Sunday, 29 July 2012

"The Ruins of Lace" — an interview with author Iris Anthony

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony is a compelling, deeply-researched and revealing novel about the illicit lace "sweat-shops" of the 17th century.

From the publisher:

An enthralling novel centered around the mad French passion for forbidden Flemish bobbin lace in the 1600s, from a writer whose work has been called "unexpected, haunting and powerful" by her readers. For those who want something they don't have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything — or anyone.

You don't have to go far to find glowing rave reviews about this novel!

I'm pleased to have the author Iris Anthony here to answer a few questions about this fascinating subject.

When was lace outlawed in France ... and why?

Louis XIII issued five sumptuary edicts that placed prohibitions and restrictions on clothing and on April 3, 1636, he forbid the wearing of lace altogether. That’s the edict which provided for confiscation, fines, and banishment from the kingdom.

{17th-century bobbin lace.}

Sumptuary edicts were enacted across Europe during this time period. The reasons were several. In France’s case, money was being lost across the border through lace purchases Flanders and Italy at a time when the King desperately needed money to fill his treasury due to expenses from wars and other pet projects. It was hoped that forbidding the wearing of lace would keep all that money in France and, therefore, available to the King.

Another reason is more difficult for our modern minds to understand. Europeans had a great need to keep everyone in their place. Most of these sumptuary edicts were very explicit about who could wear what: Princes of the Blood could wear cloth of gold; other princes were only allowed to wear cloth of silver. Dukes could wear gold lace; earls could only wear gold trim, etc., etc.

Ever since Europeans first started visiting America as ‘tourists’, they’ve been appalled that they couldn’t tell who was who. Since the founding of the U.S., part of being an American was the ‘right’ to purchase what we wanted to and wear the things that we wanted to wear. In Europe, even an extremely wealthy merchant couldn’t wear cloth of silver, for instance, or lace in our case. In the colonial period the sumptuary laws transferred to the New World, but once the U.S. was established as a nation, if you had the money, no one would stop you from buying (and wearing) what you wanted to. These edicts seem very much like quibbling to us, but they were important tools for social control.

{Lace in the 17th-century.}

Finally, King Louis XIII himself was quite ascetic. He did what he had to in order to be kingly, but he was very austere. He wasn’t into the whole musketeer look (floppy boots, huge hats, big ruffled lace collars).

He was called ‘The Just’ because he really did try to enforce the rules he made (when violations were brought to his attention). He killed the noble who plotted against Richelieu, for instance, in the Chalais Conspiracy. He also executed a court favorite who insisted upon dueling after he had forbidden it.
The King was derailed from his natural penchant for justice when his mother and his brother started conspiring against him, but in general, he wanted order. And he didn’t approve of conspicuous consumption. Obviously, many of those at court did since he kept having to issue sumptuary edicts, but that seemed to be how it went back then just about everywhere.

{Portrait of Louis XIV.}

Louis XIV, his son, had a different focus. He loved glitz and glamor. The more of it, the better! He actively encouraged his nobles to partake in lavishness. He wasn’t personally against lace and consumption the way his father had been. He did, however, have a huge need for funding his wars. Colbert (his minister) decided not only to forbid luxury goods in France (as Louis XIII had done), but also encouraged the creation of domestic rip-offs.

For a while, the rip-offs were just that, but eventually, they became even more desired than the foreign goods they had been copied from. The association of France with luxury goods began during Louis XIV’s reign under Colbert’s guiding hand. All of the famous French laces date from that period. The French perfume industry developed then. The glass industry came of age, as did luxury textiles.

{Girls making bobbin lace.}

What was the result of the sumptuary laws?
Like any law, sumptuary laws had unintended consequences. The moment it was forbidden, lace became even more highly prized than it had been. And whenever anything becomes illegal, criminals add it to their list of ways to make money. The result was a surprising paradox: the pairing of ‘smuggling’ and ‘lace’.

{"The Lacemaker" by Vermeer.}

What were the working conditions like for the lace-makers? 
Horrible. Since the lace had to be spotless, lace makers worked their long hours in workshops without heat or light. Fire, in any form, produced soot and ashes which would have soiled the lace. Often workshops were housed beside or above stables so that body heat from animals would keep the lace makers from freezing. Because they worked without light, most lace makers were blind by the age of thirty. Because the work was so tedious, their fingers and backs became crippled and deformed.

You researched this subject extensively. What surprised you?
People and their infinite creativity in finding new ways to maltreat both each other and animals. Whenever I wander through history I’m both amazed and appalled at how similar we are to our forebears.

Thank you, Iris!

The lace illustrations are from Iris's Pinterest board.

I will soon have more on my own blog about Iris's fascinating research and writing processes.

Sandra Gulland
Author of The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Witches of New York

New York is another state that few people associate with witch trials. As far as anyone can tell, the trials in New York were spared executions. Elizabeth Garlick and her husband settled on Easthampton, Long Island in 1657. The area was considered part of New York, but within a few months became part of Connecticut. From the start, stories surrounded Elizabeth about her practice of witchcraft. During Goodwife Howell's illness, she called out, "A witch! A witch! Now are you come to torture me..." When her father asked her what she had seen, she replied a "black thing" at the end of her bed, and Elizabeth was "double-tongued," used pins, and stood "ready to tear her to pieces." A few days later, Goody Howell was dead.

At Goody Davis's house, she had dressed her children in clean linen. Elizabeth came in and said how pretty one of the children looked. As soon as she had uttered the words, she said, "The child is not well..." Within five days, the child died.

Another woman's breast milk dried up, and her child sickened soon after. A couple of people also had livestock die.

Elizabeth was sent to Connecticut for trial. The court felt that she deserved to die, but in the end, she was acquitted.

In 1660, Mary Wright of Oyster Bay was suspected of witchcraft. She was sent to Massachusetts for trial. She wasn't convicted of witchcraft, but was found guilty for being a Quaker and banished.

In 1665, Ralph Hall and his wife were accused at Brookhaven. They were indicted after George Woods and an infant child got sick and died. No witnesses appeared in court to give testimony. They were acquitted and released.

In 1670, Katharine Harrison, already mentioned in witches of Connecticut, had been banished from that colony, and she settled in Westchester. Complaints immediately came in from surrounding neighbors that she was a witch. The constable gave her an order to leave, but Katharine refused. Because of her otherwise good behavior, she was allowed to stay.

Compared to many other colonies of the 17th century, New York seems to have been tame regarding general accusations of people being witches and subsequent trials.

Kim Murphy

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Massacre of Glencoe 1692

In 1688, King James II fled to France, leaving the throne of England open to a bloodless coup by his nephew and son-in-law, the Calvinist William of Orange. Many Highland clans had openly sworn their allegiance to their deposed ‘King Across the water’ and John Graham of Claverhouse, ‘Bonnie Dundee’ led an uprising in 1689 to restore the Stuart King. It failed, leaving Dundee dead and many Highlanders dispossessed and impoverished.

In August, 1691, King William III offered a pardon to the Highland clans if they took an oath of allegiance, after which the chiefs would be restored to their estates. By the end of 1691, the terms had become threatening - the clans would sign the agreement by 1st January 1692, or be punished with the 'utmost extremity of the law'.

The MacDonalds had lived in the Glencoe pass since the early 14th Century, when they supported King Robert the Bruce. From Loch Leven at its northern end to Rannoch Moor in the south, the pass is flanked by rugged mountain scenery that suffers frequent arctic winters.
James Dalrymple Earl of Stair

Alastair MacDonald, 12th Chief of Glencoe, known as MacIain, had joined Claverhouse in 1689. A huge man with flowing white hair, beard and moustache, well respected by his own clan, and feared by others. The MacIains were Reivers, famous for their raiding, pillaging and cattle rustling, and their main enemy was the neighbouring Campbell clan. After two successive Earls of Argyll had been executed and the Campbells weakened, the MacDonalds pillaged huge tracts of Campbell territory in the Atholl Raid of 1685.

Before they could take the oath of allegiance to King William, the Highland clans sent Ambassadors to France to obtain a release from their oath to King James II; a release that was granted on December 12th 1691, though the messenger bringing it didn’t arrive in the Highlands until December 28th - leaving only three days until the deadline.

During the worst of a Highland winter, MacIain left for the newly-built Fort William and presented himself to its Governor, Colonel John Hill, an experienced English officer who had fought with Cromwell. Hill told MacIain that only the civil magistrate could administer the oath, so armed with a letter for Sir Colin Campbell, the sheriff of Argyllshire, MacIain, a man of sixty-one, had to walk the 74 mile journey in deep snow to Inverary, the stronghold of the Campbell clan.

MacIain didn’t even stop to tell his family what was happening, though he passed within half a mile of his own house. He negotiated the Barcaldine Estate, where he was captured by Grenadiers, although only detained for a day, when he reached Inverary on 2nd January to discover that Sheriff Sir Colin Campbell had not yet returned from the New Year festivities, so MacIain had to cool his heels for another three days.

Sir Colin declined at first, by MacIain importuned him with tears and then threatened to protest. On the 6th of January 1692, Sir Colin administered the oath, assuring MacIain's allegiance would be accepted, sent a certificate of compliance to Edinburgh and a letter to Campbell at Fort Willliam that said:
Painting by James Hamilton

"I endeavoured to receive the great lost sheep, Glencoe, and he has undertaken to bring in all his friends and followers as the Privy Council shall order.  I am sending to Edinburgh that Glencoe, though he was mistaken in coming to you to take the oath of allegiance, might yet be welcome.  Take care that he and his followers do not suffer till the King and Council's pleasure be known."

In Edinburgh, Sheriff-Clerk Campbell, Secretary of State for Scotland, John Dalrymple, Master of Stair, and several Privy Councillors, were shown the certificate with MacIain’s signature and Hill’s letter, but instead of presenting MacIain's case, the Sherriff-Clerk Campbell scored MacIain’s name off the certificate. Thus Dalrymple, a Lowlander and Protestant who disliked Highlanders and especially the MacIain, saw this as his opportunity to destroy the MacDonalds and despatched a document to Sir Thomas Livingston, the Commander-in-Chief of the King's forces in Scotland:

"You are hereby ordered and authorised to march our troops which are now posted at Inverlochy and Inverness and to act against these Highland rebels who have not taken the benefit of our indemnity, by fire and sword and all manner of hostility; to burn their houses, seize or destroy their goods or cattle, plenishings or clothes, and to cut off the men."

-these orders were accompanied by Dalrymple's letter which reads,

"Only just now, my Lord Argyle tells me that MacDonald of Glencoe has not taken the oath, at which I rejoice. It is a great work of charity to be exact in rooting out that damnable sept, the worst of the Highlands."

Three commanders - two from the Campbell-dominated Argyll regiment and one from Fort William were ordered to Glen Coe by the beginning of February to await further orders. On approaching the Glen, they were met by John MacDonald, the elder son of the chief, at the head of about 20 men, who demanded Campbell’s reason for coming into a peaceful country with a military force; Glenlyon and two subalterns declared they came as friends, their sole object being to collect the arrears of cess and hearth-money, - a new tax laid on by the Scottish parliament in 1690. Lieutenant Lindsay produced the instructions signed by a now deeply troubled Colonel Hill, the Governor of Fort William.

Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, who was possibly chosen because his niece, Sarah was married to MacIain's younger son, Alexander, [Sandy MacDonald], was put in charge of not only of his own company of infantrymen but the grenadiers, whose commander was Captain Thomas Drummond, the same man whom MacIain had encountered on his way to take the oath of allegiance; a man who would be absent until the eve of the attack.

Using the excuse the fort was full, Glenlyon arrived at Glencoe on 1 February 1692 and claimed hospitality from the MacDonalds. His men were quartered in the clan’s own houses, where they stayed for the next twelve days with Glenlyon making regular visits to Sarah, the sister of Rob Roy MacGregor, and young Sandy MacDonald for the traditional, ‘morning drink’.

On Friday evening, 12th February, Glenlyon played cards with Sandy and his brother John MacDonald, having also accepted an invitation from MacIain to dine with him the following day.That night, a blizzard howled through Glencoe, giving whiteout conditions and just before dawn, John MacDonald, the chief’s eldest son, was woken by voices outside his house. He dressed and went to Glenlyon's quarters at Inveriggan, where the whole detachment was preparing for action. John demanded an explanation, and was told by Glenlyon that the troops had orders to march against some of Glengarry's men and assured him they had no hostile intent toward the MacDonalds.  John accepted this reasoning, after all, hadn’t they all
played cards together the night before, and wouldn’t Glenlyon have warned his niece and Sandy MacDonald?

Reassured, John returned home, but couldn't settle, and when an equally anxious servant told him that twenty troops approached the house with fixed bayonets on their muskets, John gave instructions to waken his brother, Sandy, and then fled to the hills. When soldiers burst through the door moments later, the house was empty – Sandy and his family had also escaped, their tracks covered by the blizzard. High in the hill above the village of Auchnaion, shots were heard by John, Sandy MacDonald, and their families.

At Inveriggan, Glenlyon had ordered that nine men who had been held, bound and gagged for the past few hours be taken outside and shot. MacDonald of Inveriggan, Glenlyon's host for the past fortnight, and a man with a letter of protection signed by Colonel Hill was one of these.

At MacIain’s house in Carnoch, Glenlyon's junior officer, Lieutenant Lindsay, arrived with a party of soldiers and apologised to a servant for calling so early; thus MacIain's murderers were invited into the house. Glencoe was shot twice as he was getting out of bed and fell lifeless in front of his wife, who was stripped naked and thrown out of the house. One of the soldiers is said to have pulled the rings from her fingers with his teeth, then she was left in the snow and died the following day.

At the laird's house in Auchnaion, where Sergeant Barber had been quartered, ordered a detail to attack. Five men were killed instantly and another three wounded.  Amongst those injured was MacDonald of Auchintriaten, who also had a letter of protection signed by Colonel Hill. As he was about to be finished off by Barber, he asked if he was to be murdered beneath the roof that they had shared for the past fortnight.  Barber agreed to kill him outside and ordered two soldiers to escort him. Once through the door, MacDonald threw his plaid over their faces and fled, surviving to recount the story.

Men were dragged from their beds and murdered, their houses torched, while women of all ages, some almost in a state of undress, the old and the frail, mothers carrying infants and some with young children climbed up the mountains in the blizzard, many to be overcome by exhaustion and die of exposure before they reached shelter.

Lieutenant-colonel Hamilton and his men, delayed by the blizzard, did not reach Glencoe until six hours after the main attack. By this time the MacDonalds were dead or fled, so they had nothing to do but set fire to the houses, collect the cattle and anything valuable in the Glen, which they took to Inverlochy and divided among the officers of the garrison. One man of seventy who remained in the glen, was put to death on Hamilton’s orders.

When the sun rose the next morning, thirty nine men, women and children lay dead, though MacIain’s two sons escaped, possibly helped by the late arrival of an additional force of redcoats due to a blizzard, who should have blocked the entrance to the glen.


As a surprise attack three hours before dawn, why did it begin with gunfire and not swords and daggers? The Argyll regiment consisted of 135 soldiers, only a dozen of whom were Campbells, but of two hundred McDonalds in Glencoe that night, only thirty eight deaths occurred. It seems almost certain that some of the Campbell soldiers, disgusted with their orders, alerted the families who had been their hosts, giving them time to escape and at least wrap up against the blizzard.

Two of Glenlyon’s lieutenants refused to carry out the murders and broke their swords – [Prebble suggests that they were Francis Farquhar and Gilbert Kennedy] both were later prosecuted but freed. Government soldiers were sent to block off the passes out of the Glen, including the Devil's Staircase from Kinlochleven, but fleeing McDonalds were more likely to go the other way towards Duror in Appin, home of
their long-allies, the Stewarts.

Glencoe Pass


When the story reached the London press, King William said he had signed the execution order among a mass of other papers, without knowing its contents; though he had not only signed, but countersigned every document.

It was not until April 1695 that the King finally appointed a commission to investigate the affair, which concluded the orders did not authorise a massacre, and that the incident was the result of a long-standing feud between the Campbell and the MacDonald clans. Dalrymple was dismissed, and Glenlyon condemned by the commission and died in poverty at Bruge.

King William formally pardoned John MacDonald, the 13th Chief of Glencoe, who rebuilt the family home at
Carnoch while his brother, Alastair, fought in the Jacobite rebellion in 1715 alongside John Campbell, the son of Captain Campbell. The last stand of the men of Glencoe was at Culloden, after the defeat their houses were again burned and the Chief imprisoned.

The Campbells believed they were under 'The curse of Glencoe', and split into factions, one of which supported the Jacobites and the other, the Protestant Hanovarians. At the battle of Sherriffmuir in 1715, McDonalds and some Campbells fought on the same side, which tends to contradict the story of eternal enmity between the two clans.

A monument to the fallen MacDonalds lies in Glencoe village, and MacIain was buried on the island of Eilean Munde, in Loch Leven. Generations of Scots children have been taught ‘never trust a Campbell,’ To this day the old Clachaig Inn at Glencoe carries the sign on its door, 'No Hawkers or Campbells'.

Glencoe memorial


Jimmy Powdrell Campbell
The Paisley Army 
What They Don't Tell You

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Of Saints and Witches: Mother Demdike and Hildegard von Bingen


This summer marks the 400th Anniversary of the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials. In August 1612, seven women and two men from the Pendle region in Lancashire were hanged for witchcraft based on evidence given by a nine-year-old girl. The most notorious of the accused, Elizabeth Southerns alias Old Demdike, escaped the hangman by dying in prison before she could even come to trial. She is the heroine of my novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill.

Throughout the Pendle Region, people will be commemorating this solemn anniversary. It is my sincere hope these events portray Mother Demdike and her fellow accused not as some ghoulish sideshow, but as real people who unjustly suffered and died on account of other people's ignorance and religious intolerance.

I will be taking part in a number of events in remembrance of the Pendle Witches. My schedule is listed below. I wish to draw particular attention to Capturing Witches at Lancaster University, August 17 - 19, a multi-disciplinary academic conference discussing everything from historical witchcraft to Neopagan belief to the horrifying persecution of so-called "child witches" in modern day Nigeria.

This summer has also marked the much belated canonization of 12th century powerfrau, Saint Hildegard von Bingen, the heroine of my forthcoming novel, Illuminations.

Some readers might wonder how I could make the leap from writing about historical witch, Mother Demdike, to Hildegard, a Benedictine abbess. In fact, Hildegard and Demdike had a lot in common. Demdike earned her bread as a healer with her charms and herbal remedies. She was known as a cunning woman, a woman of wisdom. Hildegard, a brilliant polymath and composer,healed with herbs and gemstones. She believed in viriditas, the green and animating life force manifest in the natural world, infusing all creation with moisture and vitality. Demdike was guided by visions of Tibb, her familiar spirit, while Hildegard was called "Sibyl of the Rhine" and revered for her visions and prophecies. Demdike's charms, recorded in the official trial documents, drew on the mystical imagery of the old Catholic Church, outlawed by the Reformation. Hildegard's gemstone remedies seem to draw on sympathetic magic, as seen in her "Sapphire Charm," listed below.

Both women seemed to inhabit a worldview where the boundaries between religion, magic, and visionary experience were fluid. Demdike, a practitioner of Catholic folk magic who also appeared to believe in the so-called Faery Faith that coexisted alongside Christianity for centuries, fell foul of her Puritan magistrate and was condemned as a witch. She died, most likely of hunger and typhoid, while imprisoned in a lightless dungeon, chained to a ring in the floor with the eleven other accused Pendle Witches. The founder of two monasteries, Hildegard would seem to be a pillar of the religious orthodoxy of her day. Yet even she earned the enmity of her archbishop when she refused to disinter a supposed apostate buried in her churchyard. As punishment for her disobedience to male authority, she and her nuns suffered an interdict - or collective excommunication - lifted only a few months before her death. Hildegard might well have died an outcast. And I believe that if Hildegard had lived in Demdike's Puritan England with its abhorrence of mystical experience, she might also have been accused of witchcraft.

Fortunes can change. On October 7, 2012, Hildegard will be elevated to Doctor of the Church, a rare and solemn title given to theologians who have made a significant impact. While such a lofty title will never be attached to Mother Demdike, let's hope that she and the other Pendle Witches might at least be remembered with respect and sad reflection for what they were forced to endure.

Sadly, the Pendle Witch tragedy is as relevant in 2012 as it was in 1612. Witch hunts are still ongoing. Children in West Africa and even the United Kingdom are being tortured and killed.

May we work together to end this injustice. May mystics and visionaries of all faith backgrounds receive recognition and honour. May all witch hunts end forever.

Illustration: Hildegard's vision of the universe as an egg inside the womb of God

Hildegard's Sapphire Charm to dispel undesired attraction

Sapphire is hot and develops after noontime, when the sun burns ardently and the air is a bit obstructed by its heat. The splendor is not as full as it is when the air is a bit cool. Sapphire is turbid, indeed more fiery than airy or watery. It symbolizes a complete love of wisdom. . . . If the devil should incite a man to love a woman so that, without magic or the invocation of demons, he begins to be insane with love, and if this is an annoyance to the woman, she should pour a bit of wine over a sapphire three times and each time say, "I pour this wine, in its ardent powers, over you; just as God drew off your splendor, wayward angel, so may you draw away from me the lust of this ardent man." 

From Hildegard von Bingen's Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing, translated from the Latin by Priscilla Throop, and published by Healing Arts Press.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland..."That Incomparable Young Man"

It is commonly believed that Lucius Cary, the 2nd Viscount Falkland, Lord Privy Seal and Secretary of State of Charles I, committed suicide by battle. Whatever his intention on the morning of the Battle of Newbury on 20 September 1642, his death at the age of 33 was a severe blow to any lasting hope of peace and compromise in the bitter English Civil Wars.

How did the privileged courtier, poet and intellectual reach the point that life held so little hope that on the eve of the first battle of Newbury on 20 September 1643, he told his friends that "...he was weary of the times and foresaw much misery to his own Country and did believe he should be out of it ere night..." Riding alone at a gap in a hedge commanded by the enemy's fire, he was immediately killed.

Lucius Cary was born into an influential and ambitious family. His father, Sir Henry Cary was Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1622-1629 and was given a Scottish Peerage (a second class honour for an Englishman). His mother converted to Catholocism and tried to exert an influence on the young Lucius to do the same but after much theological reasoning, he resisted. His affection for his mother and his deep understanding of the Catholic faith at a time when England was resolutely Protestant may have contributed to his uncertainty about his own belief system.

Lettice Morison
In 1625 (at the tender age of 15 or 16), he finished his education at Trinity College Dublin and in the same year inherited, from his maternal grandfather, the manors of Great Tew and Burford in Oxfordshire. Having been brought up in Ireland he arrived in England with no established circle of friends. This gave him the freedom to choose his own friends and he gathered around him a circle of cultured, witty and intelligent men such as the Ben Johnson, John Suckling, John Hales and Edmund Waller. His closest friend, Sir Henry Morison, died of smallpox and he married Henry’s sister, Lettice. His father was furious. He had plans for a much more advantageous marriage. In an endeavour to mend the rift with his father Cary offered him the Oxfordshire estates, an offer refused by his father.

Deciding to turn his hand to the martial art, Cary and his wife, left for the Continent where he sought, unsuccessfully, to become a soldier of fortune in Holland. His father had become a prominent figure at court and in the light of their estrangement Cary did not return to London but retired to Great Tew where he gathered his brilliant friends around him and established a cultured circle which included not only men like Edward Hyde (Earl of Clarendon) but also intelligent women such as Lady Sophia Murray and Lady Dungarvin.  Society at Great Tew paints a picture of a late summer of golden sun and witty and intelligent beings gathered together for discourse and debate. It must have been an idyll for Carey’s intelligent nature (and a tax on Lettice’s housekeeping skills!).

It all ended with the outbreak of the first Scottish War in 1639. Cary felt duty bound to take the part of his King and he fought as a volunteer under Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex. It was all over before it had begun and in 1640 he entered the newly reconvenend Parliament. His parliamentary career is interesting, given his later history. In both the Long and the Short Parliaments he took the part of the opposition, speaking out against the Ship Money tax and supporting the prosecution of the Earl of Stafford. He broke with the opposition over the debates on the episcopacy and the Grand Remonstrance.

His growing opposition to the extremists in Parliament brought him to the attention of the Court and while he may not have seen himself as an advocate for the Court, Edward Hyde saw the advantage of having a man of Cary’s intellectual calibre within the royal circle. On 1 January 1642 Cary was offered and accepted (only on persuasion from Hyde) the role of Secretary of Estate. He did so in ignorance of the King’s disastrous attempt to arrest the five members of parliament, one of the acts that drove England to Civil War.  As Secretary of State he now found himself responsible for the vagaries of the King’s policies without, it seemed, being able to exert any influence over the man.  To his growing distress, he was unable to do anything to prevent England’s inevitable slide into Civil War which began on August 22 1642 with the raising of the King’s Standard at Nottingham.

Falkland by Van Dyck
Hyde writes that from the outbreak of war Cary’s “...natural cheerfulness and vivacity grew clouded, and a kind of sadness and dejection of spirit stole over him...”.  However he had no question in his own mind as to where his loyalties lay. He was a royalist in every sense of the word.   At Edgehill (23 October 1642) he fought with Sir Henry Wilmot (having a personality clash with Prince Rupert).  While he hated the war and everything it stood for, in the thick of battle, he wrote he could forget he was  “...Secretary of State and desired to be where there would probably be the most to do...”.

His hope that Edgehill would be the beginning and the end of the war was soon dashed and Cary must have found himself in an unviable situation. His firm belief in the estate of the crown ran counter to the character of Charles himself. He must have seen that there would be no hope of compromise with Charles. He sank into a deep depression. Hyde writes “...Sitting among his friends, often after a deep silence and frequent sighs he would with a shrill and sad accent ingeminate the word “Peace, Peace”...”

In desperation he became inveigled in a plot to seize the Tower of London and arrest the leaders of Parliament. The King’s Commission was carried to the plotters in London under the skirts of Kate, Lady Aubigny. The plot was discovered, the conspirators hung and Lady Aubigny and Cary’s dear friend, Sophia, Lady Murray imprisoned. The misery of the two women and the loss of many of his old friends, dead on battlefields,  must have compounded his own depression. When news came from London that Sophia Murray was dying of consumption and would not survive her imprisonment, he was grief stricken.

At the siege of Gloucester his friends became concerned that he was unnecessarily exposing himself to danger. With his continued strident advocacy for peace, there may have been an element of not wishing to be seen to be a coward. When his friends tried to remonstrate with him  "...he would say merrily that his office could not take away the privileges of his age, and that a Secretary in war might be present at the greatest secret of danger...”

Site of the First Battle of Newbury
On the morning of the fatal “first” battle of Newbury, Hyde writes that Cary was “very cheerful” and called for clean linen “as though expecting to be slain”.  As he was normally cheerful before battle and putting on a clean shirt may have been a sensible precaution, there is some argument that his fate was just that of a brave and fearless young man until you remember his prophetic words that he should " out of it ere night...".

He volunteered to ride in the front rank of Sir John Byron’s cavalry which was advancing between hedges lined on both sides by Roundhead musketeers. They came to a gap, which Byron ordered to be widened; but before this could be done, Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, spurred his horse through it straight into the teeth of murderous fire. Both horse and rider were killed instantly. His body was not found until the next day, by which time it had been so badly mutilated as to be almost unrecognisable.

Cary shares with Montrose the dubious distinction of being regarded among the noblest of the Cavaliers, the gallant young man, destined never to grow old. Hyde wrote “...Thus fell that incomparable young man in the four and thirtieth year of his life...” Elsewhere he wrote “...that little person and small stature was quickly found to contain a great heart...all mankind could not but admire and love him...”

In an England gone mad Lucius Cary had represented one voice of rationality. With his death, the last hope of peace died.
Inscription on the Falkland Monument at Newbury