the Scots commissioners was thoroughly cheesed off. And the reason is important. Here’s something of what he wrote

We were both grieved and angry, that your Independents there should have sent up Major Harrison to trumpet over all the city their own praises, to our prejudice, making all believe, that Cromwell alone, with his unspeakable valorous regiments, had done all that service

The word here is Independent. The Westminster assembly was not going quite to plan; in that some of its members had openly published tracts which advocated the right of religious freedom rather than the national presbyterian model. So the Covenanters and English Presbyterians were seeing a threat emerging to the adoption of the model in England, which was to them such an important matter of both salvation and national Scottish security. And now they were beginning to see Cromwell as an Independent – politically as well as religiously. Really it’s too early to make such a contention – although the most extraordinary efforts have gone into making it so through that private letter to Valentine Walton. At this point Cromwell, like Vane, might have concerns about the Covenant; but was focussed mainly on winning the war.

But by the Autumn of 1644 Bailie saw the danger, that Cromwell was seen as a

wise and active head, universally well beloved, as religious and stout; being a known Independent, the most of the soldiers who loved new ways putt themselves under his command’.

So Baillie angrily denounced Cromwell as an ‘incendiary’, who should be impeached for

Kindling the coals of contention[3]

Needless to say, Cromwell did not appreciate the accusation, and it probably made everything worse, but look, Robert Baillie was not wrong that Cromwell would grow to reject the idea of what he saw as simply a different form of religious tyranny.

One more Cromwell story, because I’m anxious to keep the connection between him and Honest John going, and also the start of his rift with Manchester, though it’s a little thing. Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne had been sent at the head of some dragoons to bottle up a royalist garrison at Tickhill near Donnie. Actually Lilburne exceeded his orders and negotiated a surrender. When Manchester turned up he carpeted Lilburne for exceeding his orders and refused to take it any further; it was probably Cromwell who then intervened with his boss to tell him to be sensible, and just accept the situation and the surrender of the castle. Oliver is once more sticking up for his men, but also for a known independent that his boss thinks is a trouble maker.

Right that is finally it with Marston Moor. Leven and his Scots head north to Newcastle, and support rather general operations in Yorkshire and the borders, as the North is consolidated for parliament. Newcastle will fall at the end of October to the Scots, which will be a relief for London since it will have coal again. London had been denuded of its trees as people sought fuel. But you and I must now head south. For Celtic lands. To Cornwall, famously both Celtic – and a cul de sac.

Now then. There was a possible scenario in summer 1644 for the way the English Revolution will end. Stay with me on this. In the south Midlands, Essex and Waller’s army were combined and heavily outnumbered the King. They pursue Charles with grim determination, and then on 2nd July, disaster strikes Rupert’s army in the north and it is wiped out at this place called Marston Moor. Charles wriggles and squiggles but is run to ground and with nowhere to turn is forced to surrender and come to terms. The roll of the dice at Marston Moor led to disaster, Charles was forced negotiate. Facing the horror of the Presbysterian kirk, he huffs and puffs, but he cannot blow the house down so, the independents and the Anglicans made common cause and pluralism became part of the national body politic, the king’s rights though clipped remained central to the English constitution and everyone lived happily ever after.  The end.

[play extro music]


Ok, most of that is deeply iffy, but the first bit, the military defeat of the king was entirely possible. Whether that is in fact what happens is the subject of the second half of this episode. A couple of things define the months between June and September in the south and south west. One is that Charles plays a blinder. The other is that Essex and Waller hate each other, Essex feels his position as General of Parliamentary armies is challenged and behaves more in line with this than in line with good sense and logic.

Charles’s position after his success at Cropredy Bridge was still dire; he was heavily outnumbered when Essex and Waller reluctantly combined, and agreed to work together with Essex as the boss.  And they had boxed Charles in around Oxford with only 5,500 men. But through march and counter march, Charles opened a gap between the two of them, made a sprint for it and squeezed through a gap in their line and escaped into the Cotswolds, west of Oxford. Well, as you can imagine there was miffiness and Waller and Essex pursued until they came to the mighty cosmopolis that was Stow on the Wold. There they held an army council. And against Waller’s furious objections they decided to separate their armies. The reason for this was partly Henrietta Maria, partly Lyme Regis and partly something inexplicable – and not n a good way.

Henrietta Maria first. You may remember she had left Oxford in April to go westward and find somewhere safe. Bath turned out not to be safe, riddled with plague and disease, and so she carried on to Exeter for her confinement, taking over Bedford House and having just the worst time of her pregnancy, partially losing her sight at one stage. On June 16th, she was delivered of a daughter, Henrietta. So she’s there at Exeter down in the South West in Devon.

Next we turn to Lyme Regis. Now it’s a thing about sieges. Very often, as we described in the last few episodes, they are local affairs, but on occasion they become the national focus. Newark in 1644 seemed to be the fulcrum for the royalist position north and south, prompting Rupert to sweep up and relieve it; and then York held the key to the north, and so again became the focus of a militarily strategic campaign, for good reasons. And in 1644, Lyme Regis became apparently a strategic objective for Essex. Now it’s a nice enough place Lyme, don’t get me wrong, but strategic objective it ain’t. But because it was being besieged by Prince Maurice, because it was a puritan town, because it was being furiously and bravely defended, because ther newsheets had got hold of it, the entire parliamentarian campaign at this point of critical opportunity when the war could have been won – get’s skewed.

Now there is no doubt that the defence of Lyme Regis had become something of a symbol to the cause. Maurice invested the south coast port in April, and I think it’s fair to say the resistance of the sea port, led by Robert Blake and famously the Women of Lyme really got his goat. ‘The little vile fishing village of Lyme’ he called it, and clearly taking it was going to be a doddle ‘breakfast work … they would not dine till they had taken it’. However, not only was it defended by a substantial force of 1,100 soldiers, but the newsheets quickly got hold of the story of the women who took part with religious fervour. There was a much parodied heroic poem the Joanereidos[4], telling the story of how one maid lost her hand while carrying a pail to put out a conflagration caused by the besiegers, and another lost both her arms. That sort of thing. Heroism at Limb loss level. So instead, Maurice and his army – which themselves frankly had better things to do with their time – were tied down throughout May 1644.

The public pressure grew on the CBK to do something about this, and they are partly to blame for giving into just a little bit. They sent a note to Essex to say look, why doncha cut off a tiny wee corner of your army and send it under some office junior down to Lyme to relieve it. Maurice is in trouble anyway since the defenders down there haven’t turned out to be as ‘armless as he thought, so shouldn’t take much.

Well at the army council at Stow, Essex decided that the little sea port and future holiday town of Lyme Regis was critical to the success of the cause, and took his whole army down there. The CBK were livid when they heard, hopping around like Rumpelstiltskin with his foot stuck in the floor, laying a great clutch of eggs, Waller’s jaw was on his toe caps for the rest of the year. But Essex was out of there. Possibly there were two other considerations; one Essex hated Waller and wanted his life back. Two, he could chase the Queen and capturing her would be a fine negotiating chip. And three well – Lyme is a nice place and everyone wanted it saved and who doesn’t want to be a hero? The plan forged at Stow was that Waller would continue to chase down the king. But Waller’s army was deserting in droves, and before long it was all he could do to lock himself up in Abingdon and hope desperately no one noticed him. Essex, before he knew it, would be on his own, and the king free as the air to make trouble with his army, which was getting more recruits by the day.




Still it all went swimmingly to begin with. Maurice was indeed angrily forced to raise the siege and stomped off muttering that he never wanted the vile little fishing village anyway. Stomped off to join the king whose army was beginning to look pretty nifty. Joining the king was probably the right thing for him to do anyway, Essex or no Essex.

The women of Lyme streamed out like angry bees from the sea port and within a matter of days 400 of them had erased the royalist siege fortifications. The woman who’d lost a hand was reported as declaring

‘Truly, I am glad with all my heart that I had a hand to lose for Jesu Christ, for whose Cause I am as willing and ready to lose not only my other hand but my life also.’

Ok, it’s good to know there are lovers of drama on both sides.

Essex now had the bit between his teeth, like a bird on the wing he was determined to chase the Queen down in the west country and on 25th June the CBK bowed to the inevitable and accepted that’s where his army was going, as Essex set off for Devon. To give them their due, the CBK recognised the danger in the Midlands where the king was looking threatening and urged Fairfax, Leven and Manchester to get down here and finish the job. But Fairfax was busy with York. Leven and Manchester were busy basking. Manchester had retired to Lincoln and was going nowhere fast. We have now firmly entered Manchester’s torpid phase. He was a gentle sort of bloke, and had been horrified at the slaughter; he wanted no more of that. He wanted to win in moderation rather than with a sword at his king’s throat, if only the king had been capable of such a thing. The CBK were back in Rumpelstiltskin hopping around mode urging him to do something.

Down, down went Essex with Phillip Skippon at his side, south west, ever south west into Devon, where Robert Blake captured Taunton in Somerset on 8th July. At which point Charles had probably received the bad news from Marston Moor, but now thought he saw an opportunity. Famously, Devon and Cornwall turn into a cul de sac. Hmm.

Well Essex wasn’t worried about that. He had at his side a manically enthusiastic and positive chap called Lord Robarts who told him that the Devonians and Cornish were very Godly and would be mad keen for him, nothing to fear m’lud, and Essex was outside Exeter. HM had written in her distress for assurances, and received only the news that she would be safely transferred to the safety of the great city of London. This was not the reassurance HM had been looking for.

The Queen was still weak and ill, but she refused to be delivered into the hands of her enemies there to be used to bring her husband’s cause to perdition. So she left her tiny baby with one Lady Dalkeith, and fled, with members of her household such as Margaret Lucas, the future Countess of Newcastle, scattering to make their way secretly out of the city avoiding the parliamentary forces. HM hid “under a heap of litter” in a hut for three days without food or water but escaped, and made it to Falmouth, which is a long journey, deep into Cornwall, where others who had evaded capture made it too.

She hired a barque to take her to France – but it was a close run thing, fired on by Warwick’s ships, so that HM ordered her captain to scuttle the ship rather than be taken, then running a storm – but she made it to France, to Brittany, and to the court of Louis XIII. She was welcomed with open arms and honour as you’d expect, and set up with a court at the Louvre. There she would work tirelessly for the cause once more.

By 20th July, Charles had probably decided to rescue his Queen, and his increasingly strong army was in pursuit into the closed bag that is Devon and Cornwall, – have I made the point sufficiently that it’s a no through road? – not realising that by then his Queen had escaped. And what of Essex?

Well obviously this would be a good time not to walk into a trap. But he’d been having a good time, the gentry of Dorset and Devon had indeed welcomed him. And Lord Roberts was still wittering on about the Corns. And there was a county to capture and glory to be won. To be honest, no one can work out what Essex was on by this stage, why he was going on into Cornwall. He had begun to realise that he was outnumbered now and appealed for re-inforcements; Waller managed to send 2,000 horse who were intercepted and routed at Bridgewater and so didn’t get to him. Probably Essex thought Warwick’s navy was his ace in the hole, that could deliver supplies, or even pick them up.

So Essex kept on, south west, ever south west. It was raining

The ways were so extreme, foul with excessive rain, and the harness for draught horses so rotten,  that in the marching off we lost three demi culverins and a brass piece….the night was so foul and the soldiers so tired that they were hardly to be kept to their colours[5]

Nor, it turns out, were the locals friendly. Cornwall was one of those areas very firm for the king throughout, proud of their local language and traditions. As the parliamentary army struggled past Plymouth into Cornwall and to Bodmin by the end of July, Phillip Skippon’s men were suffering from constant attacks, raids and skirmishes by the increasingly powerful royal army. George Goring had arrived from the north with a new Cavalry force, and Charles’ army was now significant, 19,000 strong to Essex’s 10,000. This isn’t looking like such a fun party anymore, and Essex was beginning to realise he might need to reach for his hole and fish out that ace.

Meanwhile his army was experiencing a clash of cultures. The Cornish were more than unhelpful. Despairingly Essex wrote

Intelligence we have none, the country people being violent against us; if any of the scouts and soldiers fall into their hands they are more bloody than the enemy

His army weren’t enjoying their Cornish holiday either,

We are among a people as far from humanity as they are from sanctities, for they will neither serve God nor man, but after the old fashion of their Grandfathers

It’s a fair note of caution you’ve got to be careful of those Cornish Grandfathers, they are a rum lot. As August wore on, the situation grew more and more desperate for Essex and his men as they holed up around Fowey, desperately hoping Warwick would save them.

Warwick could not save them. The winds were a constant problem, and basically he had nowhere near the capacity to load up 10,000 soldiers or anything like it, even if the royalists could be held up for long enough while they tried it.

Charles launched attack after attack around the village of Lostwithiel from 21st August, and strongpoint by strongpoint fell, pushing Essex into an area 2 miles by 5 around the town. Charles was energised, he would save this war with his own bare hands, and he was relentless.

That night the king lay under the hedge with his servants in one field…I saw 8 or 9 of the enemy’s dead under the hedges that day

wrote Richard Simmonds outside Lostwithial.

In parliament’s camp, it was decided that they must try a breakout; in the dead of night Essex’s cavalry did just that – but not by blasting their way through the lines and scoring a great victory, no no, by creeping very quietly through friendly fog, through the encircling lines and away.





On the morning of 1st September then, Philip Skippon roused himself as normal and went to find his commander, for the Council of war about how they got themselves out of his mess. He found the cupboard of leadership bare; Essex at that very moment was on a fishing boat, making his way to Warwick’s navy and safety.

I thought fit to look to myself, it being a greater terror to me to be a slave of their contempt than a thousand deaths. I would rather fall into the hands of God than men, for if the enemy should take me  they would use me reproachfully

I imagine they would but seriously is that justification? Lord knows what Skippon thought when he realised he’d been left higher and drier than a kipper, more than anyone had a right to be left by his boss. The going had got tough, and Essex had gone fishing.

The royalist newsheets knew what they thought

We desire to know the reason why the rebels voted to live and die with the Earl of Essex since the Earl of Essex hath declared he will not live and die with them

I imagine the starving wet beaten men staring annihilation in the face at Lostwithiel had similar thoughts. To be fair, Essex knew what he had done, and that he must face the music face. He wrote to his political ally Philip Stapleton.

‘It is the greatest blow that ever befell our party. I desire nothing more than to come to the Tryal, such losses as these must not be smothered up’

But, if you are ever in that sort of jam, the sort of thing that would have baffled Abraham, you could do worse than have your baby held by a man of the calibre of Phillip Skippon.

He called his officers together and talked options; it appears Skippon had plans for another breakout, to make like the horse; but his officers quickly talked him out of that as impractical without four legs. So Skippon gathered his army and made a speech for the galleries, royalist as well as his own men, just as he’d done on the common at Turnham Green, and apparently his men

Threw up their hats and gave a great shout, resolving unanimously to fight it out to the last man

I think we might take this with a pinch of salt, I’d have thought ‘you must be blooming joking mate’ might have been closer to the truth, but if it did happen it was for effect, for a good bargaining position. Because Skippon sued the king for terms. And maybe it did happen, because Charles gave good terms, terms that were too good probably, and agreed to let the army march out, after laying down all its weapons and suffering the shame of surrendering their colours. Maybe the royalists were themselves short of supplies, maybe they feared the death and destruction of a final fight against an enemy apparently so resolute to sell their lives dearly. So the men were not imprisoned nor made to give a bond against signing up again. He would regret it, a bit.

In fact most of the bedraggled and deserted soldiers would have sold their lives for tuppence ha’penny. They did have to run the gauntlet, passing through the royalist lines, and Richard Simmonds watched them go

So dirty and dejected as was rare to see. None of them, except some few of the officers, that did look any of us in the face. Our foot would flout at them, and bid them remember Reading…this was a happy day for his Majesty…tis conceived very few will get safe to London, for the country people when they have in all the march so much plundered and robbed, that they will have their pennyworth out of them

It was a miserable march with no food little water, no one willing to offer help on the way. One of the soldiers later remembered

Next day some of our soldiers mistook their way and went a mile from the army, many of which were most miserably wounded, some were killed within a little of Tiverton…many that escaped came to us all blood and wounded

Skippon was with them all the way. He might not have been actually, he’d had options. After the terms were agreed, Charles drew him aside, and suggested he maybe ought to fight for the side that had truth light and justice on their side, not the idea that just provided the best biscuits. Skippon was firm, and replied that

He was fully resolved of those principles to which he stood to be for God and his glory, in which by God’s assistance he would live and die

Bulstrode Whitelocke noted in his diary that Skippon had done every bit as well as could have been expected, and more, and that he had

Carried his loss with a very good grace

Skippon’s miserable men agreed, as he went with them

Never was any man so patient, so humble, and so truly wise and valiant in all his actions

Still when all’s said and done the nine stitches have been stitched, the shouting is shouted and the fat lady is blasting away, this was still a disaster. As far as parliament were concerned, Essex had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and to be fair to him Charles had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Just as the north was now a largely parliamentarian country, with the exception of the royalist port and stronghold of Chester, the West was now a parliament free zone. With the exception it must be said of the new Parliamentarian stronghold of Taunton in Somerset.

And now once more Charles stood with an impressive, trained army, combining the forces of his own, of Prince Maurice and George Goring. And no one stood in his way to London – again. In London, the CBK were lighting fires, or trying to under the bum of their victorious Eastern Association commander, Manchester. Get your yellow belly down here, stop enjoying the delights of Lincoln, considerable though they are. Essex was temporarily forgiven and ordered to gather the shards of his dignity and his army, stop squabbling with Waller for one minute, all get together and do what they should already have done – and crush a King that appeared to have been beaten down and out. And now suddenly looked distressingly healthy.

[1] Raymond, J, ‘Martin Parker’ in ODNB

[2] Hutton, R: ‘The Making of Oliver Cromwell’, p187

[3] Purkiss, D: ‘The English Civil war: A People’s History’, p337

[4] Fraser, A: ‘The Weaker Vessel’, location 4027

[5] Purkiss, D: ‘The English Civil War’, p363







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