This month we have another indemnity case. The last one was about sequestration, which seems to be the most common type of case. Another very common complaint is that the petitioner is being sued for a horse, which occurs in about 10% of the surviving cases. This is not because there was a shortage of horses in England during the civil wars (Ian Gentles and John Shedd suggested that it was, but Peter Edwards has disproved it: see Gentles, New Model Army, p. 130; Shedd, ‘Legalism‘, p. 1096; Edwards, ‘Supply of Horses‘, pp. 55, 57). Although there were theoretically enough horses in England, soldiers often took them by force, sometimes because Parliament couldn’t provide them any other way, sometimes just because it was more convenient. Horses were valuable, and stealing them was usually taken very seriously. Despite this, the absolute number of horses involved in indemnity cases was quite small. Most horse seizure didn’t result in a court case. When it did, the soldiers who originally took the horses weren’t always directly involved. Horses could change hands many times, and under the Common Law, anyone in possession of a horse that was alleged to be stolen could be sued, even if they were not guilty of stealing it in the first place. This made horse cases very different from sequestration cases. Sequestration was very closely linked to allegiance: petitioners were under pressure to show that they had been loyal to Parliament and that the sequestered defendant hadn’t. Anne Hughes identified this as a general trend in indemnity cases, but horse cases are a significant exception (Hughes, ‘Parliamentary Tyranny‘, pp. 67–9; see my book, pp. 140–45, for a more detailed argument than I’ve given here). The horse might have passed through so many owners that it was a long way removed from the issues that the King and Parliament were fighting over. The crucial point for the Indemnity Committee to consider was whether the horse had been in the service of Parliament, not whether the petitioner had. This month’s petition is an example of this kind of case, where a long chain of ownership led to complicated court actions and then an appeal for indemnity. (more…)
Previous posts in this series have covered sequestration (Parliament confiscating the estates of its enemies during the civil wars) and compounding (getting sequestered estates back by paying a fine). Sequestration led to lots of court cases, because although it was authorized by ordinances of Parliament, it was still technically illegal according to the Common Law. Parliament suppressed the law courts during the First Civil War, but they began to sit again when the war was over, creating opportunities to contest property rights, allegiance, and the legitimacy of the Long Parliament’s governing without the King. Many soldiers and officials were prosecuted for things they had done with the authority of Parliament. This led to the Indemnity Ordinance, which was implemented by the Indemnity Committee (I’ve written a brief guide to the committee and its records, now held by the UK National Archives). Ordinary civilians could also benefit from this if they were prosecuted for obeying Parliament. The majority of the petitions received by the committee were from tenants and debtors of sequestered delinquents who had paid the money they owed to the state and were sued for it by the original owner. This month’s document is one of these petitions. It adds an extra twist because it also involves the law of coverture. This denied married women the right to own property: with a few exceptions, any property a woman brought into a marriage was owned and controlled by her husband for the duration of the marriage. Mary Robinson from last month’s post owned an estate in her own right because she was a widow.
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.
Last month’s post was about sequestration (Parliament confiscating the estates of its enemies). Later in the First Civil War, Parliament developed a new system called compounding, which allowed sequestered delinquents to get their estates back if they paid a fine and swore an oath that they wouldn’t help the King. This process was managed by the Committee for Compounding. I’ve written a brief guide to the committee and its records which is available under CC-BY just like the other content on this blog.
This month’s documents are from the compounding case of Mary Robinson, a widow from Branston in Lincolnshire (no relation as far as I know – my Robinson ancestors were coal miners in Yorkshire, and didn’t move to Lincolnshire until the early 20th century). As usual, the quoted text is all in Crown Copyright and released under Open Government Licence. Click the thumbnails to see page images on Flickr (non-commercial use only).
During the English Civil War, Parliament started confiscating the estates of people whom it classified as enemies. This process was called sequestration, and its victims were labelled delinquents. They didn’t necessarily have any affection for the King, and hadn’t necessarily done anything to help him or his armies, but the criteria for sequestration kept getting broader. The sequestration system had a long and messy development that I tried to sketch out in my book. The first national sequestration ordinance was passed on 27 March 1643, and you can read it free at British History Online. The ordinance authorized the seizure of all of a delinquent’s real and personal estate. Rents and debts, which were to be paid to the state, were probably the main sources of money, but goods were also inventoried and sold. The inventory below is for the goods of Lady Wotton and Sir Philip Musgrave. Musgrave was a commander for the King in north-west England (you can read a biography of him at the Internet Archive), but I’m not sure where this inventory was taken. ‘Kent’ has been written on the manuscript in pencil but there’s no explanation of why. Maybe someone who knows the background can confirm or deny it. By the time I was half way through transcribing this document I’d decided that it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, but here it is anyway. For me, the most interesting part is towards the end, where it lists the animals in the park.