Jacobite symbols – decoding treachery or loyalty…

bonnie prince charlieI’m having a wander in my own direction this afternoon  back into the realms of the Jacobites. In this instance symbolism. These days if we think of anything associated with the Stuarts other than the emblematic Scottish thistle we tend to identify the white Jacobite rose and the white cockade that Jacobites wore on their blue bonnets. However, as you might expect it is not that straightforward. The rose for example should possibly have six petals and either one or two buds. If one bud it references Bonnie Prince Charlie, if two buds then it’s a reference to Charlie and his younger brother Henry. The whole white rose thing is relatively straight forward. The Old Pretender or James III depending on your frame of mind was born on June 10th which is white rose day.  It also helps that the rosa alba is the white rose associated with Scotland which, if you are of a romantic disposition is the kind of rose that the Young Pretender plucked from a bush as he passed it shortly after arriving in Scotland in 1745.


It is not quite so simple as ABC – which naturally stands for A Blessed Change or how about QRS which stands for Quickly Return Stuart.  Here in no particular order as some of the symbols associated with the Jacobite cause:

Butterflies and moths: a symbol of rebirth and renewal or in the phrase of the time, “the return of the soul.”

Sunflowers: it’s an image associated with loyalty because the sunflower turns its head to track the progress of the sun.

Bees: another symbol for loyalty as well as being representative of new life out of decay. If that isn’t enough insects for you then there are also dragonflies and beetles.

Acorn and oak leaves: a Stuart symbol dating from the Restoration. It references Charles II’s escape after the Battle of Worcester when he hid up the oak tree at Boscobel House. It became a symbol of rebirth once Charles wore oak leaves in his hat in 1660 when he returned to England. And it turns out trees are rather more complex than you could even begin to imagine. In 1689 a medal was struck to celebrate the coronation of William and Mary – it bore an oak tree with an orange growing out of it just to remind people that Mary was a Stuart. Green trees and shoots are also about fertility. This clearly has the obvious connotation of plentiful heirs but it was also used in the context of a withered tree when an unjust king was on the throne making the nation wither. We can also move into the realms ofireligious symbolism.  Oak trees are wood. The cross upon which Christ was crucified was made of wood. The oak and the cross are made of the same thing there fore the oak tree is like the Cross. The Stuarts across the sea represent the Arisen Christ – so the rightful monarchs by Divine Right and we might also want to consider martyrdom which takes us back to Charles I. Clearly this was a group of extremely well educated people with nothing better to do than drink wine from exquisitely engraved treasonous  glassware and come up with increasingly complex images to demonstrate their allegiance.

A six pointed star which simply represents royalty. A compass in the form of a starburst as with the star.  Even better for the compass to have a flour de lis pointer. Remember that the french kings offered their support to the Jacobites.

Birds – especially the Jay – yes that’s right, King James III’s initial letter is a J. Ravens could also be used to symbolise Jacobite allegiance given their heraldic links to Scottish kings in the past and there’s also a poem that uses the metaphor of a blackbird to represent James.

If as a Jacobite you wanted your coded loyalty to have a more classical bent then Medusa’s head – Bonnie Prince Charlie being the Perseus sent to rescue the British people from the nasty Hanoverians and Medusa translates as guardian which brings us neatly to the true guardianship of the nation…the Stuarts.

Daffodils symbolise spring and are therefore about hope – so they must naturally be a reference to returning Stuart monarchs. Even a carnation can be seen as symbolic of the Stuart cause because it represents a “coronation.” Forget-me-nots reference the obvious fact that the Stuarts should not be forgotten.

Many of these symbols can be found on beautiful examples of eighteenth century glassware. There are about five hundred examples of Jacobite glassware in existence today. The guidebook from Fairfax House in York observes that this indicates that originally there must have been thousands, so that whilst in theory many people were prepared to raise their glasses in a toast to the “king over the water” fewer were prepared to put their money or themselves where their mouths were.

Aside from the various images there were also opportunities to demonstrate loyalty to the Stuarts through mottoes such as Fiat which translates as “Let it be” as in Let it be a Stuart restoration. Redeat meaning it returns.  Even saying Amen could have a Jacobite context especially if your toasting glass was decorated with the Jacobite National Anthem, a crown and a portrait of James III or his initials:


God save the King, I pray,

God bless the King, I pray,

God save the King.

Send him victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Soon to reign over us,


God save the King.

God bless the Prince of Wales,

The true-born Prince of Wales,

Sent us by Thee.

Grant us one favour more,

The King for to restore,

As Thou hast done before

The familie.


God save the Church, I pray,

God bless the Church, I pray,

Pure to remain Against all heresie,

And Whig’S Hipocrasie,

Who strive maliciouslie

Her to defame.


God bless the subjects all,

And save both great and small

In every station.
That will bring home the King;

Who hath best right to reign,

It is the only thing

Can save the Nation.-Amen.


Other toasts included “to the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat,” which was a reference to William of Orange falling from his horse to his death when the horse allegedly tripped over a mole hill causing him to break his collar bone from which pneumonia was a secondary illness. There is even a Gaelic toast which plays on words to reference Bonnie Prince Charlie escaping to Skye dressed as a woman. And let’s not forget the importance of passing the glass over a bowl of water even if you couldn’t toast “The King across the water” out loud.

There is such as thing as having too many symbols and the Jacobites seem to have gone for coded loyalty big time from traditional royal symbols via mythical and allegorical signs to the downright obscure.  And I haven’t even ventured into the realms of Jacobite commemorative paraphernalia which make modern royal coronation and wedding chinaware seem positively low key. For example you could get a piece of china depicting a handsome knight or shepherd and you were actually demonstrating your loyalty to the Pretender. There were Jacobite medals, fans, trinket boxes and miniatures.

I think I can also safely say that I have enough material to make a Jacobite cross stitch sampler.


Guthrie, Neil (2013) The Material Culture of the Jacobites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press






Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Eighteenth Century, Jacobites, The Stuarts

The Cavendish Connection Part three – The first five Dukes of Devonshire.

The arbitrary number of Dukes reflects the course of the Eighteenth Century rather than an erroneous number of “lords a leaping.”

(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I actually dealt with the First Duke of Devonshire in my previous post as he was also the fourth earl.  Having invited William and Mary to take the Crown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he conveniently died in 1707 having helped to negotiated the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland.  Despite his reputation for brawling and womanising he clearly did evolve into a serious political figure.  This happened following his return from his Grand Tour when he entered the houses of Parliament principally because he was anti-Charles II and anti-Catholic. There was also the small matter of Colonel Culpepper as described in yesterday’s post. In addition to becoming a duke he was also made Lord High Steward by King William in grateful recognition of his services.

The First Duke was unusual in his family in that he was a Whig, i.e. he wanted parliamentary government rather than a government dominated by the monarchy.  Presumably his uncle the Duke of Newcastle and his father the Third Earl must have been spinning in their graves.  Roy Hattersley explains that the Whig attitude  was that men of birth were endowed with a duty to protect the interest of the nation (of course, it helped if they prospered at the same time.)  The basic caveat was that the men of birth should have land because the soil was the physical embodiment of their duties and responsibilities.  Johnson described the first Whig as being the Devil! This description came about because these powerful men not only believed that they had a duty to protect the nation but that they could do what they wanted when they wanted irrespective of the law – which may be a bit of a swinging statement  but you get the gist. Suffice it to say Horace Walpole described the first duke as “a patriot amongst the men and a gallant among the ladies – ” a stamens which had nothing to do with Cavendish’s manners.

2nd duke of devonshire.jpgOn which note let us proceed to the Second Duke – unsurprisingly called William.  William had gained the title Marquis of Hartington on his father’s elevation to a dukedom in 1594. This is the title by which the heir of the current duke is still known.  This William was not a chip off the old block.  He did not become involved in drunken brawls or debauchery.  His marriage, arranged by his father to show his political loyalties, was to Lady Rachael Russell the daughter of William Russell who was executed in 1683 after attempting to have the Catholic Duke of York excluded from the succession.  Charles responded by dissolving parliament thus removing the Whig voice.  Russell was ultimately implicated in the Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II – He hadn’t actually been involved in the actual plot, it was enough that he was a leading Whig – at worst his crime was misprision of treason which wasn’t a capital offence, which basically means that he knew something treasonous was about to happen but he didn’t tell the authorities. The political union between William and Rachael evolved into a love match rather to the first duke’s irritation.

William’s education followed the pattern of his father and grandfather.  He was sent on a Grand Tour and then he entered into local politics and administration. He sat for Derbyshire but then lost his seat -again to his father’s irritation.  However, this proved to be to his advantage as he then gained  a seat in South Yorkshire.  His corresponding member was Robert Walpole. The pair became firm friends and, let’s face it, it’s always handy to know a prime minister. In 1707 William became the Second Duke of Devonshire.

His arch enemy in political terms in Derbyshire was the Tory, Henry Sacheverell. The rise of Henry reflected the rise of the Tories in national government and William found himself out of his job as a privy councillor. Instead of sulking he had an amendment added to the Act of Settlement identifying the Elector of Hanover’s eldest son as an additional heir to the Crown.  It reflected William’s protestantism as averse to the Tory High Church view of the world that came perilously close to Catholicism in William’s mind.  It should be noted that not only did William support the established church but spoke out for dissenters as well.  When Queen Anne died on August 1 1714 William rose once more with the role of Lord Steward of George I’s household.

There was an interlude whilst James III’s son, the so-called Old Pretender, made a bid for the throne getting so far as Preston before being beaten. Bills were passed against Catholics. Later he opposed the South Sea Bubble scheme which he argued would have horrible effects on the economy. He even managed to be friends with both George I and the Prince of Wales – a fairly unusual state of affairs.

3rd duke of devonshire.jpgThe third duke is, completely unsurprisingly, also a William.  He became duke in 1729 following his Oxford education and stint in parliament representing various counties.    Dr Johnson who we have already seen was not keen on Whigs made an exception for the Third Duke of Devonshire.  He described him as “a man faithful to his word” – though not necessarily of “superior abilities.”  He was also described as a man of untidy dress, plain habits and noted on on account of the astonishing amount that he could drink.

catherine hoskyns.jpgIn 1718  William, then Marquis of Hartington, married Katherine Hoskins.  It was not a match arranged by the second duke.  The marquis had fallen in love with a merchant’s daughter – fortunately the merchant was wealthy.  Hugh Walpole described Katherine as “delightfully vulgar.”  The pair had seven children upon whom their father doted (I’m warming to this Cavendish).

In 1737 he became the Viceroy, General Governor and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, his mother after all was the daughter of the First Duke of Ormonde.  The Duke remained in post for the next seven years returning to England just in time for the next round of Jacobite plotting.

Arriving home in January 1745 the third duke became Lord Steward of the Royal Household – not that it stopped the Duke from spending his time in Derbyshire.  By September England was in uproar over the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland.  On September 28th 1745 there was a meeting at the George Inn in Derby for the purpose of raising a militia.  I’ve posted recently about the inglorious activities of the Derbyshire Blues who headed in the direction of Nottingham as soon as they realised that Derby was the next stopping point for the Jacobite army.  The duke not known for his martial tendencies had expressed concern about his valuables. It was this duke and his wife who are the direct ancestors of both Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The third duke died in December 1755. His wife survived him by twenty-two years.

4th duke of devonshire.jpgWhich brings us to the Fourth Duke – yes his name is William.  He was born in 1720.  and like his forefathers became an MP and served in Government – briefly becoming Prime Minister. He married aristocratically to Elizabeth Boyle, the 6th Baroness Clifford which is why the Cavendishs own Bolton Abbey.  In addition to which she brought huge quantities of London property and other assets into the Cavendish fold.  All I really want to add about duke number four is that he arranged for Capability Brown to landscape Chatsworth and he was the chap who had the rather grand stable built.

william-cavendish-5th-duke-of-devonshire-1768-chatsworth-house-derbyshire-by-pompeo-batoni-1434193609_b.jpgFinally we arrive at the Fifth Duke of Devonshire and the nineteenth century.  Yes, his name was William Cavendish – there does seem to be a bit of a pattern emerging. Like his father the fifth duke was Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire handheld administrative posts in Ireland but unlike his father who must have held the office of Prime Ministers for one of the shortest periods of time ever he declined cabinet positions. The Fifth Duke is more famous for his marriages, firstly to Lady Diana Spencer and secondly to his long term mistress Lady Elizabeth Hervey but that’s a post for another time as is the development of Buxton as a fashionable eighteenth century spa town.

And that is as far as I propose to go down the line of Cavendish dukes. The Sixth duke (another William ) is known to history as “the Bachelor Duke” and when he died the title passed to the descendants of the third son of the fourth duke.

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



Filed under Eighteenth Century, The Georgians, The Stuarts

The Cavendish Connection part two – the earls of Devonshire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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




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

The Cavendish Connection

john of gauntPrior to the sixteenth century Derbyshire did not have an extremely powerful local magnate to dominate affairs.  The position was occupied in latter half of  the fourteenth century by John of Gaunt who acquired manors, castles and rights through his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster.  On his death the land and power base, along with the loyalty of the local affinity when largely to his son Henry of Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby who returned from exile to reclaim his father’s title and estate when Richard II confiscated them.  As a consequence of this Bolingbroke turned into Henry IV and duchy land turned into Crown estates.

It was only in the sixteenth century that Derbyshire acquired its own homegrown power base rather than the Crown or the Earls of Shrewsbury who owned land to the north including Sheffield Castle. I’m taking the opportunity provided by snow drifts and gales to cement my understanding of that power base’s affinity of kinship.

bessofhardwickIn 1547, at Bradgate in Leicestershire, Bess of Hardwick as she would become known married Sir William Cavendish.  Cavendish was the younger son of a Suffolk family but had gained a foothold in the household of Cardinal Wolsey thanks to the support of his older brother George who remained a loyal servant of the cardinal’s throughout Wolsey’s life. In 1529 when Wolsey had fallen from favour Thomas had gone into Thomas Cromwell’s service putting him nicely in place as an auditor for the Court of Augmentations to profit from the dissolution of the monasteries.

250px-william_cavendish_c1547Like Bess, who was his third wife, Thomas had an eye for a bargain.  The pair soon started to build up a property portfolio.  Bess’s mother wrote to her telling her of bargains to be had in Derbyshire. Bess would marry twice more after her husband’s death in 1557 first to Sir William St Loe and then to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury but she would have no more children.  She ensured all her children made good marriages – a dynasty had been founded.

Frances Cavendish (1548- 1632) – Frances married Sir Henry Pierrepoint from Nottinghamshire.  He was did what gentry did in those days.  He was a justice of the peace and a member of parliament.  He and his wife had three children.  Their eldest son would marry into the Talbot family and Frances’ grandson would become Marquis of  Dorchester.  The family would go on to spawn the Dukes of Kingston-Upon-Hull.  Frances’ youngest daughter, Grace, would marry Sir George Manners – making her the mother of the 8th Earl of Rutland.

henrycavendish1549.jpgHenry Cavendish (1550 – 1616) was married off to Grace Talbot as part of Bess and the Earl of Shrewsbury’s marriage agreement.  As the eldest son he should have inherited Chatsworth but he managed to get into Bess’s bad-books and got himself disinherited.  He didn’t have any legitimate off spring.  It should be noted that he actually did inherit Chatsworth but sold it to his brother.  One of his illegitimate sons, also called Henry, founded the Cavendish of Doveridge line.

William_Cavendish,_1st_Earl_of_Devonshire.jpgWilliam Cavendish (1552 – 1626) started off having the kind of career that readers of this blog might expect of a scion of the gentry.  He was an MP and a justice.  He was also the Sheriff of Derbyshire.  He became a baron in 1605 thanks to his niece Arbella Stuart who presents this case to her cousin King James I. After his mother’s death he became very wealthy and together with his court connections was able to gain the title Earl of Devonshire.  It is reported that he paid James I £10,000 for the privilege.  I shall be coming back to William tomorrow. I find that I need an understanding of who is who in the Devonshire fold – as someone said to me recently – it’s impossible to escape the Devonshires in Derbyshire and whilst on one hand the fact that quite a lot of them are called William means that I can get away with a lot its an aristocratic skein that I need to untangle.

Charles Cavendish (1553-1617) was the godson of Queen Mary and the father of William Cavendish who became the Duke of Newcastle – he went through the titles earl and marquis before gaining the dukedom in 1665 when he pointed out to Charles II that the Crown owed him rather a lot of back pay and that he was seriously out of pocket for having supported Charles I during the English Civil War.  If that succession of titles wasn’t confusing enough for the casual reader he was also created Viscount Mansfield in 1620.   From this branch of the family come the dukes of Newcastle and also Portland.

William had a younger brother also called Charles who worked loyally on his brother’s behalf.  Aubrey described him as a “little, weak, crooked man.” Aside from becoming an MP and going into exile with his brother the Marquis of Newcastle in July 1644 after the Battle of Marston Moor, Charles deserves more mention because of his advancement of the science of mathematics and correspondence with continental mathematicians .  There can’t be many men defined in the National Archives as a Knight Mathematician and it would have to be said that Aubrey notes that having been left estates and money he purchased books and “learned men.”  The books, which were all mathematical were sold upon his death, by his wife, for waste paper.

Elizabeth Cavendish (1555-1582) married Charles Stuart the younger brother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley the unfortunate second husband of Mary Queen of Scots.  Margaret, Countess of Lennox and Bess, then Countess of Shrewsbury, met at Rufford Abbey along with their respective off-spring and the rest, as they say, is history.  The result of the marriage was Arbella Stuart and a possible contender for the Crown being descended from the eldest daughter of Henry VII.

Mary Cavendish (1556-1632) married Gilbert Talbot who became the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury upon his father’s death.  Mary’s home life was complicated by the 6th earls increasing hostility to Bess and to her family not to mention his family.  The pair had five children but their two sons died in infancy.  Their three daughters married as follows; the earls of Norfolk, Pembroke and Kent.

Essentially the descendants of a poor Derbyshire squire’s daughter had married into some of the most prestigious families in the land. The Dukeries area in Nottinghamshire is so-called because it was once home to the Dukes of Norfolk descended from Mary Cavendish;  Dukes of Portland  and Dukes of Newcastle descended from Charles Cavendish and the Dukes of Kingston descended from Frances. Bess’s descendants have impacted on  British politics since the seventeenth century and whilst she was unable to ensure that her grand-daughter Arbella Stuart wore the crown it should be noted that Elizabeth II is descended from her through the Bowes-Lyons and that Princes William and Henry are related to her not only through their paternal line but also through Princess Diana’s ancestry.



Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Sir William Brooke, royal favourite and duelling victim

Lord Cobham.jpgSir William Brooke (1565-1597) was the son of William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham Warden of the Kent Cinque Ports (1527 to 1597) pictured at the start of this post. He was of a similar vintage to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Elizabeth’s replacement for Dudley in the royal favourite stakes after his death in 1588. Like other Elizabethan gentlemen he did a stint in the continental religious wars being knighted by Essex in 1591 at Dieppe.  He was, in short, one of the new breed of men in Elizabeth’s court.

Having done his time abroad he was then returned to Parliament as MP for Rochester at the behest of his father.  Lord Cobham was not terribly amused that of the two MPS for Kent it was Sir Robert Sidney (brother of Sir Philip Sidney, nephew of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester) who was returned as the senior parliamentarian.  Elizabeth noted that it wasn’t very helpful that  both men were abroad at the time. The fact that Brooke was also outlawed was also an issue. Elizabeth had decreed that members could not take their place until they had settled with their creditors. The matter must ultimately have been settled to Elizabeth’s satisfaction because he is described by Margaret Cavendish as one of her favourites.  Certainly, in June 1597 William had been made Keeper of Eltham Great Park though whether it was because he was a royal favourite or because his family was an important one is something that probably bears further consideration.


The family links with Elizabeth are in themselves interesting. Clearly being a Kent family the Boleyn equation  and Kent gentry affinity comes into play. Anne Boleyn sent George Brooke 9th Lord Cobham (1497-1558) a letter telling him about the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533 but he was also one of the judges that tried the queen just three years later. The following year at the christening of young Prince Edward it was Lord Cobham – our William’s grandfather- who carried consecrated wafers for both the illegitimised Tudor princesses.


George’s story continued to be tied to that of Henry VIII’s children and it is evident that he was of the reforming persuasion in his beliefs and the way in which he had chosen to have his children educated. The reign of Mary Tudor was made difficult not only by his faith but by the fact that he was related to Sir Thomas Wyatt through marriage. Wyatt even wrote to him demonstrating the belief that Cobham would side with him against Mary to put Elizabeth on the throne. He and his sons were arrested and there can be no doubt that Thomas Brooke had sided with Wyatt until the end. After that Lord Cobham who spent some time in the Tower kept his head down. He entertained Cardinal Pole and he made enquiries about heritics.. He died just before Mary so never saw Elizabeth ascend to the throne but the new Lord Cobham, William who had also been imprisoned in the Tower for his suspected part in Wyatt’s rebellion was on hand to play his allotted part in Elizabeth’s court and the administration of Kent as well as the Cinque Ports.

Clearly our Brooke was a bit of an Elizabethan wild boy and this led to his untimely end when he insulted Elizabeth Leighton the slightly pregnant lover of Sir Thomas Lucas of Colchester. Lucas called him out and he was mortally wounded one cold December morning in Mile End at a rapier’s end.  He was carried home where friends and family visited him as he lay dying.

Brooke had made his will in June having gone on a sea voyage but on the morning of his death he had added an undated codicil to the will which left everything to his brother George:

‘Your jest and my haste would not suffer me to acquaint you with what I am gone about this morning, what hath called me out so early. I send you enclosed within these what I shall leave behind me. My will and meaning is you should have all lands, leases and prisoners which I desire you may as quietly enjoy as I sincerely mean…Wishing you the best fortune, your loving brother William Brooke

The will was proved on the 25 December 1597. For those of you who like to know these things, George Brooke was executed for plotting against James I in 1603.

One letter described William Brooke as “misfortunate.”  Two arrest warrants were issued for Lucas by the privy council – on on the 24th of December and a second on the 30th. This was was very unfortunate for Elizabeth Leighton who bore an illegitimate child also called Thomas who would not meet his father until he was six years old when James I pardoned Lucas and he was able to return home. He and Elizabeth went on to have seven more children of whom the youngest, Margaret would go on to serve Queen Henrietta Maria and marry the Marquis of Newcastle going down in history as Mad Madge.  She would also write her biography, just because she felt like it even though society disapproved of the idea of women writing books for publication and tell the story of her father’s duel.

Henry_Brooke,_11th_Baron_Cobham,_by_circle_of_Paul_van_Somer.jpgIt is perhaps not surprising that Lucas found himself at the wrong end of an arrest warrant, William Brooke’s father the 10th Lord Cobham (who had died on March 6 1597)  was a man with clout. Brooke’s sister Elizabeth was the wife of Sir Robert Cecil – the most important man in the kingdom. She had also died at the beginning of 1597 but there were still family and political ties that were wielded by the new Lord Cobham – Henry Brooke – pictured left. He had been invested as Warden of the Cinque Ports on the same month that his father died.

In addition to which Whitaker makes the salient point that Elizabeth was already tetchy with the Lucas family because Sir Thomas’s sister Anne had gone to court to serve as a lady in waiting but then married for love against the queen’s wishes.  Anne had defied the queen to marry Arthur Throckmorton who was the younger brother of Bess Throckmorton who, of course, irritated Elizabeth monumentally by marrying Sir Walter Raleigh demonstrating once again that everyone in the Tudor court is related somehow or another!


And who would have thought that in reading around the topic of Margaret Cavendish as part of the Stuarts in Derbyshire course I am currently delivering that I should encounter a tale of Tudor passion that correlates to Elizabeth I and her various favourites which happens to be  part of another course that I am currently teaching.

Whitaker, Katie. (2003) Mad Madge. London: Chatto and Windus







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Elizabeth I -Message in a ring?

elizabeth-1-rainbow-portraitAs those of you who know me may recall one of my most favourite historical figures is Robert Carey. He’s the chap who caught the ring his sister, Philadelphia Scrope, chucked it from the bedroom window having it plucked from Elizabeth I’s finger after her demise in 1603.   Robert rode for Edinburgh and did the journey in a very impressive three days.

It is now thought that the ring that Robert carried was not necessarily one given to the queen by James VI of Scotland but more probably the so-called Chequers Ring that ended up in Lord Lee’ hands in 1919 having travelled from Elizabeth to James and then to Lord Lee via the Home family. Alexander Home was the second Earl of Home. His father also called Alexander. It was on account of the favour that he found with James VI of Scotland that Alexander senior was raised to the Scottish peerage. Demonstrating the ties between England and Scotland it should also be noted that he was married to Mary the daughter of Edward Sutton the 5th Baron Dudley, Lord Lisle. The first earl died in 1619 and James, by now James I of England intervened in a dispute over property, took Alexander junior under his wing and negotiated a good match for him.   The second earl married Catherine Carey who was part of the extended Carey family and thus a cousin of some description to Robert Carey who started this post. The marriage took place in May 1622 in Whitehall. It had been arranged by James I. Catherine died in childbirth within five years. Alexander would marry again but did not have any children. The title, the property and presumably the ring passed by entail to the next eligible male in the Home family tree.


However, ownership aside, the Chequers Ring bears the letters E for Elizabeth and R for Regina in diamonds and blue enamel. The body of the ring is lined with rubies. The ring bezel is actually a locket hiding two portraits. But more on that anon. The problem is that the ring doesn’t turn up on Elizabeth’s jewellery inventory – and I’m sure that we all have one of those to keep tabs on our bling so that hinders its pedigree and even worse we can’t give a definite identity to one of the images in the portrait because there is no provenance or paperwork to accompany it.

A possible clue as to where the ring comes from is the fact that there’s an image of a phoenix painted in enamel on the underside of the bezel. It has been suggested that it was Edward Seymour who gave the queen the gift in a bid to soften her up after he ran off and married Katherine Grey in 1560. If only it was that simple. The portrait of  Elizabeth dates form the 1570s by which time Katherine was dead.  Not only that but Elizabeth used the image of the phoenix on more that one occasion to give the idea of herself as the phoenix rising from the ashes of her mother’s death.

interior of elizabeth 1 locket ringOne of the portraits is unquestionably Elizabeth in her middle years.  The other is a woman who looks remarkably like Anne Boleyn because of the french hood that she wears although it has been argued that it could be Katherine Parr- there are issues over hair colouring. It has even been suggested that it is the image of a more youthful Elizabeth – now Elizabeth was unquestionably vain but would she really cart around two secret images of herself? Not being an art historian I couldn’t comment.  Dr Starkey observed, at the time he curated the exhibition in the National Maritime Museum where the ring was first displayed, it is likely to be an image of Anne because despite the fact that Elizabeth knew her mother for only a very short time she was likely to be a huge influence on her daughter’s life. This view is supported by Tracey Borman in The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen. Elsewhere it is pointed out that Elizabeth is known to have spoken of her mother only twice in her lifetime but it would also have to be said that if as Alison Weir suggests a youthful Elizabeth can be seen wearing her mother’s famous pearls in the Whitehall family group portrait along with a pendant that looks suspiciously like the letter A then she did indeed feel a closeness to her mother which History can only speculate upon.

I will be posting more about Elizabeth I’s iconography as I shall be delivering a ten week course on Gloriana after Easter using a portrait, including the famous Rainbow Portrait, as my starting point each week.


Borman, Tracey. (2009) Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen.





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

sir william brereton

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Porter, Stephen. http://www.historytoday.com/stephen-porter/letter-books-sir-william-brereton




‘March 1644: An Ordinance to enable Sir William Brereton Baronet, one of the Members of the House of Commons, to execute the several Ordinances of Parliament for advance of money within the County of Chester, and County and City of Chester, and to take Subscriptions for the better supply and maintenance of the Forces under his Command, for the security of the said places, and for prevention of the access of the Irish Forces into those parts.’, in Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, ed. C H Firth and R S Rait (London, 1911), pp. 409-413. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/acts-ordinances-interregnum/pp409-413 [accessed 24 February 2018].



Filed under English Civil War, folklore, Seventeenth Century, The Tudors

Charles Cavendish – cavalier (1620-1643)

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

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


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

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

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

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

Bickley, F. (1911) The Cavendish family  https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Cavendish_Family.html?id=1G8Al5RutVAC&redir_esc=y

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




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The Derbyshire Militia – facing Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745

blue plaque derbyI’ve hopped away from the English Civil War for a couple of days. I’m currently trying to find out what I can about the Derbyshire Blues. This was the regiment of militia raised by William Cavendish, the Third Duke of Devonshire, in 1745 in response to the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his prospective invasion of England.


There had been an act to permit the raising of militia at the beginning of the eighteenth century which required regular renewal but this had lapsed when it was not renewed in 1735. In theory this meant that all the Lord Lieutenants of counties who raised regiments against the Jacobites were in breach of the law not that this stopped King George II’s ministers from approving the need for them on the 5th September 1745. George II was in Hanover and so Parliament could not sit until he returned so even though letters were sent out to Lords Lieutenant on the 13th they weren’t acting entirely within the bounds of legality. As a consequence the Militia Act of 1745 passed through parliament into law in one day. The Act stated that at any time up to the 30 November 1746, the militia could be called for active service, with each soldier to be provided with a month’s pay, advanced locally and repaid within six months. Any regiment of militia would be liable to serve throughout the country – although in Derbyshire there was a stipulation that none of its militia should be expected to march more than ten miles outside the county boundaries. So essentially, think of the militia as a proto-type home guard.


The problem seems to have been that the militia despite their pay and in many cases their new uniforms were not the kind of men that the Lords Lieutenant might have hoped for. In Carlisle men deserted in droves when they are required to defend the walls and in Lancashire despite their new coats, hats and shoes the militia took itself off to Liverpool before decamping in the direction of Warrington to destroy bridges. Beckett reveals that the militia were so ineffective that the Jacobites gave them the code name “small beer” although he does note that they were much more effective during the Jacobite retreat in that they harried stragglers and sought to slow the Highlanders by felling trees across various roads.


In Derbyshire the Duke of Devonshire, a Whig supporter of the Hanoverians was also the Lord Lieutenant of the county. He had just returned from duties in Ireland where he had been Lord Lieutenant for six years. It was his job to raise the militia. On the 28th September there was a meeting in the George Inn on Irongate in Derby:

“to consider of such measures as are fit to be taken for the support of the Royal Person and government of H. M. King George, and our happy constitution in Church and State, at a time when rebellion is carrying on in favour of a Popish Pretender.”

As a result of the discussion a regiment of five hundred men was formed. One hundred and twenty of them had been paid for by the duke himself. Overall command of the regiment was to be given to the Duke of Devonshire with the Marquis of Hartington and Sir Nathaniel Curzon taking charge of one company each with the two county MPs taking the jobs of colonels of the regiment. The minutes of the meeting revealed the initial idea was that the men should be divided amongst Derbyshire’s market towns – Ashbourne was to have fifty men as was Bakewell whilst Chesterfield and Derby were to have a hundred men each.   Sir Nathaniel Curzon, Sir Robert Burdett, Sir Henry Harpur, Littleton Poyntz Meynell, William Cotton, German Pole, Edward Munday, Richard Harpur, Philip Gell were signatories to the document and in excess of £6000 was raised by subscription for the formation of the militia.

George InnA second meeting at the George, or the King’s Head as it became as the Jacobites drew closer was also recorded in the Derby Mercury.  It turns out that the Duke not only summoned the gentry of the county to discuss the need for a militia but that he wined and dined them as well.  Even so when commissions were sent out it was reported that some  were turned down.

The Derbyshire Blues were a nattily dressed bunch in blue serge coats, white breeches, black buckled shoes and tricorn hats sporting an orange cockade. In London it was arranged for armaments to be sent from The Tower to Derbyshire in two waggons.

On the 19th November, by which time the Jacobites had captured Carlisle, Lord Lonsdale, the Lord Lieutenant of Cumberland, wrote to the Due of Devonshire saying that he had heard from Penrith to the effect that the Jacobites were coming with an army of 8,000 men and where was the English army under the command of Sir John Ligionier? Lonsdale was concerned that his message had got lost en route and hoped that the duke could correspond with the army based at Lichfield more effectively. Ligionier was unwell and he was about to be replaced by George II’s son, the Duke of Cumberland.


As December approached the panic seems to have grown, trees were felled to form a blockade on the road between Buxton and Ashbourne; letters were written about the dangers of local Catholics who found themselves unable to own a horse worth more than £5.00 and forbidden to travel far from their own doorsteps. By the 3rd of December folk who could leave Derby did so.


The militia paraded, moved into position to guard Swarkestone Bridge and then at ten in the evening scarpered to Mansfield via Nottingham before deciding that it was still too close to the Jacobites having sent a scout to find out if they had yet left Derby and decamping to Retford – which is not exactly on a direct route to London but was much closer to Marshall Wade who was then in Doncaster! Part of the reason for their reluctance to encounter the Jacobites was that they believed that the prince’s army was considerably larger than it really was. Rumour suggested somewhere in the region of 9,000 men when actually the army was closer to 4,000. Even if they had known the true number it is hard to imagine what five hundred part-time soldiers could possibly have done against the highlanders in an unwalled city aside from getting themselves slaughtered.


After the whole affair was over a satire purporting to be a chronicle of the “mighty acts of Devonshire” was published – presumably by a Jacobite sympathiser or by a forerunner of Jimmy Perry.  Very sensibly the author chose a pseudonym “Nathan Ben Shaddai.” He wrote it in the manner of an Old Testament reading.  The militia are seen arguing about where is safest for them and then go to Nottingham via the village of Borrows-Ash where “they make war on the poultry” and drank “much strong drink” before departing “forgetting to pay.” During the course of their flight a certain Captain Lowe does not emerge particularly heroically and having consumed rather a lot of intoxicating liquor the regiment confuses a herd of cows with the Jacobites. The chronicle descends into farce when one of the drummers leaves his drum on the road in the confusion and a Lieutenant accidentally rode his horse over it causing even more chaos not to mention a soiling of the aforementioned  white breeches.


Beckett, Fredrick, William. (1991)The Amateur Military Tradition, 1558-1945. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Lord, Evelyn and  Money, David. (2004) The Stuarts Secret Army: English Jacobites 1689-1752. London: Pearson

Riding, Jacqueline. A New History of the ’45 Rebellion.  London: Bloomsbury

Stone, Brian. (2015). Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highland Army in Derby. Cromford: Scarthin Books.


Image of the Duke of Devonshire from the National Portrait Gallery Collection.






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English Civil War 1645

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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