CHARLES I (1600-1649). King of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Important Letter Signed (text in the hand of George Digby) with autograph postscript, to Sir Edward Nicholas, 3 pages folio, Hereford, 14 September 1645. The long-lost letter written after the surrender of Bristol, ordering Nicholas to arrest Prince Rupert and to replace the governor of Oxford.
This celebrated letter, among the papers published as 'The private Correspondence between King Charles I and his Secretary of State, Sir Edward Nicholas ...' in Bray's edition of the Diary of John Evelyn, was at one time among the Evelyn papers, and is widely cited in works on Charles I. It was written during the crucial last days of the civil war following the defeat at Naseby. Prince Rupert had fled with his remaining men to Bristol, 'a city devastated by plague and economic catastrophe' [Oxford DNB], where, dispirited and disillusioned, he was said to have considered an alliance with the elector-palatine, his elder brother, against the king. Doubts as to the prince's loyalty were fuelled by the manner in which he surrendered the city, without resistance: 'Clad in scarlet, very richly laid in silver lace, and mounted upon a very gallant black Barbary horse', he was shown every respect by Fairfax and Cromwell, and reciprocated this feeling. He saw what a formidable fighting force parliament had created, and told his captors he would persuade the king to 'a happy peace' (E. Scott, Rupert, Prince Palatine, 182-3).
'Nicholas / when you shall have considered the strange and most inexcusable deliverye upp of the Castle and Fort of Bristoll and compared with with those many precedinge advertisements w[hi]ch have been given mee I make noe doubt but you and all my Counsell there will conclude that I could doe noe lesse, then what you will finde heer inclosed [no longer included, in my care of the preservation of my Sonne, of all you my faithfull servaunts there, and of that important Place my Citty of Oxford. In the first place you will finde a Coppy of my letter to my Nephew; Secondly a revocation of his Commission of Generall. Thirdlye a warrant to Leiutenant (sic) Coll. Hamilton to exercise the Charge of Leiutenant Governor of Oxford, in Sr Thomas Glemhams absense. Fourthly a warrant to the sayd Leiutenant Colonell Hamilton to apprehend the Person of Will: Legge present Governour of Oxford, and lastlye a warrant to bee directed to what person shall bee thought fittest for the apprehending my Nephew Rupert,in Case of such extreamitye, as shall bee hereafter specifyed and not otherwise. ... I shall tell you my opinion as farr forth as I can judge at this distance, w[hi]ch is that you should beginne with securing the Person of Will: Legge, before any thinge be declared concerning my Nephew. But that once done, then the sooner you declare to the Lords both the revokinge of my Nephews Commission, and my makinge Sr Thomas Glemham Governour of Oxford, the better. ... The warrant for my Nephewes Committment, is onlye that you may have the Power to doe it, if in stead of submittinge to, and obeyinge my Commaunds in goinge beyond Sea, you shall finde that hee practise the raysinge of mutinye or any other disturbance ...'The postscript, entirely in the king's hand is as follows:
'Tell my Sone that I shall lesse greeve to heere that he is knoked in the head then that he should doe so meane an Action as is the rendring of Bristoll Castell & Fort upon the termes it was / CR'...'William Legge (1607/8-1670) fell under the general suspicion attached to Rupert's adherents following the events at Bristol, hence his removal from his position at Oxford. As it happened, no real grounds were found for suspecting his loyalty and he was subsequently reinstated in the king's favour, and worked to bring about a reconciliation between him and his nephew. It is noteworthy that the name of Sir Thomas Glemham (1595-1649), the replacement governor of Oxford, has been inserted into the letter in a different hand, making it apparent that the name of a successor to Legge had not been decided when the letter was initially composed. Glemham himself had been involved in the surrender of a city to the parliamentary army, Carlisle [on 25 June 1645], but he had done so on honourable terms.
The contemporary endorsement on the second leaf of the letter, evidently by Nicholas himself records its receipt: 'lres / 17. 7bris [i.e. September] by / Mr ?North / The king to me.'
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