We have no authentic drawing of the Castle as it existed when in its complete state. Setting aside the disputed questions as to the number of chapels— three or more—contained within the Castle walls: the exact position of the great hall, &c., we can get a good general idea of its appearance from the plan made by an architect named John Smithson in 1617, and the sketch view, adapted from a drawing on the painted window in the Art Museum, compiled by the architect, the late T. C. Hine, from ancient records and illustrations.

Plan of castle adapted from Smithson's plan: 1617.
Plan of castle adapted from Smithson's plan: 1617.

Throughout the long and bitter struggle between the King and Parliament the Castle was destined to play a very important part, for it was from the summit of the highest tower that Charles I. unfurled his standard of war on the evening of a stormy and tempestuous day in August, 1642. Starting from Clare Hall, the residence of the 2nd Earl of Clare in Gridlesmith Gate (now Pelham Street), the King, attended by a devoted band of nobles, including Sir Edmund Verney, the standard bearer, rode across the Market Place, through the Moot Hall gate, and up the narrow road (Friar Lane) leading to the Castle. The drawbridge was lowered to allow the cavalcade to enter by the same arched approach and gateway that serves as the entrance still. Their intention was practically to make a declaration of war by unfurling the great standard. Colors were presented to each regiment assembled, and orders given to fight against all the King’s enemies, the Earl of Lindsey being appointed King’s general.

Since the introduction of standing armies, in the reign of Henry VIII., a standard of war was no longer necessary; but under the peculiar circumstances—a Sovereign declaring war upon his own subjects—the national banner of the time, displaying the crosses of S.S. George and Andrew, in the form of a Union Jack, was inappropriate, and so the King had recourse to the custom that had prevailed in feudal ages of unfurling a standard, around which his adherents might rally their forces.

The standards of old were generally composed of the livery colors, and bore, in addition to the Cross of St. George, a motto or war-cry and the arms, supporters and crests of the leader.

From the evidence given by eye-witnesses at the trial of the King, we learn the following particulars concerning the raising of his standard:—

"Robert Large, painter, of the town and county of Nottingham, deposed upon oath that in the summer of 1642 he painted, by command of my Lord Beaumont, the great standard of war that was placed upon the high tower of the Castle of Nottingham, and that he often saw the King thereabouts, at the same time that his standard was erected and displayed.”

"Samuel Lawson, of Nottingham, maltster, aged 30 years or thereabouts, sworn and examined, saith: That about August, 1642, he this deponent saw the King’s standard brought forth of Nottingham Castle, borne upon divers gentlemen’s shoulders, who (as the report was) were noblemen; and he saw the same carried by them on the Hill close adjoining the Castle, with a herald before it; and there the said standard was erected, with great shouting, acclamations, and sound of drums and trumpets; and that when the said standard was so erected there was a proclamation made; and that he, this deponent, saw the King present at the erecting thereof, &c., &c.”

Concerning the standard, we are told that it was “a large red streamer, pennon shaped, cloven at the end, attached to a long red staff having about twenty supporters, and bore next the staff a St. George’s Cross, then an escutcheon of the Royal Arms, with a hand pointing to the crown above it, and the legend


together with two other crowns, each surmounted by a lion passant.” This is the sum of the evidence given by witnesses who had seen the conspicuous emblems on the standard as it floated in the breeze, and it is somewhat surprizing that notwithstanding these clear statements the pictorial representations of the raising of the standard should shew the bearings so variously.

The accompanying diagram, drawn in accordance with the evidence and the laws of heraldry, although only conjectural may be taken as correct, but there may be some difference of opinion on minor points, such as the exact position of the hand, &c.

The St. George’s Cross is placed next the staff, and occupies about one-third of the space; the other adornments consist of an “achievement” of the heraldic insignia borne by the King, with the addition of the hand, and the substitution of the legend “Give unto Caesar his due” for the Royal motto “Dieu et mon Droit"—or perhaps it may have been in addition to it.

The people looked sullenly on while the standard was being unfurled, and in spite of all the ceremonious display, and contrary to the King’s expectations but few came forward with offers of service. The night came on, the wind became very tempestuous, and the standard was blown down from its exalted position.

Three days later, August 25th, it was set up again, but this time it was taken to the open field on the north side of the Castle wall (now the grounds of the General Hospital), as the King and his counsellors thought that its detention within the Castle was probably preventing ordinary people from joining the ranks.

Charles I's standard.
Charles I's standard.

Attended by princes and nobles, and surrounded by troops and dignitaries, the imposing procession marched from the Castle to “Standard Hill,” where the King gave orders for the standard to be again unfurled. The attendant herald then read in a loud voice a proclamation stating why the King had taken the step, and beseeching all his faithful subjects to adhere to him. Then Sir Edmund Verney, the Knight-mareschal, whose duty it was to bear the Royal banner in time of war and to defend it with his life, stepped forward and passionately declared “they who would take that standard from him must first wrest his soul from his body” (Sir Edmund fulfilled his words, for he was slain in the first battle—Edgehill— before the standard was captured). Drums rattled, trumpets sounded, people tossed their hats into the air and shouted “Long live the King!” but in spite of all this demonstration very few rallied to the King’s cause, and in the mind of the superstitious King and many others that fall of the standard from the high tower of the Castle was looked upon as a very ill omen (as after events proved it to have been). Under these disheartening conditions the King tried to conciliate Parliament, but without avail, as they refused to entertain his propositions “until the standard that he had set up was taken down.” Seeing that all his efforts were unavailing, and disappointed at the meagre support accorded him, the King left the town on September 13th and did not visit it again until after the fight at Naseby, where “King and kingdom were lost.”