A Chirk Castle story

If you join an underground movement and plan a rebellion, you really should know how to keep a secret. It’s quite hard to explain exactly what led the English to start the civil war in 1642 ripping families and friendships apart.

Thomas Myddelton was a staunch parliamentarian, and when the war broke out he was fifty-six and had no military experience which meant he was the “perfect” person to be appointed to the rank of Major General.

As you can imagine he did not do well. The entire region of North Wales was mainly royalist, so Chirk Castle was quickly captured by the Cavaliers, and they held it until Thomas had managed to bribe his way back home in 1646. Like many other people who supported Parliament during the war, Myddelton did not want to see a monarch executed. He believed the war could be ended via an agreement with Charles I’st.

He Parliament and switched sides after the execution, hoping to see the eventual restoration of the monarchy with Charles, the king’s son, taking the throne. Several nobles decided they should do something to make this happen sooner rather than later.  They formed a movement called the “Sealed Knot”; it was probably the worst underground movement that ever existed.

They were so bad at plotting and keeping secrets that Cromwell’s spies usually knew about their plans faster than some of the other underground members, so whenever they tried to act they were swiftly stopped.

In 1659, things began to change. Oliver Cromwell died, and his son did not manage to replace him as a leader. A vacuum was created, and an opportunity arose for the Sealed Knot to finally act.

As usually, their plans were discovered immediately, but in North Wales, there was an uprising led by Sir George Booth and Thomas Myddelton.

Thomas arranged an army and “liberated” Wrexham for Charles II before teaming up with Booth in Chester, where they were defeated by the Republicans. Following the uprising, all of Myddelton lands were confiscated, and Chirk Castle was partly destroyed like so many other castles across the country.

What the “revolutionist” did not know that while they were doing their plotting, bigger powers were already working in favour of the restoration, which meant that their revolt had been largely unnecessary.

Thanks to the action of one of Parliament General George Monk, an agreement was made to return Charles II to England. Luckily for Thomas Myddelton, King Charles II was considerably impressed with the efforts of the “Sealed Knot”, and, as a reward, he gave him £32K which was more than enough to rebuild Chirk, and upgrade it from a medieval castle to a stately home.

The King also gave Myddelton the gift of a beautiful cabinet made of ebony and ivory which is still on display in the staterooms at Chirk.

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