There were cries for a wide reform, for the abolition of the House of Peers, for a new House of Commons; and the Agitators called on the Council of Officers to discuss the question of abolishing royalty itself. Cromwell was never braver than when he faced the gathering storm, forbade the discussion, adjourned the Council, and sent the officers to their regiments. But the strain was too great to last long, and Charles was still resolute to "play his game." He was in fact so far from being in earnest in his negotiation with Cromwell and Ireton, that at the moment they were risking their lives for him he was conducting another and equally delusive negotiation with the Parliament, fomenting the discontent in London, preparing for a fresh royalist rising, and for an intervention of the Scots in his favour. "The two nations," he wrote joyously, "will soon be at war." All that was needed for the success of his schemes was his own liberty; and in the midst of their hopes of an accommodation the army leaders found with astonishment that they had been duped throughout, and that the King had fled.
The flight fanned the excitement of the New Model into frenzy, and only the courage of Cromwell averted an open mutiny in its gathering at Ware. But even Cromwell was powerless to break the spirit which now pervaded the soldiers, and the King's perfidy left him without resource. " The King is a man of great parts and great understanding," he said, "but so great a dissembler and so false a man that he is not to be trusted." The danger from his escape indeed soon passed away. By a strange error Charles had ridden from Hampton Court to the Isle of Wight, perhaps with some hope from the sympathy of Colonel Hammond, the Governor of Carisbrook Castle, and again found himself a prisoner. Foiled in his effort to put himself at the head of the new civil war, he set himself to organize it from his prison; and while again opening delusive negotiations with the Parliament, he signed a secret treaty with the Scots for the invasion of the realm. The practical suspension of the Covenant and the triumph of the party of religious liberty in England had produced a violent reaction across the Tweed. The moderate party had gathered round the Duke of Hamilton, and carried the elections against Argyle and the more zealous religionists; and on the King's consenting to a stipulation for the re-establishment of Presbytery in England, they ordered an army to be levied for his support.
In England the whole of the conservative party, with many of the most conspicuous members of the Long Parliament at its head, was drifting, in its horror of the religious and political changes which seemed impending, towards the King; and the news from Scotland gave the signal for fitful insurrections in almost every quarter. London was only held down by main force, old officers of the Parliament unfurled the royal flag in South Wales, and surprised Pembroke. The seizure of Berwick and Carlisle opened a way for the Scotch invasion. Kent, Essex, and Hertford broke out in revolt. The fleet in the Downs sent their captains on shore, hoisted the King's pennon, and blockaded the Thames. "The hour is come for the Parliament to save the kingdom and to govern alone," cried Cromwell; but the Parliament only showed itself eager to take advantage of the crisis to profess its adherence to monarchy, to reopen the negotiations it had broken off with the King, and to deal the fiercest blow at religious freedom which it had ever received. The Presbyterians flocked back to their seats; and an "Ordinance for the suppression of Blasphemies and Heresies," which Vane and Cromwell had long held at bay, was passed by triumphant majorities.
Any man - ran this terrible statute - denying the doctrine of the Trinity or of the Divinity of Christ, or that the books of Scripture are "the Word of God," or the resurrection of the body, or a future day of judgement, and refusing on trial to abjure his heresy, "shall suffer the pain of death." Any man declaring (amidst a long list of other errors) "that man by nature hath free will to turn to God," that there is a Purgatory, that images are lawful, that infant baptism is unlawful; any one denying the obligation of observing the Lord's day, or asserting "that the Church government by Presbytery is anti-Christian or unlawful," shall on a refusal to renounce his errors "be commanded to prison." It was plain that the Presbyterians counted on the King's success to resume their policy of conformity, and had Charles been free, or the New Model disbanded, their hopes would probably have been realized. But Charles was still safe at Carisbrook; and the New Model was facing fiercely the danger which surrounded it. The wanton renewal of the war at a moment when all tended to peace swept from the mind of Fairfax and Cromwell, as from that of the army at large, every thought of reconciliation with the King. Soldiers and generals were at last bound together again in a stern resolve.
On the eve of their march against the revolt all gathered in a solemn prayer-meeting, and came " to a very clear and joint resolution, 'That it was our duty, if ever the Lord brought us back again in peace, to call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to account for the blood he has shed and mischief he has done to his utmost against the Lord's cause and people in this poor nation.'" In a few days Fairfax had trampled down the Kentish insurgents, and had prisoned those of the eastern countries within the walls of Colchester, while Cromwell drove the Welsh insurgents within those of Pembroke. Both towns however held stubbornly out; and though a rising under Lord Holland in the neighbourhood of London was easily put down, there was no force left to stem the inroad of the Scots, who poured over the border some twenty thousand strong. Luckily the surrender of Pembroke at this critical moment set Cromwell free. Pushing rapidly northward with five thousand men, he called in the force under Lambert which had been gallantly hanging on the Scottish flank, and pushed over the Yorkshire hills into the valley of the Ribble, where the Duke of Hamilton, reinforced by three thousand royalists of the north, had advanced as far as Preston. With an army which now numbered ten thousand men, Cromwell poured down on the flank of the Duke's straggling line of march, attacked the Scots as they retired behind the Ribble, passed the river with them, cut their rearguard to pieces at Wigan, forced the defile at Warrington, where the flying enemy made a last and desperate stand, and drove their foot to surrender, while Lambert hunted down Hamilton and the horse.