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A PROMISE KEPT


 PROMISE COVER

Howard Weston is a wealthy ship owner and merchant in Plymouth when the English Civil War begins in 1642. Plymouth, as with many English ports, supports Parliament against King Charles I.
The story describes Howard’s efforts to ensure the Royalist siege of Plymouth fails. The supplies the city needs are brought in by ship. Innovative military tactics are used against the Royalist armies. The climax is the successful defence of Howard’s home, Encounter Hall, east of Plymouth.

 

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-38-0
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 130
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Author: John Lambert
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English

  Author bio

John Lambert was a teacher of history who began writing historical fiction when he retired. His stories reflect the view that the past influences the present and that history demonstrates both the best, and the worst, of human achievement.

While the characters in the stories are mostly fictional, they are closely related to the historical context. The stories could have happened.

 

A PROMISE KEPT

  

Howard Weston was fifty-four when the English Civil War between King and Parliament began in 1642, and sixty-one when King Charles I was beheaded in 1649. That made him somewhat beyond the average age for an Englishman of that era, but he was fit and in good health, thanks in no small measure to the discipline and cleanliness of the Weston ships.

Plymouth, his home port, was a city which sided with Parliament against the King, though the gentry of Devon and Cornwall were largely supporters of the King. Howard’s home, Encounter Hall, was to the east of Plymouth, and he was determined to protect it. Moreover, as a wealthy merchant, able to bring in supplies by sea, he played a most active role in ensuring that Plymouth did not succumb to the siege which the Royalists mounted against the city.


  

 

PART ONE

 Sample

CHAPTER ONE – 2012

 

 

Following his successful excavations at Encounter Hall outside Plymouth, Brendan, in 2009, gave the Thompson family a detailed description of the events of the return of Howard Weston from the east coast of Terra Australis and Amboyna in 1617. Brendon was regularly asked by members of the family, at subsequent gatherings at the Bunker, if he could tell them about the later career of Howard as described in the third document Brendon had found in the underground chamber at Encounter Hall. This was the document entitled ‘The Diary of General Howard Weston of the Army of Parliament, 1642–1649’.

Each time he was asked in the years after 2009, Brendon had to respond that the diary was in some sort of code and that he had thus far been unable to break it. It was not that he had not tried; in fact he had expended a great deal of time in exploring possible keys to the code, but a solution had eluded him.

All the documents from Encounter Hall had been stored at the Bunker for safe keeping and whenever Brendon stayed there he would open the safe and take out the Diary. It was a hand-written series of thick paper pages, which appeared to tell nursery-style stories. Each story was on a page by itself and each one was brief, never more than three or four sentences. The very first one, which Brendan told the family about as an example, read:

 

Episode One. The hen approached the egg but the rooster appeared with the sun and crowed with vehemence. The hen scratched but scuttled away. The egg was unharmed.

 

There was obviously a meaning behind the statement but without some clues as to the meaning of ‘hen’, ‘rooster’, and ‘egg’, Brendan could go no further.

 

One Sunday afternoon during the summer holiday of 2010, he remembered that there were bundles of loose pages in the third wooden chest that he had discovered in the storeroom at Encounter Hall. He had not studied these in detail after an initial appraisal had shown that they were accounts for food, supplies, ammunition and guns provided to the city across the years 1642 to 1649.

Now he began to go through them methodically and discovered that there were notes written on the back of many of them which gave details of places and names. Moreover, there were references such as ‘Hertford’ (hen) which gave meaning to the enigmatic statements in the diary.

Brendan could see that by putting the notes and the diary together, by placing both alongside a history of Plymouth during the Civil War, and by making some shrewd guesses, he could probably work out the story of Howard’s involvement in the defence of Plymouth.

He knew the countryside around Plymouth quite well from his earlier visits. What he lacked was detail of the sieges and battles of the war, particularly those that related closely to Plymouth. He began a research study that spread over two years, based on the Internet, but also including another visit to Plymouth and many hours in the city library examining the records that had been preserved and recovered from the blitz of the Second World War.

The holidays of January 2012 provided an opportunity to tell the family the results of his research. A rather wet Saturday, which meant there were no outside activities, brought them all together, anxious to listen.

When all were seated, Brendan began:

‘Although the main source document is called The Diary of General Howard Weston of the Army of Parliament, Howard was not really a general in the Parliamentary Army. He did, however, use the title “General Weston” on several occasions, and his followers, of whom there were about fifty, called him “The General”.

‘Howard’s objectives throughout the war were to preserve Encounter Hall and to ensure that Plymouth did not fall to the Royalist armies. He did not necessarily wish to see an end to the monarchy. Like most Englishmen he would have been quite pleased if the monarchy could be retained but in such a way that Parliament, elected by the people, controlled the finances and the major decisions of the nation. He certainly did not agree that the monarch could rule by ‘divine right’ as Charles I claimed he could do.

‘The struggle between King Charles and Parliament had been many years, indeed many decades, in the making. The major issues were the role of Parliament in how taxes were levied, and who controlled public expenditure, the King or parliament. These issues were compounded by arguments over religion. Papists and Puritans alike were aggrieved at the dominant role of the established church, the Church of England. The Presbyterians wanted to control the church in England as they did in Scotland. Among other matters, they wished to be rid of all bishops. In this they had the support of the Puritans. Charles was a staunch supporter of the established church and its bishops.

‘Charles was always short of money, as indeed had been his father, James I, and Elizabeth before that. When he called a parliament together and was immediately in trouble because it would not grant him sufficient income, he would dismiss it and rule without one, levying his own taxes. Parliamentary supporters then encouraged non-payment of the taxes, and tensions reached boiling point.

‘Howard’s father, Hugh, died in 1638. Though he had celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday, he was mentally alert and still much involved in the city politics of Plymouth. Included among the notes from Encounter Hall was a summary of one of the last discussions Hugh had with Howard, which must have run something like this:

‘Hugh: If the King continues in his present course, Englishmen will fight other Englishmen. Fathers will fight against their sons, brothers against each other, neighbours against those who were previously their friends, all depending upon whether they are loyal to the king or to parliament.

 

‘Howard: The victor will be whoever ends the war with effective control of public finances, and the army. While Englishmen will agree to pay taxes, they will do so only if they have a say in how the taxes are levied and how they are spent. They will not accept a King who is an autocrat. I’m sure that on these criteria, Parliament must be the eventual victor, though the King may win the early battles because he will have generals more experienced in leading armies.

 

‘Hugh: The King is already most unpopular in the ports because he has levied special taxes on the ship owners and merchants through his ‘ship money’. He has no supporters in Plymouth, though the gentry outside the city are royalist in sympathy.

 

‘Howard: I agree, and that fact makes it even more difficult for me to defend Encounter Hall because it is well outside the city. I expect that at some stage there will be a siege of the city by Royalist forces.

 

‘Hugh: You could abandon it and come within the city. You and your family would be most welcome at Weston Hall.

 

‘Howard: Thank you, but there may be ways to defend it and also support the city. Encounter Hall is still only a single storey and most construction is underground. Though I have the money to build it, the second storey is yet only a dream.

 

‘Hugh: The most important ways for you to support the city will be for you to ensure that the people of Plymouth are never short of food, and that the Royalists never capture it. Your ships, and mine, together, could certainly ensure that food supplies are plentiful. In the process of feeding the city, we should also expect to do well financially. Keeping the Royalist armies out, on the other hand, will be a much more difficult exercise. We do not have an army and raising one would be prohibitively expensive. Moreover, armies have to be fed and paid. Soldiers are killed and families have to be cared for.

 

‘Howard: Yes, a traditional army is out of the question, but I have an idea for an army which is anything but traditional. I need more time to think through how it might work.

 

In his will, Hugh bequeathed Weston Hall to Howard.

~~

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