A Reason from the Stars
The history of Tom Fletcher, a young doctor from Worcester, during the English Civil War.
The English Civil War began over 370 years ago in 1642.
Was it King versus Parliament?
Cavaliers versus Roundheads?
Rich versus Poor?
Far too simplistic!! The King, Charles 1, needed Parliament, as his servant, his cash cow, for an income. Some of the richest aristocrats in England, all related, networking together, supported Parliament, and some of the poorest of the King’s subjects supported him with blind and touching loyalty. Add the King’s insistence that Archbishop Laud’s high Anglicanism was the only approved religion, an explosive situation emerges.
So was the King a bloodthirsty tyrant, and Cromwell, a compassionate liberator?
Ask the Irish!
Under Cromwell, appalling atrocities were committed in Ireland at Drogheda and Wexford and the Lord Protector, as Cromwell became known, set aside egalitarian ethics as his rule continued, until at last he dissolved Parliament. Charles 1 was a flawed king, devious rather than intelligent, but he was compassionate to his enemies, deeming all men his subjects.
The series A Reason from the Stars begins in 1642 with Tom Fletcher a young physician from Worcester, riding innocently and mistakenly into the first action of the Civil War at Powick Bridge. Tom tries to retain a fierce neutrality. Like so many others, he was puzzled and bewildered by the terrible cost in human life. A contemporary balladmonger asked where could he and his readers find a reason from the stars to explain the horrific bloodletting?
But there was no reason from the stars.
First Dry Rattle 1640
“Once whilst committing suicide, I changed my mind.”
Amyas Fletcher wishes his son to follow in the lucrative family trade of butchery, but when Tom attempts self-slaughter, rather than follow in his father’s foorsteps, he relents. Tom is apprenticed to his cousin Ben Knowles, already a respected medical practitioner in Worcester, and Tom joyfully embraces his vocation as a doctor.
Two years later in 1642, 18 year old Tom is thrust into the horror of Civil War. Returning in September from a visit to friends in Ledbury, he falls foul of a Parliamentarian quartermaster, Brigstock, who is using the out break of the war to indulge psychopathic tendencies. In the chaos which follows the Earl of Essex’ occupation of Worcester, Amyas Fletcher, Tom’s father is condemned and hung as a traitor. Tom assaults a Parliamentarian trooper, and flees from Worcester to offer his services to the King. However he is captured by Brigstock at the Rollright Stones. The fortunes of war enable him to escape and he serves as a surgeon on the battlefield at Edgehill, where in the shocked aftermath of the battle, he doctors both sides.
“The first dry rattle of new drawn steel
Changes the world today.”
So wrote Kipling 300 years later in his poem, Edgehill Fight. Civil war divided England and altered it for ever.
A Daring Resolution
Even his enemies reluctantly admired Prince Rupert’s “Daring Resolution.” He was not merely a royal roisterer, but also a concerned commander and an innovative tactician.
The Age of Chivalry was long forgotten by 1643, the second year of the English Civil War. Yet Tom Fletcher, a latter day knight errant, responds to the appeal of family friends from Ledbury, and goes in search of Eleanour, their daughter, his childhood seetheart, last heard of married to a news sheet writer and seller, living in Lichfield. She is swiftly found but Tom is trapped in Lichfield Cathedral Close, when Lord Brooke besieges it. The action moves to Staffordshire where Tom against his will is involved in the Battle of Hopton Heath.
Moral considerations constrain him to assist Abram whom he encounters in Birmingham at the time of Prince Rupert’s assault on the town. Tom returns with Abram to Lichfield to collect Eleanour, who had entreated him to protect her on her homeward journey to Ledbury. However she is reconciled with her husband and it is Prince Rupert who needs Tom’s help with an embarrassing medical problem. Ultimately Tom behaves heroically at the second siege of Lichfield where Rupert, with daring resolution, explodes the first landmine ever detonated on English soil.
Act of Rebellion
In this, the third memoir of Tom Fletcher’s exploits, he suffers a terrible and unavoidable personal tragedy. His young wife Phoebe dies from an ectopic pregnancy. Tom cannot help her and his confidence in his medical ability is undermined, particularly when his housekeeper, Joan, violently accuses him of causing Phoebe’s death by marrying her.
Tom escapes from her accusations. He travels to Gloucester by boat with Abram and stays at the New Inn. He tries to journey to London to see Ben, going first to Bath, but at the Battle of Lansdowne Hill, he is reunited with his friend Robert Burghill who has been mutilated by a mad surgeon. Tom returns again with Robert to the New Inn in Gloucester to help his friend recuperate.
And in that city a great act of rebellion against the Crown takes place. The Parliamentarian citizens refuse to yield Gloucester to the besieging army of the King, who encircles the city for an entire month. And yet the walls could not have with stood a serious bombardment.
After further laborious journeys, Tom again finds himself tending the wounded at the Battle of Newbury. At last he finally returns to Worcester having witnessed many acts of rebellion against the King.
An Ungodly Reckoning – November 1643- March 1644