398 The Clubmen


After Naseby, Fairfax took the New Model on the Western Campaign, to deal with the last remaining significant royalist army in the field – George Goring at Taunton. On the way, and after victory at Langport, he met the phenomenon of the Clubmen risings. As communities tried to rediscover the peace that had been lost.

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For more information and texts of the declarations, visit my article on this very same website, the Clubmen

There’s also a blog on the subject you can visit, which also has access to an e-book by Hayden Wheeler. All to be found at Clubmen 1645.


15 thoughts on “398 The Clubmen

  1. While going to retrieve my offspring from their schools the other day, I was struck by the odd comparison between the international reactions to what the British are up to in the 1640s and what the French will do around 1780. It seems like apart from the French crown smelling some room for advantage, the international reaction to Britain giving Charles the most unfortunate haircut until the mullet was pretty “eh, whatevs.” When the French decided that Louis shouldn’t be allowed to wear cravats anymore, the neighboring countries generally went crazy with fear that this might spread. (To be fair, European nobility quite like cravats.)

    You’d almost have expected the opposite. By 1790, my sense is monarchies aren’t as supreme as they were. Yes, Europe was pretty worn out in the aftermath of the 30 Year’s war, but that’s never stopped Europe from kicking seven bells out of each other and the Seven Year’s war wasn’t far in the rearview mirror in 1790. Besides, no offense, sorting out Britain would have been less effort than invading France. (I mean, history kind of indicates that the French Revolutionary wars were a very bad idea indeed for other monarchies, and not just because of a certain Corsican artillary man.)

    Any idea why Charles’ predicament (and subsequent appointment with the most aggressive English barber until Sweeney Todd) didn’t trigger more reaction abroad, outside of Alexander Dumas novels written 200 years later?

    1. No I do not know, and it is also mystifying to me. I even asked for the Cromwell association for a view and they were unable to come up with anything. There is some royal family reaction in France; and you’d guess the Dutch republic were…well, a republic anyway. According to Clare Jackson’s book Devil-Land, they all thought we were a basket case anyway. I suppose one thing is that unlike France, we never espoused any kind of great political philosophy which we swore to export in crusade. I’ll keep looking though.

    2. It’s a very good question. The only reason I can think of is that France was one of the biggest world powers in the 1790s, so a bloody revolution was everybody’s business. By contrast, England was a middling player on the European stage in the 1640s, so the impact on other nations was less important. A bit like how an insurrection in the US today is far more important than one in Mali. No offence to Mali!

      1. That’s possible, although the size thing might work the other way: how happy would Spain or Britain have been to see France knocked out of action? Certainly everyone seemed surprised that they came out of the revolution even able to defend their own borders, let alone start pummeling other powers. Meanwhile, the US goes absolutely paranoid when Haiti revolts, purely out of worry about the idea of revolution (in that case, a slave revolt) spreading. Russia was pretty clearly a paper tiger by the time of its revolt, but international powers were spooked quite badly. So the calculus feels more multifactorial, although power may well be a big part.

  2. Most interesting! Especially how you tie various themes together into a coherent story.
    Last week, Parliament realized that armies can be led by talent, not birth (aristocrats). But even though everyone who’s ever dealt with Charles knows he doesn’t keep his word, and The King’s Cabinet Opened proves that in writing for everyone who can read, people keep negotiating with him for another 4 years. Perhaps because there are so many factions pursuing different goals, the King remains a popular card to play; perhaps another reason is that people just can’t imagine a system other than monarchy, despite the poor quality of the current incumbent. Each episode makes me more eager for the next.
    The more I hear about Cromwell, the more interesting he sounds. Can you recommend a good biography? The only one I’ve seen is by Antonia Fraser, and she’s a royalist, as well as a Catholic, no?

    1. Yes you are quite right; and indeed Charles remains supremely confident almost to the end because he thinks he has the absolute trump card; there CAN be no agreement without him.
      I was thinking about the Cromwell story this morning. The thing is that if you are a Cromwelll fan, this is the period when he comes across best – relatively egalitarian, bold, focussed, competent, keen on religious liberty, constitutional change, admired by the people he works with. The doubts set in later – when his sense of mission becomes bigotry and leads to brutality in Ireland, when he gets real power and his frustration with that leads him to a series of dodgy acts.
      Also, although I am keen not to overplay Cromwell’s role in these stages, I feel kind of forced into it; because without understanding this period, it’s harder not to be left simply by Cromwell in Ireland and Cromwell the compromised protector.
      Books; there are so many! Fraser’s still as good as any – but is positive, Hutton is themost recent, not a friend, but it’s only the early years so far; John Morril is publishing a new one in October, rumoured to be negative. There is a list here: https://www.olivercromwell.org/oliver_cromwell_bib.htm

      1. Thanks for the tips! Perhaps I am too negative about Fraser; I dislike her hagiography of Mary Stuart and her sympathy for the Gunpowder Plotters, whose incompetence stopped them murdering hundreds of their enemies, while taking out several people on their side, such as Father Garnet.

        1. I haven’t read either of those books,I must admith, so that is interesting! Both Mary & the Gunpowder plooters do get an easy ride these days – the cult of victimhood I think. I have some sympathy for Mary I have to say, who was quite unlucky and had a very tough job;but then I have probably been influenced by John Guy’s book. I have almost none for the Gunpowder lot!

  3. Hi David:
    Thank you for continuing your excellent work as you take us through the Civil War. I recall you telling me last year that you were going to visit my home province of British Columbia last year. I hope your experience was a good one. As for me, I visited England last summer for the first time since 1991. My kids and parents really loved the Cotswolds, and of course London is always an exciting mess during high tourist season. I’m actually in the South Downs right now for some rambling and to see family. This is fascinating country: in the space of a few miles along the chalky downs, you pass everything from ruined castles build by “Guillaume le Conquérant” to Iron Age hill forts and 900 year-old churches. It is pretty clear, however, that the recent weather is really getting the locals down (I don’t blame them), and I do detect the occasional wobble to the “stiff upper lip”. Case in point: I rode the bus into Burgess Hill yesterday, and the driver was very frustrated with the weather, road work delays etc. When alighting, I wished him a better day, and his matter-of-fact response was “not a chance!”

    1. Hi James, and how lovely that you are in the South Downs! My borther and I went walking there last year BEFORE the weather broke.Such a beautiful part of the country, and a very English landscape.

      And of course we had the best time in BC. We got to see family, and some of the wonders of the wildlife and countryside. Absolutely fabulous – but then we knew it would be! Also the locals seemed happier than you came across here I think. Lots of craft beer too…

      1. I’m glad you had a good time. Yes, the craft beers available in BC are particularly good! It’s VERY wet today on the Downs: I think the locals would say the hiking trail is “clodgy”.

    1. There’s a blast from the past. These adverts do stick. I can still sing the finger of fudge song all the way through, and still ask people ‘what has a hazel nut in every bite?’

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