Friday, 16 August 2013

Lucy Hutchinson's Life of Colonel John Hutchinson.

By Joshua Baker-Cox and Henry Partridge

Photo reproduced by the permission of the Dean and
 Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)
Lucy Hutchinson and her eldest son.
Hidden away in the forgotten depths of Worcester Cathedral’s library lies a fascinating glimpse of life during the turbulence of the English Civil War. Lucy Hutchinson (1620-81), was an unusual woman during this violent period because she was a biographer and writer. A printed copy of the biography of her husband, Colonel John Hutchinson’s life, whom she married on the 3rd of July 1638 is in the library. Kept secretly hidden from prying eyes for over one hundred and fifty years before being published, this valuable tome brings to vivid life the drudgery, pain and violence of this most difficult period in English history, when society learned that kings were not wholly indispensable. Through his wife's insight, you learn why Hutchinson signed the death warrant of King Charles I. The account of this incident shows the mentality and reasoning behind this monumental decision on Hutchinson’s part. He prayed to God for guidance and to open his eyes if he had made any error. He only signed the warrant after careful thought:

'……….and finding no check, but a confirmation in his conscience that it was his duty to act as he did.’

Despite occasions such as this, wherein the Colonel made potentially the most momentous decision of his life, there is also ample evidence of a natural and more mundane existence amidst the chaos of the Civil War. This can be seen when he was made Governor of Nottingham, wherein ‘sawcy’ people and disruptive elements caused difficulties in his attempt to serve the Parliamentarian cause:

'They were not so much open, profess’d enemies, as close, hipocriticall, false-hearted people.’

Photograph reproduced bt the permission of the Dean and Chapter of
Worcester Cathedral (UK)
Colonel John Hutchinson and his eldest son
This simple quote shows passionate sentiment and gives the reader an insight into the difficulties of a governor in the Parliamentarian north during this period. Obviously, however, there are clear accounts within this book of the violence and death which were a hallmark of the Civil War, tearing the country apart for love of the king.

The biography also talks about his military exploits and happenings. There is enough evidence to show us that Hutchinson was thoroughly involved in military matters.
During the siege of Newark, whilst he was Governor of Nottingham, it is reported that he had two particularly close calls: the first of which was when he, Colonel Poyntz, and another captain were riding to have a look at the town. Whilst doing this, a cannon ball shot past them when they were riding abreast, and the wave of pressure was so great, that without it touching the captain, he was killed. Secondly, when Hutchinson had just left his tent, another cannon ball ripped through the tent, destroying it and killing the sentry at the door.

The final part of the biography is about his death, and it gives remarkable accounts of how it affected those around him. As it was, eleven months after he was arrested on charges of treason on the 11th October 1663, he expired in the Tower of London on the 11th September 1664, from a fever which had 'seiz'd his head.' The best examples of how his death affected others are these two quotes:

'The two doctors, though mere strangers to him, were so mov'd, that they both wept as if it had bene their brother.'
And finally, a Dr. Jachin of Canterbury said 'he never in his whole life saw anyone receive death with more Christian courage, and constancy of mind, and steadfastnesse of faith.'

Colonel John Hutchinson is buried in the family vault at Owthorpe, in Nottinghamshire.   

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