Tag Archives: Gloucester

The Siege of Gloucester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Gloucester, 1640-60: The English Revolution’, in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 4, the City of Gloucester, ed. N M Herbert (London, 1988), pp. 92-95. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol4/pp92-95 [accessed 13 February 2018].

http://www.gloucestercivictrust.org/wp-content/uploads/Gloucester-in-the-Civil-War.pdf

 

 

 

 

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1643- English Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

prince rupert.png

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

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

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

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

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

On the 27th Waller takes nearby Chichester.

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Matilda or Mrs William the Conqueror

matilda of flandersMatilda of Flanders had an illustrious pedigree including Alfred the Great.  Tracy Borman comments that she was related to most, if not all, Norther Europe’s royalty.  Her mother Adela supervised her education and later Matilda would be praised for her learning.  By the time Matilda was eighteen in about 1049 a certain Duke William whose lands marched with those of Count Baldwin V looked to be an advantageous match so when he approached Baldwin with a marriage proposal Matilda’s father accepted.

However, Matilda was less delighted.  She refused to marry William.  Borman speculates that it was because William was illegitimate – although of course the stigma of illegitimacy was not necessarily the bar to high office that it became in later centuries.

imagesWilliam was not a happy man.  He rode to Bruges, met Matilda coming out of church and proceeded to knock her into the mud, pull her plaits and hit her…an interesting variation on a box of chocolates and bunch of flowers.  In one account he is said to have kicked her with his spurs which would have been painful at the very least and Borman makes the point probably fatal.  Baldwin immediately declared war on William only to discover that Matilda had changed her mind.  After her rather rough wooing she decided she wanted to marry William.  The story was written approximately two hundred years later so a rather large pinch of salt is required in order to digest the tale but the pair do seem to have been evenly matched in terms of temper.

There may have been another reason for the change of heart.  Tracey Borman discusses the possibility of an earlier relationship with Brihtric Mau tarnishing her reputation but there again her father had already arranged another betrothal with Saxony when Matilda refused William.

Brihtric Mau was Edward the Confessor’s ambassador. He was descended from the House of Wessex and he was a wealthy man which made him a powerful man.  He was tall and handsome with blond hair.  Borman suggests that Mau is derived from ‘snew’  which is of course the Old English word for snow (Borman: 17).  Borman goes on to explain that the Chronicle of Tewkesbury – and the largest part of Mau’s lands were in Gloucestershire- describes Matilda as falling in love with the handsome Saxon.  She apparently sent a messenger back to England when he returned there proposing marriage.  This was not the way that a nice girl behaved, even if she was the daughter of a count.  It caused a scandal and to make matters worse the unspellable Brihtric rejected her.

The reason why the Chronicle of Tewkesbury is at such pains to tell the tale is because in 1067, twenty years after he’d rejected her, Matilda got her own back.  She asked William for the Manor of Tewkesbury and removed Gloucester’s charter – which was a disaster commercially and legally for the town. Dugdale’s History of the Norman Conquest adds the fact that Brihtric found himself in a dungeon in Winchester where he died in suspicious circumstances two years later – though there’s nothing very suspicious about lack of food, poor hygiene and lack of fresh air.

That’s the story – Borman also presents the evidence that Brihtric was present at Matilda’s coronation (Borman:118) which means that he can’t have been languishing in a dank cell in Winchester awaiting a visit from Matilda’s assassin.  Whatever the truth all we have is rumours and historical fragments.  It does at least demonstrate that Matilda must have been as tempestuous as her spouse.

Borman, Tracy. (2011) Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror. London: Jonathan Cape

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