During the middle of the 19th century, works of art depicting scenes connected with Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, Henrietta Maria and the struggle of Cavalier versus Roundhead were more prolific than any other period of history. This is initially surprising as few periods should have been less appealing to High Victorian ideals than that of Caroline and Cromwellian England. The two worlds seem diametrically opposed but the seventeenth century proved to be a rich source for the Victorian imagination. The world of the Enlightenment attached enormous significance to the clash of King and Parliament. Whether Whig or Tory, both parties believed that the present system of government in England reflected traditional English 'liberties' fought for and won in the struggle of King and Parliament, a mode of constitutional government set against Continental, and especially French, systems. According to Whig historians and propagandists, England's unique democracy was a source of pride and its ancient liberties had always abided until the first two Stuart kings had threatened to violate them. The confrontation of the Roundheads and Cavaliers was firstly seen as a constitutional one. After the Napoleonic wars, Sir Walter Scott found the struggle of Charles I and Cromwell a rich subject of local legend and folklore for his romantic literature. Through Rokeby (1813) and Woodstock; or, The Cavalier. A tale of the year sixteen hundred and fifty-one the protagonists were projected as people of heroic romance. His works inspired many historical novels, plays and paintings. Charles Landseer painted The Surrender of Arundel Castle to Sir William Waller, January 6th, 1643 in 1870 towards the end of this interest in the Civil War period, eight years before Yeames undertook And When Did You Last See Your Father? (Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery), one of the most famous of all Victorian evocations of British history. The period 1840-70 was the great age of history painting and Charles Landseer was amongst its prime exponents, others of whom included Edward Mathew Ward, Sir Edwin Landseer, Daniel Maclise, John Calcott Horsley, Frederick Goodall and Charles West Cope.
Charles Landseer was the elder brother of the much better known and more successful Edwin. Like his sibling, he studied under his father, the engraver John Landseer, and then with Benjamin Robert Haydon, the apostle of 'high art', before entering the Royal Academy Schools in 1816. There he was taught by one of the most brilliant Preceptors in the entire history of the Schools, Henry Fuseli. In the early 1820s he travelled in Portugal and Brazil with Lord Stuart de Rothesay, who was engaged on a mission to negotiate a commercial treaty with Don Pedro I; the drawings he made on these journeys were exhibited at the British Institution in 1828 and sold at Christie's on 9 April 1999, lot 1 (£710,000). In 1828 he also made his debut at the Royal Academy, where he was to show a total of seventy-three pictures during the next half century. Specialising in historical subjects and genre, he was elected R.A. in 1845, and in 1851 he succeeded to Fuseli's old post of Keeper, holding it until 1873. Despite his three-year seniority, he outlived Edwin, dying in 1879 at the age of eighty. He bequeathed £10,000 to the Academy to found Landseer scholarships, together with George Stubbs's drawings for The Anatomy of the Horse, which he had inherited from his brother. His studio sale was held at Christie's on 14 April 1880 when this picture was sold as lot 535 for 15 guineas. The world auction record for a painting by Charles Landseer is currently held by The Merry Monks of Melrose sold at Christie's, 11 November 1999, lot 14 (£117,000).
The seventeenth century was for Arundel Castle the greatest and most melancholy period of its military history. It was too important a fortress to be overlooked during the Civil War. Its owner, Thomas Howard, 24th Earl of Norfolk and Earl of Surrey (1585-1646) was living abroad and the castle became the subject of dispute between various factions. It first fell into the hands of the Parliamentarians, although the details of how and when are not recorded. However, before the end of 1643, the Royalists were determined if possible to dispossess their opponents. Lord Hopton, who had recently taken Winchester, was charged by the King to repossess the castle. He attacked the unprepared, ill-equipped and inadequately defended castle on 6 December 1643 and three days later it surrendered. Hopton brought in a garrison of 200 men to defend it.
Nearby in Hampshire, a General of the Parliamentarian forces, Sir William Waller, had obtained reinforcements and surprised a regiment of King's troops under Colonel Bowles at Alton who quickly yielded. General Waller immediately decided to try and recover Arundel. From Farnham, he crossed the country through Haslemere and Midhurst and on the evening of 19 December 1643, he settled before the castle. The seige lasted for twelve days and after fighting in the town and castle, 1000 prisoners were taken and the Cavaliers forfeited the castle. It was almost a ruin, the hall and the whole of the south-west side was destroyed. It was not until 1720 that any attempts were made to repair the damage and make it habitable once again.