The King's letter to Prince Rupert

A transcription of the ambiguous letter sent by King Charles to Prince Rupert in June 1644 which precipitated the battle of Marston Moor.


First I must congratulate with you for your good successes, assuring you that the things themselves are no more welcome to me than that you are the means. I know the importance of the supplying you with powder, for which I have taken all possible ways, having sent both to Ireland and Bristol . As from Oxford, this bearer is well satisfied that it is impossible to have [any] at present; but if he tell you that I can spare them from hence, I leave you to judge, having but thirty-six left. But what I can get from Bristol (of which there is not much certainty, it being threatened to be besieged) you shall have.

But now I must give you the true state of my affairs, which if their condition be such as enforces me to give you more peremptory commands than I would willingly do, you must not take it ill. If York be lost I shall esteem my crown little less; unless supported by your sudden march to me; and a miraculous conquest in the South, before the effects of their Northern power can be found here. But if York be relieved, and you beat the rebels' army of both kingdoms which are before it; then (but otherwise not)1 I may make a shift (upon the defensive) to spin out time until you come to assist me. Wherefore I command and conjure you, by the duty and affection which I know you bear me, that all new enterprises laid aside, you immediately march, according to your first intention, with all your force to the relief of York. But if that be either lost, or have freed themselves from the besiegers, or that, from want of powder, you cannot undertake that work, that you immediately march with your whole strength, directly to Worcester, to assist me and my army; without which, or you having relieved York by beating the Scots, all the successes you can afterwards have must infallibly be useless unto me. You may believe that nothing but an extreme necessity could make me write thus unto you; wherefore, in this case, I can no ways doubt of your punctual compliance with

Your loving and most faithful friend,


P.S. I commanded this Bearer to speak to you concerning Vavasour.

Ticknell [Tickenhall], June 14th 1644

1 "This parenthesis inserted by the Lord Wilmot".

Note in transcription: "Lord Culpeper, not present at the writing of the letter or the consultation, as I suppose, but coming in after, asked the King "If the letter was sent?", who said, "Yes". "Why then," says he, "Before God you are undone, for upon this peremptory order he will fight, whatever comes on't.""


Transcription in Eliot Warburton, Memoirs of Prince Rupert and the Cavaliers, vol.ii (London 1849)