Through Great Britain and Ireland With Cromwell - H. E. Marshall

The King Takes a Journey

The New Model army had proved victorious. The Civil War was at an end, and the King a prisoner. But the country was all in confusion, and soon a fight of another kind began.

The Puritans had already split into two parties—Presbyterians and Independents. Now these two parties took another form, and a struggle between the army and the Parliament began. For the Parliament was nearly all Presbyterian, and most of the soldiers were Independents.

The war being over, the Parliament wished to disband the army. They offered the soldiers eight weeks' pay, although nearly sixty was due to them. The soldiers grumbled at that, grew mutinous, and would not go.

Cromwell was at this time much in Parliament. He had moved his household to London, and his wife and family were now living in Drury Lane. Later, they went to another house nearer Westminster. Oliver talked, and voted, and wrote letters, trying very hard to smooth matters between the King, the Parliament, and the army. It was a hard task, and one which even he could not manage.

The army meantime lay encamped upon the chalk downs around Saffron Walden. In the autumn the fields about them were purple with crocus, from which saffron is made, and from which the village takes its name. Now these beautiful fields are seen no more, for about a hundred years ago the manufacture was given up, and much of the saffron we use comes from Germany.

One day, while the quarrel between the Parliament and the army was going on, a soldier, called Cornet Joyce, mounted his horse, and with five hundred men behind him, set out for Holmby House in Northamptonshire, where the King was kept prisoner.

More than half of Northamptonshire is pasture land, where sheep and cattle are bred and fattened for market. That is what makes leather so plentiful there, and is the cause of the boot factories being set up. Althorp, near which Holmby House stands, is specially noted for its "shorthorns."

As Cornet Joyce and his men rode along this sunny June weather, they would pass many a meadow where sheep and cattle grazed, many a copse where oak, and elm, and beech waved green in the summer sunshine. They passed through the town of Northampton, where, as the saying goes, "You know when you are within a mile of the town by the noise of the cobblers' lapstones." At length they came to Holmby.

At ten o'clock at night, Joyce knocked at the door, and demanded to see the King. Charles had gone to bed. But in spite of that Joyce insisted on seeing him. With his hat in one hand, and a cocked pistol in the other, he marched into the King's bedroom. "May it please your Majesty, I am sorry to disturb you out of your sleep," he said.

"No matter, if you mean me no harm," replied the King.

Then, politely and gently, Joyce told Charles that he must come with him. At first, however, the King refused to go. But after some talk he consented, and, as it was now late, he promised to be ready at six next morning. With this promise, Joyce left him.

True to his word, the King was ready at six next morning. When he came out to the steps of the house, he found Joyce and his men awaiting him, booted and spurred.

"I pray you, Mr. Joyce," said the King, "deal openly with me. Show me what commission you have "—meaning, show me a letter, so that I may know by whose orders you come to take me.

"Here is my commission," said Joyce.

"Where?" asked the King.

"Here," said Joyce again.

But the King could not understand. He looked about him. Still he saw no letter. "Where?" he asked once more.

"Behind me," said Joyce, pointing to his men, who sat there waiting, stern and quiet, in shining armour. "I hope that will satisfy your Majesty," he added.

The King now understood and smiled. "It is as fair a commission, and as well written as I have ever seen a commission in my life," he said. "A company of as handsome, proper gentlemen as I have seen a great while. But what if I refuse to go with you? I hope you will not force me. I am your King. You ought not to lay violent hands upon your King."

"We will do you no hurt, your Majesty," said Joyce. "Nay, we will not force you to go with us."

"How far do you mean to ride to-day? "said Charles, after a pause.

"As far as your Majesty conveniently can." Charles smiled. "I can ride as far as you or any man," he said. Then they set out.

That night, the King reached Hinchingbrooke House. It no longer belonged to Oliver's uncle, for he had spent so much money that he had been obliged to sell his grand house, and go to live in one much smaller. But did Charles, I wonder, remember that forty years before he had stayed in this same beautiful house, to which he now came a prisoner, as an honoured guest? And did he remember how he had fought with a little boy called Oliver?