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Authors: Richard Woodman

For King or Commonwealth

BOOK: For King or Commonwealth
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Table of Contents

Further Titles by Richard Woodman from Severn House

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Prologue: The Hague and Helvoetsluys

Part One: The Exile

The Council of War

The Affair at The Nore

A Successful Cruise

Affairs of the Head and Heart

A Turn of the Cards

Part Two: The Prisoner

The Tower

Judith

Mr Fitchett and Mr Fox

Part Three: In the Service of the State

The Basilisk

The Kentish Knock

Dungeness to Portland

A Reconciliation

The Battle of the Gabbard

Scheveningen and After

Further Titles by Richard Woodman from Severn House
The English Civil War Series

A SHIP FOR THE KING

FOR KING OR COMMONWEALTH

 
 

DEAD MAN TALKING

THE EAST INDIAMAN

THE GUINEAMAN

THE ICE MASK

THE PRIVATEERSMAN

FOR KING OR COMMONWEALTH
Richard Woodman
 
 

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 
 

First world edition published 2012

in Great Britain and in the USA by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2012 by Richard Woodman.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Woodman, Richard, 1944–

For King or Commonwealth.

1. Great Britain – History – Civil War, 1642–1649 –

Fiction. 2. Historical fiction.

I. Title

823.9'14-dc23

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-283-2 (Epub)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8172-4 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-427-1 (trade paper)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

For Arlo

Prologue
The Hague and Helvoetsluys
January 1649

‘They say there is plague in London.'

‘There is a Parliament in London, that is plague enough,' the younger man responded off-handedly as he worked over some books and papers. After a moment's silence, he put down his quill-pen with a sigh, rubbed his hands together and blew on them in an attempt to warm his fingers and looked across the room to where Sir Henry Mainwaring sat by the window, smoking his pipe, wrapped in his cloak and staring down at the street below. Even with the wind-rattled casement shut, the noise of the vendor's guttural Dutch could be heard bawling his wares. After a short pause the younger man asked, ‘You are not thinking the unthinkable, are you?'

Mainwaring turned shivering from the window. ‘God's teeth, but it's cold.' His flesh hung from his once handsome features, the weathered skin fallen with age and anxiety. He removed the pipe from his mouth, blew a plume of fragrant smoke into the room and nodded, his mouth curling in a sad smile. ‘I am old, Kit, and likely to die soon. I would make my peace with the world.'

‘Are you not at peace here? These solid Dutch folk have tolerated us, I'd have said.'

‘Perhaps, but they are not my people . . .' Mainwaring said, his voice thick with sudden emotion, his meaning vague.

Captain Christopher Faulkner sighed and shook his head, returning his attention to his papers. There was a long silence and then Mainwaring spoke again.

‘You give too much notice to those damned documents, Kit.'

‘If I do not,' the younger man said, his eyes and attention firmly on the bills and manifests before him, ‘no one else will. Good God!' he said, gesturing around the room. ‘There is little enough money as it is and few among this remnant court seem minded to pay the matter the attention it is due . . .'

‘It is trade, Kit,' Mainwaring said, his tone ironic, his expression full of mock disparagement.

‘Nonsense; it is war, even if of a kind the Prince's followers misapprehend. At least these Dutchmen comprehend it, thank Heavens . . .'

‘True,' Mainwaring nodded, ‘but perhaps you should set it aside, even for a while.'

Faulkner sighed again and pushed aside the heavy ledger before him. ‘If I do not attend to these matters, when the time comes, nothing will be ready for His Majesty's service . . .'

‘To which Majesty do you refer?'

‘What?' Faulkner looked up, faintly exasperated.

‘To which Majesty? The King is in the hands of the rebels and unlikely to require either your services or those of your ships.' Having delivered this final summary of the political situation in London, Mainwaring stuck his pipe back in his mouth and surrendered his attention to the street again.

Irritated and diverted from his work, Faulkner remarked, ‘I thought the purpose of monarchy was to ensure succession and stability. We have a Prince here in The Hague that would be King if anything ill befell his father.'

‘Stability? Hah!' Mainwaring removed his pipe, but did not turn his head. ‘King Charles has lost the throne of his father; that is scarcely stability.'

‘I would caution you against such talk, Sir Henry. There are those who would call it treason.'

‘There are those who would call it common sense too,' Mainwaring said wearily. ‘I am an old man and the future has only one thing in store for me, but men like you, men with a wife and family in London –' Faulkner swore. Mainwaring was looking directly at him now and added with a hint of remorselessness – ‘and a mistress in The Hague, had best look to their future.'

‘You know, Sir Henry,' Faulkner said, his tone as icy as the wind outside, ‘as my dearly beloved benefactor and a man whom I esteem above all others, whose skill as a seaman I have stood in awe of for more years than I care to count, I have never had the gall to ask you why, in your youth, you turned pirate.'

Mainwaring smiled. Faulkner, his protégé, possessed all the attributes he could wish for. Even the chill in his voice Mainwaring admired as evidence of the iron soul of the man, and this was indeed a time for iron in the soul. ‘We are,' he responded with a matching edge, ‘debating your morals, not mine, Captain Faulkner. May I remind you that I am an admiral and deserving of your respect.'

‘Which you well know you have, but I divine in your discourse, Admiral Mainwaring, a distinct prejudice against the cause we have spent—'

‘Wasted . . .'

Faulkner ignored the interruption. ‘
Spent
the last several years – what, four or five? – supporting. Even now I am attempting to muster a squadron capable of bearing your illustrious flag, with all honour due to it, in order to cruise against the King's enemies.'

‘A squadron,' Mainwaring said, his tone reflective, and ending with a prolonged sigh. ‘A squadron of worn-out armed merchantmen . . . Oh, Kit, do you not see the hopelessness of it? With the King in the hands of Parliament our cause will wither. He will be held prisoner, Parliament will rule in his name and our young gadfly, clever though he is, will succumb to women and, in consequence, the pox. If nothing else those Puritan souls in Westminster know the workings of indulgence and excess; they have only to bide their time. England will prosper and find it is possible to live without a king.' Mainwaring paused then went on, ‘I thought that all this would happen years ago and if you ask me why I turned pirate it was out of disgust. I thought the wheel would turn in King James's time but it did not. I came home and made my peace and served the King,
and
his catamite Buckingham,
and
his son whose future lies in the hands of his enemies, but what have I got for it, eh? The empty dignity of admiral, unable to fly his flag over an insignificant squadron, which rots in Dutch mud and is, in any case, under the nominal command of Batten . . .'

‘Batten! Do not speak of that treacherous villain William Batten! Why, he is the self-same man that harried His Highness off the coast of Cornwall and I hear he has been made knight for abandoning the Parliament and burying his head in Prince Charles's under-breeches, God rot him!'

‘Forget Batten, Kit. His Highness has replaced him with his kinsman Rupert and he is likely to set me aside in Rupert's favour . . .'

‘Rupert,' scoffed Faulkner. ‘A courtier general of cavalry with scant understanding of the usage of the sea . . .'

‘But a doughty name, a tenacity of purpose and the high birth that this world requires of those to whom it bows the knee.'

‘Huh! That is not what is happening in England,' Faulkner remarked. ‘There matters are increasingly governed differently.'

‘Precisely,' Mainwaring snapped, but before Faulkner perceived the way the conversation was drifting, he lowered his voice. ‘But I am tired, Kit, tired and sick of it all. And, above all, I wish to die in England.'

‘You are not going to die,' Faulkner said drily, resuming work at the table. ‘And our few ships are not going to rot in Dutch mud, or any other mud, if I have my way. We have nine men-of-war at Helvoetsluys . . .'

‘And how many seamen?'

‘Enough.'

‘Not for a dozen men-of-war.'

‘Five good ships. I can make a competent squadron of five ships and command the Strait
and
the Thames . . .'

Mainwaring shook his head. ‘You would sting them, Kit, like a bee may sting a horse, but the horse will still stand and gallop while the bee dies. Do you not see the utter hopelessness of it all? Besides, the decision will not be yours. Prince Rupert—'

‘Suppose they kill the King?' Faulkner said abruptly, interrupting.

‘
What
? They would not
dare
!' Mainwaring was outraged.

‘Suppose that they did dare. You said yourself his future lay in the hands of his enemies; they have his body and may take his head. I'm damned if I know what there is to stop them.'

Mainwaring expelled his breath in a long, wheezy sigh at Faulkner's proposition. ‘It would alter the case,' he said solemnly.

‘It would indeed.'

‘But surely . . .?' Mainwaring hesitated and gave Faulkner a shrewd look. ‘You have heard something?'

Faulkner nodded. ‘I have. Nothing but a rumour, but a rumour of such portent that I cannot think it a fabrication. We had it from a fishing boat off the Haak Sand. He had come from Yarmouth market where the talk was of an arraignment of the King on charges of treason.'

‘Treason? Treason! For God's sake! How is that possible? How can a King be charged with treason? Why, 'tis like accusing the Pope of being holy! Pah! Preposterous!'

‘But Sir Henry, if the court can persuade itself that a king can be charged with treason it can persuade itself of his guilt and, having assumed a legitimacy on behalf of the people, or Parliament, or whatever else these Puritans call upon – God Almighty, I imagine – to justify their actions, then they can condemn him . . .'

‘To execution, d'you mean?'

‘I think that possible, yes.'

Mainwaring let his breath out in a long, sibilant and despairing hiss, shaking his head and neglecting his pipe. ‘I had thought,' he said reflectively, ‘that all this talk of Parliament acting on behalf of the kingdom was clear intent that they would mew him up securely and rule in his name.'

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