Simon Parke continues his short series of blogs exploring the key characters from his new book, The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and her Lover.
In my new historical novel, ‘The soldier, the gaoler, the spy and her lover,’ the gaoler is Robert Hammond – and his prisoner is the king.
This was the last thing Hammond wanted.
He’d been an active soldier for Parliament in the war. But after the war, he’d become disturbed by the political militancy in the army who called the king the ‘man of blood’.
Hammond had fought against the king, as all good men had to; but that didn’t mean he was against him now. How could you be against a king?
The war was over and, with due concessions made, he wanted Charles back on the throne. This was the rightful order of things.
And then he got lucky, or so it appeared. Looking for a new path, away from politics, he was offered the governorship of the Isle of Wight.
Wonderful! It appeared like a dream job for Robert, a task straight from heaven. It would free him from politics forever! On this idyllic island, only the seagulls and a brisk wind would disturb his peace. What could possibly go wrong?
What went wrong was the arrival of Charles, after he’d escaped from Hampton Court. In a moment, Robert’s hopes for a care-free retirement (even if he was only twenty six) were shattered.
It was a terrible responsibility...and the royal prisoner proved the most awkward of inmates. Using secret ciphers and willing servants, Charles continued to negotiate in captivity, sweet talking the Scots, parliament and the French. (Whilst also conducting an affair with Jane Whorwood.)
And what was Robert to do about it? How was he to handle this deceit? This was his king, after all. In the end, he became so stressed, he asked to be relieved of his position. But no one replied to his letter.
And then the perhaps the darkest moment, when the king took a swipe at him. Hammond did not react well and he’d suffer for his consequent actions.
He came to the Isle of Wight seeking peace and quiet, but instead, found himself the royal gaoler and the centre of the nation’s rabid and blaming attention for the year of the king’s captivity.
As affairs painfully moved towards the zero hour, everyone demanded Hammond’s loyalty.
‘You can’t serve two masters,’ said his mother.
Only Hammond had three to choose from: the king, parliament and the army. So who would he serve? And at what cost?
Simon Parke is one of Marylebone House's most prolific authors. His Abbott Peter Mystery 'A (Very) Public School Murder' was among our best sellers for 2016.