The ECW Q&A: did Cromwell ban mince pies?


Over on Twitter we asked if there were any questions people would like answered about history, politics, and society during the English Civil Wars. Meaghan Brown (@EpistolaryBrown) asked about the oft-repeated line about Oliver Cromwell banning mince pies as part of the Puritan ‘war on Christmas’ in the 1640s and ’50s.

Thanks for the great question, Meaghan!

This is one of those ‘facts’ that everyone knows – dour old Puritan Oliver Cromwell hated merriment and fun and laughing and dancing and so banned mince pies when he was Lord Protector because nothing is more guaranteed to bring pleasure and enrage a killjoy than a little pagan sweet pie dusted with icing sugar…

Except it’s just not true.

While there was an effort during the 1640s by Parliament to clamp down on the celebration of Christmas and other saints’ and holy days as part of a general de-Romanisation of the calendar, it wasn’t personally directed by Cromwell and he didn’t play a particularly large role in the various pieces of legislation which restricted the celebration of Christmas. We know that, as a Puritan, it is likely that he was sympathetic towards and supported such measures, and as Lord Protector from December 1653 until September 1658 he supported their enforcement.

But does that mean he banned mince pies?

Without going too much into the ‘Puritan War on Christmas’, measures to reduce the importance of Christmas as a festival began before Cromwell rose to national prominence – a 1631 pamphlet called The Complaint of Christmas urged the enthusiastic observance of the mid-winter feast in reaction to perceived Puritan interference and The Long Parliament met as usual on 25 December 1643. Rather than aiming to ban foodstuffs, anti-Christmas legislation of the 1640s and ’50s took aim at ending special Christmas church services and ensuring shops remained open. In January 1645, Parliament issued its new Directory for the Public Worship of God, their radical alternative to the Book of Common Prayer, which made no reference to Christmas at all.

The only Christmas Day on which eating mince pies was technically illegal was in 1644, when 25 December fell on the same day as a legally-mandated national fast, about which MPs issued an ordinance specifically reminding people:

The Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled doe order and ordaine that publique notice be given that the Fast appointed to be kept on the last Wednesday in every moneth ought to be observed untill it be otherwise ordered by both Houses of Parliament: And that this day in particular is to be kept with the more solemne humiliation, because it may call to remembrance our sinnes, and the sinnes of our forefathers, who have turned this Feast, pretending the memory of Christ into an extreame forgetfulnesse of him, by giving liberty to carnall and sensuall delights.

In June 1647, this was reinforced by another ordinance cracking down on the celebration of feast days in general, including Easter and Whitsun, and there were numerous legal attempts to stop celebrations and force businesses and markets to remain open on Christmas Day.

None of these ordinances mention mince pies or, indeed, pies of any kind. Pies themselves were a fundamental part of the cuisine of 17th Century England, as recipe books of the time attest, including one filled with recipes by Leticia Cromwell (any relation?). there was nothing ‘Popish’ or ‘Pagan’ about a pie…

When Christmas Day fell on a fast day you shouldn’t have been eating at all, but mince pies – or pastries of any kind – were never singled out. In any case, although mince pies were and are associated with Christmas, they were probably eaten at other times of the year and contemporary recipes do not insist they are meant only for Christmas. A captive Charles I was apparently denied the chance to eat ‘plum pudding’ on his last Christmas Day in 1642 – though this had more to do with the general petty austerity imposed by his gaolers throughout his terminally final stay in London.

That’s not to say people at the time were complicit or weren’t concerned about these proposed changes. Pamphlets such as The Vindication of Christmas were published in the 1650s and as early as December 1643, apprentice boys in London rose up in violent protest against shop-keepers who had opened on Christmas Day and the same happened in 1646 in Bury St Edmunds. After Parliament declared the celebration of Christmas to be a punishable offence in 1647, there was trouble at Bury, while pro-Christmas riots also took place at Norwich and Ipswich, with the worst disturbances taking place in Canterbury where a crowd of protesters seized control of the entire city. However, most people were more concerned about the end of traditions such as free ‘Christmas ale’ provided by their local church on 25 December than about sweet pies.

So why does this ‘fact’ about Cromwell banning mince pies persist?

Its roots may be a good deal more recent than the Civil War: Mercurius Politicus mentions various references in 18th Century texts that link refusal to eat mince pies with Puritanism but the popular myth doesn’t seem to to really gain traction until the mid-to-late 20th Century when it is repeated ad nauseum. Like so many myths, it may well have originated from satirical pamphlets either being taken at face value or treated in a ‘no smoke without fire’ manner – Royalists loved to lampoon their opponents and portray them in the most extreme manner possible, so poet John Taylor’s reference to mince pies in his Christmas In and Out (1652) – Plumb-Pottage was meer Popery, that a Coller of Brawn was an obhomination, that Roast Beef was Antichristian, that Mince-Pies were Reliques of the Whore of Babylon, and a Goose, aTurkey, or a Capon, were marks of the Beast – has to be taken with a pince of salt.

It could be that mince pies and their proscription is meant to represent the wider attack on Christmas as a secular holiday separate to Christian practices. The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ still celebrated in song, if not in practice, was a long-established period of feasting and celebration that had little connected to Christian practice. It was despised by Puritans for several reasons, not least because of the associated wantonness and debauchery but also because of their mission to do away with anything not ordained or permitted by biblical scripture. At the Restoration in 1660, all legislation passed during the period of 1642 to 1660 was declared null and void, so both the religious and the secular elements of the full Twelve Days of Christmas could once again be celebrated openly. As a potent symbol of non-religious Christmas feasting, ‘banning’ mince pies is a simple shorthand way of explaining a much broader attack on Christmas tradition by religion zealots – a symbol that, over time, became fact – and, as the arch-Puritan, regicide and king-in-all-but-name, of course it must have been Cromwell himself who did away with them.

This popular conception about Puritans, and the ‘dour Roundhead vs dashing Cavaliers’ myth so beloved of children’s textbooks, has its own roots in Victorian monochromatic attitudes towards British history as well as towards non-conformist denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, and Quakers, who have their roots in the Civil War and who were often portrayed as dour killjoys thanks to their focus on sobriety and eschewing of alcohol and public frivolity. There is also the popularly perceived sharp contrast with the subsequent reign of the ‘Merry Monarch’ Charles II and the supposed riot of colour, happiness, and devil-may-care frolicking of the Restoration after the religious zealotry and suppression of the Interregnum.

The myth does, perhaps, also tap into the way we think about history and its appearance on endless ‘crazy laws that have never been repealed’ listicles confirms that we often want the past to be archaic, odd, senseless, and irrational.

So no, Cromwell had nothing against pastry.


Meet a face of Manchester’s regiment with #mancsmugs – Drummer Amber


Last week we ran a new feature on our regiment’s Instagram account – Manchesters’ Mugs! It’s our way of introducing you to a face of our regiment.

We featured favourite photos from a member of ‘Manchester’s foote’ along with their reasons why each image is special and some of the stories about why they love reenacting with us.

First up was one of our drummers Amber!

Photo 2: A member of the regiment when she was a child, drummer Amber returned a few years ago. She says: “Here, I was 10 years old. The regiment has always felt like a family to me and I’ve always felt a great sense of belonging.”

Photo 2: “This was taken at my first event back after seven years away. I had such a great time and was welcomed back with open arms!”

Photo 3: Reenactment isn’t all about battling – Amber says: “Nothing can be compared to Manchesters’ regimental parties. Always fun, always crazy, always hilarious.”

Photo 4: On the field, Amber keeps the regiment in order and motivated – she says “Being part of something so big is exhilarating. Sometimes you stop and just take it all in. Its incredible.”

Photo 5: After battle, it’s time let your hair down – including fun in the beer tent! Amber says: “Fancy dress in the beer tent is always a great laugh, seeing all the mad and inventive outfits people come up with!”

That’s all from Amber’s #mancsmugs – thanks so much to her for taking part and we hope you’ve got a glimpse of just some of the things we get up to at events. If it’s whetted your appetite, make sure you join up now! You can give reenactment a go for just a tenner – and all your kit is provided!

Make sure you follow the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote account on Instagram for daily updates of our adventures on and off the battlefield!

What’s in a name – why is the term ‘The English Civil War’ wrong?


The English Civil Wars, The British Civil Wars, The English Revolution, The Puritan Revolution, The Great Rebellion, The Wars of the Three Kingdoms… one thing pretty much all historians of the period agree on is that the term ‘The English Civil War’ isn’t accurate (the old joke goes that it’s incorrect in three ways – it wasn’t English, it wasn’t just one war, and it wasn’t particularly civil)

But why is it inaccurate?

Firstly, it describes a series of conflicts that spanned the entire British Isles, involving Scotland and Ireland, as well as England and Wales.

Secondly, it wasn’t one war but many – historians tend to chart the period to encompass the Irish Rebellion and Confederate Wars in Ireland between 1641 and 1653 (including the Cromwellian invasion), The Bishops’ Wars between England and Scotland in 1639 and 1640, as well as THREE separate wars (1642-6, 1648-49, and 1650-51) that took place in England, Scotland, and Wales.battle image.jpg

So what’s in a name? And why do historians use different terms to describe the same conflict?

The term someone uses to describe the wars of mid-17th Century England usually tells you more about them than the conflicts themselves. The posthumously-published history of the English conflict by Edward Hyde 1st Earl of Clarendon was titled ‘The History of the Rebellion’ (reflecting the fact he fought on the Royalist side), the great Victorian historian SR Gardiner used both ‘The Great Civil War’ and ‘The Puritan Revolution’ in his landmark series on the period (although his account was remarkably unbiased, the wars were seen as the foundations of Britain’s constitutional monarchy), Blair Worden called his 2009 book ‘The English Civil Wars 1640-1660’, while the Marxist historian Christopher Hill favoured the term ‘English Revolution’.

The choice of name suggests when the conflicts started and when they ended – for instance, the term ‘Wars of the Three Kingdoms’ views the wars starting in Scotland in 1637 and ending with the Anglo-Scottish conflicts in 1651. These wars involved a pan-British and Irish dimension, each of the Stuart states experienced its own domestic civil wars and the terms we use to describe it continue and exacerbate the Anglo-centric views of the time. Indeed, the way England viewed and treated Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were often a major reason for conflict – it was the ‘plantation’ of Catholic Ireland with Protestant settlers (and the economic imbalances it created and reinforced) that helped spark conflict in 1641; it was the attempt to impose the English church’s Book of Common Prayer of the Presbyterian Scottish that led to the National Covenant and the Bishop’s Wars; the Scottish were used by a duplicitous King Charles I to spark the second Civil War, while his son would again use Scottish forces to invade England in 1651; meanwhile Parliament’s policies treated Scotland (an independent kingdom connected to England only through Charles’ crown) and Wales as wayward children requiring correction, while the Irish were considered brutal savages.

So why use a term like ‘English Civil War’ if it’s not accurate?

Whatever the accuracy (or otherwise) of the term, it is nonetheless used ubiquitously in mainstream culture and comment to refer to the interconnected series of conflicts of the 1630s, ’40s, and ’50s. One of the aims of our group and the Sealed Knot of which it is part is to educate the general public about the period, its causes, and its consequences – for us, that begins with engaging with the misnomers and myths about the period, not to reinforce them but to use them as a starting point for dispelling them. If your first point is to chastise the public for not using the right term, rather than drawing them in to explain how and why it is inaccurate, then you are already beginning the process of losing your audience.

For example, one of the most popular and helpful parts of our displays is when we ask an audience the nicknames of the two sides that fought the English Civil War – “Cavaliers and Roundheads” is always the standard response. We then stand a pikeman and a musketeer in front of them and ask them to identify when is which; naturally, the musketeer we use has a large-brimmed felt hat and long hair, the pikeman with short hair beneath his steel helmet. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the musketeer will be identified as the ‘Cavalier’, the pikeman as the ‘Roundhead’. The answer, of course, is that they could be either – clothes were no indication of which side you were on. This opens up opportunities to challenge myths about the era and about the causes of the war.

You take a myth, pick it apart, explain why it is wrong, educate, and move on…

We’re fortunate to have the Twitter handle @englishcivilwar because it gives us a unique opportunity to challenge people’s notions about the period: we start with a term they know and use that as a gateway to broaden understanding of this critical juncture in the history of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, when political, social, and cultural norms were overthrown and a king executed by his own people.

We would be the first to acknowledge that we can always do more to combat the Anglo-centric viewpoint that has dominated this history for so long, but for the time being at least we use ‘English Civil War’ as a way of drawing people in so that we can begin a process.

We’ll be doing more blog posts looking into the ways we can shift perceptions and broaden knowledge of the period in the future, but in the meantime what’s your favoured term for describing the conflicts of the mid-17th Century in Britain and Ireland? Let us know in the poll below…



Join the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote today!



Just think – YOU could join us as we bring history to life across the country, camping in spectacular locations, having great fun afterwards by socialising around the campfire or in the beer tent, and making great new friends – whether you’re on your own or part of a family!

2018 promises to be a fantastic year of events for us so if you’ve ever thought about having a go at historical re-enactment it really couldn’t be easier to join the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote – you can try it for just a tenner!

Visit our website for more information and then go to the contacts page to find a member that’s close to you, or contact our recruitment team leader Ian directly by emailing

You don’t need to jump in with both feet – for a mere £10 for an individual and £15 for a family, you can have a taster weekend! That’s free camping, all your kit supplied, and a brand new experience to enjoy!

You’ll no doubt have questions, so you should definitely check out our Frequently Asked Questions page – being in the Sealed Knot is the easiest and most family-friendly way to get into re-enactment!

But don’t take our word for it – just listen to what our members have to say about why you should join up now…

And don’t forget that Manchester’s is great for kids too – we talked to some of the youngsters who form the future of our regiment:

Convinced? We’re always on the look out for new recruits – you don’t need to be an ‘expert’ on history or know lots about the English Civil War, just think of its as a cross between a music festival, a rugby match, and a party afterwards! Just imagine taking on one of these roles on the battlefield:

Become a Musketeer

Become a Pikeman

Become a Drummer

Become a part of the Baggage Train

Whatever you choose to do, we’d LOVE for you to become a part of our regiment. Everyone was new once, so we’re committed to making you feel welcomed and part of the regiment from day one – just give it a go, we promise you a weekend you’ll never forget!

Contact our recruitment team leader Ian by emailing


ECW Q&A: Did any of the regicides escape the vengeance of Charles II?


Over on Twitter we asked if there were any questions people would like answered about history, politics, and society during the English Civil Wars. Cassandra Clark asked whether anyone who signed Charles I’s death warrant in 1649 escaped the vengeance of his son after the Restoration in 1660?

Thanks for the great question, Cassandra!

On Monday 15 October 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that “this morning Mr Carew [the regicide] was hanged and quartered at Charing Cross; but his quarters, by a great favour, are not to be hanged up.” Five days later he wrote, “I saw the limbs of some of our new traitors set upon Aldersgate, which was a sad sight to see; and a bloody week this and the last have been, there being ten hanged, drawn, and quartered”.

This was the fate that awaited regicides – the men who killed their king in 1649.

The head of Cromwell’s corpse on a pike after his posthumous execution.

Following the Restoration of King Charles II, the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion granted a free pardon to those who had supported the English Commonwealth and Protectorate, but exceptions were made for 104 named individuals who had directly participated in the trial and execution of Charles I. Twenty-four had already died and Cromwell, John Bradshaw (who was president of the court) and Henry Ireton (Cromwell’s son-in-law) were posthumously executed – their remains were exhumed, hanged, and beheaded, their bodies cast into a pit below the gallows and their heads placed on spikes at the end of Westminster Hall. Several others were hanged, drawn and quartered, while 19 were imprisoned for life.

Twenty-one of them fled England for Netherlands, Germany, or Switzerland. While most of them died natural deaths amongst sympathetic Protestant communities, the King’s vengeance followed all the regicides and made life on the run a difficult one. Gregory Clement went into hiding but was captured and executed and after fleeing to Brussels, Thomas Scot returned to England to meet a similar fate. One of the commissioners who sat in judgement but did not sign the death warrant, Sir John Lisle, escaped to Switzerland but was killed by the Irish Royalist James Fitz Edmond Cotter in August 1664, while Dr Isaac Dorislaus, who had been Assistant to the Solicitor-General, had already been murdered in the Netherlands by Royalist refugees in 1649.

Meanwhile, as English Ambassador to the Netherlands Sir George Downing was instrumental in organising the spy-rings that hunted down many of his former comrades. Downing (after whom Downing Street in London is named) had been scoutmaster-general of Cromwell’s forces in Scotland and served the English republic as an ambassador, but when the Protectorate fell he quickly switched allegiance to Charles II saying he now “saw the error” in his ways. He engineered the arrest in Holland of regicides John Barkstead, Miles Corbet and John Okey, his former commander. Samuel Pepys, who characterised his conduct as odious although useful to the king, called him a “perfidious rogue” and said “all the world took notice of him for a most ungrateful villain for his pains”.

Three regicides – John Dixwell, William Goffe, and Edward Whalley – fled and settled amongst the Puritan communities in New England, on the east coast of what is now the United States of America. Though they would never see their families or country again, it did not mean they were beyond the reach of the English Crown.

Dixwell died in 1689 under an assumed name but Goffe and Whalley lead remarkable lives as fugitives, as detailed in the excellent The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe: Smuggled Through Connecticut by Christopher Pagliuco.

Goffe was Whalley’s father-in-law and the two were of the Puritan “middling sort” who had risen to remarkable prominence during the English Civil War. Both army officers and extremely radical in their religion – to the point of zealotry – they escaped to America aboard the ship Prudent Mary, landed in Boston, and settled in Cambridge, later moving on to New Haven in Connecticut, where Dixwell also lived, and where they sought refuge with the Rev. John Davenport.

This was an ideal place for them to hide. The colonies of New England were populated by Puritans who had fled what they saw as religious persecution under Charles I, so there was little loyalty to the crown of his son within these communities of radicals and non-conformists. Despite a reward being offered for their arrest, no-one gave the pair up and when the royal order for their arrest reached Boston, the Governor of New Haven himself delayed the King’s messengers, allowing Goffe and Whalley to disappear.

They spent much of the summer in Judges’ Cave at West Rock, remaining invisible to the King’s agents under assumed names and sustained by the local community. Eventually abandoning the cave when it was uncovered by hostile Native Americans, they travelled a hundred miles to Hadley in Massachusetts, moving only at night, where they remained undiscovered for fifteen years, receiving money from their wives in England and presents from a handful of supporters who knew where they were.

Every attempt by the English government to find and arrest Whalley and Goffe failed. Whalley was alive but in poor health in 1674, though he probably did not live long afterwards, 

One of the most fascinating parts of the story comes while Goffe was sheltering in the home of Rev. John Russell at Hadley, Massachusetts. In 1675, the brutal King Philip’s War between English settlers and various groups of Native Americans raged throughout the New England colonies, mostly because of the continuing encroachment of settlers on native lands. Villages like Hadley were on the very fringe of settlement and were easy targets for attack.

According to legend, just such an attack in September 1675 took place while the inhabitants were worshipping. Men rushed out to meet the attack but, completely disorganised, afraid, and mostly unarmed, the annihilation of the town seemed certain.

Suddenly, in the midst of the chaos appeared a stranger elderly man carrying an old sword. With a bearing that was distinctly military, he coolly placed himself in command, rallied the settlers, and quickly organised a defence of the village. The attack was repulsed but as soon the fighting ended, the mysterious stranger disappeared. This became known as the miracle of ‘The Angel of Hadley’.


This stranger was first identified as the fugitive Goffe by Thomas Hutchinson, then Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, in his 1764 History of Massachusetts, but there is a lot of debate about whether this incident ever happened and, even if it did, whether Goffe was even alive at the time to take part. This blog post sums up the difficult and probably apocryphal nature of the story.

To answer Cassandra’s original question – yes, a number of the regicides and those who assisted in Charles I’s execution escaped their fate and evaded his son’s agents.

And whether ‘The Angel of Hadley’ was real or not, it is intriguing to think that a captain who fought on the battlefields of England and helped kill his own King somehow ended his days in the wilds of the new American frontier…


“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Why was King Charles executed 369 years ago?


Today marks 369 years since the execution of Charles Stuart, king of England, Scotland and Ireland, on a scaffold built next to the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall in London. He was, to all intents and purposes, to be executed in the street.

He was surrounded by large numbers of soldiers, who faced the crowd rather than the scaffold in case of last minute attempts at a rescue. The crowd were kept so far away from him and his last speech was uttered in such a quiet voice that it’s unlikely any onlookers heard him, his final words lost to the wind. But he was flanked by Colonel Tomlinson and Bishop Juxon who reported his words after the execution:

“All the world knows that I never did begin a war with the two Houses of Parliament. ….for I do believe that ill instruments between them and me has been the chief cause of all this bloodshed. I have forgiven all the world, and even those in particular that have been the chief causers of my death……For the people; And truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever, but I must tell you, that their liberty and freedom consists in having of government; those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government that is pertaining to them; A subject and a sovereign are clean different things, and therefore until you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves. Sir, it was for this that I am come here. If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the power of the Sword, I needed not to have come here, and therefore I tell you….that I am the martyr of the people. I have a good cause and a gracious God on my side.” 

Charles was brought forward to the anonymous executioner’s block – which was too low, the normal block having been lost – wearing two shirts, since he feared the cold might make him shiver and people would think him afraid. His hair wrapped up in the small cap he was wearing, he said a prayer, placed his head on the block, and signalled the executioner when he was ready by thrusting out his arms.

He was beheaded with one clean stroke.


It was common practice for the head of a traitor to be held up and shown to the crowd with the words “Behold the head of a traitor!”. Although Charles’ head was held up, it is unclear whether the words were used, various sources disagree. But in a highly unusual move after a traitor’s death, the King’s head was sewn back onto his body for burial. Charles was buried in private on 7 February 1649, inside the Henry VIII vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. His funeral took place in silence, as his chaplain was denied the right to use words from the Book of Common Prayer, Charles’ imposition of which on the Scots had been one of the sparks that ignited the civil war.

So how did the English come to try and then execute their own monarch?

Despite the beliefs of some, Parliament did not go to war intending to execute or even remove King Charles. In 1642, those who took up arms against Charles did not claim that it was for Parliament against the king – their cry was “for King and Parliament”. Medieval attitudes about the supremacy of a divinely-appointed monarch still maintained a strong grip on the public consciousness so those who had risen against Charles Stuart were careful to blame the discord not on him but on ‘evil advisers’ who, they claimed, deliberately misinformed him – either for personal gain or for a foreign, Roman Catholic, agenda. The king, they contended, had been led astray.

The frustrations that had led both sides to this point are numerous and complex – Tim Harris’ Rebellion: Britain’s First Stuart Kings, 1567-1642 sets out an argument for both economic and social problems made worse by a flawed transition from the Tudors to the Stuarts, with Charles’ actions exacerbating existing tensions, and a religious settlement that only increased instability. None of these can be laid at any one person’s feet, least of all Charles’, but it was his way of ruling – blind, obstinate, uncompromising, loyal to a fault but easily swayed – that pushed the country over the edge and this personality flaw would certainly contribute most particularly to his own fate. However, in The Noble Revolt, John Adamson sets out in microscopic detail the events leading up to the breakdown in the relationship between crown and Parliament, arguing that a ‘junta’ developed amongst Puritan peers and MPs – when their attempts to clip the King’s wings met his stubborn obstinacy, events boiled over into all-out war.

But, as Niccolò Machiavell pointed out, wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please. Whatever the intent of both sides at the beginning of the first civil war, as the conflict dragged on and the tide ebbed and flowed back and forth across the country, voices within Parliament began to become frustrated with the lack of a decisive victory that would bring the king to a settlement of their liking.

The night before the Battle of Marston Moor, outside the city of York, in July 1664 the commanders of the three Parliamentarian armies that faced Prince Rupert’s Royalists – the Earl of Manchester, Lord Fairfax, and the commander of the Scottish forces, Lord Leven – met with an envoy from their political masters in London, Sir Henry Vane. It was during these discussions that Vane first proposed the idea of a government without the king. The idea was roundly rejected by the generals, who believed Charles could still be accommodated – especially the Earl of Manchester who had been a boyhood friend of Charles’. But there was one man present at that meeting who would give a sympathetic ear – Manchester’s colonel of horse, Oliver Cromwell. With the seed of an idea planted, it quickly took root, especially within the increasingly radicalised ranks of the Eastern Association Army, of which Cromwell was a major part. When the New Model Army was created in 1645, it was not only England’s first professional army but had been raised and trained to act as the decisive instrument in Charles’ defeat.

For radicals within Parliament it became increasingly clear that the king would not compromise and was merely playing for time so that he could attempt to drive the factions of Parliament apart. When Charles provoked a second Civil War in 1648 by arranging a Scottish invasion of England while negotiating with Parliament in what appeared to be good faith, it sealed his fate in his opponent’s eyes – he could not be trusted and there would be no peace so long as Charles Stuart, “the man of blood”, lived.

Men such as Cromwell, men of the ‘middling sort’ who had risen on merit rather than position, had rapidly risen to prominence since the end of the first Civil War and he, amongst many others, suspected that their Parliamentary comrades would be only too willing to negotiate and reach a settlement with the king. Parliament was quickly losing control of the army it had created and when it tried to disband the New Model without settlement of its arrears or grievances, the sense of betrayal drove a wedge between the army and Parliament. This was fuelled by religious divides between moderate Presbyterian and a minority of radical Independents, the latter of whom controlled the army. These Independent, who rejected any attempt to negotiate with Charles, effectively seized Parliament in Pride’s Purge in December 1648, when Presbyterian MPs were arrested or forcibly excluded from the Commons. This created the Rump Parliament, which would not only sanction the trial of the king but sit in judgement upon him.

trialThe case against Charles was a complex and, quite literally, a revolutionary one – not only did it insist that the monarch must abide by the law like everyone else (opponents argued that since all authority flowed from the crown, therefore the monarch was above that authority) but Parliament argued that since the king is charged with the welfare of his own people when he wages war against them he is guilty of treason. In 2005, human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson’s The Tyrannicide Brief: The story of the man who sent Charles I to the scaffold argued that the trial set a precedent that has helped lead to the prosecution of today’s war criminals in The Hague and elsewhere.

Whatever the merits of the case in 1649, the judgement was effectively a foregone conclusion – death. With a swing of the executioner’s axe, more than 10 years of war and almost 50 years of Stuart rule of England, came to an end. England was a republic, for the first and last time.

But it did not mark an end of the country’s woes, for greater conflict – and the bloody and costly invasions of Scotland and Ireland – beckoned.

We re-enact this period to keep these memories alive, to ensure that people don’t forget the bloody and divisive period which helped form our nation, and the people whose lives and deaths bought us our freedoms and privileges.

We are a Parliamentarian regiment, but it’s not about claiming one side was right and the other was wrong, and the anniversary of Charles’ death is a good time to remember this.


Did you see us in Nantwich and want to be a part of this incredible hobby? Join up now!



Did you watch us re-enact the English Civil War in Nantwich?

Just think – YOU could join us as we bring history to life across the country, camping in some of the most spectacular locations in England, Scotland, and Wales, having great fun afterwards by socialising around the campfire or down the beer tent, and making great new friends – whether you’re on your own or part of a family!

2018 promises to be a fantastic year of events for us so if you’ve ever thought about having a go at historical re-enactment it really couldn’t be easier to join the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote. Just visit our website for more information and then go to the contacts page to find a member that’s close to you, or contact our recruitment team leader Ian directly by emailing

If you’ve got questions about the hobby, such as how much it costs and what it entails, you should definitely check out our Frequently Asked Questions page which hopefully answers them – being in the Sealed Knot is the easiest and most family-friendly way to get into re-enactment!

But don’t take our word for it – just listen to what our members have to say about why you should join up now…

And don’t forget that Manchester’s is great for kids too – we talked to some of the youngsters who form the future of our regiment:

Convinced? We’re always on the look out for new recruits – you don’t need to be an ‘expert’ on history or know lots about the English Civil War, just think of its as a cross between a music festival, a rugby match, and a party afterwards! Just imagine taking on one of these roles on the battlefield.

Become a Musketeer

Become a Pikeman

Become a Drummer

Become a part of the Baggage Train

Whatever you choose to do, we’d LOVE for you to become a part of our regiment. Everyone was new once, so we’re committed to making you feel welcomed and part of the regiment from day one – just give it a go, we promise you a weekend you’ll never forget!

Contact our recruitment team leader Ian by emailing