The Design, March 7. 1655

An account of the design and plan of King Charles II for the Rising of Royalist forces in March 1655 under the command of Sir Joseph Wagstaffe and Lord Wilmot

from Covent Garden, March 7. 1699 (ns)

My lord,

In your last, you asked for my knowledge the part our old friends played in the uprisings of ’55. The story of those events started the year before the uprising itself, which today we call Penrudduck’s rising after the local leader of the King’s party in Wiltshire. Of the plot itself, I have it on good authority, was managed by correspondence with the Scotch King, as Charles II was then named, yet I’m told that Mr Thurloe could name the persons that went between them. And this was there great undoing. In my first I stall give a summary of the organisation and parties involved; their methods of communication; and the plans the Scotch King did design.

The design was for a general insurrection through the whole land at once, and to destroy the power, of Oliver and the Commonwealth. It was agreed that a great part of the army should have mutinied in Scotland and been headed by col. Overton. They had laboured hard to divide the army, and to blown-up discontent of all parties, and to do this they had worked with Sexby’s fifth-monarchists. This had included our old comrades, Dr Hicks and Major Perrot. Then amongst King’s party of agents we find Sir Thomas Armstrong, working with the old rough Lord Wilmot. Our old ally Thomas Rose had also contrived an assassination of the lord protector to precede the uprising, which they thought themselves sure of doing, but directed it should not be executed, until all their other matters were ready. It is intriguing, that we also find friends within the folds of Oliver’s cloak. Brave men like Colonel Richard Bovett who stood at Taunton and whilst Mr Prodeaux and Lady Lisle’s husband also played their part.

The King appointed local agents, such as Armstrong, to organised and rally associations but to conceal these secret motions by never allowing above two of them did speak together. In this way, they raised and collected several great sums of money, as well for the maintenance of the Scotch King to carry on the war, and letters of privy seal were sent to provision this activity. These local agents did buy and provide a great store of arms; some were laid up in a magazine, whilst others were sent up and down the country. They had agreed their general posts in the nation, especially these; the north, where Wilmott was to command in chief; in the west Sir Joseph Wagstaffe; another post was at Shrewesbury, which was to be the rendezvous of Wales. Other posts there were of lesser consequence; as in Nottinghamshire about Morpeth, Staffordshire, Cheshire, and elsewhere. The computation of their forces made by themselves was very great; many thousands in every place, and some way or other acquainted most of their party with their intentions.

Great store of commissions where sent from the Scotch King, and delivered to several parties, to raise horse and foot. The King also promised to come to them in person at such time as they were ready, and to be in a convenient place for that purpose. The whole party here carry themselves with confidence and boldness and had frequent meetings by themselves; they did speak, and drink, and swagger, as if all had been already victorious, even to the terror of the counties. Their confidence was such, that one of their agents said about a week before it broke out, that if he should discover all, it was not possible to hinder it. With all things being ready, the Scotch King removed himself from Cologne, where his court then was, and came into Zeeland. Here he waited for the good hour, having sent before him Wilmott, Wagstaffe, O’Neil, and several others to begin.

Yet, even before the Scotch King did arrive in Zealand, the gossip was in the courts and towns of Europe that this great plot had been discovered. And it had. For in December ’54. The letters and correspondence to those fifth-monarchy men who would lead the mutiny within the Scottish Army, were in the hand of Thurloe in London. With this Overton, Norwood and the great part of that association had been arrested. From this small opening, the threads of the web were undone. The association in London was trapped and finally even Major Wildman was taken. With this our comrades from Harrison’s Association became exiles and joined the King’s party. So it pleased God, that a great part of their plot was discovered; that they were traced in it. The instructions given to them were brought to Thurloe’s hand; many of their forces were seized upon; some of their money; many, very many of their party secured and imprisoned. Orders were then given to the ever-loyal army to moving up and down on purpose to prevent any rendezvous, and very considerable forces brought out of Ireland.

On the evening of March 7, 1654/55 the Sealed Knot and local association had agree for a general rising. They had in their eye several garrisons, as Portsmouth, Plymouth, York, Hull, Newcastle, Tinmouth, Chester, Shrewsbury, Yarmouth, Lyn, and Boston, and to possess themselves of the isle of Ely. This was to be supported by rising in the Scotch Army of General Monck, creation of a Northern Army under Lord Wilmot and a Southern Army under Sir Joseph Wagstaffe. Lord Wilmot’s forces are to muster on Hexham Moor, and Wagstaffe’s at Old Sarum. From these posts they were to take Salisbury and York.

In my next, my lord, I shall give you an account of affairs on Hexham Moor, for the message to rise on this day was not delivered to Wagstaff and Penrudduck.

Yours in the cause,

William Savage

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