Category Archives: Civil War

“Pride’s purge” (1648)

Cromwell dissolving the Long Parliament (Andrew Gow, 1907)

On this day in 1648, during the English Civil War, the Parliamentarian Colonel Thomas Pride expelled over one hundred Presbyterian Members of the “Long Parliament” from the Houses of Parliament, in what became known as “Pride’s Purge” (*).  The remaining Members, constituting the “Rump Parliament”, then instigated the legal proceedings against the King, Charles I, that led to his trial for treason, and eventually to his execution.

(*) At this time, the King and supporting Royalists were Episcopalians (who believed in the supremacy of the Bishops), and opposing Parliamentarians were divided among two factions, Independents and Presbyterians (who did not).  The Independents mistrusted the English Presbyterians because their Scottish counterparts had earlier entered into an alliance with the King.

The Battle of Turnham Green (1642)

The battle of Turnham Green

Image courtesy of “Look and Learn” (www.lookandlearn.com)

The Battle of Turnham Green, in the English Civil War, took place on this day in 1642.

The site of the battle is marked by a series of informative plaques.  According to the plaques, after losing the Battle of Brentford on November 12th, 1642, the Parliamentarians took up a strategic defensive position at Turnham Green, with their left flank protected by the river, and their right by a series of enclosures.  It was here that the following day  they  essentially faced down the Royalists, who found themselves unable to manoeuvre past, in one of the largest-ever confrontations on English soil (albeit a substantially bloodless one), involving some 40000 troops.   This was a decisive moment in the history of the war, the country, and its  capital.

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The Battle of Brentford (1642)

The Battle of Brentford, in the English Civil War, took place on this day in 1642 …

Monument

Informative plaque

The site of the battle is marked by a granite memorial and by a series of informative plaques.

According to the plaques, what happened here was as follows:

“Parliamentarians had arrived in the prosperous market town on Friday 11 November.  The following day the royalists marched from Hampstead Heath and in the early afternoon broke through a parliamentary barricade at the bridge over the Brent.  Near this information panel, the royalists were delayed, fighting two or three hours until the parliamentarian soldiers fled.  This position was defended by about 480 of Lord Brooke’s regiment and survivors of the earlier fighting, with two small pieces of artillery. The royalists soon gained the upper hand.  There seem to have been no civilian dead despite the capture of the town.  About 20 royalists were killed, and perhaps 50 parliamentarians died in the fighting with more drowning in the Thames.  Parliamentary Captain John Lilburne was amongst those captured”.

And what happened next was as follows:

“Later that afternoon the royalists pressed on towards London.  There were more parliamentary troops in a large open area, probably Turnham Green and Chiswick’s Common Field.  These green-coated men of John Hampden’s regiment of foot charged five times, holding the royalists back.  But with night coming and the royalists exhausted from fighting both sides disengaged.  The royalist soldiers who had captured Brentford ransacked the town … The Battle of Turnham Green took place the following day”.

John Gwyn, a royalist soldier, wrote:

“We beat them from one Brainford to the other, and from thence to the open field, with … resolute and expeditious fighting, …  push of pike and the butt-end of muskets, which proved so fatal to Holles’ butchers and dyers that day”.

Map

London prepares for Civil War (Giovanni Giustiniani, 1642)

The Civil War star fort at Vauxhall, as depicted in c. 1800.jpg

On this day in 1642, Giovanni Giustiniani, the Venetian ambassador to the court of Charles I, wrote in a letter to the Doge and Senate of Venice:

“They do not cease to provide with energy for the defence of London … .  They have sent a number of parliamentarians to the surrounding provinces with instructions to get together the largest numbers they can of their trained bands, with the intention of despatching these subsequently to where the remains of the parliamentary army are quartered.  They have brought a number of the companies of these trained bands … into this city.  All the troops are kept constantly at arms.  There is no street, however little frequented, that is not barricaded …, and every post is guarded … .  At the approaches to London, they are putting up trenches and small forts of earthwork [“Lines of Communication”], at which a great number of people are at work, including the women and … children.  They have issued a new manifesto to the people full of the usual representations against the … king, for the purpose of arousing their enthusiasm still more in the support of this cause”.

George Vertue's plan of London's Civil War defences.jpg

The Putney Debates (1647)

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On this day in 1647, in the midst of the Civil War, the so-called “Putney Debates” began in the church of St Mary The Virgin.

The debates, chaired by Cromwell and attended by officers and men of his New Model Army, many of whom were “Levellers”, addressed  nothing of less import than the post-Civil War future and constitution of England.

Among the issues discussed were not only whether power should be vested in the King and House of Lords or in the Commons, but also whether there should be universal – male – suffrage (“one man, one vote”).

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Colonel Thomas Rainsborough (*), personifying the radical contingent, famously argued that:

“ … [T]he poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest hee … ”.

Among the outcomes was a declaration of “native rights” for all Englishmen, including  freedom of conscience, and equality before the law.

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(*)   Rainsborough went on to be killed during the siege of Pontefract, and to be buried in the church of St John in Wapping on November 14th 1648.

For a fuller account of his extraordinary life, the reader is referred to “The Rainborowes” by Adrian Tinniswood.

Civil War and Commonwealth

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Charles I, St Margaret Westminster.JPG

On this day in 1649,  at what was effectively the end of the Civil War, the Long  Parliament passed an Act making England  a Commonwealth and Free State “where Parliament would constitute the officers and ministers of the people without any kings or lords”.

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The demolition of the Cheapside Cross (John Evelyn, 1643)

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On this day in 1643, John Evelyn wrote in his diary:

“I went from Wotton to London, where I saw the furious and zealous people demolish that stately Cross in Cheapside”.

A series of so-called Eleanor crosses were put up in the late thirteenth century by the then king, Edward I, in memory of his late wife, Eleanor of Castile (*).  There were two in London, one on Cheapside, and another at Charing Cross.  Both were destroyed by Parliamentarians during the Civil War, by which time they had come to be seen as symbols of royal oppression.  The one at Charing Cross was replaced by a replica in the Victorian period.

(*) Eleanor had died on a pilgrimage in the East Midlands in 1290, and Edward had then arranged for her body to be brought back to London for burial in Westminster Abbey, and for a cross to be put up at each of the twelve sites at which the cortege had to make  an overnight stop on the way.