A charge with Prince Rupert.
Thousands were there, in darker fame that dwell,
Whose deeds some nobler poem shall adorn;
And though to me unknown, they sure fought well,
Whom Rupert led, and who were British-born.
I. The March. June 17, 1643.
Last night the Canary wine flashed in the red Venice
glasses on the oaken tables of the hall; loud voices shouted and laughed till the clustered hawk-bells jingled from the rafters, while the coupled stag-hounds fawned unnoticed, and the watchful falcon whistled to himself unheard.
In the carved chairs lounged groups of revellers, dressed in scarlet, dressed in purple, dressed in white
, gay with satins and ribbons, gorgeous with glittering chains and jewelled swords: stern, manly faces, that had been singed with powder in the Palatinate; brutal, swarthy faces, knowing all that sack and sin could teach them; beautiful, boyish faces, fresh from ancestral homes and high-born mothers; grave, sad faces, sad for undoubted tyranny, grave before the greater wrong of disloyalty.
Some were in council, some were in strife, many were in liquor; the parson was there with useless gravity, the jester with superfluous folly; and in the outer hall men more plebeian drained the brown October from pewter cans, which were beaten flat, next
moment, in hammering the loud drinking-chorus on the wall; while the clink of the armorer still went on, repairing the old head-pieces
and breastplates which had hung untouched since the Wars of the Roses; and in the doorway the wild Welsh
recruits crouched with their scythes and their cudgels, and muttered in their uncouth dialect, now a prayer to God, and now a curse for their enemy.
But to-day the inner hall is empty, the stag-hounds leap in the doorway, the chaplain prays, the maidens cluster in the windows, beneath the soft beauty of the June afternoon.
The streets of Oxford
resound with many hoofs; armed troopers are gathering beside chapel and quadrangle, gateway and tower; the trumpeter waves his gold and crimson trappings, and blows, “To the standard,” --for the great flag is borne to the front, and Rupert and his men are mustering for a night of danger.
With beat of drum, with clatter of hoof and rattle of spur and scabbard, tramping across old Magdalen Bridge, cantering down the hillsides, crashing through the beechwoods, echoing through the chalky hollows, ride leisurely the gay Cavaliers.
Some in new scarfs and feathers, worthy of the “show-troop,” --others with torn laces, broken helmets, and guilty red smears on their buff doublets;--some eager for their first skirmish,--others weak and silent, still bandaged from the last one;--discharging now a rattle of contemptuous shot at some closed Puritan
house, grim and stern as its master,--firing anon as noisy a salute, as they pass some mansion where a high-born beauty dwells,--on they ride.
Leaving the towers of Oxford
behind them, keeping the ancient Roman highway, passing by the low, strong, many-gabled farm-houses, with rustic beauties smiling at the windows
and wiser fathers scowling at the doors,--on they ride.
To the Royalists, these troopers are “Prince Robert and the hope of the nation” ;--to the Puritans, they are only “Prince Robber and his company of rake-shames.”
Riding great Flanders
horses, a flagon swung on one side of the large padded saddle, and a haversack on the other,--booted to the thigh, and girded with the leathern bandoleer, that supports cartridge-box and basket-hilted sword, they are a picturesque and a motley troop.
Some wear the embroidered buffcoat over the coat of mail, others beneath it,--neither having yet learned that the buffcoat alone is sabre-proof and bullet-proof also.
Scantily furnished with basinet or breastplate, pot, haqueton, cuirass, pouldron, taslets, vambraces, or cuisses,--each with the best piece of iron he could secure when the ancestral armory was ransacked,--they yet care little for the deficit, remembering, that, when they first rode down the enemy at Worcester
, there was not a piece of armor on their side, while the Puritans were armed to a man. There are a thousand horsemen under Percy
, armed with swords, pole-axes, and petronels; this includes Rupert
's own lifeguard of chosen men. Lord Wentworth, with Innis
, leads three hundred and fifty dragoons,--dragoons of the old style, intended to fight either on foot or on horseback, whence the name they bear, and the emblematic dragon which adorns their carbines.
The advanced guard, or “forlorn hope,” of a hundred horse and fifty dragoons, is commanded by Will Legge
's life-long friend and correspondent; and Herbert Lunsford
leads the infantry, “the inhuman cannibal foot,” as the Puritan
journals call them.
There are five hundred of these, in lightest marching order, and carrying either pike or arquebuse,--this last being a
matchlock musket, with an iron rest to support it, and a lance combined, to resist cavalry,--the whole being called “Swine (Swedish
) feathers,” --a weapon so clumsy, that the Cavaliers say a Puritan needs two years practice to discharge one without winking.
And over all these float flags of every hue and purport, from the blue
with its loyal “Ut rex, sit rex,
” to the ominous crimson, flaming with a lurid furnace and the terriLle motto, “Quasi ignis conflatoris.
And foremost rides Prince Rupert, darling of fortune and of war, with his beautiful and thoughtful face of twenty-three, stern and bronzed already, yet beardless and dimpled, his dark and passionate eyes, his long love-locks drooping over costly embroidery, his graceful scarlet cloak, his white-plumed hat, and his tall and stately form, which, almost alone in the army, has not yet known a wound.
His high-born beauty is preserved to us forever on the canvas of Vandyck, and as the Italians have named the artist “Il Pittore Cavalieresco,
” so will this subject of his skill remain forever the ideal of Il Cavaliere Pittoresco.
And as he now rides at the head of this brilliant array, his beautiful white dog bounds onward joyously beside him, that quadruped renowned in the pamphlets of the time, whose snowy skin has been stained by many a blood-drop in the desperate forays of his master, but who has thus far escaped so safely that the Puritans believe him a familiar spirit, and try to destroy him “by poyson and extempore prayer, which yet hurt him no more than the plague plaster did Mr. Pym
Failing in this, they pronounce the pretty creature to be “a divell, not a very downright divell, but some Lapland
ladye, once by nature a handsome white ladye, now by art a handsome white dogge.”
The Civil War is begun.
has made his desperate attempt to arrest the five members of Parliament, and has been checkmated by Lucy Carlisle
So the fatal standard was reared, ten months ago, on that dismal day at Nottingham
's arms, quartered with a bloody hand pointing to the crown, and the red battle-flag above;--blown down disastrously at night, replaced sadly in the morning, to wave while the Cavaliers rallied, slowly, beneath its folds.
During those long months the King
's fortunes have had constant and increasing success, --a success always greatest when Rupert has been nearest.
And now this night-march is made to avenge a late attack, of unaccustomed audacity, from Essex
, and to redeem the threat of Rupert to pass in one night through the whole country held by the enemy, and beat up the most distant quarters of the Roundheads.
The condition of the times.
It is no easy thing to paint, with any accurate shadings, this opening period of the English Revolution
Looking habitually, as we do, at the maturer condition of the two great parties, we do not remember how gradual was their formation.
The characters of Cavalier and Roundhead were not more the cause than the consequence of civil strife.
There is no such chemical solvent as war; where it finds a mingling of two alien elements, it leaves them permanently severed.
At the opening of hostilities, the two parties were scarcely distinguishable, in externals, from each other.
Arms, costume, features, phrases,
manners, were as yet common to both sides.
On the battle-field, spies could pass undetected from one army to the other.
, Chalgrove, and even Naseby
, men and standards were captured and rescued, through the impossibility of distinguishing between the forces.
An orange scarf, or a piece of white paper, was the most reliable designation.
True, there was nothing in the Parliamentary army so gorgeous as Sir John Suckling
's troop in Scotland
, with their white doublets and scarlet hats and plumes; though that bright company substituted the white feather for the red one, in 1639, and rallied no more.
Yet even the Puritans came to battle in attire which would have seemed preposterously gaudy to the plain men of our own Revolution.
regiment of Hollis
wore red, in imitation of the royal colors, adopted to make wounds less conspicuous.
Lord Say's regiment wore blue, in imitation of the Covenanters, who took it from Numbers XV. 38; Hampden
's men wore green, Lord Brooke's purple, Colonel Ballard
Even the hair afforded far less distinction than we imagine, since there is scarcely a. portrait of a leading Parliamentarian which has not a display of tresses such as would now appear the extreme of foppery; and when the remains of Hampden
himself were disinterred, within half a century, the body was at first taken for a woman's, from the exceeding length and beauty of the hair.
But every year of warfare brought a change.
On the King
's side, the raiment grew more gorgeous amid misfortunes; on the Parliament
's, it became sadder with every success.
The Royalists took up feathers and oaths in proportion as the Puritans laid them down; and as the tresses of the Cavaliers waved more luxuriantly, the hair of the Roundheads was more scrupulously shorn.
And the same instinctive exaggeration was constantly extending into manners and morals also.
Both sides became ostentatious; the one made the most of its dissoluteness, and the other of its decorum.
The reproachful names applied derisively to the two parties became fixed distinctions.
The word “Roundhead” was first used early in 1642, though whether it originated with Henrietta Maria
or with David Hyde
And Charles, in his speech before the battle of Edgehill
, in October of the same year, mentioned the name “Cavalier” as one bestowed “in a reproachful sense,” and one “which our enemies have striven to make odious.”
And all social as well as moral prejudices gradually identified themselves with this party division.
As time passed on, all that was high-born in England
gravitated more and more to the royal side, while the popular cause enlisted the Londoners, the yeomanry, and those country gentlemen whom Mrs. Hutchinson
styled the “worsted-stocking members.”
The Puritans gradually found themselves excluded from the manorial halls, and the Cavaliers (a more inconvenient privation) from the blacksmiths' shops.
Languishing at first under aristocratic leadership, the cause of the Parliament first became strong when the Self-denying Ordinance abolished all that weakness.
Thus the very sincerity of the civil conflict drew the lines deeper; had the battles been fought by mercenaries, like the contemporary Continental wars, there would have grown up a less hearty mutual antipathy, but a far more terrible demoralization.
As it was, the character of the war was, on the whole, humane; few towns were sacked or destroyed, the harvests were bounteous and freely gathered, and the population increased during the whole period.
But the best civil war
is fearfully injurious.
In this case, virtues and vices were found on both sides; and it was only the gradual preponderance which finally stamped on each party its own historic reputation.
The Cavaliers confessed to “the vices of men,--love of wine and women” ; but they charged upon their opponents “the vices of devils, -hypocrisy and spiritual pride.”
Accordingly, the two verdicts have been recorded in the most delicate of all registers,--language.
For the Cavaliers added to the English
vocabulary the word plunder
, and the Puritans the word cant
Yet it is certain that at the outset neither of these peculiarities was monopolized by either party.
In abundant instances, the sins changed places,--Cavaliers canted, and Puritans plundered.
That is, if by cant we understand the exaggerated use of Scripture language which originated with the reverend gentleman of that name, it was an offence in which both sides participated.
, reviewing the Presbyterian
discourses, quoted text against text with infinite relish.
Old Judge Jenkins
, could he have persuaded the “L
House of Rimmon,” as he called Parliament, to hang him, would have swung the Bible
triumphantly to his neck by a ribbon, to show the unscriptural character of their doings.
Charles himself, in one of his early addresses to his army, denounced the opposing party as “Brownists, Anabaptists, and Atheists,” and in his address to the city of London
pleaded in favor of his own “godly, learned, and painfull preachers.”
Every royal regiment had its chaplain, including in the service such men as Pearson
and Jeremy Taylor
, and they had prayers before battle, as regularly and seriously as their opponents.
“After solemn prayers at the head of every division, I led my part away,” wrote the virtuous
Sir Bevill Grenvill
to his wife, after the battle of Bradock.
Rupert, in like manner, had prayers before every division at Marston Moor
To be sure, we cannot always vouch for the quality of these prayers, when the chaplain happened to be out of the way and the colonel was his substitute.
,” petitioned stout Sir Jacob Astley
, at Edgehill
, “thou knowest how busy I must be this day ; if I forget thee, do not thou forget me!” --after which he rose up, crying, “March on, boys!”
And as the Puritans had not the monopoly of prayer, so the Cavaliers did not monopolize plunder.
Of course, when civil war is once begun, such laxity is mere matter of self-defence.
If the Royalists unhorsed the Roundheads, the latter must horse themselves again as best they could.
“uncattled” the neighborhood of London
, Major Medhope
must be ordered to “uncattle” the neighborhood of Oxford
Very possibly individual animals were identified with the right side or the wrong side, to be spared or confiscated in consequence;--as in modern Kansas
, during a similar condition of things, one might hear men talk of a proslavery colt, or an antislavery cow. And the precedent being established, each party could use the smallest excesses of the other side to palliate the greatest of its own. No use for the King
to hang two of Rupert
's men for stealing, when their commander could urge in extenuation the plunder of the house of Lady Lucas
, and the indignities offered by the Roundheads to the Countess
Why spare the churches as sanctuaries for the enemy, when rumor accused that enemy (right or wrong) of hunting cats in those same churches with hounds, or baptizing dogs and pigs in ridicule of the consecrated altars?
Setting aside these charges as questionable, we cannot so easily dispose of the facts which rest on actual
If, even after the Self-denying Ordinance, the “Perfect Occurrences” repeatedly report soldiers of the Puritan
army as cashiered for drunkenness, pilfering, cheating inn-keepers, and insulting women, it is inevitable to infer that in earlier and less stringent times they did the same unpunished.
When Mrs. Hutchinson
describes a portion of the soldiers on her own side as “licentious, ungovernable wretches,” --when Sir Samuel Luke
, in his letters, depicts the glee with which his men plunder the pockets of the slain,--when poor John Wolstenholme
writes to Headquarters that his own compatriots have seized all his hay and horses, “so that his wife cannot serve God with the congregation but in frosty weather,” --when Vicars
in “Jehovah Jireh” exults over the horrible maiming and butchery wrought by the troopers upon the officers' wives and female campfollowers at Naseby
,--it is useless to attribute exaggeration to the other side.
In civil war, even the most humane, there is seldom much opening for exaggeration,--the actual horrors being usually quite as vivid as any imaginations of the sufferers, especially when, as in this case, the spiritual instructors preach, on the one side, from “Curse ye Meroz,” and, on the other side, from “Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.”
These things should be mentioned, not so much because they are deliberately denied by anybody, as because they are apt to be overlooked by those who take their facts at second-hand.
All this does not show that the Puritans had, even at the outset, worse men or a cause no better; it simply shows that war demoralizes, and that right-thinking men may easily, under its influence, slide into rather reprehensible practices.
At a later period the evil worked its own cure among the Puritans, and the
army of Cromwell
was a moral triumph almost incredible; but at the time of which we write, the distinction was but lightly drawn.
It would be easy to go further and show that among the leading Parliamentary statesmen there were gay and witty debauchees,--that Harry Marten
deserved the epithet with which Cromwell
saluted him,--that Pym
succeeded to the regards of Strafford
's bewitching mistress,--that Warwick
was truly, as Clarendon
describes him, a profuse and generous profligate, tolerated by the Puritans for the sake of his earldom and his bounty, at a time when bounty was convenient and peers were scarce.
But it is hardly worth while further to illustrate the simple and intelligible fact, that there were faults on both sides.
Neither war nor any other social phenomenon can divide infillibly the sheep from the goats, nor collect all the saints under one set of staff-officers and all the sinners under another.
But, on the other hand, the strength of both sides, at this early day, was in a class of serious and devoted men, who took up the sword so sadly, in view of civil strife, that victory seemed to them almost as terrible as defeat.
In some, the scale of loyalty slightly inclined, and they held with the King
; in others, the scale of liberty, and they served the Parliament; in both cases, with the same noble regrets at first, merging gradually into bitter alienation afterwards.
“If there could be an expedient found to solve the punctilio of honor, I would not be here an hour,” wrote Lord Robert Spencer
to his wife, from the camp of the Cavaliers.
Sir Edmund Verney
, the King
's standard-bearer, disapproved of the royal cause, and adhered to it only because he “had eaten the King
Lord Falkland, Charles's Secretary of State
, “sitting among his friends, often, after a deep silence and frequent
sighs, would, with a shriek and sad accent, ingeminate the words, Peace!
and would prophesy for himself that death which soon came.
And these words find their parallels in those of men honored among the Puritans, as when Sir William Waller
wrote from his camp to his chivalrous opponent, Sir Ralph Hopton
, “The great God, who is the searcher of my heart, knows with what reluctance I go upon this service.”
As time passed on, the hostility between the two parties exceeded all bounds of courteous intercourse.
The social distinction was constantly widening, and so was the religious antagonism.
could be allowed to joke with Goring
and sentimentalize with Hopton
was a gentleman, though a rebel; but it was a different thing when the Puritan
gentlemen were seen to be gradually superseded by Puritan clowns.
had early complained of “your Prynnes, Pims, and Bens, with the rest of that generation of odd names and natures.”
But what were these to the later brood, whose plebeian quality Mr. Buckle
has so laboriously explored,--Goffe
the grocer and Whalley
the tailor, Pride the drayman and Venner the cooper, culminating at last in Noll Cromwell
The formidable force of these upstarts only imnbittered the aversion.
If odious when vanquished, what must they have been as victors?
For if it be disagreeable to find a foeman unworthy of your steel, it is much more unpleasant when your steel turns out unworthy of the foeman; and if sad-colored Puritan
raiment looked absurd upon the persons of fugitives, it must have been very particularly unbecoming when worn by conquerors.
And the growing division was constantly aggravated by very acid satire.
, it must be remembered, was
more than half French in its general character and tone, while every Frenchman of that day habitually sneered at every Englishman as dull and inelegant.
The dazzling wit that flashed for both sides in the French
civil wars flashed for one only in the English
; the Puritans had no comforts of that kind, save in some caustic repartee from Harry Marten
, or some fearless sarcasm from Lucy Carlisle
But the Cavaliers softened labor and sweetened care with their little jokes.
It was rather consoling to cover some ignominious retreat with a new epigram on Cromwell
's red nose, that irresistible member which kindled in its day as much wit as Bardolph's,--to hail it as “Nose immortal,” a beacon, a glow-worm, a bird of prey, -to make it stand as a personification of the rebel cause, till even the stately Montrose
asked new-comers from England
, “How is Oliver
It was very entertaining to christen the Solemn League
and Covenant “the constellation on the back of Aries
,” because most of the signers could only make their marks on the little bits (,f sheepskin circulated for that purpose.
It was quite lively to rebaptize Rundway Down as Run-away-down, after a royal victory, and to remark how Hazlerig
's regiment of “lobsters” turned to crabs, on that occasion, and crawled backwards.
But all these pleasant follies became whips to scourge them, at last,--shifting suddenly into very grim earnest when the Royalists themselves took to running away, with truculent saints, in steeple-hats, behind them.
was the stronghold of the Cavaliers, in these times, as that of the Puritans was London
itself (though here we are anticipating a little) was transferred to the academic city.
Thither came Henrietta Maria
, with what the pamphleteers called “her Rattleheaded Parliament of Ladies,” the beautiful Duchess
, the merry Mrs. Kirke
, and brave Kate D'Aubigny
In Merton College the Queen
resided; at Oriel the Privy Council was held; at Christ Church the King
were quartered; and at All Souls Jeremy Taylor
was writing his beautiful meditations, in the intervals of war. In the New College
quadrangle, the students were drilled to arms “in the eye of Doctor Pink
,” while Mars
kept undisturbed their ancient reign, although transferred to the sacred precincts of Magdalen.
And amidst the passion and the pomp, the narrow streets would suddenly ring with the trumpet of some foamcovered scout, bringing tidings of perilous deeds outside; while some traitorous spy was being hanged, drawn, and quartered in some other part of the city, for betraying the secrets of the Court
And forth from the outskirts of Oxford
rides Rupert on the day we are to describe, and we must still protract our pause a little longer to speak of him.
Prince Rupert, Prince Robert, or Prince Robber,for by all these names was he known,--was the one formidable military leader on the royal side.
He was not a statesman, for he was hardly yet a mature man; he was not, in the grandest sense, a hero, yet he had no quality that was not heroic.
Chivalrous, brilliant, honest, generous,--not dissolute, nor bigoted, nor cruel,--he was still a Royalist for the love of royalty, and a soldier for the love of war,--and in civil strife there can hardly be a more dangerous character.
Through all the blunt periods of his military or civil proclamations, we see the proud, careless boy, fighting for fighting's sake, and always finding his own side the right one.
He could not have much charity for the most generous opponents; he certainly had noue at all for those who (as he said)
printed malicious and lying pamphlets against him “almost every morning,” in which he found himself saluted as a “nest of perfidious vipers,” “a night-flying dragon prince,” “a flapdragon,” “a caterpillar,” “a spider,” and “a butterbox.”
He was the King
's own nephew,--great-grandson of William the Silent, and son of that Elizabeth Stuart
from whom all the modern royal family of England
His sister was the renowned Princess Palatine, the one favorite pupil of Descartes
, and the chosen friend of Leibnitz
, Malebranche, and William Penn
From early childhood he was trained to war; we find him at fourteen pronounced by his tutors fit to command an army,--at fifteen, bearing away the palm in one of the last of the tournaments,--at sixteen, fighting beside the young Turenne
in the Low Countries
,--at nineteen, heading the advanced guard in the army of the Prince
,and at twenty-three we find him appearing in England
, the day before the royal standard was reared, and the day after the King
This training made him a general,--not, as many have supposed, a mere cavalrycaptain ;--he was one of the few men who have shown great military powers on both land and sea; he was a man of energy unbounded, industry inexhaustible, and the most comprehensive and systematic forethought.
It was not merely, that, as Warwick
said, “he put that spirit into the King
's army that all men seemed resolved,” --not merely, that, always charging at the head of his troops, he was never wounded, and that, seeing more service than any of his compeers, he outlived them all. But even in these early years, before he was generalissimo, the Parliament deliberately declared the whole war to be “managed by his skill, labor, and industry,” and his was the
only name habitually printed in capitals in the Puritan
He had to create soldiers by enthusiasm, and feed them by stratagem,--to toil for a king who feared him, and against a queen who hated him,--to take vast responsibilities alone,--accused of negligence, if he failed, reproached with license, if he succeeded.
Against him he had the wealth of London
, intrusted to men who were great diplomatists, though new to power, and great soldiers, though they had never seen a battlefield till middle life; on his side he had only unmanageable lords and penniless gentlemen, who gained victories by daring, and then wasted them by license.
His troops had no tents, no wagons, no military stores; they used those of the enemy.
says, that the King
's cause labored under an incurable disease of want of money, and that the only cure for starvation was a victory.
To say, therefore, that Rupert
's men never starved, is to say that they always conquered,--which, at this early period, was true.
He was the best shot in the army, and the best tennis-player among the courtiers, and Pepys
calls him “the boldest attacker in England
for personal courage.”
Seemingly without reverence or religion, he yet ascribed his defeats to Satan, and, at the close of a letter about a marauding expedition, requested his friend Will Legge
to pray for him. Versed in all the courtly society of the age, chosen interpreter for the wooing of young Prince Charles and La Grande Mademoiselle
, and mourning in purple, with the royal family, for Marie de Medicis
, he could yet mingle in any conceivable company and assume any part.
He penetrated the opposing camp at Dunsmore Heath
as an apple-seller, and the hostile town of Warwick
as a dealer in cabbage-nets, and the pamphletters
were never weary of describing his disguises.
He was charged with all manner of offeltces, even to slaying children with cannibal intent, and only very carelessly disavowed such soft impeachments.
But no man could deny that he was perfectly true to his word; he never forgot one whom he had promised to protect, and, if he had promised to strip a man's goods, he did it to the uttermost farthing.
And so must his pledge of vengeance be redeemed to-night; and so, riding eastward, with the dying sunlight behind him and the quiet Chiltern hills
before, through air softened by the gathering coolness of these midsummer eves, beside clover fields, and hedges of wild roses, and ponds white with closing water-lilies, and pastures sprinkled with meadow-sweet, like foam,--he muses only of the clash of sword and the sharp rattle of shot, and all the passionate joys of the coming charge.
The long and picturesque array winds onward, crossing Chisellampton Bridge (not to be recrossed so easily), avoiding Thame with its church and abbey, where Lord-General Essex
himself is quartered, unconscious of their march; and the Cavaliers are soon riding beneath the bases of the wooded hills towards Postcombe.
Near Tetsworth, the enemy's first outpost, they halt till evening; the horsemen dismount, the flagon and the fornlgingbag are opened, the black-jack and the manchet go round, healths are drunk to successes past and glories future, to “Queen Mary's eyes,” and to “Prince Rupert's dog.”
few hours bring darkness; they move on eastward through the lanes, avoiding, when possible, the Roman
highways; they are sometimes fired upon by a picket, but make no return, for they are hurrying past the main quarters of the enemy.
In the silence of the summer night, they stealthily ride miles and miles through a hostile country, the renegade Urry
At early dawn, they see, through the misty air, the low hamlet of Postcombe, where the “beating up of the enemy's quarters” is to begin.
A hurried word of command; the infantry halt; the cavalry close and sweep down like night-hawks upon the sleeping village,--safe enough, one would have supposed, with the whole Parliamentary army lying between it and Oxford
, to protect from danger.
Yet the small party of Puritan
troopers awake in their quarters with Rupert at the door; it is well for them that they happen to be picked men, and have promptness, if not vigilance; forming hastily, they secure a retreat westward through the narrow street, leaving but few prisoners behind them.
As hastily the prisoners are swept away with the stealthy troop, who have other work before them; and before half the startled villagers have opened their lattices the skirmish is over.
Long before they can send a messenger up, over the hills, to sound the alarm-bells of Stoken Church, the swift gallop of the Cavaliers has reached Chinnor, two miles away, and the goal of their foray.
The compact, strongly built village is surrounded.
They form a parallel line behind the houses, on each side, leaping fences and ditches to their posts.
They break down the iron chains stretched nightly across each end of the street, and line it from end to end. Rupert, Will Legge
, and the “forlorn hope,” dismounting, rush in upon the quarters, sparing only those who surrender.
In five minutes the town is up. The awakened troopers fight as desperately as their assailants, some on foot, some on horseback.
More and more of Rupert
's men rush in; they fight through the straggling street of the village, from the sign of the Ram
at one end to that of the Crown at the other, and then back again.
The citizens join against the invaders, the 'prentices rush from their attics, hasty barricades of carts and harrows are formed in the streets, long musket-barrels are thrust from the windows, dark groups cluster on the roofs, and stones begin to rattle on the heads below, together with phrases more galling than stones,--hurled down by women,--“cursed dogs,” “devilish Cavaliers,” “Papist traitors.”
In return, the intruders shoot at the windows indiscriminately, storm the door., fire the houses; they grow more furious, and spare nothing; some towns-people retreat within the church-doors; the doors are beaten in; women barricade them with wool-packs, and fight over them with muskets, barrel to barrel.
Outside, the troopers ride round and round the town, seizing or slaying all who escape; within, desperate men still aim from their windows, though the houses on each side are in flames.
Melting lead pours down from the blazing roofs, while the drum still beats and the flag still advances.
It is struck down presently; tied to a broken pike-staff, it rises again, while a chaos of armor and plumes, black and orange, blue
, torn laces and tossing feathers, powder-stains and blood-stains, fills the dewy morning with terror, and opens the June Sunday with sin.
Threescore and more of the towns-people are slain, sixscore are led away at the horses' sides, bound with ropes, to be handed over to the infantry for keeping.
Some of these prisoners, even of the armed troopers, are
so ignorant and unwarlike as yet, that they know not the meaning of the word “quarter,” refusing it when offered, and imploring “mercy” instead.
Others are little children, for whom a heavy ransom shall yet be paid.
Others, cheaper prisoners, are ransomed on the spot.
Some plunder has also been taken, but the soldiers look longingly on the larger wealth that must be left behind, in the hurry of retreat,--treasures that otherwise no trooper of Rupert
's would have spared: scarlet cloth, bedding, saddles, cutlery, ironware, hats, shoes, hops for beer, and books to sell to the Oxford scholars.
But the daring which has given them victory now makes their danger; -they have been nearly twelve hours in the saddle and have fought two actions; they have twenty-five miles to ride, with the whole force of the enemy in their path; they came unseen in tie darkness, they must return by daylight and with the alarm already given; Stoken church-bell has been pealing for hours, the troop from Postcombe has fallen back on Tetsworth, and everywhere in the distance videttes are hurrying from post to post.
The perilous retreat begins.
Ranks are closed; they ride silently; many a man leads a second horse beside him, and one bears in triumph the great captured Puritan
standard, with its five buff Bibles on a black ground.
They choose their course more carefully than ever, seek the by-lanes, and swim the rivers with their swords between their teeth.
At one point, in their hushed progress, they hear the sound of rattling wagons.
There is a treasure-train within their reach, worth tventy-one thousand pounds, and destined for the Parliamentary camp, but the thick woods of the Chilterns have sheltered it from pursuit, and they have not a moment to waste; they are riding for their lives.
Already the gathering
parties of Roundheads are closing upon them, nearer and nearer, as they approach the most perilous point of the wild expedition,--their only return-path across the Cherwell,--Chiselhampton Bridge.
with difficulty hold the assailants in check; the case grows desperate at last, and Rupert stands at bay on Chalgrove Field.
It is Sunday morning, June 18, 1643.
The early church-bells are ringing over all Oxfordshire
,--dying away in the soft air, among the sunny English hills, while Englishmen are drawing near one another with hatred in their hearts,--dying away, as on that other Sunday, eight months ago, when Baxter
, preaching near Edgehill
, heard the sounds of battle, and disturbed the rest of his saints by exclaiming, “To the fight!”
But here are no warrior-preachers, no bishops praying in surplices on the one side, no dark-robed divines preaching on horseback on the other, no king in glittering armor, no Tutor Harvey
in peaceful meditation beneath a hedge, pondering on the circulation of the blood, with hotter blood flowing so near him; all these were to be seen at Edgehill
, but not here.
This smaller skirmish rather turns our thoughts to Cisatlantic associations; its date suggests Bunker's Hill
,--and its circumstances, Lexington
For this, also, is a marauding party, with a Percy among its officers, brought to a stand by a half-armed and an angry peasantry.
Rupert sends his infantry forward, to secure the bridge, and a sufficient body of dragoons to line the mile and a half of road between,--the remainder of the troops being drawn up at the entrance of a cornfield, several hundred acres in extent, and lying between the villages and the hills.
The Puritans take a long circuit, endeavoring
to get to windward of their formidable enemy,a point judged as important, during the seventeenth century, in a land fight as in a naval engagement.
They have with them some light field-pieces, artillery being the only point of superiority they yet claim; but these are not basilisks, nor falconets, nor culverins (colubri, couleuvres
), nor drakes (dracones
), nor warning-pieces,--they are the leathern guns of Gustavus Adolphus
, made of light cast-iron and bound with ropes and leather.
The Roundhead dragoons, dismounted, line a hedge near the Cavaliers, and plant their “swine-feathers” ; under cover of their fire the horse advance in line, matches burning.
As they advance, one or two dash forward, at risk of their lives, flinging off the orange scarfs which alone distinguish them, in token that they desert to the royal cause.
Prince Rupert falls back into the lane a little, to lead the other forces into his ambush of .dragoons.
These tactics do not come naturally to him, however; nor does he like the practice of the time, that two bodies of cavalry should ride up within pistol-shot of each other, and exchange a volley before they charge.
He rather anticipates, in his style of operations, the famous order of Frederick the Great
: “The King
hereby forbids all officers of cavalry, on pain of being broke with ignominy, ever to allow themselves to be attacked in any action by the enemy; but the Prussians must always attack them.”
Accordingly he restrains himself for a little while, chafing beneath the delay, and then, a soldier or two being suddenly struck down by the fire, he exclaims, “Yea!
This insolency is not to be endured.”
The moment is come.
“ God and Queen Mary!”
shouts Rupert; “Charge!”
In one instant that motionless mass becomes a flood of lava; down in one terrible sweep it comes, silence behind
it and despair before; no one notices the beauty of that brilliant chivalrous array,--all else is merged in the fury of the wild gallop; spurs are deep, reins free, blades grasped, heads bent; the excited horse feels the heel no more than he feels the hafd; the uneven ground breaks their ranks,--no matter, they feel that they can ride down the world: Rupert first clears the hedge,--he is always first,--then comes the captain of his life-guard, then the whole troop “jumble after them,” in a spectator's piquant phrase.
The dismounted Puritan
dragoons break from the hedges and scatter for their lives, but the cavalry “bear the charge better than they have done since Worcester
,” --that is, now they stand it an instant, then they did not stand it at all; the Prince
takes them in flank and breaks them in pieces at the first encounter, -the very wind of the charge shatters them.
Horse and foot, carbines and petronels, swords and pole-axes, are mingled in one struggling mass.
Rupert and his men seem refreshed, not exhausted, by the weary night,they seem incapable of fatigue; they spike the guns as they cut down the gunners, and, if any escape, it is because many in both armies wear the same red scarfs.
, surrounded by the enemy, shows such desperate daring that Rupert bids release him at last, and sends afterwards to Essex
to ask his name.
One Cavalier bends, with a wild oath, to search the pockets of a slain enemy ;--it is his own brother.
slays a standard-bearer, and thus restores to his company the right to bear a flag,--a right they lost at Hopton Heath
is taken prisoner and escapes; Urry proves himself no coward, though a renegade, and is trusted to bear to Oxford
tle news of the victory, being raised to knighthood in return.
For a victory of course it is. Nothing in England
can yet resist these high-born, dissolute, reckless Cavaliers of Rupert
's. “I have seen them running up walls twenty feet high,” said the engineer consulted by the frightened citizens of Dorchester
; “these defences of yours may possibly keep them out half an hour.”
Darlings of triumphant aristocracy, they are destined to meet with no foe that can match them, until they recoil at last before the plebeian pikes of the London
Nor can even Rupert
's men claim to monopolize the courage of the King
The brilliant “show-troop” of Lord Bernard Stuart
, comprising the young nobles having no separate command,--a troop which could afford to indulge in all the gorgeousness of dress, since their united incomes, Clarendon
declares, would have exceeded those of the whole Puritan Parliament,--led, by their own desire, the triumphant charge at Edgehill
, and threescore of their bodies were found piled on the spot where the Royal
Standard was captured and rescued.
Not less faithful were the Marquis
's “Lambs,” who took their name from the white woollen clothing which they refused to have dyed, saying that their hearts' blood would dye it soon enough; and so it did: only thirty survived the battle of Marston Moor
, and the bodies of the rest were found in the field, ranked regularly side by side, in death as in life.
But here at Chalgrove Field no such fortitude of endurance is needed: the enemy are scattered, and, as Rupert
's Cavaliers are dashing on, in their accustomed headlong pursuit, a small, but fresh force of Puritan
cavalry appears behind the hedges and charges on them from the right,--two troops, hastily gathered, and in various garb.
They are headed by a man in middle life
and of noble aspect: once seen, he cannot easily be forgotten; but seen he will never be again, and, for the last time, Rupert and Hampden
meet face to face.
The foremost representative men of their respective parties, they scarcely remember, perhaps, that there are ties and coincidences in their lives.
At the marriage of Rupert
's mother, the student Hampden
was chosen to write the Oxford epithalamium, exulting in the prediction of some noble offspring to follow such a union.
Rupert is about to be made General-in-Chief
of the Cavaliers; Hampden
is looked to by all as the future General-in-Chief
of the Puritans.
Rupert is the nephew of the King
the cousin of Cromwell
; and as the former is believed to be aiming at the Crown, so the latter is the only possible rival of Cromwell
for the Protectorate,--“the eyes of all being fixed upon him as their pater patrie
But in all the greater qualities of manhood, how far must Hampden
be placed above the magnificent and gifted Rupert!
In a congress of natural noblemen — for such do the men of the Commonwealth
appear — he must rank foremost.
It is difficult to avoid exaggeration in speaking of these men,--men whose deeds vindicate their words, and whose words are unsurpassed by Greek
or Roman fame,--men whom even Hume
can only criticise for a “mysterious jargon” which most of them did not use, and for a “vulgar hypocrisy” which few of them practised.
Let us not underrate the self-forgetting loyalty of the Royalists,--the Duke
laying at the King
's feet seven hundred thousand pounds, and the MIarquis of Worcester
a million; but the sublimer poverty and abstinence of the Parliamentary party deserve a yet loftier meed,--Vane
surrendering an office of thirty thousand pounds a year to
promote public economy,--Hutchinson
refusing a peerage and a fortune as a bribe to hold Nottingham Castle a little while for the King
bequeathing their families to the nation's justice, having spent their all for the good cause.
And rising to yet higher attributes, as they pass before us in the brilliant paragraphs of the courtly Clarendon
, or the juster modern estimates of Forster
, it seems like a procession of born sovereigns; while the more pungent epithets of contemporary wit only familiarize, but do not mar, the tame of Cromwell
's “Cesar in a Clown” ),--“William the Conqueror” Waller
,--“young Harry” Vane
,--“fiery Tom” Fairfax
,--and , “King Pym.”
But among all these there is no peer of HIampden, of him who came not from courts or camps, but from the tranquil study of his Davila,--from that thoughtful retirement which was for him, as for his model, Coligny
, the school of all noble virtues,--came to find himself at once a statesman and a soldier, receiving from his contemporary, Clarendon
, no affectionate critic, the triple crown of historic praise, as being “the most able, resolute, and popular person in the kingdom.”
Who can tell how changed the destiny of England
, had the Earl
's first compromise with the country party succeeded, and Hampden
become the tutor of Prince Clharles,--or could this fight at Chalgrove Field issue differently, and Hampden
survive to be general instead of Essex
, and Protector in place of Cromwell
But that may not be. Had I Hampden
's earlier counsels prevailed, Rupert never would have ventured on his night foray; had his next suggestions been followed, Rupert never would have returned from it. Those failing, IHampden has come, gladly followed by Gunter
and his dragoons, outstripping the tardy Essex
, to dare all and die.
In vain does Gunter
perish beside his flag; in vain does Crosse
, his horse being killed under him, spring in the midst of battle on another; in vain does “that great-spirited little Sir Samuel Luke
” (the original of Hudibras) get thrice captured and thrice escape.
, the hope of the nation, is fatally shot through the shoulder with two carbine-balls in the first charge; the whole troop sees it with dismay; Essex
comes up, as usual, too late, and the fight of Chalgrove Field is lost.
We must leave this picture, painted in the fading colors of a far-off time.
Let us leave the noble Hampden
, weak and almost fainting, riding calmly from the field, and wandering away over his own Chiltern meadows, that he loves so well,--leave him, drooping over his saddle, directing his horse first towards his father-in-law's house at Pyrton, where once he wedded his youthful bride, then turning towards Thame, and mustering his last strength to leap his tired steed across its boundary brook.
A few days of laborious weakness, spent in letter-writing to urge upon Parliament something of that military energy which, if earlier adopted, might have saved his life,and we see a last, funereal procession winding beneath the Chiltern hills
, and singing the 90th Psalm as the mourners approach the tomb of the Hampdens, and the 43d as they return.
And well may the “Weekly Intelligencer
” say of him (June 27, 1643), that “the memory of this deceased Colonel
is such that in no age to come but it will more and more be had in honor and esteem; a man so religious, and of that prudence, judgment, temper, valor, and integrity, that he hath left few his like behind him.”
And we must leave Rupert to his career of romantic daring, to be made President
of the army,--to rescue with unequalled energy Newark
and the besieged heroine of Lathom House,to fight through Newbury
and Marston Moor
, and many a lesser field,--to surrender Bristol
and be acquitted by court-martial, but hopelessly condemned by the Kin ;--then to leave the kingdom, refusing a passport, and fighting his perilous way to the seaside;--then to wander over the world for years, astonishing Dutchmen by his seamanship, Austrians by his soldiership, Spaniards and Portuguese by his buccaneering powers, and Frenchmen by his gold and diamonds and birds and monkeys and “richly liveried Blackamoors” ;--then to reorganize the navy of England
, exchanging characters with his fellow-commander, Monk
, whom the ocean makes rash, as it makes Rupert prudent;--leave him to use nobly his declining years, in studious toils in Windsor Castle
, the fulfilment of Milton
's dream, outwatching the Bear
with thrice-great Hermes
, surrounded by strange old arms and instruments, and maps of voyages, and plans of battles, and the abstruse library which the “Harleian Miscellany” still records ;--leave him to hunt and play at tennis, serve in the Hudson's Bay Company and the Board of Trade;--leave him to experiment in alchemy and astrology, in hydraulics, metallurgy, gunpowder, perspective, quadrants, mezzotint, fish-hooks, and revolvers; --leave him to look from his solitary turret over hills and fields, now peaceful, but each the scene of some wild and warlike memory for him;--leave him to die a calm and honored death at sixty-three, outliving every companion of his early days.
The busy world, which has no time to remember many, forgets him and recalls only the slain and defeated Hampden
The brilliant renown of the Prince
was like the glass toys which record his ingenuity
and preserve his name; the hammer and the anvil can scarcely mar them, yet a slight pressure of the finger, in the fatal spot, will burst them into glittering showers of dust.
The full force of those iron times beat ineffectual upon Rupert;--Death touched him, and that shining fame sparkled and was shattered forever.