What Were the Key Developments in Propaganda During the English Civil War?

What Were the Key Developments in Propaganda During the English Civil War?

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The English Civil War was a fertile ground for experimenting with new forms of propaganda. Civil war presented a peculiar new challenge in that armies now had to win people to their side rather than simply summoning them. Propaganda used fear to ensure that the conflict seemed necessary.

The English Civil War was also the time when a popular press emerged to record and report on the dramatic events to an increasingly literate public, one that was hungry for news.

1. The power of print

The proliferation of the printing press during the political crisis of the 1640’s combined to make the English Civil War one of the first propaganda wars in history. Between 1640 and 1660 more than 30,000 publications were printed in London alone.

Many of these were written in plain English for the first time and were sold on the streets for as little as a penny making them available to the common people – it was political and religious propaganda on a grand scale.

The Parliamentarians had the immediate advantage in that they held London, the country’s major printing centre.

The Royalists were initially reluctant to appeal to the commons because they felt they would not gather much support that way. Eventually a Royalist satirical paper, Mercurius Aulicus, was established. It was published weekly in Oxford and enjoyed some success, though never on the scale of the London papers.

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2. Attacks on religion

The first surge in propaganda were the multiple publications upon which the good people of England choked over their breakfast, as they reported in graphic detail the atrocities supposedly committed on Protestants by Irish Catholics during the rebellion of 1641.

The image below of the ‘puritans’ nightmare’ is a typical example of how religion would come to dominate political propaganda. It depicts a 3-headed beast whose body is half-Royalist, half-armed papist. In the background the cities of the kingdom are burning.

‘The Puritan’s Nightmare’, a woodcut from a broadsheet (circa 1643).

3. Personal attacks

Often slander was more effective than general ideological attacks.

Marchamont Nedham would switch sides between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians multiple times, but he did pave the way for personal attacks being used as propaganda. Following King Charles I’s defeat at the Battle of Naseby in 1645, Nedham published letters that he had retrieved from a captured Royalist baggage train, which included the private correspondence between Charles and his wife, Henrietta Maria.

The letters appeared to show the King was a weak man bewitched by his Catholic queen, and were a powerful propaganda tool.

Charles I and Henrietta of France, his wife.

4. Satirical attacks

Popular histories of the English Civil War of 1642-46 make frequent reference to a dog named ‘Boy’, which belonged to King Charles’s nephew Prince Rupert. The authors of these histories confidently state that Boy was believed by the Parliamentarians to be a ‘dog-witch’ in league with the devil.

Frontispiece of the Parliamentarian pamphlet ‘A true relation of Prince Rupert’s barbarous cruelty against the towne of Burmingham’ (1643).

However, research by Professor Mark Stoyle has revealed that the idea the Parliamentarians were petrified of Boy was an invention of the Royalists: an early example of wartime propaganda.

‘Boy’ was originally a Parliamentarian attempt to hint that Rupert possessed occult powers, but the plan backfired when Royalists took up their enemies’ claims, exaggerated them and,

‘used them to their own advantage in order to portray the Parliamentarians as gullible fools’,

as Professor Stoyle says.

English Civil War

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") over, principally, the manner of England's government. The first (1642–46) and second (1648–49) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–51) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with the Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

The overall outcome of the war was threefold: the trial and execution of Charles I the exile of his son, Charles II and the replacement of English monarchy with, at first, the Commonwealth of England (1649–53) and then the Protectorate (1653–59) under Oliver Cromwell's personal rule. The monopoly of the Church of England on Christian worship in England ended with the victors consolidating the established Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Constitutionally, the wars established the precedent that an English monarch cannot govern without Parliament's consent, although the idea of parliament as the ruling power of England was legally established as part of the Glorious Revolution in 1688.


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Roundhead, adherent of the Parliamentary Party during the English Civil War (1642–51) and after. Many Puritans wore their hair closely cropped in obvious contrast to the long ringlets fashionable at the court of Charles I. Roundhead appears to have been first used as a term of derision toward the end of 1641, when debates in Parliament on the Bishops’ Exclusion Bill were causing riots at Westminster. John Rushworth, in Historical Collections of Private Passages of State (1680–1701), claims that the word was first used on Dec. 27, 1641, by a disbanded army officer, David Hide, who, during a riot, brandished his sword threatening to “cut the Throat of those Roundheaded Dogs that bawled against Bishops.” But Richard Baxter (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1696) ascribes the origin of the term to a remark made by Queen Henrietta Maria at the trial (March–April 1641) of Thomas Wentworth, 1st earl of Strafford referring to the parliamentary leader John Pym, she asked who the roundheaded man was.

What was the social and economic impact of the English Civil War on Catholics, 1642-48?

Does what it says on the tin! The article looks at theft and violence against catholic communities, citing specific examples, and looks in greater detail at sequestration. Dr Stevens compares attitudes in parliamentary and royalist areas, and cites the startling fact that 82% of Catholics were neutral. Due to the disruption to the legal system though, he also shows that the recusancy laws were rarely enforced in this period. Dr Stevens presents a nuanced picture of anti-Catholicism in this period.

English Catholics suffered from persecution throughout the seventeenth century, but this persecution was by no means uniform through the period. Under Elizabeth, and in the early years of James I’s reign following the Gunpowder Plot, JPs enforced the recusancy laws vigorously, but in James’s later years, as fears of an immediate Catholic rising wore off, this was gradually (and informally) relaxed. Under Charles I, who had a Catholic wife, Catholics became increasingly prominent at court, but at the same time the king’s financial problems meant that the recusancy laws against ordinary Catholics were enforced severely once again. Between 1640 and 1642, following the summoning of the Long Parliament, this persecution was heightened even further. It was at this point that the civil war broke out, and it seems likely that the impact of the war on Catholics had both positive and negative aspects: on the one hand they suffered persecution from the fiercely anti-Catholic parliament and its supporters, but on the other the war meant that much of the traditional judicial system, the tool for their persecution, ceased to function and that, for a variety of reasons, in many areas Catholics were increasingly socially accepted.

During the civil war Catholics perhaps suffered the most at the hands of parliamentarian soldiers. Parliament claimed to be fighting a crusade against popery and papists in all its declarations the Commons asserted that popery was a major issue, or even the major issue, separating it from the king, and constantly reiterated that it was acting ‘to maintain and defend …the true reformed Protestant religion …against all Popery and popish innovations’. In Hirst’s words,’sheer anti-Catholicism drove on many conscientious followers of parliament’. 1 A group of parliamentarian prisoners who in 1644 explained to the royalist divine Edward Simmons that they ‘took up arms against Antichrist and popery’ were typical. In 1642 many parliamentarian battle­ standards bore slogans such as ‘Antichrist must down’. In these circumstances, parliament gave almost full rein to the anti-popery of its supporters, with the result that, as Miller suggests, ‘Catholics suffered more severely than other Royalists…from the depredations of the Parliamentary forces’. 2

This often took the form of plunder. Clarendon recorded that ‘the Papists’ houses in all places’ were, in 1642, being ‘plundered or pulled down, with all circumstances of rage, by the parliament-soldiers’ who ‘in their march took the goods of all Catholics and eminent malignants as lawful prize’. In his study of Worcestershire, Gilbert suggests rather tentatively that ‘Catholics seem to have suffered particularly heavily from plundering soldiers… one gets the impression that Catholics were especially selected for “visitations” and “visited” more frequently than non-Catholics’. 3 Contemporaries were certain of this. Sir Henry Garraway, an alderman of London with royalist sympathies, asserted to Pym in 1643 that ‘if they stay at their houses they are plundered: it is good justification for plundering that they are papists’. No distinction was made between active Catholic royalists and Catholic neutrals, for it was assumed that all Catholics were enemies. In 1647 the trained bands of Colchester attacked the house of a known local royalist and then ‘cried out that now they were met together’ they should ‘deal in the same manner with the Papists’. Several Catholic houses were broken into and pillaged, the mob ‘miserably spoiling what they could not carry away’ even quite poor Catholics were robbed of their animals and furniture. Similarly William Sheldon, a Warwickshire Catholic, described in 1649 the hardships he had had to endure during the civil war:

In September, 1643, my house at Weston …was ransacked, and my cattle and goods taken by soldiers…In December following, my house at Beoley…was burned to the ground and all my goods and cattle plundered…Immediately after, all my flock of cattle for my provision of housekeeping was taken from us at Weston by a party of soldiers…[We] removed [later] to a small farm house in the parish of Clifton upon Tyme…where we remained about eight months, until all our goods and horses were also taken by soldiers and the house threatened to be burned

It is of course difficult to ascertain how typical this degree of suffering was, but Mosler concludes from his local study of Warwickshire that this account is to some degree representative and ‘illustrates the tribulations of Warwickshire Catholics’. 4

The widespread plundering was sometimes accompanied by physical violence, and Catholics again seem to have been often selected for particularly harsh treatment. Lawrence Bird of Rowington, Warwickshire, for example, was plundered and physically assaulted by parliamentary troops and Robert Apreece of Washingley, a small landowner in Huntingdonshire, was shot by Puritan troopers simply for being a Catholic. The massacre of the predominantly Catholic garrison of Basing House was one of the few real atrocities of the civil war. The violence of many parliamentarian soldiers against Catholic civilians drove many of them to seek refuge in royalist garrisons. In 1651-2, William Birchley, a Catholic apologist who wanted to show that not all Catholics had opposed parliament, asserted that ‘a great part of those papists, who are sequestered as absolute delinquents, were never in actual arms against the Parliament, but only fled to the enemies Garrisons for shelter …Since whoever did observe the fury and rage of most of our common soldiers (at the beginning of the late troubles) against many of that party, will easily conclude that the Papists had reason to distrust their own personal security amongst them’. A similar picture emerges from the records of the Committee for Compounding. John Jones of Monmouthshire, for example, claimed that he had not been in arms against parliament, but had been ‘constrained often to repair unto Raglan Castle, being two miles from his habitation, to avoid the soldiers…the violence of the Common Soldier being great against Recusants’, and similarly Thomas Empson asserted that ‘for the preservation of his life he was forced to fly to a Garrison of the Enemies to Avoid the fury of the Soldiers that at the same time killed a neighbour’.

Lindley terms this ‘involuntary royalism’ and concludes from his study of the records of the Committee for Compounding that ‘instances of Catholics who claimed before the Committee…that they had been forced to seek refuge with the royalists can be found in all [the nine] counties studied in this survey’. 5 In many cases their claims were upheld and this is evidence not only that many Catholics (who, according to Everitt, ‘in general…kept their heads low and endeavoured to remain neutral’) were forced to take sides and enter royalist garrisons, but that many were punished for it, being sequestered for delinquency as well as recusancy. Some were subsequently able to have this reversed by the Committee for Compounding, but it seems likely that many others were not.

Plundering and physical violence against Catholics was, as it was against all civilians, concentrated in the most contested regions, through which large bodies of troops passed many times (although this was certainly not exclusive: some of the worst attacks on Catholics were in the parliamentarian heartlands of Essex and Suffolk). In Warwickshire, for example, the Catholics who suffered the most from plundering troops were those in the south-west of the county, through which there were frequent parliamentarian troop movements westward to attack royalist strongholds in Worcestershire. Sequestrations and fines, however, were supposed to affect all Catholics in areas controlled by parliament. In 1643 parliament decreed that the estates of all royalists and Catholics were to be seized as they fell into parliamentarian hands: the county committees were to take possession of two-thirds of the estates of all Catholics and four-fifths of Catholics in arms for the king. Catholics were to be identified by the administration of a new ‘Oath of Abjuration’, which included an outright denial of papal supremacy and the doctrine of transubstantiation. Gregorio Panzini, an Italian priest, reported that ‘these acts were executed with extreme severity on the whole body of Catholics. Few families escaped …The lowest orders suffered in the general sequestration. They even tripartited the day-labourer’s goods and very household stuff and have taken away two cows where the whole flock was but three’. Mosler concurs, suggesting that ‘in Warwickshire, this financial anti-Catholic structure placed an extreme burden on the Catholic community’ and that few had the money required to compound (to pay a flat amount for the return of their estates). Certainly there were many examples of severe hardship. Mrs Nicholas Griffin, for example, a widow from Warwickshire, was forced to beg the Sequestrations Committee for relief, on the grounds that she was unable to maintain her extended family of twenty on the £70 p.a. left after her two­ thirds sequestration fine and taxes. On other hand, the record’s the Committee for Compounding show that many gentry, and a significant number of those below gentry status, were able to compound. Moreover, a significant number of Catholics probably benefited from the connivance of their neighbours or local committee men in reducing the burden upon them (see below). Miller suggests that ‘few Catholics were totally ruined by sequestration’ since ‘by compounding or fictitious sales many avoided having their lands confiscated or quickly recovered them most emerged at the Restoration with a heavy load of debt but with most of their lands intact’.

The imposition of sequestration was thus a severe burden on the English Catholic community, but perhaps not as crippling as might have been expected. In addition it seems likely that during the war many Catholics benefited from a relaxation in the enforcement of the recusancy laws in areas controlled by parliament, for the means for enforcing them had often collapsed. In London there was a vigorous searching out of priests, large numbers of whom were incarcerated in Newgate, and twenty of whom were executed between 1641 and 1646 (compared to just two between 1625 and 1640). However, as Miller argues, most lay ‘Catholics were not vigorously persecuted’ in this period. The abolition of the Court of High Commission in 1641 had removed one of the main agencies for the persecution of Catholics, and meant that there could be no more special recusancy ecclesiastical commissions (the use of which had in 1627 been revived from the time of Elizabeth’s reign to increase the crown’s revenue from recusants). Moreover much of the local justice system ceased to function: parliament declared assizes illegal and in many counties quarter sessions ceased to take place. The functions of the JPs were often taken over by the county committees, but these were overburdened, and acted only erratically Pennington refers to their ‘constant struggle to offer some haphazard justice and relief to a community where war had destroyed both respect for law and order and the means of enforcing them’. 6 In contrast to the demands in many of the county petitions to parliament in 1642 for the complete rooting out of papery – six demanded the ‘utter abolition of the mass’ – the private practice of the Catholic faith does not seem to have been greatly interfered with in the war years. Compulsory attendance at the parish church was no longer demanded, and faced with the huge financial demands of conducting the war, parliament seems to have been more interested in extracting revenue from Catholics than forcibly converting them. As Mosler notes, ‘Catholics could be taxed at a higher rate than the general population, and, ironically, it was in the interests of puritans to leave the religion of the Catholics alone’. Although there were examples of compulsory conversions – for example, the children of Mrs Anderton of Clitheroe were taken from her after the death of her husband in battle and brought up as Protestants, and the wife of William Blundell of Crosby was allowed to retain one-fifth of his estate intrust for her children, on condition that they were raised ‘in the Protestant religion’ – these seem to have been isolated instances.

In royalist-controlled areas, there was an attempt to ensure that traditional judicial institutions, chiefly the quarter sessions, continued to function, but although the records for these areas are extremely scanty for the war period, it seems very likely that the recusancy laws were not at all vigorously enforced. Certainly there were no prosecutions of priests in royalist areas. Charles’s attitude towards Catholics had always been governed by pragmatic considerations between 1625 and 1640 this had meant that financial impositions weighed particularly heavily on them – his subsidy Acts provided that Catholics should pay double, for example – but during the war Catholics could be used as soldiers, just like anybody else, and it is probable therefore that persecution of them was largely lifted. Nevertheless there is evidence that Charles continued to see Catholics as a source of revenue which could be milked particularly heavily. In September 1642, for example, he negotiated with the Catholics of Staffordshire and Shropshire, and received nearly £5,000 in advances on recusancy fines, and in July 1643 following the fall of all Yorkshire (except Hull) to the royalists, a county committee was set up to extract money from suspected parliamentarians and Catholics, especially neutral Catholics.

Charles’s willingness to entertain Catholics in arms probably led to a greater social acceptance of them, by royalists at least, and allowed them an access to positions of public responsibility which they had not enjoyed before the war and would not enjoy again for many years afterwards. On 23 September 1642 Charles wrote to the Earl of Newcastle: ‘This rebellion is grown to such a height that I must not look of what opinion men are who at this time are willing and able to serve me. Therefore I do not only permit but command you to make use of all my loving subjects’ services without examining their consciences – more than their loyalty to us’. Subsequently, parliamentary propaganda that all royalists were papists led him twice publicly to ban Catholics from his armies, but these proclamations do not seem to have had any practical effect.

Lindley has argued that ‘the most remarkable fact that emerges [from his study of the records of the Committee for Compounding] is the extent of Catholic neutralism during the war. In every county studied the majority of Catholics were neutral throughout the hostilities’ 82% of all the Catholics he examined remained neutral. However, while there is no reason to doubt his general conclusion, he himself concedes that 13% of all the royalists he studied were Catholics, describing this as ‘a very small proportion’. When this is related to the percentage of Catholics in the total population, however, (which may have been as low as 1.5% and was certainly no higher than 5%) it is clear that Catholics fought for the king in disproportionately high numbers.

Many Catholics rose to senior positions. Newman has found that of the 101 royalist colonels in the Northern Army who can be identified, twenty-nine were Catholics. 7 Several of these were appointed to high-profile posts: Lord Belayse, for example, was governor of York and lieutenant-general of Yorkshire in 1644, while Lord Widdrington was the president of the Earl of Newcastle’s council of war. Many senior Catholics showed favour to their co­-religionists, appointing them as company commanders: the Catholic governor of Dudley castle, for example, had a Catholic deputy, and nine of his fourteen other officers were also papists. Many other Catholic junior officers served under Protestant commanders, however. Catholics were also able to serve the royalists in civilian positions: the commission of array for Worcestershire in 1642 included three Catholics, and a fourth was appointed in 1645. One of them, Sir William Russell, became governor of Worcester and sheriff of Worcestershire, and was able to use his influence to favour other Catholics. In October 1643 he was accused of ‘returning recusants of the Grand Jury at summer sessions’, and the quarter sessions jury list of July that year shows that the charge was probably true, for it included the names of at least two Catholics.

Occasionally other royalists expressed disquiet at the employment of Catholics. The inhabitants of the Close in Salisbury protested when sergeant­ major Innis was placed in charge of the fortification of the city, because he was ‘of the Romish religion …If so great authority be placed in such a person, great discouragement may arise to your religion’. Similarly, Lord Belayse seems to have been hampered by dissensions among his staff, and his appointment as governor of Newark seems to have excited some animosity. However, in general there is little evidence of distrust of Catholics in the king’s armies or on his commissions. Certainly there was nothing like a recurrence of the widespread desertion and mutiny which had taken place in troops commanded by Catholics in the army sent against the Scots in 1640 which had included the flaying to death of two Catholic officers and declarations by soldiers that they would murder all papist officers.

The civil war thus seems in royalist areas to have created the opportunity for a significant minority of Catholics to hold with little animosity positions of responsibility and authority, to which in normal circumstances they would not have been allowed. Protestant royalists seem in general to have accepted this. Caraman goes so far as to assert that for the Catholic gentry the war was a ‘heaven-sent occasion, the first in eighty years, to prove that their protestations of loyalty to the Crown were sincere’, and suggests that the acceptance of Catholics by the cavaliers was so great that ‘only the plot of a mentally deranged Oates…delayed the understanding between the State and the Catholic body. 8 This is overstated, for the Cavalier parliament repeatedly threw out proposals by Charles II for Catholic toleration, and panicked in 1673 and 1674 following the revelation that the heir to the throne was a Catholic. Nevertheless it is likely that the activities of the Catholic royalists in the civil war did help to accelerate the general acceptance of the Catholic gentry by their Protestant peers, particularly, as discussed below, in the localities.

Miller suggests with reference to the Restoration period that, ‘consciously or unconsciously, [English Protestants] distinguished between Popery as a malign political force and Papists as people’. 9 The latter were generally well-treated and accepted into the local community. There is clear evidence of the growth of this attitude before the civil war. It worried Pym , who warned the Commons in 1642, ‘We must not look on a Papist as he is in himself but as he is in the body of the Church’, but it seems likely that the war accelerated the acceptance of this distinction, so that while fear of papery did not diminish in the second half of the seventeenth century, fear of papists gradually did. This was due largely, not to the actions of the minority of Catholics in arms for the king, but to the behaviour of the majority of neutral Catholics who remained in their local communities.

Between 1640 and 1642, a series of panics that local Catholics were plotting to rise up and murder their Protestant neighbours convulsed much of England, including the five largest cities – London, Norwich, Bristol, Newcastle and York – and at least thirty-six other towns and villages, ranging in size from Colchester, Oxford and Salisbury to small hamlets. Only three counties have left no evidence of being affected by the panics. During this period Catholics were treated with intense fear and suspicion, and innocent actions such as buying stocks of food, changing residence, selling land to get cash in hand, or, once the panics had begun, obtaining weapons to defend themselves, were interpreted as preparations for a rising. Even if they attempted to go about their business normally, there were some who observed that Catholics were ‘merrier than ever ‘ and interpreted this as a sign that ‘there was some new design in hand’. The recusancy laws were enforced with a new vigour presentments for recusancy in Worcestershire rose from forty-six in 1640, 223 in 1642. Catholic houses everywhere were forcibly searched for hidden arms, often several times, both by local officials and, sometimes, by local mobs. The searches of the latter were often accompanied by looting and violence. In 1642 in Maldon in Essex, for example, a roving band of townsmen and sailors attacked and searched Catholic houses up to twenty miles away. There, were numerous anti-Catholic riots, including outside the Catholic queens apartments, and in Essex and Suffolk in 1642 the Catholic Lady Rivers was driven from place to place by anti-Catholic crowds. Catholics attending the embassy chapels in London were mobbed. Tensions were so high that in Staffordshire Protestants ‘were in such fears…[that] they durst not go to Church unarmed’ and such behaviour in Chester led to a skirmish in January 1642 between Catholics and Protestants m which several men on each side were killed.

Clifton has observed that these panics were concentrated around political crises: – ‘five distinct concentrations can be seen between April 1640 and August 1642, each coinciding with a period of major political crisis’ – and he suggests that this was because ‘serious occurrences in national politics were understood at popular level in terms of a papist/anti-papist dichotomy. 10 It might have been expected, therefore, that during the war, the greatest political crisis of all, these local panics, tensions and attacks would have continued or even intensified. In fact the reverse was true, for while there were a few minor alarms in early 1643, the panics then fizzled out. After 1643 there were still numerous fears of conspiracies, but in contrast to 1640-2, these were very rarely pinned on Catholics. One London panic in 1643, for example, was based on the fear that ‘surely the Danes were in Kent and would presently be in London’.

The reason for this decline during the war in attacks by local civilians on Catholics seems to have been, as Clifton suggests, that ‘the first months of fighting exposed the true weakness of English Catholicism – in terms of numbers, arms, organisation and crusading spirit – which decades of peace had hidden’. The same idea was recorded by alderman Garraway in 1643. ‘I confess I have not any fear of danger from [Catholics], and the truth is this bugbear is grown less terrible to everybody’. The terrifying Elizabethan stereotype of Catholicism, as described by Weiner 11 – that all English Catholics were the tools of foreign powers, inherently disloyal, and part of a ‘tightly organised …treasonous monolith’ controlled by the Jesuits and the Pope – was shown up by the war, and by the behaviour of the vast majority of Catholics who remained peaceably at home, for the bogey it was. In particular, the fear that there were innumerable secret papists who would declare themselves when they judged the time to be right to destroy Protestantism (Clarendon recorded that ‘their strength and number were then [in 1642] thought so vast within the Kingdom …that if they were drawn together and armed under what pretext soever, they might …be able to give the law both to King and Parliament’) was shown to be unfounded. When the expected Catholic hordes failed to materialise, fears instead turned to the sects, whose members were commonly accused of being Catholics in disguise. The fear of popery was not diminished by the war, but the fear of individual papists was, and with it the attacks and persecution of them by local people also declined. It was not until a generation later, when memories of the Catholics’ weakness in the 1640s had faded, that Catholics were once again believed to be capable of armed rebellion.

Catholics were gradually being accepted into the local community in the seventeenth century: Clifton suggests that ‘local sympathies were stronger than religious divisions’ and that ‘toleration was associated with the very strong regional or county feeling in the seventeenth century’. Again the civil war seems to have accelerated this process, by intensifying local loyalties, Everitt suggests that during the war ‘local attachments were, if anything, becoming deeper rather than more superficial’ and that ‘the civil war period, by greatly adding to the complexity and volume of local government, increased this sense of county awareness’. 12 Pennington, Roots and Woolrych all concur Roots, for example, refers to the ‘intensified localism’ as the central government’s weapons for coercing the localities, such as the Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, the assizes, and the Councils of Wales and the North, were swept away after 1640. 13 As the internal bonds of the local community were strengthened, Catholics were increasingly accepted into it. There are numerous examples of this in the civil war period. In Ingatestone, Essex, for example, local villagers came to defend the house of the Catholic Lady Petre against the marauding trained bands in 1647. Similarly, although in many counties large numbers of Catholics fled to nearby royalist garrison to escape the violence of parliamentary troops, Lindley notes that ‘in Suffolk where the most violent anti-papery riots took place, most Catholics did not in fact flee but managed to remain at home as neutrals’. Significantly there were no royalist garrisons near to Suffolk, and it seems that in these circumstances most Catholics chose to remain within their local community, and the protection that it might afford, rather than completely abandoning it by fleeing to the royalists. Moreover there are numerous examples of Protestants willingly participating in fraudulent transfers of land to preserve their Catholic neighbours’ estates from sequestration, and even examples of county committee-men deliberately under-valuing the estates of Catholics and royalists for the purposes of sequestration, or sequestering Catholic royalists as ‘papists’ only and not as ‘delinquents’, in order to lighten the burden on them.

Thus, in conclusion, the civil war caused great suffering for many Catholics in particular they were targeted for plundering and violent treatment by fiercely anti-Catholic parliamentarian troops. They also suffered particularly severely economically, from parliamentary sequestrations, and, it appears, from the demands of the king. At the same time, however, the disruption the war caused to the judicial system seems to have meant that the recusancy laws were rarely enforced, in either parliamentarian or royalist areas, and that the private practice of Catholicism was not generally interfered with. The war also meant that the significant minority of Catholics who fought for or aided the king were generally accepted in positions which in normal circumstances would have been barred to them. Above all, the civil war, and the neutrality of most Catholics, showed many of the traditional concept ions about Catholics to be completely false, and as a result fear of individual Catholics began to diminish. Catholics were consequently increasingly accepted into their local communities, whose internal bonds the war was strengthening anyway. Nothing similar to the suspicions and attacks of 1640-42 occurred again until almost a generation later, in 1666 following the fire of London. The panics then, and during the Popish Plot, show that the civil war certainly did not mark a watershed in the treatment of Catholics, but it did perhaps cause an acceleration in the trend during the seventeenth century from the pervasive Elizabethan phobia and intolerance of Catholics towards de facto toleration of them.

1 D Hirst, Authority and Conflict: England 1603-58 (London, 1986).
2 J Miller, Papery and Politics in England , 1660-88(London, 1973).
3 C D Gilbert, ‘The Catholics in Worcestershire, 1642-51’, Recusant History 20 (1991).
4 D F Mosler, ‘Warwickshire Catholics in the civil war’, Recusant History 15(1980).
5 K D Lindley, ‘The part played by Catholics’, in B Manning (ed), Politics , Religion and the English Civil War (London, 1973).
6 D H Pennington, ‘The county community at war’, in E W Ives (ed), The English Revolution, 1600-60 (London, 1968).
7 P R Newman, ‘Catholic royalist activities in the north’, Recusant History 14 (1977).
8 P Caraman, The Years of Siege: Catholic Life from James I to Cromwell (London, 1966).
9 Miller, Papery and Politics.
10 R Clifton, ‘The popular fear of Catholics during the English Revolution’. Past & Present 52 (1971) Clifton, ‘Fear of papery’, in C Russell (ed), The Origins of the English Civil War (London, 1973).
11 C Z Weiner, ‘The beleaguered isle: a study of Elizabethan and early Jacobean anti­ Catholicism’, Past & Present 5 (1971).
12 A M Everitt, The Local Community and the Great Rebellion (London, 1969).
13 Pennington, ‘The county community at war’, I Roots, ‘The central government and the local community’, and A Woolrych, ‘The English Revolution: an introduction’, all in Ives, The English Revolution.

Other sources.
C Hill, Antichrist in Seventeenth Century England (London, 1970) M D R Leys, Catholics in England, 1559-1829: A Social History (London, 1961) D Mathew, Catholicism in England (London, 1936) C Carlton, Going to the Wars: The Experience of the English Civil Wars, 1638-51 (London, 1992) B Coward, The Stuart Age (London, 1980) A Fletcher, The Outbreak of the English Civil War (London, 1981) and J Morrill, The Revolt of the Provinces (London, 1976).

This essay, by Simon Stevens of Wolvercote, Oxford, won the 2001 Cromwell Prize Competition in the 15-18 age group

The Self-Fashioning of Gentry Turncoats during the English Civil Wars

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4 Gardiner , Samuel R. , History of the Great Civil War, 1642–1649 , 4 vols. ( London , 1987 ), 1: 199 – 202 Google Scholar Miller , Amos C. , Sir Richard Grenville of the Civil War ( London , 1979 )Google Scholar .

5 Stoyle , Mark , Loyalty and Locality: Popular Allegiance in Devon during the English Civil War ( Exeter , 1994 ), 112 .Google Scholar

6 Hopper , Andrew James , “ ‘Fitted for Desperation’: Honour and Treachery in Parliament's Yorkshire Command, 1642–1643 ,” History 86 , no. 2 (April 2001 ): 138 –54.Google Scholar

7 Jason McElligott and David L. Smith, “Introduction: Rethinking Royalists and Royalism,” 4, and Donagan , Barbara , “Varieties of Royalism,” 68–71, both in Royalists and Royalism during the English Civil Wars , ed. McElligott , Jason and Smith , David L. ( Cambridge , 2007 )Google Scholar .

8 Donagan , Barbara , “ The Web of Honour: Soldiers, Christians, and Gentlemen in the English Civil War ,” Historical Journal 44 , no. 2 (June 2001 ): 365 .Google Scholar

9 Donagan , Barbara , War in England, 1642–1649 ( Oxford , 2008 ), 278 .Google Scholar

10 Richard Cust, “Honour and Politics in Early Stuart England: The Case of Beaumont v. Hastings,” Past and Present, no. 149 (November 1995): 60 Mervyn James, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, 1485–1642, Past and Present, suppl., no. 3 (1978), 92.

11 Cust , Richard , “The ‘Public Man’ in Late Tudor and Early Stuart England,” in The Politics of the Public Sphere in Early Modern England , ed. Lake , Peter and Pincus , Steven ( Manchester , 2007 ), 119, 126, 129 .Google Scholar

12 Macray , W. Dunn , ed., The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England begun in the year 1641 by Edward, Earl of Clarendon , 6 vols. ( Oxford , 1888 ), 3: 248 –49.Google Scholar

13 Cust , Richard , “ Catholicism, Antiquarianism and Gentry Honour: The Writings of Sir Thomas Shirley ,” Midland History 23 ( 1998 ): 40 – 70 Google Scholar , and “Honour and Politics in Early Stuart England” Donagan, “The Web of Honour.”

14 Legal defense of Sir John Hotham, c. November 1644, Hull History Centre, Hull University Archives (HHC: HUA), Hotham MS, DDHO/1/35 The trial of Colonel John Morris, 16 August 1649, British Library (BL), Egerton MS 1048, fols. 101–4.

15 Binns , Jack , ed., Memoirs and Memorials of Sir Hugh Cholmley of Whitby, 1600–1657 , Yorkshire Archaeological Society, record ser., 153 ( Woodbridge , 2000 )Google Scholar .

16 Green , Mary Anne Everett , ed., Calendar of the Committee for Compounding (Domestic), 1643–1660 , 4 vols. ( London , 1889 )Google Scholar .

17 The case of Thomas Simpson of Newton Capp, Bishop Auckland, co. Durham, June 1646, The National Archives (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), State Papers (SP) 23/181/361–77.

18 Lake , Peter , “Anti-Popery: The Structure of a Prejudice,” in Conflict in Early Stuart England: Studies in Religion and Politics, 1603–1642 , ed. Cust , Richard and Hughes , Ann ( Harlow , 1989 ), 98 .Google Scholar Examples of accounts of change of religion include Sheldon , Richard , The Motives of Richard Sheldon, Priest for his Just, Voluntary and Free Renunciation of Communion with the Bishop of Rome ( London , 1612 )Google Scholar Gee , John , The Foot out of the Snare with a Detection of Sundry Late Practices and Impostures of the Priests and Jesuites in England ( London , 1624 )Google Scholar Wadsworth , James , The English Spanish Pilgrime. Or, A New Discoverie of Spanish Popery, and Jesuiticall stratagems with the estate of the English Pentioners and Fugitives under the King of Spaines Dominions, and Elsewhere at this Present ( London , 1630 )Google Scholar Abernethie , Thomas , Abjuration of Poperie, by Thomas Abernethie: Sometime Jesuite, but now Penitent Sinner, and an Unworthie Member of the True Reformed Church of God in Scotland ( Edinburgh , 1638 )Google Scholar .

19 Clifton , Robin , “Fear of Popery,” in The Origins of the English Civil War , ed. Russell , Conrad ( Basingstoke , 1973 ), 148 –49.Google Scholar

20 Manning , Roger B. , Swordsmen: The Martial Ethos in the Three Kingdoms ( Oxford , 2003 ), 69, 70, 77, 109 Google Scholar Carroll , Stuart , Blood and Violence in Early Modern France ( Oxford , 2007 ), 272 .Google Scholar

21 Colley , Linda , Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600–1850 ( London , 2002 ), 49 – 50 .Google Scholar

22 Matar , Nabil I. , “ The Renegade in English Seventeenth-Century Imagination ,” Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 33 , no. 3 (Summer 1993 ): 489 , 495Google Scholar Massinger , Philip , The Renegado, a Tragaecomedie. As it hath beene often acted by the Queenes Majesties Servants, at the Private Play-House in Drurye-Lane ( London , 1630 )Google Scholar Daborne , Robert , A Christian Turn’d Turke: or, The Tragicall Lives and Deaths of the Two Famous Pyrates, Ward and Dansiker. As it hath beene publickly acted ( London , 1612 )Google Scholar .

23 Ian Roy, “Royalist Reputations: The Cavalier Ideal and the Reality,” in McElligott and Smith, Royalists and Royalism during the English Civil Wars, 90, 104–5.

24 Stoyle , Mark , Soldiers and Strangers: An Ethnic History of the English Civil War ( New Haven, CT , 2005 ), 95, 103 –9.Google Scholar

25 BL, Thomason Tract (TT) E90(27), A Worthy Speech made by the Right Honourable the Lord Brooke, at the election of his Captaines and Commanders at Warwick Castle, 26 February (London, 1643), 7.

26 Dick , Oliver Lawson , ed., Aubrey's Brief Lives ( Harmondsworth , 1949 ), 193 –94.Google Scholar

27 Simpson , J. A. and Weiner , E. S. C. , eds., The Oxford English Dictionary , 20 vols. ( Oxford , 1989 ), 18: 710 .Google Scholar

28 Newman , P. R. , Royalist Officers in England and Wales, 1642–1660: A Biographical Dictionary ( London , 1981 ), 171 .Google Scholar

29 BL, TT E256(12), A Perfect Diurnall of Some Passages in Parliament, 23–30 September (London, 1644), 486.

30 Cust , Richard , “Wentworth's ‘Change of Sides’ in the 1620s,” in The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621–1641 , ed. Merritt , Julia ( Cambridge , 1996 ), 64 .Google Scholar

31 Sharpe , Kevin and Zwicker , Steven N. , eds., Writing Lives: Biography and Textuality, Identity and Representation in Early Modern England ( Oxford , 2008 ), 19 – 20 .Google Scholar

32 Cust , Richard P. and Hopper , Andrew J. , eds., Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1634–1640 , Publications of the Harleian Society, new ser., 18 ( 2006 )Google Scholar Cust , Richard and Hopper , Andrew , “Duelling and the Court of Chivalry in Early Stuart England,” in Cultures of Violence: Interpersonal Violence in Historical Perspective , ed. Carroll , Stuart ( Basingstoke , 2007 ), 156 –74.Google Scholar

33 Journal of the civil war by John Syms, July 1644, BL, Additional (Add.) MS 35297, fol. 38r The trial of Colonel John Morris, 16 August 1649, BL, Egerton MS 1048, fols. 103–4.

34 BL, TT E250(8), A Perfect Diurnall of Some Passages in Parliament, 4–11 September (London, 1643), 58 BL, TT E409(22), The Juglers Discovered, In Two Letters Writ By Lievt. Col. John Lilburne, Prerogative Prisoner in the Tower of London, 1 October (London, 1647), 4.

35 The information of Richard Fawcett of Richmond, August 1645, TNA: PRO, SP 23/172/450–459.

36 Macray, The History of the Rebellion, 3:195.

37 BL, TT E32(14): A Declaration made to the Kingdome by Henry, Earle of Holland, 10 February (London, 1644), 6.

38 Donagan , Barbara , “ A Courtier's Progress: Greed and Consistency in the Life of the Earl of Holland ,” Historical Journal 19 , no. 2 (June 1976 ): 348 , 352.Google Scholar

39 Jones , David Martin , Conscience and Allegiance in Seventeenth-Century England: The Political Significance of Oaths and Engagements ( New York , 1999 ), 112 –13.Google Scholar

40 Oath of the Oxford regiment, n.d., BL, Harleian (Harl.) MS 6852, fol. 22r.

41 BL, TT E33(18): A Looking-glasse for Malignants: or, Gods Hand Against God-haters … by John Vicars ( London , 1643 ), 23 – 24 Google Scholar Sprigge , Joshua , Anglia Rediviva Englands Recovery ( London , 1647 ), 51 .Google Scholar

42 Vallance , Edward , “ Protestation, Vow, Covenant and Engagement: Swearing Allegiance in the English Civil War ,” Historical Research 75 , no. 190 (November 2002 ): 408 –11, 417–19.Google Scholar

43 BL, TT E247(21): A Perfect Diurnall of the Passages in Parliament, 3–10 April (London, 1643) BL, TT E37(20), A Declaration Published in the County of Devon by that Grand Ambo-dexter, Sir George Chudleigh Baronet ( London , 1644 ), 3 .Google Scholar

44 Some royalists had wanted an oath of allegiance imposed upon Holland after his arrival at Oxford, and when he returned to parliament, Holland had to declare that he had taken no royalist oath: Macray, The History of the Rebellion, 3:146–47 Parliamentary journal of Sir Simonds D’Ewes, BL, Harl. MS 165, fols. 227v–228r BL, TT E32(14), A Declaration made to the Kingdome by Henry, Earle of Holland, 3.


Most Roundheads sought constitutional monarchy in place of the absolute monarchy sought by Charles. [3] However, at the end of the English Civil War in 1649, public antipathy towards the king was high enough to allow republican leaders such as Oliver Cromwell to abolish the monarchy completely and establish the Commonwealth of England.

The Roundhead commander-in-chief of the first Civil War, Thomas Fairfax, remained a supporter of constitutional monarchy, as did many other Roundhead leaders such as Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester and Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex however, this party was outmanoeuvred by the more politically adept Cromwell and his radicals, who had the backing of the New Model Army and took advantage of Charles' perceived betrayal of England by allying with the Scottish against Parliament. [4] [5] [6] [ dubious – discuss ]

England's many Puritans and Presbyterians were almost invariably Roundhead supporters, as were many smaller religious groups such as the Independents. However, many Roundheads were members of the Church of England, as were many Cavaliers.

Roundhead political factions included the proto-anarchist Diggers, the diverse group known as the Levellers and the apocalyptic Christian movement of the Fifth Monarchists.

Some Puritans, but by no means all, wore their hair closely cropped round the head or flat and there was thus an obvious contrast between them and the men of courtly fashion, who wore long ringlets. [7]

During the war and for a time afterwards, Roundhead was a term of derision [7] —in the New Model Army it was a punishable offence to call a fellow soldier a Roundhead. [8] This contrasted with the term "Cavalier" to describe supporters of the Royalist cause. Cavalier also started out as a pejorative term—the first proponents used it to compare members of the Royalist party with Spanish Caballeros who had abused Dutch Protestants during the reign of Elizabeth I—but unlike Roundhead, Cavalier was embraced by those who were the target of the epithet and used by them to describe themselves. [8]

"Roundheads" appears to have been first used as a term of derision toward the end of 1641, when the debates in Parliament in the Clergy Act 1640 were causing riots at Westminster. The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition quotes a contemporary authority's description of the crowd gathered there: "They had the hair of their heads very few of them longer than their ears, whereupon it came to pass that those who usually with their cries attended at Westminster were by a nickname called Roundheads". [7] The demonstrators included London apprentices, for whom Roundhead was a term of derision, because the regulations which they had agreed to included a provision for closely cropped hair. [8]

According to John Rushworth the word was first used on 27 December 1641 by a disbanded officer named David Hide. During a riot, Hide is reported to have drawn his sword and said he would "cut the throat of those round-headed dogs that bawled against bishops". [9]

However, Richard Baxter ascribes the origin of the term to a remark made by Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, at the trial of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, earlier that year. Referring to John Pym, she asked who the roundheaded man was. [7] The principal advisor to Charles II, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, remarked on the matter, "and from those contestations the two terms of Roundhead and Cavalier grew to be received in discourse, . they who were looked upon as servants to the king being then called Cavaliers, and the other of the rabble contemned and despised under the name of Roundheads." [10]

Ironically, after Anglican Archbishop William Laud made a statute in 1636 instructing all clergy to wear short hair, many Puritans rebelled to show their contempt for his authority and began to grow their hair even longer (as can be seen on their portraits) [11] though they continued to be known as Roundheads. The longer hair was more common among the "Independent" and "high ranking" Puritans (which included Cromwell), especially toward the end of the Protectorate, while the "Presbyterian" (i.e., non-Independent) faction, and the military rank-and-file, continued to abhor long hair. By the end of this period some Independent Puritans were again derisively using the term Roundhead to refer to the Presbyterian Puritans. [12]

Roundhead remained in use to describe those with republican tendencies up until the Exclusion Crisis of 1678–1681 the term was then superseded by "Whig", initially another term with pejorative connotations. Likewise during the Exclusion Bill crisis, the term Cavalier was replaced with "Tory", an Irish term introduced by their opponents, and also initially a pejorative term. [13]

Personal Rule and the seeds of rebellion (1629–40)

Compared with the chaos unleashed by the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) on the European continent, the British Isles under Charles I enjoyed relative peace and economic prosperity during the 1630s. However, by the later 1630s, Charles’s regime had become unpopular across a broad front throughout his kingdoms. During the period of his so-called Personal Rule (1629–40), known by his enemies as the “Eleven Year Tyranny” because he had dissolved Parliament and ruled by decree, Charles had resorted to dubious fiscal expedients, most notably “ ship money,” an annual levy for the reform of the navy that in 1635 was extended from English ports to inland towns. This inclusion of inland towns was construed as a new tax without parliamentary authorization. When combined with ecclesiastical reforms undertaken by Charles’s close adviser William Laud, the archbishop of Canterbury, and with the conspicuous role assumed in these reforms by Henrietta Maria, Charles’s Catholic queen, and her courtiers, many in England became alarmed. Nevertheless, despite grumblings, there is little doubt that had Charles managed to rule his other dominions as he controlled England, his peaceful reign might have been extended indefinitely. Scotland and Ireland proved his undoing.

In 1633 Thomas Wentworth became lord deputy of Ireland and set out to govern that country without regard for any interest but that of the crown. His thorough policies aimed to make Ireland financially self-sufficient to enforce religious conformity with the Church of England as defined by Laud, Wentworth’s close friend and ally to “civilize” the Irish and to extend royal control throughout Ireland by establishing British plantations and challenging Irish titles to land. Wentworth’s actions alienated both the Protestant and the Catholic ruling elites in Ireland. In much the same way, Charles’s willingness to tamper with Scottish land titles unnerved landowners there. However, it was Charles’s attempt in 1637 to introduce a modified version of the English Book of Common Prayer that provoked a wave of riots in Scotland, beginning at the Church of St. Giles in Edinburgh. A National Covenant calling for immediate withdrawal of the prayer book was speedily drawn up on February 28, 1638. Despite its moderate tone and conservative format, the National Covenant was a radical manifesto against the Personal Rule of Charles I that justified a revolt against the interfering sovereign.


Barbour, Hugh. The Quakers in Puritan England. New Haven, 1964. Sensitive account from a Quaker perspective.

Bradstock, Andrew, ed. Winstanley and the Diggers 1649 – 1999. London and Portland, Oreg., 2000. Valuable essays on Winstanley's life and his settlement.

Capp, Bernard. The Fifth Monarchy Men: a Study in Seventeenth-Century English Millenarianism. London, 1972. Still the standard work.

Davis, J. C. Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the Historians. Cambridge, U.K., 1986. A spirited but controversial argument that the "Ranters" were largely invented by conservatives to discredit their opponents. For a debate between Davis and his critics see Past and Present, 129 (Nov. 1990) and 140 (August 1993).

Hill, Christopher. The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution. Harmondsworth, U.K., and Baltimore, 1975. A magisterial survey of radical ideas and movements.

Manning, Brian. The English People and the English Revolution. Harmondsworth, U.K., and New York, 1978. Two important chapters on the Levellers, and early chapters on the popular street politics in 1640 – 1642.

McGregor, Frank, and Barry Reay, eds. Radical Religion in the English Revolution. Oxford and New York, 1984. Very useful essays on all the groups covered in this article.

Reay, Barry. The Quakers and the English Revolution. London, 1985. The best short introduction, from a non-Quaker perspective.

Sanderson, John. 'But the People's Creatures': The Philosophical Basis of the English Civil War. Manchester, U.K., and New York, 1989. Chapter 2, "Levellers and anti-Levellers" (pp. 102 – 127) gives a good account of the concept of popular sovereignty.

Shaw, Howard. The Levellers. London, 1968. A clear, short introduction.

Churches still bearing battle scars

St John's, Devizes. The church was in use as a gunpowder store in July 1643 when it
was hit by the Roundheads' grapeshot. Photo: Brian Robert Marshall (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photos of English parish church exteriors where English Civil War damage is still visible .

The close-up above shows the east wall at St John's church in Devizes, Wiltshire, established in the 12th century and now a Grade 1-listed building.

Devizes came under two periods of targeted attack during the English Civil War. Parliamentary forces under William Waller besieged Ralph Hopton and his men there in 1643, before Henry Wilmot rode out of Oxford with 2,000 men to relieve the siege and allow Hopton passage out of the town. It would prove a costly mistake for Waller: Hopton would help inflict the terminal blow against his former friend's forces only days later at Roundway Down.

Close up of the damage to the east wall of St John's.
Photo: Brian Robert Marshall (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In 1645 Cromwell attacked the Royalist garrison at Devizes again. The 400 Welsh troops under the command of Sir Charles Lloyd, the King's Quarter Master General, were forced to surrender and the town passed into the hands of Parliament.

During the conflict the church tower was used as a powder magazine and lead was removed from the roof to make shot (in common with many other churches of the period). A rectory house damaged during the Civil War was ordered to be rebuilt in 1646 but was removed again by 1704.

The east wall still bears around 20 grapeshot scars, at about three metres to the right of the Beauchamp tower and two to three metres off the ground. Grapeshot was about 1.5 inches in diameter and wrapped in a cloth/leather bag and fired from an artillery piece.

It is not clear during which of these attacks the damage to St John's occurred.

St Chad's, Farndon. The tower has a number of marks in
the soft sandstone. Photo: John S Turner (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The base of the tower at St Chad's in Farndon, Cheshire, dates from the 14th century, though previous churches probably existed on the site from Saxon times.

In 1643 St Chad's was commandeered as a barracks by the Parliamentarian commander Sir William Brereton.On November 9th a skirmish took place between Brereton's troops and an opposing Royalist force for control of passage over the River Dee. Fighting reached Farndon churchyard, and the roof was set ablaze.

St Chad's remained, however, under Parliamentary control until 1645, when it was abandoned after forces under Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice forced the garrison to flee. Such was the damage to the church after this second attack that it was completely rebuilt in 1658.

The photo above show pock-marks in the sandstone wall of the church, though again it is not clear during which attack the damage was inflicted.

The church also has a fine stained glass window in the east wall of the Barnston Chapel. Underneath there is a plaque which reads:

St Gregory's, Offchurch. The pock-marks are said to have
been made by the musket balls fired by Cromwell's troops.
Photo: David Stowell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

St Gregory's in Offchurch, Warwickshire. The name of the village derives from 'Offa's Church', the building thought to pre-date the current one built in 1115 (the remains of a stone coffin found under the porch of the present building are thought to have contained the remains of Offa, King of Mercia).

After the first large battle of the English Civil War at nearby Edgehill, the churchwardens of Offchurch paid 1s 4d to John Cox, Nicholas Gobbs and John Arnold ‘for guiding the King’s Carriage', 6d for ‘two fathens for the King’ and 2d for ‘a maimed soldier'.

The pock-marks (above) on the south face are locally attributed to have been caused by Cromwell's troops, though there is no direct evidence to confirm the story.

St Luke's in the village of Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. The history of the church can be traced back to 1245, though, again, a Saxon church may have existed on the site.

In 1640 two stained glass memorials to members of the Needham family in the north aisle of the church were destroyed. The tower has musket ball damage to its base (above), possibly suffered during the Royalist fallback from Middlewich in 1643 or around the time of the Battle of Nantwich in 1644.

St Lawrence's, Alton. Parliamentary forces caused musket
damage to the south door during the Battle of Alton.
Photo: Julian Humphrys

The door at St Lawrence's, in Alton, Hampshire. The baptismal font is the only remaining indication that an Anglo-Saxon place of worship existed on the same site, the rest of the church Norman in origin.

The churchwarden accounts of 1625 mention' the church's peal of bells being rung when King Charles came to the town in 1625. The pulpit, described by Pevsner as 'an outstanding mid-C17 piece', also dates from this period.

On 13th December 1643 the Royalist garrison at Alton serving under the Earl of Crawford were taken by surprise by William Waller's army. Crawford fled, leaving the town to be defended by Colonel Richard Bole (Bolle). Waller was joined in the assault by Arthur Heselrig, and after fierce fighting around the church lasting around two hours Bole was killed, reputedly on the steps of the pulpit (after hearing of his death King Charles wrote that he had 'lost one of (his) best commanders in this Kingdom').

Success at Alton brought some revenge for Waller over Hopton after the defeat at Roundway Down. In the aftermath of the battle he wrote to his former friend:

The fighting at Alton - some of the fiercest of the war - was also the first time that leather guns had been used in England.

The south door of the church (above) has a number of holes caused by musket balls, though shot also caused damage to pillars, walls and the ceiling. A number of relics from the battle, including a key, a uniform button, bullets and a pipe are on display in a cabinet in the church.

Others examples of churches where I've been told that visible damage exists (but I don't have images for) include:

How Did Oliver Cromwell Die?

Cromwell died from kidney disease or a urinary tract infection in 1658 at age 59 while still serving as Lord Protector. His son Richard Cromwell assumed the post, but was forced to resign due to a lack of support within Parliament or the military.

In the leadership vacuum that ensued, George Monck assumed control of the New Model Army and spearheaded the formation of a new Parliament, which proceeded to pass constitutional reforms that re-established the monarchy. In 1660, Charles II, who had been living in exile, returned to England to assume the throne, thereby beginning the English Restoration.

Nearly two years after his death, on January 30, 1661 — the 12th anniversary of the execution of Charles I — Cromwell’s body was exhumed by supporters of the monarchy from its resting place at Westminster Abbey and beheaded. His head was displayed atop a pole outside Westminster Hall for more than 20 years.

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