Sir Thomas Fairfax.
William Cavendish - Marquis of Newcastle. Early 1643.
The King was over optimistic in his suggestions that the “ Business of Yorkshire” was almost complete and this was certainly not the opinion of William. He continued to build up his army and, although profligate in offering commissions to the gentlemen and nobility of the region and criticised for doing so, he realised this was necessary to finance and equip his force as he needed their backing and full support. Ominously most of his munitions had to be imported from abroad through ports in the north east and transported by road to Yorkshire. In addition he had the added responsibility of awaiting the return of the Queen from abroad with large shipments of ammunition and soldiers. The Queen, her entourage, army and supplies would have to escorted south to Oxford.
Bad news came from the West Riding later in December and January when Saville was thoroughly beaten at Bradford and also lost Leeds to Sir Thomas Fairfax. The Hothams in Hull were also threatening from the east and Sir Hugh Cholmley in Scarborough was mounting energetic sorties into North Yorkshire. The Business of Yorkshire was indeed far from complete. It had only just begun.
However both the Hothams and Cholmley resented the authority of Fairfax and the Parliamentary efforts in Yorkshire were badly co-ordinated. William was certainly in secret correspondence with the Hothams over a possible switch of allegiance to the Crown. If this had been accomplished the loss of Hull would have been a major blow to Parliament and quite a coup for William. To accomplish this without firing a shot would be a significant achievement. The two parties continued a courteous exchange of letters ostensibly over matters like prisoner exchange for some time which gave William grounds for optimism.
Another matter requiring his attention was the election of the new Mayor of York. With York overcrowded with refugees and troops there was considerable discontent amongst the residents. A strong and loyal Mayor was required and William suggested the re-election of Edward Cooper which the Common Council rejected out of hand. William quickly lost patience and, not wish to be involved in protracted negotiations, ordered the Council not to have an election at all and commanded the Governor, Glemham, to immediately occupy the Council Chambers by force. This put an end to the matter quite effectively.
On the 15th January a detachment was sent north to escort a supply convoy from Newcastle was attacked by Cholmley at Malton who routed another Royalist force at Richmond the following day. Sir Thomas Fairfax was also active in the west and there were signs of a coming Parliamentarian offensive. William decided to concentrate his forces at York leaving only small garrisons at Tadcaster and Pontefract.
The long awaited supply convoy finally headed for Yorkshire under the command of the elderly but very able and experienced Scots soldier James King, later Lord Eythin. King shattered Cholmley’s force at Yarm capturing most of his infantry and proceeded to York. The arrival of the convoy was very welcome being made up of 120 wagons with arms and ammunition, 16 cannons and numerous pack horses loaded with muskets.
James King, who had served with great distinction as a mercenary under Gustavus Adolfus of Sweden became a formidable addition to William’s staff. William was now aware of the treachery of his second in command the Earl of Newport and there were suggestions of a machiavellian plot to kidnap the Queen on her arrival in Yorkshire. Newport was placed under arrest and King was appointed William’s second in command. Inexplicably Newport was later released and continued , nominally at least, to serve the Royalist cause but not in the north of England.
On the 2nd February William was himself declared a traitor by Parliament and excluded from any future amnesty along with 10 other prominent Royalists including William’s close friend Endymion Porter.
On the 22nd February Queen Henrietta landed at Bridlington with her entourage, supplies and precious reinforcements. William, then in Pocklington half way to the coast, sent his cavalry swiftly to ensure her safety and followed with his infantry as fast as he could. Her arrival was greatly welcomed by the Royalists in England as she was accompanied by 1000 returning Royalist volunteers, enough supplies to fill 250 wagons and £80,000 in gold.
Other prominent arrivals at this time were Lord George Goring who was appointed General of Horse. Goring was a deeply flawed man but, at his best, a fine cavalry general. Another experienced career soldier, Sir Francis Mackworth, was appointed Major General of Foot. A first class infantry general.
Before William’s arrival 5 Parliamentarian warships sailed into Bridlington Bay and pounded the houses along little harbour for a short time. The Queen at first did not wish to leave but, with her ladies in waiting, her dog Mitte and her dwarf, the diminutive Sir Jeffrey Hudson, was forced to retire to the safety of a ditch some distance away with cannon balls whistling about her ears. The Parliamentarian Squadron were quickly warned off by the approach of the escorting Dutch fleet under Van Tromp and retired to safety. Henrietta Maria was not amused by this attack on the Royal personage, although she had acted bravely throughout, and related the incident at length to William and later the King.
Queen Henrietta Maria and Sir Jeffrey Hudson.
William graciously donated £3000 to the Queen for the King’s war chest but by now was very short of funds himself. However it was later clear, even to the Queen, that the finances of the Royalists in the north were very precarious and she donated £6,000 to their fighting fund before she left the county.
The Earl of Montrose rode down from Scotland at this time and met the Queen at Bridlington. He informed her of the dangerous situation in Scotland and requested that she implore the King to take the offensive north of the border as he considered, correctly as it turned out, that Scottish neutrality would not last indefinitely and the Scots Covenanters would side with Parliament. She politely listened and told him she would consider the matter when she arrived in York. However Montrose’s old enemy the Earl of Hamilton was in York at the time. He considered Montrose’s suggested course of action extremely unwise and strongly advised the Queen against any action that would inflame the Scots.
Another visitor to Bridlington was Captain Hotham, son of Sir John Hotham, riding under safe conduct ostensibly to discuss a prisoner exchange with William. The 2 privately discussed terms for the Hotham’s change of allegiance. For himself a barony , for his father an earldom and governorship of Hull for life plus £20,000 between them. William listened and said nothing to discourage the younger Hotham. It was agreed however that there would be a temporary truce if the Hothams did not attack the Queen and the supply convoy William would not attack Beverley or Hull. William, the Queen and the supply column arrived in York on the 8th March.
William took great pleasure at entertaining his royal guest. The Queen became a well known figure in York during this time travelling openly on horseback in the city and, on occasions, stopping to talk to the soldiers who were much taken by her charm and friendly manner. Her presence in York was instrumental in ensuring the defection to the Royalists of Sir Hugh Cholmley with whom William had also been in recent secret correspondence. Cholmley rode to York in disguise with a safe conduct pass provided by William for a meeting. Cholmley was to wait 3 weeks before officially declaring for the King and taking most of his garrison at Scarborough with him plus a recently arrived supply Parliamentarian supply ship. The Hothams carried on their secret correspondence with William refusing to commit themselves to any defection to the Royalist cause but keeping their options open. It was this protracted correspondence that eventually proved their downfall when some of their letters were captured in William’s coach at Marston Moor the following year.
William was not without critics at court who commented on his alleged inactivity and neglect of his duties by not pursuing the war in Yorkshire with more vigour. It must be noted however that William was not a soldier by profession and distrusted military men in general. He owed his own appointment not only to his status and wealth but also his great organising ability, influence in the region and total loyalty to the King. He proved his courage numerous times during the campaign.
His staff appointments may at first seem obscure but can be justified . His Second in Command, the Scot James King, was an immensely experienced and able soldier. Goring, his General of Horse, was a drunk and degenerate but for all that was an aggressive soldier and inspirational leader. His charm and wit made him a favourite of the Queen and he was probably her appointment anyway. Mackworth was a sound and capable infantry commander. William Davenant, as General of Artillery, was a playwright more than a soldier but had served well in the 1639 campaigns. He was soon to move on anyway. Military intelligence was responsibility of the Rev Michael Hudson as Scout Master General. Hudson was no soldier but was an exceptionally intelligent and adaptable man. An academic and minister of great worth he fought and bravely died for the King and the Royalist cause he wholeheartedly supported.
William moved his force north to support Cholmley’s defection. When news of the loss of Scarborough reached Lord Fairfax he was very concerned and started to withdraw to the West Riding . William turned south west and ordered Goring ,with a force of cavalry and dragoons, to attack Sir Thomas Fairfax who had retaken Tadcaster and was in the process of demolishing its defences. On the 30th March they caught up with the younger Fairfax at Seacroft Moor and inflicted a severe mauling on the hapless Parliamentarian infantry killing 200 and capturing 800 in the process. Sir Thomas and his surviving cavalry escaped to Leeds to join Lord Fairfax and they then withdrew to Bradford. Throughout April William strengthened his position in the region reoccupying Wakefield and holding it with a large garrison under Goring.
On the 17th April William’s wife Elizabeth died at Bolsover. The loss of Elizabeth after 25 years of happy marriage was deeply felt by William but he had little time to dwell on this as the “Business of Yorkshire” still demanded his full consideration.
The way was now open to inflict a decisive blow against Fairfax. Leeds looked a promising target and Goring, with the Queen’s support, was all for an all out assault on the town. James King ( Now Lord Eythin ) urged caution. The canny old Scot argued that a defeat could be the ruin of the army and result in the loss of all their recent gains. William took his advice and it could, with hindsight, be considered a lost opportunity. However the Fairfaxes had recently received significant reinforcements to make good their losses and were renewed in their determination to fight on. William was of similar age to Eythin and in the end he relied on the judgement of the more experienced of his commanders. William sent a force into south Yorkshire taking Rotherham by storm in a bloody encounter and Sheffield which put up no resistance.
These encouraging successes were nullified when the redoubtable Sir Thomas Fairfax, although severely out numbered, took back Wakefield in a daring night assault. Goring was captured along with many of his soldiers and much ammunition. This was a serious setback for the Royalists and it must be noted that it showed the Fairfaxes were still able to put up considerable opposition which confirmed Eythin’s earlier caution.
The Queen was now on the point of moving south to join the King at Oxford. There was much debate regarding William and the bulk of his army leaving with her to join the King and reinforce the main Royalist army so that together they could inflict a crushing defeat on the Parliamentarians. However Eythin again disagreed with this proposal . To leave Yorkshire with the Fairfaxes still active with a potent army which they were very capable of using it to good effect would be unwise in the extreme. He argued, quite rightly, that the Fairfaxes had to be defeated comprehensively in the field first before any venture outside the area could be considered. In any case the northern Royalists had little enthusiasm for fighting outside the region and leaving their families and homes at the mercy of the rampaging Fairfaxes.
William designated his young cousin Lieutenant General Charles Cavendish and 7000 men to escort the Queen and her supply convoy to Newark and south to Oxford. From Newark she released the younger Cavendish and he returned with 2000 of his men. From Newark the Queen wrote privately to William saying that the King had ordered that him to leave Yorkshire and march south with his army. She said she would not pass on these orders as she agreed that William should remain in the north to carry on the fight there.
It was time to take the offensive. William sieged Howley Hall near Batley held for Parliament by Sir John Savile. After a refusal of surrender terms the hall was stormed the next morning with much loss of life. William had ordered Savile to be killed for his refusal to accept surrender terms at the outset and was far from pleased when he was brought before him after assault was concluded. The escorting officer offered to have Savile shot but William relented as he considered it inhuman to kill a defenceless man and accepted the formal surrender.
The following week proved very wet and William and his army were unable to advance further with their supply wagons and artillery train, which including several large artillery pieces these being difficult to move in the conditions. When the weather improved they advanced again and camped at Adwalton Moor on the night of the 29th June.