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

The King Takes Another Journey

When the news of what Cornet Joyce had done was brought to London, Cromwell "lifted up his hands in Parliament and called God, angels and men to witness that he knew nothing of Joyce's going for the King."

Charles I of England


But possession of the King, poor prisoner though he was, meant power, and now the army became more determined than before to resist the Parliament. So strong were the soldiers, indeed, that they demanded that eleven Presbyterian members who were their greatest enemies should be expelled from the House. And the eleven members ran away to hide themselves. The army, it would seem, was acting in a way not unlike the King, when he had tried to seize the famous five members.

The struggle between Parliament and army still went on. The army moved from place to place—to St. Albans, to Berkhampstead, to Uxbridge, to High Wycombe—and with them went the King, always treated with courtesy and lodged in some great house near.

The quarrels grew worse. All London sided with Parliament. But the army was so strong that the Commons were like to give way to them. Then one day a mob of young men rushed into the House. With clamour and shouting, they forced both Lords and Commons to vote as they wished. It was a scene of riot and disorder, such as never before had been known in Parliament.

This made matters no better, and at last, the Speakers of both Houses, some Lords, and many Commons, rode out to join the army. "Lords and Commons and a Free Parliament!" shouted the soldiers as they came.

A few days later, Cromwell and Fairfax marched to London at the head of twenty thousand men, bringing the Speakers and members with them. Grim, stern men, heroes of Marston and Naseby, they came from Putney to Hyde Park, and on through the streets, until the doors of Westminster closed upon the returning members.

The struggle still went on. Oliver was always in Parliament at this time. "I feared to miss the House a day, where it is very necessary for me to be," he writes. Then one day came astonishing news. The King had escaped, and had fled to Carisbrooke Castle, in the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight is a beautiful little island which lies to the south of England, off the coast of Hampshire. Once, long before the beginning of history, it formed part of the mainland. But the constant washing of the waves has worn a channel through the clay soil of the Plain of Southampton, as that part of Hampshire which borders on the sea is called, cutting Wight off from the mainland, and forming it into an island. People can guess this, because the north of the island is of clay soil like the Plain of Southampton, and the south is of chalky downs like those which surround the plain.

The Isle of Wight is four-cornered, not unlike a kite in shape. It lies with one of its corners pointing inland, forming a three-cornered strait. On the west this strait is called the Solent. On the east it is called Spithead. From the middle of this strait Southampton Water runs northward, the whole being something like a Y turned upside down, and forming a fine natural harbour. Except for a few sandbanks, which are known and marked, the water is everywhere deep. It gives splendid anchorage for men-of-war, the largest of which can sail there. So behind this sheltering island has grown up the greatest dockyard in the world—Portsmouth.

Portsmouth is really five towns in one—Portsmouth, Portsea, Landport, Southsea, and Gosport. It is not a commercial port like Southampton, which lies on Southampton Water. For it has neither coal fields nor iron fields to bring commerce there. But, on the other hand, the harbour is so large that the whole British Navy can lie there at once. It lies opposite the great French arsenal of Cherbourg, and is easily reached from London, all of which would make it useful in time of war. So it has become the great naval arsenal of the country.

Here in the huge dockyards, men-of-war are built and repaired. Here are stored vast quantities of tea, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, flour, oatmeal, guns, shot, shell, coal, anchors, boats, and everything, in fact, which is needed to fit vessels for sea. And to keep it all safe there are land batteries, sea batteries, forts, and barracks full of soldiers, all around. To guard the passage into Spithead, forts have even been built out in the sea, so that there is a chain of them between the mainland and the Isle of Wight.

Ever since the time of Henry VIII. Portsmouth has been famous. It was here, during his reign, while the French and English were fighting off Spithead, that the words from which our national anthem is made were first used. During the night the English watchword was "God save the King," and the reply, "Long to reign over us."

Many things have happened at Portsmouth, but perhaps the saddest was the loss of the Royal George. It went down in 1782, right in the road-stead. For many a year after, the hulk lay there, a great danger to shipping. No one knew how to get it up, but at last, in 1844, it was blown up.

It was from Spithead that Nelson sailed so often to victory, and off the dockyard of Portsmouth lies his ship the Victory. Every year, on the anniversary of Trafalgar, it is decorated with laurels.

It is at Spithead that all the great naval reviews take place, such as those at Queen Victoria's jubilee and diamond jubilee. At the last, there was a display of five rows of ships, extending for three miles.

So you see what an important place Portsmouth is. If Charles could have kept it, it would have been of great service to him. But at the very beginning of the Civil War, the fleet had declared for the Parliament, and Portsmouth had fallen into their hands. The Isle of Wight too, after some fighting, had yielded to them, and Carisbrooke was now under a Parliamentarian governor. Yet, knowing this, Charles fled there. He hoped, perhaps, to make friends with the governor, who would let him escape to France. For it is easy to reach France from the Isle of Wight. But Charles was disappointed. He soon found that he was now more strictly kept a prisoner than he had ever been by the army.