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Time Passages: Fact or Fiction Part One (Warning: Spoiler alert)

Here are some researched facts about Gloucester Cathedral, King Charles II and the English Civil War, that inspired me to write Time Passages. The fiction - whether the events in the book could actually happen or not, I'm going to leave entirely to your own imagination. Because, who really knows?

The English Civil War (It's not just the Americans who had a Civil War), lasted between 1642 -1646. In fact there were three of them, so we should say Wars really. A civil war is a war between different political groups within one country - it is not, as one History GCSE student thought, a war where everyone is polite to each other. Instead, the English Civil War was a barbaric, tumultuous and extremely confusing time in British history.

Oliver Cromwell (who was a Puritan, a type of strict Protestant), led a party of revolting Parliamentarians (followers of the elected government), who were outraged by the extravagant and flouncy form of worship and style of ruling the country exhibited by the Royalists, (King Charles I's followers, who were officially Church of England protestants but still favoured a Catholic style of worship). The Parliamentarians felt that the Royalists never considered the needs of the ordinary people of England and were very remote from the country's problems.

Cromwell overthrew Charles I's government, beheaded the King and declared himself Lord Protector of the people of England and Ireland. (Scotland had its own Civil War but held on to its own territory; Wales was a domain and part of England at this time; Ireland had the very bloody Irish Uprising but was defeated by Cromwell). Britain was in a real confused mess.

Gloucester was a Royalist stronghold and after winning the Siege of Gloucester in September 1643, Cromwell tore down the City Walls as punishment and his troops took control of the City and of Gloucester Cathedral. Cromwell's army used the Cathedral cloisters to stable their horses, which must have resulted in a very messy business for the proud Cathedral. Cromwell even wanted to tear down the Cathedral itself, but he was persuaded not to, by the mayor and the burgesses of the City.

Gloucester historians believe that the huge powerful cannon known as Humpty Dumpty, used to be sited on the City Wall which is now part of Ladybellegate Street, overlooking the River Severn and the old Gloucester prison.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,

All the King's horses and all the King's men,

Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Cromwell's army destroyed the cannon, as further punishment for the Royalists.

NB Colchester, in Essex, also claims that Humpty Dumpty was theirs! I'll leave this one for the historians to wrangle over.

Charles II was all set to take over the Crown after his father was beheaded, but Cromwell put a price on his head, finally defeating him at the Battle of Worcester at the end of September 1651. The Scots had already crowned Charles II at Scone Abbey, as their Scottish King, but the English had not been able to hold a coronation for him before he was forced into exile to France, following the Battle of Worcester. It would be another nine years before Charles II could return to reclaim the English throne and restore the Monarchy.

It was Charles II who hid among the branches of a huge oak on the Boscobel Estate, escaping Cromwell's soldiers following the Battle of Worcester. He hid with his friend, Major Careless. He then travelled south with Jane, the daughter of the household, disguised as her groom. As a King, Charles II was described as fun-loving and a real charmer to the ladies. He was interested in anything and everything and was indeed the founder of The Royal Societies.

And this is the period in which Time Passages is set... Charles II would have had to travel from Worcester, through Gloucester on his way to finding a ship in Bristol, or from a port on the south coast of England, to take him to France. He needed the royal jewel collection from the tomb of Edward II in Gloucester Cathedral to prove that he had a claim to the English Throne. These would be his credentials for when he returned from exile with his own army, to restore the Monarchy.

Illustrator's sketch of Edward II's tomb, Gloucester Cathedral.

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