Henry Marten’s horse regiment part 3: the end

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:42 am, 24 July 2013]

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, Henry Marten caused conflicts between the two houses of Parliament by requisitioning horses for the regiment he was supposed to be raising by the Earl of Essex’s commission. This suddenly came to an end on 16 August 1643, when Marten was expelled from the Commons and sent to the Tower of London. But why?

There’s some potential for confusion over this incident, because Bulstrode Whitelocke misdated it to 12 August (Barber, Revolutionary Rogue, p. 178, note 61). On the surface, it had nothing to do with the horse regiment. It started straight after morning prayers on 16 August when puritan preacher John Saltmarsh was called into the Commons and questioned about some letters found in his possession. The next item in the Commons Journal is an order for the London Militia Committee to take the horses and arms of Marten’s regiment. What happened in between was officially expunged from the records when Marten was re-admitted to the Commons in 1646 (Barber, p. 10). Saltmarsh’s papers included a suggestion that Charles I and the Stuarts should be replaced by someone else if they wouldn’t give in to Parliament. Marten defended this and went further, implying that killing the King and his family was in the public interest. This went too far for most MPs, who still denied that they were at war with Charles himself or the institution of monarchy. Stephen Marshall had insinuated the same thing in his controversial 1642 fast sermon Meroz Cursed, but got away with it because he appealed to the authority of the Bible and didn’t explicitly say that he wanted to kill Charles I, whereas Marten freely admitted it when asked what he meant. Marten’s words were reported to be ‘it were better one family were destroyed than the whole kingdom should perish’. It really is a coincidence that I’m posting it this week. (This paragraph pieced together from Barber, pp. 9-10; Braddick, God’s Fury, p. 297; Hexter, King Pym, p. 60; Waters, Henry Marten, p. 24; because I don’t have a secondary work that deals with the incident in as much detail as I need. Maybe there isn’t one yet. Anyway, they’re all probably derived from D’Ewes’s diary.)

There’s a good chance that all this is just coincidence. The papers in question included correspondence with Sir Thomas Gower, who had gone over to the King. Although I don’t know how they were discovered, there’s nothing unusual about someone being investigated for communicating with the enemy. Once the letters were found, they were a matter for Parliament. Marten’s reaction to them may have been spontaneous, and was almost inevitably going to be unacceptable to the majority of MPs. But there could be more to it. Was it a coincidence that the case came before the Commons, not the Lords, and at a time when Marten was in the House and not off taking people’s horses? Sir Simonds D’Ewes stated in his dairy that the real reason for Marten’s punishment was that he always opposed John Pym, and Hexter believed there was something in this even though he was usually sceptical of D’Ewes’s ‘bias’ (British Library, Harleian MS 165, f. 152. I haven’t looked at this page of the original manuscript. It’s referenced but not quoted in Hexter, p. 60, and quoted but not referenced in Waters, p. 24). Sarah Barber cautiously accepted the possibility that Pym deliberately overreacted and suggested that he may have been under pressure from the House of Lords (Barber, pp. 9-10). I’m also prepared to consider some kind of conspiracy, but I don’t know of any evidence to prove or disprove it. This is one of many things that I’m hoping John Adamson’s next book will sort out.

If Pym did deliberately get rid of Marten, there are several possible reasons, but it’s hard to pick one out as a definite motive. It looks like Marten hadn’t openly attacked the Earl of Essex since 5 December 1642, had somehow managed to get a commission from him, and avoided getting it withdrawn despite all the controversies. But Marten was a leading member of a group of radicals that was trying to get Essex replaced by Waller in the summer of 1643. This makes it hard to judge Essex’s attitude to Marten and his regiment. The most well-researched part of Marten’s activities at this time was heading the Committee for the General Rising. This committee aimed to raise an new army in London, controlled by radicals and not by Essex, but it’s fairly clear that it had already failed by the end of July (Barber, p. 7-8; Hexter, p. 125-7; Waters, p. 23). Barber and Waters both skimmed over Marten’s horse-taking quite briefly. I think it deserves to be taken more seriously, but I would because it’s my thing. My focus on horses has helped me to find and understand things that other historians haven’t paid enough attention to, but that means I’ve paid less attention to other things. In any case, the chronology is an even worse fit: I can’t find any complaints about Marten taking horses between 3 July and 16 August, although there is an order of the Lords on 18 August about a horse Marten had taken from Carew Raleigh esquire. On 12 June, the Commons had ordered the regiment to join Essex’s army, which could imply that it was complete enough for active service, or just that the majority wanted it out of the way. This may be the date on which Marten refused to go to the army (Hexter, p. 130, citing Harleian MS 164, ff. 241, 233v). Marten’s troop still hadn’t gone by 5 August, when it was reported to be committing ‘great Misdemeanours and Insolencies’ at Greenwich. Disobeying an order of the Commons may have turned more MPs against him, especially as he previously stressed parliamentary privilege and the authority of the Commons to avoid being punished by the Lords. If Marten’s regiment was effectively complete but he wouldn’t take it to the army, this gave him military force in London and Westminster and directly threatened his rivals in Parliament. This could be the main reason why he was considered too dangerous, and his rivals may even have suspected him of plotting a coup (but I’m just speculating here). Or it could just be that D’Ewes was right and it was the cumulative effect of many things that led to Marten’s downfall.

Marten was released from the Tower on 2 September. On 17 August, the day after he was sent there, he authorized a bill for £41.2s payable to William Dash for feeding the horses of his regiment from 22 June to 15 August. It mentioned four troops: Marten’s own and captains Pyle, Stephens and De La Tour (TNA: PRO, SP 28/9, f. 335. My notes don’t say how many horses there were. William Dash was often paid for grasing army horses. This bill is also mentioned in his account in SP 28/36, part 1, f. 21.). I don’t know anything else about Captain De La Tour, or about the Captain Fisher who was alleged to be causing trouble in Prittlewell. Captain Pyle may be a relative of Francis Pyle, who was a neighbour of Marten’s in Berkshire (Barber, p. 70). I think he’s probably the Seymour Pyle or Pile who later served in Essex’s army. Seymour Pyle was commissioned on 10 April 1643 but his troop was first mustered as part of Essex’s army on 2 November 1643, when it was 36 troopers strong, and joined Sir Robert Pye’s regiment in 1644 (Turton, Chief Strength, pp. 55-6; see also the troop accounts in TNA: PRO, SP 28/147, part 3 ff. 546-9). The commission date is consistent with the founding of Marten’s regiment. Musters of Essex’s cavalry were infrequent, and the December one doesn’t conflict with Marten’s regiment being in London. There was also a captain Richard Stephens or Stephens in Essex’s army. His troop received £200 towards its completion in May 1643 and absorbed another troop from Essex’s army, but wasn’t paid as part of the army until September 1643 (Turton, p. 64. The troop was 55 strong on 14 October 1643.). Again, this is consistent with Marten’s regiment. I haven’t been able to trace what happened to Marten’s own troop. I assume it was given to someone else, but I don’t know who. These four months of trouble may only have reinforced Essex’s cavalry by around 100 men and horses, and almost certainly not more than 200. Although he clung to the title of Colonel, Marten still hadn’t made much of a military reputation for himself.

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