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Riding home wounded from the English Civil War

Wilditch remembered a leader in the Civil War who rode from an undecided battle mortally wounded. He revisited the house where he was born, the house in which he was married, greeted a few retainers who did not recognize his condition, seeing him only as a tired man upon a horse, and finally - but Wilditch could not recollect how the biography had ended: he saw only a figure of exhaustion slumped over the saddle. . .

The quote is taken from the short story Under the Garden by Graham Greene. The wounded man is almost certainly John Hampden, who figures in our book Share the Inheritance. A country gentleman from Buckinghamshire, Hampden became a national hero when he opposed the attempt of King Charles to impose taxes without the approval of Parliament. In court Hampden defended the principles of rule of law and taxation by consent. The King had mistaken his adversary - Hampden never retreated from danger - and in the conflict that followed, he fought for Parliament against the absolute rule of the King.

After undertaking to raise a regiment of foot for parliament Hampden and his greencoats saw action in Buckinghamshire and took part in the relief of Coventry in August 1642. Although he then continued with the main body of Essex's army he took little part at the battle of Edgehill on October 23rd because he was placed in charge of the artillery train, but it was his men who eventually stopped the charge of Prince Rupert's pursuit. On November 12th 1642, when Prince Rupert's men appeared out of the mist at Brentford and routed the regiments of Holles and Brooke, it was Hampden who rallied the troops and held the line.

. . .As the parliamentarian forces advanced upon Oxford on June 18th 1643, at Chalgrove, he faced a charge from Prince Rupert, was shot in the shoulder, and died of his wounds at Thame six days later on June 24th. He was buried at Great Hampden on the following day. (Oxford DNB)

On this cold, sunny November day, it is possible, beyond the green meadows revealed by leafless trees, to imagine Hampden, riding slowly home with his mortal wound. From his sacrifice, and from the sacrifices of many others, came representative government in Britain and America.

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