A Letter written from Walshall by a worthy Gentleman to his Friend in Oxford, concerning Burmingham
Hearing of the approach of Prince Rupert his Highnesse, and coming according to my duty to attend him. In my way I heard of the miserable destruction of Burmingham by fire; which I must confesse took the deepest Apprehensions with me of any one accident since the beginning of these unhappy distractions, as presenting to my view a picture of the present estate of Germany, and as by a prospective shewing me (not very farre off) the Scene translated from thence hither. This sad thought drew me to a more narrow enquiry of the causes of the burning of the Towne, and whether it was done by authority or no. And I found that the Inhabitants of that Towne were they who first stirred up those of Coventry to resist the King, and that about 300 from thence went into Coventry to defend it against the King's Forces, that from thence they sent 15000 Swords for the Earle of Essex his Forces, and the ayd of that Party, and not onely refused to supply the King's Forces with swords for their money, but imprisoned diverse who bought swords, upon suspicion that they intended to supply the King's forces with them. That afterwards when His Majesty marched that way with His Army, out of his princely goodnesse and in hope that His Grace and favour would prevayle with them to turne good subjects, he gave expresse order that they should not be plundered, and because some were plundered (though but a few and very little taken from them) there was exemplary Justice done by the hanging of two Officers, and they had a speciall protection granted to them. Yet so little use did they make of the King's Clemency, that the King's Army was no sooner removed from thence but they stayed all the Carriages which did not move the same day with the King's Army, amongst which was some of the King's Plate and diverse goods of great value, and therein they were so hearty and zealous that at their owne charges they carried them to Warwicke Castle before the king was out of that Shire.
And they have still continued upon all occasions violently to oppose the King, and to ayd those who have taken up armes against him. Insomuch that they made fortifications about the Town, and sent out parties to plunder the King's friends.
And when his Highnesse upon Munday last sent one to them to take up his quarter at Burmingham, who assured them that if they would quietly receive his Highnesse and his forces they should suffer no injury, But otherwise they must expect to be forced to it, they refused to give him Entrance, and prepared themselves with all their strength to resist him; and when his forces drew neare they set up their Colours, and sallyed out of their workes, and gave fire upon them, and with opprobious speeches reviled them, calling them Cursed doggs, develish Cavaliers, Popish Traytors, and this was done not by a few of them but by almost all of them with great shouts and clamours. This could not but incense the souldiers, and the prince to make his passage into the Towne was forced to give orders for firing a house or two; but they retiring and flying, upon his entrance into the Towne he immediately gave order for quenching of the fire which was done accordingly, and no more hurt was done on Munday. But yesterday his Highnesse being to march from thence, and fearing what those great provocations might worke with the Souldiers, he gave expresse command that no souldier should attempt to fire the Towne. And after his departure thence some souldiers (as yet unknown) having fired the Towne in diverse places, he immediately sent to the inhabitants of the Towne, to let them know it was not done by his command, and therefore wished them to quench it, but the wind being high and the fire encreased, it could not be so soone extinguished as was to be desired!
One thing more I heard of at this taking of Burmingham, which made some Impression with me, which was the death of a minister killed presently after the entry of the souldiers into the Towne. But it is alleadged that he told the souldier who killed him, that the King was a Perjured and Papisticall King, and that he had rather dye then live under such a king, and that he did and would fight against him; and in his pocket after his death were found some papers sufficient to make mee to beleeve the man was either mad, or one of the new Enthusiasts. It burdens my modesty to repeat them, but the truth (which you will desire to know) extorts them from mee, some of them were to this effect, that the 28 of March last he had a comfortable Kisse from Mris. E. with some moystnesse, and another day a cynnamon Kisse from another woman, and another from one of fourteen yeares old, with much more such like stuffe which I blush to write.
And surely whatsoever the Principles of these teachers may be, the conclusions made by their Disciples is very strange. One of the best sort of their prisoners here being discoursed withall concerning his taking up armes against the King, and demanded how he could take up armes in that manner considering his oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, peremptorily answered, he never did nor never would take those oaths.
Sir, this I thought fit to write to you, while the memory of the business is fresh; and though it may be accompanied with these circumstances, yet it much troubles his Highnesse that this Accident should now fall out, he well knowing that they who are the great Boute fieus and Incendiaries in the State, will be apt to calumniate him for the firing of this Towne, which he never Commanded or Countenanced, and the actors of which he is most desirous to punish, and is most carefull to find out. And this narrative now made you may be confident is true, comming from
Your most humble and
Walshall, April 5, 1643.