[posted by Gavin Robinson, 10:59 am, 15 April 2013]
From ‘An Ordinance for taking away the Book of Common Prayer, and for establishing and putting in execution of the Directory for the publique worship of God’ passed by the Long Parliament in January 1645 (in Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum):
When any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of Burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for Publique Burial, and there immediately interred without any Ceremony.
And because the customes of kneeling down, and praying by, or towards the dead Corps, and other such usages in the place where it lies, before it be carried to Burial, are Superstitious: and for that praying, reading, and singing both in going to, and at the Grave, have been grosly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many wayes hurtful to the living, therefore let all such things be laid aside.
Howbeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for publique Burial, do apply themselves to meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion: And, that the Minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their duty.
That this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or differences at the Burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased whiles he was living.
These rules were observed at Oliver Cromwell’s funeral on 23 November 1658. Although his effigy was brought from Somerset House with an ostentatious procession accompanied by cannon salutes, there was no ceremony once it reached Westminster Abbey (Ian Gentles, Oliver Cromwell: God’s Warrior and the English Revolution, pp. 196-7; Cromwell’s body had actually been buried in secret shortly after he died in September).
History shows that things were different in the past, so they could be different again in the future.
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:35 am, 15 January 2013]
In discussions about early-modern cavalry tactics, some people have asked me how many horses were killed in battles. This is the answer. Actually only a partial answer, but it’s the best one I’ve got. Narratives of English Civil War battles are usually very vague about casualties, if they mention them at all. Financial records are usually a better source for numbers. For a few parliamentary cavalry units, I’ve found detailed lists of horses lost in service. In 1644, Parliament set up the Committee for Taking Accounts of the Whole Kingdom to audit the war effort (you can read the ordinance for appointing the committee at British History Online). One of the committee’s jobs was to certify arrears of pay due to soldiers and officers (Ian Gentles estimated that these ran into millions of pounds). If the commanding officer of a unit couldn’t satisfactorily account for money, horses and equipment he had received, the value would be knocked off his arrears. Losses by enemy action during a battle were usually allowed, giving officers a strong incentive to exaggerate battle casualties in their accounts. This is obviously a problem because the figures they give could be too high, but it also pretty much guarantees that they won’t be too low. The committee concluded that Lionel Copley, a captain of horse in the Earl of Essex’s army, had defrauded the state of lots of money and horses, and overstated his losses at First Newbury to cover it up, but some members of his troop testified against him. I haven’t included his accounts here because they’re incredibly complicated as well as unreliable. Below I’ve put extracts from three other officers’ accounts that give details of horse losses. Doing this made me realise how bad the transcripts I made for my PhD were, but it also shows that I’ve got much better at palaeography. The quoted text is all in Crown Copyright and released under Open Government Licence. Click the links in the document references to see page images on Flickr (non-commercial use only).
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:30 am, 10 October 2012]
Writing about cavalry charges often uses the phrases ‘close order’ or ‘knee-to-knee’. But what do these actually mean, and how close can you keep charging horses? This post won’t necessarily answer these questions satisfactorily, but it will show that there are lots of different opinions in drill books and eyewitness accounts.
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 12:43 pm, 19 September 2012]
Behind every Great Man there’s another Great Man who is supposed to have inspired him, even though he’s a unique genius. Whiggish narratives of progress in cavalry tactics often say that Prince Rupert and/or Oliver Cromwell got his brilliant ideas from Gustavus Adolphus. Back in the caracole post we saw how Michael Roberts credited Gustavus Adolphus with getting rid of the caracole and bringing back proper, vigorous, manly shock charges. These assumptions have had knock-on effects for historians of the English Civil Wars, who have often tried to classify various tactics as either Dutch (old and rubbish – how quickly they forgot that Maurice of Nassau was a Great Man) or Swedish (new and good). I’ve already discussed how Rupert and Cromwell weren’t necessarily doing anything new, when we can tell what they were doing at all. This week, see how their tactics don’t relate to national stereotypes.
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:32 am, 11 September 2012]
The anniversary of Oliver Cromwell’s death is on 3rd, 13th or 16th September, depending on how you want to define ‘anniversary’ and deal with the discrepancy between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Since Cromwell died, an awful lot of rubbish has been written about him. The fact that he became Lord Protector in the 1650s has made him a prime target for Whiggish Great Man history. Almost anything that he did in the first half of the 1640s, no matter how banal, can be turned into a sign of future greatness. In an old post I argued that Cromwell was a successful cavalry commander, but not much more so than Sir William Balfour. This post uses only contemporary eyewitness sources to show what we can and can’t know about Cromwell’s cavalry tactics in the First Civil War.