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Reign of Charles I. (Concluded.) page 5


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This seems to have inspired a belief in these men that Hammond was secretly in favour of the king, strengthened, no doubt, by the fact that Dr. Hammond, the king's chaplain, was his uncle, and had lately introduced him to his majesty as an ingenuous and repentant youth, notwithstanding his post, of real loyalty. They forgot that Hammond had another uncle, lieutenant-general Hammond, who was as democratic as the chaplain was loyal, and was a great patron of the adjutators. They seem to have reckoned as little on the honour of the young man, who was a gentleman and officer, and had married a daughter of John Hampden.

There were other schemes, one to seek refuge in Sir John Oglander's House, in the Isle of Wight, and there was a talk of a ship being ordered to be somewhere ready for him; but when the escape was made, it appeared to have been just as ill contrived as all the rest of Charles's escapes. Ashburnham and Berkeley had contrived to meet the king in the evening in the gallery of Hampton Court, and settled the mode of escape. It was the king's custom, on the Mondays and Thursdays, to write letters for the foreign post, and in the evenings he left his bed-chamber betwixt five and six o'clock, and went to prayers, and thence to supper. On one of these evenings, Thursday, the 11th of November, colonel Whalley, finding the king much later than usual in leaving his chamber, became uneasy, went thither, and found him gone. On the table he had left some letters, one to the parliament, another to the commissioners, and a third to colonel Whalley. In the letter to the parliament, he said liberty was as necessary to kings as others; that he had endured a long captivity in the hope that it might lead to a good peace, but that as it did not, he had withdrawn himself; that wherever he might be, he should earnestly desire a satisfactory agreement without further bloodshed, and was ready to break through his cloud of retirement, and show himself Pater patrise, whenever he could be heard with honour, freedom, and safety.

It appeared that he had escaped by the way of Paradise, a place so called in the gardens; his cloak was found lying in the gallery, and there were tramplings about a back gate leading to the waterside. Legge accompanied him down the backstairs, and Ashburnham and Berkeley joined them at the gate. The night was dark and stormy, which favoured their escape. They crossed the river at Thames Ditton, and made for Sutton, in Hampshire, where they had horses in readiness. Why they had not provided horses at a nearer point does not appear. In the night they lost their way in the forest, and reaching Sutton only at day break, and hearing that a county committee on parliamentary business was sitting there, they got out their horses, and rode away towards Southampton.

That night Cromwell was aroused from his bed at Putney, with a startling express that the king had escaped. He despatched a letter to the speaker, Lenthal, that night, dated twelve o'clock, with the news for parliament, and the news was the next morning announced to both houses. The confusion may be imagined; orders were issued to close all the ports, and all who concealed the place of the king's retreat, or harboured his person, were declared guilty of high treason, and menaced with loss of all their estate, and with death without mercy. On the 13th, colonel Whalley gave a narrative to the lords of the particulars of his escape as far as known. It appeared that the repeated howling of a greyhound in the king's chamber, first assured them that he could not be there, and in his letter to Whalley, he desired him to send this black bitch to the duke of Richmond. On Monday the 15th, a letter from colonel Hammond, from the Isle of Wight, much to the relief of parliament and army, announced that the absconded king was safe in his hands at Carisbrook Castle.

Both Ashburnham and Berkeley have left narratives of the escape, which, however, differ greatly in many particulars; but the following particulars appear to be pretty near the truth: - That on approaching Southampton, the king appeared apprehensive of proceeding to the Isle of Wight, till he knew how the governor would receive him, and therefore they proceeded to lord Southampton's, at Tichfield, where the mother of lord Southampton was, and to whom Charles at once made himself known, having perfect confidence in her honour. He sent Ashburnham to see after the mysterious ship, who returned, not having been able to find any such ship, and so being refreshed, the king sont on Ashburnham and Berkeley to the Isle of Wight, to sound the governor. On informing him that the king had escaped, and proposed to come to him, colonel Hammond turned very pale, and trembled very much, exclaiming that they had ruined him by bringing the king to him, for his loyalty and regard for the king was such, that he could not willingly do anything to his injury, at the same time that he was placed in a great trust by the parliament, and was bound in honour and duty not to betray it. Both of the narrators confess that they did not think it proper, under the circumstances, that the king should trust himself to the governor, as well they might not; yet when colonel Hammond demanded where the king was, they were weak enough to tell him. The governor immediately proposed to go to the king, to which they strangely consented, on condition that he should take no other person with him. Yet, say they, at Cowes Castle he took Basket, the governor of the castle, with him. These unaccountable messengers then put back across the Solent, and arriving at Tichfield, Ashburnham went up and told his majesty what he had done, the others staying below. When Charles heard that they had brought the governor, he exclaimed, "O Jack, thou hast undone me!" Ashburnham, hearing that, fell into a violent fit of weeping, and told Charles that he had not brought him without providing a remedy. The king insisted on knowing what that was, and Ashburnham said that the governor and Basket were but two; if he disapproved of seeing them, he would go down and kill them both; that he had considered it, and settled that to be the best, because he felt sure that the governor would have sent spies after them and seized the king, but now he would prevent that.

The king, hearing that, paced the room some time, and said he had sent to engage a ship at Southampton, and expected every minute to hear of it, and in that case he would contrive to get away, but he would not hear of the murder of Hammond; and after waiting two hours, and no ship arriving, and Hammond growing impatient, he allowed him to come up. The king told Hammond that he had come to put himself in his care, believing him loyal, and one that would not betray him. Hammond expressed himself as highly honoured by his majesty's confidence, but would only promise to do all he could for his majesty consistent with his duty as a man of honour. There was, however, nothing for it now but to go with him, Charles and his attendants probably thinking they could win him over. Charles was conducted to Carisbrook with all respect, and was much comforted on the way by gentlemen who flocked to see him, and assured him that the whole island was in his favour except the governors of the forts and Hammond's captains. Charles was treate'd most courteously by Hammond, and suffered to ride about the island, where he saw no measures taken to prevent his escape, if he desired it, so delicately did Hammond manage the matter; though ho proved himself, when the trial was made, to have taken all necessary precaution for his prisoner's security. Charles was greatly pleased with the apparent result of his flight. Charles's friends at a distance were equally satisfied by his representations, and Hammond and his officers appeared to have no greater desire than that he and the parliament should come to satisfactory terms. What raised Charles's confidence in Hammond's honour still higher, was that on the news of Charles's retreat reaching London, the parliament sent to the governor, desiring him to send up the king's three attendants, Ashburnham, Berkeley, and Legge, but he refused.

Scarcely had Charles reached Carisbrook, when he learned the result of the military rendezvous. The plans of the agitators had threatened, if successful, equal disaster to himself as to Cromwell. If they triumphed over their commanders, they vowed to kill Cromwell for having, as they believed, concerted with Charles his escape to the Isle of Wight, and to put down both king and lords. This turbulence forboded universal anarchy, but Fairfax and Cromwell determined to meet it boldly, and make an end of it. On the day appointed, the army mustered in a field betwixt Hereford and Ware, and a remonstrance, drawn up in the name of Fairfax, was read to them. In this he told them of the great objects for which the army was striving, but which could only be attained by union and subordination. Only two regiments in the field showed a refractory spirit - Harrison's horse and Lilburne's foot. These men had expelled many of their officers, and came on to the ground with a motto round their hats - "The people's freedom and the soldiers' rights." As these men showed a mutinous spirit, Cromwell, followed by some of his most trusty officers, dashed into their ranks, and according to Clarendon, " knocked two or three of their ringleaders on the head with his own hand, then charged the rest with his troop, and took such a number of them as he thought fit, whereof he presently caused some to be hanged, and sent others to London for a more formal trial. By two or three such encounters, for the obstinacy continued long, he totally subdued that spirit in the army, though it continued and increased very much in the kingdom, and if it had not been encountered at that time with that rough and brisk temper of Cromwell, it would presently have produced all imaginable confusion in the parliament, army, and kingdom."

According to Whitelock and Ludlow, the real facts were different, and more accordant with what followed. Cromwell did not knock several of them on the head, but brought out a number of the ringleaders, who were judged by a court martial on the spot, one man shot, two more condemned, and several others reserved as pledges for the submission of their comrades. But the spirit itself was not extinguished, it pervaded three-fourths of the army, and the quick genius of Cromwell saw that to attempt to trample it out would be impossible, and not more impossible than absurd. There was but a slight shade of difference, indeed, betwixt the ideas of the soldiers and his own. Their violation of discipline had misled his judgment: his and their convictions were the same. He had already expressed his conviction openly that this kingdom would be far happier with a government like that of Holland, that is, a republic, with a stadtholder, as near as possible the ideal which he afterwards worked out. No sooner did he perceive this than he at once acknowledged his error. Historians have ridiculed the manner of his doing it, and treated it as a piece of his consummate cant. In the assembly of the officers he confessed, weeping as he spoke, that "his mind, dazzled by the glory of the world, had 1 not clearly discovered the work of the Lord; and therefore he humbled himself before them, and desired the prayers of the saints that God would forgive his self-seeking." But that I which appears cant to the worldly spirit of the present age, was I the real spirit and manner of that time. It was a time filled with the effervescence of religious faith; from the general study of the Bible among the people, its language, its tone, were become the popular language and tone; the heroes of the Old Testament, especially, were the heroes of its admiration, and nothing so completely proves their earnestness as the simple and unshrinking openness with which they avowed their religion, and placed it foremost in their words and actions. It does not follow that the world, and its motives and its ambitions, did not mingle largely with this religious orgasm; nothing is so subtle and deceptive as human nature, and the love of self has always contrived to steal in under the colour of the love of God, more or less, in every historic phenomenon. The besetting sin of Cromwell was ambition; there is no doubt that he afterwards became signally " dazzled by the glory of the world, so that he did not always clearly discern the work of the Lord; " but he was undoubtedly in earnest, and as undoubtedly was deeply religious, even when he was swayed aside by the mighty temptations of his position. He now confessed himself wrong and the army right, and declared his resolution to stand or fall with it. This was the only thing wanting to complete the triumph of the army and of democratic principles. The soldiers already knew that he was the military genius of the age, and as he now avowed himself one with them in faith and opinion, they received the confession with universal acclamations, and from that moment he was the hero, the idol, and the soul of the army. Ireton made the same confession, and took the same vow, and so far from " that spirit being totally subdued in the army," as Clarendon asserts, it became its entire life, and the pledge of its predominance.

Charles again employed the time on his hands in negotiation. As the army had restored unity to itself, he sought to obtain its concurrence to a personal treaty, and sent Berkeley to Fairfax, Cromwell, and Ireton, at Windsor. On his way there he fell in with cornet Joyce, who carried off the king from Holmby, who informed him of an ominous proposition discussed by the agitators, namely, to bring the king to trial; not, he said, with any design of putting him to death, but to prove on evidence who really bore the blame of the war. This prelude did but too truly prefigure the interview itself. The general, Cromwell, and Ireton, received him with severe aspects and distant coldness, and informed him that they were but the servants of the parliament, and referred him to it. He was not prevented by this, however, from sending a secret message to Cromwell, reminding him of his promises, and letting him know that he had secret instructions from the king to him. But Cromwell had now had too convincing proofs of the king's duplicity; he refused to receive the letters, informed Berkeley that he would do all in his power towards effecting a real peace, but was not disposed to risk his head for the king's sake. Repulsed here> Charles applied to parliament, which sent him four propositions as the basis of agreement, namely, that his majesty should concur in the bill for settling the militia; should recall all the proclamations, oaths, &c., against parliament; should disqualify all peers made since the renewal of the great seal from sitting in the house of peers; and should pass a hill for the adjournment of parliament being placed in the power of the houses themselves. These bills were sent by commissioners to Carisbrook, but the Scottish commissioners, who dreaded the acceptance of these bills, as rendering the English parliament independent of the league and covenant, hastened there, too, with a modified treaty of their own. Charles, thus encouraged, refused the four bills; the commissioners kissed hands and returned, and Charles signed the proposals of the Scots, which guaranteed the independence of their own religion, on condition of finding an army of forty thousand men for the restoration of the king.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. (Concluded.) page 5

Cromwell discovering the Kings letter
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Carisbrook Castle
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Cromwell suppressing the mutiny
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Carisbrook
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John Bradshaw
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Hurst Castle
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Removal of Charles
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King Charles summonde to execution
King Charles summonde to execution >>>>

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