Winter in Windsor part 3: what the papers didn’t say

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 4:24 pm, 13 February 2012]

In part 1 of this series I tried to find out what disparaging things Henry Marten said about the Earl of Essex on 5 December 1642. In part 2 I showed how criticism of Essex was probably unfair. Now in the final part I’m going to look at what the London press were saying. (Working on these posts always earworms me with ‘A Woman in Winter’ by The Skids: good thing or bad thing?)

Although Marten had spoken in front of lots of MPs in the House of Commons, and some of them noted it in their diaries, news of the controversy wasn’t published outside Parliament. It was an established tradition that what went on in Parliament wasn’t to be revealed to the general public, even though members claimed to be looking after the public interest, and this was still more or less holding up despite all the crazy things that happened in 1642. In 1643 leaks became much more common, and different factions in Parliament used the press to attack each other and advance their own agendas (see Peacey, Politicians & Pamphleteers for lots of examples). The weekly newsbooks covering 5 December 1642 mentioned that news had been received from Yorkshire and Devon but there seems to be no consensus about whether the news was good or bad. They didn’t criticize Essex, and some claimed that he was about to attack the enemy, or that he already had.

A continuation of certaine speciall and remarkable passages from both houses of Parliament (E.244[5]) reported news from Yorkshire and Devon but put a positive spin on it rather than treating it as a disaster. It also claimed that Essex had defeated the royalists at Reading. Near the end it said ‘This night the Earle of Holland, the Earle of Pembroke, the Earle of Northumberland, the Lord Say and the Lord Wharton that went down to Windsor are expected to return again to Parliament’ but didn’t say anything about why they had gone there.

England’s memorable accidents (E.244[9]) wrote under 6 December (p. 107), ‘The Lord Generall being furnished with money and other necessaries, is advancing now towards the Enemie’ but for 9 December (p. 111) admitted ‘The Lord Generall with his Foot and Ordnance continue still at Windsor, because they cannot march this winter; but all his horse and Dragoneers are sent out in severall Parts to intrap the Cavalliers and to restraine their pillaging’.

A perfect diurnall of the passages in Parliament (E.244[7]) reported that contradictory letters had come to Parliament from Yorkshire, one saying that the Earl of Newcastle had relieved York unopposed and the other that Sir John Hotham had defeated him.

Speciall passages and certain informations (E.129[5]) mentions news from Yorkshire and Devon, and says that ‘The Lord Generall marcheth to morrow from Windsor, the greatest part of his Army being a dayes march before him’.

There were some even bigger claims about Essex’s exploits in one-off pamphlets.

Another famous victorie obtained by his Excellencie the Earle of Essex (E.129[6]) claimed that Essex had inflicted heavy casualties on the royalists and captured Henley and Marlow on 2 December.

A true relation of the proceedings of His Excellence the Earle of Essex, with his army, since his departure from these parts, in pursutie of the cavaliers (E.129[12]), collected by Thomason on 8 December, told an unlikely story of John Hampden having besieged and captured Reading (which wasn’t actually recaptured by Parliament until April 1643).

The title of Exceeding joyfull newes from the Earl of Essex being a true and reall relation of his incompassing the Kings army neare the citty of Oxford, Decemb. 7. and the great skirmish which they had at the same time… (E.129[25]) says it all. This pamphlet claims that Essex had left Windsor on 5 December and had managed to surround the King’s army at Oxford within two days!

Some of these stories are blatantly false, and others must at least be exaggerated. It looks like there was huge demand in London for news of victories, and if there wasn’t any then pamphlet writers were willing and able to make it up. It seems like the writers and their audiences still want to believe that Essex is doing great things. He hasn’t become unpopular yet, and no-one is openly criticizing him in public.


Random news

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 9:18 am, 5 February 2012]

I’m planning to finish my Winter in Windsor series of posts while it’s still winter, but in the meantime here are some links:

Winter in Windsor part 2: poor excuses or double standards?

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 10:28 am, 19 December 2011]

Previously I wrote about how Henry Marten criticized the Earl of Essex for keeping his army in winter quarters at Windsor in December 1642. It took a whole post just to establish what Marten (probably) said. But did he know what he was talking about, and was the criticism fair?

Henry Marten had no military experience before the outbreak of the First Civil War. That didn’t automatically mean that he was going to be inept. Oliver Cromwell had no previous experience of war either, and he turned out to be very good at it (as I pointed out here, not a super-special genius, but he could hold his own against professional soldiers of similar rank). Marten seems to have been strongly opposed to the monarchy and the House of Lords from very early in his political career, and in 1642 he was a very active supporter of the parliamentary war effort. He used his inherited wealth to pay spies, which along with his extravagant personal spending eventually bankrupted him (Barber, Revolutionary Rogue, 4-5, 36, 39-40). His first military command was as governor of Reading but he abandoned the town without fighting when the King’s army approached in November 1642 (Waters, Henry Marten, 17). This fact alone makes it look a bit hypocritical of him to complain about Essex not fighting, but that wouldn’t undermine the point if it was a good argument.

Marten’s basic facts were correct: there was action in Yorkshire and Devon while Essex’s army was inactive at Windsor. But he wasn’t comparing like with like. Most of the forces which were fighting in the north and west were very new. Cornwall wasn’t secured for the King until the Cornish rising in early October, and Hopton’s first (failed) attempt to invade Devon was only made in November (Stoyle, Soldiers and Strangers, 40, 43). Lord Fairfax, Parliament’s commander in the West Riding of Yorkshire, had agreed to a neutrality pact in September and didn’t start raising his army until October. Newcastle’s ‘popish’ army didn’t invade Yorkshire until 1 December (Hopper, Black Tom, 26-8, 36). These forces were only just starting their first campaigns when Essex had finished his. Parliament had started raising its main army in June 1642 and appointed Essex as general in July. He set out with the army in September, advancing to Worcester and fighting a cavalry skirmish at Powicke Bridge. On 23 October Essex’s army fought the King’s main army at Edgehill in the first major battle of the First Civil War. After a few days of rest at Northampton, Essex rushed his army south to block the King’s approach to London. He arrived just in time, and although some of his infantry were wiped out by Prince Rupert at Brentford, the main body of the army linked up with the London Trained Bands at Turnham Green. The King decided not to fight when the weight of numbers was against him and retreated to Oxford. It was only after this that Essex settled at Windsor. His army had been on campaign for three months, fighting battles before the northern and western forces had done anything, or even before they existed. A period of rest and recovery in a safe place was probably necessary.

Even when they were completed, the armies fighting in Yorkshire and Devon were significantly smaller than the main armies in the Thames Valley. The best recent calculations put both armies at Edgehill at similar strengths with about 10,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry each (Graham, ‘Earl of Essex‘, 282, 288-9). They also had large artillery trains. Newcastle’s army was the most comparable, but at 8,000 men in total was still only 2/3 the size. The remaining forces were even weaker. Hopton’s Cornish army was only 3,000 strong, and Lord Fairfax had only 2,000 men (Stoyle, Soldiers and Strangers, 43; Hopper, Black Tom, 36). Moving and quartering were much easier with a small army than with a big one, especially when rain made the roads muddy and cold made it more necessary for soldiers to sleep indoors. Transporting heavy artillery was a particular problem if there was too much mud. So why not leave it behind? Essex and the King had both made their winter quarters in strong defensive positions. Essex’s headquarters were at Windsor castle, and the King was at Oxford, safely situated between two rivers. If either army advanced it would need heavy artillery if the other wouldn’t come out and fight in the open. Since advancing, especially with an artillery train, was very difficult it made sense for both armies to stay in their winter quarters and prepare for the next year, which is what they did. It’s also possible that Essex’s army was suffering from desertion and shortages of money and horses (although the jury is still out on Parliament’s financial situation after Edgehill), but even without that there was no good reason to expect the army to advance in the middle of winter.

The Horse as Cultural Icon

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 10:07 am, 30 October 2011]

[Edit May 2016: I’ve already reflected on my chapter in another post. There’s a review by Rob Boddice in Cultural and Social History and another by Karen Raber in Renaissance Quarterly.]

The Horse as Cultural Icon: The Real and the Symbolic Horse in the Early Modern World is a new collection of essays about early-modern horses edited by Peter Edwards, Karl Enenkel and Elspeth Graham, and published by Brill. It should be out next week and it’s already available for preorder on Amazon US (if you’ve got loads of money) but I can’t find it on Amazon UK yet.

I’ve got a chapter in it about the military and social value of horses, mostly in early-modern England but it also touches on the middle ages and the First World War. It’s basically exploring Bruce Boehrer’s idea that horses were socially devalued in early-modern England. It includes an alternative narrative of cavalry warfare, a discussion of how horse ownership and cavalry service were (or weren’t) related to elite social status, and a look at the cultural myths of cavalry and chivalry in literature.

The full contents are:

  1. Greg Bankoff, ‘Big Men, Small Horses: Ridership, Social Standing and Environmental Adaptation in the Early Modern Philippines’, pp. 99-120.
  2. Pia F. Cuneo, ‘Visual Aids: Equestrian Iconography and the Training of Horse, Rider and Reader’, pp. 71-97.
  3. Louise Hill Curth, ‘‘The Most Excellent of Animal Creatures’: Health Care for Horses in Early Modern England’, in pp. 217-40.
  4. Peter Edwards, ‘Image and Reality: Upper Class Perceptions of the Horse in Early Modern England’, pp. 281-306.
  5. Amanda Eisemann, ‘Forging Iron and Masculinity: Farrier Trade Identities in Early Modern Germany’, pp. 377-402.
  6. Jennifer Flaherty, ‘‘Know Us by Our Horses’: Equine Imagery in Shakespeare’s Henriad’, pp. 307-25.
  7. Elspeth Graham, ‘The Duke of Newcastle’s ‘Love For Good Horses’: An Exploration of Meanings’, pp. 37-69.
  8. Ian F. MacInnes, ‘Altering a Race of Jades: Horse Breeding and Geohumoralism in Shakespeare’, pp. 175-89.
  9. Richard Nash, ‘‘Beware a Bastard Breed’: Notes Towards a Revisionist History of the Thorough bred Racehorse’, pp. 191-216.
  10. Gavin Robinson, ‘The Military Value of Horses and the Social Value of the Horse in Early Modern England’, pp. 351-76.
  11. Elizabeth Anne Socolow, ‘Letting Loose the Horses: Sir Philip Sidney’s Exordium to The Defence of Poesie’, pp. 121-42.
  12. Sandra Swart, ‘‘Dark Horses’: The Horse in Africa in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’, pp. 241-60.
  13. Elizabeth M. Tobey, ‘The Legacy of Federico Grisone’, pp. 143-71.
  14. Andrea Tonni, ‘The Renaissance Studs of the Gonzagas of Mantua’, pp. 261-78.
  15. Elaine Walker, ‘‘The Author of their Skill’: Human and Equine Understanding in the Duke of Newcastle’s ‘New Method’’, pp. 327-50.

Ashgate sale

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 9:16 am, 14 August 2011]

[Edit May 2016: That post-it note ended up in the conclusion of my book, but not in all caps.]

From now until 31 October 2011 Ashgate publishing are having a sale. That means that you (unless you’re in North or  South America) can buy lots of Ashgate, Gower and Variorum books through their website for only £22.50 (normal price is usually between two and three times that). Obviously my book isn’t in the sale because I haven’t finished it yet, but these are some titles that might be interesting:

Meanwhile there’s a post-it note on my desk which says ‘THE DOER IS NOT JUST A FICTION BUT A HISTORICALLY SPECIFIC FICTION’. Make of that what you will…

Valentine Stuckey, a life

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 12:26 pm, 17 July 2011]

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a building (or buildings) called the White Bear in Cornhill, London. This post is about one of the people who lived and worked there. It starts with the same entry in the list of horses contributed to the Earl of Essex’s army (TNA: PRO SP 28/131 part 3 f. 55r, 16 August 1642):

Valentine Stuckly of the white Beare in Cornwall vint[ner] listed one browne bay geldinge, his rider John Courtnye armed wth Carabine a Case of pistolls a buffe Coate and a sword valued in all at £21

I’ve found that his name was spelled lots of different ways, but he seems to have preferred Valentine Stuckey. This narrative of his life is still hypothetical because the record linkage isn’t absolutely certain. I might well have conflated details of two or more men with the same name, but what I’ve written seems probable, and at the very least it makes a good story. (more…)

The White Bear

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 10:14 am, 3 July 2011]

Nick Poyntz is right about the serendipity of digital searches. This weekend chasing up a fairly minor point for my book took me on a web search adventure with lots of interesting tangents. It all started with an entry in the lists of people who contributed horses to the Earl of Essex’s army, dated 16 August 1642 (TNA: PRO SP 28/131 part 3 f. 55r):

Valentine Stuckly of the white Beare in Cornwall vint[ner] listed one browne bay geldinge, his rider John Courtnye armed wth Carabine a Case of pistolls a buffe Coate and a sword valued in all at £21

I’ve always assumed that it means Cornhill in London, not the county of Cornwall, but some proof would be nice. These days names like the White Bear are associated with pubs, but in the seventeenth century pretty much any kind of business premises could be identified with a sign like this. Kathleen M. O’Brien has compiled a list of sign names from seventeenth century tradesmen’s tokens, including ones which combine a colour and an animal. The list mentions three White Bears, but not in Cornhill. It seems to be a very common name: the horse lists also include White Bears in Bread Street, Fenchurch Street, Distaff Lane and Lombard Street. The one in Lombard Street apparently later became the famous Lloyd’s coffee house.

The earliest record I can find of a White Bear in Cornhill is in the early 1620s, when the printer Thomas Jenner was based there (and he sometimes spelt it Cornewall). By 1624 he had moved to the Royal Exchange, at the west end of Cornhill on the north side of the street. The exchange was destroyed by fire in 1666 and 1838 but the current version was rebuilt on the same site and with the same layout. Jenner still sometimes called his new premises the White Bear, or sometimes just gave his address as the ‘South Entrance of the Royal Exchange’ (perhaps it was on the very spot where Agent Provocateur now stands). Jenner stayed at the exchange until his death in 1673, after which John Garrett took over the business and premises.

The idea that Jenner moved out of the original White Bear could be supported by an Ordinance of Parliament passed in 1649, which lists property confiscated from the dean and chapter of Westminster Abbey. Under Birchin Lane in the parish of St Michael Cornhill it lists:

George Dawson, for the White Bear, Two shillings six pence.

Birchen Lane runs from Lombard street in the south to Cornhill in the north, coming out just to the east of the exchange. Even if this building wasn’t actually on the street called Cornhill, it was in the parish of St Michael Cornhill and in Cornhill ward, so could plausibly be described as ‘the White Bear in Cornhill’. And as I found with George Willingham, early-modern London addresses could be quite fuzzy. The entrance of the exchange would probably have been a more desirable location, which could explain why Thomas Jenner would want to move his business around the corner.

Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary for Saturday 8 October 1664, ‘after dinner abroad, and among other things contracted with one Mr. Bridges, at the White Bear on Cornhill, for 100 pieces of Callico to make flaggs’. From internal evidence it’s not clear whether Bridges had his premises there or whether they met in a tavern to discuss the deal, but it doesn’t seem to be Thomas Jenner’s print shop. Specifying ‘on Cornhill’ could imply that it’s not the same as the White Bear in Birchen Lane (unless it was on the corner), or it could be referring to the actual hill rather than the street named after it.

A collection of documents in the Buckingamshire archives includes a marriage settlement from 1781 which mentions the ‘Pensilvania and Carolina Coffee House (formerly the White Bear) in Birchin Lane, Cornhill, London’.

That’s all I’ve found so far. There could be up to three buildings called the White Bear in the same parish at the same time, and there was almost certainly one other than Jenner’s new address at the exchange. If only they’d had geocoding in the seventeenth century…

Coming soon: a brief biography of Valentine Stuckly, which will raise as many questions as it answers. Also on Sunday 10 July I’ll be posting an interview with Andrew Hickey about his experiences with self-publishing.

Original signatures

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 1:47 pm, 21 May 2011]

I’ve just started to appreciate another advantage of taking digital photos of documents in the National Archives (a.k.a. PRO): comparing original signatures. That’s not exactly a revolutionary discovery, but I actually used it this week and it was quite exciting. I’ve mentioned John Gower before in posts about my work on saddlers. I had two collections of facts which I thought probably refer to the same person, but I hadn’t conclusively proved it.

The archives of the London Saddler’s Company show that a John Gower was a freeman of the company, and was admitted to the livery in 1640. The will of John Gower, citizen and saddler of London, was written on 18 October 1644 and proved by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 9 May 1645. This will mentions that John’s wife was called Jane, and that they lived in the parish of Saint Katherine Creechurch. Jane Gower went on to sell saddles to the New Model Army in 1645.

Financial records of the Essex county committee and the committee of the Eastern Association at Cambridge show that they bought lots of saddles from a John Gower. He is sometimes described as Captain Gower, and in at least one case money was received on his behalf by his ensign. It’s quite likely that this is the same Gower who commanded a company in the Earl of Manchester’s foot regiment.

On the balance of probabilities and assumed that these records all related to the same man but I wasn’t absolutely certain. This week I was sorting out some photos from my last research trip, including warrants issued by the Essex committee (SP 28/227). I noticed that John Gower had signed receipts on some of them. I already had photos of his original will (PROB 10/648) so it was easy to compare them.

This is a receipt for money paid for saddles by the Essex committee, dated 26 September 1643.

And this is part of the will, dated 18 October 1644.

They look pretty similar to me so now I’m fairly certain that it is the same man. The signature on the will looks very shaky, presumably because he was terminally ill when he wrote it.

As well as the practical benefits of record linkage, this is also a way of connecting with the reality of the past. If the same signature appears on two different documents belonging to different organisations and created at different times, the most parsimonious explanation is that John Gower was a real person who signed the documents in the course of his life. His home must have been destroyed in the great fire, if not before or after, and as far as I know none of the saddles that he made survives today. Saddlers Hall was destroyed by fire on more than one occasion, and nearly all of the company’s 17th century plate was sold or lost. These signatures are probably the only remaining physical traces of John Gower.

Forthcoming Publication

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 9:54 am, 1 January 2011]

[Edit May 2016: That essay is my fourth best academic publication. Because I’ve only got four. It’s alright for the last minute filler that it was commissioned to be, and there are lots of genuinely good bits in it, but the structure is a mess and there are some places I shouldn’t have gone (especially Shakespeare criticism and trying to compare numbers of cavalry over time). I’ve said elsewhere that ‘mercifully no-one will ever read it’ but actually it did get a favourable comment in a review for standing out against the rest of the volume, which is what I was aiming for.]

I’ve just finished writing an essay for a collection called The Horse as Cultural Icon: the Real and Symbolic Horse in the Early Modern World, edited by Peter Edwards and Elspeth Graham, which will be published by Brill (I’m not sure exactly when, but probably within the next twelve months). My chapter is called ‘The military value of horses and the social value of the horse in early-modern England’. It’s quite eclectic, mixing numbers from empirical research with words like semiotics and simulacrum, ranging from Milton and Shakespeare to anonymous scatological poems and cheap woodcuts. I took Bruce Boehrer’s essay ‘Shakespeare and the Social Devaluation of the Horse’ as a starting point and worked outwards, looking at how the middling sort appropriated the horse and how the elite tried to make it more exclusive. Although it’s mostly about the 16th and 17th centuries I went back into the middle ages and forward to the First World War to show how the social and cultural roles of horses aren’t necessarily related to the reality of war. I’ve cited Stephen Badsey and David Kenyon for proof that cavalry were still useful in the 20th century and that there was and is an awful lot of prejudice against them; and I’ve cited Michael Prestwich and Anne Curry to show that 14th and 15th century men-at-arms were flexible all-rounders and that only a minority of them were knights. By taking a longer view than most previous works on early-modern horses I’m trying to break out of a vaguely Marxist master narrative in which The Transition From Feudalism To Capitalism and the increasing use of gunpowder doomed the knight on his charger and gave the aristocracy an identity crisis, and in which social, economic and military base determines cultural superstructure. Rather than marking a turning point, Shakespeare’s treatment of horses and chivalry in Henry V seems to be part of a debate which was already going on in the 14th century, was still going on throughout the 17th century, and is perhaps still going on now. Cultural beliefs that cavalry were useless seem to be independent of how useful cavalry actually were.

The best thing is that I’ve used the phrase “order of magnitude” correctly and appropriately. I shouldn’t feel so pleased about this, but I get so annoyed by other historians misusing it to mean “quite a lot”.

Meanwhile I’m taking a break from posting here for a month or two (or maybe three) while I finish the first draft of my book. Before too long I’ll have made the inevitable transition from “oh no, I won’t be able to write enough” to “oh no, I’ve written too much”.

  1. Bruce Boehrer, “Shakespeare and the social devaluation of the horse,” in The Culture of the Horse, ed. Karen L. Raber and Treva J. Tucker (New York; Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). 

The P(uritan) C(hristian) Brigade has banned Christmas!

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 5:12 pm, 18 December 2010]

From the Journal of the House of Lords, 19 December 1644:

Whereas some Doubts have been raised, whether the next Fast shall be celebrated, because it falleth on the Day which heretofore was usually called The Feast of the Nativity of our Saviour: The Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled do Order and Ordain, That Public Notice be given, that the Fast appointed to be kept on the last Wednesday in every Month ought to be observed, until it be otherwise Ordered by both Houses of Parliament; and that this Day particularly is to be kept with the more solemn Humiliation, because it may call to Remembrance our Sins, and the Sins of our Forefathers, who have turned this Feast, pretending the Memory of Christ, into an extreme Forgetfulness of Him, by giving Liberty to carnal and sensual Delights, being contrary to the Life which Christ Himself led here upon Earth, and to the spiritual Life of Christ in our Souls; for the sanctifying and saving whereof, Christ was pleased both to take a human Life, and to lay it down again.

And from an affidavit given to Parliament on 7 January 1647:

That, in Pursuance of the Directory and the National Covenant, your Petitioner acquainted his People, the Lord’s-day before, that they should not observe Christmas-day, because a Penalty is laid on those Ministers who do not observe the Directory, and by it Holidays are not to be continued;

Meanwhile, the Church of Scotland had no official Christmas or Easter celebrations for nearly 400 years from 1560 to 1958 (Cambridge Companion to Puritanism, p. 179).

So there was a time when Christmas was banned in Britain, but it was done by British Christians who didn’t think the traditional festivities were Christian enough. It wasn’t changed to Winterval because of political correctness.