Category Archives: The Cavalier Historian

A British Game Of Thrones

Imagine the scenario:
There was once a king of a northern country who had a distant claim to the throne of a country in the south. When the ruler of the southern land died childless the King of the North also became King of the South, and although there was one king to rule them both the two realms remained separate and continued with their longstanding enmities. When the king died his son came to sit on the thrones of both countries but the lords of the southern lands were not happy with how he ruled and so went to war against him. The land in the north supported the southern nobles for a time, then their support moved to the king, then shifted back to the nobles once more. Power ebbed and flowed until the king was finally captured and executed. What would happen now? Who would rule? Would the lands be united at last or continue divided and at war?

Sounds like the plot to a book in the style of A Game Of Thrones, doesn’t it? Yet this is real history. The history of Scotland and England. It is a history I had to grasp to enable me to write my novel ‘The Cavalier Historian’, and it is a part of the story which many people find fascinating. So, what was the situation between the two nations in the seventeenth century and how did that impact on the English Civil War?

James I

Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and granddaughter of Henry VII, died childless. The next in line to the throne was James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots and great great grandson of Henry VII. James VI and I (as he is sometimes known) moved from Edinburgh to London; England and Scotland were now united under one monarch BUT this was a dynastic union only, the Stuarts reigned over two separate and distinct countries even though King James wanted them to be united as one.

Part of the problem which James I faced was that the Scottish Church would not accept the High Anglican Church of England. When his son, Charles I, succeeded him he introduced a Scottish version of the English Prayer Book in 1637. The Scots responded with anger and rioting, culminating in a meeting of the National Covenant in 1638 which overwhelmingly objected to the prayer book; and when the General Assembly met in November 1638 all bishops were expelled from the Scottish Church which became fully Presbyterian. Charles put together a military force to bring the Scottish to heel, but didn’t like using soldiers from his southern kingdom to invade his northern one, so a settlement was reached under the ‘Pacification of Berwick’. The peace didn’t last for long, hostilities broke out again and Charles’s English forces were defeated by the Scots at the Battle of Newburn.

Charles I

This was how Charles I found himself to be the king of two kingdoms with a history of dislike for each other and widely differing views on religion. Once civil war broke out in England, with parliament looking to exercise more control over the king, his taxes, and the religion of the country, things got even more complicated. The English Parliament entered into a ‘Solemn League And Covenant’ with the Scottish Church and Scottish troops played an important role in the defeat of Charles I, constantly playing one side against the other from the outbreak of war:

22nd August 1643 Charles I raised his standard in Nottingham, formally declaring war on Parliament.

August 1643 The Solemn League And Covenant promised to preserve the Scottish Church and reform religion in England and Ireland in return for Scottish help against the king.

6th May 1646 Charles I surrendered to the Scots in the hope that they would support him as their king against the old enemy, England. At the same time he was trying to negotiate with the English Parliament – unaware that the Scots were doing the same!

30th January 1647 The Scots handed Charles over to the English Parliament and he was imprisoned at Holdenby House in Northamptonshire.

November 1647 The king escaped but was soon re-captured. From his prison Charles I carried out secret negotiations with the Scots, hoping for uprisings in England to coincide with an invasion from Scotland which would free him and put him back on the throne.

28th December 1647 An ‘Engagement’ was signed, with the Scots agreeing to support the king as long as he imposed the Presbyterian Church on England for three years.

Spring 1648 The uprising began in Wales and England, but the Scottish forces were delayed which enabled Cromwell to put down the Royalist forces throughout most of the country although the king’s forces held out under a long siege in Colchester. When the Scots finally invaded they were defeated at the Battle of Preston on 17th – 19th August 1649. This effectively brought the Second English Civil War to an end.

Charles I was in prison in England throughout this second war, and at the defeat of his forces was put on trial for treason, and executed. With the death of Charles I Cromwell invaded Scotland and brought it into his Commonwealth, but after his death Charles II became king and Scotland became an independent country once more. It wasn’t until 1707, during the reign of Queen Anne, that the ‘Acts of Union’ were signed in England and Scotland in which the two separate states with their different legislatures but with the same ruling monarch were ‘United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain’.

Union Flag

With such complex relationships between Scotland and England, as well as divisive politics and religion within England itself, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be conflict under Charles I. It is a period of history which makes for a great story and I thoroughly enjoyed the research I conducted for my novel ‘The Cavalier Historian’. I hope my readers will find the novel equally enjoyable!

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Experience An English Civil War Battle Near You!

In England we are lucky with the resources available to us if we want to learn about the civil war which tore our country apart during the 17th century. As well as countless books on the subject you can conduct research online or maybe visit the National Civil War Centre in Newark, but to get a real experience of what life was like when parliament rose up against the king we have a number of wonderful re-enactment societies.

Cavalry (copyright Sealed Knot)

Both the Sealed Knot and the English Civil War Society provide authentic re-creations of both civilian and military life, and the information they provided was very helpful to me whilst I was conducting research for my novel ‘The Cavalier Historian’. You may think that re-enactment societies glorify war but that is far from the truth, and those who take part in these activities would say that their aim is to honour those who died in battle as well as to educate people about life in the 17th century. I can well remember the re-enactment of a battle which I attended at Faringdon in Oxfordshire some years ago with its guns and smoke, its sights and sounds of civil war. The battlefield commentary explained tactics and weaponry, and as I strolled around the campsite I was able to see authentic artefacts and clothing. I certainly felt that this was a great learning experience for the whole family.

Musketeers (copyright Sealed Knot)

If you have never seen a re-enactment featuring Cavaliers and Roundheads I would heartily recommend it. Wherever you are in the country you should be able to get to an event hosted by either the Sealed Knot or the English Civil War Society. Maybe you will be lucky enough to see a full scale battle with hundreds of infantrymen on each side as well as artillery, cavalry, and a huge array of camp followers. Perhaps it will be the re-creation of a specific battle, or maybe just a fictional episode designed to demonstrate the art of 17th century warfare. If you are not able to get to a battle then maybe you can see a skirmish, which is much smaller and has a focus on infantry with only a few cannons or cavalry men.

Copyright English Civil War Society

Whatever event you are able to attend you should also have the opportunity to see what camp life was like during the civil war. Take the time to wander around the tented areas where you will see re-enactors dressed in authentic costumes and carrying out authentic trades. There may be blacksmiths and armourers, barber-surgeons and laundresses, as well as kitchen areas providing food for both the officers and ordinary soldiers.

Army camp (copyright English Civil War Society)

As well as re-enactments these two societies will also visit schools to give students a taste of 17th century life, or sometimes staff a whole house with a costumed population for a truly immersive experience (this is part of the premise of The Cavalier Historian). So, if you are interested in the English Civil War, or history in general, why not try to see a re-enactment this year? I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it!

Cannon (copyright Sealed Knot)

The Sealed Knot

The English Civil War Society

Lord Thomas Grey’s Regiment of Foote

Sir William Pennyman’s Regiment

National Civil War Centre

Upcoming events:

English Civil War Society Events

Sealed Knot Events

The poisoned witches – a scientific explanation for witchcraft

What would you do if someone told you that there was a witch living in your town or village? Most people in the western world of the 21st century would smile and treat it as a joke at best, and at worst as someone trying to stir up trouble. But things would have been very different in the past.

During the Middle Ages witches were thought to be behind many illnesses from fevered nightmares to sick animals and dying children. This supposed interference in the natural order of things was known as bewitchment and struck at regular intervals, blighting the lives of thousands of people over hundreds of years.

During the period of the 15th to 17th centuries bewitchment reached epidemic proportions with over 40,000 men, women and children in Europe being executed as witches.  It was not only the poor who believed in witchcraft, even well-educated people of the time feared the supernatural and the Vatican sent out a decree warning people against bewitchment.  England was no different to the rest of Europe and many witch finders made it their life’s work to hunt down witches, one actually took 250 people before the courts in just two short years. Witches were greatly feared, and witchcraft was punishable by death.

220px-uk_warboys_sideaA well-known example happened at a manor house in the village of Warboys near Cambridge in 1589 when a mysterious illness struck down the five little daughters of the Throckmorton family and seven of their maidservants. The illness bore all the hallmarks of witchcraft, and fear spread throughout the village. The distraught family called in doctors and church leaders to try to diagnose what was wrong (at the time many doctors were willing to accept the idea of witchcraft after all other available explanations for an illness had failed).  The sick victims at Warboys had all the classic symptoms of bewitchment – hellish visions, often of wild animals (one said she saw a cat tearing her flesh off); the bodies of those affected went into violent fits and writhed in agony on their beds.  Once it was decided that witchcraft was the source of the problem someone had to be blamed and, as with most cases at the time, it was an innocent local misfit, Alice Samuel, who was singled out.  Standard practice was to torture a witch, who would often be branded or held under water; witchcraft was so feared that it didn’t matter how much the accused suffered as  any method used to see the curse of bewitchment lifted was deemed totally acceptable.  Many people believed that if you scratched a witch to draw blood it would help to relieve the suffering of the person who had been bewitched and so this was done to Alice on several occasions.  After a year of continuous pressure Alice Samuel finally confessed to being a witch. As punishment, and to keep the village safe in future, she was hanged, along with her husband and daughter.

salemAnother well know incident of witchraft happened in Salem on the east coast of America.  The Salem Witch trials of 1692 played out in a very similar way to the Alice Samuel case, and Arthur Miller later wrote about what happened in his play The Crucible. In December1691 many settlers in Salem had been struck by a horrifying disease, similar in its symptoms to what happened in Warboys and, as in England, it was believed that the Devil was responsible. The town doctor was convinced that what was happening was the result of witchcraft, particularly as eight girls said that they had been bewitched; for the next year the young girls regularly testified in court against other town members. Based on the evidence of the children 152 people were imprisoned on charges of witchcraft, and although none of them confessed 19 men and women were found guilty and executed as witches.

Linnda Caporael
Linnda Caporael

So what was going on? Was there simply a widespread primitive belief in the devil and witchcraft, or was there something else behind these incidents? Professor Linnda Caporael is a Behavioural Psychologist who studied what happened at Salem. Many people believe that the girls had made it all up, but Linnda could think of no reason why they would have done that, or kept up the pretence for so long. The more she studied, the more she began to believe that most of what the girls had experienced had not been faked, particularly when they suffered from severe convulsions. Another factor which made her question accepted belief was that the girls were not the only ones to have experienced visions, many other men, women and  children in the village reported hallucinations to the doctors and clergymen. When Linnda re-read another account it made her think that the symptoms were very similar to those experienced by people who had taken LSD (acid) which is an hallucinogenic drug from the 1960’s. People who have taken LSD say that they experience hallucinations like living nightmares which are very similar to what the victims of witchcraft said in Salem.  This left Linnda with one big question – if the cause of witchcraft was LSD, where had the drug come from?

220px-albert_hofmann_oct_1993
Albert Hofmann

LSD did not exist in the 15th to 17th centuries, in fact it was not until 1943 that the Swiss neuro-physiologist Albert Hoffman experimented with a natural fungus called ergot whilst looking for medical applications for a drug.  As part of his experiments he made an extract from the ergot fungus, accidentally spilling some of it onto his hand.  Within hours he began to hallucinate. When he finally recovered from the horrific hallucinations he set to work and derived LSD from the extract.

Linnda Caporael began to look at ergot poisoning as a possible explanation for bewitchings.  The descriptions of the effects of the drug on people which she found in medical books matched the symptoms from Salem and she was convinced that she had found an explanation for witchcraft in nature.  The next question, then, was how the settlers had come into contact with the drug? As it was not only the settlers in Salem who were affected by witchcraft but their animals as well (cattle acted strangely and died of no natural causes) Linnda began to wonder if a food common to both humans and animals could be the source, so she began looking at grain.  The dominant crop in Salem was rye, so the question now was to find out how ergot could have got into the rye fields. To help her Linda looked at the work of fungal toxicologist, Professor Maurice Moss.

A fungus contaminates its host and gradually replaces the original seed with its own material so, Linnda surmised, if the rye in the fields was contaminated with ergot then the bread would have been contaminated too. This was important to her theory because the nerve toxins now contained in the bread would account for the hallucinations, pin pricking sensations, the feeling of insects crawling beneath the skin and the powerful fits which meant that the sick people could barely be held down by their friends and family.  Ergotamine (taken from the word ergot) is a drug used in Holland to treat migraines and has been shown to have constrictive powers which can lead to convulsions, and to the blood draining from the skin causing pricking sensations.

ergotonrye

Linnda then turned to look at the environment which, again, supported her theory. Ergot thrives in wet, damp soil, and in 1691 the Salem crops had been planted in low marshy ground.  For a mass infection of the harvest to take place it would have needed a warm wet spring and summer; the spring of 1691was stormy and wet and was followed by a wet summer, the crop grown in Salem was rye.  Most of the sickness was on one side of the village where the homes backed onto the western farms with swampy marshlands. Rye was also the staple diet in Europe in the Middle Ages which, if Linnda  Carpoael is correct, could explain the witch persecutions which took place so frequently; particularly as the poor peasant classes were hit most, and rye was their staple diet.

An historian by the name of Professor Mary Matossian has mapped outbreaks of witch trials which were localised in Britain – these were mainly, but not exclusively, in Essex and East Anglia – the surprising result is that the outbreaks coincided with the main rye growing regions.  As the weather conditions at the time were different to today, with wetter and warmer summers, the conditions were ideal for the formation of ergot on rye.

Grauballe man

Supporting scientific evidence for this theory about the causes of witchcraft comes from the ‘peat bog man of Grauballe’.  He was buried in a bog in Denmark during the Iron Age and found in 1952.  The man had been murdered with a knife and club then dumped naked into the bog – his throat had been cut from ear to ear and a blow to the right temple had fractured his skull.  Although this sounds brutal this ritual was often carried out if someone was thought to be possessed by demons, the fracturing of the skull would allow the demon to escape and the victim could rest in peace. A post mortem was carried out on the Grauballe man in 1952 and his stomach contents showed that his last meal had largely comprised of ergot.  Chemical tests on a gut sample showed that ergot alkaloids were present, therefore the man would have been hallucination, convulsing, vomiting etc. and would probably have been killed as a witch.

The most recent case of a mass poisoning happened in 1951 when an entire village in France had ergot poisoning caused by infected bread.  In Pont St Esprit (Provence) in August of that year 250 people were struck down, several were taken to hospitals and psychiatric asylums in the weeks which followed.  They were sick, had stomach cramps, couldn’t sleep, suffered from violent convulsions and terrifying hallucinations.  Many had to be strapped down to stop them jumping out of windows to escape their torment.  At least five people died during the outbreak and when ergot poisoning was finally found to be the cause many people did not believe the explanation.  The Bishop of Nimes was called in to exorcise the devil from the bakery which had been the source of the outbreak.  Interestingly, a dog which had been fed on scraps of the rye bread ran in circles and was biting at rocks until it broke its teeth on them and then died.  This was an exact parallel to what happened to the animals in Salem.

affaire-pain-rend-fou-avait-300x200

Cover_Kindle_front coverSo, was witchcraft really a problem in the past, or were bewitchments caused by ergot poisoning?

I am fascinated by the fact that scientific research is constantly revealing more about our past.  I have come to believe that the misinterpretation of ergot poisoning is responsible for reports of witchcraft over the centuries, and this is what lead me to write the conclusion to the story of Rebekah and Simon in my novel ‘The Cavalier Historian’.

 

An incorruptible crown – The Execution of Charles 1

Is it ever right to depose a ruler who has a legitimate right to rule? That is a question which  many people ask in the modern world where tyranny and democracy come face to face and conflict ensues. But this is not an exclusively modern problem.

charles-iCharles I was a monarch who believed in the divine right of kings, that God had placed him on the throne and so no mere mortal should be able to tell him what to do. This attitude meant that he was constantly at odds with Parliament who wanted a role in ruling the country, particularly when it came to setting taxes. Charles would not listen to them and constantly dismissed Parliament, only recalling it again when he wanted more money. To make matters worse, Charles was considered to be too close to the Catholics in his religious observances. Henry VIII had made himself Head of the Church of England, a position inherited by Charles, yet Charles married a Catholic princess and many people were afraid that he would take England back into the hands of the Pope. There was simmering tension throughout the country which eventually broke out into all-out war in 1642.

The English Civil War ebbed and flowed across the country. With The king losing ground in 1645 he surrendered to the Scots in the hope that this would help him, but instead his forces north of the border handed him over to the English Parliament and Charles was imprisoned. He refused to compromise and give up any of his powers, and escaped in November 1647. But his freedom was short lived; he was recaptured and imprisoned on the Isle of Wight. From his captivity Charles organised a Scottish invasion to coincide with uprisings of his supporters in England, but this attempt to regain power was unsuccessful and, by the end of 1648, the English Civil War was over.

Charles I was tried for treason in January 1649, still believing in his divine right of kingship and refusing to give up his powers to Parliament. He was found guilty and executed on 30th January 1649.

On 29th January Charles was able to say goodbye to two of his children who were under the control of Parliament. On the following morning he donned two shirts as the weather was cold and he did not want to shiver and make people think he was afraid. The execution took place in front of Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace. The most complete record of the only execution of an English king is an anonymous account which is quoted by all the major historians. I have used this account as the basis for the scene of the execution of Charles I in my novel, The Cavalier Historian.

Excerpt from ‘The Cavalier Historian’.

Simon shivered and pulled his cloak closer around himself. It kept out the bitter cold of January, but failed to warm his heart, or to banish the chill of a dread which reached deep to his bones. From their position at the top of a flight of steps leading to a shop, he and his father looked out over the silent crowd. No one moved. No one spoke. All eyes were focussed in one direction. Simon did not want to look, but could not help himself. His eyes turned slowly towards the raised scaffold with its block. He turned to look at his father. Sir Thomas stood straight and still, outwardly calm, although Simon could see the tension in his clenched jaw and the nervous twitching of one eye. Turning back towards the scaffold, the young man thought back to the time the King had visited Marston Manor. They had felt so sure of victory back then. No one could have predicted that things would end in this way.

The crowds thronging Whitehall stood silent and still around the black draped scaffold, come to see the execution of their King. Simon was glad that they had got there early and were close to the block. Not that he wanted to see what happened in detail, but he knew that his father wanted to be able to offer comfort and strength to the King, if at all possible. They had tried so hard to get to see him after sentence had been passed, but had not been allowed. Sir Thomas had ranted about the unholy actions of the Rump, called down all kinds of curses upon the heads of Cromwell and Ireton, threatened revenge for the cruel way the King had been treated. But as the hours passed he had calmed, accepting that what was now ordained was inevitable, wishing only to say goodbye and take an oath to his sovereign that he would continue to support the Stuart cause. Such a meeting would have been an equal comfort to himself as to the King. The denial of access had wounded him deeply.

There was a low murmur of anguished voices as all heads turned towards the Banqueting House. The execution party had arrived.

The King, wrapped warmly against the bitter January morning, was flanked by a bishop and his executioner. He said something in a quiet voice to the bishop, who nodded. The King stepped forward. Simon was unable to hear the first words the King spoke, and leant forward to listen more intently. Due to the soldiers who stood between him and the crowds, Charles’s voice did not carry far, but Simon and Sir Thomas were able to make out what he said.

‘For the people, truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever. But I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consist in having of government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government, sirs; that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clear different things. And therefore until the people have the liberty of good government, as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves. Sirs, it was for this that now I am come here. If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, to have all laws changed according to the power of the sword, I need not to have come here. Therefore I tell you, and I pray God it be not laid to your charge, that I am the martyr of the people.’

Simon was impressed by the calm assurance of the King’s voice. As with his trial, there was no trace of the stammer which usually marked his speech. As he spoke in those final moments of life, he was truly a monarch to be proud of.

The condemned man turned to his executioner.

‘I shall say but very short prayers, and when I thrust out my hands…’ The executioner nodded, no further words were needed. Charles turned to the bishop and asked for his cap, which he placed on his head before turning back to the axeman. ‘Does my hair trouble you?’

‘It would be best, Sire, if you placed it all beneath the cap.’

The King nodded and proceeded to do so, aided by the bishop and executioner. Simon found it hard to believe that this was all real. The King behaved so calmly, spoke so calmly. The execution party was polite. The crowd restrained. It felt to him like play acting, as though the scene would soon be over to loud applause, and the actors leave the stage. But no. The reality continued as the King spoke again.

‘My Lord Bishop, I fear not. I have a good cause, and a gracious God on my side.’

‘There is but one stage more, Your Majesty, which, though turbulent and troublesome, yet is a very short one.’ Simon could hear the catch in the man’s voice, as though he struggled with the words. It was obvious that the man was not comfortable with his task and wanted to do all that he could to aid the King. ‘You may consider it will soon carry you a very great way; it will carry you from earth to heaven; and there you shall find to your great joy the prize you hasten to, a crown of glory.’

The King nodded. ‘I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.’

‘Indeed, Your Majesty. You are exchanging a temporal for an eternal crown. A good exchange.’

Simon stole a look at his father. Sir Thomas stood calmly, his gaze sure as he kept his eyes on the King’s face. For a moment he caught the condemned man’s eye. There was recognition in Charles’s eyes, and gratitude for a faithful servant who had dared to come forward to offer his support. He inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement. Simon heard a deep intake of breath from his father as he fought to control his emotions, focussing on giving all of his strength to the King, who now turned back to his executioner.

‘Is my hair well?’ At a nod from the man he removed his cloak, which he handed to the bishop. His hand went to his neck, to the jewelled pendant of Saint George, symbol of the Order of the Garter. He held it in his fist for a moment, as though reliving in his mind past days of glory. Then he removed it and handed it to the bishop. Next came his doublet and waistcoat before he put the cloak back over the crisp white shirt, as though to lessen the impact of the bright flow of blood which must soon cover it. He breathed deeply and held his hands out in front of him.

‘When I put out my hands this way, then.’

The executioner nodded.

The King of England stood for a moment, his lips moving in silent supplication, his eyes lifted towards heaven. Then he knelt and laid his head on the block. After a moment in which he composed himself, the King held out his hands.

The heavily muscled executioner raised the axe above his head. It held for a moment at the apex before he brought it down with all his might. With one blow, the King’s head was severed from his shoulders.

Simon found himself trembling, his knees weak, his stomach wanting to disgorge his breakfast as the head fell to the wooden boards with a thud. Bright blood fountained from the neck and began to pool as the body slipped to the side, an arm still twitching. He looked at his father and took strength from the way he stood, unmoving, seemingly unaffected. Simon straightened and turned back to the block in time to see the executioner pick up the severed head and hold it for the crowds to see. There was no cheering. No sign that this execution was the will of the people. Instead a collective groan went up, like the sighing of the wind before a storm. Only the soldiers cheered, and this seemed to Simon to be more out of a sense of duty than from the heart.

Two soldiers stepped forward and lifted the King’s body, placing it in a coffin. The executioner placed the head with the body and the coffin was covered with black velvet. More soldiers stepped forward, lifted it to their shoulders and carried it solemnly back into Banqueting House.

Simon and his father stood unmoving. Unable to move. They watched as people came forward, soaking handkerchiefs and pieces of cloth in the King’s blood. No doubt some did so as tokens of their wish to see the King dead, but they were few. Simon could see by the reverent, tear-stained faces that most people took the blood to cherish it as the sacrifice of a martyr, as a blessing from a divinely appointed monarch who now wore his incorruptible crown.

England no longer had a king.

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Meet Humpty Dumpty

Do you ever wonder where nursery rhymes come from? Although they are simple songs to children today they are often based on difficult or unpleasant times in the past; for instance, ‘Ring a ring o’ roses’ is said to be about the Back Death which devastated the population of England in the Middle Ages. But what about Humpty Dumpty? Who was he, why was he sitting on a wall, and what made him fall?

The general consensus amongst historians is that this nursery rhyme originated during the English Civil War. By 1648 King Charles I had been captured by the Parliamentarians and was being held prisoner. In the hope of freeing him the Royalists planned an invasion of England by a Scottish army, those in England who supported the King were to rise up at the same time. But the Scottish invasion was delayed, the Royalist forces in the east of England were attacked by Lord-General Fairfax and retreated behind the walls of Colchester. Fairfax surrounded the city and a siege began.

The siege lasted from 12th June to 28th August 1648. In defence of the city several artillery pieces were set up on the walls. The biggest gun was placed on the walls of St Mary’s Church. This gun was one of the largest at the time and so called Humpty Dumpty, which was a common nick-name for an overly large (or over weight) person.

A drawing of the real Humpty Dumpty on Colchester Wall.
A drawing of the real Humpty Dumpty on Colchester Wall.

On the night of 14th July 1648 Fairfax ordered an attack on the Royalists in Colchester; one focus of the attack was the guns on the walls, particularly Humpty Dumpty. By the end of the night the wall beneath the gun had crumbled, sending it crashing to the ground below. The Parliamentarian forces failed to take Colchester that night, but folklore has it that the failed attack was commemorated in a nursery rhyme about the big gun which was destroyed. The earliest versions of the rhyme differ from what we know today, but its meaning is still clear:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Four-score men and four-score more

Could not make Humpty where he was before.

Despite the deplorable conditions for the people living inside the city walls – things were so bad that people had to resort to eating soap and tallow candles – Colchester continued to hold out until the end of August. The Scottish invasion had eventually come but the army was defeated by Cromwell on 19th August; news of the Parliamentary victory reached Fairfax on 24th August. On the morning of the 28th the defenders of Colchester finally laid down their arms and surrendered.

My novel ‘The Cavalier Historian’ tells the story of the siege of Colchester in detail; a tale of suffering and hardship, of lost hope and defeat. A pivotal moment in British history which few know about yet which is celebrated by English children every day in the nursery rhyme ‘Humpty Dumpty’.

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Are you a revolutionary?

If you had lived in the 17th century would you have backed King Charles I or Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War? For a bit of fun why not answer these questions and find out?

parliamentWhat is your view of politics?

A An elite should govern us

B Every-one should have an equal say in government

 

queenWhat is your view of the monarchy?

A The Queen should have much more power to set laws

B The Queen should be a figurehead only

 

archbishop-of-canterbury-justin-welbyWhat is your view of religion?

A People should follow a structured form of worship set by the state

B People should be free to worship in an informal way

 

 

Result

charles-i

Mostly A’s – You would have been a Royalist. You would have said that the King is a divine ruler appointed by God. He should be able to rule without Parliament, choosing what laws and taxes he wishes to impose without interference from a Parliament which represents the people. You would also have said that the King is the Head of the Church of England which should be the state religion; form and structure is required to worship God, informality shows a lack of respect.

 

220px-oliver_cromwell_by_samuel_cooper

Mostly B’s – You would have been a Parliamentarian. You would have said that the King should only be a figurehead for the people, he is not divinely appointed by God and so should rule according to the wishes of the people. You would also have said that it is the role of Parliament to set laws and taxes; members of Parliament should be elected by the people. You would have believed that worship should be simple and from the heart, arguing that Jesus criticised the religious leaders of his day for their insistence on form whilst ignoring the needs of the people.

Of course, it was not quite that simple! Although Parliamentarians wanted the people to have more of a say in government it was only a limited number of people from certain classes in society who had that right. There was no universal suffrage – no votes for women or for men who did not belong to the right social class. As for religion, it went without saying that you would have been a Christian. Also, both Parliamentarians and Royalists felt the need to impose their form of worship on everyone whereas people today would say that there should be much more freedom to choose, and acceptance of those who choose to worship differently or not at all.

So, now you know which side you would have been on why not read ‘The Cavalier Historian’ and see what might have happened to you if you had lived through the English Civil War!

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Today’s the day!

At last the day has arrived!

‘The Cavalier Historian’  is now available in e-book form.

Cover_Kindle_front cover

If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy you can buy it now on
Amazon for Kindle and Smashwords for all other e-book formats

Civil war. Witchcraft. Persecution. Injustice.

Can Rob right a past wrong and save his future?

Marston Manor is an old manor house in Oxfordshire which the new owner plans to turn into a ‘themed’ attraction based on the years of the English Civil War.  When historian Robert Hardwick joins the project he is delighted to discover a family link with Marston dating back to the time of King Charles I and the witch persecutions of the 17th century.

But right from the start disturbing events raise mistrust and fear on the estate.  Who, or what, is trying to halt the plans for the Manor?  Can the disruption and sabotage be linked to the traveller camp in the woods or to the more sinister appearances of a ghostly old woman?  And just who is Rebekah, and why does she have such a hold over Rob?

In his haunted dreams Rob finds himself living through the turbulent years of the English Civil War, experiencing it all through the eyes of his ancestor, Simon. Dreams which begin gently enough in the days leading up to war in 1642 but which become ever more frightening, ending with the terrifying events of the witch trials of 1651.

The Cavalier Historian is a novel which follows characters separated by more than three centuries, living in the 17th century yet somehow linked through time to present day events.  Over the centuries they live through war and peace, experience love and loss, suffer fear and persecution yet, at the very end, is it possible for them to find hope for the future?