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THE LADY OF LATHOM

CHARLOTTE DE LA TREMOILLE
COUNTESS OF DERBY
1599-1664

Countess of Derby

Of all the ladies who defended hearth and home in the absence of their menfolk, Lady Derby is probably one of the most well-known.

Born at Poitou in France, Charlotte was the daughter of the Duc de Thouars and Princess Charlotte Brabantine of Orange-Nassau. She was a grand-daughter of William the Silent and like her cousin, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, she came from the world of Calvinist royalty and the high nobility of Europe.

In 1626, Charlotte married James Stanley, Lord Strange, in a splendid ceremony in The Hague. But when the couple returned to the English court, they found little favour with either Charles 1 or Henrietta Maria and retired to their principal family seat at Lathom House, a few miles north-west of Manchester, where they lived quietly for the next fifteen years.

Everything changed in 1642. Civil War broke out and James’ father died, making him the 7th Earl of Derby. High-handed, confrontational and reputedly quarrelsome, the new Earl was no favourite with the Lancashire Roundheads; and Charlotte, regardless of her Huguenot connections, had no love for the Puritans – looking on them as rebels, not only against the King, but also against her own family. With the stage thus set, Lord Derby rode off to fight for Charles 1 … and Charlotte was left to hold Lathom House.

Lathom was a fortified palace, dating from the time of Henry V11. Surrounded by turreted battlements and a moat, it was difficult to storm and virtually impossible to bombard. The first summons to surrender came in 1643 and Charlotte replied with a indignant refusal. For the next few months, although a virtual prisoner inside her own walls, she was left in relative peace and was able to lay in supplies in the event of a siege and also to increase the size of her small garrison to a total of roughly 300 men.

Her precautions were to prove wise. In February 1644, the local Roundheads decided it was time to crush the nest of Cavaliers within their midst. Thanks to the presence nearby of Sir Thomas Fairfax, this began civilly enough. Charlotte was asked to leave, refused to do so, invited Sir Thomas to call on her and sent him away feeling reluctant to assault a lady of high birth in her own house. So far, so good. Fairfax left Colonel Alexander Rigby with instructions not to attempt to storm the house but simply to lay siege in the hope that Charlotte would eventually surrender.

She didn’t. Rigby, a fanatical Puritan and bitter enemy of Lord Derby, followed Fairfax’s orders to begin with because he’d been told that Lathom’s supplies wouldn’t last more than two weeks. Needless to say, the realisation that he’d been mis-informed made him rather annoyed.

The first shot in what was to be an eleven week siege was fired on March 12th, 1644. Charlotte and her garrison were ready and, on the following day, made a sally during which 30 of the enemy were killed at no loss to themselves. Other sallies slowed down construction of the Roundhead earthworks – so much so that it was three weeks before they were able to start using their cannon and even then their shots went too high to do much damage.

At this point, Colonel Rigby sent to London for a huge mortar. This fired grenadoes [a sort of bomb] and eighty-pound boulders on to the house and, for the first time, lives inside Lathom House were at risk. One grenado exploded close to the room in which Charlotte was dining with her officers; another demolished buildings in the courtyard; and a boulder smashed through the window of Charlotte’s bedroom.

At the end of April, Rigby resolved to use fireballs but presaged this by yet another summons. Charlotte replied that she’d set fire to the house herself and perish within it before handing it over to an insolent rebel. Then, as soon as the Colonel’s messenger had left, she planned a particularly daring exploit. At dawn the following day, her soldiers sallied out, drove the enemy from their works and captured Colonel Rigby’s mortar. In triumph, they hauled the hated weapon back to Lathom and rejoiced to see it lying amongst them like a dead lion.

Doubtless gnashing his teeth, Rigby now had little choice but to starve the garrison out. However, on May 27th came news that Prince Rupert was approaching and the Colonel wisely decided not to stay and meet him. The Roundhead army fled and the siege was over. Only six members of the garrison had died and Rupert gave Charlotte all of Rigby’s colours as a tribute to her gallantry.

After the defeat at Marston Moor spelled ruin for the Royalist cause in Lancashire, Lathom was again besieged – but this time it was captured and then razed to the ground.

During the 1650’s, Charlotte and her daughters lived in severely reduced circumstances on the Isle of Man. Lord Derby joined Charles 11 on the Worcester campaign of 1651 but was caught and executed in October of that year.

When Charles was restored in 1660, Charlotte campaigned vigorously but with little success to have all the the family lands returned to her son, the 8th Earl. She died four years later and is buried in the Derby aisle of the church in Ormskirk.

‘WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR’

Sir William Waller
1598 – 1668

220px-WilliamWaller

Everyone’s heard of Oliver Cromwell and yet, by March 1645, when Cromwell was still a subordinate officer, Sir William Waller had been leading a Parliamentary army for two years. So who was this man most people have never heard of?

He was born at Knole House in Kent but, when he was five years old, his father became Lieutenant of Dover Castle and the Cinque Ports so William spent his childhood there. He was educated at Magladen Hall, Oxford before travelling to Italy – where, with a number of other young Englishmen, he enlisted in the Venetian army and had his first taste of military action.

By November 1620, he was defending the Protestant cause of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and her husband, Frederick, the Elector Palatine. After the Palatinate forces were crushed at the Battle of the White Hill and Prague was over-run by the Austrian army, Frederick and Elizabeth – along with their one-year-old son, Rupert – were forced to flee through the snow, escorted by a few English officers. One of these was William Waller and another was Ralph Hopton – who I mention now for reasons which will become apparent later.

Returning to England, Waller was knighted by James l for services to both the Protestant religion and also, one would assume, to James’s daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia. He then married Jane Reynell [which whom he was deeply in love] and abandoned military life in favour of managing his father-in-law’s Devonshire estates. For the next thirteen years, he lived peacefully at Forde House near Newton Abbot.

When the Long Parliament convened in 1640, Waller sat as the member for Andover and was soon prominent amongst those in opposition to Charles l. Naturally, when the Civil War broke out, his previous military experience earned him command of all the Parliamentarian forces on the south coast; and during the first year of the war, he was the most successful of the Roundhead generals – taking Portsmouth, Farnham, Winchester, Arundel and Chichester. Indeed, he was so successful that the news-sheets nicknamed him ‘William the Conqueror’.

I’m not going to detail Waller’s entire Civil War career. Suffice it to say that his luck didn’t last. He was possibly not the most effective disciplinarian and was frequently plagued by mutinies among his troops. In 1643, he was soundly defeated by Sir Ralph Hopton at Roundway Down [the battle the Cavaliers liked to call Runaway Hill] and, in ’44, was mauled by the King at Cropredy Bridge. [Both feature in The Black Madonna]. His military career ended in 1645 with the Self-Denying Ordinance – the decree which said members of Parliament had to resign either their seat in the House or their military commission.  Interestingly, Cromwell managed to keep both.

In the years that followed, Waller was a notable Presbyterian leader of the House of Commons and a bitter enemy of the Army commanders.  He was driven  into brief  exile in 1647, was one of the Members purged from the Commons in 1648 by Colonel Pride [see Garland of Straw] and subsequently suffered at least two spells of imprisonment. Finally, in the later 1650s, he was driven to contact the exiled Royalists – though this earned him no reward at the Restoration.

On a personal level, Waller had all the sterling qualities of a medieval knight. He was brave, honourable and deeply religious. He was one of many moderate, humane men on both sides of a terrible civil conflict. And the main reason I’ve chosen to add him to my Who’s Who list, and possibly also one of the best reasons to remember him is contained in a letter he wrote to Sir Ralph Hopton – his friend for more than twenty years but now also his enemy – on the eve of the battle of Lansdown in 1643.

The great God, which is the searcher of my heart, knows with what a sad sense I go upon this service and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy.’

THE CHEAPSIDE HOARD … AND LUCIANO DEL SANTI

Selection of items from the Cheapside Hoard. The Cheapside Hoard was uncovered by workmen during demolition work at 30-32 Cheapside in 1912. The three tenements had been the property of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths for centuries. The hoard was discovered buried under the floor and the reason for its burial remains a mystery. What the workman uncovered was the greatest hoard of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery ever found. The hoard constitutes the stock-in-trade of a working goldsmith; it contained finished and unfinished articles, loose gems and a variety of finished jewels.
Selection of items from the Cheapside Hoard. The Cheapside Hoard was uncovered by workmen during demolition work at 30-32 Cheapside in 1912. The three tenements had been the property of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths for centuries. The hoard was discovered buried under the floor and the reason for its burial remains a mystery. What the workman uncovered was the greatest hoard of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery ever found. The hoard constitutes the stock-in-trade of a working goldsmith; it contained finished and unfinished articles, loose gems and a variety of finished jewels.

Some of you who follow me on this site have asked whether I’ve seen the Cheapside Hoard at the London Museum. In fact, I visited it some years ago and returned yesterday to see the extended exhibition – which is both amazing and fascinating.

The collection defies description, so I won’t try. I’ll merely say that I fell in love with some of the daintiest pendants I’ve ever seen; that the emerald salamander [photo below] is barely more than an inch long but beautifully-detailed; and that my personal favourite was the emerald  parrot [see above] which is no larger than the nail on my little finger – but perfectly recognisable.

Thanks to a surge in publicity lately, I imagine most people at least know of the Hoard’s existence – but due to what I’ll call the ‘Luciano connection’, I thought it might be interesting to fill in some background information.
Basically, the Hoard is an unbelievably large collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewelry, coins and uncut gems. It was discovered in June, 1912 by workmen demolishing numbers 30-32 Cheapside, on the corner with Friday Street. The men found it buried in the earth floor of a cellar, caked in mud and virtually unrecognisable as what it actually was. Finds of various nature were not uncommon in London at that time and a gentleman known as Stony Jack Lawrence had for years been trying to teach workmen that even the merest fragment of metal or pottery could have archaeological significance.
Stony Jack was a number of things; collector, antiquarian and pawnbroker as well as library assistant for the Guildhall Museum. When he received the first installment of the Hoard – there were several of them – he realised that there was only one possible home for it. Within two days, he had been appointed Inspector of Excavations for the London Museum – but the incredible discovery was kept severely under wraps for a further two years. Not until March, 1914 did the Hoard go on display to the public in the Gold and Silver Room of the museum’s new home in Stafford House.

One naturally marvels at the sheer wealth of the collection and the many exquisitely-crafted pieces … but the inescapable questions arise. Who buried it in that cellar – and when – and why?

43b

Well, there are plenty of possible theories and only one fairly conclusive fact.
The part of Cheapside where the Hoard was found was known as Goldsmiths’ Row and most, if not all, of the properties were owned and leased out by the Company of Goldsmiths. This, and the large number of uncut stones from places as far apart as Russia, South America and India along with certain unfinished pieces, suggest that the Hoard was stock of a working goldsmith.

As for the rest, if we can answer the ‘Why?’, we’ll probably also know the ‘When?’
As we are all aware, there were frequent outbreaks of Plague – most notably in 1625,1636 and 1665. But generally speaking, men of substance were able to flee the City for the duration and would almost certainly have taken their valuables with them.
The Great Fire of London might be a possibility – except that it took two days for the blaze to reach the west end of Cheapside. Shopkeepers there had plenty of time to remove their valuables and it’s hard to believe a goldsmith would choose to bury items of such value beneath premises that might well be burned down.
This leaves us with the Civil War. Did our goldsmith quit his trade to fight for one side or the other? Unlikely, I’d have thought – though if he went to war and never came back, it would account for him not retrieving his treasure. Or did he bury the Hoard because he was going away and was unable to either take it with him or entrust it to someone else?
This last, if you’ve read The Black Madonna, is obviously my favourite.

And finally to the ‘Luciano connection’. When I originally wrote The Black Madonna [back in 1991]I didn’t know of the Hoard’s existence until the book was more than half-written. Consequently, by the time I did learn of it, I had already set Luciano del Santi’s goldsmith’s shop on the corner of Friday Street and Cheapside – and thus, purely by accident, created a coincidence that was just too delicious to resist.
And since, to this day, nobody knows the real answers to the mystery of the Hoard and there is nothing amongst what we do know to contradict my fictional theory,  I think it is probably as good a suggestion as any other.

The extended exhibition runs until April 27th and is well worth a visit.  Magnifying glasses are supplied!

THE KING’S CHAMPION

James Graham 1612 to 1650
5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose

_Honthorst_-_James_Graham,_1st_Marquess_of_Montrose,_1612_-_1650._Royalist_-_Google_Art_Project

Portrait by Gerrard von Honthurst

I should begin by saying that, since Montrose is one of my great heroes, I won’t be making any attempt to be unbiased here. This one is personal.

Born at Montrose and heir to one of the most ancient and noble Scottish families, James Graham might well be described as the perfect Renaissance gentleman. He was a soldier, a scholar, a poet and the epitome of Christian chivalry. He rode well and was extremely athletic; he enjoyed books and the arts and held deep religious convictions. He was also very good-looking – curling chestnut hair, clear grey eyes and a splendid figure.

When Archbishop Laud’s new prayer book was introduced in Scotland in 1637, Montrose – though a Royalist – was one of the first to sign the National Covenant. Originally, he didn’t see this as opposition to the Crown. He saw it as a matter of spiritual liberty and, initially, even fought in the Bishops’ Wars of 1639-40 until doubts set in, causing him to distance himself from the increasing despotism of the Kirk. This brought him into conflict with Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll – with the result that Montrose, by now in direct contact with Charles 1, was imprisoned for five months without trial.

Montrose finally joined the King in Oxford in 1643 and, in March of the following year, rode north as His Majesty’s Lieutenant-General in Scotland. With only two companions but recruiting as he went, he winnowed his way through the Covenant-dominated lowlands to his home territory of Perthshire; and there, in July, his thousand or so Highlanders were joined by 1,600 Irishmen led by the somewhat colourful Alasdair Coll Keitach.

As Max Hastings puts it in his outstanding biography, The King’s Lieutenant-General had been granted the steel spearhead of an army. Montrose’s Year of Miracles had begun.

Inevitably, this little army was ill-armed and poorly-equipped. But in August 1644 at Tippermuir, Montrose defeated a force twice the size of his own and took Perth. A month later, it was the turn of Aberdeen – by which time Argyll was giving chase. It is worth noting here that, due to Argyll’s seizure of their lands, both the Highlanders and the Irishmen were blood enemies of the Clan Campbell.

Drawing the Covenanting army out of England was exactly what Montrose had been hoping for but his own inferior numbers made it necessary to lead Argyll a merry dance, rather than be brought to battle at a time and place not of his choosing. In October and virtually out of ammunition, he was at Fyvie Castle melting pewter chamber-pots down to make bullets. And then, as winter was setting in, he and his small army did the impossible.

They vanished into the sow and ice of the Grampians, crossing the mountains in severe weather and with little suitable clothing. Their journey covered some 200 miles and, tiring of both pursuit and the freezing conditions, Argyll retired to his castle at Inverary – a decision he was to regret when Montrose’s force arrived without warning in January of 1645 and the Irish and Highlanders book both the castle and their long-awaited revenge.

The Annus Mirabilis continued. Montrose triumphed at Inverlochy in February, Auldearn in May and Alford in July. His victory at Kilsyth in August made him master of Scotland. Glasgow opened its gates and Edinburgh freed its Royalist prisoners. It seemed the moment was now ripe for Montrose to march south and mend the King’s fortunes in England.

It was not to be. The Highlanders and Irish refused to march south with the Clan Campbell in their rear. Consequently, Montrose left Glasgow with only six hundred men to face six thousand under the command of David Leslie. The result was a foregone conclusion. Montrose was utterly defeated at Philiphaugh near Selkirk in September and the Year of Miracles was over.

Now a fugitive, Montrose fled to the continent. He was hailed as a hero in Vienna and Paris, given a Marshal’s baton by the Emperor and offered high military command by Mazarin. It is also possible that, at this time, he formed a close relationship with Rupert of the Rhine’s sister, Princess Louise, and that they planned to marry. This may be no more than a charming story – or it could be true. The portrait of Montrose [above] is ‘attribulted’ to Gerard Honthurst – but Louise was a talented artist who had studied under Honthurst. Since her family was always short of money, she needed to sell her work and some of it was signed by Honthurst because his name fetched a higher price than her own. So did Honthurst paint Montrose – or did Louise? Sadly, we’ll never know.

Time wore on but Montrose’s loyalty and hopes were still with the Royalist cause and in April 1650 he returned to Scotland with a few hundred men from Orkney and a handful of Danes. Three weeks later, his forces were annihilated at Carbisdale. Former friends who might have helped him didn’t and he was captured. Under the auspices of his old enemy, Argyll, he was executed at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh on May 21st.

His last words from the scaffold were:

I leave my soul to God, my service to my prince, my goodwill to my friends, my and love and charity to you all.

His head was placed on a spike at the Tolbooth prison and his limbs severed for distribution to Glasgow, Stirling, Perth and Aberdeen.
montrosegraveEleven years later on May 11th, 1661 while Argyll lay in a dungeon awaiting his own fate, the people of Edinburgh lined the streets as the remains of the Lord Marquis were given a State Funeral and interred in a magnificent tomb in St Giles’ Cathedral. The King’s Champion was finally laid to rest with all the honour that was his due.

The inscription below the effigy are words of Montrose’s own, written whilst awaiting execution.

Scatter my ashes, strew them in the air;
Lord! Since thou knowest whence all these atoms are,
I’m hopeful thou’lt recover once my dust,
And confident thou’lt raise me with the just.

I’ve visited Montrose’s tomb many times over the years. It’s not just beautiful; it’s a little oasis of tranquillity where one may sit for a while and remember a remarkable man. Like other visitors, I’ve always left a small tribute – my preference being for a single red rose. But on one occasion when this wasn’t possible, I left a large purple thistle. I don’t say the one in the photograph above is mine – but it very well could be.

And a brief footnote to this tale of two Marquises …
On May 27th 1661, the Marquis of Argyll was also executed at the Mercat Cross and his head placed on the same spike previously occupied by Montrose. I call this fitting. Argyll’s tomb lies on the opposite side of the nave of St Giles’ Cathedral to that of my hero.
I have never seen it.

He gained, then lost it all

MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN LAMBERT
1619 TO 1684

John_Lambert_painting_s

Lambert was born the same year as Rupert of the Rhine and, like Rupert, would have been just twenty-three years old when the Civil War began. I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for him – which anyone who has read Garland of Straw, where he features as Gabriel’s superior officer, will already know. And he’s back in The King’s Falcon – this time as Eden’s commander between Scotland and Worcester.

Some of the Roundheads – such as Cromwell, for example – who were leading players in the conflict were born around the turn of the seventeenth century and didn’t achieve prominence until they were well into their forties. Others, like Ireton and Lilburne, died before reaching that age. By the time John Lambert was forty, he had achieved everything and lost it all … and he spent his remaining years in prison.
How did that come about?

Lambert was born in West Yorkshire.  He began his military career as a Captain in Fairfax’s cavalry and was a Major-General by the young age of twenty-eight – a swift rise which reflects his strategic brilliance.  He fought at Marston Moor in 1644, Preston in 1648, Dunbar in 1650 and played a vital role in the victory at Worcester in 1651. He was popular with his own men and the Cavaliers disliked him less than most of the other Roundhead leaders – probably because he was less Puritanical. He kept his religious views to himself, was a cynical realist and combined ambition with a gift for intrigue.  He lived in style with his wife, Frances, at Wimbledon House where his hobby was cultivating tulips – on which he spent a great deal of money.

Having covered it in detail in Garland, I’ll pass over Lambert’s involvement in the complex politics of 1647-49 and simply say that he had no sympathy at all with the radicals and wasn’t one of the regicides. But in 1653, he engineered the dissolution of the Barebones’ Assembly and produced the first draft of a document which led to the establishment of the Protectorate. This is interesting because I get the impression that he didn’t particularly like Cromwell – and Cromwell clearly didn’t understand Lambert at all, describing him as ‘bottomless’. Certainly Lambert opposed the move to make Cromwell king or the Protectorate hereditary – a stand which led to his dismissal.

In May 1659, after the death of Cromwell and the overthrow of his son, Richard, Lambert regained his previous military commands when the Rump was recalled.

But this is where everything seems to have gone awry.

Following [yet another] quarrel between Parliament and the Army, Lambert repeated history by expelling the Rump. This drew General Monck down from Scotland to restore civil authority and – inexplicably, to me at least – Lambert’s troops deserted him rather than fight. The result was that he was captured and put in the Tower. He escaped, tried to rally the Army in a last ditch attempt to prevent the Restoration – and was recaptured. In 1662, he was tried, condemned to death, reprieved and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent his remaining twenty-two years as a captive – first on Guernsey and then on Drake’s Island in Plymouth Sound.

Perhaps Lambert’s tragedy was that he reached his peak too soon and couldn’t accept that his meteoric rise might come to an abrupt end. It’s true to say that, if he had been less ambitious, he might not have begun the troubles of 1659 which resulted in the Restoration; but equally, if his principles had been of the more flexible kind, he might have gained further honours by betraying his friends and throwing in his lot with Charles the Second.

At the end, Lambert plainly did what he’d always done – he stuck to his guns. And for two decades, the intelligence and courage of a natural leader were utterly wasted.

In the words of one of the great Cavalier heroes, horribly murdered nine years before the return of the King …

He either fears his fate too much or his deserts are small,
Who puts it not unto the touch, to win or lose it all.

James Graham, Marquis of Montrose

One of the ‘Roaring Boys’?

Lord George Goring 1608 to 1657

When he was twenty-one years old, George Goring married the daughter of the millionaire Earl of Cork. She brought him an impressive dowry of £10,000 – which he soon squandered on cards, dice and debauchery before taking military service in Holland. By the time he was thirty, he had acquired a reputation as a gambler, a libertine and a soldier.

George_Goring,_Baron_Goring_after_Sir_Anthony_Van_Dyck

The famous siege of Breda in 1637 left Goring with a shattered ankle, a permanent limp – and presumably also permanent pain – but he didn’t let this stand in his way and, when he returned to England, he accepted the post of Governor of Portsmouth.

The Earl of Clarendon [who plainly didn’t like him!] declared that, ‘he would have broken any trust or done any act of treachery to satisfy an ordinary passion or appetite.’ A severe criticism perhaps, but not unjustified. Goring’s actions between 1640 and 1642 don’t do him much credit. He managed to convince Parliament of his loyalty whilst making Portsmouth a base for the King; he was deeply involved in the Army Plots of 1641 but betrayed both of them to the Commons; and when the Civil War began, he declared openly for Charles 1 but surrendered Portsmouth within a month and decamped for Holland.

He didn’t remain abroad for long. Once back in England, he distinguished himself as a cavalry leader in the north, was taken prisoner in 1643 and released in 1644. He commanded a wing of the Royalist Horse at Marston Moor where he acquitted himself well against Fairfax only to be routed by Cromwell – and it was at this point that the rot seems to have set in. Goring had always been unreliable and was notorious for letting his men run amok. But after Marston Moor he appears to have started hitting the bottle with serious regularity whilst going out of his way to become a thorn in Prince Rupert’s side.

In the latter, he was ably assisted by Lords Wilmot and Digby – the three of them joining forces to intrigue against Rupert and to obstruct him at every turn. Inevitably, this constant ill-feeling and the resulting arguments was to eventually prove disastrous to the King’s cause.

In August 1644, Goring – now Captain of Horse in the West Country – let the Roundhead cavalry slip through his fingers at Lostwithiel but redeemed himself with a gallant showing at the battle of Newbury two months later. However, the following year saw him refusing to join Rupert before the battle of Naseby, preferring to spend his time in idle, largely drunken resentment – occasionally punctuated by bursts of action. During the next few months, he lost Taunton and caused a local rebellion by letting his men loot homes and kill livestock. By the time the Roundheads wiped him out at Langport in July 1645, he was widely regarded as ‘the evil genius of the war in the West‘.

With the King’s cause past saving, Goring went to the Netherlands and, from there, to command English regiments in Spanish service. He was to spend the rest of his days there, dying in Madrid in 1657.

So what do we make of this man who, both during his lifetime and long after it, was either loved or reviled? Egotistical, charismatic, pleasure-seeking, wasteful, intelligent, quarrelsome, brave? All of those things, probably. He had a way with the ladies and was the kind of rakehell more commonly found after the Restoration. He diced and whored and drank … but he also had a natural military talent and the ability to inspire men. He was wildly ambitious – and equally wildly irresponsible; and though he possessed the potential for brilliance, he rarely achieved it.

Nowadays, a lot of people probably consider swaggering, hard-drinking, sword-out-at-the-drop-of-a-hat George Goring to be a typical Cavalier. I don’t think this is true. He was more than those things – and many of his contemporaries were none of them. But there seems little doubt that he was one of the Roaring Boys.

The just, the valiant and the true?

                                                                                                                                                                              COLONEL  THOMAS  RAINSBOROUGH 1610 to 1648
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I should start by saying that the picture worries me. Rainsborough is described as a tall, powerfully-built man and we can see by his dates that he was only 38 when he died. So can this portrait really be him? I’d imagined him as being dark, dynamic and a little fierce. Instead, he looks calm and cuddly – rather like a favourite uncle. Ah well.

Rainsborough’s family had connections with New England – in fact, two of his sisters married Winthrops of Massachusetts. Thomas himself was brought up to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a sailor. After the onset of the Civil War, he served as Vice-Admiral for a while in 1643 but was then commissioned as a Colonel and spent the remainder of the war serving Parliament on land.

He became known for stern discipline, skill at breaking sieges and ferocity towards the enemy. He commanded a regiment in the New Model, fought at Langport, Naseby, Bridgewater and Bristol – where, on taking Prior’s Hill Fort, he put every man inside it to the sword.

But Rainsborough’s interest for us today lies less in his military career than in his part in the Putney Debates of 1647. [See Garland of Straw] He was the only field officer in sympathy with the views of John Lilburne and the Levellers. He opposed continued negotiation with the King aimed at reconciliation and demanded a new constitution with an extended franchise and political equality. Basically, he argued the case for ‘one man, one vote’. Since, at that time, only landowners had the right to vote this radical idea found immense favour amongst the common soldiers and none at all amongst Rainsborough’s fellow officers.

His most-often-quoted and therefore most famous speech included these words:-

I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore, truly, I think it’s clear that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government.

Nicely-put and perfectly true – but a cause of huge disagreement in the Debates. Frequently hot-tempered, Rainsborough at one point became so incensed with Cromwell that he shouted, ‘One of us must not live!’ The quarrel was smoothed over but it is unlikely that they ever became bosom friends.
At the start of the second Civil War, Rainsborough was again appointed Admiral of the fleet – probably in order to remove his dissenting presence from the Army Council. Unfortunately, his Leveller views were unpopular with the Navy which mutinied and refused to let him board his ship. Back to fighting on land, he was sent to help break the siege of Colchester – where he was responsible for the summary executions of Lucas and Lisle.

His next posting in the autumn of 1648 was another siege – this time at Pontefract where the Cavaliers had been holding out since the early summer. A quartet of Royalists attempted to kidnap him from his quarters in Doncaster but the attempt went awry and Rainsborough was killed.

His funeral at Wapping was attended by some three thousand Levellers wearing sea-green ribbons in his memory; and the younger radicals, to whom Rainsborough was a great hero, called him ‘the just, the valiant and the true’.

Thomas Rainsborough’s voice is not the most well-known – though I’ve seen numerous references to him just recently – but it is a powerful one.

THE GODLY CAVALIER

Sir William Compton

1625 to 1663

Sir_William_Compton_by_Sir_Peter_Lely

Portrait by Sir Peter Lely

William was the third son of Spencer Compton, the 3rd Earl of Northampton. He attended Eton between 1634 and 1636 and presumably went from there to either Oxford or Cambridge – though I haven’t been able to establish which. When the Civil War broke out, William was just seventeen years old but he fought with his father’s regiment at Edgehill and, when Banbury Castle fell to the Cavaliers four days later, Major Sir William Compton – assisted by Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Greene – became the Castle’s titular Governor. He also assembled a regiment of Foot under his father’s name … and, in a sense, they still exist today. Go to any Civil War battle re-enactment and you’re likely to find Lord Northampton’s green-jackets have set up camp.

I won’t go too deeply into Will’s time at Banbury. A large part of the garrison’s job was to keep Oxford supplied by raiding enemy convoys which made it a particular thorn in Parliament’s side and, even then, the town was a by-word for Puritanism. But until the summer of 1644, life in the Castle remained fairly quiet; mundane … possibly even tedious. And then the Parliament’s first serious attempt to re-take it changed all that.

The Great Siege of Banbury Castle lasted for fourteen weeks while 3,500 Parliamentarians threw everything they’d got against the 320 strong garrison. By the time the King sent help, the Cavaliers had neither powder, shot nor food and had eaten all but two of the horses. Read the full story of this and what happened afterwards in A Splendid Defiance.

After the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Greene in December ’44, William was raised to the rank of Colonel and got full Governorship of the Castle He was nineteen.
So what was this rather remarkable young man really like? Plainly, he had physical determination and courage; equally plainly, he possessed sufficient intelligence and authority to make men follow him despite his youth; and, in addition, he seems to have enforced a code of behaviour born of basic Anglican piety on the garrison – doubtless no easy task. But there is one particular incident which speaks of a passion for fairness … and that was his reaction to the attempt of his elder brother [now the 3rd Earl] to cashier Captain Tyrwhitt in 1645. William took up the cudgels in Tyrwhitt’s defence, defying his brother and stating that no officer of his would be cashiered in his absence for an unproven offence. He didn’t win – but, by God, he tried.

The Castle was besieged again in January of 1646 – this time by Colonel Whalley – and the Cavaliers held out until the King’s surrender made their own inevitable. William seems to have spent a large part of the next two years travelling abroad … probably in France and the Low Countries, perhaps even fighting in the Thirty Years War. He doesn’t re-emerge until 1648, when we hear of him settling on the estate in Kent granted to him by his grandfather. And the reason I’m featuring him in my Who’s Who now is because he pops back on to my pages in Garland of Straw.

As a Kentish land-owner, William automatically became involved in the risings that were part of the second Civil War. Now a Major-General, he fought at Maidstone and was an officer in Lord Norwich’s small, ill-fated army on the miserable journey [dogged every step of the way by Colonel Whalley] that eventually meandered its way to Colchester. After Banbury, William must have hoped never to find himself in a siege situation again … but to his superior officers [notably Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle] his experience must have been invaluable. Colchester held out from July 2nd to August 24th before surrendering to Sir Thomas Fairfax. Lucas and Lisle were put against a wall and shot. Sir William ended up in the Tower of London.

In 1651, Will married Elizabeth Tollemache and settled down in Cambridgeshire. He doesn’t appear to have taken part in the Worcester campaign – but he doesn’t appear to have retired from Royalist activities either. During 1652, he joined five other erstwhile Cavalier gentlemen in forming a secret society whose sole aim was the restoration of Charles 11. This clandestine group called themselves the Sealed Knot and made at least eight unsuccessful attempts over the next seven years. But, as time passed, four of Will’s co-conspirators concluded that a fifth member – Sir Richard Willys – had become a double-agent and was betraying them. Once again, William refused to accept a man’s guilt without solid evidence – and was excluded from the Knot as a result.

In 1660, Sir William sailed to Holland to escort King Charles 11 back from exile. He became an active member of the first two Cavalier Parliaments, serving on various committees and, we are told, often providing the voice of reason. Sadly, he died at his home in Drury Lane after a short and apparently sudden illness on October 18th, 1663. He was thirty-eight years old.

Samuel Pepys wrote of Sir William that ‘all of the world was saying he was one of the worthiest men and best officers of state in England‘ and also added that ‘no man ever spoke ill of him.

But who, after his conduct at Colchester, christened him The Godly Cavalier?
A surprise here.
It was Oliver Cromwell.

The ‘Real’ Lady de Winter?

                                                                                                                                                                                       Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle 1599 to 1660

lucy-percy-countess-of-carlisle-van-dyck-1637

                                                                                                                                                                                              Portrait by Anthony van Dyck, 1637

I’ve always felt a sort of sneaking dislike for Lucy Carlisle based on the few things I knew about her. In certain respects, I may have done her an injustice; in others, not so much. Certainly, having taken the time to dig a little deeper, she’s a more interesting woman than I previously suspected.

Lucy was extremely well-connected.  Her mother was the daughter of the 1st Earl of Essex – and therefore the aunt of the Great Cuckold.  Her father was the 9th Earl of Northumberland; the so-called Wizard Earl, known for his interest in alchemy, who spent seventeen years in the Tower of London following the Gunpowder Plot, though it’s unlikely that he had any personal involvement in it.

In 1617, Lucy married James Hay – a match her father actually offered her £20,000 to refuse!  The following year, she had a son who died within a month and, in 1622, she suffered a near-fatal miscarriage – the result being that she never had children.  It was in that same year that James Hay was created 1st Earl of Carlisle and Lucy acquired the title that we know her by.

In 1625 when Henrietta Maria came to England to marry Charles 1, Lucy – already famed at Court for her beauty and wit – was having an affair with George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham.  This didn’t endear her to the new [and very moral] Queen and, for a time, Henrietta refused to have Lucy in her household.  It’s also possible that Carlisle and Buckingham hoped that Lucy might ensnare the King – though Buckingham, at least, ought to have known how unlikely that was.  At all events, Lucy’s affair with Buckingham – along with their friendship – ended abruptly when he became besotted with the Queen of France.

And this is where Lucy becomes entangled with fiction.  Alexandre Dumas based The Three Musketeers on an anecdote written by La Rochefoucauld – a gentleman who would have known both Lucy and Buckingham.  Rochefoucauld told of the theft of a diamond necklace belonging to the French Queen and implied that the thief was Lucy.  This, since one can easily imagine Lucy having all the fury of a woman scorned and taking her revenge, is not impossible … and it’s supposedly what led Dumas to base Milady de Winter on Milady Carlisle.

By the time Buckingham was assassinated in 1628, Lucy had managed to ingratiate herself with Henrietta Maria and though, since they had very little in common, their relationship had its ups and downs, she was one of the Queen’s favourites.   At this time, Lucy also established a salon where writers, poets and men with political influence gathered about her.

In 1635, Lord Carlisle [having Irish lands and monopolies] sent his wife to secure the goodwill of Thomas Wentworth, Lord Deputy of Ireland.  Once again, rumour suggests that Lucy achieved this by becoming Wentworth’s mistress.  And when, in the following year, Carlisle died and Lucy inherited his Irish holdings, the Lord Deputy’s favour presumably became even more useful to her.

As Civil War approached, Wentworth became one of Charles 1’s closest advisers and was created Earl of Strafford.  When Parliament sent him to the block in May of 1641, Lucy did something I find inexplicable.  She embarked on an affair with John Pym.  And when the King planned to arrest the five Members in January 1642, she passed on the information to her cousin, the Earl of Essex, so that Pym and the others could remove themselves from the House.  Why?  Did she blame Charles for signing Strafford’s death-warrant even though she must have known that he was forced into it by the very man she was now sleeping with?  Was she merely hedging her bets for the coming conflict? Or was she merely enjoying a little intrigue?  I have no idea.  I can only say that it casts her in a very poor light.

Throughout the first Civil  War, Lucy allied herself with the likes of Denzil Holles and the Earls of Holland and Essex – men who hoped to halt the growing influence of the Independents and the Army by making peace with the King.  And in 1648, during the second war, she redeemed herself a little by pawning a pearl necklace to finance Lord Holland’s ill-fated rising in Kingston-on-Thames.

After the execution of Charles 1 in 1649, Lucy’s anti-Cromwellian activities resulted in her spending eighteen months in the Tower but failed to damage her status as one of the most politically influential women of her day.  She appears to have been motivated – largely but not completely – by self-interest and, unlike many of her female contemporaries, she was never awash with religious fervour.  Whether one likes her or not, there’s no doubting that she lived life to the full and was a force to be reckoned with.   She died on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and was buried at Petworth in Sussex.

Dorothy Osborne wrote that the Countess of Carlisle’s letters should act ‘as models for wit and good breeding’ but added, ‘I am a little scandalised that she uses the word faithful – she never knew how to be so in her life.

Perhaps that says it all.

September 3rd

Just this once, I’m stepping outside the normal Who’s Who purely because of today’s date and it’s significance to Oliver Cromwell.

1649 Cromwell arrives at Drogheda in Ireland with 10,000 men. The storming and massacre took place eight days later

1650 Cromwell routs the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar

1651 Cromwell routs the combined army of Charles 11 and the Scots at the Battle of Worcester – the last battle of the Civil War

Read about Eden Maxwell at the Battle of Dunbar and Eden, Ashley Peverell and Francis Langley at the Battle of  Worcester  in The King’s Falcon – coming soon.

1654 Cromwell, having been Lord Protector for nine months, opens his first Protectoral Parliament. One guesses that the choice of date was no accident

1658 Cromwell dies at 4pm at the Palace of Whitehall

Celebrate or mourn – depending on your point of view.