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Marching for the King


BERWICK-UPON-TWEED is a town rightly conscious of its history. Thirteen times it changed hands between Scotland and England. Though English now, and in the Newcastle diocese, much about it is Scottish.

Its unusual church is famed for having no tower or spire: it was built in plain Cromwellian times shortly after the execution of the King. The Civil War features largely in Berwick's history, for it was captured by the Royalists in 1648.

The English Civil War Society recently attended a 17th-century service at the parish church conducted by the Vicar of Berwick, the Revd Alan Hughes ( centre). In return, they invited him to the King's Army Parade in London to mark the anniversary of the execution of Charles I in 1649.

Mr Hughes tells me that about 500 members of the English Civil War Society, with muskets, pikes, horses, baggage carts, and gun carriages, set off from St James's Palace along the Mall, marching to a muffled drumbeat, and following the route that Charles took to the scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall.

The society is the only civil body permitted to march through the streets with fully functioning weaponry, he says. They went to Trafalgar Square to lay a wreath at Charles's statue, and carried on to stop beneath the window of the Banqueting House through which the King stepped on to the scaffold. There Mr Hughes, wearing a black-and-silver 17th-century cope, read the service of commemoration from his original 1751 Book of Common Prayer.

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