About JuliaH

I teach history courses for the Workers' Educational Association as well as giving talks on various history topics across Yorkshire and the Midlands as well as talks about the history and creation of cross stitch samplers and blackwork embroidery.

The Babingtons of Dethick before the reign of Elizabeth I

Babington, Thomas d.1519The Babington family of Dethick arrived in Derbyshire in 1420 when Sir Thomas Babington, who was born in the mid 1370s, married Isabel Dethick the daughter of Robert Dethick,  heiress to the Manor of Dethick. Prior to that time the Babingtons were a Nottinghamshire family who had moved south sometime before from Babington in Northumberland.  There are records of thirteenth century Babingtons in Northumberland during the reign of Henry III. By the reign of Edward III there are records of Babingtons in East Bridgeford.

It was from this family that the Babingtons of Dethick descended.  Sir John Babington of East Bridgeford had five sons and a daughter called Sidonia who was born in 1374. Thomas was John’s eldest son and therefore his heir. There were also Sir William Babington of Chilwell; Arnold Babington who moved to Norwich and became a Merchant of the Staple; Norman who remained in East Bridgeford and who can be found in the records as the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in 1428.  Norman did rather well for himself because he married a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.The fifth son was called John and he settled in Devon.

 

Sir Thomas Babington who married Isabel should, of course, have inherited the East Bridgeford property but it appears that he sold his inheritance to William prior to going on campaign to France.  When Thomas returned from the Hundred Years War having fought at Agincourt in 1415, he purchased the manor of Kingston-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire. He did the things required of fifteenth century gentlemen.   He became a member of parliament, was appointed to administrative jobs and produced sons and married into the Derbyshire landed gentry.

He was also a pious man and spent money on the church at Ashover.  The tower was built to mark his safe return from the Hundred Years War.   He died in 1464 and he was buried at Ashover rather than Kingston.

Sir John Babington, Thomas’s son married Isabel Bradbourne, ensuring links with another local family.  He was the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests in 1480 – demonstrating that public roles were semi-inherited, in this case from his Uncle William.  He was a Yorkist supporter and had fought for Edward IV at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.  On 22ndAugust 1485 he fought for Richard III and died at Bosworth a the hands of Sir John Blount who was Henry Tudor’s Provost Marshal.  Isabel seems to have died the following year.

 

Evidently  Henry Tudor didn’t harbour a grudge against the Babingtons because the records show that Thomas’s grandson, another Thomas pictured at the start of this post, inherited the estates and the job of Sheriff despite the fact that in 1498 he married Editha or Edith Fitzherbert of Norbury.  One of the interesting things about the Norbury FitzHerberts’ is that their effigies bear the insignia of the white boar – Richard III’s personal symbol.

Thomas-Babington-of-Dethick-d-300x275.jpgThomas died in 1518 and was buried in Ashover where his grandparents were buried.  It was the first thing he identified in his will.  His wife had already died and the monument already built.  The figures around the tomb included members of his family. He did not want it broken so that he could be interred. He stipulated where he wished to be interred, that candles were to be burned around his body and alms given to the poor. He asked that his debts be paid and that if he had offended anyone that they should have restitution.  He asked for masses and prayers to be said.  In short it was a good pre-Reformation will with attention being paid for departing purgatory for Heaven as soon as possible.

 

He left behind him a family of nine sons and six daughters.  His oldest son was called Anthony.  His grandson was also called Anthony and whereas Sir Anthony Babington senior is remembered for building the church tower at Dethick, his grandson is remembered for the so-called Babington Plot which saw him attainted and executed for treason in 1586.

Antony Babington having been attainted a traitor and executed in 1586 didn’t lose the Babingtons all their property.  His brother Francis inherited Kingston-on-Soar but he sold it to Gilbert Talbot – the Earl of Shrewsbury and so the manor passed from the hands of the Babington family.  Anthony’s other brother George sold the Manor of Dethick into the hands of the Blackwall family.

Kerry, C. (1887) ‘Babington family (from Report of the Hon. Secretary).’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal :9. (pp. XXI-XXVIII).

Babington, T. (1897) ‘The will of Thomas Babington, of Dethick, Derbys.’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal :19. (pp. 080-093).

 

 

The Holland family -part 2

msharley1319f25Yesterday’s post covered all of points 1-3 and most of 4:

  1. Robert Holland who married Maud de Zouche and managed to get himself beheaded by some irate Thomas of Lancaster supporters in 1328.
  2. Sir Thomas Holland who married Edward I’s granddaughter Joan of Kent in a secret marriage.  He became the first  Holland Earl of Kent. He died in 1360.
  3.  Sir Thomas and Joan had two sons – Thomas and John. Thomas became the 2nd Holland earl of Kent after his mother’s death in 1385.  He was married to Alice FitzAlan the daughter of the Earl of Arundel. the 2nd earl died in 1394.  I’ll come back to John shortly.
  4. The 2nd earl and his wife Alice had two sons, another Thomas and Edmund.  Thomas, the elder of the two brothers became the 3rd earl but was elevated by his half-brother Richard II to the title 1st Duke of Surrey. He was demoted back to being an earl when Henry of Bolingbroke usurped the throne from his cousin Richard II.  In January 1400 Thomas plotted with his uncle John to overthrow Henry IV and return Richard II to power.  Both Thomas and John were executed.  Thomas did not have any heirs so the title of 4th earl went to Thomas’s brother Edmund.  Edmund was killed in 1408 during one of the intermittent skirmishes of the Hundred Years War.  The Holland Earldom of Kent was extinct as he had no heirs.holland1exeter

So let’s go back to John, the second son of Joan of Kent.  John benefited from the patronage of his step father the Black Prince.  He married Elizabeth of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt, was elevated to the earldom of Huntingdon and then to the title 1st Duke of Exeter.  When Henry IV gained the throne John was demoted back to his earldom, plotted to kill Henry and his sons and was promptly executed.

Effigy_John_Holland_died_1447He and Elizabeth of Lancaster had three sons.  The eldest and youngest died without heirs whilst the middle son, conveniently called John regained the dukedom from Henry V following the victory at Agincourt.  John, the second Duke of Exeter, married the widow of Edmund Mortimer and had two children.  The boy was called Henry and he was born in 1430 so we have now arrived at the Wars of the Roses generations.

Henry became the 3rd Duke of Exeter in 1447.  He was an important political figure.  So it is not surprising that he married Richard of York’s young daughter Anne. On December 30th 1460 he was one of the Lancastrian commanders at the Battle of Wakefield – where his father-in-law was killed.  He was at Towton and fled to Scotland to continue serving Margaret of Anjou.  He wasn’t caught by the Yorkist king Edward IV until he was injured at the Battle of Barnet on the 14th April 1471.  The following year his wife, who had already separated from him, sought a divorce.  In 1475 he was let out of the Tower having volunteered to go to France with Edward IV.  Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter and Joan of Kent’s great grandson.  On the way back from France Henry fell mysteriously overboard and drowned – probably on the orders of Edward IV.  I’ve posted about the 3rd duke before. Click on the link to open a new window: https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/02/07/duke-of-exeter-was-he-murdered-or-did-he-slip/ Henry’s only child, a daughter called Anne had predeceased him a year earlier.

And that’s the end of the Holland males.  There are, of course, assorted female Holland descendants – married as  you might expect into some of the most important families in the country.  I shall begin to look at the female line in part three of this series.

 

 

The Holland family -from medieval gentry to dukes – part one.

220px-Thomas_Holland_1430.jpgThe story of the Holland family begins with Robert de Holland from Upholland in Lancashire.  He was born about 1283. He was a trusted part of Thomas of Lancaster’s household.  He benefitted from being within the Lancaster affinity by acquiring land as well as a wife in the form of Maud de Zouche – a co-heiress.

He fought at Boroughbridge in 1322 but not on the side of the earl who was in rebellion against his cousin the king.  This may well have been because Edward II was holding one of Robert’s daughters hostage at the time. However, the Lancaster faction were not quick to forgive the fact that the second earl was executed in Pontefract soon after the battle and that Robert, one of his most trusted men, had been a traitor to the earl’s cause.

Thomas of Lancaster was succeeded by his younger brother – Henry of Lancaster. Time passed.  On 15 October 1328 Robert Holland, or Holand, was at Borehamwood.  Unfortunately so were a number of Lancaster supporters.  There was an argument.  Robert was beheaded.

Thomas, Robert’s eldest son pictured at the start of this post in his garter robes, served Edward III. He was a man of no substantial wealth.  His mother Maud had to borrow money so he could be outfitted as a knight. However, it would appear that Thomas had a great deal of charm, not to mention nerve and persistence.  He wooed and won Edward III’s young cousin Joan of Kent.  They married in a secret exchange of vows when she was eleven or twelve.  He was more than ten years older than Joan.  It would take another nine years, a bigamous marriage and a papal decree before he was allowed to live with his bride.

Thomas’s fortunes really changed when Joan’s brother died.  He had no other heirs so Joan became the Countess of Kent in her own right (suo jure).  Thomas effectively became an earl through the right of his wife.  Thomas who had a proven military  track record by this time now had the money and the position in society to fulfil a leading military role in the Hundred Years War. Thomas and Joan’s eldest son another Thomas became a baron after his father’s death but did not become the 2nd Holland Earl of Kent until Joan died in 1385.

wiz33vab_medium.jpgThomas died in December 1360.  The following year his widow married her cousin Edward, the Black Prince.  The Holland children now had access to patronage with a very heavy clout.  Thomas (Joan’s son) gained a wealthy and aristocratic bride from the FitzAlan family.   More importantly it was the Hollands’ half-brother, Richard, who ascended the throne after Edward III died in 1377.

Thomas and John Holland were loyal to their half brother, Richard II, and benefited from their close ties – John even managed to get away with murder.  The Holland family found themselves spouses from some of the wealthiest families in the country, had the ear and trust of the Crown and continued to thrive whilst Richard II was on the throne.  The second earl’s son, another Thomas not only became the 3rd Earl of Kent but from 1397 the 1st Duke of Surrey.  This was a reward for loyalty.  Thomas had arrested his FitzAlan uncle on behalf of his royal uncle Richard II.   Perhaps because he felt a bit guilty about it he the founded of Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire the following year.

It is perhaps unsurprising that when Richard II was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke – Richard’s first cousin and the Hollands’ first cousin once removed- that they found themselves being demoted.  The dukedom had to be handed back.  As a consequence Thomas Holland the 3rd earl of Kent became involved with the Epiphany Rising of 1400.  He was executed.  He had no children.

holland1exeter.jpg0bea27da411458b11f502fb7d52aad65.jpgThomas’s uncle John (Joan’s second son) was executed at the same time.  John Holland had married another wealthy royal cousin, Elizabeth of Lancaster (John of Gaunt’s daughter).  This may have been because of the Black Prince’s patronage and it may have been because his mother Joan of Kent got on well with her cousin John of Gaunt.  John became Earl of Huntingdon in 1388 and in 1397 became the Duke of Exeter.  He was also involved in removing Richard II’s enemies.  In John’s case not only had he arrested his uncle Richard FitzAlan (the 11th Earl of Arundel) he has gone to Calais to arrest Thomas of Woodstock, Richard’s youngest Royal uncle. Thomas had died whilst in Calais as pictured in Froissart – the story involves a mattress…

When Richard II fell from power John was stripped of his dukedom but was allowed to retain his earldom by his brother-in-law the new king Henry IV.  This double relationship did not stop John from being involved in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 nor did it prevent his execution.

For the moment the fortunes of the Holland family looked bleak. It would continue to be dubious until 1415 when John Holland’s son, another John, would be able to regain the dukedom of Exeter from Henry V after the Battle of Agincourt. He would also continue the family tradition of marrying someone who was a cousin in a degree that required papal dispensation and which kept his family close to the line of succession!

Hicks, Michael.  Whose who in Medieval History

P.S. A family tree will be forthcoming at some point soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Alice of Norfolk – granddaughter of Edward I murdered by her own husband

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)Alice of Norfolk, was born about 1324.  She was the daughter of Thomas of Brotherton and Alice Hales.  She was the youngest of their three children.

Her story  begins for the purposes of this post in October 1330 when Edward III pictured at the start of this post staged a coup to rid himself of the regency of Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France.  The band of men who crept through the tunnels beneath Nottingham Castle were led by William Montagu or Montacute. In 1337 he was created Earl of Salisbury and remained a key influence on Edward III throughout his life.

Thomas was Edward II’s  oldest half-brother but had been swift to align himself with his sister-in-law Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer.  Now he had a problem.  In October 1330 Edward III had regained control of the kingdom and Thomas, despite being Earl Marshal, was not what you might describe as a central political figure.  It is evident from Edward III’s letters that Thomas was not his favourite uncle – that place had been reserved for Thomas’s younger brother, Edmund Earl of Kent whose execution may have decided Edward III to claim what was his.

Thomas_of_Brotherton,_1st_Earl_of_NorfolkIt is perhaps not surprising then that Thomas used his youngest child as a political pawn and married her into the Montagu family in 1333. William Montagu had been raised alongside Edward III and had married into the extended royal family in the person of thirteen year old Joan of Kent.  Unfortunately it had turned out to be a bigamous marriage.  Joan having already married Thomas Holland before the knight went on crusade in Prussia. Eventually, after much wrangling, the pope told Joan to return to Thomas Holland.

Joan’s cousin, Alice, married Edward, William Montagu’s brother.  The couple had five children of whom four were daughters.

Twenty years after her marriage Alice died as a result of injuries sustained during a violent assault by her husband and some of his retainers. They had a bit of a reputation in and around Bungay which is saying something given that this story unfolds against the backdrop of the Hundred Years War.  Montagu fought at Crecy (1346) as did his more famous older brother.

After Alice’s death at the end of January 1352   Montagu and some of his retainers, no doubt heroes of Crecy, were charged with her murder but only one, William Dunche of Bungay, was convicted in and he was eventually pardoned in 1361.

Montagu eventually died in July 1361 having got away with the murder of his wife.

 

Thomas of Brotherton – a king’s son

Thomas_of_Brotherton,_1st_Earl_of_Norfolk.pngThomas of Brotherton was the oldest son of Edward I’s second wife Margaret of France. Margaret was never crowned.   Her son Thomas was born on 1 June 1300  near Pontefract.  It was a difficult labour which is why Thomas is named after Thomas Becket.  Margaret and her ladies prayed that the sainted bishop would intercede on Margaret’s behalf for a safe delivery. Marguerite_of_france copy.jpg

A year after he was born Thomas had his own household. When he was two years old Edward I created  his new son the Earl of Norfolk.  As readers of the History Jar have probably come to expect by now, there isn’t much information about Thomas’s childhood other that what can be gleaned from the account books.

On the 7th July 1307 Edward I died and Thomas’s half brother, Edward, became king in their father’s stead.  Thomas was just seven years old but he was heir tot he throne. Not that Edward II lavished titles and estates upon his little brother.  Edward I had meant to make Thomas the Earl of Cornwall – that particular title went to Piers Gaveston.  It didn’t impress Margaret of France (pictured above) or other members of the royal family that such an important title should be wasted on a favourite like Gaveston.

edwardiiEventually, in 1312, after the birth of his own heir, Edward II confirmed his half brother as Earl of Norfolk and Earl Marshal of England. He also appears in the legal record as being an executor of his mother’s will. We also have records of Thomas’s half sister Mary visiting him regularly when he was a child.  Mary was a nun at Amesbury.

The conformation of Thomas as Earl of Norfolk  would normally have made him politically important. It was confirming his seat on the royal board.  However he was still only twelve years old at the time. As he grew to maturity the barons became increasingly restive.  Political uncertainty ultimately gave rise to rebellion.  Interestingly as a young man he was at the funeral of Piers Gaveston.  Edward II clearly felt that his brother should be seen to side with him at that point in time.  As Thomas grew up he demonstrated the Plantagenet temper.  He also fell victim to Hugh Despenser’s greed – he was required to hand over valuable land to the Royal favourite including Chepstow which had a lucrative taxation on imported wine.  It is perhaps not surprising that he allied himself to his sister-in-law Isabella of France and took the opportunity to do a spot of looting from the Despensers along the way.  Thomas was one of the judges that found both the Despensers guilty.  He then settled into the new regime with the bonus of several large grants and estates.

The ties that held Thomas to Isabella and Mortimer were further strengthened when Thomas’s son Edward married Beatrice Mortimer, the daughter of Isabella’s lover Roger. However, within three years Norfolk had changed his allegiance to his nephew who was of age to rule without the regency of his mother and Roger Mortimer.

Ultimately Thomas became on of his nephew’s advisors when in 1330 Edward III reclaimed the throne for himself.  Thomas was after all, the Earl Marshal of England.  However, it appears that his nephew preferred other advisors than his uncle.

Sometime between his sixteenth and twentieth birthdays Thomas married Alice Hales of Harwich.  Her father was the coroner for Norfolk.  It seems odd that the son of a king would marry so far down the social ladder. They had three children – a boy and two girls.   Their son Edward died without children so the earldom of Norfolk was passed to Thomas’s daughter Margaret who is know in history as Margaret Marshal because the Dukes of Norfolk hold the title of Earl Marshal of England. Two of Margaret’s descendants would marry Henry VIII.

As for Thomas’s other daughter, she was called Alice. Alice was married to Edward Montagu.  His brother,  William, was one of Edward III’s favourites.  It may have been that Thomas was trying to rebuild his political capital.  She died in 1352 – murdered by her own husband.

Thomas died on the 20th September 1338 and is buried in the abbey of Bury St Edmunds.  He does not appear to have been very popular or very successful for that matter.

Sir Edmund Cokayne – knight for an hour

Sir edmund cokayne.jpgEdmund Cokayne or Cockayne, depending on the source and your own preference, is buried in St Oswald’s Church, Ashbourne but he lived near Alport at Harthill Hall.  His parents were Sir John Cokayne and Cecilia Vernon.  Sir John Cokayne was John of Gaunt’s steward for the duke’s estates north of the Trent – so very much part of the Lancaster Affinity.  As might be expected the family including Edmund were MPs for Derbyshire.

He fought at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 against Hotspur.  In July of that year the Percy family which had initially supported Henry of Bolingbroke against his cousin Richard II rebelled against Henry and joined with Owain Glyndwr.  Henry IV had been king since 1399 whilst his cousin starved to death in Pontefract Castle.  The Percys now stated that Henry had declared the throne illegally.  The aim of the Percys and the rebels was to kill Henry and his son in order to put Edmund Mortimer, the earl of March on the throne.  Mortimer was descended from Edward III’s second son, Lionel of Antwerp, so had a better claim than  Henry.  In addition Mortimer had been Richard II’s heir.

Edmund Cokayne’s family owed their position in society to the House of Lancaster.  They had risen to be de facto lords of the manor based on their service to John of Gaunt.  He was part of the 11,000 to 14,000 men who joined battle on behalf of Henry IV.  Depending on the numbers there were either 10,000 or 15,000 on the rebel side.  The battle of Shrewsbury was fought on the 21st July 1403.

Edmund was knighted on the field of battle by Henry IV and died an hour later.  His body was returned to Ashbourne where he was buried alongside his father in the Boothby Chapel in St Oswald’s Church.  The Cokayne coat of arms can be found alongside other arms in Battlefield Church, Shrewsbury.

Edmund’s brother and son would continue to serve the house of Lancaster.

greenfinch (1).jpg

Sir edmund Cokayne

 

Sir Charles Lucas -parole breaker or royalist martyr?

charles lucas.jpgCharles Lucas was one of Margaret Cavendish’s brothers.  An anti-Royalist mob sacked their home in 1642.  This was when Madge was sent off to Oxford to live with her sister.  She gained a place as one of Henrietta Maria’s ladies in waiting and went into exile with her.

Charles meanwhile as a younger brother was Cambridge educated but expected to make his own way in the world.  Like so many other younger sons he spent much of the 1630s on the Continent fighting in the Thirty Years War.  When Charles I declared war on the Scots in 1638, Charles returned home to fight in the so-called Bishop’s War.  He commanded a troop of horse under his brother Sir John Lucas’s command.  As a consequence he was knighted by the king and for those of you who like a Yorkshire link was made Governor of Richmond in 1639.  During the civil war itself Charles was part of Prince Rupert’s cavalry.  Later he transferred to the army of the Marquis of Newcastle – who Charles’ sister Madge would marry in 1645 in exile in Paris.

Eventually in 1646 Charles was taken prisoner at the Battle of Stow-On-The-Wold.  He gave his parole to Sir Thomas Fairfax that he would lay down his arms and go home.

Lucas went back on his word in June 1648 when Lord Goring, fresh from the rebellion in Kent, arrived in East Anglia.  Lucas occupied his home town, Colchester, in the name of the King.  The intention was to raise support in East Anglia but instead of which Thomas Fairfax surrounded Colchester and settled in for a siege.  Things were somewhat complicated by the fact that Fairfax absolutely refused to negotiate with Lucas – who had broken his parole. Lucas was executed – by firing squad (a fact which I couldn’t remember this morning.)  He and Lord Lisle were excluded from the terms that ended the siege because they had gone back on their words.  This may not have been strictly legal.  His tomb states that he was barbarously murdered.  The portrait of Sir Charles Lucas at the start of this post can be found in Colchester Castle.

 

I have posted abut the Siege of Colchester before.  That post can be found here: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/charles-lucas/

The Putney Debates- one man, one vote…or not.

putney-debatesAt the end of the First English Civil War in 1647 the men who had fought against the king found themselves in disagreement.  One group of politicians wanted to reach a settlement with the king other groups wanted more radical reforms.  It is safe to say that none of them trusted one another much by the end of 1647. The Putney Debates, held at St Mary’s Church Putney in the autumn of 1647 presented the views of different factions within the army.

On one side of the argument were the so called Grandees.  These were officers who came from the landed gentry. Unsurprisingly they did not share the Levellers’ desire for a redistribution of land.  Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and Thomas Fairfax were the most influential of the Grandees as well as being respected military commanders.  These men were initially prepared to negotiate terms with Charles I as the war drew to an end.

On the other side of the argument were men such as Colonel Rainsborough who after four years of war had been radicalised.  The men who represented the radical groups and rank and file had been first appointed as agitators or “new agents” elected to take the grievances  of the soldiery to the Grandees when the news of Parliament’s desire to disband the New Model Army had first been aired in 1647.  Initially men wanted to know when they would receive their back pay, receive indemnity from actions carried out during the war and dispute the way in which they were being drafted to Ireland.

In October 1647 five particularly radical regiments selected new agitators and issued a manifesto contacting their viewpoint.  This was endorsed by civilian levellers as well as radicals within the army.  They wanted universal male suffrage, two-yearly parliaments, reorganisation of constituencies, equality of law and freedom from being pressed into military service – all of which seems very reasonable to modern eyes but were the cause of concern to the Grandees who saw a world turned upside down in the Levellers’ Agreement.

The debates began on the 28th October 1647 and were initially recorded.  Essentially the Levellers argued they had rights as Englishmen to a say in how the country was run.  The Grandees thought that it would result in chaos.  A compromise was arrived at with the Grandees saying that soldiers who fought in the civil war should be entitled to a vote and the Levellers conceding that if a man was in receipt of alms or a beggar that he should not have the franchise.

However on the 8th November Cromwell ordered the agitators back to their regiments.  The opportunity to present the manifesto to the Army Council and from there to Parliament would be denied to the Levellers.  Another manifesto was drawn up by army officers and this was the one presented to the Army Council.    The men of the New Model Army would not have a large meeting and a vote.  Instead they would be offered three smaller reviews.  Knowing that they were being cheated of their manifesto there was nearly a mutiny at Corkbush Field on the 15th November 1647 ending with the execution of Private Richard Arnold, one of three ringleaders who had been forced to draw lots.

The beginning of the Second English Civil War in 1648 and divisions with the Scots saw the army close its ranks for the time being. The Grandees disgusted with the perfidy of Charles I were no longer prepared to negotiate whilst the Levellers found themselves mutinying in 1649.  Anger over the failure of Parliament to pay back wages not to mention the way in which men were selected for service in Ireland led to a number of regiments refusing to obey their officers.

 

The Midlands in the English Civil War

Sir_John_Gell_originalDuring 1642 Parliament and the Crown laid out their various pieces on the chess board that was England. Each side attempted to take control of  places of strategic importance.  Having passed the Militia Bill, Parliament thought that it had control of the Commissions of Array and the appointment to offices such as Lord Lieutenantry responsible for the raising of armed forces.  They also assumed that they would have control of each county’s official magazine (by law each county was required to have a stockpile of arms).  However, this didn’t stop the king sending his own commissions nor for that matter some Lord Lieutenants declaring for the king.

The Midlands became important when the Battle of Edgehill, fought on the 23rd October 1642, failed to have a clear outcome.  It was at that point that the Royalists took control of Newark and Sir John Gell (pictured at the start of this post) became the military commander in the area for Parliament.  In Nottingham, John Hutchinson of Owthorpe, who would be one of the signatories of Charles I’s death warrant, together with Gell took Nottingham for Parliament.

Control of key locations in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire became of central importance for communications and resources.  The king was based in Oxford so it was essential that information could pass through the Midlands to the Royalist army in Yorkshire and that there was safe passage to Royalist Wales – to get to Chester and North Wales from Oxfordshire the main road passed through Staffordshire.  It was also an area rich in resources important for war – from grazing for horses to the materials necessary to manufacture weapons and ammunition.

And yet there were no major battles in the North Midlands – consequently popular history does not tend to portray the four counties as being as heavily involved in the conflict as other regions.  It’s almost as though sieges don’t count whereas large set piece battles such as Marston Moor do.  Newark was essential and besieged on three occasions as was Lichfield.  Local historians, as might be expected, are far more aware of the sieges of Ashby de La Zouche and Tutbury.  In fact all the Royalist garrisons were besieged at least once. Even Tissington still has the remains of its own siege works built to defend the village from attack.

Parliament gradually seized control of the major towns to the south of the region so that they held Northamptonshire – its cobblers receiving vast orders for boots and shoes to fit the Parliamentarian army, Leicester, Derby which was unwalled and Nottingham as well as Stafford.  The Royalist garrisons  included Belvoir Castle, Newark, Bolsover Castle and Welbeck Abbey owned by the Marquis of Newcastle, Lincoln, Gainsborough,  and Tutbury as well as many smaller manor houses including Wingfield Manor more famous for the incarceration of Mary Queen of Scots and, of course, Tissington.  The fight for the Midlands was just as bitter as anywhere else but on a smaller scale with many local disputes.  The problem for the Royalists was that gradually their forces were drawn into the conflicts to the North and the South. For instance, Prince Rupert took cavalry north to relieve the Siege of York. The Royalists did not have the manpower left to control the Midlands where they were under pressure from local Parliamentarians as well as Parliament’s “national” New Model Army. Their command chain was not as efficient as that of Parliament and relied more heavily on the local magnates.

For a more detailed appraisal of the role of the Midlands read Martyn Bennett’s article entitled “Holding the centre ground; the strategic importance of the North Midlands 1642-1646.”  which can be found a www.eastmidlandshistoryorg.uk

 

Political discord – 1647 style

charles i full lengthIn January the Scots handed King Charles I over to the English.  He had surrendered to the Scots int he hope that they would treat him better than the English and as a strategy for sowing political disharmony amongst his enemies.  The Scots sold him to the English for £40,000.

On the 15th March Harlech Castle surrendered after a ten month siege.  The constable of the castle had been in post since 1644.  His name was William Owen who originated from Shropshire. Harlech itself had always been in the possession of the king.  Perhaps because it wasn’t readily accessible to artillery it remained unchallenged until the final months of the civil war. This was probably just as well as Owen’s garrison comprised just fifteen men.  Owen took himself off to Scotland and after the Royalist defeat found himself in Nottingham Castle.  He was required to pay a fine of £400 before being allowed home. However he wasn’t required to pay one tenth of his income in tax as many other Royalists were required to do.

 

All that remained was to negotiate a settlement with the King and set up a series of laws for the good governance of the three kingdoms – even though no one could accuse what was happening in Ireland of being peaceful.  Generals Ireton and Lambert drafted something called the Heads of Proposals.  Essentially England would become Presbyterian, Parliament would have control of the armed forces and Royalists would not be allowed to hold office for five years.

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_CooperMany army officers and soldiers were unhappy about the fact that Parliament would even consider negotiating with the king. It was one of the causal factors that led to the Putney Debates.  The so-called “Grandees” who had negotiated with the king were seen as having failed the Parliamentarian cause.  By August five radical cavalry regiments had elected agitators to state their views.  One of their demands was for universal male suffrage, i.e. a levelling.  The Grandees, Cromwell amongst them, invited the radicals to debate their demands – resulting in the Putney Debates which started on the 28th October and lasted for three days.

Unfortunately Cromwell became alarmed at the extent of the radical ideas expressed so the debaters were ordered back to their regiments. A document was drawn up to replace the one which the Levellers had presented.  This did not go down well in the radical regiments. On the 15th November there was almost a mutiny which had to be suppressed before matters got out of hand.

Meanwhile – in June Parliament decided that Christmas was a nasty superstitious sort of event.  They also banned Easter and Whitsun. As a result when Christmas came around rather than conforming with the new rules there were riots in Kent which swiftly evolved into the Second English Civil War.

The king had decided that he didn’t like the turn of events, the Levellers’ plan didn’t leave much room for a king and he became convinced that he would be assassinated. So he decided to escape Parliament.  There was also the small matter of a constitutional monarchy.  On November 11th Charles escaped from Hampton Court in the direction of the New Forest – where he became lost.  He had aimed to make for Jersey but ended up on the Isle of Wight where he was recaptured.