As with all civil wars some people change their minds. Having described the Hothams (father and son) shutting the city gates of Hull in Charles I’s face in 1642 it comes as something of a surprise to discover that John Hotham (junior) was executed for treason on 1st January 1645 for conspiring to let the royalists in! John Hotham senior was executed the next day. Unfortunately for them their coat turning tendencies had been proved by the capture of the Earl of Newcastle’s correspondence after the Battle of Marston Moor.
1645 followed the increasingly depressing routine of burning houses to deny the enemy cover and of being besieged not to mention taxation, parliamentary committees sending stiffly worded notes to their commanders and men on both sides having something of a wobble as the war became less and less chivalrous. At the beginning of the year royalist Newark was in hot water and Prince Rupert was still charging around the countryside. Poor old Abingdon seemed to change hands more often than anywhere else in the area around Oxford and in January, Rupert was busy attacking it.
Things were changing though. The Parliamentarian army was becoming much more professional. On the 21st January, Parliament appointed Sir Thomas Fairfax to overall command. And I would have to say Tom Fairfax is one of my heroes – who can’t like a man who retired to grow roses? It should also be added that Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Rider on the White Horse may have something to do with my affiliation. In Scotland the Earl of Montrose was flitting around and Prince Maurice relieved Chester which had been besieged (who would have thought all those Roman walls would have come in so useful) not that it did much good because as soon as he left the area the siege was re-imposed.
Elsewhere things were getting really very nasty and unnecessary, the earl of Essex hanged thirteen men simply because they were Irish – a modern warcrime if ever there was one. Prince Rupert (pictured at the start of this post) retaliated by hanging thirteen parliamentarian soldiers based on the fact that they weren’t royalists. The two gentlemen in question then exchanged letters on the subject – to modern eyes neither of them comes out of the exchange particularly well.
Meanwhile the Scots had managed to irritate the people of Westmorland and the Royalist Oxford Army set off on its summer campaign having been reorganised by the king who managed to irritate many of his commanding officers in the process.
I could say etc etc because much of the manoeuvring seems very similar to the previous eighteen months but then on 14th June 1645 the king’s army met with Fairfax’s army at the Battle of Naseby. The royalists, quite frankly, were toast. As usual Rupert’s cavalry were rifling through the baggage train whilst disaster struck. The women in the royalist baggage train were overrun by the victorious parliamentarians. Unfortunately they didn’t know the difference between the sound of Welsh and Irish – the Irish being catholic and therefore much hated. The brave parliamentarian soldiers proceeded to slaughter many of the women and those who weren’t slaughtered had their faces and noses slashed to mark them as whores – a more delightful group of puritans you couldn’t wish to meet! The king fled int he direction of Ashby-de-la Zouche and from there to Lichfield with the parliamentarians in hot pursuit. The king turned left (if he was facing north) into Wales and Fairfax who had other orders from Parliament took a detour into the West Country where he set about bringing various royalist garrisons to book. Whilst all that was going on Archbishop Laud was finally executed on 10th July 1645.
For those of you of a Derbyshire turn of thought, Charles travelled down through the Welsh borders to Ludlow receiving assorted correspondence from Prince Rupert as he went. Rupert was doing his usual Jack-in-the-box routine and would seem to have been collecting “horse miles” as averse to air miles. Fairfax, it would have to be said, was doing something similar. On the 13th August the king arrived in Ashbourne and on the 14th he paid a visit to Chatsworth and from there went across to Welbeck Abbey, another Cavendish residence. By the 18th August Charles I was back in Yorkshire – in Doncaster raising men to continue his campaign.
This was unfortunate as the Scots arrived at Rotherham the next day. Accounts suggest that the royalists had something of a panic before hurrying the king to Newark. Ten days later he was back in Oxford.
The sense I have of 1645 is a nation on the move. David Leslie was in charge of the Scots at Rotherham for example but by the 13th September he is in Scotland decimating the Earl of Montrose who was coming south to join with the king who by that stage of the game had made a personal visit to Worcester and Hereford. Meanwhile Bristol had finally fallen into Parliamentary hands and the king held his nephew Rupert personally responsible. Chester was still holding out against Sir William Brereton so the king decided to show Rupert how to relieve a siege and set off from Hereford. The result was the Battle of Rowton Heath – the king having watched the loss of his army from the city walls headed back to Wales where they had plenty of large castles to hide in – he selected Denbigh.
On October 14th the symbol of royalist loyalty in Hampshire was finally taken and destroyed. Basing House was stormed by Cromwell and his fellow commanding officers. The defenders made a call for a parley and were ignored after two hours of vicious hand to hand fighting. Between one hundred and two hundred people including civilians were killed inside Basing House and then the Parliamentarians looted £200,000 of goods. Catholic items were destroyed in a public fire in London. Meanwhile Basing House burned and what remained standing was torn to the ground – by which point of reading I must admit to having gone right off Cromwell but can see that in order to bring the civil war to an end Parliament was stamping out royalist nests whenever and wherever it could and Basing had been a particular thorn in Parliamentary sides for the last two years.
It probably didn’t help that the fall of Bristol on the 10th September when Rupert handed it over to Thomas Fairfax after a ten day siege caused bad blood between uncle and nephew. Rupert turned up at Newark despite orders to the contrary demanding that he should be court marshalled so that the slur upon his honour could be erased. The resulting factions lead to division within the royalist chain of command. By November things were so bad that Charles wrote to Rupert telling him to leave the country. Unsurprisingly Parliament was more than happy to issue Rupert with a fourteen day pass to leave the kingdom without interference.
By the 7th of December King Charles was writing to his son urging him to make his escape from the kingdom without delay as castles across the country found themselves making terms with their parliamentarian besiegers and the king himself sent a series of letters to parliament trying to agree terms. On the 26th of December following an exchange of correspondence between the king and parliament, Charles proposed a personal treaty. On the 5th May the following year Charles surrendered to the Scottish army at Southwell. He had been totally defeated and his kingdom was in tatters. Of course, things did not go well from thence but for the time being I shall leave the unfortunate and self-deluded Stuart stewing.