So, then, I guess this will be the first of a series of blogs on the matter of the mysterious miniature.
A little background!
As part of my research for “The Serpent’s Root” I discovered that the erstwhile King’s General in the West, Daphne du Maurier’s dashing hero Richard Grenville, was imprisoned on St Michael’s Mount in spring 1646. Now at the end of the Civil War in Cornwall, the Mount was one of the last loyal Royalist strongholds in the West.
-It wasn’t bought by the Parliamentarian colonel Sir John St Aubyn, whose family are the present owners, until around 1650. Sir John was appointed Governor of the Mount in 1647, when it became a prison, and it seems he liked the place so much he decided to make it his family seat! An interesting little family titbit, Sir John’s mother Catherine was the daughter of John Arundell of Trerice…. the governor of Pendennis Castle until August 1646, and last man standing for the King in the West. That particular dynamic is, I think, one which merits further exploration…. by the sword divided, indeed. Poor Catherine must have been in an untenable position.
Anyway, Sir Arthur Bassett – and his indomitable wife – held the Mount successfully against Parliament until April 23rd 1646 – surrendering, it is said, on the advice of th Duke of Hamilton. Sir Arthur was allowed to depart with his retinue to the Isles of Scilly, leaving behind 30 pieces of ordnance, 3 murdering pieces, 80 tuns of wine, 100 barrels of gunpowder, 500 muskets and 100 pikes. (From the State Papers of 1646)
Yes, of course she will get her own blog post. Anne Trelawney Basset deserves her own book, never mind her own blog post!
But before that, Ralph Hopton, commanding the King’s western Army, had put Richard Grenville into custody on the Mount, on grounds that – as per usual – Sir Richard was stirring up trouble as fas as go could he, and refusing to accept the authority of any other commander but himself in the West.
Not an unreasonable course of action: the last thing you want when you’re on the back foot anyway is an insubordinate infantry commander playing power games with a force that’s already starting to break up due to pay arrears, mutiny, hunger, deprivation, and demoralisation. The garrison at Truro was close to mutiny; which would have been unfortunate, given that the Mint was located there. Shipping Grenville off to an island only accessible from the mainland at low tide by a narrow causeway probably sounded like a great idea – after all, how much trouble could he cause there?
To which the answer was, sufficient that the Prince of Wales shipped him off to France after the surrender at Tresillian in March, rather than see him fall into the hands of Parliament.
So far, so interesting, so what?
Well, Sir Richard seems to have left a little something behind when he left.
The thing is, it’s something that he shouldn’t have had – a miniature painting that appears to be inscribed to the wrong Grenville brother, and that shouldn’t exist for another three years.
And on that mysterious note, I will leave you to ponder until next week!