402 Enemies of State


In 1647 The New Model Army became a battleground between Independant and Presbyterian factions. Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell were caught in the middle. As Holles came closer and closer to destroying the New Model, Fairfax might be forced to choose between the parliament whose rights he had fought to uphold, and justice for the soldiers with whom he’d lived and fought.

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Last time we talked about Charles’ attitude to negotiation, we saw the Scots go home, and talked about the plan of the Presbyterians to ensure the victory of their vision of a future England. The hat that was Denzil Holles’ plan had three corners, three corners had his hat.

First corner, Remove the Scots and gain control of the king. Second, disband the New Model army. This would achieve two objectives. It would remove an unbearable financial burden from the shoulders of the people. It would also remove the greatest concentration of those described in Edwards’ Gangrena as dangerous sectarians, oppressors and social subversives, also known as the Independents. And then the third corner, agree a deal with the defeated and surely contrite king that embedded Presbyterianism within the ancient constitution, thus completing the dismantling of both Laudianism and Independency. A haberdasher’s dream.

And the status report at the start of 1647? Well pretty good, pats on backs all round – the abolition of the episcopy had been achieved, tick, it had provided the funds to pay the Scots what they were owed, and delivered Charles into English hands. Now, for stage 2 – destroy the NMA.

In this episode then, let  us start with a bit of scene setting; the king is sitting at Newcastle railway station without a ticket to his destination, suitcase and guitar in hand. So let’s see him homeward bound and settled in all nice. Then I think you and I should have a chat about the object of the coming campaign – the New Model army and their leaders. Then we can get on with what Ian Gentles has termed the Counter Revolution – the attempt to break them, with a rod of iron, like a potters vessel. And all that. How does that sound? OK? Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin.

Charles was picked up from the station and thoroughly enjoyed his journey south – it was just like being a real king again. People lined the streets to cheer him onwards. He was allowed to stop from time to time, and onlookers crowded forwarded, and he was given permission to use his magical powers, and touch scrofula suffers for the king’s evil – and there is nothing more kingly than touching for the king’s evil, makes you really look like God’s Anointed. Charles son loved it to pieces too, touched about 90,000 people. You should try it. Well maybe not.

General Fairfax greeted him at Nottingham, and he was very gracious, not brutish at all. Eventually they came to a very grand house, Holdenby House in Northamptonshire. This was to be his resting place while the minor details were finalised on the Newcastle propositions, as they surely would be; although Northampton has a disappointingly poor Rugby team of course, for which reason Leicester would have been so much better, so much more tigerish. But whatever, Northampton is in striking distance of London without being too close. Because no parliamentarian wanted the king in London  – who knows what the crowds might do.

Charles was very comfortable at Holdenby, he was given every creature comfort. Week except on rather important one – not spiritual comforts, or not the type he liked anyway; he was again denied the his beloved BCP and Anglican chaplains. However, the Spencers, were just next door at Althorp, so he went there to chat, be fawned on, and play bowls which turns out he found quite addictive. The Spencer earl of Sunderland had died in his cause at the First battle of Newbury, and his son was still just a nipper, so I assume he was entertained by the lady of the house, Dorothy Spencer. Her brother was a famous parliamentarian and political theorist, Algernon Sydney, quite a character, writer and philosopher, who would wrote that

as death is the greatest evil that can befall a person, monarchy is the worst evil that can befall a nation

which is topical, who would finally be executed in 1683, and instead of mouthing pieties as he went, gave something of a lecture, remarking that

We live in an age that makes truth pass for treason

He finally declared he was dying for the Good Old Cause and then lost his head.

Anyway, enough digressing, we’ll leave Charles there ay Holdenby noodling away, and turn to our next scene setter. Let us talk about the New Model and it’s vibe. I’d also like to talk a little about its senior commanders.

First thing to say is that the New Model never meant to go to sea, they never meant to become political. Most of what I am going to say btw comes from Ian Gentles’ definitive book, the New Model Army; Agents of Revolution’ He wrote that all the way through, their first priority was always religious – the eradication of ungodliness. Liberty of the subject and privilege of parliament were also important to them, but they only get the silver and bronze medals. Another thing to remember is that they were very, very proud of what they had done and why; there will be a quote later where they declare themselves ‘no mere mercenary army’, because they were volunteers called into being by parliament to fight for the liberties of the people. They had risked their blood for the cause and expected to be treated accordingly.

Ok, firstly then, this was a Godly army. There were several chaplains who travelled with the army, there was frequent preaching, and sermons attracted vast numbers. There was frequent prayer and fasting sessions, scripture study was promoted[1]. This permeated all levels of the army. Their beloved commander in chief exemplified it well – Thomas Fairfax always liked to consult religious men before embarking on a course of action; he appointed Hugh Peter as chief chaplain to the army, and gave him great latitude. Philip Skippon, as major general of infantry, published three books of devotion, dedicated to his fellow soldiers. Cromwell as Lieutenant general of Horse was famously the same; the night before the assault on Basing House, just as one example, he spent most of the night praying and reading scripture. Their officers were equally religious and most of the rank and file too, though they were a more mixed bag.

Lay preaching was widespread by both officers and soldiers; parliament didn’t like this, a bunch of uneducated amateurs preaching, and on their orders Fairfax tried to crack down in it. But it was unstoppable, and the New Model was unapologetic; Colonel William Goffe, one of the regicides, wrote eloquently of the right of the humblest soldier to act a channel of divine retribution. Lay preaching was important in many others ways, in the building of the enormously vital and powerful esprit de corps and unity of the new model which they held dear; and it also unavoidably embedded the idea of liberty of conscience.

The sense of spiritual egalitarianism was also part of a wider tradition of equality. This reached from small things like Fairfax’s rule of giving each foot regiment a turn at marching at the head of the column, to bigger things like the willingness of officers to share every risk in battle with their men, and to really quite remarkable things like the General army Council. You’ll hear about this in a while, but in 1647, Fairfax creates a General council of the Army. Each regiment elected agents, or agitators, who sat on the council on an equal footing in making policy. It’s extraordinary.

Another feature was the social makeup of the army. Following the self denying ordinance, the social background of the officers was more closer to the rank and file they commanded than it had ever been, they had a much closer shared experience – and that helped that unity, officers had a close sympathy and empathy for their men. Royalists were both disgusted at this social monstrosity, and revelled in mocking them for it. The New Model did not greatly care.

The strength of the esprit de corps, unity, respect for all ranks and shared values had some consequences, that did not make them popular. They felt themselves to be different from the rest of society, and to stand slightly apart. Despite this, their behaviour towards local communities in terms of forgoing the normal tradition of plunder was exemplary; but the downside was the brutality of their iconoclasm. The stories of stabling horses in scared places, destroying priceless works of art and stained glass, were legion; weeing in fonts was also something of a fave, if you haven’t relieved yourself into holy water, then you really weren’t properly in the club. From the same stable, came their suppression of alehouses, horse racing and even Morris dancing for crying aloud, the Morris! Most people hated this, and it did not make them popular.

Another thing to remember in this general story of their cohesion is the respect in which Fairfax and Cromwell were held. It was a respect partly based on shared religious values; partly on shared acceptance of the risks of war in the frontline; and partly on a sense that every man in the army was valued no matter what their social status. Richard Baxter, the presbyterian minister, was horrified as he marched with the army at the licence allowed the soldiers. He gasped at the disrespectful jokes – they translate no better than Shakespearean comedy it has to be said, but gags like calling Presbyterians ‘priest-biters’; or divines ‘Dry-vines’; but they offended Baxter. I mean they’re not great gags I have to admit, but scandalously witty back then by all accounts. But worst of all wrote Baxter, the military command

Took on them to join themselves to no party, but to be for the liberty of all[2]

This sounds nice to us. Baxter was appalled though and set about trying to change it.

Neither Fairfax nor Cromwell were pushovers though, both were strict disciplinarians, given to upholding the articles of war, and stories of soldiers punished when caught thieving from villages are common. Military discipline was also strict; there’s a story of Cromwell and Ireton being stopped by guards who refused to let them pass until they got the right password; later the guard confessed he’d known them all along but felt sure Cromwell was checking up on them. Having said that I think I have heard exactly the same story in about a billion military stories across time, space and cultures, so you know…

Despite the strict discipline, Cromwell was known as something of a fun lover – yes, I know, but look puritans can be fun too. Baxter again wrote

He was naturally of such a vivacity, hilarity and alacrity as another man is when he hath drinked a cup of wine too much

Fairfax was admired mot only for his energy and courage in battle, but his modesty and humility. His style was nothing like the grandiosity with which Robin of Essex had carried out his command, which Woolrych describes as ‘almost vice-regal pomp’. Instead, as one contemporary remarked, Fairfax was

A man thankful for respects, and yet casts away honour from himself

Both Fairfax and Cromwell were known to be incorruptible; both turned aside offers of bribes and conspiracies; and when Charles meets them in Newmarket he distrusts both of them because, as he remarks to the courtier John Berkely, neither asked for a reward or favour.

All of this meant that in the words of Baxter to the new model soldiers,

you repaid your general with your admiration and even your love

In return, it was true for Fairfax as it was written by a contemporary for Cromwell that he

Loved his soldiers as his children, and his greatest care was to see them provided for, with all necesseties

I should get on. But one more thing briefly. Fairfax would find himself much more conflicted by the execution of the king, and from that point rather fades into the background. It’s led to a historiography that Fairfax was little more than Cromwell’s stooge, tricked and deceived by the more ambitious man, that Fairfax was not political and came to oppose the commonwealth. The historian Andrew Hopper argues strongly against this; for example, as I believe we have covered it was Fairfax that marshalled support in the Commons to pursue the Hothams. He notes that the pair of them shared many values, worked closely together, and that Fairfax’s was more secure in his social status than Cromwell, which helped maintain the relationship of commander ad lieutenant. That Cromwell never challenged Fairfax’s authority, and if you believe his words certainly respected his boss, such as he wrote to him in 1648

I put a high and true value upon your love, which when I forget I shall cease to be a grateful and an honest man

And Whitelocke noted in his diary that in Councils although Fairfax said little, he frequently overruled Cromwell, and at the end of any discussion ‘he was the only judge’.[3]

The picture then is of a leadership and an army with a strong sense of solidarity and purpose, not always very popular, and despised by royalists.  The events of the next couple of years in particular will test this solidarity to the core. It is worth noting, as will come out, than neither Fairfax nor Cromwell wanted or expected to get into a battle with parliament. Both worked hard initially to conciliate and carry out parliaments commands however they disliked them. But there will come a time when both will be forced to choose where their primary loyalty and sense of justice lay. So, for Holles & Co, now was the time for corner two of the hat strategy. Destroy the New model.

The departure of the Scots immediately weakened the position of New Model. It had been a necessity, but the last vestige of that necessity had gone, and there was really no need to keep them – except maybe a portion to fight in Ireland and finally defeat that 5 year rebellion. And all that was left then, as the sense of obligation and gratitude faded in the hearts of the populace, were the bad things. Memories of iconoclasm; the economic disruption, the high taxes. Until this point in parliament, many had continued to adhere to the Independents because they favoured active prosecution of the war – now that need had gone, many drifted back to their spiritual Presbyterian fellows and their strength in parliament waned.

Holles and the Derby House Committee seemed to have lacked any sense of obligation to the men of the new Model at all as it happens, nor indeed to their wives and families who had had to cope through the wars. Instead they quite openly presented them as a crippling burden on civilians and an obstacle to peace. There’s a deal of truth in the former; and it seems widely agreed by historians today that the coming crisis is a classic example of Hooles’ predilection for self foot destruction, with the use of a gun. The army had some concerns which we’ll come to, but if treated with respect, gratitude and above all a modicum of justice and generosity, it seems that the army would have been disbanded without any shouting louder than the squeak of the cutest fluffiest dormouse.

There must therefore have been other agendas which led Holles and the presbyterian party to the aggressive path they took. Money would be one – and the all powerful, and Presbyterian dominated  London Common Council in particular, was way behind in paying its assessments and deeply reluctant to pay anything at all, let alone any more. But fear and hatred must be part of it; fear of the social values of the New model, and hatred of the prevalence of Independency and the creed of religious toleration.

So, Holles & Co realised that the strength of the leadership was a key obstacle, so their first instinct was to make life easier for themselves by removing Fairfax from command, and replacing him with a reliably Presbyterian General; they thought Colonel Richard Graves would do the job. They were helped in this by the fact that Cromwell was absent throughout February from the house; both he and Fairfax will struggle with health and at key moments be absent for weeks on end. This is one of those occasions, and when the proposal to replace Fairfax with Graves was put to the vote it was close; 147 MPs voted to fire him, 159 voted against. A margin of 12 seems scant reward for the General who had brought the war so swiftly to an end.

Holles continued the attack. On 18th February the Commons voted that the size of the army would be slashed from over 20,000 in the new Model alone, to a bijou 5,400 horse and 1,000 dragoons. The infantry would either agree to go and fight in Ireland or be demobbed. The scale was extraordinary. Nothing was said about pay in the proposal, which in itself is an extraordinary arrogance; everybody knew that the back pay owed to the army was criminal – 26 weeks to the infantry, almost double that to the cavalry, maybe a stonking £3m.

Holles & Co marched on; the Self Denying ordinance seems to have lapsed since the end of the war, meaning several Army officers had been elected as MPs; so, Holles now carried a motion that no member of the commons should hold a military commission; Cromwell, Ireton and others would have to go.

At the same time, a petition spookily dropped into the Commons inbox; the London Common Council demanded the army be disbanded, and that control of the London Trained bands be taken away from Fairfax as General of all armed forces and handed back to London.

Cromwell arrived back from illness into parliament to all of this. He wrote to warn Fairfax

There want not, in all places, men who have so much malice against the army as besots them…never were the spirits of men more embittered than now

Bulstrode Whitelocke watched aghast at all of this, astonished at the turnaround

Those who were so lately in their highest esteem and respect, as freers of their country from servitude and oppression, are now, by the same people, looked upon as sectaries and oppressors themselves

Holles & Co weren’t finished yet. They then passed an ordinance that no commander under Fairfax should be a higher rank than Colonel and confirmed that everyone must swear to the Covenant – which was a clear attack on Independents, and a personal on Cromwell to boot.

More was to follow. But to explain I need to nip across the Irish sea. With the defeat of the New Scots in Ulster, the triumph of Rinuccini and the clerical party in the confederacy, Ormond was left without options, facing a resurgent Confederate Association which had abandoned the Cessation or any idea of a negotiated peace. In desperation, in February 1647, Ormond threw in his hand. Recognising that Charles was now powerless to help, he passed control of Dublin to parliament. A new Governor was duly appointed, Viscount Lisle, and Ormond packed his bags and came back to blighty for while, leaving behind a task which he had done his level best to fulfil. He would soon end up in France, with the royalist resistance.

Anyway the point is that parliament was now categorically in charge of meeting the Irish Confederate rebellion, and in early March they had a declaration passed to recruit an army of 4,000 for Ireland. At the same time voted to maintain the Army of Northern England under Colonel Poyntz intact from all the changes and disbandment. It was an extraordinary decision from a miliary stand point; to maintain the poorly disciplined old army of the north while disbanding the cream of the army in the New Model.

There is obviously method in this apparent madness. Holles & Co were building an army, just in case the New Model didn’t play ball. They hoped that the London Trained Bands and Poyntz’s Northern Army could be relied on to support parliament and the Presbyterians, to face down any resistance by the New Model at the end of a musket. An insurance policy should the New model need pushing over the edge.

And indeed there was another source of military muscle Meanwhile, as we heard last time, Edward Massie’s old style Western Association army had been disbanded already; and this meant that unemployed soldiers and officers, Reformadoes as they were called, had flooded into London. Most were Presbyterians also, and could be useful in a scrap also. And despite Fairfax & Cromwell’s attempts to conciliate and comply with parliament’s orders, there is no doubt the Presbyterians saw them as the enemy. So, Holles was building an army to strengthen the Presbyterian cause.

And recruiting an army for Ireland was not simply to supress rebellion – it served a higher purpose recruitment would surely split and weaken the New model. As the MP William Strode ominously declared

Sir Thomas Fairfax will be deceived, for part of his army will join with us. We will destroy them all.[4]

Well, there’s a thing, this is all going rather nicely so far for Holles & Co. On 21st March 1647 a delegation sent by the DHC arrived at the Army headquarters at Saffron Walden, led by one William ‘the ex-conqueror’ Waller. They were there to discuss the formation of this new Irish Army, from the shards of the soon-to-be-broken-up New Model. They walked into the beginnings of a storm. Expecting to meet Fairfax and maybe a couple of aides, they walked into a room of 44 senior officers. Thanks for coming said the Officers, good to hear about Ireland, but we have questions, and until we have answers, no one’s going anywhere. There were four questions about the Irish army plus the big one – what are you going to do about our two years back pay?

Thanks for your feedback said William, and on 22nd March back home he went. Essentially, Fairfax was well aware of what had been going on, and was aware of the rising worry and fury of the soldiers. And here was the start of the fight back. He had called all these officers to show his solidarity and sympathy with their concerns. He knew that masses of petitions were circulating among the regiments of the army, breeding like rabbits. The officers had gathered them all together, removed all the chaff and produced a petition with five requests.

Firstly, they needed an indemnity over any acts carried out during the war. It wasn’t necessarily atrocities or stuff they were worried about. But Just for example, Loads of horses had been requisitioned – they were worried that a load of angry horse owners would come after them for payment, That sort of thing. And more serious stuff of course. Secondly, payment of all arrears of pay, obs; thirdly a promise of no forced conscription for service abroad such as say, ooh let me think…um Ireland, Ireland for example; then Fair compensation for maimed soldiers and their families, and regular pay until disbandment.

Two points to make about that I would say; one – totally reasonable, hardly needed saying surely; and secondly there’s nothing political about it at all. The levellers don’t seem to be influential in the army – yet.

However, the Levellers did choose this very moment to publish their second major petition, the so called Large Petition. Now this, my friends was about as political as you are going to get. It was addressed to the House of Commons, because obviously that was where all true authority lay. That was the thing that got everyone excited. The Commons is sovereign it said – not king, not lords. A number of other exhortations follow; complete religious toleration, and abolition of  tithes, radical legal reform – all justice to be conducted in English none of this ancient Italian mumbo jumbo;  it condemned the prison system which, to be fair could do with some condemning and will still be a live issue when Charles Dickens picks it up in a few hundred years’ time.

Now these things hit The Presbyterians in parliament at the same time. Someone brought a copy of the Large petition in, and one of the commissioners sort of found the Petition of the Officers and Soldiers of the Army lying around accidently on purpose at Saffron Walden and then read it out in the Commons on 27th March. Well, said Holles, I could squash a grape. Or worse. Frankly I think it fair to say that  faced with both these things Holles rather lost it. Edmund Ludlow the radical army officer and regicide wrote in his diary that Holles sat on the benches in the Commons and ‘drew up a resolution upon his knee’. As he wrote, our Denzil might have heard the babbling of a brook by his feet. When he presented it to the Commons and they passed said resolution by vote, he unknowingly stepped over that babbling brook. That brook was his Rubicon.

It was only a short resolution, I counted it, 256 words. There are three things about this commons resolution. It stated the Commons ‘high Dislike’ of the army Petition, which is confrontational. It said it wasn’t going to bother to answer and they should stop right away – which is tyranny, petitioning is a fundamental English right – what else would ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ do on a Sunday afternoon else? And it said if they didn’t stop they would be considered ‘Enemies to the State’.  Which is incendiary and deeply insulting to the people who had fought for Holles right to sit in parliament. Enemies of the state. That was to be constantly repeated and through back in Holles’ face by the army. Enemies of the state. We, who shed our blood for the state.

This little resolution has gone down in history as the Declaration of Dislike and in John Morril’s words it showed Holles’ ability to be ‘simultaneously resolute and reckless, courageous and crass’[5]. A royalist commentator giggled that maybe possibly perhaps inflaming 20,000 heavily armed blokes might not be best tactics.[6] Henry Ireton, army colonel, MP and whose signature was on the original army petition, was livid and he and Holles ended up yelling at each other and left the commons intending to have a duel. But came back having called it off. Which does sound like the sort of thing that went on at school. ‘Right you, bikesheds, 5 minutes’ sort of thing.

Anyway, it put Fairfax and Cromwell in a difficult position. The instinct of both of them was to conciliate  – this was parliament afterall for whose rights they had put their lives on the line. Fairfax’s obediently had the Declaration read out to the regiments Cromwell put his hand on his heart and swore by almighty God that the NMA would disband when told – which turned out to be a lousy prediction. Though other interpretations are available of course.  There is a line of argument that Cromwell was perfectly capable of dissembling. Or as Richard Overton put it rather later

You shall scarce speak to Cromwell about anything but he will lay his hand on his breast, elevate his eyes and call God to record. He will weep, howl and repent even while he doth smite you under the fifth rib.

It is a good quote, Overton knew how to use words. For what it’s worth Fraser thinks this time he was simply reading the crystal ball badly.



Anyway, after Fairfax’s command to the Army to sush, for two weeks all seemed quiet. So that’s good then. Pheweee! Holles Co put their heads together and proceeded with the next stage – divide and conquer. They reckoned that they could spike the army guns by splitting them up, by pressing ahead with Irish recruitment they’d split them into smaller groups. So recruitment for Ireland became a double tool of repression, one for Ireland, one for the New model. On 15th April a delegation came to Saffron Walden to enlist men for Ireland. This time Fairfax called out captains and lieutenants of every troop so the four commissioners were faced with over 200 officers. It didn’t go well. They had nothing to say in response to that Army Petition. The young Yorkshireman Colonel John Lambert demanded on behalf of them all that they would know who would command – the answer was Skippon and Massie. Everything got rowdy. The four commissioner left with fleas buzzing in one ear and the sound of the soldiers yells of  ‘Fairfax and Cromwell and we all go!’ ringing in the other. Which basically meant that without the leaders they trusted, no one was going anywhere whatever parliament said. By the end of April recruitment was a paltry 115 officers and 1000 soldiers which wouldn’t blow the skin off a rice pudding let alone defeat the Confederate Association.

The New Model was now in a foment, and taking action. The soldiers were driven by indignation at their treatment, and fear that if they were disbanded they would end up being prosecuted as ‘Enemies of the State’. They must stick together, or die. Soldiers began to plan and organise. Spreading across the army from cavalry then to infantry regiments, they began to choose representatives; and now the word Agitator enters our language. It isn’t quite what it means now – think instead of agents. The officers didn’t try to stop this – in fact their men often sought them out and were encouraged and advised. A standard structure emerged, 2 Agitators per regiment. The agitators began to meet in a sort of informal council. Now the name John Lilburne began to be heard; more of the regiments were becoming politicised, but as yet it’s not widespread, just a sign of things to come. But no sign at all of republicanism – in fact a sense of pretty positive goodwill towards the king, even a desire to carry him to London where he’d put everything right.

Parliament pressed on, regardless. It gave command of the London Trained bands to the Common Council and they purged any independent officers from it. And then on 27th April it committed its cardinal folly the absolute cherry on the top of the lardy Cake of idiocy. It made a decision about the pay to be given the army when it disbanded, which was to be soon – in June. They would get 6 weeks pay. Six weeks.. Against 40 plus weeks. Seriously, if Holles & Co wanted a military revolt they were going about it the right way, they could run seminars on how to make enemies and blow your credibility to pieces.

The following day three men from the council of agitators, Edward Sexby, William Allen and another presented Fairfax a petition from the 8 cavalry regiments, and 2 days later took it to the commons. The read out at the bar. They stood being angrily questioned and roasted on their demands for pay and indemnity by the assembled house. They stood as firm as a regiment of pike facing a cavalry charge. They yielded not an inch. Which was irritating, didn’t they know who they were talking to?

Skippon, Cromwell, Ireton and Fleetwood were sent as commissioners by parliament to try and calm things down. All four were respected military commanders. They were therefore respectfully received. But while they were there petitions were being prepared by every regiment, and a group of seven officers took down the petitions and boiled them into a set of 11 common grievances. It was an impressive document; officers like Colonel Lambert praised the way officers and men had worked together. Any political content was removed – all 11 grievances were purely about army matters – arrears of pay, indemnity and so on.

On 21st May 1647, the Commissioners returned to parliament. Cromwell himself read out the grievances. He repeated his pledge that the army would disband, but warned that the temper of the soldiers was passing beyond their ability to control. Skippon also reported on the ‘deep sense of sufferings’ in the army. They warned that the Declaration of Dislike had offended the honour of the soldiers to the core.

Now this was another Rubicon moment. If Holles & Co had thought this through now, and behaved with decency, maybe this could have been settled amicably; withdraw the declaration of dislike, up the payment of arrears, address these grievances. Others could see it; the French ambassador commented that if the government was overthrown it would be because ‘the Presbyterians failed to act generously’. But for the Presbyterians, the loss of face would have been too much to bear, things had gone too far. And anyway they felt confident they could deal with anything. What with the Trained bands, Reformadoes and Poyntz’s northern army, they had 20,000 men under their command. They’d already split away the soldiers who wanted to go to Ireland – and of them about 100 officers and 400 soldiers had been incorporated into the London Milita. They started chats with both Scottish and French ambassadors about bringing Scottish soldiers back over the border if necessary. So you know what – bring it on, you and whose army, daresya

At  the same time the lords announced that they had received a lovely letter from the king. And they had actually. Charles played a canny game at this point. He also realised that the departure of the Scots had been to his advantage, and to the Presbyterian party and knew he had a great opportunity to widen the division in the ranks of his enemies, sorry his people. So he restated his response to the Newcastle propositions, but using a much more positive tone, hinting at toleration for independents – if not really giving much away. Holles & Co were delighted. Parliament formally agreed this was a basis for further negotiation. The lords suggested inviting the king to come to Oatlands House – a mere 15 miles from London. And two days later the Commons approved an order to dissolve the NMA between 1st and 15th June.

The sense of crisis was palpable. The New model would be dissolved and it’s soldiers made powerless, a secret deal between parliament and the king appeared imminent with the king – – without the independents – and king seemingly to be moved from Holdenby to Oatlands, out of the army’s control, and ready to be re-instated.

There was a spreading reaction. Colonel Rainsborough’s regiment in Plymouth had gone awol, and effectively mutinied moving to Oxford to take control of the artillery there. Fairfax had received a petition signed by 16 regiments, calling on him to announce a general rendez vous of the army in defiance o the order to disband, and to discuss a response. He called an enlarged council of war of about 100 officers in Bury St Edmunds on 29th May. He asked each two questions;  had they done enough to address the grievances of the soldiers – the answer was no. The second was whether they were in favour of a general rendez vous – the answer was yes.

It was decision time for Fairfax. If he called a rendez vous, it would be in direct challenge to the authority of the parliament he was pledged to support. If he refused and allowed the demobilisation to go ahead as parliament was ordering he was deserting the army to which he’d given his life and honour. He could resign and walk away, but that would leave the army leaderless.

He could not know it, but a junior officer – in fact an officer of the lowliest of rank in the cavalry, a Cornet, was already planning to take action.

We will hear about what Fairfax decides next time. We will also learn that Charles does indeed have a sense of humour, and a very nice line in dry wit. And we will learn if the Presbyterian Junto will succeed in its attempt to seize control of England’s future.

[1] Gentles, I: ‘The New Model Army: Agent of Revolution’, p46

[2] Fraser, A: ’Cromwell’, p165

[3] Hopper, A: ‘Black Tom’, p215

[4] Hopper, A: ‘Black Tom’, p76

[5] Morril, J: ‘Denzil Holle’, ODNB

[6] Gentles, Ian: ‘The New Model Army’, p68




10 thoughts on “402 Enemies of State

  1. Thanks for another fine episode. Sad to see people struggling so hard to cobble life back together, when the entity that should hold competing interests and groups together (that would be the monarchy) fails because the current monarch refuses to engage with any viewpoint or interest but his own. Charles is supposed to be the hub of society’s wheel, but is incapable of being anything but just another spoke, with disintegrating effects. I have some sympathy for people like Waller and Essex and even Holles; they’re trying to deal with the strange new world in which they find themselves, to negotiate with other parties to solve what everyone sees as problems. The Scots tried to play the King card and found it worthless; looks like all the other factions may do the same. Can’t wait for the next episode!

    By the way, the podcast is wonderful for expanding my British English. Now I know what “whin” is. Isn’t “noddle” a slang term for head? And until this week, I had thought a cornet was a small trumpet or an ice cream dessert.

    1. I have a LOT of sympathy for Holles also; but also – not. They could have sealed everything off so easily. It would have been expensive., sure but they really snatched fefeat from the jaws of victory
      Yes you are right about noddle and I know! I can’t help imagining George Joyce with a dollop of ice cream on his head!

  2. I actually don’t have sympathy for Holles and co…snatching defeat from the jaws of victory seems about right to me. While they are navigating unknown seas, less hubris would have served them (Parliament Presbyterians) well I think, as well as serving a country reeling from civil war. Now that I am all caught up, the cliffhanger really bites…I know I can just read a book to find out what happens, but I’d much rather hear it from you. I really should have started with ‘great episode’…but will leave that here instead. More fish await you…be well til next time.

  3. One of the things so painful about this period (as a history buff) is just how stupid almost every decision taken seems to be. At least with the Wars of the Roses, for example, there was a real conflict that wasn’t likely to be negotiated away and people made a pretty conscious choice to go to war in pursuit of reasonably achievable objecti. Here, it seems time and again like everyone looks for the dumbest possible choice and then is surprised when things only get worse. It’s like everyone just decides to smash themselves in the face with a bat (baesball, cricket, take your pick) and then is shocked when they end up with a headache and fewer teeth that they can still locate.

    I’m not sure anyone, anywhere is happy with how things turn out, either. It’s a prisoner’s dilemma, but when people could have just changed the rules and talked early on time avoid the suffering.

    1. It does seem a bit like that, I agree. Especially in 1640-1; such an avoidable tragedy. Though it’s quite hard tounderstand the passions when you are not part if it; I’ve always thought that’s true of religion in these events; but Jonathan Healey’s insight that we nolonger have the reverence for Common Law they had then is also very interesting.

  4. I’m only at HoE podcast #159, but I wanted to let you know in real time how much I love your work!! I’m an American with an appalling lack of knowledge of European history that I’m trying to correct. Thankfully, I know just enough about LoR, Star Trek, and Monty Python to understand a lot of your jokes, and I really appreciate them sprinkled in amongst the history.
    Thank you for educating me in such an entertaining way!!

  5. Nice reference to the Leicester Tigers! Unfortunately, it does seem
    the Saints are the better side this season (at least judging by the last east midlands derby!). Seeing a match at Welford Rd is definitely on my bucket list the next time I am in the UK.

    1. Sadly you are right. But that is no reason for dropping the cheap jibes! Sadly it is also many years since I have been to see the Tigers – the place has changed out of all recognition I think, since I used to stand om a cinder hill. So if you do come over, maybe you can take me along!

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