The decline of witches

250px-Daemonologie1By 1619 James, according to Borman, was becoming skeptical about witches. None the less, events such as the Belvoir Witch Trial meant that witchcraft remained a topic of much interest.

 

I’ve posted about the Belvoir Witches previously but just a quick reminder, the Earl of Rutland’s two young sons died.  Blame was ultimately placed on Joan Flowers and her two daughters, Margaret and Philippa.  They had been dismissed from their posts at Belvoir accused of theft and had left muttering curses.  The family had fallen on hard times – probably because Joan’s husband, John, had died.  It was rumoured that the three women were offering a range of services to community – at any rate both daughters were described in the records as “abandoned and profligate.”  It probably didn’t help that Joan liked a good argument.

Then Henry Manners, Lord Ros died. The doctors had been unable to decide what his illness might have been.  Shortly after that the Earl of Rutland’s other son also died. Initially the earl and his wife Cecilia (incidentally a Tresham of Gunpowder Plot connections) didn’t believe that the deaths were witchcraft but ultimately the Flowers women were arrested and taken off to Lincoln for trial where they inevitably confessed.

However, times so far as James were concerned, were changing.  When the Leicestershire witch trials took place James was on progress and interrogated the women and their accusers.  They were released.  James was beginning to develop skepticism.  When he wrote a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer he made no mention to the existence of evil in the form of witches – as he lost interest so the number of witch trials declined. It was becoming more common to make jokes about witches rather than to string up hapless little old ladies who had the misfortune to be poor, ill looking cat owners. This was unfortunate for witch hunters who were usually paid by result which probably accounts for the fact that once one was discovered several more popped up in the same place.

Some of the women accused of witchcraft now took the opportunity to take their accusers to court.  One of them Agnes Fenn, a Norfolk widow of mature years, went to the Star Chamber and named the men who’d set upon her, beaten her, forced her to sit on knives and set off gunpowder in her face in an effort to make her confess to being a witch. Despite having been terrorised and stabbed in the face the Norfolk gentlemen who had carried out the attack declared themselves innocent of the accusation and Agnes received no further redress – demonstrating that being old and poor wasn’t a good starting point from which to hope for justice.

By the 1630’s killing witches was almost a thing of the past – but then the English Civil War came along and with one thing and another witch hunting once more became a popular pastime.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s treason

William_Segar_Sir_Walter_Raleigh_1598On Thursday 17th November 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh was tried at Winchester for his part in the Main Plot. The jury took 15 minutes to arrive at their verdict and even Lord Coke the attorney general was taken by surprise at the speed of the delivery – he was still taking a stroll round the gardens when the jury returned.  No one was particularly surprised by the outcome, probably least of all Sir Walter, but the consensus was that he had arrived in Winchester one of the most disliked men in the kingdom but departed as one of the most pitied.

Essentially Sir Walter was caught up by the Main Plot which conspired to kill James and his children and replace them with Arbella Stuart having been financed by the Spanish and the Hapsburgs. Much of the evidence against Raleigh was based on Lord Cobham’s evidence.

The King’s Sergeant when introducing the case announced that Cobham revered Raleigh and that the former was a simple untravelled man whilst Raleigh was much more worldly.

Raleigh defended himself ably and with humour noting that the entire content of his trial was based on hearsay by one man and that man had received a letter from his wife telling him to pin it on Raleigh.  He went on to say that under a law dating from the reign of Edward III that two men were required to condemn a man.  Coke, objected saying that horse thieves used that stratagem to avoid condemnation and that to argue against the king’s court on a point of law suggested treasonable intent in itself.

He continued to observe that he was not charged with the Bye Plot which was to kidnap James I – and that if he was part of the conspiracy why hadn’t he been trusted to take part in that particular hare-brained scheme.

Raleigh also made the very good point that the Spanish had never been his friends and that they didn’t look particularly kindly upon him in any event so to accuse him of being in cahoots with the Spanish verged upon the absurd.  He continued in that particular vein picking holes in the evidence and observing that he had thought that Lord Cobham was offering him a pension to work for peace- something that Cecil himself had accepted- so it was hardly treasonous.

Looking at the trial transcripts it is clear that under today’s laws the case would have been thrown out.  Somewhat ironically James and Cecil needed Raleigh out of the way so that they could make peace with the Spanish.

 

Robert Cecil

00cecilR3Robert was born in 1563, the second son of William Cecil.  His mother was Mildred Cooke.  Robert had an elder half-brother called Thomas who would become the 1st Earl of Exeter but it was this younger, much more clever son, upon who William lavished his affection as well as training him to take over the reins of government.

When he arrived at court he initially seemed at a disadvantage when compared with the young and handsome Earl of Essex.  Robert was small and had a twisted back.  He had only is mind to recommend him and for a while the contest between the new young favourites cannot have been comfortable but in 1596 Elizabeth made Robert, who she called her “pygmy”, her Secretary of State.

In 1601 the Earl of Essex rebelled against the queen and suffered the ultimate penalty.   Robert had blamed his uprising upon the queen’s poor advisor’s of whom Cecil featured.  In the aftermath of the short-lived uprising Cecil counselled clemency but it did him no good in popular imagination.  People had rather liked the flamboyant Essex whereas Cecil was regarded with suspicion in part because of his physical disability – body reflecting godliness etc- there were ballads placing the blame for Essex’s death squarely on Robert’s head.

Interestingly when the conspirators of the Main  and Bye Plot were brought to trial – and bear in mind one of them was his brother-in-law Lord Cobham- it was Cecil who expressed some doubt over Raleigh’s guilt.  Modern historians tend to look at the transcript of the trial and wonder how anyone could have thought Raleigh guilty and are more inclined to consider the possibility that Cecil was helping a political opponent out of the picture.

Robert, like his father before him was a loyal servant to the queen but he opened a secret correspondence with James VI of Scotland.  The stability of the country was largely due to Cecil’s careful management of the transition between monarchs.   The reward for the ease with which James became king was an elevation to the peerage in 1605.  Cecil also became Lord Treasurer.

The Earl of Salisbury was at the root of James’ good governance in the years between 1603 and 1612.  It was he who negotiated the peace with Spain in 1604 – which although unpopular helped to stabilise the economy which was leaking money into the ongoing war. It was he who introduced a Book of rates in 1608 and it was he who attempted to negotiate the Great Contract between King and Parliament in 1610.  This particular venture didn’t come to fruition as neither side particularly trusted the other – and yes it will be a post very shortly.  Robert’s financial policy wasn’t helped by the king’s expenditure, his generous gifts to his favourites or the cost of maintaining a royal household that contained a king, his wife and their children.

Like his predecessor, James  had a predilection for nicknames – Cecil moved from “pygmy” or “elf” to “little beagle.”  The little beagle became increasingly over worked.  In addition to finances there was the matter of religion and the Gunpowder Plot. James also had a new favourite – the handsome but somewhat brainless Robert Carr. Cecil found his advice increasingly spurned in favour of that provided by Robert Carr – or more truthfully- Sir Thomas Overbury who advised Carr.  Francis Bacon’s political aspirations also made life difficult for Cecil who was increasingly adrift in the Stuart world.

And then there is the matter of the Gunpowder Plot – Cecil presents himself as the saviour of king and parliament but there are some doubts about exactly how much provoking Cecil might have done beforehand – he’d learned from that master of espionage Sir Francis Walsingham how to implicate suspects in a web of guilt.

He died in 1612 having swapped his father’s home at Theobalds in 1607 for the Royal Palace at Hatfield on account of the fact the king had taken a shine to Cecil’s house and garden. Cecil demolished the medieval palace and used the bricks to rebuild a new house.

 

Great Fire of London

pepysOn the 2nd September 1666, the Great Fire of London officially got to grips with the city.  Thomas Farriner had retired to bed thinking that his bakehouse fire had been damped down.  At 1.00am his servant discovered that the bakehouse was on fire.  The inhabitants of Pudding Lane were the first to have to flee as the flames consumed their homes.  Farriner’s family were forced to escape over the roofs but a maid was too scared to go with them so became the first known victim of the fire.  At 3.00am Samuel Pepys was awoken by his maid with news that a fire could be seen but he was unalarmed and went back to sleep again.  Famously he would bury his valuables including a large cheese in order to save them from the fire.

Unfortunately in a wooden framed town with thatched roofs and much else made from wood, fire was commonplace so initially the fire was just treated as any other old fire.  Unfortunately the summer had been hot and long and the wind was in the right direction.  By the afternoon the fire had spread as well as the rumour that the Dutch or French had set fire to the city and large numbers of people were fleeing for their lives.  Incredibly only ten or so people were recorded as being killed in the fire which destroyed four hundred (ish) streets.  John Evelyn said that he saw 10,000 houses on fire.

Extract from Pepys’ diary:

Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. . . . By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places, . . .and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side . . . of the bridge. . . .

 

Initially it was up to the Londoners themselves to put themselves out.  By the third day houses were being demolished in a bid to create a fire wall.  It was only when the wind dropped however that the fire was contained. Ultimately the fire was contained on the third day but some 13,000 houses were destroyed along with 87 churches and key landmarks.  The Stationers Company were particularly devastated by the loss of Old St Paul’s as they had moved their books there for safety thinking it was too substantial to be destroyed by fire.

 

https://www.pepysdiary.com 

Siege of Colchester – 1648

thomas fairfaxAfter eleven weeks Royalists being besieged in Colchester by General Fairfax (pictured at the start of this post) surrendered on 28 August 1648.

 

Essentially the King had escaped from Hampton Court to the Isle of Wight at the end of 1647. Parliament and the army were not in agreement with what should happen to him or to the country.  May 1648 saw the Second English Civil War begin with an uprising in Kent orchestrated by the Earl of Norwich (Lord Goring).  Whilst Fairfax was sorting out the people of Kent at Maidstone in June 1648, Royalists in Essex took the Parliamentary Committee in Chelmsford prisoner. The Earl of Norwich now joined with Charles Lucas, the brother of Mad Madge in Essex – Maidstone having been recaptured by Fairfax.  Lucas and some 5,000 men, many from Essex’s trained bands marched on Braintree to take possession of the munitions stored there.  Unfortunately for him those members of the trained bands who had stayed loyal to Parliament had already secured the weapons.

 

Inevitably there was a coming together of forces which at that time were about evenly numbered. Fairfax commanded the Parliamentary army.  He hoped to take Colchester by storm and thus prevent the need for a siege. He failed to force his way through the Royalists when he met them on the outskirts of the town despite attempts to carry the day which lasted well into the evening.

This meant that he found himself in the situation of having to prevent royalists from relieving the garrison or the men inside from coming out to resupply – sheep and cattle fell prey to the Royalists as did a supply of  corn, wine and fish that was stored at The Hythe. There was also the small matter of the River Colne.  The town was completely encircled by the 2ndof July.

 

It must have been rather a strange experience as the people of Colchester were Parliamentarian by sympathy and yet they now found themselves in the middle of a siege with them on the wrong end of the New Model Army.  Having said that, Essex which formed part of the  Eastern Association – along with the other eastern counties, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire was not as pro-Parliament as it had been.  The English Civil War had seen a heavy burden of tax to pay for Parliamentary armies. And it turned out that Parliament wasn’t necessarily that keen on freedom of expression. The offices of Mayor and Justices of the Peace for Colchester and environs were elected in 1647 but parliamentary troops arrived and ordered a second election of candidates who met with their approval. Needless to say there had been riots.

 

There were a variety of attacks and counter-attacks.  Fairfax attempted to make terms on the 16thJuly but Charles Lucas threatened to have the messenger hanged if he returned again.

 

Despite this bravado it was clear to the Royalists that they would not be relieved. Groups of cavalry attempted to escape.  One group was forced back on 15thJuly whilst another group fought their way to freedom on the 22nd.  As the Royalist forces dwindled, Fairfax’s numbers grew.

 

Food ran out.  So it would appear did the cats and dogs of the town. Things became so dire that the people of Colchester found themselves eating soap and candles.  Not only were  they eating soap but they were also getting damp and cold as the Royalists stripped the thatch from their roofs to feed their horses.

 

Fairfax realised that if he permitted supplies into the town the Royalists would confiscate them so he ignored the pleas of Lord Norwich and of the Town Council.  Five hundred women and children were sent to the Parliamentarian army to beg for sympathy.  This plan went badly awry when they were fired upon and Colonel Thomas Rainsborough (who is usually remembered as the highest ranking officer to show support for the Levellers) ordered some of the women to be stripped.  Remember these people had been loyal to Parliament throughout the first civil war.  Rainsborough would be sent north after the siege to attend to the Royalists in Pontefract where he would be killed in a kidnap gone wrong.  The Parliamentarians knew that the Royalists would have to be starved out and the best way to do that was to ensure that there were a lot of mouths to be fed.

 

On the 24thAugust Parliamentry forces received news that Cromwell had won the Battle of Preston against the Duke of Hamilton.  Fairfax shared the news by sending a kite over the wall bearing the news and then he ordered his men to fire a volley as though preparing for another attack.  In addition to which the people of Colchester had taken to pleading with Lord Goring at every opportunity to surrender – Lucas had not endear himself to the population and was even accused of rape.

The royalists had no option but to make terms.  Fairfax who had shown himself to be a compassionate commander during the first civil war now revealed the steely side of his command by refusing to allow the officers involved with the siege any quarter.  He allowed the men of the royalist army to march to freedom upon swearing not to take up arms again but the officers were not.  The town had to pay £14,000 in cash.  This was subsequently reduced to £12,000.  It should also be noted that quarter in this instance meant being beaten and possible sent to the West Indies.

 

Part of Fairfax’s fury stemmed from the fact that the Royalist commanders such as Charles Lucas had given their parole in 1646 and had broken it when they rose against parliament.  They faced a military court and immediate execution.  Fairfax argued that they had caused unnecessary suffering – which was a bit rich coming from a man who’d just fined the impoverished and rather battered town £14,000 – even if it was reduced and £2,000 set aside to assist the poor.  Justice was speedy.  Lucas was executed on the evening of 28thAugust along with Sir George Lisle who had served Prince Rupert and was related to the Duke of Buckingham.  Another Royalist,  Bernard Gascoigne, turned out to be an Italian citizen so was not executed on account of Parliament not wanting to fall out with the Italians (and yes I know Italy wasn’t a country but I can’t remember which particular region was involved- I think it was Tuscany.)

 

John Evelyn described Colchester as “wretchedly demolished,” in 1656.  Daniel Defoe recorded events  in 1722 during his tour of the Eastern Counties:

An Account Of The Siege And Blockade Of Colchester, A.D. 1648.

On the 4th of June, we were alarmed in the town of Colchester that the Lord Goring, the Lord Capel, and a body of two thousand of the loyal party, who had been in arms in Kent, having left a great body of an army in possession of Rochester Bridge, where they resolved to fight the Lord Fairfax and the Parliament army, had given the said General Fairfax the slip, and having passed the Thames at Greenwich, were come to Stratford, and were advancing this way; upon which news, Sir Charles Lucas, Sir George Lisle, Colonel Cook, and several gentlemen of the loyal army, and all that had commissions from the king, with a gallant appearance of gentlemen volunteers, drew together from all parts of the country to join with them.

The 8th, we were further informed that they were advanced to Chelmsford, to New Hall House, and to Witham; and the 9th some of the horse arrived in the town, taking possession of the gates, and having engineers with them, told us that General Goring had resolved to make this town his headquarters, and would cause it to be well fortified. They also caused the drums to beat for volunteers; and a good number of the poor bay-weavers, and such-like people, wanting employment, enlisted; so that they completed Sir Charles Lucas’s regiment, which was but thin, to near eight hundred men.

On the 10th we had news that the Lord Fairfax, having beaten the Royalists at Maidstone, and retaken Rochester, had passed the Thames at Gravesend, though with great difficulty, and with some loss, and was come to Horndon-on-the-Hill, in order to gain Colchester before the Royalists; but that hearing Sir Charles Lucas had prevented him, had ordered his rendezvous at Billerecay, and intended to possess the pass at Malden on the 11th, where Sir Thomas Honnywood, with the county-trained bands, was to be the same day.

The same evening the Lord Goring, with all his forces, making about five thousand six hundred men, horse and foot, came to Colchester, and encamping without the suburbs, under command of the cannon of St. Mary’s fort, made disposition to fight the Parliament forces if they came up.

The 12th, the Lord Goring came into Colchester, viewed the fort in St. Mary’s churchyard, ordered more cannon to be planted upon it, posted two regiments in the suburbs without the head gate, let the town know he would take them into his Majesty’s protection, and that he would fight the enemy in that situation. The same evening the Lord Fairfax, with a strong party of one thousand horse, came to Lexden, at two small miles’ distance, expecting the rest of his army there the same night.

The Lord Goring brought in prisoners the same day, Sir William Masham, and several other gentlemen of the county, who were secured under a strong guard; which the Parliament hearing, ordered twenty prisoners of the royal party to be singled out, declaring, that they should be used in the same manner as the Lord Goring used Sir William Masham, and the gentlemen prisoners with him.

On the 13th, early in the morning, our spies brought intelligence that the Lord Fairfax, all his forces being come up to him, was making dispositions for a march, resolving to attack the Royalists in their camp; upon which, the Lord Goring drew all his forces together, resolving to fight. The engineers had offered the night before to entrench his camp, and to draw a line round it in one night’s time, but his lordship declined it, and now there was no time for it; whereupon the general, Lord Goring, drew up his army in order of battle on both sides the road, the horse in the open fields on the wings; the foot were drawn up, one regiment in the road, one regiment on each side, and two regiments for reserve in the suburb, just at the entrance of the town, with a regiment of volunteers advanced as a forlorn hope, and a regiment of horse at the head-gate, ready to support the reserve, as occasion should require.

About nine in the morning we heard the enemy’s drums beat a march, and in half an hour more their first troops appeared on the higher grounds towards Lexden. Immediately the cannon from St. Mary’s fired upon them, and put some troops of horse into confusion, doing great execution, which, they not being able to shun it, made them quicken their pace, fall on, when our cannon were obliged to cease firing, lest we should hurt our own troops as well as the enemy. Soon after, their foot appeared, and our cannon saluted them in like manner, and killed them a great many men.

Their first line of foot was led up by Colonel Barkstead, and consisted of three regiments of foot, making about 1,700 men, and these charged our regiment in the lane, commanded by Sir George Lisle and Sir William Campion. They fell on with great fury, and were received with as much gallantry, and three times repulsed; nor could they break in here, though the Lord Fairfax sent fresh men to support them, till the Royalists’ horse, oppressed with numbers on the left, were obliged to retire, and at last to come full gallop into the street, and so on into the town. Nay, still the foot stood firm, and the volunteers, being all gentlemen, kept their ground with the greatest resolution; but the left wing being routed, as above, Sir William Campion was obliged to make a front to the left, and lining the hedge with his musketeers, made a stand with a body of pikes against the enemy’s horse, and prevented them entering the lane. Here that gallant gentleman was killed with a carabine shot; and after a very gallant resistance, the horse on the right being also overpowered, the word was given to retreat, which, however, was done in such good order, the regiments of reserve standing drawn up at the end of the street, ready to receive the enemy’s horse upon the points of their pikes, that the royal troops came on in the openings between the regiments, and entered the town with very little loss, and in very good order.

By this, however, those regiments of reserve were brought at last to sustain the efforts of the enemy’s whole army, till being overpowered by numbers they were put into disorder, and forced to get into the town in the best manner they could; by which means near two hundred men were killed or made prisoners.

Encouraged by this success the enemy pushed on, supposing they should enter the town pell-mell with the rest; nor did the Royalists hinder them, but let good part of Barkstead’s own regiment enter the head-gate; but then sallying from St. Mary’s with a choice body of foot on their left, and the horse rallying in the High Street, and charging them again in the front, they were driven back quite into the street of the suburb, and most of those that had so rashly entered were cut in pieces.

Thus they were repulsed at the south entrance into the town; and though they attempted to storm three times after that with great resolution, yet they were as often beaten back, and that with great havoc of their men; and the cannon from the fort all the while did execution upon those who stood drawn up to support them; so that at last, seeing no good to be done, they retreated, having small joy of their pretended victory.

They lost in this action Colonel Needham, who commanded a regiment called the Tower Guards, and who fought very desperately; Captain Cox, an old experienced horse officer, and several other officers of note, with a great many private men, though, as they had the field, they concealed their number, giving out that they lost but a hundred, when we were assured they lost near a thousand men besides the wounded.

They took some of our men prisoners, occasioned by the regiment of Colonel Farr, and two more sustaining the shock of their whole army, to secure the retreat of the main body, as above.

The 14th, the Lord Fairfax finding he was not able to carry the town by storm, without the formality of a siege, took his headquarters at Lexden, and sent to London and to Suffolk for more forces; also he ordered the trained bands to be raised and posted on the roads to prevent succours. Notwithstanding which, divers gentlemen, with some assistance of men and arms, found means to get into the town.

The very same night they began to break ground, and particularly to raise a fort between Colchester and Lexden, to cover the general’s quarter from the sallies from the town; for the Royalists having a good body of horse, gave them no rest, but scoured the fields every day, and falling all that were found straggling from their posts, and by this means killed a great many.

The 17th, Sir Charles Lucas having been out with 1,200 horse, and detaching parties toward the seaside, and towards Harwich, they brought in a very great quantity of provisions, and abundance of sheep and black cattle sufficient for the supply of the town for a considerable time; and had not the Suffolk forces advanced over Cataway Bridge to prevent it, a larger supply had been brought in that way; for now it appeared plainly that the Lord Fairfax finding the garrison strong and resolute, and that he was not in a condition to reduce them by force, at least without the loss of much blood, had resolved to turn his siege into a blockade, and reduce them by hunger; their troops being also wanted to oppose several other parties, who had, in several parts of the kingdom, taken arms for the king’s cause.

This same day General Fairfax sent in a trumpet to propose exchanging prisoners, which the Lord Goring rejected, expecting a reinforcement of troops, which were actually coming to him, and were to be at Linton in Cambridgeshire as the next day.

The same day two ships brought in a quantity of corn and provisions and fifty-six men from the shore of Kent with several gentlemen, who all landed and came up to the town, and the greatest part of the corn was with the utmost application unloaded the same night into some hoys, which brought it up to the Hythe, being apprehensive of the Parliament’s ships which lay at Harwich, who having intelligence of the said ships, came the next day into the mouth of the river, and took the said two ships and what corn was left in them. The besieged sent out a party to help the ships, but having no boats they could not assist them.

18th. Sir Charles Lucas sent an answer about exchange of prisoners, accepting the conditions offered, but the Parliament’s general returned that he would not treat with Sir Charles, for that he (Sir Charles) being his prisoner upon his parole of honour, and having appeared in arms contrary to the rules of war, had forfeited his honour and faith, and was not capable of command or trust in martial affairs. To this Sir Charles sent back an answer, and his excuse for his breach of his parole, but it was not accepted, nor would the Lord Fairfax enter upon any treaty with him.

Upon this second message Sir William Masham and the Parliament Committee and other gentlemen, who were prisoners in the town, sent a message in writing under their hands to the Lord Fairfax, entreating him to enter into a treaty for peace; but the Lord Fairfax returned, he could take no notice of their request, as supposing it forced from them under restraint; but that if the Lord Goring desired peace, he might write to the Parliament, and he would cause his messenger to have a safe conduct to carry his letter. There was a paper sent enclosed in this paper, signed Capel, Norwich, Charles Lucas, but to that the general would return no answer, because it was signed by Sir Charles for the reasons above.

All this while the Lord Goring, finding the enemy strengthening themselves, gave order for fortifying the town, and drawing lines in several places to secure the entrance, as particularly without the east bridge, and without the north gate and bridge, and to plant more cannon upon the works; to which end some great guns were brought in from some ships at Wivenhoe.

The same day, our men sallied out in three places, and attacked the besiegers, first at their port, called Essex, then at their new works, on the south of the town; a third party sallying at the east bridge, brought in some booty from the Suffolk troops, having killed several of their stragglers on the Harwich road. They also took a lieutenant of horse prisoner, and brought him into the town.

19th. This day we had the unwelcome news that our friends at Linton were defeated by the enemy, and Major Muschamp, a loyal gentleman, killed.

The same night, our men gave the enemy alarm at their new Essex fort, and thereby drew them out as if they would fight, till they brought them within reach of the cannon of St. Mary’s, and then our men retiring, the great guns let fly among them, and made them run. Our men shouted after them. Several of them were killed on this occasion, one shot having killed three horsemen in our fight.

20th. We now found the enemy, in order to a perfect blockade, resolved to draw a line of circumvallation round the town; having received a train of forty pieces of heavy cannon from the Tower of London.

This day the Parliament sent a messenger to their prisoners to know how they fared, and how they were used; who returned word, that they fared indifferent well, and were very civilly used, but that provisions were scarce, and therefore dear.

This day a party of horse, with 300 foot, sallied out, and marched as far as the fort on the Isle of Mersey, which they made a show of attacking, to keep in the garrison. Meanwhile the rest took a good number of cattle from the country, which they brought safe into the town, with five waggons laden with corn. This was the last they could bring in that way, the lines being soon finished on that side.

This day the Lord Fairfax sent in a trumpet to the Earl of Norwich and the Lord Goring, offering honourable conditions to them all, allowing all the gentlemen their lives and arms, exemption from plunder, and passes, if they desired to go beyond sea, and all the private men pardon, and leave to go peaceably to their own dwellings. But the Lord Goring and the rest of the gentlemen rejected it, and laughed at them, upon which the Lord Fairfax made proclamation, that his men should give the private soldiers in Colchester free leave to pass through their camp, and go where they pleased without molestation, only leaving their arms, but that the gentlemen should have no quarter. This was a great loss to the Royalists, for now the men foreseeing the great hardships they were like to suffer, began to slip away, and the Lord Goring was obliged to forbid any to desert on pain of present death, and to keep parties of horse continually patrolling to prevent them; notwithstanding which many got away.

21st. The town desired the Lord Goring to give them leave to send a message to Lord Fairfax, to desire they might have liberty to carry on their trade and sell their bays and says, which Lord Goring granted; but the enemy’s general returned, that they should have considered that before they let the Royalists into the town; that to desire a free trade from a town besieged was never heard of, or at least, was such a motion, as was never yet granted; that, however, he would give the bay-makers leave to bring their bays and says, and other goods, once a week, or oftener, if they desire it, to Lexden Heath, where they should have a free market, and might sell them or carry them back again, if not sold, as they found occasion.

22nd. The besieged sallied out in the night with a strong party, and disturbed the enemy in their works, and partly ruined one of their forts, called Ewer’s Fort, where the besiegers were laying a bridge over the River Colne. Also they sallied again at east bridge, and faced the Suffolk troops, who were now declared enemies. These brought in six-and-fifty good bullocks, and some cows, and they took and killed several of the enemy.

23rd. The besiegers began to fire with their cannon from Essex Fort, and from Barkstead’s Fort, which was built upon the Malden road; and finding that the besieged had a party in Sir Harbottle Grimston’s house, called, “The Fryery,” they fired at it with their cannon, and battered it almost down, and then the soldiers set it on fire.

This day upon the townsmen’s treaty for the freedom of the bay trade, the Lord Fairfax sent a second offer of conditions to the besieged, being the same as before, only excepting Lord Goring, Lord Capel, Sir George Lisle, and Sir Charles Lucas.

This day we had news in the town that the Suffolk forces were advanced to assist the besiegers, and that they began a fort called Fort Suffolk, on the north side of the town, to shut up the Suffolk road towards Stratford. This day the besieged sallied out at north bridge, attacked the out-guards of the Suffolk men on Mile End Heath, and drove them into their fort in the woods.

This day the Lord Fairfax sent a trumpet, complaining of chewed and poisoned bullets being shot from the town, and threatening to give no quarter if that practice was allowed; but Lord Goring returned answer, with a protestation, that no such thing was done by his order or consent.

24th. They fired hard from their cannon against St. Mary’s steeple, on which was planted a large culverin, which annoyed them even in the general’s headquarters at Lexden. One of the best gunners the garrison had was killed with a cannon bullet. This night the besieged sallied towards Audly, on the Suffolk road, and brought in some cattle.

25th. Lord Capel sent a trumpet to the Parliament-General, but the rogue ran away, and came not back, nor sent any answer; whether they received his message or not, was not known.

26th. This day having finished their new bridge, a party of their troops passed that bridge, and took post on the hill over against Mile End Church, where they built a fort, called Fothergall’s Fort, and another on the east side of the road, called Rainsbro’s Fort, so that the town was entirely shut in, on that side, and the Royalists had no place free but over east bridge, which was afterwards cut off by the enemy’s bringing their line from the Hythe within the river to the stone causeway leading to the east bridge.

July 1st. From the 26th to the 1st, the besiegers continued finishing their works, and by the 2nd the whole town was shut in; at which the besiegers gave a general salvo from their cannon at all their forts; but the besieged gave them a return, for they sallied out in the night, attacked Barkstead’s fort, scarce finished, with such fury, that they twice entered the work sword in hand, killed most part of the defendants, and spoiled part of the forts cast up; but fresh forces coming up, they retired with little loss, bringing eight prisoners, and having slain, as they reported, above 100.

On the second, Lord Fairfax offered exchange for Sir William Masham in particular, and afterwards for other prisoners, but the Lord Goring refused.

5th. The besieged sallied with two regiments, supported by some horse, at midnight; they were commanded by Sir George Lisle. They fell on with such fury, that the enemy were put into confusion, their works at east bridge ruined, and two pieces of cannon taken, Lieutenant Colonel Sambrook, and several other officers, were killed, and our men retired into the town, bringing the captain, two lieutenants, and about fifty men with them prisoners into the town; but having no horse, we could not bring off the cannon, but they spiked them, and made them unfit for service.

From this time to the 11th, the besieged sallied almost every night, being encouraged by their successes, and they constantly cut off some of the enemy, but not without loss also on their own side.

About this time we received by a spy the bad news of defeating the king’s friends almost in all parts of England, and particularly several parties which had good wishes to our gentlemen, and intended to relieve them.

Our batteries from St. Mary’s Fort and steeple, and from the north bridge, greatly annoyed them, and killed most of their gunners and firemen. One of the messengers who brought news to Lord Fairfax of the defeat of one of the parties, in Kent, and the taking of Weymer Castle, slipped into the town, and brought a letter to the Lord Goring, and listed in the regiment of the Lord Capel’s horse.

14th. The besiegers attacked and took the Hythe Church, with a small work the besieged had there, but the defenders retired in time; some were taken prisoners in the church, but not in the fort; Sir Charles Lucas’s horse was attacked by a great body of the besiegers; the besieged defended themselves with good resolution for some time, but a hand-grenade thrown in by the assailants, having fired the magazine, the house was blown up, and most of the gallant defenders buried in the ruins. This was a great blow to the Royalists, for it was a very strong pass, and always well guarded.

15th. The Lord Fairfax sent offers of honourable conditions to the soldiers of the garrison if they would surrender, or quit the service; upon which the Lords Goring and Capel, and Sir Charles Lucas, returned an answer signed by their hands, that it was not honourable or agreeable to the usage of war to offer conditions separately to the soldiers, exclusive of their officers, and therefore civilly desired his lordship to send no more such messages or proposals, or if he did, that he would not take it ill if they hanged up the messenger.

This evening all the gentlemen volunteers, with all the horse of the garrison, with Sir Charles Lucas, Sir George Lisle, and Sir Bernard Gascoigne at the head of them, resolved to break through the enemy, and forcing a pass to advance into Suffolk by Nayland Bridge. To this purpose they passed the river near Middle Mill; but their guides having misled them the enemy took the alarm; upon which their guides, and some pioneers which they had with them to open the hedges and level the banks, for their passing to Boxted, all ran away, so the horse were obliged to retreat, the enemy pretending to pursue, but thinking they had retreated by the north bridge, they missed them; upon which being enraged, they fired the suburbs without the bridge, and burned them quite down.

18th. Some of the horse attempted to escape the same way, and had the whole body been there as before, they had effected it; but there being but two troops, they were obliged to retire. Now the town began to be greatly distressed, provisions failing, and the townspeople, which were numerous, being very uneasy, and no way of breaking through being found practicable, the gentlemen would have joined in any attempt wherein they might die gallantly with their swords in their hands, but nothing presented; they often sallied and cut off many of the enemy, but their numbers were continually supplied, and the besieged diminished; their horse also sunk and became unfit for service, having very little hay, and no corn, and at length they were forced to kill them for food; so that they began to be in a very miserable condition, and the soldiers deserted every day in great numbers, not being able to bear the want of food, as being almost starved with hunger.

22nd. The Lord Fairfax offered again an exchange of prisoners, but the Lord Goring rejected it, because they refused conditions to the chief gentlemen of the garrison.

During this time, two troops of the Royal Horse sallied out in the night, resolving to break out or die: the first rode up full gallop to the enemy’s horse guards on the side of Malden road, and exchanged their pistols with the advanced troops, and wheeling made as if they would retire to the town; but finding they were not immediately pursued, they wheeled about to the right, and passing another guard at a distance, without being perfectly discovered, they went clean off, and passing towards Tiptree Heath, and having good guides, they made their escape towards Cambridgeshire, in which length of way they found means to disperse without being attacked, and went every man his own way as fate directed; nor did we hear that many of them were taken: they were led, as we are informed, by Sir Bernard Gascoigne.

Upon these attempts of the horse to break out, the enemy built a small fort in the meadow right against the ford in the river at the Middle Mill, and once set that mill on fire, but it was extinguished without much damage; however, the fort prevented any more attempts that way.

22nd. The Parliament-General sent in a trumpet, to propose again the exchange of prisoners, offering the Lord Capel’s son for one, and Mr. Ashburnham for Sir William Masham; but the Lord Capel, Lord Goring, and the rest of the loyal gentlemen rejected it; and Lord Capel, in particular, sent the Lord Fairfax word it was inhuman to surprise his son, who was not in arms, and offer him to insult a father’s affection, but that he might murder his son if he pleased, he would leave his blood to be revenged as Heaven should give opportunity; and the Lord Goring sent word, that as they had reduced the king’s servants to eat horseflesh, the prisoners should feed as they fed.

The enemy sent again to complain of the Royalists shooting poisoned bullets, and sent two affidavits of it made by two deserters, swearing it was done by the Lord Norwich’s direction; the generals in the town returned under all their hands that they never gave any such command or direction; that they disowned the practice; and that the fellows who swore it were perjured before in running from their colours and the service of their king, and ought not to be credited again; but they added, that for shooting rough-cast slugs they must excuse them, as things stood with them at that time.

About this time, a porter in a soldier’s habit got through the enemy’s leaguer, and passing their out-guards in the dark, got into the town, and brought letters from London, assuring the Royalists that there were so many strong parties up in arms for the king, and in so many places, that they would be very suddenly relieved. This they caused to be read to the soldiers to encourage them; and particularly it related to the rising of the Earl of Holland, and the Duke of Buckingham, who with 500 horse were gotten together in arms about Kingston in Surrey; but we had notice in a few days after that they were defeated, and the Earl of Holland taken, who was afterwards beheaded.

26th. The enemy now began to batter the walls, and especially on the west side, from St. Mary’s towards the north gate; and we were assured they intended a storm; on which the engineers were directed to make trenches behind the walls where the breaches should be made, that in case of a storm they might meet with a warm reception. Upon this, they gave over the design of storming. The Lord Goring finding that the enemy had set the suburbs on fire right against the Hythe, ordered the remaining houses, which were empty of inhabitants, from whence their musketeer fired against the town, to be burned also.

31st. A body of foot sallied out at midnight, to discover what the enemy were doing at a place where they thought a new fort raising; they fell in among the workmen, and put them to flight, cut in pieces several of the guard, and brought in the officer who commanded them prisoner.

August 2nd. The town was now in a miserable condition: the soldiers searched and rifled the houses of the inhabitants for victuals; they had lived on horseflesh several weeks, and most of that also was as lean as carrion, which not being well salted bred wens; and this want of diet made the soldiers sickly, and many died of fluxes, yet they boldly rejected all offers of surrender, unless with safety to their offices. However, several hundreds got out, and either passed the enemy’s guards, or surrendered to them and took passes.

7th. The townspeople became very uneasy to the soldiers, and the mayor of the town, with the aldermen, waited upon the general, desiring leave to send to the Lord Fairfax for leave to all the inhabitants to come out of the town, that they might not perish, to which the Lord Goring consented, but the Lord Fairfax refused them.

12th. The rabble got together in a vast crowd about the Lord Goring’s quarters, clamouring for a surrender, and they did this every evening, bringing women and children, who lay howling and crying on the ground for bread; the soldiers beat off the men, but the women and children would not stir, bidding the soldiers kill them, saying they had rather be shot than be starved.

16th. The general, moved by the cries and distress of the poor inhabitants, sent out a trumpet to the Parliament-General, demanding leave to send to the Prince, who was with a fleet of nineteen men of war in the mouth of the Thames, offering to surrender, if they were not relieved in twenty days. The Lord Fairfax refused it, and sent them word he would be in the town in person, and visit them in less than twenty days, intimating that they were preparing for a storm. Some tart messages and answers were exchanged on this occasion. The Lord Goring sent word they were willing, in compassion to the poor townspeople, and to save that effusion of blood, to surrender upon honourable terms, but that as for the storming them, which was threatened, they might come on when they thought fit, for that they (the Royalists) were ready for them. This held to the 19th.

20th. The Lord Fairfax returned what he said was his last answer, and should be the last offer of mercy. The conditions offered were, that upon a peaceable surrender, all soldiers and officers under the degree of a captain in commission should have their lives, be exempted from plunder, and have passes to go to their respective dwellings. All the captains and superior officers, with all the lords and gentlemen, as well in commission as volunteers, to surrender prisoners at discretion, only that they should not be plundered by the soldiers.

21st. The generals rejected those offers; and when the people came about them again for bread, set open one of the gates, and bid them go out to the enemy, which a great many did willingly; upon which the Lord Goring ordered all the rest that came about his door to be turned out after them. But when the people came to the Lord Fairfax’s camp the out-guards were ordered to fire at them and drive them all back again to the gate, which the Lord Goring seeing, he ordered them to be received in again. And now, although the generals and soldiers also were resolute to die with their swords in their hands rather than yield, and had maturely resolved to abide a storm, yet the Mayor and Aldermen having petitioned them as well as the inhabitants, being wearied with the importunities of the distressed people, and pitying the deplorable condition they were reduced to, they agreed to enter upon a treaty, and accordingly sent out some officers to the Lord Fairfax, the Parliament-General, to treat, and with them was sent two gentlemen of the prisoners upon their parole to return.

Upon the return of the said messengers with the Lord Fairfax’s terms, the Lord Goring, etc., sent out a letter declaring they would die with their swords in their hands rather than yield without quarter for life, and sent a paper of articles on which they were willing to surrender. But in the very interim of this treaty news came that the Scots army, under Duke Hamilton, which was entered into Lancashire, and was joined by the Royalists in that country, making 21,000 men, were entirely defeated. After this the Lord Fairfax would not grant any abatement of articles–viz., to have all above lieutenants surrender at mercy.

Upon this the Lord Goring and the General refused to submit again, and proposed a general sally, and to break through or die, but found upon preparing for it that the soldiers, who had their lives offered them, declined it, fearing the gentlemen would escape, and they should be left to the mercy of the Parliament soldiers; and that upon this they began to mutiny and talk of surrendering the town and their officers too. Things being brought to this pass, the Lords and General laid aside that design, and found themselves obliged to submit; and so the town was surrendered the 28th of August 1648, upon conditions as follows:-

The Lords and gentlemen all prisoners at mercy.

The common soldiers had passes to go home to their several dwellings, but without arms, and an oath not to serve against the Parliament.

The town to be preserved from pillage, paying 14,000 pounds ready money.

The same day a council of war being called about the prisoners of war, it was resolved that the Lords should be left to the disposal of the Parliament. That Sir Charles Lucas, Sir George Lisle, and Sir Marmaduke Gascoigne should be shot to death, and the other officers prisoners to remain in custody till further order.

The two first of the three gentlemen were shot to death, and the third respited. Thus ended the siege of Colchester.

N.B.–Notwithstanding the number killed in the siege, and dead of the flux, and other distempers occasioned by bad diet, which were very many, and notwithstanding the number which deserted and escaped in the time of their hardships, yet there remained at the time of the surrender:

  • Earl of Norwich (Goring).
  • Lord Capell.
  • Lord Loughbro’.
  • 11 Knights.
  • 9 Colonels.
  • 8 Lieut.-Colonels.
  • 9 Majors.
  • 30 Captains.
  • 72 Lieutenants.
  • 69 Ensigns.
  • 183 Serjeants and Corporals.
  • 3,067 Private Soldiers.
  • 65 Servants to the Lords and General Officers and Gentlemen.
  • 3,526 in all.

 

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9688 (Daniel Defoe)

Manganiello, Stephen. (2004) The Concise Encyclopedia of the Revolutions and Wars of England, Scotland and Ireland 1639-1660. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press

 

 

Charles I raises royal standard and declares war.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36On August 22nd1642 King Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham Castle.  Whilst times had been increasingly discordant this act effectively marked the start of the First English Civil War which lasted until 1646.

 

On August 12th 1642, Charles issued a proclamation to all his subjects living on the north side of the Trent and within twenty miles south of the river, to assemble at Nottingham on the 22nd of August, “where we intend to erect our Standard Royal, in our just and necessary defence, and whence we resolve to advance forward for the suppression of the said Rebellion, and the protection of our good subjects among them, from the burthen of the slavery and insolence under which they cannot hut groan until they be relieved by us.”

The banner that was raised bore the legend ” Religio Protestans Leges Angliae Libertas Parliamenti,” – Many of Charles’ subjects had doubts about his religious affiliations having taken exception to his attempts to impose conformity on Laudian principles with their emphasis on ritual and ceremony – that smacked strongly to Puritans of popery. English law and a free Parliament were also something that many observers might have questioned given Charles’ strategy of levying taxes by drawing upon ancient feudal dues and having ruled for the better part of twelve years without his parliament.

Charles’ call for all men to support him did not meet with the popular out pouring of loyalty that he hoped.  Parliament took the opportunity to announce that until such time as he retracted his proclamation then he couldn’t be trusted.

 

mad madgeMeanwhile in Colchester the house of ‘Mad Madge’ Cavendish’s parents’ was sacked by Puritans on the 22nd August 1642. Mad Madge had not yet acquired that name nor had she yet entered the service of Queen Henrietta Maria or married the royalist Duke of Newcastle.  She was still the youngest of eight children sired by Sir John Lucas. Madge’s father was a prominent royalist in the area.  The relationship between him and the citizens of Colchester had deteriorated over the years.  It probably didn’t help that East Anglia had strong Puritan sympathies and Lucas was suspected of being a Papist.  This event was not a one off though.  The Stour valley had become increasingly restless during 1642.  Unemployment was high.  Rumours became wilder and anti-popery became more rife.  The Countess of Rivers, for instance, found herself under siege by the people of Melford.  Melford Hall was partially destroyed as a consequence.  Parliament did not condone the harassment of the widowed countess – though how they may have felt when she spent her wealth on supporting the Crown is another matter entirely.  She would eventually find herself in a debtor’s prison as a consequence of her loyalty.

 

The first battle of the English Civil War would not take place until September 25that Powick Bridge near Worcester.

 

 

 

St John the Evangelist, Leeds.

DSCF0371St John the Evangelist in Leeds is a seventeenth century church built  between 1632-34.  To put that in context this is during the later part of the twelve years when Charles I ruled without Parliament.  In 1638  John Hampden was sent to trial for refusing to pay ship tax  (traditionally paid in coastal communities but not by the whole country) and John Lilburne was flogged for selling un-licensed Puritan books.  Between the Elizabethan religious settlement of 1559 and the onset of the English Civil War there were an increasing number of strands of protestant belief. Many of these branches of Puritanism did not want to be part of the Church of England because they saw it as too ritualistic and too hierarchical. In 1639 Charles I went to war with his Scottish subjects in the so-called Bishops War about the prescriptive content of the prayer book.  During this period of increasing religious turbulence, just prior to the English Civil War, very few new churches were built in England. During the Commonwealth period new churches harked back to the past – the Crown and to superstitious times.  To build a new church would have been an act of defiance against Parliament. Prior to the Commonwealth Period there were new chapels built during the reign of Charles I, notably by Inigo Jones in 1627 – the Queen’s Chapel at St James.  However, the queen in question was Henrietta Maria who was, of course, a Catholic. Consequentially if you had enough money for a new-fangled architect designed place of worship you ran the risk of being associated with European ideas, the Court, Laudianism and at worst Catholicism. In 1636 a new chapel was built in Somerset House – it was a Catholic Chapel.

Of course, that’s not to say that existing medieval churches didn’t have the occasional interior overhaul or extension in an era before the advent of the need for church faculties or conformity to planning regulations.

Yesterday’s post about Staunton Harold Church built during the Commonwealth period was a statement of Robert Shirley’s political and religious affiliations. John Harrison, who paid for St John’s building, was not a baron.  He was a wealthy wool merchant and local politician.  He was also one of Leeds’ benefactors. The building of St John’s was more about doing good for the people of Leeds as were Harrison’s other building ventures.  He helped pay for the Moot Hall and the market cross, a row of almshouses and the grammar school. Unfortunately the Jacobean architecture for which the church is famous (and yes I know the church was built ten years after the death  of James I) is beautifully decorated with angels and all sorts of other embellishments which are very decorative and thus not at all what Puritans approved. Nor would they have been very happy about the fact that the altar is against the East wall of the church and that there were screens to separate the congregation from the most Holy place within the church.

IMG_2987

The heavily carved pulpit makes the link to the importance of sermons for Puritans.  To hear and understand what the preacher had to say was an essential part of Puritan belief. Most pulpits dating from this time are plain, often of unpainted oak and usually octagonal.  This was the period of the triple-decker  pulpit.  If you’re curious about the tester or “roof” over some pulpits from this period it was so that the sound of the preacher’s voice didn’t disappear into the rafters of the church but so that it improved the acoustics for the congregation.

DSCF0380Parliament believed that Harrison was a Royalist and there is a tale that when the king was in Leeds as a prisoner that Harrison took him a lidded tankard of ale, except rather than ale the contents of the pot were gold coins – whether this was to support the king during his captivity or facilitate his escape is a matter for speculation. The moment is commemorated in the Harrison Memorial Window but this was not created until the nineteenth century.  And it would have to be said that Harrison didn’t get on with all of Leeds’ inhabitants.  There were a number of scurrilous songs about him – we know about this because there was a court case with Harrison taking twenty-two people to court for libel.

 

DSCF0384The problem for Harrison was that he lived in difficult times and despite his generosity he was insufficiently Puritan for some tastes.  In time he found himself being fined by Parliament – which must have been somewhat irritating given that he had loaned them money in 1642. As a result of his ultimate loyalty to Charles I and also as a result of his religious faith which although not described as Laudian was not as austere as Puritan taste demanded much of his wealth was confiscated and his is, described by an article from the Yorkshire Evening Post (29 Oct 2005), as spending his final years in comparative poverty.

IMG_2999

St John’s looks from the outside like a typically Gothic medieval church but the woodwork inside – the panelling, the pulpit and the screens inside are decidedly Jacobean. The coat of arms are those of James I (he died in 1625) before the church was built so it may have been that Harrison was trying not to make too public a statement in regard to his loyalty to the Crown.  The royal coat-of-arms are a feature of churches dating from the Act of Supremacy in 1534 which made the monarch the head of the Church of England.  These days the coats of arms can turn up any where within a church but during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they tended to be placed where the rood screen would have once stood. There is nothing subtle about Harrison’s screen.

It is a remarkable survival not least because there were some Victorian “improvements” which included the removal of the screen.  It was only by chance that it was rediscovered and returned to its correct location. The south porch actually was demolished and the tower rebuilt.

DSCF0408

At this point, you may like me, be wondering what other churches were built during this period. The seventeenth century is not exactly knee deep in new churches excluding all those Sir Christopher Wren creations in London built to replace medieval buildings destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666.  So here goes – the church at Berwick-Upon-Tweed was rebuilt in 1641 with money given by Charles I.  I think it was finished after the First English Civil War – though of course it wasn’t brand new – it was replacing a medieval church that had been rather badly knocked about. There is a church in Hargrave in Cheshire built by a former Lord Mayor of London – essentially a “local boy done good story” who then returned to his native Cheshire to create a church and school. There may be others but I have not yet stumbled across them.  St Charles the Martyr in Tonbridge Wells is Baroque and built during the 1670s but that is clearly post-Restoration as are the Wren builds and, like the Wren churches, the architecture has moved on from Jacobean to Baroque which is definitely a heavily ornamented period.

DSCF0399

 

Price’s Church Primer

Victoria County History

Sir Robert Shirley, Laudianism and an unusual protest against Cromwell’s Commonwealth

Staunton Harold ChurchStaunton Harold in Leicestershire, just a stone’s throw from Ashby de la Zouche.  It’s seventeenth century church reflects the principles of Laudianism.

Laudianism was the approach to religion and belief favoured by Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud.  On a superficial level Laud can simply be seen as wishing for a return to ritual, vestments and rich furnishings.  He also advocated the return of altars to the east wall of the chancel rather than a more central table.   It also placed an emphasis upon hierarchy. None of these things were particularly appealing to members of the church with a Calvinist mindset.

Even worse, Laud’s theology differed from those with more Puritanical leanings.  Calvinists believed in predestination.  Essentially you either were one of the elect or you weren’t – you could not save yourself from damnation by good works.  Laud was more optimistic in that he preferred to focus on God’s grace towards mankind and free will.

Unsurprisingly both groups believed they were right.  The Puritans saw church furniture such as the return of altar rails keeping God’s people at arm’s length so as to speak was rather too close to Rome for comfort. Meanwhile Laud was stressing that the altar was the “Greatest place of God’s residence upon earth.”  Salvation for puritans was through faith alone – there was not the need of the altar for communion and we are not even going to go down the route of transubstantiation.

Charles I favoured Laud.  When Laud was promoted from the bishopric of London to that of Canterbury he effectively became the spokesman for the Church of England which Puritans at the other end of the spectrum found somewhat alarming. Though as with all things painting in black and white does not do justice to the nuances of religious belief of the seventeenth century or the degree to which those in power tolerated the beliefs or not of their countrymen – and it certainly isn’t a topic for a brief post.

Into this increasingly complex world came Sir Robert Shirley.  He was just seventeen when he inherited Staunton Harold and the title Baron Ferrers (he was the 13th baron)  from his brother Charles in 1646 – the English Civil War seems not to have affected Staunton Harold or the Shirleys up until this point.

Unfortunately Robert Shirley was not like his brother who had done remarkably well to keep such a low profile in an area criss-crossed by assorted armies during the period.  Robert had been raised as a Protestant by his mother but the Shirley family were known for their Catholicism.  Perhaps for Shirley, Laudianism presented a middle ground where he felt comfortable. Robert was also a staunch royalist.

Robert now spent the next ten years irritating Cromwell and Parliament.  In 1648 he was caught up in the fighting for Ashby Castle. To be fair it was more of a drunken brawl that an attempt to take on the Parliamentarian garrison.  Shirley was packed off to Leicester where he was imprisoned and then accused of plotting with fellow Royalist goal-birds to ferment rebellion. He was also accused of stockpiling weapons at Staunton Harold. Shirley claimed he was the victim of some unfortunate confusion. He was also just nineteen years old.

In 1650 he found himself in the Tower having been set up by an agent provocateur and his estates were sequestrated. This particular episode began with a letter sent from some of the gentlemen of Staffordshire to the Rump Parliament denouncing the execution of Charles I.  Shirley added his signature along with some Leicestershire gentry.  Parliament responded by demanding that their various county committees investigate the men that they now styled “delinquents.” In Leicestershire this was backed up by confiscating all of Shirley’s rents and income. Shirley tried to untangle his finances from the Tower explaining that if Parliament sequestrated his estate rental then he would not be able to pay outstanding debts or care for his family.  Interestingly he didn’t attempt to naysay the notion that he was a delinquent although in his next missive he did take the authorities to task for their labelling of him. After six months of imprisonment he was freed. He did not receive a “get out of jail free card.”  He was required to offer a security of £10,000.

In December 1652 Shirley reappears in the official record on account of the fact that he was having to defend himself against the charge of being a “malignant Royalist landlord.”  Basically a couple of his Parliamentary supporting tenants had been on the receiving end of Shirley’s spite. Shirley needed to prove that the families who petitioned against him were not respectable Parliamentarians at all and that they were simply using his well known royalist credentials as a way of backsliding.  History does not know what the court decided.

In 1653 Shirley began to build an unusual architectural protest against the political and religious situation.  He also seems to have been part of the Sealed Knot – the underground Royalist organisation that plotted for the return to England of Charles II. It seems unwise to draw attention to yourself by building a new chapel kitted out with Laudian features at the same time as indulging in some serious plotting against authority but that is exactly what Robert Shirley did. By 1654 Shirley was purchasing arms, writing to royalists abroad and co-ordinating resistance to Parliament in the East Midlands.  In the prequel to the Royalist rising known as Penruddock’s Rising (March 1655) after John Penruddock who managed to get himself executed in Exeter, Shirley came to the notice of Cromwell’s intelligence network.

John Thurloe, Cromwell’s spymaster, now discovered that Shirley was planning to blow Cromwell up. But it didn’t really matter because Shirley had done something much more noticeable than concocting fantastical plots.  He had built Staunton Harold Church of the Holy Trinity – which was the private chapel of the Shirley family.  Staunton Harold boasts being one of the few churches built during the Commonwealth Period and it certainly didn’t meet with Cromwell’s approval.  The altar is aligned to the east wall of the chancel which is screened by rough iron gates.  The lavish silk velvet altar frontal yells Laudianism. And that’s before visitors to the Church even get so far as studying the painted ceiling in the nave.  It’s hues of grey depict the creation of the World by God.  Humankind are on the right hand side of the ceiling looking towards God whilst opposite them the head of a dog looks back in the direction of chaos – on one hand it might be the creation of animals on the other Shirley did liken Cromwell to a dog so it might be more of an oblique comment on Shirley’s views about the Protector’s religious beliefs.

Stunton Harold ceiling

Cromwell suggested that if Shirley could afford to build such a lavish chapel complete with box pews and a pulpit he could outfit one of Parliament’s ships.  Shirley declined and found himself back in the Tower where he spent his time considering how the Sealed Knot could best be reformed to be more effective.  Unfortunately he died whilst imprisoned aged twenty-seven.  Inevitably there were suggestions that he had been poisoned.  Robert never saw his completed church. His son’s guardians would complete the building and the message above the door which is Shirley’s legacy:

“In the year 1653 when all things Sacred were throughout ye nation, Either demolisht or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, Founded this church; Whose singular praise it is, to have done the best things in ye worst times, and hoped them in the most callamitous. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.”

 

And for those of you who like a moment of complication – the Earl of Essex who was Parliamentarian, perhaps  in part thanks to his humiliation over his divorce from Frances Howard so that she could marry James I’s favourite Robert Carr and become the Countess of Somerset, was Robert Shirley’s uncle.  Robert’s mother was Dorothy Devereaux – whose father managed to get himself executed for treason against Elizabeth I and whose mother was the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham.  If one climbs a little further up the family tree Robert Shirley was descended from Catherine Knollys the unacknowledged daughter of Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII.

 

If you are in the West Riding and feel the urge to visit a seventeenth century church – St James in Leeds was built during the reign of Charles I and is resplendent in terms of its woodwork.  I shall be ferreting through my photographs and a post will follow!

https://www.le.ac.uk/lahs/downloads/1982-83/1982-3%20(58)%2025-35%20Lacy.pdf

Thomas and Katherine Howard – avarice personified.

Frances-HowardToday’s post is about the family of one of the most notorious women in English History.  Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset pleaded guilty in 1616 to murdering Sir Thomas Overbury in 1613 whilst he was a prisoner in The Tower.

Overbury was there because he had turned down the post of Ambassador to Russia.  He thought that he would be protected by Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset.  Carr was the king’s favourite but he had more looks than brains so Overbury had been dealing with the administration that came Carr’s way.  Apparently Overbury even wrote the love letters that Carr sent to Frances Howard before they were married.  In any event the pair were no longer as close as they once had been because Overbury didn’t much like Frances Howard.  He described her, amongst other things,  as a base woman. I am teaching a day school in Halifax on Thursday 21st June about the ins and outs of the murder so shan’t be delivering a spoiler here apart from to say that poisoned jam tarts were involved and a deadly enema. Also to note that Robert Carr, Frances Howard’s second husband did not perform terribly well at his trial for murder because he insisted on representing himself and most observers were of the opinion he would have done better to keep his mouth shut.

ThomasHoward4HerzogvonNorfolk.jpgSo who was Frances Howard?   She was born on the 31 May 1590.  She was the grand daughter of the 4th Duke of Norfolk by his second wife, Margaret Audley – it was how that grand mansion Audley End came into the hands of the Howard family.  The fourth duke, Thomas Howard, was the man who aspired to marry Mary Queen of Scots in 1569 then managed to get himself caught up in the Ridolfi Plot of 1571.  He was executed in 1572.  As a traitor his lands and title were forfeit to the State but by that time the Tudors had become rather adept at removing wealth with one hand and returning it with the other in order to ensure that there weren’t too many grievances to be aired by rebellious subjects.  The fact that the Howards were Elizabeth’s cousins should also be added to the scales.

 

200px-Thomas_howard_suffolkAs it happens Audley End was not part of Elizabeth’s haul of booty when the 4th duke got the chop.  The estates there and around Saffron Waldon were part of Margaret Audley’s dowry so when she died they had passed straight into the hands of her eldest son Thomas Howard (born 1561), who was Frances Howard’s father.

Thomas Howard married his step-sister  Mary Dacre, the daughter of the duke’s third wife at his father’s behest whilst the duke was int he Tower  awaiting execution. Thomas was eleven or twelve when his father made his final arrangements but Mary Dacre died without having children.

Thomas then married Katherine rich neé  Knyvet  in 1583 – a distant cousin of Anne Vavasour’s  –  who was the widow of Richard Rich.  The couple went on to have ten children who survived to adulthood of whom Frances was one. Sources identify that Thomas Howard was a kind father but that he continued the old idea of marrying his children off early – there were plenty of them after all.  By the seventeenth century child marriages were becoming a thing of the past. Frances would marry her first husband, the third earl of Essex when she was just thirteen.

Thomas Howard being a second son, in between be-getting children and arranging advantageous marriages for them, had to earn his keep.  He was a Tudor sea farer with the likes of Sir Richard Grenville commanding assorted vessels in a variety of campaigns including ventures against the Spanish to Cadiz. As a result of this he was created Lord Howard of Walden in 1597.  From there he seems to have relaxed somewhat – Anne Somerset describes him as “fat and genial.”

When James I became king our Howard become the earl of Suffolk – now this a the bit where history can be a bit confusing.  Followers of this blog know very well that there had been plenty of earls of Suffolk already, the two that spring to mind being Charles Brandon and then Henry Grey but Thomas Howard’s correct designation is Thomas Howard 1st Earl of Suffolk – just think of it as the clock being reset because an entirely new family has taken the title.

The new countess was one of Anne of Denmark’s ladies-in-waiting.  She had served Elizabeth I in a similar capacity.

The earl of Suffolk became an influential member of the royal household between 1603-1614.  He then spent the next four years as Lord High Treasurer before being sent to the Tower for misappropriating funds – which simply means that someone found a way of toppling him from power and that the king allowed those people to do so.  It’s amazing that he managed to hang on to his job in the two years from 1616 to 1618 given that his daughter and son-in-law had both been found guilty of murder.

To make matters worse it wasn’t  just  the earl of Suffolk who’d been taking back handers.  Katherine had also been in receipt of a Spanish Pension during the peace negotiations between England and Spain.  It should be added that taking bribes, which is what “pensions” from Spain were wasn’t going to win friends and influence people even if James I did want peace with the Spanish. She also had strong Catholic sympathies. Popular opinion tended to exonerate the earl and place the blame for the bribery firmly on the shoulders of Katherine. The pair were fined £30,000 and imprisoned – which successfully toppled the Howard faction from power and, put simply, allowed the likes of the earl of Pembroke and the king’s new favourite George Villiers to take charge.

katherine kynvet

Katherine Knyvet or Knyvett depending upon the source (pictured above) had a reputation for avariciousness.  Edward Coke described her during her trial as running the treasury like a shop which is definitely taking the traditional backhander a bit far.  There were also some fairly colourful stories in circulation about her including that she was the one time mistress of Robert Cecil – I should add that I can’t find any primary source evidence of this. There were others and it would appear that she was also prone to using prior relationships with extortion in mind.  Katherine was purported to be a great beauty until small pox ruined her looks in 1619 when she was 55 years old.

The countess was ambitious for her daughters in terms of wealth and political power for the Howards. She encouraged Frances to seek an annulment from her first husband, the 3rd earl of Essex having encouraged the match in the first instance and having been absolutely furious when Frances refused to consummate the match when the young couple were deemed old enough to live as man and wife.  Katherine believed that a match with Robert Carr, the king’s favourite would build the Howard power base better than a familial link with the earls of Essex. She was one of the “respectable” women who attested that Frances was still a virgin so that her first marriage could be annulled.  The ballads of the time were firmly of the opinion that the countess had perjured herself with the statement.  It did not matter that the earl of Suffolk did not much like Robert Carr or that Carr had previously been at loggerheads with the Howard faction.  I can’t help wondering what James I’s queen Anne of Denmark felt about the matter. She did not much like Robert Carr and neither had James’ eldest son Prince Henry who had died suddenly in 1612 just before the whole Frances Howard scandal sprang to life.  I don’t suppose it mattered much to the countess either that Frances was besotted by Robert Carr for her it was a question power and its accompanying cash.

Katherine was similarly cavalier about her other two daughters, Frances’ sisters.  Elizabeth ended up married to William Knollys , a man old enough to be her father.  He was born in 1544 whilst she was born in 1583.  Her third surviving daughter, Catherine, was married to Robert Cecil’s son.

Frances Howard’s parents saw Fortune’s Wheel turn as their new son-in-law  Robert Carr fell from favour prior to his arrest for his part in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, ironically enough, partially as a result of the death of Overbury.  There was no longer anyone to look after the administration or deal with the paperwork for him.  Carr did not have the ability to deal with it himself.  It turned out that James required more than a pretty face.  He needed someone to help run the country.

Edward Coke another Jacobean administrator and canny political operator did not much like the Howards or the power that they wielded.  The fact that Frances had played an active part in Sir Thomas Overbury’s murder was a means to bring down both Robert Carr.  The Spanish pension business toppled the earl of Suffolk once and for all.  Coke even sent Sir John Digby to Madrid in an attempt to incriminate the earl still further prior to the earl and countess’s trial.

Even better from Coke’s point of view was the fact that recognising the growing power of George Villiers over the king the Suffolks had encouraged a young man called Monson to supplant Villiers in the king’s affections.  It was Villiers who first told the king that the Countess was taking bribes through exchequer debts.  There was no sign of George falling from favour not least because Monson had been so irritatingly obvious that he had been told to get out of the king’s sight. Their involvement in the plan to put Monson in Villiers place was enough to ensure that the Howards had made a very powerful  enemy.

Suffolk’s fall from power and subsequent trial should have meant that he stayed in prison until a £30,000 fine was paid but a mere ten days after sentence was passed he found himself at home.  The fine was later reduced to £7,000.  What he had lost was his political power. Interestingly when he had been bought low Villiers was prepared to let bygones be bygones as it was he who arranged the interview between James I and the earl of Suffolk reducing the fine.  Historians believe that the slate would have been wiped clean had Howard not sought to avoid the king’s wrath by putting his property into trust in an attempt to save them for his family in the event of the worst happening.  In 1623 the earl’s youngest son, Edward, married George Villiers’ niece – meaning that the Howards were now part of the Villiers’ affinity.  Times had well and truly changed.

The earl died in 1626.  His widow lived until 1638.

And finally, France’s maternal great grandfather was Sir Henry Knyvet of Charlton in Wiltshire. Sir Henry had six children. Frances Howard’s great uncle Thomas played a part in the foiling of the Gun Powder Plot and became a baron.  Margaret Knyvet married into the Vavasour family.  Her daughter Anne would cause a scandal when she became pregnant by the earl of Oxford and then moved in with Sir Henry Lee despite being married to someone else as seen in previous posts.  Alice Knyvet married into the Dacre family.  Catherine married firstly into the Paget family and then into the Carey family – demonstrating where Frances’ mother got her hard-headed attitude to marrying her children from. Henry Knyvet who was Sir Henry’s eldest son married  three times and was an MP.

Somerset, Anne. (1997) Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of James I. London:Weidenfeld and Nicholson.

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