Moving to London, his new marriage is soon interrupted by the spiralling events of the 1640's where the struggle between King and Parliament begins to escalate beyond any control.
He struggles to live in the hub of all this discord and during the overlooked, but pivotal year of 1641, he finds himself determined to remain above the fray.
Life will never be the same as the country lurches ever closer to civil war. Sir Charles agonizes over the decision that many of our ancestors would have grappled with - King or Parliament?
Very soon, Sir Charles is thrust into the dispute and is at the forefront of the crisis, experiencing the battle for power from both sides.
Enter the world of the 17th century!
EXCERPT from DECISION MOST DEADLY
1 June 1639, Near Kelso
As he rode along the track at the head of his troop of horsemen, Lieutenant Charles Berkeley still retained some of the enthusiasm he had been infected with when he joined the Bishops War. Despite the setbacks, inactivity and sheer inefficiency of the English force, he was thriving on the challenge of managing the troop of sixty, itching for a fight. He was eager to follow in the footsteps of his Uncle Tom, a naval man, who filled his childhood with fascinating stories of battle and courage. Charles had worked in his father’s inn at Colchester since his earliest memory; either he tidied up, served customers or did errands, the work growing until he was able to take on heavier duties at the age of twelve. This early discipline stood him in good stead for such a regulated and strict role that the army had to offer.
The dark clouds swirled above him, like they were getting ready to close in with one thunderous charge. The wind had been howling for most of the day, veritably pushing him and his colleagues onwards, but thankfully it had subsided now as they searched for quarters for the night. He had spent part of the family money securing this post and he had no regrets, absolute in his conviction that he could make a difference with this band of men. Scotland may be better armed and prepared, with defence of their religion spurring their hearts on, but they rarely defeat the English.
Through the gloomy light, he saw a large house overlooking a village, and he was readily anticipating getting his boots off and putting his feet up. Within a few minutes of the sighting, his superior, Major Anderson, announced his intention of heading towards the manor house with the Lieutenant Colonel. After brusquely telling Charles to quarter the troop, he tugged the reins, turning his steed towards his luxurious target. Charles was now in overall command of men behind, and this thrill negated the lax behaviour of the senior command. He gripped his plain leaden sword, pulling it into place and examined his leather buff coat, which covered his doublet for protection against enemy swordplay. His dark brown leather boots were unfolded to full length, covering right up to the lower parts of his thighs. Suitably happy with his dress, he straightened his back and pointed towards the hamlet ahead, picking up to a canter. The rest of the army lay scattered around the neighbouring areas. Despite the welcome vision ahead, a menacing sensation encompassed him. The black mount he had come to love even seemed hesitant, so he gave ‘Ripon’ a tender stroke; the name conjuring up images of the picturesque place from where he had bought him.
“Go forward and prepare the inn for our approach,” he shouted to the man behind, instructing him to take three others.
Turning round to his men, he observed their morose expressions, few of them actually looking like they were willing to defend their land. In fact, he knew several felt they had no quarrel with their fellow countrymen, who were protecting their religion from the King’s desire to have one uniform prayer book and church government.
They rode up the street, passing the warm glow from the small windows, horses snorting as they eventually halted. Now that the wind had dropped, fog had followed after them, eerie and mysterious, casting a shroud around the surroundings, like a giant curtain had descended on the stage of life for the night. The scene was over and he swung his leg to dismount, standing outside the local tavern. For the first time in hours, he saw the troopers look lively and they practically leapt from their horses, eager to fill their bellies with beer. Before any of them could satisfy their desire, he heard noises from ahead and voices, speeding through the narrow straits of the street like floodwater. He demanded the men stay put and bounded forward, the boots awkward for speed. He was swallowed up by the thick mist.
“Not long now, men,” he heard the bellowed reassurance from the distance, in a broad Scottish accent.
Charles’s senses were triggered by the dialect and he quietly, but sternly, ordered two groups to take up position on foot at either side of the entrance to the street ahead. He sent a few more to an alleyway nearby, insisting the rest remount with him. The urgency and unusually coherent orders seemed to hypnotise most of the men; he manhandled those who stood idle into obedience with shoves and pushes. He knew he would only have a few minutes, judging by the sound of the approaching horses and the building clatter of arms and armour.
His heart pumped furiously - this was his chance for glory and honour, everything he had joined up for. Those Scots may be better armed, but give off more sound than poor cloth-clad men, and for this once, he had no complaint about the superiority. He sat on Ripon, squinting through the bleak night, waiting for the right moment to launch his cavalry.
Some sweat beads frustrated his concentration as they trickled their way down his head. He did not dare breathe for fear of missing something. His reactions had been impulsive and echoed common sense, yet he did not have time to think in-depth. One or two sudden noises pierced the silence, eerily echoing and giving the impression that a spirit army was in the vicinity, especially with no visible signs of their approach.
Just as he began to give way to frustration, a horse and rider emerged, the sight causing him to freeze as more began to materialise. During the short time that he was completely still, a whole line had manifested from the haze and he cried as loud as he could, ordering the troops who had pistols to fire down the street, now that the enemy were in range and still hemmed into the cramped lane. He wondered whether the men had heard, as for a crucial second, nothing happened.
But then the rapports came, cracking out into the night, adding extra smoke to the thick air. He spurred his horse, initially forgetting in his haste to command the rest of the mounted cavalrymen to follow, but barking out as he went. The noise of horses whinnying and the sight of the opponents leading mares rearing up gave a picture of utter confusion and shock. In an instant, the quiet, sleepy settlement was enveloped with sounds of warfare. Men shouted, horses’ hooves pounded the ground as armour and swords clanked.
He clattered down towards them, heart racing, hair flowing loosely and eyes wide with excitement; the absolute speed of the encounter allaying any nerves for now. All cares and thoughts flew away from his travelling body, his sole intention being to crash into the front lines and scatter the Scots, before they had any chance to recover from the attack. His sword shuddered as he held it outstretched in front of him. He let out a yell of exhilaration, losing awareness of most things around him as he sped on.
Ripon slowed as they bore down into the ranks of bewildered horsemen, but the opponents did not flee. He slashed out at the foe to his right, being aware of the arrival of his colleagues now in close support. The man was irate, flinging his weapon at Charles in a fury, taking him aback by the ferocious onslaught. Charles locked blades several times, the fellow grasping at him as they closed in on each other for a split second, and Charles felt his arm being tugged. He was helpless as he thudded to the ground. At this juncture of cold perception, the din of the clashing and utterances of both men and beasts penetrated his mind, now that he was brought back to reality.
His opponent jumped from his horse, and he went to pursue this quarry, but the man was agile and dived out of his way with skill. Charles felt sure he would win the duel and gave an almighty roar as he thrust his sword at him, but the man met it, the clash stunning Charles’s arm. The opponent though came at him without hesitation and slashed his side. Charles jumped back, astounded at the wound, his mind finally realising his own limitations. He went back at the man, who clashed his weapon away or blocked his moves each time, causing Charles to lose energy and confidence. As the Scot turned to the attack again, he sliced at Charles time and time again, pushing him backwards.
He tried to anticipate the Scot’s next moves, but this ability needed calm clarity, which he had lost. While the two men fought, a man was killed, falling from his horse, the shock and noise sending the horse careering away. It positively went mad with panic, as though it were as mad as the lunatics in the Bedlam Asylum and headed menacingly towards Charles and his enemy.
Jumping backwards, Charles saw the man gearing up for a final blow, when this beast galloped towards them, kicking out. The horse was even harder to predict than the Scottish trooper, and he felt it was magnetised to him, ready to crush him and finish the job for his enemy.
He gasped and tried to avoid it. The Scot was knocked to the ground as the mare brushed past him erratically, and Charles leaped forward as he spied the man grasping for his sword. He quickly cut at him, slicing the hand, a cry of pain being released. Charles followed this up by quickly bringing his blade to his rival’s chest, about to kill the man when cheers broke out nearby. He turned quickly, seeing his men roaring happily at the sight of the vanquished Scots, and his respect for his foe’s outstanding swordsmanship gave way to mercy and he spared him.
While he stood panting, thankful to have beaten the man, he took a minute to recollect his overwrought emotions and thoughts, even needing to assess what he had just done. He had the sudden heart-rending thought that the enemy could have been a larger army, or even worse, they may not have been enemy troops after all.
“As an officer, I demand you take me to your colonel. I am Sir Arthur Cotton,” an imperious Scottish screech demanded.
Then he saw a blue banner on the ground, the classic Scottish Covenanters emblem, and he breathed a huge sigh of relief. In front of him, his men had driven them away and the defeated officer scowled with hatred, still demanding to be taken note of. Charles only just heard him, jubilant that they had won something at long last, and he laughed out loud, ignoring the insolent Scot. This was the proudest moment of his life.