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Reign of Charles I. (Continued) page 6

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Surely such a system of royal and political hocus-pocus never had been concerted before. Ormond, on seeing the defeasance, declared that it was quite satisfactory, binding the king to nothing; in fact, he had to avoid the danger of alarming the catholics and losing their army for the king; and the protestants having seen the affected zeal to prosecute Glamorgan had become greatly appeased. Glamorgan was, therefore, liberated, and hastened again to Kilkenny, to urge on the sending of the forces. But the late disclosures had not been without their effect. One part of the council insisted on the full execution of the king's warrant, the open acknowledgment of catholicism as the established religion, and the pope's nuncio, Runcini, who had lately arrived, strongly urged them to stand by that demand. But another part of the council were more conceding, and by their aid Glamorgan obtained five thousand men, with whom he marched to Waterford, to hasten their passage for the relief of Chester, where lord Byron was driven to extremities by the parliamentarians. There, however, he received the news that Chester had fallen, and there was not a single port left where Glamorgan could land his troops; he therefore disbanded them, except three hundred, who proceeded with Digby, to form a guard for the prince of Wales.

That young prince, now sixteen years of age, had had a council appointed him by his father, and he had been made nominal commander in the west of England. The miserable cabals and squabbles of the generals down there - Goring, Grenvil, and others, must have only shown him some of the miseries of a king in trouble. Fairfax and Cromwell, however, did not leave these quarrelsome generals too much time. He defeated lord Hopton, the general-in-chief, at Torrington, and pursued him into Cornwall as far as Bodmin, Charles, anxious for the safety of the prince, repeatedly ordered him to get out of the kingdom and proceed to the court of Denmark, having very natural fears of his falling into the power of the French government. The prince not leaving, Charles now insisted on his getting over to Holland, France, or anywhere, so that he got out of the reach of the parliamentary generals. Accordingly, the prince retreated in February to Truro, thence to Pendennis Castle, and thence on the second of March to the Scilly Isles. Feeling insecure in the Scilly Isles on account of the parliamentary fleet, he took the opportunity to escape to Jersey, where Digby met him, and endeavoured to persuade him to go with him to Ireland, where he told him there was an army of ten thousand men, and promised him an enthusiastic reception, and the opportunity of doing signal service for his majesty. But to this the council would not listen, whereupon Digby, and the lords Colepepper and Capel, hasten to Paris, and on a fair promise from Mazarin agreed that the prince should come thither, where accordingly he arrived at the end of June.

Whilst these measures had been prosecuting for the safety of the heir-apparent, the unfortunate monarch had been still endeavouring to negotiate some terms for himself, first with one party and then with another, or with all together. The parliament had treated with contempt two offers of negotiation from him. They did not even deign him an answer. But his circumstances were now such that he submitted to insults that even a short time before would have been deemed incredible. On the 29th of January he made his second offer; he repeated it on the 23rd of March. He offered to disband his forces, dismantle his garrisons - he had only five, Pendennis, in Cornwall, Worcester, Newark, Raglan, and Oxford - and to take up his residence at Westminster, near the parliament, on a guarantee that he and his followers should be suffered to live in honour and safety, and his adherents should retain their property. But the parliament were now wholly in the ascendant, and they made the wretched king feel it. Instead of a reply, they, issued an order that if he should come within their lines, he should be conducted to St. James's, his followers imprisoned, and none be allowed to have access to him. At the same time they ordered all catholics, and all who had borne arms for the king, to depart within six days, or expect to be treated as spies, and dealt with by martial law,

But whilst thus ignominiously repelled by parliament, Montreuil was still pursuing negotiations on his behalf with the Scots. He obtained for the purpose the post of agent from the French court to Scotland, and with some difficulty obtained from the parliament leave to visit the king at Oxford with letters from the king of France and the queen- regent, before proceeding northwards. He employed his time there in urging Charles to agree with the Scots by conceding the point of religion; and at length it was concluded that Charles should force his way through the parliamentary army investing Oxford, and the Scots at Newark should send three hundred horse to receive him, and escort him to their army. Montreuil, on his part, delivered to Charles an engagement from the Scottish commissioners for the king's personal safety, his conscience, and his honour, as well as for the security and religious freedom of his followers. This was also guaranteed by the king and queen- regent of France on the behalf of the Scots who had applied to them for their good offices. Charles wrote to Ormond in Ireland, informing him that he had received this security. from the Scots, and on the 3rd of April Montreuil set forward northwards.

Montreuil carried with him an order from the king to lord Bellasis, to surrender Newark into the hands of the Scots, but on arriving at Southwell, in the camp of the Scots, he was astonished to find that the leaders of the army professed ignorance of the conditions made with the Scottish commissioners in London. They would not, therefore, undertake the responsibility of meeting and escorting the king - which they declared would be a breach of the solemn league and covenant betwixt the two nations - till they had conferred with their commissioners, and made all clear. The security mentioned by Charles to Ormond would, if this were true, have been from the commissioners only; and there must have been gross neglect in not duly apprising the officers of it. Montreuil was greatly disconcerted by this discovery, burnt the order for the surrender of Newark, and wrote to Charles to inform him of the unsatisfactory interview with the Scots. It is doubtful whether Charles ever received this letter. At all events, impatient of some results, for the parliamentary army was fast closing round Oxford, he snatched at another chance. Captain Fawcett, governor of Woodstock, sent to tell him that that garrison was reduced to extremities, and to inquire whether he might expect relief, or whether he should surrender it on the best terms he could obtain. Charles immediately applied to colonel Rainsborough, the chief officer conducting the siege of Oxford, for passports for the earls of Southampton and Lindsay, Sir William Fleetwood, and Mr. Ashburnham, to treat with him about the surrender of Woodstock; but the main thing was to propose the coming of the king to them on certain conditions. Rainsborough and the other officers appeared much pleased, but said they could not decide so important an affair without reference to their superior officers, but if the offer were entertained, they would the next day send a pass for them to come and complete the negotiation. If the pass did not come, it must be understood that the offer was not accepted. No pass came, and the king was reduced to a great strait, for the parliamentarian armies were coming closer and closer. He applied then to Ireton, who was posted at Woodstock, but he returned him no answer; to Vane, but he referred him to parliament; and thus was the humiliated king treated with the most insulting contempt. It was believed that it was the intention of parliament to keep the king there till Fairfax and Cromwell, who were now marching up from the west, should arrive, when they would capture him, and have him at their mercy.

At length Montreuil informed the king that deputies from the army had met the commissioners at Royston, and that it was settled to receive the king. There are very conflicting accounts of the proceedings at this period. Clarendon and Ashburnham, who have both left accounts, vary considerably, Ashburnham, the king's groom of the chambers, says that word was sent that David Leslie would meet his majesty at Gainsborough with two thousand horse, but Montreuil's message was that the Scots would send a strong party to Burton-on-Trent, beyond which they could not go with that force, but would send a few straggling horse to Harborough, and if the king informed them of the day he would be there, they would not fail him. As to a proposal that Charles was impolitic enough to make to these Scotch covenanters, to form a junction with Montrose, a man whom they hated with a deadly hatred, for his ravages and slaughters of their party, they treated it with scorn; and, adds Montreuil, "with regard to the presbyterian government, they desire his majesty to agree with them as soon as he can, Such is the account they make here of the engagement of the king, my master, and of the promises I had from their party in London." He adds, that if any better conditions could be had from any other quarter, these ought not to be thought of. Montreuil wrote twice more, the last time on the 20th of April, expressing no better opinion of the Scots, and saying that they would admit none of his majesty's followers except his two nephews, Rupert and Maurice, with him, and such servants as were not excepted from the pardon; and that they could not then refuse to give them up to the parliament, but would find means to let them escape.

A more gloomy prospect for the king than the one in that quarter could scarcely present itself. It appears that he had not yet agreed to their ultimatum, the concession of the supremacy of the presbyterian church, and therefore there was no actual treaty between them. But all other prospects were utterly closed; Charles must choose between the Scots and the parliament, the latter body pursuing a contemptuous and ominous silence. Fairfax and Cromwell were now within a day's march of the city, and Charles made his choice of the Scots. Yet so undecided even at the moment of escaping from the city was he, that he would not commit himself irrevocably to the Scots, by announcing to them his departure, and the direction of his journey. It is remarkable, indeed, that he had not before, or even now, thought of endeavouring to escape to Ireland, and making a second stand there with the confederates, or of getting to the continent and awaiting a turn of fortune. But he seemed altogether like a doomed mortal, who could not fly his fate, justifying the feeling of Bernini, the sculptor, who on seeing the portrait of him painted by Vandyke in his youth, and sent to Rome for the execution of his bust, started back, and declared the possessor of that face born to destruction. In Vandyke's four celebrated paintings of him, we see him riding, as it were, on the path of his gloomy destiny. A melancholy, deep and fixed as death, reigns in his whole form and in every feature; and on that path he had gone, not with a wild impetuosity, but with a solemn, desperate, and downcast hardiness, blind to all the signs of heaven and earth, the most wretched and incorrigible of men.

About two o'clock on the morning of the 27th of April, Charles set out from Oxford, disguised as the servant of Ashburnham. He had his hair cut short by Ashburnham, and rode after that gentleman and Hudson, the chaplain, who knew the country well, and was their guide. They rode out unsuspected over Magdalen Bridge, Charles having, groom-like, a cloak strapped round his waist. To prevent particular attention or pursuit, several others of them rode out at the same time in different directions. Charles and his pretended masters got without suspicion through the lines of the parliamentary army, and reached Henley-on-Thames in safety. But once in temporary safety, Charles appeared more undecided than ever. He did not attempt to send word to the Scots to meet him; but, says Clarendon, he was uncertain whether to go to the Scottish army, or to get privately into London, and lie concealed there till he might choose what was best. Clarendon says he still thought so well of the city of London, as not to have been unwilling to have found himself there. But certainly the city of London had never shown itself more favourable to him than the parliament; and now with the parliament in the ascendant, it was not likely that it would undertake to contend with it for the protection or rights of the king. Charles still hoped, Clarendon says, that he might hear of Montrose making a fresh movement in his behalf, in which case he would endeavour to get to him; and he never, for a long time after, gave up the hope of still hearing something from Ireland in his favour. From Henley, he therefore directed his way to Slough, thence to Uxbridge, Hillingdon, Brentford, so near did he reach London, and then again go off to Harrow. His uncertainty increased more and more. He proceeded towards St. Albans, and near that town was alarmed by the sound of horses' feet behind them. It was only a drunken man; but to avoid danger they kept out of St. Albans, and continued through the bye-ways to Harborough, where he was on the 28th. Two days after he had got to Downham, in Norfolk, and spent some time in inquiring after a vessel that might carry him to Newcastle or Scotland: he had still no idea of escaping to the continent. He seems to have expected at Harborough some message from the Scots or from Montreuil, but as none was there, he had despatched Hudson to Montreuil, at Southwell. No prospect of escape, by sea offering - for the coasts were strictly guarded by the parliamentary vessels - Charles, on Hudson returning with a message from Montreuil, that the Scots still declared that they would receive the king on his personal honour; that they would press him to do nothing contrary to his conscience; that Ashburnham and Hudson should be protected; that if the parliament refused, on a message from the king, to restore him to his rights and prerogatives, they would declare for him, and take all his friends under their protection; and that if the parliament did agree to restore the king, not more than four of his friends should be punished, and that only by banishment. All this Montreuil, according to Hudson's own account afterwards to parliament, assured Charles by note, but added that the Scots would only give it by word of mouth, and not by writing.

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