unsuitable (Echard, iii. 787). A brawl in which ‘old Dare’ was shot down by Fletcher obliged Monmouth to dismiss the latter, his best officer (ib. p. 762). His worst was Lord Grey, who on Sunday, 14 June, being detached to Bridport against a body of Dorsetshire militia, contrived to spoil what might have proved an effective success (ib. p. 763; cf. Fox, History of James II, 1808, pp. 239–240). On 15 June, having learnt that the Devonshire militia under Albemarle and the Somersetshire under Somerset were marching on Lyme, Monmouth set forth at the head of from two to three thousand men, and all but crossed Albemarle on his march. He did not venture an attack (cf. Dalrymple, 4th edit. i. 134, in censure), but encamped between Axminster and Chard. On 18 June he entered Taunton (cf. Toulmin, History of Taunton, ed. Savage, p. 429). His reception here, including the presentation of colours by the ‘maids of Taunton’ (Roberts, i. 304), marks the climax of his undertaking. The number of his followers under arms had now increased to seven thousand men, and at his first council of war it was decided to continue the advance. On 20 June he was proclaimed king of England at Taunton market-cross, after which he assumed the royal style, both in a warrant for the impressing of scythes and in a letter to his ‘cousin’ Albemarle (Ellis, Original Letters, 1st ser. iii. 340; cf. Dalrymple, i. 175), was prayed for, and touched for the evil. To avoid confusion, his followers called him ‘King Monmouth,’ an odd designation which long survived among the people (Macaulay). A price was put upon the head of James II as a traitor, and the parliament at Westminster was declared a traitorous convention.
On Sunday, 21 June, leaving Taunton open to Albemarle, Monmouth moved on to Bridgwater, where he met with an enthusiastic reception, and was proclaimed king by the mayor. Thence he proceeded by Glastonbury to Shepton Mallet, where (23 June) he first communicated to his officers the project of an attack upon Bristol, where the Duke of Beaufort was about to assume the command of a garrison of four thousand men. The Avon was successfully crossed at Keynsham, but bad weather made a retrograde movement necessary, and after a slight skirmish with some king's horse, Monmouth, whether or not moved by Beaufort's threat to fire Bristol, decided to forego the attack upon that city, though it had been the object of his movements since leaving Lyme. He likewise rejected a scheme of marching by way of Gloucester into Shropshire and Cheshire, electing, in the hope of reinforcements, to make for Bath instead. But Bath refused to surrender (26 June); the promised Wiltshire regiments failed to appear, and Monmouth sent his chaplain, Hook, to London to hasten the rising of his friends (Ferguson, p. 233). But he was losing heart, and appears to have been at times in a state of nervous prostration (Wade ap. Roberts, ii. 16–17). The engagement fought by his force at Philip's Norton against the advanced guard of the royal troops under his half-brother, the Duke of Grafton, was on the whole successful (27 June); but at Frome next day he received the news of Argyll's defeat, and relapsed into despondency (Fox, p. 256). Many of his followers deserted, and a suggestion (according to Wade Monmouth's own) was momentarily entertained that the duke and his original following should escape by sea to Holland (Echard, iii. 766). It was now reported that a large body of peasantry had risen in Monmouth's favour and flocked to Bridgwater. Hither accordingly his army marched from Frome. Bridgwater was reached 3 July, but the number of rustics assembled there was insignificant. Two days later the king's army under Feversham and Churchill, consisting of some two thousand regulars and fifteen hundred Wiltshire militia, encamped on Sedgemoor, about three miles off. From Bridgwater church tower Monmouth recognised the Dumbarton regiment, formerly commanded by himself; but the want of discipline in the royal army was thought encouraging. At 11 P.M. on Sunday, 5 July, Monmouth led his army without beat of drum by a circuitous route of nearly six miles to the North Moor, where about 1 A.M. they crossed two of the ‘rhines’ separating them from the royal army. A third, which had not been mentioned to Monmouth, stopped his progress immediately in face of the royal troops, and the battle began. About two thousand of Monmouth's troops, largely Taunton men, took part in it; the infantry led by himself behaved gallantly, but his horse under Lord Grey was easily dispersed. Whether or not urged by Grey, Monmouth rode off the field before the fighting was over, and left his soldiery to their fate. Half of them were cut to pieces (Macaulay's note in ch. v.; Hardwicke State Papers, ii. 305–14; Echard, iii. 768–70, and Ferguson the Plotter, pp. 234–8).
Monmouth, Grey, and Buyse, with a party of about thirty horse, rode hard from the field of battle in the direction of the Bristol Channel, it is said to within twelve miles of Bristol. Rejecting the advice of Dr. Oliver, one of the party, to cross into Wales, Monmouth, Grey, and Buyse then turned south.