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?


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.


Henry Marten’s horse regiment

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:37 am, 10 July 2013]

I’ve previously shown that radical MP Henry Marten caused some trouble by criticising Parliament’s Lord General, the Earl of Essex, in December 1642 (see Winter in Windsor series). Marten went on to cause even more trouble in 1643 by requisitioning horses from various influential people, ostensibly to help him raise a cavalry regiment. I looked at some of these incidents in my book and my War in History article, but this post is the start of a more detailed catalogue of all the evidence I’ve found so far. (more…)

Winter in Windsor part 4: Hot and Cold

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 12:44 pm, 1 July 2013]

I thought I’d finished this series (part 1, part 2, part 3), but there’s one more thing to say that I’m now not saving for anything else. It all started on 5 December 1642 with radical MP Henry Marten complaining about the Earl of Essex keeping his army in winter quarters at Windsor when parliamentary forces in Devon and Yorkshire were being defeated. The diary of Sir Simonds D’Ewes (British Library, Harleian MS 164, f. 243) reported Marten saying ‘that all these miseries proceeded from his slownes, that wee saw it was summer in Devonshire, summer in yorkeshire & onlie winter at Windsor; & therefore desired that wee might speedelie send to the Lord General to move forward’. The main point of this was to blame Essex for things that weren’t directly his fault, but there was also a gendered subtext that may have made the criticism more powerful. (more…)

Out Now: Horses, People and Parliament in the English Civil War

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:10 am, 1 August 2012]

[Edit May 2016: My opinion of my book has changed several times. When I first started on the proposal I thought ‘this is the best thing ever’ but by the time I submitted the whole thing it was more like ‘at least I wrote the correct number of words by the deadline’. As this post suggests, I was quite pleased with it when it came out, although I secretly regretted giving the publisher carte blanche with the cover design. The one in my head is much better but I didn’t want to spend any of my own time or money on it. Before long I went through a phase of thinking the book was terrible and not wanting anyone to read it, but now I’ve come back to being reasonably satisfied with it. It could have been better but it could have been worse. Reviews from people who know that they’re talking about have mostly been favourable. There are enough different things in the book that generous reviewers can easily concentrate on the bits they like and politely ignore the rest. I agree with Stephen Roberts that there isn’t enough about horses in it, and with Peter Gaunt that I tried to do too much and should really have split it into two books, although we don’t quite agree on what those books should have been, and I’ve changed my mind about it myself. My work has now been cited in the Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution which I suppose makes it a small part of the canon and makes me definitely a ‘proper historian’.]

My first (and possibly last) peer-reviewed academic monograph, Horses, People and Parliament in the English Civil War: Extracting Resources and Constructing Allegiance, has now been published by Ashgate. More details of what it’s about below the cut, and there’s also an interesting response at Mercurius Politicus. You can find it at these places, and probably others:

[Edited 5/8/12: previews of the Kindle edition are now available at Amazon in the UK and US and are slightly longer than the PDF preview at Ashgate; also Erik Lund pointed out that the hardback is cheaper in Canada]

I understand that at those prices many people won’t be able to afford it, but if you’re a lecturer, please consider recommending it to your library and using it in your teaching. It has lots of cool ideas and useful facts that would fit into a wide variety of courses:


Below is a more detailed summary of what it’s all about:


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.


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.

Winter in Windsor

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 1:51 pm, 5 December 2011]

On 5 December 1642 Henry Marten (MP for Berkshire and a well-known radical extremist) made a speech in the House of Commons which criticized the Earl of Essex, commander of Parliament’s main army, which was in winter quarters at Windsor. But what did he say? Several books in my collection mention the incident but they don’t always say the same thing.

Here are the references and quotes. References in square brackets are the sources cited by the author:

J. H. Hexter, The Reign of King Pym (Cambridge, MA, 1941), p. 110 [British Library, Harleian manuscript 164, f. 243]:

The cry without the walls found echoes in the House of Commons, as some of the fiery spirits began to cry down the Lord General. Martin attacked him openly, contrasting the military successes in the north and west with the Earl’s immobility near London in December. “It is summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire and only winter at Windsor,” where the general was in quarters. Hoyle seconded Martin hinting that Essex’s slowness and carelessness would ruin the kingdom. Suspicions of the Earl’s integrity, groundless as they were, “had already taken birth”…

Vernon F. Snow, Essex the Rebel: the Life of Robert Devereux, the Third Earl of Essex 1591-1646 (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1970), p. 349 [Hexter, King Pym, p. 110]:

The war party in the Lower House and London disapproved of Essex’s reluctance to take the initiative and give battle. Radical Henry Marten disparaged Essex when he asserted, “It is summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire and cold winter in Windsor.”

Ivor Waters, Henry Marten and the Long Parliament (Chepstow, 1976), p. 17 [nothing]:

Essex delayed in Windsor, and on December 5th. Henry Marten stood up in the House to describe the royalist victories all over England and attack the dilatory Captain-General who, he alleged, “would have it was summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire, and early winter at Windsor”.

Sarah Barber, A Revolutionary Rogue: Henry Marten and the English Republic (Stroud, 2000): doesn’t mention the incident at all, which is kind of strange for a biography of Henry Marten.

Ian Gentles, The English Revolution and the Wars in the Three Kingdoms, 1638-1652 (London, 2007), p. 159 [BL Harl. 164, f. 243]:

The almost unrelieved gloom induced by these despatches from the north, south and south-west prompted the hard-line war party member Henry Marten, ‘whose custom it was to bark at everybody’, to voice the first public dissatisfaction with the Earl of Essex’s leadership. Referring to his stationary presence at Windsor Marten declared rhetorically ‘that all these miseries proceeded from his slowness… It was summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire and only winter at Windsor; and therefore desired that we might speedily send to the Lord General to move forward.’

Harleian manuscript 164 is the diary of Sir Simonds D’Ewes, MP for Sudbury in Suffolk. He usually took a moderate conservative position and opposed anything to do with fighting the civil war. This is my transcript of the relevant passage:

Mr Henry Marten stood upp whose custome it was to barke at everie bodie & fell upon the Earle of Essex Lord generall being at windsor: saying, that all these miseries proceeded from his slownes, that wee saw it was summer in Devonshire, summer in yorkeshire & onlie winter at Windsor; & therefore desired that wee might speedelie send to the Lord General to move forward. Alderman Hoile of yorke seconded him; & saied that unless the saied Lord Generall used more care & speed the kingdome would be ruined: but S[i]r Gilbert Gerrard & others excused him that what hee did was by advise of a councell of warre & soe the matter was laied aside for the present

So Ian Gentles wins for quoting D’Ewes most accurately. The way Hexter put the phrase in speech marks and changed the tense of the verb made it look like a direct quote of Marten’s actual words when it wasn’t. Snow followed Hexter but changed ‘only winter’ (which was correct) to ‘cold winter’ for no apparent reason. Waters changed it again to ‘early winter’ (or were these typesetting errors that were missed at the proof stage?). We can correct these errors by comparing with what D’Ewes wrote, but we still don’t have direct access to the words Marten actually used. Other sources don’t help with this.

The incident is also mentioned in the diary of Lawrence Whitaker, MP for Okehampton in Devon (British Library, Add. 31116, f. 14v). After recording reports of atrocities committed by the Cornish army, he wrote:

It was Ordered [tha]t these Relac[i]ons should be sent to [th]e Lo[rd] Gen[er]all, & to desire him to Consider whether it were not high time for [th]e Army to move, w[hi]ch now was, & for a fortnight had beene lying still at Windsor

The Commons Journal never records speeches so there’s no trace there. According to my notes, Walter Yonge’s diary (BL, Add. 18777, f. 81v.) doesn’t add much to the Commons Journal, although his writing is extremely difficult to read (I’m usually good at palaeography, but everyone has their limits).

Every historian I’ve looked at prefers D’Ewes’s account, which is understandable because he gives more detail than Whitaker. But they all omit one part: according to D’Ewes, Essex was defended by his ally Sir Gilbert Gerard. Leaving this out gives the impression that Essex was more unpopular than he actually was. He had friends as well as enemies. Hexter and Snow were generally sympathetic to Essex, and the quote from Hexter above asserts that the aspersions were ‘groundless’, but they both left out some evidence that would have supported their views. As Gentles points out, this was the first time that Essex’s competence had been questioned by someone on the parliamentary side. At this time it was still quite unusual.

Overall this isn’t a very important point but it shows that if something is in quote marks in a peer reviewed publication that doesn’t guarantee that it’s an accurate quote, and if it is an accurate rendition of the quoted text, there might be something interesting next to it in the source that it came from. Footnotes (or other methods of citing sources) don’t automatically give a claim authority, but they make it possible to check. That’s why they’re important.


[posted by Gavin Robinson, 1:40 pm, 18 September 2008]

[Edit May 2016: another planned article that didn’t happen but ended up as part of my book. I later did a series of posts including everything I could find about Henry Marten’s regiment.]

Thanks to Amazon I’ve just picked up very cheap second hand copies of:

  1. Sarah Barber, A revolutionary rogue Henry Marten and the English republic (Sutton,: Stroud :, 2000).
  2. Ivor Waters, Henry Marten and the Long Parliament (Chepstow Society: Chepstow, 1976).

I’m planning to write an article about Henry Marten’s attempt to raise a cavalry regiment in 1643, so I want to read everything that’s been written about him. That seems to be surprisingly little considering how interesting he is. The RHS Bibliography only returns 8 results for titles containing the words “Henry Marten”. He was arguably the most radical member of the Long Parliament, but perhaps he’s difficult to deal with because he doesn’t fit the puritan stereotype. That’s always a problem for arguments that the English Civil War was a war of religion, and it’s not really enough to say that he was just the exception that proves the rule.

This project was going to be my third article, but now it’s been promoted as the Difficult Second Article is officially dead. It was just too difficult to give it a strong enough argument to stand up as an article, but I haven’t given up on my analysis of horse donations. I think it would work better as a sample chapter for a book proposal. Then it would fit in with bigger arguments about negotiation of property rights and authority, and the construction of identities. And it won’t have to take in the causes of the civil war, which is a relief. As I mentioned before I’ve realised that I’m really not very interested in that question, and there’s no point trying to write about things you’re not interested in. That’s probably one of the reasons why it was so difficult. Also I have a theoretical problem with causation in general: in order to explain why things happened we need to know why people did things. But other minds are unknowable. Therefore we can’t really explain any historical events if the causal chains pass through people’s minds.

Social-Political Animals

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 10:05 am, 30 May 2008]

[Edit May 2016: You can now download this paper as a PDF. When I first wrote and presented this I thought it was really exciting (and it did get good feedback from the audience at the symposium and the commenters below). Now it seems a bit superficial and scatty (and I have more doubts about whether the Chain of Being was really as important as I used to assume). There are lots of interesting ideas here but they need testing more thoroughly. Animal studies hasn’t taken off as much as I hoped it would back then. It’s doing alright as a niche sub-field but it hasn’t had much influence on more mainstream historiography. History of emotions has had a much higher profile in recent years, and the history of material objects seems to be the Next Big Thing. Animals don’t fit very well with either of these things. There’s even a humanities festival called Being Human, which manages to combine essentialism and anthropocentrism in only two words! Jill Greenberg quoted my analysis of the scold’s bridle in her book of horse photos, which was nice.]

Social-Political Animals: Humans and Non-Humans in Early-Modern Society

Presented at FORWARD Symposium, Nottingham Trent University, 28th May 2008.