On the 23rd of April early in the morning, the King, attended by his son Prince Charles, and about 300 of his servants, as well as a great number of the county gentlemen, set out from York to Hull, and when he was within about four miles of that place, he dispatched an officer (Sir Lewis Davis) to inform the Governor that he intended that day to dine with him. On receipt of this unexpected message, Sir John Hotham consulted with Mr. Pelham, the M.P. for Hull, and others of his friends, and the result of their conference was a fixed determination not to suffer the King to enter the town. They therefore sent a messenger ” humbly to beseech his Majesty to decline his intended visit, since the Governor could not, without betraying the trust committed to him, set open the gates to so great a train as he was at present attended with.” The King, incensed at this message continued, to advance, and Sir John ordered the bridges to be drawn up, the gates to be closed, the soldiers to stand to their arms on the walls, the cannons to be charged, and the inhabitants to be confined to their houses till sunset.
About eleven o’clock the King arrived at the Beverley Gate, and, surprised to find all things in readiness for the reception of an enemy, called for the Governor, who appearing on the walls, he commanded him, on his allegiance, to open the gate and admit his Sovereign. But the Governor, with many professions of duty and several expressions of fear, told his Majesty, “that he durst not open the gates to him, being entrusted by the parliament with the safety of the town.” The King told him, ” that he believed he had no order from the parliament to shut the gates against him, or to keep him out of the town;” to which he replied, ” that his Majesty’s train was so great, that if it were admitted he should not be able to give a good account of his trust to those that employed him. Charles then proposed to enter with twenty of his attendants only, and that the rest should stay without the gates, but this proposal was refused. The King then desired him ” to come out of the gates that he might confer more particularly with him, and assured him, on his royal word, of safety and liberty to return;” but this request also the Governor refused to comply with; whereupon his Majesty, in a spirited remonstrance, told him that for this gross act of disobedience, which was likely to cause much bloodshed and many calamities, he would immediately proclaim him a traitor, and proceed against him as such. Sir John, then falling upon his knees, talked confusedly of the trust he had received from the parliament, and prayed ” that God would bring confusion upon him and his, if he were not a faithful and loyal subject;” but in conclusion he plainly denied his Majesty admission into the town.* The King continued before the gate till four o’clock, and having given Sir John one hour to take his final resolution, his Majesty returned to the gate, and receiving the same answer as before, he ordered two heralds at arms to proclaim the Governor a traitor, and all those who obeyed him guilty of high treason.
Here was a change indeed! Three years since, the people of Hull were frantic with joy at the sight of their “royal master.” Now, he stood a suppliant before that same gate, being thus repulsed, lodged that night at Beverley, and the next morning he sent a herald to Sir John, summoning him once more to open the gates on pain of being proclaimed a traitor, but the herald, like his royal master, proved unsuccessful, and the King, filled with mortification and disappointment, was obliged to return to York.
This was the prelude of that great civil war which, for the space of four years, desolated England and brought her Monarch to the block. Highly incensed at the affront put upon him, Charles immediately sent an express with a message to both houses of parliament, explanatory of his motives for going to Hull, and saying “It is remarkable that the Duke of York (future James II), and others were actually dining at the Trinity House, whilst Sir John Hotham was parleying with the King at the gate. On the previous day they entered Hull undiscovered along with the crowd of the country people (it being market day), under the pretense of viewing the town; and being recognised, they were received and entertained by the Mayor and Governor, with all the respect due to their rank. The Duke of York and his friends were sent out to join the King’s party without the gates, at one o’clock in the afternoon.
The parliament then ordered two ships of war immediately to Hull, under the command of the Earl of Warwick; and a committee of both houses was sent into the north, to take care of those parts, and of Hull; and in particular to thank Sir John Hotham, the commanders and soldiers under him, together with such of the inhabitants as had shown a favorable disposition to the cause in which they were engaged; and to assure them that particular care should be taken to reward them according to their deserts.* On the 28th of April the King sent from York to both houses of parliament another message, demanding satisfaction against the Governor of Hull, and on the 5th of May a reply to his two messages was read in the house, They justified Sir John Hotham’s refusal to admit his Majesty, and declared him clear of the odious crime of treason.
The King finding that the parliament openly supported Sir John Hotham, and not being in a position to take Hull by a regular assault, for want of artillery, arms, and ammunition, attempted to gain possession of the town by a speedier and more easy way.
The parliament then without the least regard paid to his remonstrances and complaints, the magazine at Hull was conveyed to London, and deposited in the Tower.
1642, Charles Having appointed the Earl of Cumberland supreme commander of his forces, removed his court to Beverley, with a view of preparing an attack upon the fortress of Hull. The royal forces were 3,000 foot and 1,000 horse. As soon as Sir John Hotham heard that the King was at Beverley, and intended to march against Hull, he dispatched three messengers in quick succession, requesting his Majesty not to turn his arms against the town. He added, “that it was his, and all its inhabitants his loyal and faithful subjects, who were resolved always to continue such.” Whilst the garrison of Hull was making every preparation for a resolute defence of the town, the King had 200 men employed in cutting trenches, to divert the current of fresh water that supplied the town. Two forts were erected, one at Paull, a village five miles below Hull, and the other at Hessle Cliff, about the same distance above it; and these forts were well mounted with cannon to command the Humber
The parliament being informed of the state of affairs, gave orders that 500 men should be immediately sent by sea to Hull, to be followed by 1,500 more, as soon as they could be got ready; and some ships of war were also ordered down to scour the Humber. About the middle of July (1642), these recruits, together with a considerable sum of money, and a great store of provisions, arrived in the Humber, passed the fort at Paull without any material damage, and landed safely at Hull.
After fruitless negotiations between the King and the parliament, Charles commenced the First Siege of Hull. Cannonading commenced by both parties, but no considerable slaughter was made on either side; and in order to inflame the troops in the garrison against the royal cause, reports were raised in the town that the King contemplated measures of the greatest cruelty against the inhabitants, and that should he succeed in carrying the place, as he intended, by storm, every person, without respect to age, sex, or condition, was to be put indiscriminately to the sword.
Charles found that all attempts to reduce it were ineffectual. He, therefore, called a council of war, and by their advice he resolved to raise the siege, and draw off his forces. This attempt on Hull having entirely failed, the royalists retired to Beverley, where the trained bands were dismissed, and his Majesty, with his court and the rest of the army, “returned to York.
The Queen arrived from Holland at Bridlington Quay, in the beginning of the year 1643, and during her stay at the latter place, among those who waited upon her Majesty to congratulate her on her safe arrival, was Captain Hotham, son of the Governor of Hull, who was sent by his father privately to treat with her respecting terms, should he think of entering into his Majesty’s views. Hotham spoke to the Lord General, the Earl of Newcastle, on the subject of surrendering Hull to whom she should appoint.
Sir John Hotham’s resentment against the parliament was caused by the appointment of Lord Fairfax to the post of General of all their forces in the north, an honour which, after the eminent services he had rendered them in maintaining Hull, even at the risk of exposing himself to the King’s utmost displeasure, he thought he was entitled to. Hotham disdained to receive orders or to submit to Lord Fairfax, and the parliament resolved to displace him, and appoint a more tractable Governor for Hull. Sir John having discovered their determination, by some intercepted letters, took deadly umbrage at it, and quickly resolved to be revenged on his masters, by delivering up Hull to the King. His son, too, very readily entered into the conspiracy, and adopted all his father’s sentiments of resentment against the parliament.
A correspondence was now carried on between the Hothams and the Earl of Newcastle, and it was agreed to deliver up Hull to the Queen, while she was on her march with her troops to the King. In the meantime the parliament having received from their emissaries some information respecting the intentions of the Governor and his son, employed a clergyman named Saltmarsh, a person whom they could confide in, and a near relative of the Governor, to discover if possible the truth of the matter. He gained the confidence of Sir John, who, fell into the snare laid for him by his insidious kinsman. Believing that a man of such seeming sanctity and so near a relative would not betray him, the Governor at length discovered to him the whole plot, which the treacherous Saltmarsh communicated to Captain Moyer, who commanded the Hercules ship of war, lying in the Humber. His next care was to transmit the intelligence to parliament, who voted him a reward of £2,000. for this meritorious piece of service; and at the same time sent orders to Captain Moyer and Sir Matthew Boynton to keep a watchful eye on the Hothams.
The Governor, ignorant of the treachery of his kinsman, sent his son a few days after, by the command of the parliament, at the head of his troops, to Nottingham, to join Colonel Cromwell and Lord Gray, with the forces under their command; hut no sooner had he arrived at Nottingham than he was arrested by Cromwell, upon a charge of intending to deliver up Hull to the King. Captain Hotham, however, escaped to Lincoln, and from thence proceeded to Hull. The Mayor of Hull, Mr. Thomas Eaikes, having learned from Captain Moyer, that the plot for delivering up the town, if not prevented, would shortly be put into execution, held a consultation with the chiefs of the town, and it was resolved to defeat the project by seizing the Governor and his son.
29th of June (1643), Captain Moyer landed 100 men from his ship, and seized the Castle and Blockhouses almost without resistance; and 1,500 of the soldiers and inhabitants of the town who were in readiness, at the word of command from the Mayor seized the main guard near the magazine, took possession of the artillery on the walls, and placed a guard at the Governor’s house, all of which was done in about the space of an hour, and without shedding any blood. By these measures Captain Hotham was secured, but Sir John by some means effected his escape from the house, and meeting a man who was riding into the town, he ordered him to alight, and mounting his horse, he passed through the guard at Beverley Gate, which had not yet received orders to stop him.
Sir John’s design was to reach, his house at Scorborough, near Beverley, which he had taken care to fortify, and whither he had sent both men and ammunition; he rode into the Beverley and placed himself at the head of seven or eight hundred men, who happened to be drawn up in arms in the Market-place, and ordering them to follow him, they at first obeyed, but were met by Colonel Boynton (who had just received intimation of his flight from Hull), who saluted Sir John, saying, “you are my prisoner!” Sir John seeing an open lane before him, put spurs to his horse, and made off at full speed, but was brought to the ground by a blow from the butt of a soldier’s musket, and secured. He was then conveyed under a strong guard to Hull, where he was put on board the Hercules, together with his son, Captain Hotham, and conveyed to London, where they arrived on the 15th of July, and were committed to the Tower.
After a long and strict confinement, Sir John Hotham and his son Captain Hotham, were tried and convicted of treason. On the 1st of January, 1645, his son was executed on Tower Hill and on the following day Sir John suffered decapitation upon the same scaffold, the victim of his own irresolution and inconstancy. Both father and son declared on the scaffold that they were innocent of the charges for which they were about to suffer.
The execution of Sir John Hotham and his son recalled to the minds of many the dreadful imprecations he had uttered upon the walls of Hull, when he denied the King admittance into the town “That God would bring confusion on him and his, if he were not a loyal and faithful subject to his Majesty.”
After the arrest of Sir John’ Hotham, the custody of Hull was entrusted to the care of a Committee of eleven gentlemen, approved by the parliament, and at the head of which was the Mayor. Soon after the battle of Atherton Moor, which was fought on the 30th of June (the day after the Hothams were arrested], and in which the royalist army dispersed the forces of the parliament, Lord Fairfax arrived in Hull, and on the 22nd of July was constituted the Governor of that place.