One of the most advanced of the artillery fortresses built by Henry VIII: used as a prison for eminent 17th-century captives, and later strengthened during the 19th and 20th centuries. It commands the narrow entrance to the Solent.
The only historical event associated with Hurst Castle is the confinement there for a period of twenty-seven days of the unfortunate King Charles during the last few weeks of his life. In a MS. in the British Museum the following account is given of his removal from Carisbrooke Castle to this fortress: “In the morning of November 29th, 1648, the King, hearing a great knocking; at his dressing-room door, sent the Duke of Richmond to learn its meaning”. It was said that some gentlemen from the army wished to speak with him, and these being admitted rushed to the King, who was in bed, and abruptly told him they had orders to remove him. On his enquiring whither, after some talking apart, they told him, “To Hurst Castle”. “They could not name a worse,” remarked Charles. Then scarcely giving him time for breakfast, they hurried him into a coach, allowing the Duke of Richmond to accompany him for two miles only. The carriage containing the unhappy King moved slowly on, guarded by two troops of horse, from Newport towards Worseley’s Tower, a little beyond Yarmouth haven (a small port opposite Lymington river), where they rested an hour and then went into a boat, when, “the wind and tide favouring”, says Sir Thomas Herbert, “they crossed the narrow sea in three hours, and landed at Hurst Castle”. The custodian who received the King at this wretched place is described as not unsuitable. ” His look was stern; his hair and large beard were black and bushy; he held a partizan in his hand, and (Switzer-like) had a great basket-hilt sword by his side; hardly could one see a man of more grim aspect, and no less robust and rude was his behaviour”. So that Charles, who half-suspected his gaolers of the worst intentions against himself, remarked to his attendants that if this were so, here was the place and these the people for such deeds. At that time the fort contained only a few “dog-lodgings” for soldiers; surrounded by a wintry sea, with the waves beating against its walls, it must have been a prison dreary enough to the King, deprived of all his friends and at the mercy of his enemies. His fears were especially aroused when, on December 18, he was awakened at midnight by the arrival of Colonel Harrison, against whom he had been warned, with a following of armed men. This, however, proved to be an escort sent to conduct him to Windsor, whither they brought him next day, thence taking him to his doom at Whitehall.
Charles’s chamber is still to be seen in the fort; it was a mere closet, on the second storey, measuring 8 feet by 4½ only. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)
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