Henry Marten’s horse regiment part 2: more trouble

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:32 am, 17 July 2013]

Last week (well, actually in 1643), Henry Marten started raising a cavalry regiment and caused some trouble by taking the King’s horses from the royal mews. This week, he takes more horses from some other people, with controversial consequences. This might get a bit repetitive as I’ve tried to include every example I know of. In academic publications I usually pick a few examples and don’t lay out all the evidence in detail, but with a blog post I can do it differently.

First, a bit more details on some technical things that I only hinted at last week. Members of either house of Parliament were, and still are, protected by parliamentary privilege. If you take a Whig approach to constitutional history, the most important part of this is freedom of speech and freedom from royal interference, so that Parliament can criticize the monarch. Charles I’s attempt to arrest the Five Members (of the Commons, and one member of the Lords, who is usually forgotten) in January 1642 was a huge scandal that helped to start a civil war because the monarch wasn’t allowed into the House of Commons when it was sitting. Even today, MPs go into the House of Lords to hear the Queen’s speech, and are exempt from defamation laws when speaking in the Commons. But in the 17th century, another important part of privilege was that members’ property and servants couldn’t be interfered with. The Lords were particularly careful to enforce this in the 1640s. Orders for requisitioning horses usually protected horses belonging to peers, MPs and their servants. For example, see the ordinance of 15 November 1642 empowering Thomas Browne, Maximilian Bard and others to take horse from almost anyone else. This was very controversial as they did take horses from some protected people, and their powers were revoked in January 1643 (more details of this in my book, pp. 117-24). The Lords were at least able to call Browne and Bard in to answer complaints, although they didn’t always turn up. As we saw last week, they couldn’t get at Henry Marten so easily because he was a member of the Commons. Another privilege of Parliament was that members of either house could only be tried by their own house and not by the other house. Marten took advantage of this and helped to cause some major conflicts between the two houses.

The next incident after the royal mews involved Countess Rivers. At this time, there were up to two women who held this title:

  • Elizabeth Savage, nee Darcy (1581-1651), created Countess Rivers for life in her own right in 1641. One of the main victims of the Stour Valley riots in 1642, probably because she was catholic.
  • The wife of Elizabeth’s son, John Savage, 2nd Earl Rivers. His first wife was Catherine Parker and his second was Mary Ogle, but even the Oxford DNB won’t tell me which one, if any, he was married to in 1643. In any case, the 2nd earl fought for the king in the civil war, raising a foot regiment and fortifying Halton Castle in Cheshire.

It’s not always clear which one we’re dealing with, and it might not always be the same one. The House of Lords ordered some horses to be restored to Countess Rivers on 21 April 1643, and sent for whoever had taken them. It’s not clear who this was as lots of parliamentary officers had the power to seize horses by this time. My guess is that it wasn’t Henry Marten, because when it definitely was him there was far more trouble. It looks like the Lords were prepared to protect the countess even though either one would be classed as an enemy of Parliament. The Commons seem to have been more hostile. On 6 May, they ordered a Mr. Corbett to detain the countess’s goods (this may be the MP Miles Corbett, but a cornet called Corbett was also involved in horse requisitioning around this time).

Marten definitely took some horses from Countess Rivers on 8 May. The Lords heard about it the same day and decided it was illegitimate because ‘she is the Wife of a Peer, and hath a Protection from this House’. Elizabeth was a widow at this time, but her late husband had been a peer, just not an Earl Rivers because that title passed from Elizabeth’s father to her son. The Lords called for a conference with the Commons, acknowledging that Marten was a member of that house and leaving them to deal with him, but at the same time the Lords implied that this was only a courtesy and claimed that they had the power to restore the horses themselves if they wanted to. Sir John Clotworthy reported back from the conference, and the Commons resolved that Marten should keep the horses. Lawrence Whitaker, MP for Okehampton, wrote a few more details in his diary (British Library, Add MS 31116, f. 48v):

Mr Martin sayd, if [th]e ho[use]: would command him to restore those horses, they should be restored, otherwise not; so [th]e ho[use] app[ro]ved Mr Martyns taking of them, she being a knowne Papist though the Wife of a Peer

Whitaker also noted that the Countess had been given a pass to go to France with 10 horses, and that the ones taken by Marten were 6 coach horses. This is significant because a coach with 6 horses was a status symbol usually reserved for the nobility. Taking them away may have been a deliberate insult, or may have been perceived as one even if it wasn’t intended.

Nothing much seems to have happened after this until 17 May, when returning the horses was put to the question in the Commons and the noes won, apparently without a division. The Commons Journal doesn’t say who brought the issue up again, and my notes suggest that parliamentary diaries covering this date don’t help either. The issue of Oxford royalist newsbook Mercurius Aulicus covering 21-28 May (p. 269 in the original, p. 293 in the Thomas edition) gives a fairly accurate report of what happened in the Commons on 17 May and adds another detail not found anywhere else: that the motion was introduced by John Pym at the request of the Earl of Essex. This can’t automatically be dismissed or accepted, because Aulicus was clearly well-informed about events at Westminster but often included dishonest propaganda. I haven’t checked any London newsbooks to see if they said anything about the incident. For now I’m not sure why Essex would want or need to get Pym to put the question in the Commons. As Lord General and the source of Marten’s commission, Essex should have been able to order the return of the horses directly, but parliamentary privilege may have got in the way. The privileges of each house were clearly starting to conflict with each other, and this would only get worse later.

On the same day, some of Marten’s officers had turned up at Prittlewell in Essex, where they seized a horse and threatened to take more. Sir Richard Everard wrote to Sir Thomas Barrington saying that he had arrested the officers and asking for advice (British Library, Egerton MS 2646, f. 225; both men were Deputy Lieutenants and members of the county committee). Everard accused them of ‘using many insolent and threatening speeches’, and insinuated that one of them, Captain Fisher, might be a royalist because he had a son fighting for the King and had recruited ‘the cheife malignants in Rotchford hundred’. He also acknowledged that Fisher had a commission from the Earl of Essex, ‘dated a year ago, and yet never acted anything, by w[hi]ch he may (as is by many supposed) have an advantage to do a mischeife’. Barrington replied immediately (British Library, Egerton MS 2646, f.227), disputing some of the accusations against Fisher, but agreeing that ‘their menacing to bring force upon the people, their rayleinge, and taking of horses without any distinction of persons I conceive very punishable’. Despite this, he offered no solution other than to keep the officers under arrest and complain to the House of Commons. This ambivalence is surprising because Barrington vehemently opposed Walter Long, another MP commissioned by the Lord General to requisition horses in Essex around this time, and complained about other officers for taking horses in Essex and Hertfordshire (Holmes, ‘Colonel Long‘). It could be that Barrington didn’t want to antagonize Marten, either because he was a political ally or because he would be a dangerous enemy.

A few weeks later, another captain in Marten’s regiment took some horses in Surrey, resulting in this letter from some of the county committee (TNA: PRO, SP 28/7, f. 485; text under Crown Copyright and released under Open Government Licence 2.0):

where as three horses weare taken away from this bearer Edmund beckford yeasterday by one captine stevenes a captine under Collon[e]ll martin upon a wronge [deleted: and malitious] information we the comissioners here under me[n]tioned knowing of him to be an honist man for his fidellity and trust one whom we doe imploy in the parliments service and doth both for his person and purse what lyth in his power to doe for the parliment upon wich knowlidg of ouers we doe Ernestly desire that he may have his horses Restored againe & we shall be Ready to doe you any service

John Dingley

Matthew Brend

In this case, Marten wasn’t very confrontational, and ordered Captain Stephens to return the horses to Beckford (while writing this post I realised that I’ve mis-spelt his name as Berkford in everything I’ve written about him before) in this letter, apparently all in Marten’s own handwriting (TNA: PRO, SP 28/7, f. 483):

7 Junii 43

I pray you deliv[e]r unto Edmond Beckford his three gueldings seized on by you in Surrey 1 gray, 1 bay w[i]t[h] a bald face, one bright bay. having bene satisfyed concerning him by S[i]r John Dingley. Henry Marten Col.

To Captain Richard Stephens

This reasonable compromise is very different from the dispute over the King’s horses.

But Marten was in trouble with the Lords again on 12 June, when they accused him of breaching their privilege by taking horses from the Earl of Leicester. Although the record of the Lords’ message in the Commons Journal refers to  Leicester as ‘well-affected’, a phrase often used to describe Parliament’s supporters, Leicester’s allegiance was ambiguous, as his Oxford DNB article (paywall, sorry, but the Wikipedia page isn’t very good on this) makes clear. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland just before the 1641 rebellion, but never went there to take up his command. Although Parliament wanted him to go (and he did sign lots of warrants for the forces in Ireland, which are now in the early boxes of SP 28 and have been analysed in an article by Robert Armstrong), he wouldn’t go without the King’s command. Charles I apparently thought he was too parliamentarian to be trusted and really wanted Ormond to take over. Parliament trusted Leicester enough to make him Lord Lieutenant of Kent, but he refused to implement the Militia Ordinance for them. His attempts to stay neutral weren’t taken well by either side. At some point in 1643 (the DNB is typically vague on this), the Kent committee tried to sequester his estate because he had spent some time with the King in Oxford, but his allies in the House of Lords protected him. The Commons said they were going to discuss the case the next day, but there’s no mention of it in the journal for 13 June and I apparently haven’t looked at any MPs’ diaries for that date, so I’m not sure if anything happened. At the start of business on 12 June (before the message from the Lords about Leicester’s horses), the Commons had appointed a committee (including Sir Thomas Barrington) to look into horse seizure complaints against Marten’s officers and Colonel James Maleverer (who I haven’t looked at in detail, but is probably interesting). This could be a sign that more MPs were turning against Marten, or it could be a way to appease the Lords without really doing anything. Referring a bill to a committee was often a way of delaying or killing it.

The next mention of Marten’s regiment I’ve found is another complaint to the Lords, this time from Rachael, Countess of Bath. Her petition (calendared in HMC 5th report, p. 9; the original is in the Parliamentary Archives, but I haven’t ordered a copy of it) said that although her husband was a prisoner in the Tower of London (because he was arrested in 1642 for trying to execute the King’s Commission of Array), Parliament had given her permission to keep four coach horses, but some soldiers had broken into her stable at midnight and taken four horses, two of which were later seen working in Hackney coaches instead of serving in the army. Browne and Bard had already been in trouble for doing something similar, so it should have been well known that the Countess’s horses were protected. According to the petition, the soldiers said they were under Sir Arthur Heselrig, who commanded the cavalry in Waller’s army, but the Lords Journal entry about the petition on 26 June identified the soldiers as ‘Mr. Martin’s’. On the following day, Captain Pile told the Lords that he had taken the horses by Marten’s warrant, but the House found that Pile had ignored Marten’s order to return the horses (I haven’t found a copy of the order, but it was probably similar to the one to Stephens above). Therefore the Lords ordered Pile to be kept in custody until he returned the horses.

Finally (for this post, at least), the Commons resolved on 3 July to send for an unnamed captain of Marten’s regiment who had taken horses from Mr Lancelot Lake, and ‘affronted and abused’ John Glynn. I don’t know who Lake was, but Glynn was MP for Westminster, Recorder of London and a Deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex, and probably one of Marten’s opponents in the Commons. As both were MPs, Marten couldn’t hide behind privilege over this but nothing much seems to have happened as the House passed no orders relating to the case (a resolution was an agreement that something ought to be done, but not a mechanism for making it happen. See Adamson, Noble Revolt, p. 356).

If you’ve managed to read until the end, you might have noticed a pattern that made it worth posting the details of every known case: lots of them involved peers. This is partly a selection bias in the available records. Cases that involved parliamentary privilege were disproportionately likely to be taken seriously by the House affected. The examples from Essex and Surrey were not mentioned in the proceedings of Parliament, and it’s lucky that records survived in other collections. But even allowing for this bias, there’s something significant here. Marten repeatedly took horses from peers or their wives, and the peers were often suspected or convicted enemies of Parliament. This placed the Lords in a position where they put the privileges of their own group before zealous loyalty to the parliamentary war effort, and provoked conflict between the Lords and Commons. Marten’s biographers have shown that he was generally hostile to the peers, not just when he needed horses for his regiment (Waters, Henry Marten, pp. 18, 41-2; Barber, Revolutionary Rogue, pp. 4, 48, 54). I don’t think that the English Civil War was a class war, but maybe Henry Marten did.

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