396 The New Model

Fairfax usurped the birthright of the aristiocrats Essex and Manchester by become General of the Parliamentary armies in 1645

Despite the realities of the strategic situation, parliament and people were deeply discouraged by the failures of the Lostwithial and Newbury campaigns. Parliament was fractious, divided and argumentative. But from the disputes, debatives and divisions – a solution emerged, and was crafted into a new weapon of the Revoluton.

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Last time then, we heard about the King’s skilful escape at a second Newbury and the tantalising prospect of what might have been at a third Newbury. And the launch of the campaign of the Great Montrose – expect a merry dance.

Anyway, the mood in Oxford was much happier than it was in Westminster as the end of 1644 approached, despite the crushing royalist defeat at Marston Moor. Charles felt good about himself and his performance as a warrior, his Queen was safe in France, one less thing to worry about. And the news from Scotland and Montrose was – amazing. I mean cry Harry…well cry Andrew and all that. Oddly, when the news of Laud’s execution arrived in January it also buoyed Charles’ mood. He wrote to Henrietta Maria. Such an obvious outrage must surely bring down God’s providential wrath on the rebels

This last crying blood being theirs…his hand of justice must be heavier upon them and lighter upon us.

Everyone believes in providence it seems. Charles re-arranged the deckchairs on what he had no idea yet was in fact the Titanic. He promoted Rupert to be his overall Captain General in November, which surely made sense and yet still managed to put Rupert’s back up by not including his royal Lifeguards in his command which for some reason really hacked Rupert off. Touchy, sensitive, delicate flower. He was also at daggers drawn with George Digby who was increasingly popular with Charles again now. Inexplicably. What is it about that bloke?  Given his wild optimism and risk taking, utter egocentricity and ambition, complete inability to understand the consequences of his policies, which led him to be described by historian Ronald Hutton as ‘one of English history’s most dangerous men’. I suppose what turned Charles’ head was that he was plausible, sounded clever on the surface, good with words. The consummate courtier essentially. I wonder if we can think of any parallels in modern politics? Best not to answer that. Anyway. Digby has caused trouble before, his idea being the Five Members thing – that went well – and he’ll cause it again. And Rupert showed good sense by despising him. So, that’s all to come, but at the end of the year, the ln and short the broad and wide was that Charles was feeling pretty darned chipper, and hehad peace proposals on his desk too, which we’ll come to.

So this week we are going to major the eruption of anger and division in the ranks of the Revolutionaries. In brief this is the rise of what you might describe as parties within parliament. I mean not modern organised, manifesto’d political parties, but darn it parties nonetheless, that every man and woman in the street recognised and talked about and appeared in newsheets so let’s not be political party picky. Independents and Presbyterians. Not just a religious division but a political one to boot. The political and religious divisions don’t exactly map, but that is a too deeply irritating wrinkle and detail I really don’t want to go into. Forget I said it.

Anyway, they do say how you respond to disasters is more important than how you got into the disaster or at least that’s what some oldie said to me when I’d only reached the ubiquitous grasshopper’s knees, and it seemed fair comment at the time. So it will be here.

While the anteroom of the Newbury campaign was noodling on, one of the advantages for Manchester, Essex, Waller, Haselrig, Cromwell and the like was that with all the waiting around they were able to go and take up their seats in parliament. Manchester had not found this easy, getting into something of a squabble with the CBK. Cromwell had found it all rather pleasant, formally thanked by the Commons for his performance at Marston Moor. He used his influence with Oliver St John to introduce a motion into parliament, the Accommodating Order, asking the Westminster Assembly to find

Some way how far tender conscience, who cannot in all things submit to the common rule which shall be established, may be borne in accordance with the word and as may stand with the public peace

This motion was accepted by the Commons. This is a statement of religious toleration, in contravention of the intentions of the Solemn League and Covenant. It is another step forward in the definition and organisation of a party, which places religious independency and toleration at its heart. It joined a declaration made by 5 divines from the Westminster assembly itself. The English Presbyterians and their Scottish allies were now seriously worried about all of this toleration tripe; they saw independency threatening the solemn league  – in the Assembly, in Manchester’s Eastern Association army, and now in parliament. And they thought they knew who was the prime mover: none other than Oliver Cromwell.

In their concern, they changed their attitude and strategy. Now they were worried that maybe the security of their Covenant and Kirk did not lie with an overwhelming victory for parliament. Maybe outright military victory wouldn’t be a good idea; maybe it would simply sweep the Independents to power. And that kind of religious toleration was not their aim at all. And so in November, the Scots and their English peace party and Presbyterian buddies put out the feelers for peace again to Oxford, and carried proposals for consideration there. The result was in a long conference on neutral ground – in Uxbridge which was a small settlement west of London at the time, and is now firmly in West London, from 29th January. The Scots may have joined the peace party, but they brought no realism whatsoever to it. The proposals were eye watering, lemon-suckingly, buttock clenchingly uncompromising, largely formed by the author of the Covenant, Archibald Johnson. They demanded various things among them that the King swear to the Covenant, that the religion of Scotland be implemented in England, that various malignant royals – the king’s close friends basically – be excluded from any pardons so that they could be chopped. I am going to gloss over the treaty of Uxbridge because there was at no point any chance whatsoever of it succeeding. Charles’ counter proposals looked super reasonable by contrast – protecting the BCP, offering some relief for tender consciences, which is a first and some movement from him, though leaving any constitutional change as already agreed in 1641. He had no intention of agreeing to a treaty, though, HM was also in his ear, and anyway his tail was up – he was going to win.

So again the story is of a king negotiating in bad faith. But this time, fair dos – the proposals from parliament were never going to be acceptable to anything other than a king mashed, mangled and muzzled by utter defeat. But you need to know it’s going on – because in the parliamentary bun fight about to burst around us, people knew it was going on, and many may have kidded themselves it stood more than the traditional snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.

The mood in the capital when everyone returned at the end of the campaigning season in November was therefore very different to that prevailing in Oxford, which is all wrong really, but the feeling was that there had been a signal failure after Marston – Lostiwithial, noodling and at Newbury, the ball had been dropped. The newsheets talked of their generals ‘improvidence and imprudence’. There was talk of betrayal, of God’s judgement.

So on 14th November Arthur Haselrig stood before parliament as one of the responsible commanders and tried to explain away how they’d led the king escape. The commons were unimpressed. On 22nd November when Waller and Cromwell arrived, they were no longer treated as heroes, as they had last time they’d tipped up but coldly ignored. They then received a formal demand to explain themselves to the house. Essex, Manchester, Haselrig – all of them were in the firing line. They could have defended their actions collectively and struggled on into 1645, with Essex leading them into the third year of war. And in the house on 25th November that was in all likelihood what they expected to hear. Indeed the night before the session the Countess of Manchester had treated Cromwell and Harry Vane to supper, emphasising the high regard her husband held for them. Presumably also handing out the requites needles for the knitting of arse covers, making sure there would be a suitable cover up that protected the reputations of their lordships, Manchester and Essex. After all that would surely Cromwell wanted his reputation to stay intact as well.

But the following day that is not what the Commons received. What they got was long, impassioned and devastating, laced with tears. What they heard offended all the social niceties. It was a detailed series of accusations laid against the competence of a peer of the realm and against the speaker’s senior commanding officer. Carrying on in the same old way was not good enough for Oliver Cromwell – for it was he that spoke, with the passion and style of the evangelical preacher – hence the tears – and it was he that opened a war on the old guard, and his fury was aimed at Manchester.

He listed a catalogue of errors and failures of his boss since the victory at Marson Moor, that he, Cromwell, had been frustrated time after time from taking action, that Manchester had dragged his heels before marching to attack the king in the midlands, dragged his feet throughout the Midland campaign. In fact every limb had been criminally underutilised. He responded to accusations by Craford, the Scots and Manchester that he was using the army to build the cause of independency against the Solemn league; he acknowledged that most of his men supported Independency, but refuted claims that he was building a party – he favoured only men who fought well and did not care for the rest.

He then acknowledged that Manchester’s actions were motivated by a deeply held and sincere belief. He made no personal accusation, cast no shadow of cowardice, or betrayal. He recognised that Manchester held a sincere belief that this war could not be won by military means.  For Cromwell that attitude stood between the country and an end this this violence. The climax was a ringing account of an army council meeting on the morning of 10th November, when he and others had pleaded with Manchester for an immediate attack to win a decisive victory. But Manchester had refused. He had shot back

“If we beat the King ninety and nine times yet he is king still, and so will his posterity be after him; but if the King beat us once, we shall be all hanged, and our posterity be made slaves’[1]

Cromwell was aghast. Horrified. Ignoring the fact that a Huntingdon shire farmer was addressing a peer of the realm and his commanding officer he could not help but express his despair

‘If this be so’ why did we take up arms at first? This is against fighting ever hereafter. If so, let us make peace, be it never so base’.

Whooaa, that’s a humdinger. One of those speeches. When Cromwell finally sat down, the speech caused a sensation. Again this was not the way – Manchester was a peer, Manchester was Cromwell’s superior officer. But Cromwell could not be ignored; Waller was also Cromwell’s superior, and he then supported his statement; Haselrig has also been Oliver’s commanding officer at Newbury, and he also now spoke for Cromwell. Around the house there were nodding heads. Cromwell had hit a nerve, this confusion could not go on. If the cause is right, do the cause right. The sentiment ran beyond parliament. Samuel Luke, the  Scout master and Governor of Newport Pagnell kept a diary; just a few days before he had written of his fear that the real issue would not be addressed

I fear fair words will endanger us more this winter than all the forces of the enemy has done this summer[2]

Cromwell had been accused of all sorts of complicity and it’s pretty clear he stood to gain by putting the blame on his boss, and was not shy of putting the best light on his own talents. And his style was rough and in the passionate style of a preacher, with tears and all; Clarendon noted that he

Had not yet arrived at the faculty of speaking with decency and temper

Still a diamond in the rough. But another speech a few days later explains Cromwell’s determination to be heard

It is now a time to speak, or forever hold the tongue…the important occasion now is no less than to save a nation out of a bleeding, nay almost dying condition…without a more speedy, vigorous and effectual prosecution of the war…we shall make the Kingdom weary of us, and hate the name of parliament. [3]

There was a job to be done. Finishing it soon was in everyone’s interests. And finer feelings could not be allowed to get in the way.

The debate sat late into the night. Newsbooks found sources who told them what had happened, and praised Cromwell’s ‘clearness and ingenuity’. Eventually the Commons ordered a committee to investigate all the evidence from those involved, to be chaired by a leading presbyterian, Zouch Tate by name, there’s a name for you, tasked with coming up with recommendations. One of the witnesses who came to London to be interviewed by the committee to support Oliver’s case was Honest John Lilburne to tell of his experiences at Manchester’s hands. Lilburne was increasingly a divisive figure in London, writing horrified pamphlets against the intolerance of people like William Prynne, meeting up with a group of radical political Independents at the Windmill tavern in Lothbury near St Pauls and hooking up with fellow radical Richard Overton.

Predictably, the establishment fought back. Manchester demanded the right to defend himself, and on 28th of November in the Lords he stood and made a speech equally impassioned and forthright. He denied saying those words at the Army Council, he clearly rebutted Cromwell’s accusations one by one. He was for the most part dignified and thorough. But he made two critical errors.

The first was that he admitted that he did indeed believe God did not intend either side to gain an outright victory. This is a dodgy attitude for an army commander. It rather supported Cromwell’s case. And then he got personal; he accused Cromwell of trying to undermine his authority in the Eastern Association. Then he went proper nuclear; Cromwell, he thundered, was a dangerous social revolutionary, and effectively guilty of treason against the rebellion. Cromwell, Manchester,  declared

hoped to live to never see a nobleman in England…his animosity against the Scots nation was such as he told me, that… he could as soon draw his sword against the Scots as any in the king’s army…and he …desired to have none in my army but such as were of the Independent judgment[4]

The horror – a threat to the right and established social order, a man to turn the world upside down, a threat to society and proper religious control.

Most of the Lords rallied round Manchester; despite his military failures, Essex still had enormous respect and influence with the lords; and also with the peace party and Presbyterians in the Commons. And of course with the Scots. Now he threw his weight also behind Manchester.

The Lords asked for a written version of Manchester’s speech, debated and approved it and on 2nd December sent it down to the Commons. It was, effectively, a stern reproof, a warning to get back into his box.  Cromwell was nothing daunted, and angrily accused the Lords of breaching the legal privilege of MPs to speak their minds. And many in the Commons vigorously agreed.

Meanwhile Essex and Manchester gathered their strength pressed the flesh, whispered in ears, brought as many as they could into their tent. Bulstrode Whitelocke remembered being called to a late night secret meeting with Essex, other MPs, Denzil Holles and the Scots Commissioners.


The purpose of the meeting was to destroy the leaders and credit of the War Party and Independents. They would do that by destroying their lieutenant and attack dog Cromwell, him as nothing less than an incendiary, guilty of treason. With this exhibition of power the Presbyterians would regain control of the house.

But Whitelocke, ever the lawyer, ever cautious, argued against it; the accusations would be hard to make stick, he said, and he pointed to the large network of support Cromwell had behind him. In the end they bottled it, back away, unable to provide the specific proof needed, and at 2 am the meeting broke up.

Well this is all very dramatic. And dangerous it must be said. The unity of Parliament was collapsing under the weight of military failure. The Commons was splitting into parties – political Independents, led by St John, Vane, Haselrig, & Cromwell arguing for an active prosecution of the war, and favouring religious toleration. Against them, the larger group, Presbyterians like Denzil Holles and Philip Stapleton, seeking accommodation with the king and the implementation of the Solemn League and Covenant to keep the Scots on board. Parliament splitting horizontally too, for the first time since 1641; a chasm was opening up between the commons and the Lords. In the lords the war party, the likes of Saye and Sele, was a fragile plant, heavily outnumbered in the face of the supporters of Essex and Manchester.

Charles and Hyde must have been rubbing their hands in glee at Oxford. There seemed no way out of the mess for the rebels.

So, the curtains raise, and into a highly charged atmosphere in the Commons a week later on 9th December after feverish committee meetings and interviews, came Zouch Tate. He sat quietly next to Harry Vane while the debate opened. He was holding a document. Whitelocke was watching him – he was holding the piece of paper he said,

Like a boil on his thumb

Against all the antagonism, though there was a spirit emerging, though of needing to find a way through these divisions. Because they shared the same ultimate aims, and if they could not achieve a compromise, a solution, a way through this, the consequences could be terminal. Cromwell was just one of those that spoke; and he offered an olive branch, admitting that he had made mistakes, and that the time had come to put private interests aside for the public good. But the army was not fit for purpose – and must be reformed. Only then could the war be won.

If the army be not put into another method, and the war more vigorously prosecuted, the people can bear the war no longer and will enforce you to a dishonourable peace

Zouch Tate now stood, unwound his paper boil, and made a proposal, arrived at by his committee after the long week. There was, he proposed, to be an act, an agreement, called the self-denying ordinance. This proposed that the army be reformed; that they be combined into a full professional force; no more the tag tag collection of militias, no more the combination of MPs going out to be generals and them coming back and being politicians. The Self Denying bit therefore was that no MP could hold a position in the new army, and vice versa, no army officer could be an MP. The entire army would be employed from scratch, every officer would be fired, and a complete new set recruited, selected by the new general whomever they were. It would be an army formed around a New Model – a fully professional army focussed on its craft, which would march anywhere and fight anywhere, not be forced to rush back to its militia county at the turn of every corner. It would have first call on any resources over and above any regional armies or groups.

Next Harry Vane stood. This was the man responsible for bringing in the Scottish alliance, who had negotiated the Solemn League and Covenant. His view would be critical. Vane had seen the lack of results of his policy so far and lost faith. He had always despaired of the idea of a national church that admitted of no liberty of conscience, and since Newbury increasingly aligned himself with the independents, and the Dissenting Divines in the Westminster Assembly. Harry Vane seconded the proposal. His public intervention was decisive.

And it has to be said that the self denying ordinance was a masterstroke. Because not only did it propose a thoroughly sensible army reform, its very basis completely undercut any accusation of factionalism. Because the very people proposing and backing it would themselves come under it’s strictures, and be disbarred from army or parliament by the ordinance; it could not be presented as a product of self interest to promote one group over the other -all would fall under its rules. To scotch any lingering suspicions of bias, Cromwell and others immediately announced that they would be happy to abide by its requirements and stand down from their posts.

Not that it was the end of debate; far from it, factions could not disappear, votes tended to coalesce around the Presbyterian – Independent division yet. Holles and Stapelton tried to have Essex exempted from the exclusion so their leader would remain in control. The proposal would have seriously threatened the new spirit of compromise – it was defeated by just 7 votes. Next was the Solemn League and Covenant where the debate now focussed; would officers be required to sign it before being appointed? Again It was a tight debate, and one eye witness wrote angrily of ‘envy and self ends’. And it passed, and again threatened to destroy the compromise. But Cromwell would announce his willingness to abide by the decision and the danger passed – though how gritted were his teeth history does not relate. But for him and others unity here was required. To win the war was all. On 19th December, the Self-Denying Ordinance was passed. It had not been easy; there had been hard words and faction, gains and losses, noses shifted from joints. But the Commons had come through. They found a solution that squared the circle. With a palpable sense of relief, of a hard job well done, The Ordinance was sent to the Other Place.

It’s almost certain that Vane, St John, Saye and Sele knew darned well what the reaction of the Lords was going to be. The Self Denying ordinance was in its way the most socially subversive  document of the revolution so far. Just to restate – No one could both be in parliament, and command the military. Now the Peers of the realm therefore were completely debarred from military command; unlike MPs, they couldn’t even resign their seat, their position in the Lords was a indivisible from their rank. To serve in the traditional function at the head of the army, they would have to de-lord themselves. And who was ever going to do that?

Tell me the fundamental DNA of the European aristocracy? A class whose legitimacy derived from their warrior status on which the origin of their landowning was based. Land given expressly to raise warriors for the king and defend the nation. It was them, the Barons, that had defended English liberties against the king in days gone by, they had stood against John at Runymede, not the oiks. The Self denying ordinance tore all that up and burned it. Commoners would now command and lead the armies, that Essex, Manchester had once led..

Saye and Sele in the Lords did his best to make them recognise the realities, he really did. Warwick, fresh from his naval service, showed how to be a big boy and accepted he would no longer be admiral of the Navy. It did no good. The lords were scandalised. Essex saw his hopes of a negotiated settlement that left him as the king’s right hand man, the bridge between chastised king and victorious Rebels – utterly burned. Manchester would be humiliated, removed from command. For the rest of the lords, the ordinance was an insult to their honour and tradition, it treated them

Worse than any free subject

Since they had no option to serve. The peace party was dominant in the Lords, and looking hopefully for a saviour from the halls of Uxbridge and that treaty to come and save them. So, they dillied for England. They Dallied for Wales. They lost their way and forgot where to roam. But eventually they had to vote on the Ordinance. And they threw it out. In fact, only 4 peers voted for the horrid thing. Yuk, yuk Yuk. On 13th January, Speaker William Lenthall and the whole house of Commons trooped over to the White Chamber to present their arguments in person and ask what changes they could make to get the Ordinance through. The Lord were unimpressed. There’s no point changing anything they said, because the whole thing stunk. And we are not talking of Roses.

What happens now is a naked display of where power in this new world really lay, the realities of life. He who pays the piper, plays the tune my dad once said to me, and he was speaking the truth the old bugger. The strategy was forged in the Committee of Both kingdoms where the war party, Vane, Oliver St John had a majority, and together with Saye and Sele were the ringleaders of the strategy. They decided to go for JDI. They would simply do it, and the Lords would find themselves powerless to resist. Because the Commons controlled the purse strings. Having failed top down, they would simply build bottom up and allocate all the money to the New Model Army. The old armies, Manchester’s army, Essex’s army, the basis of their authority, they would wither and die because they had no money.





So through January 1645, they made decisions which cut Essex and Manchester out. It was decided that the New Model Army would be 6,600 horse, 1,000 Dragoons and 14,400 foot – 22,000 in all. A monthly assessment would be provided to pay for them. They then set about naming the commanding officers. Obviously no lords, no MPs. And after a full and frank exchange of views a choice was made for the new supreme commander of the parliamentary armies. The choice fell on Thomas Fairfax.

because Thomas was such a humble, conscientious kind of guy, people have tended to assume he was an apolitical, compromise candidate. But this is to under estimate the Fairfax political influence. In fact Thomas’s father Fernandino, was the elder Fairfax and therefore MP – hence why Thomas was eligible for military command of course. Fernandino yielded a lot of influence in the Commons; in fact he controlled a cohesive group of 21 northern MPs. He was also associated with a party – the Independent faction. Although Thomas was in York, he was also closely involved with the ongoing trial of the Hothams for treason, which was still going on, and was deeply political. Essex meanwhile had been supporting the Hothams against the charges, tried multiple times to intervene to save them. But it was the relentless pressure of the Fairfaxes, the Hotham’s local Yorkshire rivals, which would win out; the provided over 30 witnesses against them. The critical vote came to the commons for the final decision, after pleas for clemency for both Hothams, father and son. They failed. Both went to the block in February . it had been an impressive display of the Fairfaxes strength.[5]

It is a problem for Fairfax watchers; he is constantly under estimated. Principally Cromwell’s later history persuaded some that Thomas was just Oliver’s stooge. It’s very much not the case; although Thomas was not personally ambitious, he was political aware, committed to the revolution, determined to do his duty and play his role, and Cromwell accepted his leadership without question right to the point where Fairfax gave it up. He was nobody’s stooge. Bulstrode Whitelocke recorded long council meetings discussing what was to be done; he described Fairfax listening diligently – and then going out and doing exactly the opposite. Fairfax was a man who knew his own mind.

Fairfax then was proposed as the new military chief and the vote of 21st January was another trial of strength between Presbyterian peace party and the Independent War party. Which the Independents won, 101 votes to 69. And Fairfax a gentleman with ordinary coloured blood replaced Essex whose blood was the traditional colour of your military leader.

In Oxford when he heard this outrageous news, Charles wrote to HM that Fairfax was

The rebels’ new brutish general

Presumably he meant brutish as a commoner; maybe it was Fairfax’s his association with non gentry officers; or maybe he reflected back to Heworth Moor in 1642, when he had turned aside the petition the Fairfaxes had brought from the community they served. He’d have done better to listen a little more closely, because soon the brutish general would be gnawing on his bum.

Thomas accepted the task laid on him, but it daunted him:

I was so far from desiring it that had not so great an authority commanded obedience, being then unseparated from the royal interest, besides the persuasions of nearest friends not to decline so free and general a call, I should have hid myself to have avoided so great a charge.

As new commander, Fairfax would get to appoint all the officers ranked Colonel and above. An extraordinary opportunity to mould the values and loyalties of the new organisation. Philip Skippon was appointed his Major General of Infantry, but there was no obvious candidate for the Major General of Cavalry who wasn’t – like Cromwell – an MP. So it was left open, which is tantalizing.

Essex, Manchester and the Lords saw what was happening. But could do nothing to stop it. They had no lever of power to pull. So they accepted the inevitable – and they caved. And moved their battleground to choosing the right sort of officers in the New Model. They would fight hard to exclude independent and religious radicals, allying always with Scots and Presbyterians.

What didn’t help their cause was news from Scotland. In the depth of a cold winter in the Highlands, Montroses’ force was down to 1,500. Finally, the Marquis of Argyll himself had committed himself to eradicate this irritating distraction. He raised a force of 3,500 men and laid a trap in the Great Glen, advancing on Montrose and MacColla from both North and south; Argyll placed himself at the south end of the Glen at Inverlochy. There it was on the morning of 2nd February that he was comfortably on his boat on the loch, chillin’. Probably in more ways than one. Waiting for news of the capture of the rats, caught in the trap between two superior armies, top and bottom, north and south. When out of the morning mist and snow Montrose appeared with his clansmen from the mountains. They had spent a night camped in open countryside, snow and ice, on the slopes of Ben Nevis. Argyll’s troops, despite their numbers, wre surprised, shocked and horrified, routed put to flight, and Argyll was forced to flee on a barge into the Greta Loch as he watched 1500 of his men slaughtered.

Inverlochy was Montroses’ third straight victory against extraordinary odds. It looked set to transform his campaign; more clans and highland lords began to join. Argyll’s personal influence and reputation took a beating. The basis of his power, the clan Campbell was shattered – its warriors defeated, its homelands ravaged and plundered by Macolla.  Montrose wrote to the king in triumph and confidence

I am in the fairest hope of reducing this kingdom to your majesty’s obedience…before the end of the summer I shall be able to come Your Majesty’s assistance with a brave army

In London, the Scottish Commissioner Robert Baillie recognised the damage done to the Scottish cause

This is the greatest hurt our poore land gott these fourscore years and the greatest disgrace befell us these thousand. If we get not the life of these wormes chirted out before they creep out of our land, the reproach will stick on us forever; it has much diminished our reputation in England forever

The Covenanter Council in Edinburgh was now forced to withdraw troops from England, weening the parliamentary cause. In Ireland Robert Munro of the New Scots dared not move from camp, wary of the need to be ready to return to Scotland if needs be. In Uxbridge, flushed with confidence, the king ensured the peace process ground to a close with no agreement, no third way out for the Presbyterians. In parliament, Fairfax allied with the Independents and confirmed the appointment of the officers he chose; when the Lords and Holles looked at the final roll call, it was realised that over 300 Scottish officers had resigned or been excluded.


One more indignity remained; the major General of Horse. It seems that Cromwell had been sincere in accepting he would have to resign his commission; but he did so reluctantly. Waller was very different; he left the army with relief, and disillusioned. He felt ‘slighted and disesteemed’ by his mutinous troops. The constant reference to mutiny among his commands suggests Waller did not have the rough of a Fairfax, a Rupert or a Waller. He was frustrated also by the complexities of politics, and by what he called the ‘discouragements’ of parliament. So he would continue on in the Committee of both Kingdoms, and he granted rewards and lost wages by a grateful parliament. But his military commands were over; and the rest of the Revolution would become increasingly uncomfortable for the man. Quite stormy.

Cromwell however loved the action, clarity and energy of war. He loved command, he was damned good at it, he understood and had a bond with his men, and most of them admired Old Noll right back.  Cromwell was ready to go, but he would have to be told to go. So he waited until word came; and the CBK were not keen to lose their best cavalry commander.  So to the fury of Essex, Manchester and the Peace party, the Commons kept extending his commission. By June, his position would be made permanent. Cromwell was an exception in many ways.

Thomas Fairfax was brought to the Commons in an elaborate ceremony for his confirmation of his commission as head of the New Model army. There were speeches and fine words; Speaker Lenthall praised him to the skies. Fairfax made a pretty speech in reply, and generously praised the man he had replaced – the earl of Essex.

No one was fooled. Essex knew exactly what had happened. The Lords had been given an education in power politics, and totally eclipsed. The Peers had been crowbarred from their ancient role, and the Army was now staffed and officered by people of a social rank that horrified the Rebel lords as much as they would be despised by the royalists. The New Model would increasingly become a home to religious and political radicals.

Essex remained bitterly opposed and unreconciled, and used every trick he could to block the New Model, the self-denying ordinance, the appointment of Fairfax and the career of Oliver Cromwell. He failed in all. In March 1645 he recognised that failure, and resigned his offices in what has been described as ‘a well phrased and restrained statement [in which] he accepted his eclipse and stepped aside like a gentleman’. It was the end of Essex’s political career; he stayed hung the place in parliament, and may even have nursed hopes of a revival in 1646 when Charles was playing the politics of survival, but he collapsed suddenly after a strenuous day’s stag-hunting in Windsor Forest in September 1646. He was given a stonking funeral with over 3,000 people crowding the procession, which he would have enjoyed, but the truth was by his own ambitions his career had ended in failure. John Morrill is I think a little harsh in his assessment when he wrote

He was an inverted Midas: all that was golden in his inheritance and circumstance he turned to dust. Only in the false bombast of his funeral was the recognition he craved ever accorded him

Golly, mean. Anyway, Essex has left the building that is the History of England, and the New Model Army has entered it, under Thomas Fairfax. Next time we’ll find out what parliament can do with their new weapon.

[1] Hutton, R: ‘The Making of Oliver Cromwell’, p223

[2] Fraser, A ‘Cronwell our Chief of Men’, p139

[3] Fraser, A: Oliver Cromwell’, p142

[4] Gentles, I: ‘The New Model Army’, p5

[5] Hopper, A: ‘BlackTom’, pp56-62


3 thoughts on “396 The New Model

  1. Particularly brilliant episode, many thanks. I had known about the Self-denying Ordinance, but hadn’t realized how it excluded the aristocracy from their historic raison d’etre. As in most of the wars I know of, conflict leads to innovation, on and off the battlefield, in what people perceive as politically possible and how they perceive the world to work. Really fascinating.
    When Charles calls Fairfax Brutish, is it far fetched to imagine he might be referring to Brutus (regarded as a traitor for killing Julius Caesar)? Well off men would have had a classical education, no?
    Finally, the website is a great resource. While reading Shakespeare’s versions of English history and other historical fiction, it’s really fun to dig up your relevant episodes, especially about Richard II and Henry IV. I hope soon to see a production of Edward II, and you frankly explain the situation much better than Marlowe did in his play. Membership is really the gift that keeps on giving.

    1. Esme you are kind! The Charles thing does notsound impossible; I haven’t seen it interpreted that way, but an argument could be made very wellI think. I’d love to hear how ther play goes; Edward II is quite a story!

      1. The Ed 2 production was an excellent rendering of Marlowe’s play, except for really removing the political content and cutting a great deal of the Despencer stuff, in favor of telling a sad story about homophobia thwarting love. Very well performed by a very small company – about 10 people, with the actors providing the music as well as the drama. Watching it was rather like watching Richard III; you have much more fun if you don’t think about the actual history.

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