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THE KING'S STANDARD AT NOTTINGHAM.
Such, then, is a very imperfect sketch of a few of the salient features of English society, at the time when rival armies of Englishmen stood front to front in the midland counties. The king in August had vainly attempted to obtain possession of Coventry. He had then gone to Leicester with a body of cavalry. On the 21st of August, the king's nephew, Prince Rupert, had joined him, and received the command of the horse. The next day they rode to Nottingham. The king's purpose was, upon Nottingham Castle, to set up his Standard-a ceremony which had not been seen in England since Richard III. had raised his standard in Bosworth-field-a ceremony which was held by some legists to be equivalent to a declaration that the kingdom. was in a state of war, and that the ordinary course of law was at an end. Evening was coming on. The great streamer, such as was borne by many men at a lord-mayor's show, was placed upon the highest tower, with a red battle-flag waving over it. The herald read a proclamation; the trumpets sounded; the friends who stood around the castle cried "God save the king." A stormy night came on; and, omen of disaster as many thought, the standard was blown down.
The setting-up of the Standard would appear from Clarendon's account to have been a hasty and somewhat desperate act. The king had previously issued a proclamation "requiring the aid and assistance of all his subjects on the north side Trent, and within twenty miles southward thereof, for the suppressing of the rebels, now marching against him." He calls, in a tone of supplication rather than of command, to invite all "whose hearts God Almighty shall touch with a true sense and apprehension of our sufferings," to attend our person at our town of Nottingham, where "we intend to erect our Standard Royal in our just and necessary defence, and whence we intend to advance forward for the suppression of the said rebellion." Clarendon says, "there appeared no conflux of men in obedience to the proclamation ; the arms and ammunition were not yet come from York, and a general sadness covered the whole town." There is a passage in his original MS. which adds, "And the king himself appeared more melancholic than he used to be." The historian of "The Rebellion" further enlarges upon the gloomy prospect that was before the king and his adherents :-" The king received intelligence the next day that the rebels' army, for such now he had declared them, was, horse and foot and cannon, at Northampton;" besides a force at Coventry. "At Nottingham, besides some few of the trained bands, which sir John Digby, the active sheriff of that county, drew into the old ruinous castle there, there were not of foot levied for the service yet three hundred men. So that they who were not over much given to fear, finding very many places in that great river, which was looked upon as the only strength and security of the town, to be easily fordable, and nothing towards an army for defence but the Standard set up, began sadly to apprehend the danger of the king's own person."
There is an interesting description of Nottingham Castle by one who, in another year, had there to endure great anxieties, and to show the tenderness as well as heroism of a noble woman's nature. Mrs. Hutchinson thus describes this remarkable place, of which a modern building is now also a ruin, produced not by time, but by popular outrage:
"The castle was built upon a rock, and nature had made it capable of
THE KING'S ATTEMPT TO NEGOTIATE.
very strong fortification; but the buildings were very ruinous and unhabitable, neither affording room to lodge soldiers nor provisions. The castle stands at one end of the town, upon such an eminence as commands the chief streets of the town. There had been enlargements made to this castle after the first building of it. There was a strong tower, which they called the Old Tower, built upon the top of all the rock, and this was that place where queen Isabel, the mother of king Edward the Third, was surprised with her paramour, Mortimer, who by secret windings and hollows in the rock came up into her chamber from the meadows lying low under it, through which there ran a little rivulet, called the Line, almost under the castle rock. At the entrance of this rock there was a spring, which was called Mortimer's Well, and the cavern, Mortimer's Hole: the ascent to the top is very high; and, not without some wonder at the top of all the rock there is a spring of water. Under that tower, which was the old castle, there was a larger castle where there had been several towers and many noble rooms, but the most of them were down; the yard of that was pretty large; and without the gate there was a very large yard that had been walled, but the walls were all down, only it was situated upon an ascent of the rock, and so stood a pretty height above the streets; and there were the ruins of an old pair of gates, with turrets on each side."
The importance attached, in these days, to the royal act of hoisting a streamer of unusual size upon a commanding position, can scarcely be adequately estimated in our times. It revived all the traditions of feudality. It was the terrible symbol of the Lord Paramount summoning his vassals to war. The motto which the standard displayed might be taken as an assertion of the principle of absolute power, which the king had supposed inherent in him: "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's." That Charles was supported throughout this contest by the belief that he was not accountable to any power for his actions, was sufficiently manifested at this critical period. His advisers urged an attempt to negotiate with the Parliament. Charles refused with a "composed courage and magnanimity" which "seemed too philosophical and abstracted from the policy of self-preservation." But he was persuaded to negotiate-not in sincerity of heart, but in the desire to obtain an advantage from the mere manifestation of a disposition to negotiate: "That which prevailed with his majesty very reasonably then to yield was, 'that it was most probable' (and his whole fortune was to be submitted at best to probabilities) that, out of their pride, and contempt of the king's weakness and want of power, the parliament would refuse to treat; which would be so unpopular a thing, that as his majesty would highly oblige his people by making the offer, so they would lose the hearts of them by rejecting it; which alone would raise an army for his majesty.' ""** The parliamentary leaders knew that the messengers of the king came with hollow overtures. They knew his weakness at the moment when he sent a message to the Parliament that his only desire was to prevent the effusion of blood; "our provision of men, arms, and money being such as may secure us from further violence till it pleases God to open the eyes of our people." The Parliament returned this answer: "We have endeavoured to prevent, by our several advices
Clarendon, vol. iii. p. 205.
REJECTED BY THE PARLIAMENT.
and petitions, the dangerous and distracted state of this kingdom, not only without success, but that there have followed those several proclamations and declarations against both the Houses of Parliament, whereby their actions are declared treasonable, and their persons traitors; and, thereupon, your Majesty hath set up your standard against them, whereby you have put them, and in them the whole kingdom, out of your protection. So that, until your Majesty shall recall those proclamations and declarations, whereby the earl of Essex and both Houses of Parliament are declared traitors or otherwise delinquents, and until the standard set up in pursuance of the said proclamation be taken down, your Majesty hath put us into such a condition, that, while we so remain, we cannot, by the fundamental privileges of Parliament, the public trust reposed in us, or with the general good and safety of this kingdom, give your Majesty any other answer to this message." The king, in new proclamations, repeated his declarations of the treason of the earl of Essex and others; at the moment when he had made another proposition that he would withdraw his proclamations if the Parliament would withdraw theirs. Neither party would make the first concession.
There is nothing more remarkable, amidst the anger and suspicion of this momentous period, than the evident reluctance of both parties to proceed to extremities. In such a conflict all would be losers. There was so much of reason and justice on each side that, till the shock of arms had let loose the passions that belong to a state of war, there was a lingering hope that a day-spring of peace would succeed this gloomy night. Sir Edmund Verney, the king's standard-bearer, thus expressed himself to Hyde: "My condition is much worse than yours, and different, I believe, from any other man's, and will very well justify the melancholic that I confess to you possesses me. You have satisfaction in your conscience that you are in the right; that the king ought not to grant what is required of him; and so you do your duty and your business together. But for my part, I do not like the quarrel, and do heartily wish that the king would yield and consent to what they desire; so that my conscience is only concerned in honour and in gratitude to follow my master. I have eaten his bread, and served him near thirty years, and will not do so base a thing as to forsake him, and choose rather to lose my life (which I am sure I shall do) to preserve and defend those things which are against my conscience to preserve and defend." However we may feel as to the civil and religious principles involved in this fearful quarrel, our warmest sympathies go with the noble Englishmen who were engaged on opposing sides, though the ties of blood and friendship might have joined them in the same ranks. How many might truly say to his friend and brother,
"Nought I did in hate, but all in honour."
In a letter from sir William Waller, the parliamentarian, to sir Ralph Hopton, the royalist, this principle is enforced with a feeling which, we confess, we cannot read without deep emotion, though the actors in this tragedy have passed from the stage two centuries ago: "My affections to you are so unchangeable, that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship to your person;
* Clarendon, vol. iii.
ESSEX MARCHES FROM LONDON.
[1642. but I must be true to the cause wherein I serve. The old limitation of usque ad aras holds still. . . . . The great God, who is the searcher of my heart, knows with what reluctance I go upon this service, and with what perfect hatred I look upon a war without an enemy. But I look upon it as opus Domini, and that is enough to silence all passion in me. The God of peace in his good time send us peace, and in the mean time fit us to receive it! We are both on the stage, and we must act the parts that are assigned us in this tragedy. Let us do it in a way of honour, and without personal animosities."
And so, there being no alternative but war, the Parliament, on the 9th of September, published a declaration to the whole kingdom, setting forth the causes of the war. On that day, the earl of Essex marched in great state out of London to join the army in the midland counties with the trained bands. A few weeks later the Parliament ordered London to be fortified; and the population, one and all, men, women, and children, turned out, day by day, to dig ditches, and carry stones for their bulwarks.