One thing spending some time away did do, is allow me to catch up on some reading. Namely a book that I bought some time ago and hadn’t got round to reading, ‘Decisive Battles of the English Civil War’ by Malcolm Wanklyn (Pen and Sword Books Limited). Excellent study of the major battles, which include Edgehill, Cheriton, Newbury and Naseby, with each preceded by discussion of context, landscape and sources, showing how they can effect the narrative through inclusion, omission or position of importance.
Hopefully his critical methods of study will, some day, be applied to the smaller campaigns, campaigns which to those involved in, or affected by, them would have proved just as important as, say, Edgehill 1642. One of the points he makes is in reference to ‘eyewitness’ reports or memoirs, suggesting care is needed when using these as they usually reflect the position of the writer, either as a celebration of, or a denial of responsibility, for their exploits. However, there is a lot of thought provoking elements within this book, making it one worth reading.
However, with respect to the above, I thought I might quote a passage from ‘Sir Ralph Hopton’s Narrative’ ed. C. E. H. Chadwyck Healey (Somerset Record Society). I which he details his confrontation with William Strode in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, whilst attempting to publish the King’s Commission of Array in 1642 just prior to the outbreak of war. He, Hopton, along with others, was met on the outskirts of the Town and advised to enter without military support thereby preventing any riot.
“soe in obedience to the present necessity he left his troopes at the Townes end, and himself with the rest of the Gentlemen, and their ordinary retinue, went into the Towne, where they alighted at the high Crosse in the Markett place, and there sate calling the Towne to them, to examine the busines of the Peticion; Where verie shortlie after Mr. William Strode, a great stickler for the other party, and a neighbour to the Towne, with a partie of some eight or ten horse, verie well mounted and arm’d for offensive armes ridd up to the place where they sate, and pressing through the crowde of the people, commanded them in Parliaments name to retire themselves, and forbad the Assemblie; whereupon Sir Ralph Hopton rose from the place where he sate, and tooke Mr. Strode of his horse, tooke away his pistolls , and committed him to a Constable…”
At least that is the way it is remembered in Hopton’s memoirs, differently for others perhaps. The journal is hard to read, written in an age when the rules of grammar and spelling were far different to ours, but it’s, in my opinion, worth the effort. Especially for those interested in the early days of the Civil War.