Category Archives: Seventeenth Century

The Cavendish Connection part two – the earls of Devonshire.

bessofhardwickBess of Hardwick disowned her eldest son Henry but he had still inherited Chatsworth despite the fact that Bess entailed what she could to William and his heirs.  Due to his debts Henry sold Chatsworth to his brother William.

William was not what might be called dynamic.  He was still living at home  in Hardwick with his mum when he was a middle aged man with a family.  Nor was he interested in a London based career as a courtier.  Instead he concentrated on the role of administration traditionally allotted to the gentry.  He was for example the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire.

William_Cavendish,_1st_Earl_of_DevonshireIn 1605 thanks to the auspices of his niece Arbella Stuart he became a baronet.  In 1618 with the aid of £10,000 paid to James I he became an earl.  In addition to his land holdings in Derbyshire he was also investing in foreign trade – the East India Company, the Muscovy Company, the Bermuda Company and also in the settlements in Virginia.

The first earl was Anne Keithley of Yorkshire with whom he had three children.  Two of them died young.  His daughter Frances married the first baron Maynard.  His second wife was also from Yorkshire and this marriage produced one son, John, who was knighted in 1618 when Prince Charles became Prince of Wales.  He died soon afterwards.

William’s eldest son was another William, called Wylkyn within the family.  It was intended that he should marry Christian Bruce of Kinross when he was eighteen.  She was only twelve but the matter had been arranged to King James’ approval.  The dowry was a very lucrative £10,000.  The problem was that young William didn’t want a wealthy bride of the kind that his father and grandmother Bess might have approved nor was he unduly concerned about the first earl’s political aspirations.  No, what William wanted was his mistress Margaret Chatterton who had been one of Bess’s ladies.  It didn’t help that Christian was still a child to William’s eighteen years. Despite Wylkyn’s dislike of the marriage he was wed to Christian Bruce.  The Devonshires would not be known for their love matches.

Lord-Cavendish-Later-Second-Earl-of-Devonshire-and-His-Son-G_58_4_1-827x1024By the time he was in his twenties young William was a polished courtier (pictured left).  He also had a reputation of brawling, drinking and womanising.  He also spent money as though it was water.  This Cavendish was behaving as though he was a member of the aristocracy.

Perhaps in a bid to curtail his son’s rather un-Cavendish habits William senior appointed him a new tutor in the form of Thomas Hobbes.  The reason for this was that married men could not attend university and William senior saw that his son required a layer of culture to add to his fashionable persona.  The pair were sent on a tour of Europe.  These days we tend to think of the Grand Tour as an eighteenth century phenomenon but despite the on-going religious wars the English were keen to visit foreign climes – especially when Prince Charles (to be Charles I) made it a fashionable thing to do.

In addition to all the gallivanting he found time to become the MP for Derbyshire and on account of the Cavendish investments was also Governor of the Bermuda Company.  However he had managed to get himself into a huge amount of debt and ultimately an act of parliament would have to be sought to break Bess’s entail on part of the estate so that land could be sold to save the rest of the estate.

The second earl died in 1628 in London of “excessive indulgence.”  His heir, another William, was a minor so for a while at least the Cavendish lands were in the hands of Christian Bruce who was by now thirty-two-years old and a canny woman managing to secure full wardship for her son.  An economy drive was instituted and Thomas Hobbes was given the boot, only returning when finances recovered and there was further need for a tutor.  William was knighted at Charles I’s coronation in 1625.  His royalist credentials are evidenced by the fact that he spoke against the attainder on the Earl of Strafford in 1641. The network of family ties was strengthened with a marriage to Elizabeth Cecil, daughter of the Earl of Salisbury in 1639.

William_Cavendish,_3rd_Earl_of_Devonshire.jpgWhich brings us to the English Civil War.  Christian Bruce was a friend of Henrietta Maria.  The Cavendishs were Royalists.  In 1642 the 3rd Earl presented himself in York with his younger brother Charles who joined with Prince Rupert and his cavalry, took part in the Battle of Edgehill and ultimately became the Royalist commander for Derbyshire and Lincolnshire prior to his death at the Battle of Gainsborough.  Meanwhile the earl, no doubt on his mother’s advice, took himself off to Europe until 1645 when he compounded for his Royalist sympathies – paid a fine of £5000 and returned to live in England at Leicester Abbey where his mother had her residence (it had been purchased by the first earl in 1613) and from there he went to Latimer Place in Buckinghamshire until the Restoration when he returned to Chatsworth.

The third earl laid the foundations for Chatsworth’s library, was a fellow of the Royal Society and a friend of the diarist John Evelyn.  He does not seem much like his father, or indeed his son.


(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationBorn in 1641, yet another William became the fourth earl upon his father’s death in 1684.  There had been an older brother but he died in his infancy. The third earl had preserved the Cavendish estates largely by keeping his head down and letting his cousin (William Earl, Marquis and the Duke of Newcastle) of and younger brother get on with Royalist soldiering.  The fourth earl was described by Bishop Burnet as being of “nice honour in everything except the paying of his tradesmen.”  Like his father he had been sent on the Grand Tour and like his Uncle William (Newcastle) he fancied himself as  a bit of a poet. It is easy to see how this particular Cavendish fitted into the court of King Charles II who was also known for his late payments.  Like his monarch Cavendish also had a reputation for womanising. He had several children by a mistress called Mrs Heneage. Apparently Charles II had told Nell Gwynn not to have anything to do with him – re-arrange the words pot, kettle and black into a sentence of your choice.  It could be that Charles took against William Cavendish because he publicly snubbed the Duke of York (James) at Newmarket on account of his catholicism.  Aside from seduction the fourth earl also seems to have spent a lot of time picking fights and duelling.

In 1661 the fourth earl entered Parliament and the following year married Lady Mary Butler the daughter of the Duke of Ormonde.  Ormonde had been at the forefront of the Irish campaign against Oliver Cromwell and had been with Charles II in exile. Upon the Restoration he became a key political figure.  In this instance the Cavendish alliance was for political advancement.

Somehow or other the brawling, womanising, verse-writing earl became a serious politician.  By the 1670s he was using his position to wage war on behalf of Parliament against James III.  This particular Cavendish was not a die-hard royalist like his father or uncles).  The Fourth earl was a Whig – he was anti-court and anti-Catholic and, of course alongside that, he was first and foremost a Cavendish.


Part of the reason for his being involved in the Glorious Revolution, to depose James III in favour of his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, was because of a dispute over land.  Colonel Culpepper, a supporter of James III, had made a claim to some Devonshire lands stating that they should have come to him as part of his wife’s dowry.  The pair had a brawl when Culpepper called Cavendish’s loyalty to the Crown into question and Cavendish called Culpepper a liar.Culpepper ended up in the Marshalsea Prison was released and the pair met again.  Culpepper having been imprisoned  for fighting refused a further confrontation so the earl grabbed him by the nose and dragged him from the room before beating him about the head with his cane. It was the earl’s turn to be imprisoned unless he paid a £30,000 fine.  The earl had no intention of paying so he simply walked out of the prison gates and headed for Derbyshire. A warrant for his arrest was issued but in the short term everything was smoothed out with a letter of apology and an I.O.U. – which the earl clearly had no intention of paying.

It was a short step from that event to conspiracy in Whittington and a letter inviting William of Orange to come to England – William Cavendish was able to stand up for Protestantism and get one over on Colonel Culpepper. It also made him one of the so-called “Immortal Seven” having signed the letter inviting William to come and take the crown. The new king was very grateful to the fourth earl who would shortly become the First Duke of Devonshire.  The two times great grandson of Bess of Hardwick had moved the family further up the social hierarchy.


Hattersley, Roy. (2014) The Devonshires: The Story of a Family and a Nation. London:Vintage Books

Pearson, John. (1984) The Serpent and the Stag. New York: Holt Reinhart




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Sir William Brereton (1604-1661) – Parliamentarian Commander of Cheshire

sir william brereton

Sir William Brereton from Cheshire has cropped up several times in my reading during the last couple of weeks. Initially it appears that Cheshire tried to sit on the fence. It sent no petitions to the king in the summer of 1642 whilst he was at York. Sir William Brereton, who had been an MP for Cheshire until Charles I dissolved Parliament, was a Deputy Lieutenant for the county and was in receipt of a memorandum from Parliament with regard to the recruitment of soldiers for the Earl of Essex’s army. He turned up at Lichfield, Nantwich and most importantly in Denbigh in 1645 when he was responsible for the defeat of the Royalists there, so who exactly was he?


He was born shortly after James I succeeded to the throne and by the time Charles I was king he had become a baronet. He seems to have travelled in the Low Countries and France. He was married to the daughter of Sir George Booth of Dunham Massey. Booth was well known for his puritanism. It is also apparent from William’s diaries that he leant towards puritanism and that as a JP in Cheshire he closed taverns and fined Catholics. It is perhaps not surprising to discover that by the end of 1642 he had been appointed to the position of commanding officer for the Parliamentarian troops in Cheshire.


An article in History Today reveals why history knows so much about the man. He was an inveterate letter writer. He wrote, it turns out, rather often with requests for assistance and cash in turning Cheshire into a godly Royalist-free county not that his ideal was realised during the 1643 summer of Royalist victories.


Sir_John_Gell_originalInitially Brereton tried to take hold of Chester for Parliament but was unable to capture it. Instead having taken Nantwich for the Parliamentarian cause in 1642 he made that his headquarters.  From there he ranged along the Welsh marches on Parliament’s behalf and down through Cheshire to Stafford. He came with Sir John Gell of Hopton in Derbyshire to the siege of Lichfield and was concerned at the later siege of Tutbury that his colleague was far too lenient on the Royalist defenders. Across the region Brereton was only defeated once at the Battle of Middlewich on December 26 1643 but he swiftly recovered from this as he had to return with Sir Thomas Fairfax to Nantwich when Sir George Booth managed to get himself besieged by Lord Byron and Cheshire was more or less completely in the hands of the Royalists not that this stopped Brereton from establishing an impressive network of spies loyal to Parliament.


thomas fairfaxIn January 1644 Sir Thomas Fairfax crossed the Pennines with men from the Eastern Association Army. On the 25th January his men were met by a Royalist army headed by Byron who was defeated. The place where the two armies collided was Necton but the disaster for the royalists has become known in history as the Battle of Nantwich. It meant that the king could not hold the NorthWest. Even worse Royalist artillery and senior commanders were captured along with the baggage train. None of this did any harm to Sir Thomas Fairfax’s reputation nor to Brereton who had command of the Parliamentarian vanguard.


It should be noted that one of his relations, another William Brereton was a Royalist. William Brereton of Brereton Hall at Holmes Chapel was married to the royalist general Goring’s daughter Elizabeth. Parliamentarian William did not hesitate to besiege his own relations who happened to disagree with him. Brereton Hall found itself under siege after the Battle of Nantwich.


In March 1644 Parliament granted him the right to “take subscriptions” in Cheshire to maintain his army not only against the Royalists but most especially against the hated Irish Forces for the “timely prevention of further mischiefs.”


Lord John ByronFrom there Brereton became involved in the siege of Chester – at Nantwich Byron had been outside the town whilst at Chester he was inside the walls.   In September 1645 Bristol in the command of Prince Rupert surrendered. The only remaining safe harbour to land troops loyal to the king was Chester. Lord Byron had withdrawn there following his defeat at Nantwich and Brereton had followed him. Byron held the river crossing and in so doing was denying the Parliamentarians a way into North Wales which was Royalist.


Bereton began by trying to scale the walls. When that strategy failed he set up blockades and tried to starve them out. In March the slimline Royalists and disgruntled townsfolk were given some respite by the arrival of Prince Maurice but in April Brereton returned and Chester’s rather lean diet continued. It didn’t help that Maurice had removed more than half of Byron’s men leaving only six hundred soldiers to defend the walls. By September the parliamentarians had pressed forward and were shelling Chester’s inner walls. The king himself set out to relieve the siege and possibly to break out from the Midlands and Wales.


Charles and his men were able to enter the city over the River Dee from the Welsh side of the city as that was still in Royalist hands. The idea was that Chalres and his cavalry would nip around the back of the besiegers and at the appropriate time Byron and his men would come bursting out of Chester squashing Brereton like a slice of meat between two Royalist slices of bread. King Charles took his place in Chester’s Pheonix Tower to watch the action. Unfortunately the Battle of Rowton Heath on 24 September 1645 did not go according to plan. Charles left Chester the following day with rather fewer men than he arrived, returning to the safety of Denbigh.   From there he would go to Newark and on 5th May 1546 surrender himself into the custody of the Scots at Southwell.


Meanwhile Byron absolutely refused to surrender so Brereton’s men started mining beneath Chester’s walls, kept up a constant artillery barrage and ultimately encircled the city. It was the mayor of Chester who persuaded Byron that enough was enough. After Chester surrendered in January 1646, Brereton mopped up what royalists there still were in his region and in the course of his endeavours travelled as far south as Stow-on-the-Wold becoming the parliamentarian commander to take the surrender of the last royalist army in the field in 1646. It is perhaps not surprising given his capabilities that like Oliver Cromwell he was excluded from the Self Denying Ordinance that prevented members of Parliament from holding military commissions.


Interestingly after the end of the second, short lived, English Civil War he took no real part in the politics of the period. For instance he refused to sit as one of Charles I’s judges. It is perhaps for this reason that upon the Restoration in 1660 that he was allowed to continue to live in Croydon Palace which had been the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury but which a grateful Parliament had given to Brereton.  Brereton had expressed his puritan views about Archbishop Laud, Charles I’s arminian archbishop by having his private chapel turned into a kitchen.


Brereton died the following year and managed with his death to add to the folklore of Cheshire.  He died at Croydon Palace on the 7th April 1661 but he wished to be buried in Cheshire at Handforth Chapel near Cheadle where several of the family were buried including Sir Urien Brereton.  Unfortunately it would seem that his coffin didn’t get there being swept away by a river in full spate as the funeral cortège was crossing it which is unfortunate to put it mildly although having said that he appears, according to to be safely buried in the church of St John the Baptist, Croydon also known as Croydon Minster.


For reference, and I don’t think I can describe it as a surprising connection given that the name is the same,  the family was related to the earlier Sir William Brereton who had a bit of a reputation as a womaniser in Henry VIII’s court which was unfortunate because having delivered jewels to Anne Boleyn from the king and also given her a hound (which she named after Urien Brereton- the one buried At Handforth Chapel) he found himself in the rather unfortunate position of going from one of the king’s most trusted men (even being present at the wedding between Henry and Anne Boleyn) to being accused of being one of Anne Boleyn’s lovers in 1536.  He was tried for treason on the 12 May 1536 and was beheaded on the 17th May.

Porter, Stephen.


‘March 1644: An Ordinance to enable Sir William Brereton Baronet, one of the Members of the House of Commons, to execute the several Ordinances of Parliament for advance of money within the County of Chester, and County and City of Chester, and to take Subscriptions for the better supply and maintenance of the Forces under his Command, for the security of the said places, and for prevention of the access of the Irish Forces into those parts.’, in Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, ed. C H Firth and R S Rait (London, 1911), pp. 409-413. British History Online [accessed 24 February 2018].



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Charles Cavendish – cavalier (1620-1643)

Colonel_Lord_Charles_Cavendish_(1620-1643)_by_Sir_Anthony_Van_Dyck,_1637_-_Oak_Room,_Chatsworth_House_-_Derbyshire,_England_-_DSC03062Let us return today to the Royalist summer of victories in 1643. It was really only in the east of the country that events did not go all Charles I’s way. On 20 July 1643, Lord Willoughby captured Gainsborough in Lincolnshire for Parliament. This meant that the Earl of Newcastle could not now communicate so easily with the royalists at Newark and he could not simply march south expanding royalist territory.  The Committee of Safety scratched their various heads and then sent Oliver Cromwell and Sir John Meldrum from the Eastern Association Army to back up Lord Willoughby as he was being threatened by the Royalist military commander – Colonel Charles Cavendish – who was the nephew of the Earl of Newcastle.

Charles, born in 1620, was the younger brother of William Cavendish the third Earl of Chatsworth and the epitome of a Hollywood cavalier unlike his brother who appears to have been much more retiring. Apparently Charles had travelled as far as Greece and Cairo in happier times as well as the more usual Italy and France. As you might expect of a nephew of the Earl of Newcastle he was ferociously Royalist. He had gone to York in 1642 to offer his services to the king; been part of Prince Rupert’s cavalry charge at the Battle of Edgehill on the 23 October 1642 and had then been offered command of the Duke of York’s troop (a sudden vacancy had arisen).   From there he persuaded his family to raise sufficient funds for him to form his own body of men making him a colonel and the royalist military commander for Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. It was Charles Cavendish who took Grantham for the king on 23 March 1643 and sent the Parliamentarians packing at Ancaster the following month.  In the space of a year he had changed from being a volunteer guards officer to a Colonel in charge of an entire region. Possibly, the gift of £1000 into the king’s war chest may have expedited matters.


Anyway, the Parliamentarians came across Cavendish’s dragoons south of Gainsborough on the morning of 28th July 1643. The Royalists had the advantage of high ground which they lost during a Parliamentarian cavalry charge. The Royalists ultimately fled on account of the fact that the Parliamentarians were learning a thing or three about tactics but Charles had kept his own men in reserve and was very sensibly planning to nip around the back of the Parliamentarians to attack their rear. Unfortunately a certain Colonel Cromwell spotted the manoevre and attacked the Royalist rear instead. Cavendish fell from his horse during the fighting and was killed by Captain Berry with a sword in the small ribs. Ultimately the Parliamentarians, who definitely won the battle, were unable to hold out against Newcastle.

Years later when Charles’ mother, Christian Bruce, was buried in All Saints Church, Derby on 16 February 1675 the bones of her long dead son were interred with her as she had asked. The funeral sermon by William Nailor described Charles as a “princely person,” “the soldiers’ favourite and his majesty’s darling.” It also described Charles as being like Abner and related to the Stuarts through the Bruce connection. The full text can be found in the snappily entitled  A commemoration sermon preached at Darby, Feb. 18, 1674, for the Honourable Colonel Charles Cavendish, slain in the service of King Charles the First, before Gainsborough in the year 1643.

Colonel, Lord Charles Cavendish (1620-1643)by British (English) School

The picture at the start of the post is by Van Dyck and is at Chatsworth whilst the picture above is at Hardwick Hall (I think).

Bickley, F. (1911) The Cavendish family

Dick, Oliver Lawson (ed) (1987)  Aubrey’s Brief Lives.  London:Penguin




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English Civil War 1645

prince rupertAs with all civil wars some people change their minds.  Having described the Hothams (father and son) shutting the city gates of Hull in Charles I’s face in 1642 it comes as something of a surprise to discover that John Hotham (junior) was executed for treason on 1st January 1645 for conspiring to let the royalists in!  John Hotham senior was executed the next day.  Unfortunately  for them their coat turning tendencies had been proved by the capture of the Earl of Newcastle’s correspondence after the Battle of Marston Moor.

1645 followed the increasingly depressing routine of burning houses to deny the enemy cover and of being besieged not to mention taxation, parliamentary committees sending stiffly worded notes to their commanders and men on both sides having something of a wobble as the war became less and less chivalrous.  At the beginning of the year royalist Newark was in hot water and Prince Rupert was still charging around the countryside.  Poor old Abingdon seemed to change hands more often than anywhere else in the area around Oxford and in January, Rupert was busy attacking it.

Things were changing though.  The Parliamentarian army was becoming much more professional. On the 21st January, Parliament appointed Sir Thomas Fairfax to overall command.  And I would have to say Tom Fairfax is one of my heroes – who can’t like a man who retired to grow roses?  It should also be added that Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Rider on the White Horse may have something to do with my affiliation. In Scotland the Earl of Montrose was flitting around and Prince Maurice relieved Chester which had been besieged (who would have thought all those Roman walls would have come in so useful) not that it did much good because as soon as he left the area the siege was re-imposed.

Elsewhere things were getting really very nasty and unnecessary,  the earl of Essex hanged thirteen men simply because they were Irish – a modern warcrime if ever there was one.  Prince Rupert (pictured at the start of this post) retaliated by hanging thirteen parliamentarian soldiers based on the fact that they weren’t royalists.  The two gentlemen in question then exchanged letters on the subject – to modern eyes neither of them comes out of the exchange particularly well.

Meanwhile the Scots had managed to irritate the people of Westmorland and the Royalist Oxford Army set off on its summer campaign having been reorganised by the king who managed to irritate many of his commanding officers in the process.

I could say etc etc because much of the manoeuvring seems very similar to the previous eighteen months but then on 14th June 1645 the king’s army met with Fairfax’s army at the Battle of Naseby.  The royalists, quite frankly, were toast.  As usual Rupert’s cavalry were rifling through the baggage train whilst disaster struck. The women in the royalist baggage train were overrun by the victorious parliamentarians.  Unfortunately they didn’t know the difference between the sound of Welsh and Irish – the Irish being catholic and therefore much hated.  The brave parliamentarian soldiers proceeded to slaughter many of the women and those who weren’t slaughtered had their faces and noses slashed to mark them as whores – a more delightful group of puritans you couldn’t wish to meet!  The king fled int he direction of Ashby-de-la Zouche and from there to Lichfield with the parliamentarians in hot pursuit.   The king turned left (if he was facing north) into Wales and Fairfax who had other orders from Parliament took a detour into the West Country where he set about bringing various royalist garrisons to book.  Whilst all that was going on Archbishop Laud was finally executed on 10th July 1645.

For those of you of a Derbyshire turn of thought, Charles travelled down through the Welsh borders to Ludlow receiving assorted correspondence from Prince Rupert as he went.  Rupert was doing his usual Jack-in-the-box routine and would seem to have been collecting “horse miles” as averse to air miles. Fairfax, it would have to be said, was doing something similar.  On the 13th August the king arrived in Ashbourne and on the 14th he paid a visit to Chatsworth and from there went across to Welbeck Abbey, another Cavendish residence. By the 18th August Charles I was back in Yorkshire – in Doncaster raising men to continue his campaign.

This was unfortunate as the Scots arrived at Rotherham the next day.  Accounts suggest that the royalists had something of a panic before hurrying the king to Newark. Ten days later he was back in Oxford.

The sense I have of 1645 is a nation on the move.  David Leslie was in charge of the Scots at Rotherham for example but by the 13th September he is in Scotland decimating the Earl of Montrose who was coming south to join with the king who by that stage of the game had made a personal visit to Worcester and Hereford.  Meanwhile Bristol had finally fallen into Parliamentary hands and the king held his nephew Rupert personally responsible.  Chester was still holding out against Sir William Brereton so the king decided to show Rupert how to relieve a siege and set off from Hereford.  The result was the Battle of Rowton Heath – the king  having watched the loss of  his army from the city walls headed back to Wales where they had plenty of large castles to hide in – he selected Denbigh.

On October 14th the symbol of royalist loyalty in Hampshire was finally taken and destroyed.  Basing House was stormed by Cromwell and his fellow commanding officers. The defenders made a call for a parley and were ignored after two hours of vicious hand to hand fighting. Between one hundred and two hundred people including civilians were killed inside Basing House and then the Parliamentarians looted £200,000 of goods.  Catholic items were destroyed in a public fire in London.  Meanwhile Basing House burned and what remained standing was torn to the ground – by which point of reading I must admit to having gone right off Cromwell but can see that in order to bring the civil war to an end Parliament was stamping out royalist nests whenever and wherever it could and Basing had been a particular thorn in Parliamentary sides for the last two years.

It probably didn’t help that the fall of Bristol on the 10th September when Rupert handed it over to Thomas Fairfax after a ten day siege caused bad blood between uncle and nephew.  Rupert turned up at Newark despite orders to the contrary demanding that he should be court marshalled so that the slur upon his honour could be erased.  The resulting factions lead to division within the royalist chain of command.  By November things were so bad that Charles wrote to Rupert telling him to leave the country.  Unsurprisingly Parliament was more than happy to issue Rupert with a fourteen day pass to leave the kingdom without interference.

By the 7th of December King Charles was writing to his son urging him to make his escape from the kingdom without delay as castles across the country found themselves making terms with their parliamentarian besiegers and the king himself sent a series of letters to parliament trying to agree terms.  On the 26th of December following an exchange of correspondence between the king and parliament, Charles proposed a personal treaty.  On the 5th May the following year Charles surrendered to the Scottish army at Southwell.  He had been totally defeated and his kingdom was in tatters.  Of course, things did not go well from thence but for the time being I shall leave the unfortunate and self-deluded Stuart stewing.


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English Civil War 1644

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_Cooper.jpg1644 was a year where no one gained the upper hand and the casualties of war grew.  The arrival of the Scots in the Civil War ultimately tipped the balance of power in Parliament’s favour but as a result of amateur approaches to warfare the Second Battle of Newbury failed to end matters once and for all.  This had the knock on effect of ensuring the rise of the New Model Army and Cromwell’s Ironsides.

January 1644 started with the usual petitions and recruitment.  Pay remained an issue.  For example Hopton who led the rather successful Western Army for the king in 1643 found himself dealing with mutineering.  Five hundred of his men simply marched off with their weapons to join the Parliamentarians in Poole.  In the midlands as armies ebbed and flowed Nottingham fell once more into Parliamentarian hands and Newstead Abbey, the home of Lord Byron, was looted whilst he was besieging Nantwich on behalf of the king.  This resulted in the necessity of Fairfax crossing the Pennines to Manchester with a view to relieving the siege.  The result is the Battle of Nantwich on 26th January 1644 which Parliament won despite the bad weather and prevailing soggy conditions.  He went on to besiege Latham House near Ormskirk on 28th February where the Countess of Derby held out for the king.  Her husband was on the Isle of Man.  Rather than a direction confrontation she played for time which worked to a degree although Fairfax ordered his men to build earthworks around the house.

At the beginning of February, Newcastle was back in Newcastle to stop the Scots from occupying it on Parliament’s behalf and the royalist garrison at Newark started to feel a bit uncomfortable as well they should because by the end of February, which was a leap year, Sir John Meldrum had besieged the town.  He had 5,000 men and rather a lot of ordinance but the royalists held out. Prince Rupert marched his men from Wolverhampton to Newark to relieve the siege on the 21st of March.

earl of manchester.pngMeanwhile two of the Parliamentarian generals were at loggerheads with one another.  Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex felt that Edward Montagu, Earl of Manchester  (pictured above) was getting the better part of the deal from Parliament.  Montagu, married to a cousin of George Villiers in the first instance married for a second time to Ann Rich, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick – the Parliamentarian Lord Admiral.  He turned from Court towards a more Puritan way of thinking and did not support the king in the Bishop’s War.  He was also the peer who supported John Pym at the opening of the Long Parliament  and was the one member of the House of Lords who Charles I wanted to arrest at the same time as the five members of the House of Commons.  In 1642 he was on his third wife (another member of the Rich family) and had become the Earl of Manchester upon his father’s death.  Manchester had been at the Battle of Edgehill but his was one of the regiments that had fled the battlefield.  After that he was eventually appointed to the command of the Eastern Association Army – regiments covering Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridge.  By the end of 1643 East Anglia was very firmly in Parliamentarian hands and Manchester’s men had broken out into Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  This should be contrasted with Essex and the Western Association Army performance.  It is perhaps not surprising that Parliament effectively allowed Manchester to by pass Essex and to liaise with the Scots and with the Fairfaxs.


By April Selby was back in Parliamentarian hands as Lord Fairfax retrieved the ground that had been lost the previous year.  Newcastle also returned to Yorkshire and occupied York. The Earl of Manchester was ordered to York at the same time as Parliament realised that Prince Rupert and his men were also heading in that direction.  Inevitably York now found itself besieged with the royalists inside and Lord Fairfax outside.  It would have to be said that before that point had been reached Newcastle had got most of his cavalry out of the city.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Pennines Sir Thomas Fairfax was throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at Latham House.  On the 23rd April he asked the Countess of Derby to surrender.  She declined. At the other end of the country parliamentarian Lyme Regis also declined to surrender.  The townsfolk were hoping that the Earl of Warwick and his navy were going to come to their rescue.  Oxford prepares to be besieged by the Earl of Essex who took nearby Abingdon which the Royalists had abandoned.  Charles I had to leave the city for fear of capture.

Meanwhile the Royalists in York could look over the city walls and watch as the Earl of Manchester and his men arrived. Its best to think at this point of Prince Rupert haring around the countryside relieving Parliamentarian sieges and helping Royalist besiegers to storm their targets.  He did not cover himself in glory at Bolton where the defenders were slaughtered.  The war was beginning to take a decidedly less gallant turn.  Essentially large houses across the country swapped hands – some with the modicum of upset, others after much ammunition had been used.  Meanwhile the king arrived in Worcester and the Parliamentarian armies of Waller and Essex chased after him although somehow Waller managed to lose the king and end up in Gloucester.

The movements of the armies and key figures seem to be very much like a game of strategy where nobody is quite sure of the rules.  The king, for instance, next surfaces in Buckingham, whilst Prince Rupert rocks up  in Knaresborough.  His job is to relieve the siege of York.

With so many men and armies in the vicinity it is perhaps no surprise that July 2nd saw the Battle of Marston Moor.  The Parliamentarians on hearing the news that Rupert was int he area had withdrawn from around York and taken up a position to bar Rupert’s approach to the city. Rupert did not take the bait, he crossed around behind the Parliamentarians at Poppleton and wrote a note to Newcastle telling him to get himself and his lambs into position.  Newcastle wasn’t terribly happy with these orders.  All he wanted was for the Parliamentarians to march off and leave York in peace.

Fairfax and Manchester,along with the Scots under the command of Leven were at Tadcaster when Rupert assumed the correct position for battle on the morning of the 2nd.  A messenger carried the news to the Parliamentarians to the effect that Rupert was “up for it.” Consequently the parliaments had to turn around and go back.  The Royalists had the moor and the Parliamentarians had farmland.  There was a ditch between the two sides. By four in the afternoon there had been no move to battle and by seven the royalists had settled down by their campfires.  At which point the Parliamentarians made their move – which though not particularly gallant was militarily rather sensible.

Lord John Byron.jpgFairfax opposed Goring on the right wing: Goring 1 – Fairfax O.  Goring and his men got side tracked by the baggage wagons.  Crowell was on the left wing facing Lord John Byron (pictured right): Ironsides 1 – Royalists 0.  Prince Rupert turned the fleeing royalists round and sent them back into battle.  Rupert and his men were evenly matched with the Ironsides.  Essentially they hacked one another to a standstill at which point the Scottish cavalry charged in on the Royalist flank and scattered them.

Fairfax needing to communicate with Cromwell took off his sash and his field sign and rode across the battlefield, paling through Royalist lines as he did so, to provide Cromwell with accurate information about what was happening.  Cromwell, and his men circled the field and came up behind Goring and his men who were busily looting Fairfax’s baggage train.

Meanwhile Newcastle’s lambs at the centre had fought doggedly through the whole encounter.  Now they were forced back and rather than leave the field they died to a man. William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle was the last royalist commander left on the battlefield. As his men were slaughtered he ultimately made his way back to York and from there to Scarborough.  At Scarborough he sailed for Hamburg.  The North was lost to the Royalists.  More than 4,000 of their number died at Marston Moor.

In the Midlands, Welbeck Abbey, one of William Cavendish’s homes, fell to the Parliamentarians – who helped themselves to tapestries and silver plate.  Royalist Newark began to feel the pinch once more and Rupert made his way back to the SouthWest where Essex wasn’t having such a victorious feeling as his counterparts in the North.  Ultimately he had to make an undignified escape from Lostwithiel.  Basing House in Hampshire was still being pummelled.

The king seems to have spent much of the second half of the year popping up all over the country being pursued by various parliamentarians. He had planned to relieve Basing House but that went awry so he decided, instead, to relieve Donnington Castle – bearing in mind there was no such thing as a motorway network the various armies marched huge distances a the drop of a hat.  This meant that they were required to live off the land – which was not good news for anyone who happened to be in the path of any army and its destination.  On the 22nd October Charles was in Berkshire, near Newbury.  Cromwell, Manchester and Waller took to the field but the king escaped under cover of darkness and scarpered in the direction of Bath. From there he returned to Oxford – as clearly the Parliamentarians had cleared off by that time.

As the year drew to the close Parliamentarian generals were still writing to London politely suggesting that their men should be paid, Rupert was still popping up like a jack in the box and Basing House was still under siege.  Lord Fairfax was quietly sitting outside the castles of Pontefract and Knaresborough but had been given orders to sort out the royalists in Newark as well.  Knaresborough did surrender by the end of the year, not that it was much consolation to Lord Fairfax who felt that he was being over-stretched with insufficient men or money to do Parliament’s bidding.

In London, Parliament was pointing fingers about who was responsible for the failure to administer a crushing defeat on the king at the Second Battle of Newbury  and the Self-Denying Ordinance is proposed which would prevent members of Parliament (Lords or Commons) from holding military command.  Whilst the Commons agreed to the idea the Lords were less keen but would pass a revised version of the ordinance in 1645.

All in all – a very depressing year and that’s without considering Scotland, the Covenanters and the Earl of Montrose.

Emberton, Wilfred. The Civil War Day by Day.




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The Civil War in Yorkshire

thomas fairfaxEssentially we have covered the fact that during 1643 the Earl of Essex’s parliamentarian Western Association army did not have a great deal to shout about.  Meanwhile in Yorkshire the same Commissions of Array were delivered and like their counterparts in the SouthWest the gentlemen of Yorkshire and the Midlands were forced to decide where their loyalties lay.  Hull and Leeds were important towns.  Both declared for Parliament, Hull rather noticeably by refusing to let the king into the town in 1642.

Initially the Earl of Cumberland was in charge of the Northern army.  Henry Clifford (the fifth earl) was given the job because he was deemed to be the senior aristocrat in the region.   He was not a warrior so it wasn’t too long before parliamentarian garrisons began giving him the runaround and he was forced to summon help in the form of William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle.

Fernanindo_fairfax.jpgBy contrast the Parliamentarians had men whose names reverberate through history. Sir John Hotham was the governor of Hull; Sir Hugh Cholmley led the garrison at Scarborough and then in the West Riding there was Ferdinando Fairfax  (pictured right) and his son Thomas (pictured at the start of this post).  The only difficulty was that Hotham didn’t appreciate Fairfax being the senior commander. The Fairfaxes controlled the West Riding and extended their hold from there to Tadcaster.  Their main opponent in the West Riding was Sir William Savile.

When Newcastle crossed the Tees with his army it became apparent that the trained bands of men from Richmondshire and Cleveland would refuse to fight the Royalists. Sir John Hotham’s son called on troops stationed further south in the East Riding to help him repel the royalists but on 1 December 1642 there was a coming together at Piercebridge.  Newcastle had 8,000 men.  Hotham had considerably fewer.  Unsurprisingly Newcastle won and was in York by 3rd December.

Tadcaster looked a bit precarious so far as the Parliamentarians were concerned.  The Fairfaxs were outmanned and it did not help that although Ferdinando had received Parliamentary  orders to the effect that he was in charge neither the Hotham’s nor Sir Hugh Cholmley appeared to believe them.  Cholmley was told to move his men into position so that the West Riding was protected from Newcastle’s military designs.  Sir Hugh returned with the majority of his men to Scarborough.  There may have been some scratching of heads about this particularly manoeuvre as back in London, John Pym described Scarborough as being “not very useful.”  Not that it would have made a great deal of difference to Newcastle’s superior numbers and it was perhaps more of an indicator that Cholmley was thinking of swapping sides – something that he did in spring 1643 having been sweetalked by Queen Henrietta Maria.

Fairfax realised that he needed a bigger army and began a recruitment campaign.  Tadcaster and Selby remained in Parliamentary hands for the time being.  In November Thomas Fairfax occupied Wetherby.  They held important river crossings and if they could get enough men together they could threaten York but they still did not have an army that could match Newcastle’s.

On 6th December 1642 the Earl of Newcastle attacked Tadcaster and from there captured Pontefract.  Fairfax withdrew to Selby where he realised that the West Riding had been cut off from the East Coast Parliamentary garrisons.

Whilst the Fairfaxes had their hands full Sir William Savile made his move in the West Riding.  He occupied first Wakefield and then Leeds. From there he marched on Bradford which was expected to put up a fight.  The weavers were inclined to non-conformity, were in financial difficulties because of the collapsing cloth trade and were troubled by the fact that Bradford which had once been a royal manor had been sold to pay Charles’ debts and as a consequences tenants in that manor had suffered a considerable rent hike.  All things considered they were not going to hand the town over to the king’s man without a fight even if it didn’t have a wall.   On 18th December 1642 Savile was beaten back.  In addition to the trained bands Savile found himself confronted by clubmen – these men were paid by no army.  They were armed with whatever they could find that could be turned into weapons.


On 23rd December Sir Thomas Fairfax left Selby and spurred through royalist held Yorkshire with his men to reinforce Bradford.  It was the one remaining pinpoint of Parliamentarianism in the West Riding although of little strategic value and almost impossible to defend long term.


On the 23  January  1643 Fairfax took the war back to the Royalists.  He and his men marched from Bradford to Leeds with six troops of horse, dragoons, musketeers and 1,000 of the irregular clubmen.  They took 500 prisoners whilst Sir William was forced to flee.

In March Ferdinando decided to withdraw from Selby – exposed as it now was.  On the 30 March he feinted towards Tadcaster, where the Royalist garrison seemed to have had a bit of a panic attack because they promptly fled to York.  This enabled Fairfax to dismantle the town’s defences.  Meanwhile Newcastle sent George Goring to prevent Fairfax from taking Tadcaster – by the time Goring and his men arrived Fairfax’s men were at Bramham Moor.  Goring attacked them at Seacroft on the outskirts of Leeds.  Goring’s men were mounted and Fairfax was outflanked.  800 men were taken prisoner in the chaos that followed but the majority of Fairfax’s army had already made it too Leeds when the attack took place.

On the 20 May 1643 the second Battle of Wakefield was fought.  Fairfax was under pressure to get his men back.  The idea was that either they could be freed or if enough royalists could be captured an exchange of men could be negotiated.  In a bizarre twist of events a small band of parliamentarians led by Sir Thomas Fairfax captured a garrison of more than 3,000 royalists.  Poor old George Goring had been tucked up in his bed at the time the raid started and although he had got himself sorted out enough to lead a counter-attack against Fairfax he had found himself facing some of his own artillery that had been captured and turned on the royalists.  He was taken prisoner along with more than 1,000 other men and sent down to London where he remained in The Tower until 1644, no doubt having some difficult conversations about the fact that in 1642 before the outbreak of war parliament had paid him to secure Portsmouth against the king.  He had actually secured the port for Charles and there had been a month long siege before Portsmouth was handed over to Parliament and Goring fled to the Netherlands only returning when Henrietta Maria raised men and munitions to help her husband.

By the summer of 1643 the Earl of Newcastle controlled most of Yorkshire and his men had gained something of a reputation for looting.  Only Bradford held out.  In part Newcastle couldn’t really do much between March and June because Henrietta Maria was in Yorkshire.  She’d landed in Bridlington on 22 February 1643 and had been waiting for a safe route to be opened so that she could join her husband once more in Oxford – it was, in part, for this reason that Newark was captured by the Royalists and remained a royalist stronghold throughout the rest of the first English Civil War.  The queen journeyed south on the 4th June freeing Newcastle from his royal protection duties.

Newcastle having waved farewell to the queen gathered his army and set off in the direction of the West Riding.   There was no wall at Bradford.   Fairfax had no choice but to stand and fight.  Fernando and Thomas marched out of Bradford and met Newcastle on the 30 June 1643.

It looked for a while as though Fairfax would win the Battle of Adwalton Moor but it was Newcastle who won the day.  On the night of 1st July Ferdinando and the Parliamentarians broke out from Bradford and made for Hull giving the order that Leeds should be evacuated as well – for the timbering the West Riding was in Royalist hands. Thomas was left behind to cover their escape. On the 3rd of July he made a similar escape along with his wife and daughter.  Bradford was down to its last barrel of gunpowder.  It was at this stage in proceedings that Ann Fairfax became separated from her husband and was captured.  In between times her husband and father-in-law had an exciting interlude at Selby when the royalists tried to intercept them as they were crossing the river there.

Newcastle who wrote scurrilous verse about serving maids in his youth showed every gallantry on this particular occasion by sending Ann to her husband in Hull  (the Fairfax’s arrived there on the 4th July) in his own carriage with a military escort to ensure her safety.

Hull now found itself under siege for a second time – though not necessarily particularly wholeheartedly. Newcastle meanwhile turned his attention from the West Riding to Sheffield where the iron masters were turned to making armaments for the king. He went on to capture Gainsborough and Lincoln.  Lincolnshire was in the hands of Parliament’s East Association Army.

Of course, whilst the cat is away…the Fairfaxs will take advantage of the opportunities provided.  By August Fairfax was back in Beverley and was raiding ever closer to York.

Newcastle stopped rattling the Eastern Association Army and went back to Yorkshire to squelch heavily upon those dratted Fairfaxs.  The Second Siege of Hull began in all earnestness on 2nd September 1643.  Newcastle set to work creating a series of earthworks for his artillery.  A fortnight later the Parliamentarians opened the sluice gates and flooded the royalists out just as they had done during the first siege.  Even more irritatingly for Newcastle, the town was being provisioned from the sea by the navy which was in Parliament’s hands.

On 22 September a certain Colonel Cromwell crossed from Lincolnshire to Yorkshire where he offered muskets and gunpowder to the Fairfaxs.  On the 26th Thomas and his men left Hull to join the soldiers of the Eastern Association Army.  Ferdinando Fairfax remained in Hull until the 12 October when newcastle lifted the siege following some violent military encounters.  Meanwhile the Eastern Association came to blows with the Royalists at Winceby and won.

All in all 1643, apart from the bright spot of Essex’s victory at Newbury had been a dismal one for Parliament but in Lincolnshire a certain Oliver Cromwell was beginning to make his mark.  The summer of Royalist victories was over and in the north men like Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax and his son are being recognised as men who could turn the tables on the Royalists.


Binns, Jack. Yorkshire in The Civil Wars.  Blackthorn Press




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The Siege of Gloucester

Colonel Massie.jpgGloucester is one of the key locations for Parliamentarian and Royalist confrontation.  It is the victory that Parliament desperately needed in 1643 and it is perhaps also written about by historians as much as it is on account of the fact that there’s so much primary source material to support the story.  The Earl of Stamford arrived in Gloucester in about November 1642 and left a regiment there for its defence.

The Earl of Stamford is one of those historical surprises that turn up from time to time- his name is Henry Grey and he would acquire the title Baron Grey of Groby on his father’s death – so yes, for those of you who like your Wars of the Roses, he is part of that family. And for those of you who like a good Tudor link he is often known as Henry Grey of Bradgate (childhood home of Lady Jane Grey whose father was also a Henry Grey).  Essentially our Henry was descended from a younger brother of Lady Jane Grey’s father.  You may be asking where our Henry acquired the title Earl of Stamford. Put simply – by marrying Ann Cecil he gained the manor of Stamford – and so yes, his wife was descended from Elizabeth I’s trusted adviser.

Henry had fought on the king’s side during the Bishop’s War of 1639 but had got into hot water when he admitted to rather admiring the Scottish clergy.  This probably wasn’t the most sensible thing to tell King Charles I but it does prove Henry’s Puritan credentials.  It is perhaps not surprising then, that he supported Parliament in the build up to the civil war.  Because he supported Parliament his neighbour, Henry Hastings, the earl of Huntingdon supported the king – evidently, one of those feuding sort of relationships.

Anyway, back to Gloucester.  Edward Massie (pictured at the start of this post) was appointed governor. He arrived on the 8th December 1642.  A trained band of local men were commanded, in part, by men that accompanied Massie to the city.  In addition there were some Scots.  In total there were two bands of foot and since there were so many soldiers in the city they had to be billeted on the local population.  There are also problems with regard to pay – parliament was short of cash and the unpaid soldiers threatened a mutiny of sorts.

In February 1643 Prince Rupert captured Cirencester and Bristol was captured on 26 July. Gloucester was an isolated pinpoint of parliamentarianism. Corn prices started to rise.  Citizens loyal to the Crown decamped from Gloucester and those of a nervous disposition also left if possible.

The king paid Bristol a visit in August.  In my imagination he did a quick royal walk around, glad-handed a few dignitaries and then went on his way.  The reality was somewhat different.  He was met by cheering crowds – who probably knew better than appear anything else!  But the main reason for his visit was to settle the acrimonious arguments that had burst out between his own commanders and to plan what to do next.  Lord Hopton’s Western Army were not happy with the number of casualties they had sustained.  It was also evident that the Cornish weren’t keen on leaving their region.

Charles placed his nephew, Prince Maurice (Prince Rupert’s brother) in charge of the Western Army and sent him off to vanquish Parliamentarian hotspots in Devon such as Plymouth. Ralph Hopton, who was still recovering from injuries caused by an exploding  munitions waggon was made deputy governor of Bristol under Prince Rupert.  Charles arranged for the army he had fetched with him from Oxford to be divided into a garrison for Bristol and a force to attack Gloucester which was headed up by the king – though he very sensibly took Prince Rupert and Patrick Ruthven (the Scottish Earl of Forth) with him.

By that time Bristol was the only Parliamentarian stronghold between Bristol and Lancaster.  In short it was the fly in the proverbial ointment. It was a Parliamentarian stronghold that allowed them to interfere with royalist communications across the Severn. Things did not look good for the Parliamentarians.  It was admittedly a walled city with a castle but the former, Roman in origin, didn’t go all the way round and the latter was in the process of being dismantled.  There was also a serious shortage of powder despite the fact that Massie had written to Parliament asking for money, weapons and reinforcements.  As elsewhere in the country Gloucester’s population found themselves shovelling soil as fast as they could to create earthworks to strengthen their city’s defences.  It is not recorded how they felt when Massie started burning the suburbs beyond the city wall so that the Royalists wouldn’t have any cover.

The king and his army asked or “summoned” the city to surrender on the 10th August 1643.  He settled down for a siege despite the fact that Rupert advocated storming the city, recognising that it wasn’t equipped for that eventuality.  Charles, as at Turnham Green, was worried about the casualties.

By the end of August the Earl of Essex was on the road from London to lift the seige. Charles who had been shelling Gloucester could not risk being caught between Gloucester’s garrison and Essex’s army so raised the siege and let Essex occupy the city.   The next eighteen months were somewhat tense for the inhabitants of Gloucester. They had already sold off their plate to pay for provisions prior to the siege but now they had to deal with the fact that over two hundred houses had been destroyed by the Parliamentarians to prevent the royalists from finding cover close to the walls, the town ditches were flooded and the shelling had done rather a lot of damage.  The church of St Nicholas has a decided lean even today because of the  royalist shelling.

We know that Massie would have had to surrender if Essex had not arrived when he did at Gloucester.  He was running extremely short of gunpowder.  Gloucester Civic Trust have a helpful article on the siege. In 1645 Massie’s loyalty to Parliament came under question and by 1659 he was actively plotting for the town’s take over by Royalists.  By that time the town which had always been largely Presbyterian in sympathy and organisation looked rather more divided in its loyalties.

More significantly,  the fact that the king had to march away from Gloucester brought the Royalist summer of victories to a close and set the scene for the Battle of Newbury  which took place on 20 September 1643.   Essex and his army were returning to London.  Charles chased after Essex and overtook the Parliamentarian army at Newbury.  If Essex wanted to get back to London he had to get by the Royalists.  Later Essex would be accused of lacking in military flare but on this particular occasion he made a surprise dawn attack on Charles’ army.  It was touch and go for Essex who was almost encircled at one point in the battle.  Despite that he saw off Prince Rupert and his cavalry and when battle broke off it was the royalists who had to give way because they did not have sufficient ammunition to continue the encounter.  The Scots would soon officially enter the war and from that point forwards the tide would shift in favour of Parliament.

‘Gloucester, 1640-60: The English Revolution’, in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 4, the City of Gloucester, ed. N M Herbert (London, 1988), pp. 92-95. British History Online [accessed 13 February 2018].





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1643- English Civil War

anthony-van-dyck-portrait-of-sir-ralph-hopton-and-of-his-wife-elizabeth.jpgIt’s interesting that in January 1643 the king was still receiving petitions asking him to return to London and his parliament.  A Parliamentary committee even visited Oxford where the king was based in order to promise him his safety if he returned to London.

Elsewhere the business of running a kingdom continued.  Towns loyal to the king gathered their silver and sent it to Oxford where another mint had been set up.  Shrewsbury sent twelve wagons.  Ambassadors came and went.  Justice was served.  The Irish question continues to haunt English politics.  It would have to be said that being so concerned with their own conflicts that the English in Ireland found themselves without provisions or ammunition by May 1643.

As a starting point, the war is best seen as being fought regionally in 1643 as it gives an indicator of key figures as well as the respective strength of the various forces – think of each region as a game of chess between the two sides which is complicated by the fact that the is a national oversight that sees regional conflicts interlocking although it would have to be said that the majority of local leaders weren’t paying much attention to the national picture they were far too busy skirmishing with their former neighbours. I shall start from the south coast and the Southwest of England

The South East/ south coast – Nicely straight forward (for the most part) – Dover Castle was captured by Parliament before the starting whistle was blown in 1642.  In Hampshire the Royalists notably held Basing House and Portsmouth but everywhere else in the county was Parliamentarian.  Parliament set about forming committees and raising taxes in these areas as well as raising troops.  Parliament also stated that if people couldn’t pay their taxes in coin they could pay in kind and produced a table for guidance – so wheat was the equivalent of 5 shillings.  By the end of the year Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset would be embroiled in the conflict and Basing House which was one of the largest Tudor houses in the country would be on the receiving end of not one but three direct assaults as the Parliamentarians under the command of Sir William Waller (pictured below.)

220px-WilliamWaller.jpgThe royalist command in Cornwall was held by Ralph Hopton featured at the start of this post with his wife Elizabeth.  In 1642 he and his men had driven the Parliamentarians from Launceston.  Whilst Hopton  was unable to secure Devon at this time, Cornwall was firmly royalist.  This position was confirmed on the 19th January 1643 when Hopton won the Battle of Braddock Down and from there went on to besiege Plymouth which was in Parliamentarian hands. In early 1643 there were a number of skirmishes between both sides but places like Parliamentarian Exeter continued to petition and negotiate for peace between the warring factions.  In London, Parliament urged the Devon Committee to raise more money and troops.

It is perhaps not surprising that by this time churches and cathedrals across the country were hiding their  plate and anything valuable as it was seen as fair game by both sides.  In Chichester, the plate was discovered and taken away by Parliamentarian forces.

Ultimately Hopton and his royalist Western  Army would advance in the direction of Bath where he comes into conflict with Sir William Waller and the Parliamentarian Western Association forces (The Western Association comprises Waller’s military command of Gloucester, Wiltshire, Worcester, Shropshire and Somerset.  By March he will have secured Salisbury, Winchester and Bristol for Parliament).  To counter this Hopton and Waller come to blows on 16th May 1643 when Hopton takes on a Parliamentary force at Stamford Hill.  The Royalists are victorious and they advance towards Bath.

The Battle of Landsdown Hill is fought on the 5th July 1643.  Waller has the high ground and the royalists suffer heavy casualties although it is the Parliamentarian force that eventually retreats.  The morning after the battle, Hopton is temporarily blinded and paralysed when a munitions wagon explodes.  Despite the fact that they have won the battle, the Royalists retreat to Chippenham being harried by Waller’s men as they do so.  It would have to be said that victory doesn’t look particularly victorious given that strategically Waller gains the upper hand in the aftermath of the battle.

Parliamentarians from Bristol (it had been secured for Parliament in March by Waller without much fuss) move to outflank Hopton’s Royalists and the whole lot end up in Devizes on the 9th July.  Waller thinking that he has won offers Hopton surrender terms which Hopton pretends to consider knowing that he needs to give the Royalists time to come to his assistance having sent a message to Oxford with Prince Maurice prior to being besieged. His hopes are fulfilled when 2,000 fresh cavalry put in an appearance from Oxford.  The Battle of Roundway Down is fought on the 13th July 1643.  Waller is resoundingly beaten and has to go to London to raise more money and men.

prince rupert.png

A8c0810724dd73ce9dcdf6dd691337811--doublet-bristol.jpgt that point the Royalists realise that they could control the whole of the southwest.  On the 24th July Prince Rupert  (pictured above) and his men rock up outside Bristol (England’s second city at this time) and suggest very nicely that its Parliamentarian Governor Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes might like to surrender.  Fiennes declines the invitation and on the 26th Rupert and his forces storm Bristol.  By nightfall Fiennes asks for terms and at the beginning of August King Charles visits.  Fiennes will ask for a parliamentary investigation into the fall of Bristol as he is widely castigated on account of the fact that Waller has far more success with Gloucester than he has with Bristol – Gloucester requires its own post and besides which is just outside the region I am covering today.

Elsewhere Dorchester, which was Parliamentarian and where its citizens had been busy digging ditches and earth banks night and day surrender to the Royalists without a blow and in September, Exeter is taken by Prince Maurice.  It was Parliamentarian in sympathy and had hoped to withstand siege but it could not be supplied so therefore had no choice. Maurice moves on to besiege Plymouth  and Dartmouth. Falmouth is already Royalist. At Poole the Parliamentarians foil a Royalist attack but the Parliamentarian navy under the command of the Earl of Warwick takes up residence in the harbour to discourage further attacks.

I should add that Dorchester will change hands again before the end of the year.  Parliament will offer the Royalist prisoners taken in Dorchester the opportunity to pay a large fine in return for their freedom.  The money is used to continue to finance their armies.

By this point towns with any strategic value in the area are suddenly re-assessed in terms of their security.  For instance twenty barrels of powder and shot were dispatched to Lyme Regis by Parliament so that it could be defended and the Earl of Essex is ordered to advance through the Midlands to come up behind the royalist armies.  Towns and strategic locations throughout the area have their own story to tell at this time, including Dunster Castle which is unexpectedly Parliamentarian in sympathy at the start of 1642 – but the post is already long enough, so I shall save that for another day as well.

By December 1643, Hopton, elevated to the peerage is still doing battle with his Parliamentarian adversary William Waller.  Both have had victories and both have suffered defeats.  Waller is holed up in Farnham Castle but Hopton is unable to capture him so heads off for Arundel Castle instead which he captures for the Royalist cause.

On the 27th Waller takes nearby Chichester.

In 1643 some places surrender without a blow being struck, other locations are the scenarios of grim and bloody battles fought hedgerow by hedgerow.  Some places are besieged, the siege is raised and they are left like beacons in a landscape shaded by the opposing army.  All in all there is a feel of sands shifting but that at this point in the South West that the Royalists should be victorious.

I intend to post on Dunster Castle and the Luttrell family as well as Gloucester this week. From there I shall progress to Yorkshire where the Royalist Commander at the start of 1643 is the Earl of Cumberland and a man out of his depth.  He will have to summon the Earl of Newcastle for help.  This will be an opportunity to revisit the civil war in the West Riding not to mention the increasing significance of Thomas Fairfax.  Meanwhile in the Midlands the war is described by Brian Stone not in terms of chess but rather more like a football match and I haven’t even got so far as the Battle of Newbury.


Emberton, Wilfred. (1995) The Civil War Day by Day. Stroud: Sutton Publishing






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The Earl of Essex

essex3.jpgRobert Devereux was the son of the Queen Elizabeth’s favourite – the dashing one that managed to get himself executed for treason in 1601.  Grandpapa on his mother’s side was Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster.  Obviously having been attainted for treason the entire Devereux family, including young Robert who was ten at the time of his father’s misdeeds, were tainted as being of bad blood and all property returned to the Crown.

Things changed in 1604 when James I restored titles and lands to Robert and arranged his marriage to a wealthy Howard heiress. Perhaps this was because young Robert was close to the ill-fated Prince of Wales, Henry Stuart.  Unfortunately young Robert wasn’t old enough to actually marry his bride, Frances, so was sent abroad on his own version of Frances-Howard.jpgthe grand tour.  Whilst he was securing a gentleman’s education Frances Howard took up with the king’s favourite  Robert Carr and married him instead having divorced Robert for impotency in 1613 (and I should imagine that no 20 year-old wants that particular label)- France’s marriage would end in murder, a visit to the Tower and a Jacobean scandal that historians are still writing about but that’s beside the point.  The marriage ended amidst much hilarity and popular balladry.  Robert insisted that even if he was impotent so far as Frances was concerned he was more than capable with other ladies of his acquaintance.  To add insult to injury, Frances who had been carrying on with Robert Carr, was declared to be a maiden – the mirth this enjoindered can only be imagined.

Robert, the third earl, undertook a military career in continental Europe perhaps to escape the ribaldry.  The thirty years war was well under way by this time. He served in the Low Countries and or the Palatinate of which James’ daughter Elizabeth was the queen. In 1625 he was part of the Duke of Buckingham’s disastrous Cadiz Campaign.

It would have to be said that his relationship with Charles was not good.  He absolutely refused to pay Charles’ forced loans.  And things can’t have been much worse when in 1639 having been appointed as second in command of the the king’s armies in Scotland in the run up to the First Bishop’s War he was demoted so that the role could be given to one of the queen’s favourites.  Charles then became a bit sniffy about the fact that the Scots approached the earl to try and prevent the english army from marching north.  There was nothing machiavellian in the earl of Essex’s actions that warranted the king’s distrust as evidenced by the fact that Essex handed the letters he’d received from the Scots to Charles unopened.  In 1640 he wasn’t offered any role at all in the Second Bishop’s War which must have galled.

In 1640 when the king finally ran out of money and the Long Parliament sat Essex emerged as the principal speaker for the opposition to the king in the House of Lords.  He and John Pym worked together to prosecute the Earl of Strafford.  Charles, perhaps realising that insulting the earl of Essex in terms of military leadership hadn’t been one of his better ideas offered him a place on the Privy Council in 1641 and by July he was in control of the king’s army south of the River Trent and Lord Chamberlain.

It was Essex who received the news from his cousin Lady Carlisle in January 1641 that Charles intended to arrest five members of the House of Commons and one peer. After that Charles left London for Hampton Court, then Windsor.  From there he went north to York.  Once in York he ordered the earl to join him but Essex refused and was promptly removed from the post of Lord Chamberlain.  Parliament had come to regard him as a potential leader for some time and Charles as evidenced above had never really trusted him.  Essex was a bit prickly about his honour having had his father executed for treason so its perhaps not surprising that he chose to side with Parliament rather than the king.

In 1642 Essex was appointed to the Parliamentary Committee of Safety.  He also became one of Parliament’s key military figures during the early years of the English Civil War.  He wanted to negotiate a peace but from a position of military superiority – his was the middle way if you wish when Parliament was increasingly split between the War Party and the Peace Party.

He commanded the parliamentary forces at Edgehill and as with his continental campaigns he shared the experiences of his ordinary soldiers to the extent that he was actually seen at push of pike.  Edgehill was technically a draw but since Essex failed in his objective to prevent the king from marching on London it is usually deemed that he lost the battle.  But it was Essex who petitioned Londoners to send as many men as they could to Chiswick on 13 November at Turnham Green and thus ensured that the king withdrew from London rather than be responsible for untold bloodshed.

In 1643 Essex captured Reading but was unable to advance and capture Oxford where the king’s court was based.  He became embittered by his armies lack of pay whilst Parliament grew testy about his lack of success.  Despite this he raised the siege on Gloucester and won a victory at Newbury.

The king was not alone in mistrusting Essex’s military capacities.  When John Pym died in 1643 he was replaced by Sir Henry Vane who was not one of Essex’s fans. A point which seems to have been proved when, in 1644, Essex lost the Parliamentary army in Cornwall and had to escape in a fishing boat. Lostwithiel was the end of Essex’s military career. In addition to the Cornish disaster he had been militarily overshadowed by men like Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.  He resigned his commission in 1645. Whilst he wasn’t a hugely successful military figure on account of his lack of imagination and flair he was respected by his men because ehe shared their hardships.

The earl of Essex wasn’t hugely successful as a husband either.  Having been divorced by Frances Howard he went on to marry Elizabeth Paulet in 1630 having returned from his soldiering in Europe to take up his other career as a politician – and an earl needs a wife.  The marriage lasted a year, after that it was a marriage in name only.  Six years after they married Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate baby which Robert accepted as his own after some hesitation, mainly because he didn’t need the embarrassment of a second errant wife and he did need an heir.  The child, a boy named Robert, died when it was little over a moth old and the earl was left without an heir.

walterdevereux.jpgThere are three earls of Essex during the Tudor/Stuart period – the title was not used after the third earl’s death in 1646 until the Restoration. The First Earl of Essex was Walter Devereux – he is associated with Tudor rule in Ireland and is more famously Lettice Knollys’ husband.  Lettice was the daughter of Catherine Carey – making her the grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn.  Historians speculate whether Catherine was the daughter of Henry VIII  – Lettice certainly looked rather a lot like her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.  In fact Lettice managed to get into rather a lot of trouble with her cousin after the first earl of Essex’s death when she secretly married Elizabeth’s long time squeeze, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

2nd earl of essex.jpgThe second Earl of Essex was Robert Devereux.  He was Walter and Lettice’s fifth child and after Robert Dudley’s death became a favourite with the aging Elizabeth I.  Like his father he was associated with Ireland.  His campaign was not a rip-roaring success from Elizabeth’s point of view.  Handsome but petulant the earl rebelled in 1600 having already sailed pretty close to the wind when he returned from Ireland and burst in on Elizabeth having been expressly forbidden from crossing the Irish Sea and winning no friends when he saw the queen without all her finery.  He was executed for treason on 25th February 1601 – leaving a young son, also called Robert, who would eventually become the third earl.


Filed under Seventeenth Century, Sixteenth Century, The Stuarts, The Tudors

Road to War – from Parliament to Edge hill.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36I am currently feeling slightly out of kilter time wise as I have classes running on topics ranging from Kathryn Swynford to the English Civil War with a side interest in the names on my local war memorial – the research for which in the hundredth anniversary is proving fascinating.  I almost feel that I should do more blogs to give every area of History an airing!

So with that in mind – I shall post today about 1642.  1641 had not been a tremendously good year for King Charles I.  He had to call Parliament when he managed to mislay Northumberland and Durham into the hands of the Scots.  In August he was required to go to Edinburgh and give the Covenanters virtually everything they demanded which in turn contributed to the Irish Rebellion which like a domino toppling over onto its neighbour resulted in John Pym taking the opportunity of attacking the king and also his queen.

By January 1642 Charles I was prepared for an extremely ill-advised move against Pym and his associates.  His plan to arrest them in Parliament on the 4th January was leaked, as I’ve posted before, by Lady Carlisle who was one of Henrietta Maria’s favourites.  Charles famously discovered that the birds had flown and that most of London was up in arms about the king’s abuse of his rights.  Charles probably wasn’t terribly mused when the five men – Pym, Holles, Hampden, Haselrig and Strode returned to Westminster on the 11th of January to a heroes welcome.

The following day Charles and his family left Hampton Court for Windsor. Across the country petitions were drawn up and rumours began to circulate. One rumour said that  the Danes were going to invade whilst a more local rumour in Norwich stated that those pesky Puritans were going to destroy Norwich Cathedral’s organ.  The result of the clergy setting a guard over their prized musical instrument was a riot whilst, during August,  in Kidderminster a group of Puritans really did attempt to make the church less catholic in its ornament – and yes there was another riot.  The situation across the country was unsettled to put it mildly.  Neighbours began to look askance at one another. The threat of violence and sectarianism wasn’t far from the surface although at this stage in proceedings allegiances had not been firmly settled upon.

Meanwhile at Windsor the Stuarts had come up with a cunning plan.  Henrietta Maria was going to accompany her daughter, ten-year-old Mary to Holland – ostensibly the princess royal was going to join her spouse and Henrietta Maria was going as a doting mother. More practically the queen was going to buy munitions and mercenaries.  The family made their farewells at Dover in February 1642.  Charles’ nephew Prince Rupert turned up to thank his uncle for helping him gain his freedom.  In private he offered Uncle Charles his support which was a bit rich as his elder brother was in Whitehall at the time assuring anyone who would listen that the European Stuarts would stay neutral.

Charles collected his eldest son and headed north where he believed he would receive more support.  He entered York on the 19th March.  The king and Parliament spent several weeks firing missives and ordinances at one another which both sides rejected.  Parliament also became concerned that the arsenal at Hull was a bit too close to Charles for comfort so petition that it should be removed to The Tower.  Charles is confident that the Governor of Hull, Sir John Hotham is a good and upstanding royalist unfortunately although young Prince James receives a warm welcome on 22 April his father finds the gates of the town shut against him  on the 23rd.  Hull is promptly besieged.

In London trained bands of militia go through their drills and Parliament reserves the right to call on the militia – which is a bit difficult as Charles refuses to agree to that particular idea.  This ultimately means that every county receives two versions of a commission of array demanding armed men to take the field – one commission is for parliament whilst the other is for the king.  By June both Parliament and the King are recruiting men.  Not only that but suddenly there is a bit of a contest over fortified locations, magazines and strong points.  There is also a drive for financial aid. Charles expedited matters somewhat in York by setting up a mint.

The gentry from across the country meet to write petitions and gather signatures.  The petitions that are favourable to Charles, he kept – the rest he ignored. Derby sent two – the first asked him very politely to return to his Parliament. The most famous presentation of a petition occurred on June 3rd when Charles rode out to Heyworth Moor to receive a demonstration of loyalty from the gentlemen of Yorkshire. Thomas Fairfax who will go on to become a parliamentary general tries to present a petition to the king and is almost ridden down for his pains.  Petitions and letters continue to be swapped in a bid to avert civil strife but at the end of June Charles attempts to take control of the fleet by writing personalised letters to each of his captains.  The fleet declares for Parliament and the earl of Warwick is appointed as High Admiral.

Meanwhile Hull is still under siege and on July 12 the king leaves York and goes to Newark.  He also visits Lincoln before returning to Beverley.  He then travels down through the Midlands.

The time for the war of paper is almost over.  Parliament start appointing committees of public safety and in August passes an ordinance stating that the customs fees that have previously been paid to the king must now be paid to Parliament.  Regiments muster in different counties and batteries are raised.  Dover Castle is taken by surprise on the 21st of August by forces loyal to Parliament.  Despite this momentous event the metaphorical trail of gunpowder does not reach the powderkeg until the following day – and at the time, its something of a damp squib.

On August 22nd 1642, King Charles I raises the royal standard at Nottingham.  There is no fanfare.  England is officially at war with itself. Even now war could have been averted. The Privy Council insist that the king sends a conciliatory letter to both of the houses of parliament.  The Earl of Southampton takes the letter to the Lords where he is jeered at.  Sir John Culpeper who takes the other letter to the House of Commons is not permitted to give it to the house.  Part of the reason for this was that Parliament was much more organised in terms of recruiting and arming men for its cause.

There is rather a lot of marching around on both sides and some manoeuvring in Manchester which I’m going to ignore for the time being.  Prince Rupert turns up at Leicester and writes the mayor a very forthright letter threatening to raze the place to the ground unless a large sum of money is handed over.  This makes excellent propaganda for Parliament so Charles makes Rupert write a second letter to the mayor apologising for the content of the first one.  It should be noted that the money remained in the king’s hands.

On the 13th September King Charles marches from Nottingham to Derby.  He advances on Shrewsbury whilst Prince Rupert goes to visit Worcester which he finds indefensible.  It is at the point that he encounters some Parliamentarians  at Powick Bridge.  There is fisticuffs and it usually described as the first major encounter of the war – which in truth is a bit of an overstatement but  since Rupert won, it gave the royalists a boost and they insisted on going on about it at length-hence its place in the History books.

On the 12th October Charles left Shrewsbury to march on London. The royalist army has grown during this time but Charles is now reduced to selling titles in order to refuel his piggybank. By the 17th he is in Birmingham and on the 21st the king is in Edgcote.

The 23 October 1642 – The Battle of Edgehill.  The reasons for the battle are fairly straightforward, Charles wanted to get to London whilst the parliamentary general – in the shape of the Earl of Essex, needed to stop him from pursuing that idea.  Essex had been all over the country at this point and even on the 22nd he didn’t have an exact notion as to where Charles was because of ineffective communications. Somehow or the other both armies managed to end up in reasonable proximity to one another.  The king held the ridge at Edgehill but it couldn’t be said that the royalist army got into position quickly.  Prince Rupert was in place with his cavalry at daybreak but by the time the two armies actually got into striking distance of one another it was 2pm.  In part this was because Essex simply refused to attack up a steep hill – so the royalists had to march down.  The battle took the form of an hour long cannonade, a fight over the hedges and a cavalry charge or two. Prince Rupert demonstrated for the first time his tendency to ride straight through the battle and go for the backlines.  On this occasion he came across some fresh parliamentarian forces at the village of Kniveton, had a brief skirmish then turned his men around and headed back to the main battle rather than continuing to do his own thing which usually involved getting to grips with the baggage train.  In two hours each army fought the other to a standstill.  By then it was getting dark and the chaos of battle was confused by the the darkness of night.  Military historians describe it as a draw but practically it left the way open to London so the Earl of Essex  failed in his purpose meaning that by default the victory at Edgehill went to the king.

Essex retired to Warwick.

If Charles had marched on London he would have retaken his capital.  In medieval terms the person who controlled the capital was usually the person who ultimately won the war.  In 1642 Charles would have probably been able to take control of the fleet and he would definitely have had a larger population to tax so that he could have continued to fight Parliament.  Rupert advised his uncle to ride for London immediately but Charles was concerned about the fact that London was hostile to him.  There were also the trained bands of London militia to consider.

In November Rupert reached Brentford which he fired and plundered.  Londoners fearful of suffering a similar fate put 6,000 trained apprentices in the field and a further 24,000 Londoners took up arms. The Londoners led by the earl of Essex and the king’s army stood face to face at Turnham Green in Chiswick.  Charles eventually withdrew not wishing to be responsible for the loss of so much life.

Whilst John Pym spent the rest of the year working out how to tax people so that Parliament could pay its army, a party for peace would propose a settlement in February 1643.  The proposed Treaty of Oxford would have seen parliament called every three years, the abolition of bishops with everything else remaining in the king’s power – though he would have had to have consulted with parliament.

I suspect that I ought to post about the Earl of Essex next.


Filed under English Civil War, Seventeenth Century, Uncategorized