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Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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death in this charge.

The Lord-General's life-guard of gentlemen, to whom these
gallant persons had joined themselves, first broke the King's
guards, who were afterwards ' abundantly smitten down by the
' orange coats, by Sir William Constable's blue coats, the Lord
' Roberts's red coats, and the Lord Say's blue coats, led by Sir
' John Meldrum.' And the cavalry from the Parliament's
right, under Balfore, Stapleton, and the Lord Willoughby of
Parham, and composed of the troops of Hazlerigge, Lord
Brook, Lord Grey, Gunter, Draper, Temple, Long, Fiennes,
Luke, Cromwell, Hunt, and Urrey, now rushed in furiously.
At this time was slain Sir Edmund Verney, and the royal
standard, which he bore, was taken by Mr. Young, one of Sir
William Constable's ensigns, and delivered by Lord Essex to
his own secretary, Chambers, who rode by his side. Elated by
the prize, the secretary rode about, more proudly than wisely,
waving it round his head. Whereupon, in the confusion, one
of the King's officers, Captain Smith of the Lord John
Stewart's troop, seeing the standard captured, threw round
him the orange scarf of a fallen Parliamentarian, and, riding
in among the lines of -his enemies, told the secretary that ' it
' were shame that so honourable a trophy of war should be
' borne by a penman/ To which suggestion the credulous
guardian of this honourable trophy consenting surrendered it
to the disguised cavalier, who galloped back with it amain,
and, before evening, received knighthood under its shadow.


And now the royal army was so severely pressed in front and
on its left, being menaced also on its right by a body of horse
which had regained that rising ground from which Ramsay's
brigade had, early in the fight, been driven, that Charles was
vehemently importuned to leave the field. But this, his ardent
courage, and the pledge which he had given to his troops, to
abide with them for life or death, would not permit. He would
have charged in person with his reserves of two regiments and
his band of pensioners, were it not that his household officers
withheld him. But now the evening was setting in, and, as the
authorised narrative on the King's part says, the darkness
made it difficult to distinguish friends from foes.* No one of
the accounts published by authority on either side is through-
out true, either as to the details, or as to the general result, of
this famous battle. To believe them on both sides would be
to conclude that an hour more of daylight would have blessed
both armies with a sure and signal victory. The truth appears
to be that both had already suffered too severely, and that the
condition of each was too perilous, for either to be eager to
renew the conflict. The King's officers were dismayed at the
sudden and unexpected chance which had placed the safety of
the whole army in hazard, after they had seen nearly one-half
of the host of their enemies routed, and had firmly and surely
believed the day to be already their own. Rupert's men and
horses were too much fatigued for another charge. On the
other side, what remained together of the Parliament's cavalry
were weak in numbers, and equally spent with the exertion of
a long march and a hard and doubtful contest, and with the
effects of exposure for many nights to wet and cold. More-
over, they felt only the extent of their own disadvantage ; they
knew not that their enemy's plight was no less severe ; and
they looked with distrust towards the issue of another attack
on the part of the more numerous, better-disciplined, and,
perhaps, more confident, troops of the Prince. But the
reinforcement of the two regiments had now come up with
Hampden. Lord Essex saw that the higher ground was still
in the King's hands. He called a council of his principal

* The account of the battle is taken from Clarendon, Viccars, Bulstrode,
Warwick, Whitelocke, Heath's Chronicle, Ludlow's Memoirs, Charles Pym'a
and Nathaniel Fiennes's Letters, other published tracts and letters, prin-
cipally in Mr. Staunton's collection, the Parliament's Diurnals, and the
Oxford Intelligencers.


officers, and he listened mainly, as he had ever done, to the.
advice of the cautious Dalbier. A general who, during an
unfinished battle, puts to a council the question of again
advancing or not, may be presumed to have a leaning of
opinion towards the less adventurous course. Eesolute under
difficulty and repulse, it was when success was to "be improved
that Essex was timid and indecisive. In vain did Hampden,
Grantham, Holies, and Brook, urge him to renew the attack.
Hampden was for instantly pressing forward, and endeavouring
to force the King's position ; and so to relieve Banbury, and
throw himself at once on the contested line of the great
London road. And Ludlow and Whitelocke assert, and
Warwick and Clarendon confess, that if this course had been
adopted, the King's condition might have become hazardous
in the extreme.

Of the loss of men on either side no truth is to be gained
from any of the authorised statements taken separately.
According to one of the accounts sent to the Parliament, and
published ' to prevent false informations,' the King lost in
slain about three thousand, the Parliament three hundred.
According to that which issued from the King's press at
Oxford, the amount of the King's loss is doubtful, but, ' this
' is certain, that the royal army slew five Parliamentarians for
' every one slain of theirs.' To attempt to balance these
would be misspent labour. The Parliamentarians seem to have
lost rather more in private soldiers, the King certainly more
in persons of distinction. Of these, besides Sir Edmund
Verney, was slain the Lord Aubigny. Among a number of
prisoners of note, the brave old General, Lord Lindsey, was
taken, but mortally wounded. His son, the Lord Willoughby,
in vain rushed to the rescue. He had only the sad comfort of
performing the last filial duties. Lindsey died in the Lord-
General's coach, on the way to Warwick Castle, under whose
portcullis his corpse entered side by side with that of his
youthful and gallant enemy, Charles Essex.*

* In the Appendix is subjoined a reprint of a scarce and curious tract
in Mr. Staunton's collection. It is not altogether uninteresting to speculate
on the causes and extent of human credulity, the more remarkable always
when not excited by the conflicts of political or religious prejudice. The
world abounds with histories of praeternatural appearances the most utterly
incredible, supported by testimony the most undeniable. Here is a ghost
story of the most preposterous sort. Two great armies of ghosts, for the
mere purpose, as it seems, of making night hideous to the innocent and


A tolerably correct judgment is to be formed of the conduct
and issue of the Edge Hill fight, only by comparing together
the conflicting accounts, which are abundant. On the whole,
the fairest, and the most consistent with each other, and with
probability, are Nathaniel Fiennes's, (which, written at the
time, deserves credit for its moderation,) and Edmund Ludlow's
and Sir Philip Warwick's, which have the best chance of being
dispassionate, having been written many years after the event,
and not, as it appears, in a spirit violently disposed to favour
either party. Clarendon's, if compared with the others, or even
with the map, will be found to be, in parts, extremely

Seldom has ill success been left so nearly balanced between
two conflicting armies after so great a battle, ' Victor uterque
' fuit, victus uterque fuit,' says Sir Richard Bulstrode. And, : T
therefore, both returned solemn thanks to God as for a victory. /
Both lost guns, stores, and colours. The one remained master
of the field of battle, and the other kept the London road, the
gaining or retaining possession of M'hich had been the only
reasonable motive for fighting at all. And, eventually, both
retreated ; the one forgetting that the way to the metropolis
was open to his enemy, and the other, before whom it was
open, neglecting to march upon it. Of this neglect on the
King's part there appears to be but one probable solution : of
which hereafter.

In the original papers of James II., collected by Carte, it is

scared townsmen of Keinton, fighting over again the battle of Edge Hill,
which had been decided, as far as their mortal efforts could decide it, more
than two monthsbefore. Yet is this story attested upon the oath of three
officers, men of honour and discretion, and of ' three other gentlemen of
' credit,' selected by the King as commissioners to report upon these pro-
digies, and to tranquillise and disabuse the alarms of a country town ;
adding, moreover, in confirmation, their testimony to the identity of several
of the illustrious dead, as seen among the unearthly combatants who had
been well known to them, and who had fallen in the battle. A well sup-
ported imposture, or a stormy night on the hill-side, might have acted on
the weakness of a peasantry in whose remembrance the terrors of the
Edge Hill fight were still fresh ; but it is difficult to imagine how the minds
of officers, sent there to correct the illusion, could have been so imposed
upon. It will also be observed, that no inference is attempted by the
witnesses to assist any notion of a j udgment or warning favourable to the
interests or passions of their own party. It is a pure inexplicable working
of fancy upon the minds of shrewd and well-educated men, in support of
the superstitious of timid and vulgar ones, who had, for several nights,
been brought to consent to the same belief. For the story, see Appendix H.
The solution of it must be left to the ingenuity of the reader.


thus stated. ( It was of fatal consequence that he did not
' march to London, which, in the fright, would not have cost
' him a stroke. Ruthven, the day after the battle, desired the
' King to send him with most of the horse and three thousand
' foot to London, where he would get before Essex, seize
' Westminster, drive away the rebel part of the Parliament,
' and maintain it till the King came up with the rest of the
e army. But this was opposed by the advice of many of the
' council. They were afraid that the King should return by
' conquest ; and said so openly. They persuaded the King to
' advance so slowly to London, that Essex got there before
' him ; and the Parliament, ready before to fly, took heart.'
Of the King's officers, (besides the Lord Willoughby,) Colonels
Lunsford, Vavasour, Stradling, Rodney, and Munro, were taken
prisoners. The roads were covered with the wounded of
both armies. ' It would be a charitable worke/ says ' a
' minister of good note/ in his letter to the Lord Mayor of
London,* ' if some rich citizen would drop the silver oyle
' of his purse into the wounds of the sick and maimed
' souldiers who have soe freely hazarded theire lives for the
' gospell/

The King marched back with a great part of his army, the
evening after the battle, to the position from which he had
that day descended; and, from thence, further up, to the
Wormleighton Hills, lying out, that night, in a hard and
piercing frost. The main body of the Parliamentarians also
retired from the bleak plain to the 'warmer quarter' of
Keinton, but leaving a brigade of observation on the advanced
position which they had won on the eastern extremity of the
battle. ' This gave Essex/ says Sir Philip Warwick, ' a title
' unto the victory of that day/ On the next morning both
armies remained for several hours opposed in order of battle,
as if again to engage ; but neither was disposed to begin the
attack. Charles sent a flag of truce, borne by Clarencieux
King at Arms, with a proclamation, dated ' from our Court on
' Edge Hill/ offering to Lord Essex, and to such of his army as
should surrender, a free pardon. To this, the General, after
strictly prohibiting the herald from tampering with the soldiers,
returned for answer, that he should take the instructions of
Parliament on his Majesty's gracious offer. About sunset,

* Mr. Staunton's Collection.


' for what reason/ says Ludlow, ' I know not/ and indeed
without any apparent motive, he began a retreat on Warwick.
Again Hampden interposed with a remonstrance, and strongly
advised a rapid advance, to harass the retiring King, to restore
the spirits of the midland counties, and save London. He
volunteered to lead the advance himself, with his fresh and
eager brigade. But Dalbier, in whom the methodical system
of the German science was grafted upon what is supposed to
be the characteristic caution of his native land, supported
Essex's inclination to be content with the fame of a doubtful

Had the King's position been forced, and his army in con-
sequence driven to a precipitate retreat, it would have been
extremely difficult for him to save even a remnant of his army.
He had no point on which he could have safely retired.
Oxford was wholly unfortified. Banbury lay in his way, with
a garrison, which, though powerless against his army when
together and unembarrassed with any other enemy, would have
been a formidable obstacle to him in retreat ; and the nearer he
approached to London, the more unfriendly was the country
through which he must have passed. The extreme west of
England would have been the only secure refuge open to his
troops ; and so long a retreat, encumbered as he was with so
much of the useless equipage of royal pomp, would have been
difficult and hazardous.

His ministers and servants of state, with their followers of
all sorts, above twelve hundred in number, accompanied him,
not bearing arms, but making larger demands for subsistence
and conveniences than any number of military officers of the
highest rank.

Sir "William Dugdale was present in the action, as Norroy
King at Arms, at the head of a numerous body of heralds,
with each of whom was a retinue of pursuivants and
horse-boys. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of York,
then twelve and ten years old, were on the hill. They were
placed under the care of Dr. William Harvey, afterwards so
famous for his discoveries concerning the circulation of the
blood, and then Physician in Ordinary to the King. During
the action, forgetful both of his position and of his charge, and
too sensible of the value of time to a philosophic mind to
be cognisant of bodily danger, he took out a book, and sat him
down on the grass to read, till, warned by the sound of the


bullets that grazed and whistled round him, he rose, and
withdrew the Princes to a securer distance.*

The first notice received in London of the Edge Hill fight
was a very doubtful one. Beacons had been established along
the line of communication between the Parliament and its
army. In the alarm of the King's advance from Shrewsbury,
Essex had received orders from the two Houses to give
intelligence by firing the nearest beacon, whenever he might
overtake the King and arrest his progress. The light by night,
or the smoke by day, was to be the signal of his success in
having brought the King to action, which the country people,
on the different heights, up to London itself, were by procla-
mation directed to repeat. When the darkness had set in
upon the hostile armies, and the fight was at an end, a small
party of the Parliament's troops, who had gained the summit
of the Beacon Hill, near Burton Dasset, gave the signal.
Tradition says that some shepherds, on a part of the high ridge
over Ivinghoe, on the borders of Buckinghamshire and
Hertfordshire, and at a distance of at least thirty miles in a
direct line from Edge Hill, saw a twinkling light to the
northward, and, upon communication with their minister, a
' godly and well-affected person/ fired the beacon there also,
which was seen at Harrow on the Hill, and from thence at
once carried on to London ; and that thus the news was given
along a line of more than sixty miles, by the assistance of only
two intermediate fires. But this mode of communication told
the story very imperfectly, and most disastrous rumours soon
followed. Fearj^afleet messenger. A party of the routed
cavalry from TKeP^rlTamerTFrTeft., contriving in the confusion
to slip past the opposite flank of the King's army, fled forward
through Baubury. They were accompanied by Ramsay, their
commander, whose published defence delivered before a court-
martial, (to the injury of his memory a very imperfect one,) is
among the collection of broadsheets preserved in the British

These fugitives, offering in their haste and panic but a sorry
sample of the condition of the Parliament's army, spread the
news of an entire defeat as rapidly and as far as their own and
their horses' speed would serve. This unhappy report that
the battle was irretrievably lost reached London on the 24th,

* Aubrey's Letters and Lives of Eminent Men.


not many hours after the first intelligence by signal, of the en-
counter. It was not till the day after that Lord Wharton and
Strode arrived at the doors of the two Houses where the Par-
liament was sitting ; and almost at the same time came another
official statement from Holies, Stapleton, Ballard, Balfore,
Meldrum, and Charles Pym, to refresh the drooping confidence
of the Parliament and the citizens with intelligence of a com-
plete victory; modestly and well written, as to the account
of the battle ; but as to the claim of a victory, only one degree
less untrue than the alarm had been of an entire defeat.

But the fact of the King being between Lord Essex's army
and the metropolis was one which no ' special relation ' had
the power to disguise. The dismay of the citizens was intense.
But their preparations for defence were rapid, vigorous, and
resolute. The shops were shut np. The people thronged
forth into the streets to close the barricades ; everywhere the
train-bands beat to arms, and mustered in Finsbury Fields,
II vile Park, and the village of Pancras, to take their orders to
occupy the posts before their city, or to put themselves in
inarch to oppose the King on his road. Directions the most
positive were dispatched by repeated expresses to the Lord-
General to endeavour, at all hazards, whether forcing his way
by a second battle, or turning the King's flank by manoeuvre,
to throw himself across the main road, or, if that were
impracticable, into London itself." 3 *"

Fortunately for the Parliament, the King's movements now
became as disconnected and as dilatory as those of his adversary
had been. He trifled away his time in taking and occupying
several small places, such as Banbury and Broughton Castle,
the last of which held out for a whole day with a garrison of
only one troop of horse, and consumed another day in settling
articles of capitulation ; and after passing some few days more
at Oxford, he moved onwards, resting his right flank, which
was not menaced, on the Thames, and leaving his left, on
which Essex was marching, uncovered, with two great roads
open. It is impossible to believe that this could have been
oversight. Charles himself had military talents of no mean order.
He had begun to display them before the battle of Edge Hill,
and he gave very decisive proofs of them in his conduct on
many subsequent occasions during the war. He was besides

Speciall Passages.


surrounded by experienced officers. The only probable mode
of accounting for it must be by referring it to the political
difficulties which were uppermost in the minds of some of his
advisers. All who had interests of their own to serve with
the adverse party, or terms to make with the King for such of
their friends as had engaged themselves in it, all who feared
the lengths to which, in sudden and decisive success, the King
might be led by passions which they had not influence enough
over him to control ; those too who vainly thought that a more
reasonable accommodation might be come to by treaty while
the issue of the war was yet in part uncertain ; the timid and
the temporising, were all alarmed at the prospect of their
master obtaining at once the power of dictating peace upon his
own terms.

Nor is it improbable that Falkland himself may have depre-
cated such success. For his well established favour with
Charles was yet incapable of standing against such counsel as
Rupert's or Digby's would have been, if given among such
scenes as must have followed the triumphal entry into London,
or the forcing of her defences by storm. This, indeed, is
liinted intelligibly enough by several contemporary writers,
among whom is Clarendon himself.

But whatever was the cause of Charles's conduct at this
crisis, the energy and genius of Essex were roused equally by
the reproaches of the Parliament and of some of his own officers,
and by the inactivity of the King. He suddenly advanced
upon Northampton, engaging the King's attention by threaten-
ing his flank with a detached force in the country about
Brackly and Aynho ; Hampden, and his friend and colleague
Arthur Goodwyn, leading the advanced guard.

The Lieutenants of Buckinghamshire, who were raising and
marshalling the volunteers of that county, received this letter
from the Lord Wharton :*

' GENTLEMEN. It greeues my heart thatt your County should
be putt into soe g 4 distraction. My I/ 1 - 3 haue considered of your
letter, and are very desirous to doe any thing for the presentation
of your county. They conceaue itt most for the seruice of the
county and the safety of yourselfes and the forces now raysed
thatt you retire a little neerer to Uxbridge, which is appoynted to
bee the rendezvous for a conuoy of g 1 strength to bee sent do\vne

* Among Mr. Grenvil's papers.


' with diuerse things to my L d of Essex ; with which if you thiuke
' good to fall in, and to joyne unto my L d of Essex his army, the
' state will entertayne you, and allow such pay as all other officers
' and soldiers haue.

' My L ds doe butt propound all this to your consideration, leaning
' you in euery part of itt to resolue of whatt you finde more fitt
' for your occasion to your owne judgement. I haue spouke to my
' L d of Warwicke for some officers for you, and ame in hope to
' preuayle therein.

' I ame
c Your most affectionate frend

' to serve you,

' 30 Octob. 1642. LONDON.

' For Collonell Bullstrood and the
' rest of the deputy lieutennants
' of the county of Bucks

' att Amersham.'

During the march, Hampden wrote thus from Northampton
to encourage them :

' To my noble friends, Colonel Bulstrode, Captain Grenvil, Captain
' Tyrell, Captain West, or any of them.

' GENTLEMEN. The army is now at Northampton, moving
' every day nearer to you. If you disband not, we may be a
' mutual succour to each other ; but if you disperse, you make
' yourselves and your country a prey.

' You shall hear daily from
' Your servant,

' NORTHAMPTON, Oct. 81.'

* I wrote this enclosed letter yesterday, and thought it would
' have come to you then ; but the messenger had occasion to stay
' till this morning. We cannot be ready to march till to-morrow ;
' and then, I believe, we shall. 1 desire you will be pleased to send
' to me again, as soon as you can, to the army, that we may know
' what posture you are in, and then you will hear which way we go.
' You shall do me a favour to certify me what you hear of the
' King's forces ; for I believe your intelligence is better from Oxford
' and those parts than ours can be.

' Your humble servant,


' NORTHAMPTON, Nw. 1, 1642.'

One of Mr. Grenvil's informants, just returned from

x 2


Oxford, where he had lately witnessed, with some discomfort,
the execution of a spy, writes to him thus :

' Eight Wor fu11 . Upon the motion of your man Cherry, I give
you to understand that I, beinge at Oxou, 9 ber 2 d , warned by a
warrant from his Ma tie amongst all ministers, freeholders, trades-
men, and men of estate in Oxon shire, sawe his Ma tie sitting in
Christ chch hall ; prince Robert was gone before to Abingdon with
510 men. The Kinge intends for London w th all speede. Redinge
must be inhumanly plundered. One Blake, or Blakewell, I know
not whether, was this day hanged, drawen, and quartered, in
Oxon, for recS 50 lb a weeke from y e Parl 1 for intelligence, he
beinge Priuy Chamberlayne to Prince Rob*. Wee were in Oxon

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 37 of 45)