Page 6, 29th November 1974

29th November 1974
Page 6
Page 6, 29th November 1974 — A king of mercy and moderation

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Organisations: Essex's army
Locations: Derby, Newbury, Oxford


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A king of mercy and moderation

by Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

King Charles, Prince Rupert and the Civil War: From original letters edited by Sir Charles Petrie (Routledge and Kegan Paul £2.95) This book contains only 132 pages so the price is high, but it would he a pity if inflation prevented those interested in the Civil War from reading letters which, for the most part, have never been published before.

The letters are between King Charles I and his nephew Prince Rupert, some from the Countess of Derby and Queen Henrietta Maria, and those written by both the Fairfaxes on the Parliamentary side.

In addition there are letters from Montrose, some concern

ing the Irish scene, some from those engaged in the actual fighting. and lastly those dealing with the Exiles, including letters from the young Charles II. The letters are in these sections and are not, therefore, in chronological order, which does not make it easy for the reader. The editing by Sir

Charles Petrie is excellent and brings out some very interesting points.

The character of Charles I reveals a man of moderation and mercy who always hoped that his enemies would accept his Divine Right without bloodshed. Unfortunately he was a bad judge of men. as was his wife.

Also he proved incapable of making decisions, especially those which required immediate attention. He was apt to agree to views from those around him when his own ideas were often right.

Clarendon wrote: "He had an excellent understanding, but was not confident enough of it; which made }tint often-times change his own opinion for a worse, and follow the advice of a man that did not judge so well as himself."

Prince Rupert was not the dashing, charging, reckless cavalry general, but he was an efficient soldier who had learnt in Germany how to use the cavalry arm. His opponents, and in particular Cromwell, soon copied his tactics with success.

Prince Rupert, after Edgehill; wished to follow up immediately to seize Westminster and the rebel part of Parliament. The civilians round the King had no difficulty in persuading the King against this proposal.

Sir Charles Petrie calls this decision the most fatal of the war. History might have been very different if the King had accepted his nephew's advice.

The King's attitude towards his opponents is clear in a letter to the Mayor of Newbury on September 21, 1643, after the second battle there. He wrote: "Our will and command is, that you forthwith send into the towns and villages adjacent, and bring thence all the sick and

Essex's army, and though they may he rebels, and deserve the punishment of traitors, yet out of our tender compassion upon them as being our subjects, our will and pleasure is, that you carefully provide for their recovery, as well as for those of our own army, and then send them to Oxford."

The Parliamentary forces were not so kind-hearted.

One cannot help thinking throughout these letters — if only! Cromwell's own view is probably the best summary when he said that if the King had trusted his own judgment he would have fooled them all.

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