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

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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’.

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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…

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

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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.

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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!

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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 theearlofmanchesters@gmail.com

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 theearlofmanchesters@gmail.com

The Battle of Nantwich, Part Four: Battle is joined! Read the exciting conclusion…

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We’re now just 24 hours away from taking to the field at Nantwich in Cheshire for the traditional annual Holly Holy Day re-enactment!

It really is a spectacle for the whole family, with a massive parade through the streets, plus a battle and other events throughout the day. You can go here for more information.

We can’t wait to get stuck in tomorrow, so come and join us for a great, family-friendly day as we mark 368 years of British history … and more than 40 years of re-enactment history!

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So we reach the climax of the account of the Battle of Nantwich, with Lord Fairfax’s forces preparing to attack the divided army of Lord Byron on the outskirts of the town…

As the Parliamentarians approached Nantwich, a sudden thaw set in and it began to rain heavily – the River Weaver became so swollen that Royalist commander Lord Byron transferred his artillery and most of his infantry to the western bank where the ground was higher.

The Royalist army was suddenly split in two when the flood swept away Beam Bridge to the north of Nantwich – leaving Byron and most of his cavalry still on the eastern side. He was forced to march to the next bridge over the Weaver at Minshull to try and reunite his forces. In Byron’s absence, the Royalists on the western side of the river drew up around Acton church, four regiments deployed to block the road from the north along which Fairfax was marching, and another to cover the approach into Nantwich itself.

The Parliamentarians approached Gibson’s position at around 2pm just as news reached Fairfax that Byron’s cavalry was approaching the rear of his Parliamentarian column. Fairfax calmly sent two regiments to hold the Royalist cavalry at bay and continued his advance towards Acton, his troops smoothly moving from a marching column into a fighting line. Fairfax planned to defeat the Royalist infantry at Acton before the cavalry arrived to reinforce them.

Unable to operate effectively among the small fields, hedgerows and lanes, Byron’s cavalry were held back while Fairfax attacked the Royalist infantry. Despite the lack of cavalry support, the regiments on the Royalist wings held firm and inflicted heavy casualties on the Parliamentarians. In the centre, however, they began to give ground and a second charge saw them start to give way.

At this critical moment, a force of musketeers from Parliament’s garrison inside Nantwich marched out and swept aside the Royalist reserve regiment guarding the road into the town. With the added pressure of reinforcements from the garrison threatening the rear, the Royalist centre collapsed completely. Fairfax’s Parliamentarians swept through the gap in the centre of the Royalist line and quickly overwhelmed the regiments holding out on the flanks. The Royalists fell back to Acton church where the Royalist Colonel Gibson surrendered to Fairfax. The artillery and baggage train were captured, and about 1,500 officers and men were taken prisoner, many of whom changed sides.

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Lord Byron retreated to Chester with his cavalry and what was left of his infantry. Although he had enough forces for the defence of the city he would be unable to go on the offensive in the area for some time.

The defeat at Nantwich thwarted King Charles’s plan to create a field army in the northwest around English regiments that had been fighting the long-running rebellion in Ireland. It also gave Parliament room to organise itself more effectively, as well as bolstering the reputation of Fairfax, who would go on to lead Parliament’s army to victory…

Tomorrow, we march into Nantwich 374 years later to re-enact this victory – why not join us?

The Battle of Nantwich, Part Three: will Parliament’s relief force make it in time?

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As well as giving you a taste of what’s happening with The Battle of Nantwich this weekend, we’re also looking at the build-up to the battle in 1644…

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On 21st January 1644, Lord Thomas Fairfax set out from Manchester to relieve Nantwich in the teeth of a bitter winter.

He was accompanied by Sir William Brereton and a force of 1,800 cavalry, 500 dragoons and almost 3,000 infantry.

It was rare for an army to march or fight in the winter months but Fairfax ordered his men to march on, despite deep snow. Although he had provided many of them with a new uniform out of his own money, they had not been paid for some time and it was undoubtedly a mark of the respect his men held for him that they continued.

Three days later, Fairfax’s men defeated a force of 200 Royalists who had been attempting to block their advance as he passed through the forest of Delamere in Cheshire on the way to relieve the siege of Nantwich. With this threat brushed aside, the road to Nantwich was open.

Fairfax intented to reinforce the Nantwich garrison, rather than engage Lord John Byron’s army in besieging open battle, as he believed the Royalist force was larger than it actually was. The king had also brought in many veterans of the campaigns in Ireland, who were likely to be better soldiers than the fresh men Fairfax had raised in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire.

But by the time Fairfax he got to Nantwich, he found that the Royalist forces had been markedly reduced by the poor weather and disease. He probably faced no more than 2,400 foot and less than 1,000 horse.

After a Council of War, Fairfax decided to fight just outside of Nantwich where his horse would be more effective. He gathered his men just outside of the town at Welsh Row and prepared for battle…

The Battle of Nantwich, Part Two: the Royalists storm the defences!

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As well as giving you a taste of what’s happening with The Battle of Nantwich this Saturday, we’re also looking at the build-up to the battle in 1644…

On 18th of January 1644, the Royalist forces of Lord John Byron launched an attack against the defences around the Parliamentarian stronghold of Nantwich.

In the bitter winter, the King’s men had spent eight days besieging and bombarding the town to no avail. When the storming came, hundreds of men threw themselves at the defences, but were thrown back. Byron’s men were forced back, leaving 500 casualties. Thanks to previous casualties, sickness and desertions, his army was reduced to about 3,500 men. It was not an insurmountable loss, so Byron continued the siege.

But his time was fast running out…

Sir William Brereton, the Parliamentarian commander in Cheshire and Lancashire, had urgently appealed to Parliament for reinforcements.

The Parliamentarian commanders for Yorkshire, Sir Thomas Fairfax and his father Lord Ferdinando Fairfax, had had mixed fortunes since the war began in 1642. The father and son, whose ancestral home was just outside Otley in Yorkshire, had initially secured the area in their campaign against the Marquis of Newcastle, whose Royalists forces threatened from the north. But there had been significant set-backs, with losses at Seacroft Moor near Leeds and Adwalton Moor near Bradford. They had spent the second half of 1643 besieged in Hull.

In response to Brereton’s desperate pleas, The Committee of Both Kingdoms – the body which ran the war for Parliament – ordered Sir Thomas to proceed to Manchester, collect infantry forces there and march on to relieve the situation to Nantwich.

On 29 December, Sir Thomas had set out to cross the Pennines in harsh winter weather with 1,800 cavalry. On arriving at Manchester, he found the infantry of the Parliamentarian garrison so ragged that it was claimed he burst into tears. But with the infantry and his cavalry, he prepared to march to the defence of Nantwich.

In 1644, the Parliamentarian town of Nantwich was given a chance to surrender. It refused.

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As well as giving you a taste of what’s happening with The Battle of Nantwich on 27th January, we’ll also be looking at the build-up to the battle in 1644…

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Pikemen defend a barricade, known as chevaux de frise. Photo by John Beardsworth.

Three hundred and seventy-four years ago, the town of Nantwich in Cheshire was given a second chance to surrender by the forces surrounding it. It refused.

Besieged by Royalist troops, it was the last remaining stronghold for Parliament in the county and things looked dire for the defenders. 1643 had been a good year for King Charles in his on-going war against Parliament and his forces had enjoyed a number of successes in the west of the country.

The Royalist commander, Lord John Byron, had around 4,000 men under his command while Nantwich’s garrison numbered just 2,000 men under Colonel George Booth. However, the River Weaver formed a natural defence to the west and th town was fortified with a circuit of earthworks, ditches and barricades. On 10th January 1644, when Byron summoned Nantwich to surrender Booth turned him down flat. The next day the bombardment of the town’s defences began.

To a degree, Byron was responsible for the town’s stubbornness. His mission had been to mop up the remaining Parliamentarian garrisons in Cheshire to tighten the Royalists’ grip on this key area. As he swept north, they fell easily. On Christmas Eve, when a group of Royalists plundered the village of Barthomley, twenty villagers – mostly militia men – took refuge in St Bertoline’s Church. The Royalists made a fire to smoke them out and they surrendered. They were then stripped and twelve of them murdered in cold blood.

Such ruthless actions hardened the hearts of defenders because, to them, they echoed the brutality of the on-going 30 Years War in Europe, where entire towns were being put to the sword. So if they were to die, they would die fighting for their cause.

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Unbeknownst to Byron, despite being in the heart of Royalist territory, his time was actually running out. On 27 December, he had defeated the forces of Sir William Brereton, the Parliamentarian commander in Cheshire and Lancashire, at the Second Battle of Middlewich. Brereton retreated with the remnants of his army to Manchester in Lancashire. With Nantwich besieged, he urgently begged Parliament for reinforcements.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of the story of the Battle of Nantwich…