Basher Dowsing and iconoclasm in Suffolk

The medieval splendour of Suffolk’s wool churches took a bit of a battering during the Tudor period. By the time Cromwell and Protestant reformers had removed saints from their niches and destroyed assorted altars and rood screens.  Saints were toppled from their niches and altars removed to be replaced by communion tables.  Then came the orders to white wash wall paintings. Everything started to look decidedly monochrome.

Matters deteriorated even further when William Dowsing (who was born about 1596 and pictured at the start of this post)  was appointed by the Earl of Manchester to inspect the parish churches of East Anglia during 1643 and 1644.  He visited something in the region of one hundred and fifty churches in Suffolk. Dowsing was not sympathetic to Armenianism of Archbishop Laud.  He destroyed stained glass, removed brasses from tombs and defaced anything that could have been defined as Papist idolatry.  Altar rails were removed, steps to altars lowered, fonts took a bit of a battering as well and holy water stoups were deemed to be fit only for Papists.  He defaced tombs that requested prayers for the Dead as this was a bit too close to the Catholic idea of purgatory for comfort.  He wasn’t wildly keen on any depiction of the Trinity either.  He also had a thing about angels – in that he didn’t like them one little bit.

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Dowsing was born in Laxfield, Suffolk from farming stock – with a large landholding.  During the 1620s he married Thamar Lea who was a member of a minor gentry family.  Her name is redolent of Puritanism.  She bore him ten children. Her death in 1640 seems to have made William a stricter puritan than ever. As a consequence of his deepening beliefs he let his land and moved to Dedham, a parish noted for its strict Puritanism. He demanded that the region’s churches should become more godly – and ensured that a letter to that effect reached the Earl of Manchester (a religious moderate who let Dowsing get on with it.)  Part of this belief stemmed from the theological argument against graven images – which is where “pictures” whether of glass or paint or stone met with Dowsing’s disapproval.  There was also the fact that Archbishop Laud had been rather busy reintroducing altars and altar rails to prevent the masses from getting up close and personal with the Almighty.

 

Having wrought destruction in Cambridgeshire Dowsing moved into Suffolk in April 1644 and spent the summer smashing up churches.  He charged parishes for the privledge.  We know this from his journal.  This is supported by the evidence of various church accounts – and from the fact that there are lots of defaced churches with missing brasses, plain or Victorian glass, damaged fonts and various chunks of masonry missing their faces.  The journal often also accounts for what was destroyed.

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Dowsing spent a lot of time trying to remove hammer beam angels from their perches.  In Blythburgh church there’s plenty of evidence of Dowsing’s defacement but the angels survived.  It was believed that he had attempted to shoot them down but when the roof was restored it became apparent that the lead shot dated from eighteenth century bird scarers.  By 1663 Blythburgh was in danger of falling into disrepair – no doubt shattered windows didn’t help matters very much.

 

In nearby Southwold he and his men broke down more than one hundred and thirty pictures and four crosses. Today it is possible to see the thirty-five vandalised Rood Screen panels with their faces scratched out ( just be grateful that the screen survives.)  Dowsing also managed to remove twenty angels from the roof – demonstrating that he was nothing if not determined.

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In 1646 in the aftermath of the First English Civil War William Dowsing married for a second time to Mary Cooper and then lived long enough to see the monarchy restored.  He died in 1668 and is know to history as Basher Dowsing.  His journal is available to read online http://www.williamdowsing.org/journal_online.html

 

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Cooper, T. (ed.), The Journal of William Dowsing: Iconoclasm in East Anglia during the English Civil War. Woodbridge, 2001.

http://www.williamdowsing.org/journal_online.html,

J. ‘Dowsing, William (bap. 1596, d. 1668)’, in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: University Press, 2004

 

The man who made priest holes

DSC_0094.jpgYesterday I found myself in the garderobe, sliding into a small space, ducking my head to avoid a low beam and then straightening to find myself in a priest hole.  Fortunately for me no one was going to slam the lid back into place and leave me in total darkness until it was safe for me to emerge or I was discovered and dragged off to the Tower.  I was enjoying a sunny afternoon at Oxborough Hall.

 

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During the reign of Elizabeth I Jesuits priests were feared as enemies of the state and hunted down by pursuivants.  Catholic priests moved from Catholic household to catholic household, often purporting to be cousins or other distant relations.  Wealthy families built hiding places in their homes so that when the priest hunters came calling there was somewhere to hide their illicit guest.

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The most successful priest holes were built by Nicholas Owen – not that he built the hole at Oxborough. Owen, an Oxfordshire man, was born in 1562.  He had three siblings one was a Catholic priest and another printed illegal Catholic books.  The brothers’ father was a carpenter and Nicholas in his turn was apprenticed to a joiner.  By the time he was in his mid twenties he was working for Father Henry Garnet and had become a lay brother in the Jesuit order.  He suffered from ill health including a limp from a poorly set bone and a hernia. Despite his physical frailty he travelled from house to house constructing priest holes.   Most of the people he worked for didn’t know his real name – to them he was Little John.  He worked by night in total secrecy to create his hiding places.  Many of the priest holes were so well concealed that they were only discovered in later centuries when houses underwent renovation.  Unfortunately the occasional hole is still found with its occupant still in situ.

 

Owen’s favoured locations seem to have been behind fireplaces and under stairs.  The pursuivants were men who could judge if an interior wall looked shorter than an exterior wall so Owen had to be very careful as to where he located his priest holes.

 

Nicholas was a man strong in faith.  He was eventually captured in 1606 at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.  It is thought he allowed himself to be captured in order to distract attention from Father Henry Garnet who was hiding nearby.

There were rules about torturing people with disabilities but this didn’t stop Robert Cecil from demanding that Owen be taken to the Tower and taxed about his knowledge by Topcliffe.  He was racked.  This caused his intestines to bulge out through his hernia.  Topcliffe ordered that they be secure by a metal plate. This cut into the hernia and he bled to death in his cell. He died rather than give away his secrets and the lives of the men who depended upon him keeping them.  The State announced that he had committed suicide.

St Nicholas Owen was canonised in 1970 and is the patron saint of illusionists and escape artists.

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Hogge Alice.  God’s Secret Agents

Reynolds, Tony. (2014) St Nicholas Owen: Priest Hole Maker

https://soul-candy.info/2012/03/mar-22-st-nicholas-owen-sj-d-1606-martyr-artist-builder-of-hiding-places-for-priests/

The scandalous earl, a leaky boat and a Stuart princess

buffsjohnsheffield.jpgJohn Sheffield, the 3rd Earl of Mulgrave was born on the 7th April 1648.  He inherited his title when he was a child.  When he was eighteen he joined the fleet to fight against the Dutch in the Second Anglo Dutch war.  He went on to command his own ship, the Royal Katherine, and was also made an infantry colonel having raised a regiment of foot.  In 1680 he was sent to relieve the garrison of Tangiers.

All of which sounds like the usual “blah” until you realise that history says that he was sent off in a leaky boat to Tangiers for having looked a bit too closely at Charles II’s mistresses or else for having the audacity to look to marry James of York’s youngest daughter (it depends on the source but it was more likely the mistress than the princess given the date of his commission to relieve Tangiers which was before the princess scandal.)  Samuel Johnson mentions “some resentful jealousy of the king,” he also comments that since Mulgrave resumed his duties at court as a courtier on his return that perhaps Charles II had never been angry at all – making the whole story a Stuart red herring.

On his return from Tangiers Mulgrave became noted for his support of James of York. He was one of the men who helped to bring about the disgrace of the Earl of Monmouth (Charles II’s illegitimate but protestant son.) Not unreasonably Mulgrave may have expected a little gratitude from Monmouth’s uncle James, Duke of York.

 

fe6f287740b51454df7a553b40e9e0ae.jpgHowever, his desired reward was not forthcoming!  In 1682 Mulgrave was sent away from court for putting himself forward as a prospective groom for seventeen-year-old Princess Anne – the gossip mongers claimed that he’d progressed rather further with his courting than either James of Charles II liked. Mulgrave was thirty five at the time and had a reputation as a rake (hence the leaky Tangiers bound boat.) He was quick to report that he was “only ogling” the princess (charming) but at the time it was understood that he had written letters to the princess that were rather too personal.  When he was banished from court in November 1682 speculation about Anne’s possible seduction was rife. There were plenty of risqué songs on the subject in London’s taverns.

 

A description of the attempted disposal of Mulgrave by his dispatch to Tangiers can be found in an anonymous source in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 3:285-300. Which may be accessed from http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/BiographyRecord.php?action=GET&bioid=35802

This account is more probably true, than the former when it is considered, that by sending the earl to Tangier, a scheme was laid for destroying him, and all the crew aboard the same vessel. For the ship which was appointed to carry the general of the forces, was in such a condition, that the captain of her declared, he was afraid to make the voyage. Upon this representation, lord Mulgrave applied both to the lord admiral, and the king himself: The first said, the ship was safe enough, and no other could be then procured. The king answered him coldly, that he hoped it would do, and that he should give himself no trouble about it. His lordship was reduced to the extremity either of going in a leaky ship, or absolutely refusing; which he knew his enemies would impute to cowardice, and as he abhorred the imputation, he resolved, in opposition to the advice of his friends, to hazard all; but at the same time advised several volunteers of quality, not to accompany him in the expedition, as their honour was not so much engaged as his; some of whom wisely took his advice, but the earl of Plymouth, natural son of the king, piqued himself in running the same danger with a man who went to serve his father, and yet was used so strangely by the ill-offices of his ministers.

Providence, however defeated the ministerial scheme of assassination, by giving them the finest weather during the voyage, which held three weeks, and by pumping all the time, they landed safe at last at Tangier, where they met with admiral Herbert, afterwards earl of Torrington, who could not but express his admiration, at their having performed such a voyage in a ship he had sent home as unfit for service; but such was the undisturbed tranquility and native firmness of the earl of Mulgrave’s mind, that in this hazardous voyage, he composed (a) poem.

The poem I should add is described by Johnson as licentious.

 

Mulgrave remained in England after  King James II fled in 1688.  He even protected the Spanish ambassador from the London mob. His political career nose dived during the reign of William and Mary.

He remained on very good terms with Anne. He became the Lord Privy Seal after she became queen  and in 1703 was created Duke of Buckingham and Normanby. When in London he lived in Buckingham House which overlooked the Mall. He was furiously Tory in his sympathies throughout his life which was a bit of a problem whilst Sarah Churchill held the queen’s ear as she was a Whig.  It’s somewhat ironic that Sarah Churchill met Anne when they were children but it was only after the Mulgrave scandal that the two became close.

 

Just a reminder –  the final short summer class in Derby entitled Queen Anne- fact and fiction- starts on Tuesday 25th June.  There are still spaces.  Follow the link to find out more. https://thehistoryjar.com/derby-classes/

 

Bills of Mortality 1665-1666 …charting the Great Plague

Plague scenes Wellcome.jpgBills of Mortality , or the weekly list of deaths and their causes, were published in London during the final years of Queen Elizabeth I. Then from  1603 they were published continuously by the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks.

2378023r_page_011There were 130 parishes in London.  The weekly list gives historians an insight into the statistics of the period not to mention some of the mechanisms of the Grim Reaper.  In the week commencing August 15 1665 8 people died from “winde,” another from “lethargy” whilst 190 were carried away by “fever and purples” which sounds downright unpleasant not to mention suspiciously like the bubonic plague. A total of 3880 souls were listed as having died from Yersinia pestis as the bacilli carried by fleas should be more correctly known.

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From the Bills of Mortality it is possible to chart the progress of the disease.  The earliest outbreak was in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.  It was a poor parish so no one paid a great deal of attention.  Gradually the numbers increased and the plague moved inside the city walls.

London lost roughly 15% of its population with the numbers peaking during the hottest months of the year.  In one week in September the number of deaths from bubonic plague was listed as 7,165.

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While a total of  68,596 deaths were recorded in the city, the true number was probably over 100,000.

 

Those who could left the city and took the disease with them. Charles II and his courtiers left in July for Hampton Court and then Oxford.  Court cases were also moved from Westminster to Oxford. The poor had no option but to remain, shut in to their homes by officials if they or a member of their family caught the disease; discovered by searchers when they died and buried in pits such as the one unearthed by the construction of Crossrail.

As for the Bills of Mortality it turns out that the Guildhall Library in London holds the most complete collection of the documents.  They, along with the story of the plague, can be viewed at the City of London’s online exhibition about the Great Plague which can be found by clicking on the link and opening a new window. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/events-exhibitions/Pages/great-plague-online-exhibition.aspx

Bills of Mortality may be viewed on line at https://wellcomecollection.org/

https://www.historytoday.com/great-plague-1665-case-closed

Bills of Mortality August 15 -22, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Chart of distribution of the Great Plague, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Title page to a statistical analysis of mortality during the plague epidemic in London of 1665. Etching, 18–. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Plague in London, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Comets in English history and beyond -harbingers of disaster, disease and death

Bayeux_Tapestry_scene32_Halley_comet_closeup.jpgHalley’s Comet made an appearance in 1066.  Chinese scholars had been noting its appearance since 240BC so Western Europe was a bit late to the party.  The Babylonians were in on the act as well.

The English thought that the comet was an omen for war in 1066.  William the Conqueror was much more optimistic he called it a “wonderful sign from Heaven” but then he’d taken the precaution of giving a daughter to the Church and persuading the Pope to call his invasion of England a crusade.

As luck would have it I am also in the midst of the seventeenth century at the moment so was mildly delighted when I came across Samuel Pepys account of a comet in 1664 seen above London.

So to the Coffeehouse, where great talke of the Comet seen in several places; and among our men at sea, and by my Lord Sandwic, to whom I intend to write about it to-night.

Sir Isaac Newton, a student at the time, searched the skies for the comet and Pepys hoped to see it for himself, not least because it had caused a plethora of prophesies – oddly none of them positive!

Mighty talke there of this Comet that is seen a ’night; and the King and the Queene did sit up last night to see it, and did, it seems. And to-night I thought to have done so too, but it is cloudy and so no stars appear. But I will endeavor it (December 17).

My lord Sandwich this day writes me word That he hath seen (at Portsmouth) the Comet, And says it is the most extraordinary thing that Ever he saw. (December 21)

Daniel Defoe mentions it as well in his Journal of a Plague Year – which despite appearances to the contrary is a secondary rather than a primary source.

 

120px-Tiger_Tail_Star_1665-01-10Essentially the Normans and the Londoners who saw the comets in 1066, 1664 and 1665 (there were two rather than one prior to the plague and Great Fire of London) believed that they were fiery messengers of the heavens – a direct line from God.  They were an indication of his irritation with humanity and a heavy hint that something extremely unpleasant was bound to follow.  If it wasn’t fire, war and plague then someone important was bound to die.

It wasn’t long before the doom mongers were proven correct in both 1066 and 1064.  In 1066 Harold Hardrada and William of Normandy both took the opportunity to launch an invasion of England.  In 1064 people started dying rather unpleasantly from the plague and let’s not forget that there were two comets so that covers the Great Fire of London as well.

Bill+Of+Mortality+From+1665+London.jpegThe plague began in Yarmouth in the winter of 1064.  By Christmas the disease had spread to London.  The weekly Bills of Mortality were about to become extremely depressing. Not that it was a surprise.  In 1065 the plague was endemic in England.  On average it put in an appearance every couple of decades.  There had been an outbreak in 1603 which rather quelled James I’s coronation celebrations.  In 1625 – the year James had died approximately twenty percent of London’s population had succumbed to the disease. The first official mortality of the 1665 outbreak was in St Giles in the Fields – plague and typhus started to take their toll the numbers recorded on the Bills of Mortality began to rise.  The Great Comet prophecy had been fulfilled – plague had arrived.

And just so we’re clear that fiery stars caused panic amongst the population here are a few more examples.  In 1456 the Ottoman Empire invaded Hungary –  their arrival pre-ordained by Halley’s Comet.  Pope Callixtus III ordered prayers to be said in an effort to counter-act the comet.

Halley’s Comet turned up in 1910 – slightly early for World War One and even the sinking of the Titanic.  Despite the fact that by the beginning of the twentieth century scientists had given the world a better understanding of what a comet was they could still cause chaos.  In 1908 for example panic broke out in Chicago because people thought that the comet they saw (Moorhouse’s Comet) signalled the end of the world and in 1910 when Halley’s comet arrived you could purchase an umbrella to protect you from the comet – which was slightly optimistic as some scientists believed that the tail of the comet was filled with poison gas that would kill everyone when the Earth passed through it.

Obviously Halley’s comet didn’t kill everyone – that would be silly.  No, it was just a sign that Edward VII was going to pop his clogs on 6th May in Buckingham Palace – not from comet miasma but from bronchitis.  He was a man in his seventies  who had over indulged for most of his adult life and who smoked heavily.  It probably didn’t require a comet to predict his death.

And finally Giotto managed to paint Halley’s Comet as the Star of Bethlehem in 1305 – always nice to see a more positive construction of its appearance. The painting can be seen at the Scovegni Chapel in Padua.

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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.

The Glorious Revolution

The revolution of 1688 is also called the Bloodless Revolution. Basically James II inherited the throne from his brother Charles II on 6th Feb 1685.  Three years later he was turfed out.  James aside from being Catholic himself appointed Catholics to the army and in 1687 suspended anti-catholic laws – in Ireland Protestant officers were replaced with Catholic ones.  To be fair Protestant non-conformists also benefited from the change in laws. The problem was that in the seventeenth century religious bigotry was alive and well. The approximately ten percent of the English population who remained Catholic were at best regarded with suspicion.

James having Protestant children – Mary and Anne- was tolerated because he would be succeeded by people with the right kind of religious credentials. James’ first wife Anne Hyde was the daughter of Charles II’s minister Edward Hyde who became Lord Clarendon.  The pair married in 1660 when pressure was exerted on James to do the right thing – their child was born two months later!  Anne converted to Catholicism but the children of the marriage were raised as Protestants.  It wasn’t a popular marriage as there was concern that Edward Hyde would gain to match political power from the match.

The trouble was that Anne died in 1671 and James married for a second time to Mary of Modena – who was Catholic.  In June 1688 she gave birth to a a baby boy.  This triggered seven leading political figures to write to James’ son-in-law William of Orange inviting him to invade England.  William arrived on the 5th November.

Even James’ other daughter Anne joined William.  Across the country James discovered that the nobility and gentry were declaring their allegiance to William and Mary.  He panicked and fled from London

Apologies for the lack of picture – apparently the imps in the ether aren’t pedalling hard enough this evening!