407 The Peoples’ Distress


If the people of England had gone to war to build a better world, by January 1648 they were seriously unimpressed with what Utopia looked like. The issues that distressed the people were legion – taxes, religion, sequestration, omne daft ideas about equality, county committees – even Christmas! And when news of the King’s Engagement with the Scots got out, well,  some people saw that as an opportunity to restore the right order of things. Which would surely only come well the World was turned rightside up again, and the King Came Into His Own once more.

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1648 County Petitions

These are two of many petitions submitted by Counties, protesting at the way the new world was turning out in 1648

The Declaration of the County of Dorset, 15 June 1648

We the surviving inhabitants of the much despised and distressed County of Dorset, having, like the rest of the kingdom, long groaned under the oppressive tyranny of those whom we reputed for our redeemers … declare to the world what we mean to do for ourselves and the kingdom … Article 7: that we may no longer subjugate our necks to the boundless lusts and unlimited power of beggarly and broken committees, consisting generally of the tail of the gentry, men of ruinous fortunes and despicable estates, whose insatiate desires prompt them to continual projects of pilling and stripping us, and that we be not awed by their emissaries, generally the most shirking and cunning beggars that can be picked out of a County.

The Humble Petition and Presentment of the Grand and Second Inquest at the General Sessions, Delivered to John Bradshaw, chief justice of Cheshire and north Wales, April 1648

First we present unto your Lordship that we have for diverse years last past and yet do lie under an arbitrary and unlimited power exercised by most of the Deputy Lieutenants of this County in their taxing and imposing many great burdens and payments upon us in the name of mizes* (wherein they themselves bear the least if any share at all with us) and in levying the same upon our estates by distress without any Act or Ordinance of Parliament enabling or directing them thereunto and in particular we present the said Lord Lieutenants for lately assessing of four mizes upon the County … which tends to the loss of our property as freeborn Englishmen and is directly against the liberty of the subject and the law of the land for which we have lately and ever will engage our lives and estates.

* mize, or mise: to value a property or town for rating purposes


The World Turned Upside Down: Ballads

A traditional ballad, and the history fo the Diggers used for modern inspiration.

Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-dayes are despis’d, new fashions are devis’d.
Old Christmas is kickt out of Town.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

The wise men did rejoyce to see our Savior Christs Nativity:
The Angels did good tidings bring, the Sheepheards did rejoyce and sing.
Let all honest men, take example by them.
Why should we from good Laws be bound?
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

Command is given, we must obey, and quite forget old Christmas day:
Kill a thousand men, or a Town regain, we will give thanks and praise amain.
The wine pot shall clinke, we will feast and drinke.
And then strange motions will abound.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

Our Lords and Knights, and Gentry too, doe mean old fashions to forgoe:
They set a porter at the gate, that none must enter in thereat.
They count it a sin, when poor people come in.
Hospitality it selfe is drown’d.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

The serving men doe sit and whine, and thinke it long ere dinner time:
The Butler’s still out of the way, or else my Lady keeps the key,
The poor old cook, in the larder doth look,
Where is no goodnesse to be found,
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

To conclude, I’le tell you news that’s right, Christmas was kil’d at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time, Jack Tell troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die, rost beef and shred pie,
Pig, Goose and Capon no quarter found.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.




Last time we heard about the fallout from the Putney debates. On the one hand, some of the radical demands at least had been included in the Remonstrance of the Army, which Fairfax put to the New Model; but the more radical aspects of the Agreement of the People had been removed. We went Corkbrush field near Ware north of London; We saw how at that meeting, the Leveller inspired mutiny was repressed by Fairfax, Cromwell and the Officers, and the unity of the Army restored. But into all this came the news that Charles had done one of his famous bunks; and leapt from the Hampton Court frying pan into the Carisbroke, Isle of Wight fire, much to John Oglander’s distress.

I am not going to lie to you, Sir John was quite right – Carisbroke was not a good choice. Charles is an odd combination of political acumen, firmness of purpose, resilience – and the unerring ability to mess things up just when it’s going his way. This was just such a time. He was completely out of it on the Isle of Wight, totally isolated. So despite the super secret Engagement with the Scots, at a ‘never will I tell anyone cross my heart and hope to die’ level of secrecy, he could not have been worse placed to do anything to help; he was literally the other end of Britain to Scotland. From now on he will try multiple efforts to escape. In the words of Rainbow, since the Scots were gone, these four walls were closing in.

And when I say secret…well, hmm. Charles’ security was as tight as a bowl of porridge; historian Charles Carlton takes us through the king’s obsession with writing; 150 letters in 1648 alone have survived, and he calculates he may have written as many as a thousand letters that year. And you can understand why, I suppose; he must have been so frustrated at the lack of control, when he’d spent most if his life handing out orders. He wrote in code, and had absolute confidence it was unbreakable. And anyway, he had absolute confidence that no one could possibly betray him.

Neither of these things were true.

Though what is true, is there was an unending stream of ordinary people around him willing to risk their lives and fortunes to help him. And Charles was at his best with these people, who were on his side – gracious, warm, grateful. His laundress Mary Wheeler picked up and left messages under the rug in his room and got them to the outside world. The same goes for Mrs Dowcett, wife of the kitchen clerk, who also smuggled out notes despite being utterly terrified at being caught. Charles was good as a party leader, he inspired loyalty, with those who shared his views. His valet Henry Firebrace was constantly loyal, and they talked together for hours. Charles never stood on his dignity with him. As we’ve seen, even Fairfax, Ireton and Cromwell had been duped into thinking here was a man of integrity.[1]

But Charles’ integrity had its own rules, as all three of them had found out, and both Cromwell and Ireton were no longer under any illusion. Those rules didn’t include being straight with rebels whose motives he would never pay the courtesy of respecting or even believing. As had yet again proved with the secret engagement with the Scots. And the point of me talking about Charles’ touching, but misplaced faith in his security arrangements, was that no sooner was the Engagement buried in lead in John Berkely’s garden, than the news was running around parliament.

Who were now done with all the duplicity and the lies and the half truths too. On 3rd January 1648 in the Commons there was a repeat of the proposal Marten and the Radicals had made a few months ago to stop speaking to the king and simply impose a settlement. A vote of No Address. It hadn’t stood a snowball’s chance in a laundry room back then. But times had changed. Cromwell and Ireton now both spoke strongly in favour of the Vote of No Address. In a speech that made a great impression on MPs Cromwell the orator turned up rather than Cromwell the rambler who had been at Putney; partly because this was time for action

Look on the people you represent and break not your trust and expose not the honest party of the kingdom who have bled for you…for want of courage and resolution’

And of course reached for the bible, Job, as the Interwebs tell me,

That the hypocrite reign not, lest the people be ensnared

Cromwell will of course also be covered with charges of hypocrisy before we are done. Anyway, the speech seems to have made a great impression, maybe also because he put his hand on his sword hilt as he concluded. The vote of No Address was passed with a large majority, despite the opposition of the Presbyterian faction, who would seek to undo the Vote as soon as they were able. It struggled to pass in the Lords too, opposed by Manchester and Warwick, until Saye and Sele returned to whip people back into line. Meanwhile, everyone waited to see what the Scots would now do.

Austin Woolrych the historian was, on odd occasions, a man of very forthright views. Of the Engagement he has one of those moments; he describes it as a foolish bargain on both sides. On the grounds that the ability of the Scots to follow through with a competitive army was always very moot; and that it was an absurdly risky gamble for Charles, once again rejecting negotiation, and facing universal condemnation if he visited war on his people again and lost. And as already noted – he was comprehensively in the wrong place to help fly the banner for his party. And the shame pf that for him, was that things were actually going his way in the hearts and minds of the people. Most folk now were heartily sick of all this, all the violence and turning upside down nonsense, there was a yearning for the Good old Days, and a growing conviction that things could not get back to normal until the king enjoyed his own again, in the words of the song. With a bit of patience, who knows what impact public opinion might have had to the negotiating process[2].

For the moment, let me just note that Hamilton’s task in getting the Engagement accepted north of the border was not trivial, so an army will not be appearing over the hills any time soon. Which meant that the English had the time and space to reflect that this great effort, this effusion of blood and pain did not appear to have ushered in a new world of glory and bounty. In fact the opposite seemed to have happened, and it did all spookily seem to co-incide with when the king had exited, stage left, pursued by a bear in the form of the New Model Army. Which may be why the ballad at the time, the World Turned Upside down, was sung to the same tune as When the King enjoyed his own again. Though quite different to Billy Bragg’s version, which seems to feature quite a lot of throbbing guitar. Why don’t we have a listen? I’ll put both versions on the website-a doodle, and also the lyrics from the old ballad, because they do rather summarise neatly how many were feeling

[play WTUD]

Interesting, Christmas is in there, and we’ll come to that in just a mo. But some of these things were deeply practical which we have discussed at some length; this regards money. There were the new excise taxes, on things people really needed like salt, or ale. Then there were the monthly assessments to pay the army. Basically everyone, as I say looked back nostalgically to the good old days of Ship Money. And meanwhile the army that was the cause of these taxes were still around, apparently spouting some nonsense about the equality of man – well, some were inclined to bite their thumb at the Agreement of the People, just get your hand out of my wallet, you red coated tinker. Meanwhile, given the lack of pay, plenty of red coated tinkers were living under the roofs of honest Londoners with free quarter, so not paying anything for the privilege. The case of the Army Truly Stated my…my…bottom.

To add to that times were hard. We are in the little ice age, the weather is absolutely appalling and crops were failing, livestock illnesses abound; the coming troubles in 1648 would all have been better carried out, frankly, in swimming trunks and probably snorkels. The war had anyway driven a coach and horses through the economy – goods and horses had been requisitioned, towns burned, demand and rents plummeted; soldiers and armies brought plague and there were multiple epidemics, trade was shattered.

John Lilburne and the Levellers tried to harness the people’s distress, and went into a blizzard of pamphleting. In February, Lilburne was called to the bar of the  House Commons to answer for the frankly scurrilous petitions pouring scorn on parliament and the army grandees. On 19th he arrived to be met by a crowd of his supporters after a night of bible reading, and at said bar, with a packed house, Lilburne was all theatre, he revelled in that sort of thing, haranguing them for failing to explain to people what rights they were fighting for. Wildman followed him with what was described  by the Commons Journals as ‘a salvo of his rights as an Englishman’. None the less they were committed to prison again; but outside Freeborn John started declaiming sedition to the crowd of hundreds that had gathered. So, Captain Baxter tried to push through the crowd to arrest him, Lilburne cried ‘murder! Murder! Murder!’ and Elizabeth threw herself between her husband and the soldiers to protect him. He wasn’t murdered, but he was hauled away to prison once more[3].

By ‘eck Lilburne loved it, loved it all, I would bet my shirt on it. The pamphlets continued. The Levellers were now showing all the signs of a fully organized modern activist movement, coordinating pamphlets, having them printed, secretly distributed, organising protests – the works. And then in June the Lilburnes started their delightfully mis named newsbook, The Moderate. Yah, right, Moderate, that’s the word. All in all, The Levellers contributed powerfully to the general sense of crisis.

All of this was enough to make the old days look golden. But it was more than the practical stuff you could measure; the cultural stuff might have been even more important. One of those we have spoken of all ready – the World Turned upside down, women preachers, the county committees telling the gentry what to do; plus the radical ideas of equality from the Levellers. It was all part of a sense that the traditional leaders of society were being pushed around by bakers for crying aloud. And even if they were artisanal bakers probably producing sourdough and the finest Graubrot Rye for the discerning members of the volvo driving classes, for many it was still an abuse of the Great Chain of Being. A rhyme in 1648 caught the mood:
Come clowns and come boys

Come hober-de-hoys

Come females of each degree

Stretch your throats bring in your votes

And make good the anarchy[4]

And then there was religion and of course the elephant of the room – Christmas.

The civil wars famously were at least in part fought for religion. But what most people had been looking for was the re-establishment of the Elizabethan church they loved, and the rejection of the crypto Catholic Laudianism. What they got was a quasi presbyterian church, as arrived at by the Westminster Assembly. The Book of Common Prayer was banned, a new Directory of Worship was being established, or trying to be. I mean it seems to be the best argument for religious toleration has got to be a relief from all this chopping and changing. I mean here we go again. Henrician Reformation, Cranmer’s reformation, Marian Counter Reformation, Elizabethan settlement, Laudian Arminianism. Lord it’s so tiring. And sadly, not trivial – these are peoples’ immortal souls we are talking about.

Then there’s Christmas. Because although almost no one remembers the Putney Debates or the Agreement of the People, the thing everybody knows about the civil wars is that Cromwell cancelled Christmas. Except of course what everybody knows is that he didn’t. Or should know. Christmas was cancelled by Parliament, before Cromwell had any significant power, and was away fighting anyway.

Look, It is difficult to evaluate the impact of the cancellation of Christmas but it has to have contributed to the growing feeling that yup, this has been great, a lorra lorra laughs but I’m bored now – could we have the old one back again now, with the king and all?

Here then very briefly is the story of Christmas. The Solemn League and Covenant had promised to reform the church, and the expectation was that it would be in line with the Scottish kirk model, which is what many English Presbyterians looked up to – and in particular, one Robert Harley, Brilliana’s husband, who was tasked to lead a committee to draw up the report. The Scots of course had cancelled Christmas celebrations back in 1640.

The conclusion of the sub committee was that all this unbiblical stuff – feast days and festivals, all these pictures and decoration and things were nothing but a distraction, which got in the way of making direct contact with the God of the Gospels. Christmas was seen as particularly problematic, because the Catholic Counter Reformation had really emphasized it, the cult of Mary and the Holy Family; so Christmas began to look more and more like popery. Which as you know was not considered a good thing at the time. And so they should all go. With the exception of Sunday of course, though that must be properly kept, no bowling or boozing. Plus there’d be fast days, always a lot of fun, can’t beat a good fast day for a hooley; and there would be holiday on days of national remembrance, we must of course always remember the 5th of November. On 19th December 1644 came an ordinance banning Christmas. Before long, plays were also cancelled; the order lapsed in January 1648 as it happens, and plays sprang up like mushrooms, so they were banned again and this time the theatres demolished to boot.

The banning of Christmas needs to be seen in the round – it was one part of the evisceration of an annual round and a moral economy, if you like, which had been part of English society for, like, ever. The festivals and feast days had been tied into the turn of the seasons and the rural year, with things like Plough Monday. The festivals had also given a sort of social safety valve; look, poor people, you might have to do everything you are told for most of the year, but at Christmas we’ll give you a party, ply you with food and drink, there’ll be fun and games, even lords of Misrule who will make ordinary folk the boss for the day. Folks like John Taylor the Water Poet  on his travels in Devon wrote of

The poor labouring hands and maid servants with the ploughboys went nimbly dancing; the poor toiling wretches[5]

Then of course it all goes back to normal, but while it lasts, it binds people together.

Christmas cancellation became a culture war. There were blizzards of pamphlets written about it, and there are riots in which the Apprentice boys figure highly; in Bury St Edmunds in 1646 mobs of them roamed the town. When they came across a shop that was open – because of course you would, Christmas day is just like any other – they forced them to shut – because it was a holiday stupid. All over people resisted; the shops in London stoutly continued to close, people kept on being hauled up for decorating their churches with Green stuff. And of course behind closed doors people kept the traditions going; Anna Keay wrote of the L’Estrange family of Hunstanton, who kept their powder dry, and their Christmas birds well roasted[6], doing what they were told in public, but keeping the traditions going as far as they could in private.

Essentially, celebrating Christmas and the old feast days were held on to by many both because they loved the traditions – and to give two fingers to the new regime. But, the records of churchwardens show that bit by bit, communities might grumble, but they were going along with it; Ronald Hutton’s view was that if the Commonwealth had persisted, England would have gone the way of Scotland within a generation or two.

There is one more running sore distressing some of the people’; make some others jolly happy actually, but annoying to royalists. I have never quite found the right time to speak about it; this is the process of sequestration. Permit me 4 or 5 minutes – because it’s an important part of the world of the civil wars. Or Have I spoken of this before and forgotten?  Well, either way; essentially, from 1643 parliament needed to achieve three things. Firstly raise lots of money to fight the war; secondly discourage people from fighting for the king; but thirdly provide a system that did both of these, but also gave a way for royalists to wipe the slate clean, and come to terms with the new regime. The process they came up was sequestration; it allowed parliament to fine royalists who supported the kin in some way – by confiscating land. Delinquents as they called them. But the system also allows most of them to pay a fine and receive their lands back and all would be forgotten.

So, in 1643 Parliament set up two Committees; the Committee for Sequestration, and the Committee for Compounding for the Estates of Royalists and Delinquents. The Sequestration committee was plural actually, because there was one for every county. They confiscated the estates of those that fought for the King; these people were, of course, in the view of parliament, traitors against the state. So – estates gone. All estates were usually rented out and the income used for the state; or sold off and the money used to run the country.

But the committee said well look we know that’s a bit harsh so come and talk to us – us being the Committee for Compounding, which met in Goldsmith’s Hall in London. If the delinquent came along and said look it’s a fair cop mate. Caught me bang to rights fighting for the wrong side, very bad of me but I won’t do it again – then the committee might say alright, pay a fine and you can have your estates back. The fine might depend on just how delinquent you were, but generally the rule of thumb was a fine equaling 3 years’ worth of income. Once done – that was that, slate wiped clean. This was the process of Compounding – essentially reaching a final settlement, settling out of court. Well, settling in court. Whatever. Once you’d compounded that was it.

However, the committee they might not agree to offer this compromise, because you were just too delinquent, you’d gone beyond the bounds of forgiveness, maybe you were a general of the king or something, like the Marquis of Newcastle; and it also went worse for royalist MPs. So a ‘no deal’ was quite possible, and if you were in that situation you might want to make yourself scarce before your collar was felt.

That situation clearly left the super delinquent’s wife and dependents up the proverbial creek without means of propulsion, so wives could apply to retain 20% of the estate to their keep body and soul together.

That’s the process. Obviously royalists hated it; not just the financial aspect, but the humiliation of having to go cap in hand to the kind of people who to whom previously they would have grandly condescended; it’s part of the World Turned Upside Down thing. There’s an anonymous ballad about it, some lines of which goes like this:

The Gentry are sequestred all,

Our Wives you find at Goldsmiths Hall,

For there they meet with the Divell and all,

Still God a mercy Parliament.[7]

There’s an interesting wrinkle in the ballad about the role of women. It became well known that women were much more gently treated than men; for the somewhat patronizing reason that surely women could have had no hand in fighting or resisting parliament themselves. And so it was often the women who argued the case to the committee; Jane Cavendish, the daughter of the Marquis of Newcastle did that very thing and managed to save much of the estate despite Newcastle clearly being more delinquent than words could wield the matter.

With the amount of land changing hands, the system was open to abuse, and there is no doubt some land went places it should not have done – Arthur Haselrig I believe has a reputation for sticky fingers. But by and large, hate it though people did, the system seems to have been applied quite rigorously applied according to the rules, with a structured appeal process and rules generally fairly applied. Returning to the Cavendishes – after compounding Charles Cavendish, Newcast;e’s brother, was accused of cheating by a County Committee, the case was investigated and Cavendish duly cleared – though he was very clearly a royalist. None the less, accusations of corruption were legion, but while they can’t all have been sour grapes, the systems was by and large run according to the rules.

One the reasons for this was the honesty and rigor of one man used as legal expert for the majority of appeals; one John Bradshaw, a lawyer and Judge from Cheshire. We’ll hear more about Bradshaw soon, since history points the finger at him, and so his reputation has been trashed. Wrongly. He had defended John Lilburne, and John Milton; and Milton described him as

a most expert and eloquent pleader at the bar, an intrepid advocate of liberty and popular right’

Charlotte Young’s doctoral thesis, analysing the database of sequestrations, established a couple of things about Bradshaw; firstly that as Young puts it,

He was a good and honest man who was dedicated to his work, unfailing in his duty.

And secondly, that the extent of his work meant that he would have been very well known indeed throughout the government. That will be important come 1649. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Anyway, that’s as maybe, but no one likes being fined and penalized; so sequestration was a running sore and source of resentment. Although the number of cases had peaked in 1646 with the end of the civil war, there were still substantial numbers of new cases in 1648.

So back to the general picture; there are many reasons for the rising sense of disenchantment with Parliament and this new world; and Parliament sensed it. It worried them.

There was a limited amount parliament could do to make the world happy, without completely changing their religious path; but they did what they could. They instituted a monthly holiday for apprentice boys to make up for the festivals a bit. They began to delete excise duties. But the basic problem was the army and the monthly assessments needed to keep the level of arrears down.

So in the first months of 1648, Fairfax put in place a massive disbandment programme. This seems a bit risky; afterall, there is a war in the offing with Scotland, so they had to keep half an eye on that. But fully 20,000 soldiers were demobbed by March 1648, about 45% of the total. The majority were from the regional armies; garrisons for example, the Northern Army, and the contingents still in Pembrokeshire, which had been parliamentarian for much of the war. It was not easy; Major General Laugharne  in Wales was hopping mad, there were several attempts at mutinies. But Fairfax ruled all this with a stern, iron hand, a stickler for discipline and order was the General. The New Model was largely protected, but was trimmed to 24,000 soldiers, losing 4,000. Spookily, it turned out they choose soldiers from regiments that had cut up rough at Corkbrush field – Colonel Harrisons’ regiment for example lost a lot of men. Hmm. Wonder why that was.

But these were no where near enough to stop the taxation, and members of all political persuasion in parliament were getting nervous. Reports kept arriving of the king’s increasingly harebrained attempt to escape captivity in Carisbroke. On the anniversary of the king’s accession, 27th March, there were bonfires  blazing in London, and passing coaches were forced to stop, and their inhabitants asked to toast the king, asked in a meaningful and heartfelt way. The sort of way that seemed churlish to refuse. Or even life threatening to refuse.  On 9th April there were protests in London with the cry ‘Now for King Charles!’. Marchamomt Needham at Pragmaticus was having a field day

O England, dost thou yet want eyes to see How many rogues are digging graves for thee? Doth not thy very heart consume and pain, When thou considerest thy sovereign, Even with chains unto the earth is held, His sufferings being unparalleled. Seest thou not his religious constancy, His patience, care and zealous piety, And canst thou still give credit to these elves, Who suck thy blood for to make fat themselves.

That man, what a one eh? Journalism, tsk. And in Ireland, there was news that Ormonde and Charles were trying to stitch up a new coalition; and then in April Lord Inchiquinn, the parliamentarian commander in Munster turned his coat, and defected with much of his army to the Confederates. Then news came in of unrest among the regiments in South Wales. And there was news from Scotland at last.

It’s all very well for Lauderdale and the Scottish royalists to agree a deal with Charles, quite another to get it approved in Scotland. The Engagement took the body of Scottish opinion, tied it’s legs to one horse, it’s shoulders to another, pointed the horses in different directions – and then shouted giddy up. The Scots were being torn in two. The kirk, the Presbyterians, Argyll, David Leslie were resolutely opposed to the Engagement. The pulpits cracked with ministers’ thunder about the iniquity of the breach to the Solemn League and Covenant explicit in the commitment to invade England, and I quote

For defence of his majesty’s person and authority, and restoring him to his government

David Leslie point blank refused to command any army, which was a blow, and he and Argyl even considered a revolution a l’anglais – an army coup. English commissioners arrived in Scotland and pleaded with Hamilton not to do this. There were women’s marches and protests in Edinburgh and Leith with

A cry for peace and say their husbands shall not fight

They were ignored. Hamilton and Lauderdale had the crucial majority where it was needed. When Parliament met on 2nd March 1648, Hamilton and his allies defeated the Kirkmen of Argyll by a comfortable 30 votes. Feelers meanwhile had been put out to royalists in England, and of course there were still loads of reformadoes, unemployed old royalist soldiers, and they started to filter north to Scotland. On 11th April an ultimatum was sent to their erstwhile friends down in London. They demanded that the English parliament establish Presbyterianism, disband the New Model Army and take the king to London. A week later, when Neville Chamberlain had failed to turn up, they sent out the orders for mobilisation for 30,000 men, while around them the kirk ministers in the south and south west of Scotland beat the pulpits in outrage. English royalists under Marmaduke Langdale, erstwhile commander of the Northern Horse at Naseby, seized Carlisle and Berwick. In South Wales Major General Laugharne raised a rebellion, and published a declaration in support of the king

So that the just prerogatives of the king, privileges of parliament laws of the land, liberties of the people may all be established and preserved in their proper bounds

They then pledged themselves to the BCP. It’s a declaration that could have been made 7 years ago. So. It was civil war and external war all over again. Once more round the Mulberry bush.

The English Parliament tried to re-assure everyone that they had no designs on the king’s life and were committed to King, Lords and Commons; even independents like St John and Vane voted in favour. Cromwell wasn’t there, but even he, even now, would have joined them – though probably favouring an abdication in favour of the King’s son Henry. Prince James would have been more logical of course, being older than Henry. But James had just done a bunk. Let me tell you about that.




James, the future James II, had been held with his siblings Henry and Elizabeth at St James Palace. Charles was desperate for him to be out of parliament’s grasp so that he could not be manipulated, and he enlisted one Joseph Bamfield, a royalist soldier, spy and Charles’ trusted envoy to the Scots. Joseph enlisted the help of Anne Halkett, who suggested fitting James up in women’s clothing, and took his measurements to a tailor to get them made.

One evening after supper in April 1648, James pretended to play hide and seek with this brother and sister – but, presumably while being ‘it’, slipped out of the park. Banfield whisked him off to where Anne was waiting with the womens’ clothes and a Woodstreet Cake to help keep body and soul together. You’re going to ask me what a woodstreet cake is, and I am going to tell you that it is a

lightly yeasted fruitcake with a delicious rosewater icing that originates from Wood Street in the City of London, a street once famous for its baking.

So there you are. Anyway, Bampfield and James went on to a barge, to Gravesend and then over the seas to his sister Mary at the Hague. And so not available any more. And, plot spoiler, not the last time James will try to flee London in womens’ clothing.

As I say Cromwell was not at parliament during this reassuring vote, because he was on his way to a 3 days fast and prayer meeting at Windsor. There the officers of the New Model Army prayed together. They were troubled, they needed to understand why this renewal of war was upon them, what was God’s purpose in raising this new challenge; was it them? Had they done this? Where had they gone wrong? Cromwell urged his colleagues to make

A thorough consideration of our actions…to see if any iniquity could be found in them to….remove the cause of such sad rebukes as were upon us

Lieutenant Colonel William Goffe was the catalyst for resolution. He declared they were to blame for not following the ways of the lord, and William Allen the radical recorded that

None was able to speak a word to each other for bitter weeping

But they knew what they had to do. They must fight the enemies against them with ‘an humble confidence in the ways of the Lord’, and to

Call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to an account for that blood he had shed[8]

As Edmund Ludlow put it, the king had failed to govern according to the laws and therefore

The king had broken his oath, and thereby dissolved our allegiance; protection and obedience being reciprocal[9]

And Lucy Hutchinson thought the same

He had no intention to the peoples’ good

So…threatening words. Charles’ latest wheeze had better work. Because the New Model Army were angry. Very angry. And they knew that if they followed God’s dictates, they would be rewarded with justice.

Over the next few weeks there will be armed royalist risings in South Wales, Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Essex. In the North, Carlisle and Berwick had been taken by the Scots. And meanwhile petitions were coming in to parliament from all over, and who knew how many of them would turn nasty? Here’s the start of a beaut from Dorset,

We the surviving inhabitants of the much despised and distressed County of Dorset, having, like the rest of the kingdom, long groaned under the oppressive tyranny of those whom we reputed for our redeemers…

I will put the text of this and another to John Bradshaw in Cheshire up on the website [quotes sheet]. Meanwhile, at sea, it turns out that Thomas Rainsborough, their new Vice Admiral, was roundly despised by the sailors; the result was a mutiny in the fleet on the Downs. Which kind of vindicates Cromwell’s reluctance to give him the appointment in the first place. Rainsborough was dumped ashore by the mutineers, and nine ships sailed off to join Prince Rupert – and a new threat was born – a royalist fleet, that could head for the isle of Wight, maybe free the king.

In May Kent Surrey and Essex were in an explosive condition and 4,000 marched from Essex with a petition signed by 20,000, demanded the king be admitted to a personal treaty. On 11th May 3,000 armed men from Surrey with a petition invaded Westminster hall, and over a dozen were killed. Then in Kent open rebellion broke out and the Earl of Norwich appointed the Earl of Holland as commander; Holland who had turned coat more times than I have flipped pancakes was made their leader; by the end of May he had 11,000 men under arms.

If the New Model were getting angry with the renewal of conflict, the Derby House committee were getting panicky. Parliament ordered Fairfax to deal with the troubles in the south east, and Cromwell to go to Wales. So off they set. If the Scots could take this opportunity to attack, it could be all over, the New Model fatally split and fully occupied.

At home, Lillburne would soon be finally freed, and Needham celebrated, writing in Pragmaticus

Seeing Honest John is got loose, ‘twill not be long ere mr Speaker and Noll Cromwell be both brought to the stake

But this time Needham missed his target. Lilburne might be disappointed in the Grandees; but he had absolutely no doubt whose side he was on in a competition between Cromwell and Charles. He sent a letter by Edward Sexby to Cromwell telling him that while he fought the good fight

I am Yours, to the last drop of my heart blood[10]

A conditional offer it has to be said. But still, they shared years of experience, and that still counted for much.

So, to war.

In Wales, the rebel army had reached 8,000. They knew the big challenge would be Cromwell; but they had the great castle at Pembroke, and would have a better chance if they could wipe out Horton’s local force of 2,500 before the Bull of Ely could arrive. So, Laugharne attacked Horton at St Fagans on 8th May.

Now they say there’s a thin line between success and failure, and I’d like to tell you that this is the case here. But I’d be telling porkies if I did; Laugharne received a kicking from his numerically inferior opponent, and lost the better part of his men and fell back towards Pembroke. After taking Chepstow, Cromwell advanced through South Wales and arrived at Pembroke. Pembroke was big and strong, Cromwell only had light guns. He hoped Laugharne would see sense and surrender. Laugharne did not see sense and surrender. Indeed he farted in Cromwell’s general Direction, and talk turned to Hamsters and Elderberries. It was June, and Cromwell and his army faced a long siege. And in the north the Scots gathered.

Thomas Fairfax advanced decisively into Kent with 8,000 of the New Model. At Maidstone, occupied by rebels, he paused, but the blood of his advance guard was up and they impetuously attacked. Taking the town was hard, street by street, house by house. News arrived of uprisings in Cornwall and Devon, and a contingent was sent to restore order. Then on 1st June, in Yorkshire, Langdale’s men seized the great castle at Pontefract.

The rebel leader Norwich attempted to march on London from Kent, and came to Blackheath. London was in a panic, people rushed to their houses and slammed the doors in fear of the rebels. One of them was a young woman, Anna Trapnell, already showing signs of her future status as a prophetess. She wrote of what vision came to her then

I looked out of the window, where I saw a flag, at the end of the street. This word I had presently upon it; ‘Thou seest the flag, the flag of defiance is with the army, the king of Salem is on their side, he marcheth before them, he is the captain of their salvation

But Norwich was not to enter London; he was balked by the New Model, so turning, he took his remaining 3,000 men into Essex and proceeded to raise the county in rebellion there. And so enters into the story Sir Charles Lucas again. He has been in our story from Marston Moor – a tough, effective cavalry officer. He was on his home ground in Essex; the Lucas family were landowners around Colchester, Deeply unpopular landowners as it happens, having spent most of their time exploiting every legal loophole possible to advance their interests, and the locals had made sure they were first up against the wall when the balloon went up in 1642. And, harried by Fairfax, it was to Colchester that Norwich, Lucas and their rebels took themselves. The townspeople were any thing but royalists. They were not pleased to see them at all, but what can you say when 4,000 heavily men demand entrance and all you have is George who works at the pie shop and turns out on Saturdays with his Grandmother’s old shotgun?

Thomas arrived victorious from supressing rebellion in Kent, and hoped Lucas and Norwich would see sense and surrender. Lucas and Norwich did not see sense and surrender. It was June. It was unseasonably cold. Well, this is England, it was seasonably cold. It was unseasonably wet. Yes, even for England it was wet. It was time for a siege. Fairfax and the New Model were uncharacteristically bitter about this. The siege of Colchester has been described as the most bitter engagement of the war in England. It was June, and Fairfax and the New Model faced a long siege.

In Scotland, recruitment had been hard and contested. Parishes all over lowland counties had resisted, spurred on by their ministers. Leslie had continued in his refusal to have anything to do with the evil venture. And so Hamilton himself was appointed commander, and by July they had a force of 9,000, and some 1,500 of Munro’s men were on track to join from Ulster. With Cromwell still tied up outside Pembroke and Fairfax tied up outside Colchester, Hamilton steadfastly refused to listen to advice that they should wait and train their raw recruits. Time was of the exxence. He gave the order and they crossed the border.

Charles’ strategy to delay, obfuscate, promise and retract, offer and withdraw, do anything to buy time, his strategy had yielded the results he craved. He might well be stuck on the isle of Wight, but he was at war again, England was in flames. Second time lucky, eh?

We will hear whether the Second Civil War is lucky for Charles next time1 Exciting isn’t it? Thank you for listening, it’s very good of you, and I appreciate it. In the meantime, good luck, and have a great week.

[1] Carlton, C: ‘Charles I: A Personal Monarch’, p332

[2] Woolrich, A: ‘Britain in Revolution’, pp400-1

[3] Gregg, P: ‘Freeborn John’, pp234-6

[4] Healey, J: ‘The Blazing World’, p240

[5] Purkis, D: ‘The English Civil War: A People’s history’, pp233-243

[6] Key, A: ‘The Restless Republic’, pp 177-195

[7] Young, Charlotte: ‘‘The Gentry are sequestered all: A study of English Civil War sequestration’

[8] Gentles, I: ‘The New Model Army’, p113

[9] Hunt, T: ‘The English Covi; Wars: At first hand’, pp186-7

[10] Gregg, P: ‘Freeborn John’, p247





6 thoughts on “407 The Peoples’ Distress

  1. Always fun to see Marchamont Nedham popping up. I think he would be doing well in the Uk or the US in the 21st century.

    1. Oh he would be in heaven! Such a fun bloke, so delightfully outrageous.I suspect I would hate himif he was around now, but since he’ssafely 400 years ago, I can enjoy the show!

  2. The section about the navy mutiny had me thinking: do you have any plans to do a Shedcast on the 17th century navy? No worries if you don’t!
    I find the subject tends to be passed over in most histories. Maybe because the English navy was a bit rubbish at this time, especially compared with the highlights of the Elizabethan era and the glories of the 18th/19th centuries.

    1. Hi Same and yes! I became stuck with Britain and tghe Sea but will get back to it. In factthe Republic and Protectorate are a crucial time for the Engloish Navym and we have the first great English Admiral – Robert Blake

  3. A great pleasure to hear Maddy Pryor singing The World Turned Upside Down.
    People are naturally tired of the economic and social stresses and strains. I’m waiting for them to get tired of Charles’ determination to rule or ruin. Getting tired myself of calling him That Man of Blood – it’s TMOB from here on out!

    1. Ah you are right it is Maddy! The voice of English folk for me! I was worried that I could not find any reference on the YouTube sites, and so missed the obvious answer.
      And yes! It’s getting close!

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