Freedom, like many things in life its just there, we tweet politicians and let them know we think they are stupid, some go further and insult the object of their ire, venting our spleen makes us feel good, and we can do it at any time of the day, using a variety of media.
Personally I sometimes think we are not served well by our representatives, incredulous that they don't think as I do on certain subjects, at other times admittedly not so often I am thankful we have such enlightened people governing us.
Today we take for granted certain freedoms, the freedom to vote into power people to represent us, religious freedom, freedom from persecution and many other freedoms which if we lost them we would surely fight hard to regain.
Prior to the English Civil wars the ordinary person had virtually no rights, taxes could be levied upon them and enforced by violence, land owners could evict a person or a whole family for very little reason, and even the Church and its representatives treated the common person very badly, no representation or protection for the common man existed in any real sense.
Kings ruled they thought by the Divine Right of God, their decisions could not be questioned, and basically they did as they pleased with no thought for their subjects.
The Levellers who were a group of radicals wanted to see a huge change in this state of affairs they were asking for, in fact demanding things that surely will seem familiar to our cousins across the ocean.
So what was "The Agreement of The People", ? it was in fact a "Principal Constitutional Manifesto".
In a nutshell its aims were for the people to have certain Inalienable rights, sound familiar ?
How would this be achieved, well by settings limits on the power of the State.
The first draught in October 1647 had four clauses which were,
The Peoples representatives "Members of Paliament", should be elected in proportion to the population of their constituencies.
The existing Parliament should be dissolved on 30th September 1648
Future Parliaments should be elected biennially and sit every other year from April to September.
The biennial Parliament (consisting of a single elected house) should be the supreme authority in the land, with powers to make or repeal laws, appoint officials and conduct domestic and foreign policy.
The overall aim was for the common good of the people, as happens today there was much heated debate between the interested parties, the military represented mostly by Cromwell and Ireton disagreed passionately with some of the aims expressed by the Levellers.
Ironically the bedrock of the Leveller movement was soldiers of Parliament, most of these men came from humble backgrounds and would have suffered grievously during the war, they were men who wanted to see real gains at the wars end and not just a virtual resumption of the status quo.
This disagreement centred mostly around the vote, Cromwell was after all a landowner and believed that only those who held land "with a fixed permanent interest", should have the vote.
So we have a great example here of what we very often see today, and that is vested interests at play, we may think we have progressed a long way since all this took place and in some ways that is true, in others not so.
The Levellers wanted to extend the franchise to all men, Cromwell clamped down hard on the men who agitated for this sentencing some to death. The main players for the Levellers were John Lilburne, Richard Overton, William Walwyn and Gerrard Winstanley.
Lilburne was a great believer in social justice, he believed if all men were equal in the eyes of God, then they should be so before the law. he argued for disestablishment of the Church, no more imprisonment for debt, and an end to any censorship of the press.
At that time the press was controlled by Print Guilds and so were not free in any sense we would recognise today, vested interests at work, as I am writing this I am smiling, nothing really changes in some respects, or does it ?
Interestingly I heard on the radio only a few days ago that during the Gulf war the BBC banned the playing of "War, what is it good for"? by Edwin Starr, I wonder what Lilburne would have made of that ?.
The link below relates to the Levellers in Northamptonshire
The final version of The Agreement included,
Annual elections to Parliament with MP's serving one term only
Abolition of imprisonment for debt
Taxation in proportion to real or personal property
The law should proceed in English and cases should no extend longer than six months
Obviously the Levellers were not to know that in not too many years from that time the Monarchy would be restored, but the idea's they planted would not be killed off, and today a lot of what we have in terms of our freedoms we owe to that movement and the men who led it.
A lot of the things these men fought for are just as relevant today, freedom of the press has been the cause of great debate both in the UK and across the pond.
Taxation, what better subject to cause apoplexy. those that pay it and those that don't and are aided and abetted in doing so.
Elections, those that lead us and how they achieve power and more importantly what they do with that power, or conversely don't do with it.
Anyway I enjoyed writing this, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
What I love about the local news is that sometimes they will come up with something you knew about in a general sense but that also reveals little details you didn't know,
Such was the case with last nights episode of my local news channel "Look East" which featured a short but very interesting and informative piece about the imprisonment of Charles 1 at Holdenby House in my home County of Northamptonshire..
Holdenby House traditionally pronounced, and sometimes spelt, Holmby is magnificent and the gardens are superb, If you are visiting Northamptonshire its a great place to take some time out to see.
The 20 acre Grade 1 listed garden, set in stately lawns and hedges, has several special features. Away from the formal gardens lie the terraces of the original Elizabethan rose garden - one of the best-preserved examples of their kind. There is also a delightful walled kitchen garden with the original Victorian greenhouses.
You could take in King Charles Walk.
The border recalls the period of Charles I's imprisonment: he was a brisk walker and Lord Pembroke (his keeper) had difficulty keeping up with him.
Charles was apparently released temporarily from his confines to play bowls at Althorp House, the journey from house to house being taken on horseback.
What a sight would have been the King with his retinue playing this serene game in the beautiful surroundings of such a magnicent house, Unfortunately for Charles this relaxed regime was not to last for long however.
It was at Holdenby early on the morning of 3rd June 1647 that Charles was confronted by George Joyce (Cromwells man) also known as Cornet Joyce, the rank of Cornet was the lowest commissioned rank in the army.
Joyce had come to take Charles from Holdenby as a precaution against an alleged plot by Presbyterians to remove the King to London.
The King asked Joyce words the the effect of "Where is your warrant" ? to which Joyce replied pointing the the 500 Parliamentarian mounted soldiers with him, "Here Sir is my permission", to which Charles reply was "Tis well writ".
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Such important events in our history and I don't think enough people dwell enough on our shared past and how it has shaped what we are now and the world we live in,
On the program last night Earl Spencer was asked if the execution of Charles was inevitable, and his answer that the King had been involved in so much double dealing that the people that made the decision thought the only way to end this was to end the Kings life.
Something I spotted in the newspaper a few days ago which you may find interesting,
I for one had no idea that Charles had such a collection of fine art. The series the BBC is planning should be well worth watching so for those that love history happy viewing.
On a recent visit to some friends in Pontefract (do you like liquorice ?) I took the opportunity to have a walk around Pontefract Castle, the last Royalist stronghold to fall to the Parliamentarians.
The Castle is in the midst of a major restoration / redevelopment so unfortunately a lot of where I wanted to venture was not accessible however that did not lessen my enjoyment as I had the good fortune to get to speak to a very informative guide (thank you Tina if you read this) about the ongoing restoration project.
The castle played a major role in the war being besieged no less than three times and was still holding out even after Charles was executed, what I was really interested to hear was that three cannon balls had been found embedded in the stonework of the walls during the restoration work, and that these would be on display in the visitor centre later in the year.
Cromwell described the castle thus –
“Pontefract castle is well watered; situated on rock in every part of it; and therefore difficult to mine; the walls are very thick and high, with strong towers; and if battered very difficult to access, by reason of the depth and steepness of the graft”.
The dates of the sieges were –
First siege began on Christmas day 1644 –
Fairfax laid siege to the Castle during which it was bombarded for five days. Apart from attempting to breach the castles defences by bombardment mining was also used, or more accurately undermining, a technique whereby digging underneath the walls was undertaken in an attempt to bring about collapse.
This first siege ended on 1st march 1645 when the defenders were relieved by the arrival of Royalist forces lead by Sir Marmaduke Langdale.
Second siege began March 1645 -
By the 11th march 1645 another Parliamentarian siege was underway,
This siege took the form of trying to starve the occupants of the castle by completely encircling it and thus preventing them from being able to forage for food, it was ultimately successful when on July 9th 1945 the Royalist garrison surrendered to General Poyntz and were allowed to leave.
Third siege – October 1648
After the second siege the castle was occupied by a Parliamentarian garrison and repairs were undertaken, three years later the castle was recaptured by the Royalists.
There was a strange twist to this third siege which I will write about at a later date.
Apart from its associations with the Civil War the castle has lots of other very interesting history, Kings and Queens having won and lost their thrones through events at the castle.
On this day in 1651 a certain Thomas Pendleton and 12 other shoemakers petitioned the House of Commons for monies owed.
Firstly some background information on this story.
Northampton has a long history of boot and shoemaking which dates right back to the 15t century and continues right up to the present day with high quality shoes being produced and exported worldwide, historically the presence of a local cattle Market gave easy access to the raw materials needed for this trade, allied with the towns proximity to water and its central location.
By the year 1642 there were enough shoemakers in the Town to secure a large order of 600 pairs of boots and 4,000 pairs of shoes for the New Model Army; these were to be used by the soldiers of Lord Essex’s Army in Ireland..
These were dangerous times times however and Pendleton wisely arranged for a Troop of armed horse to guard the consignment on its way to London.
Northampton was a staunch supporter of the parliamentarian cause during the war, and there were many actions in the county between the two sides over the course of the war, the most famous of which is of course Naseby.
Pendleton became involved in local politics and the non-payment for his and his fellow shoemakers work became somewhat of an embarrassment for him, even more so as by this time he was running for the mayoralty of Northampton.
Pendleton and his fellow shoemakers had by 1647 still not been paid hence the need to petition the House of Commons.
And then on Monday, January 17, 1647
House of Commons Journal reports, “An ordinance for Payment of a Debt of Eight hundred Pounds to a certain Shoemaker of Northampton, out of the Estate of Wm. Baud, a Recusant, was this Day read; and, upon the Question, rejected.” But fear not, for it was recorded a little later that the same William Baud, of Walgrave, “a Popish Recusant, that hath adhered to the Enemy against the Parliament” should have his estate seized and, from the money raised, “Thomas Pendleton, and other Shoemakers of Northampton, be paid and satisfied”.
I was travelling behind another vehicle a few days ago and on the rear windscreen was a sticker “Help for Heroes”, and this started a train of thought about how the soldiers and indeed the civilians who were the victims of the war would have managed in a world without all the safety nets and help available to today’s soldiers who have been maimed and their families who have lost a breadwinner.
I have to admit to a relative lack of knowledge on this particular aspect of the war but I believe petitions were made for relief and assistance by both soldiers and the widows of soldiers killed during the conflict, these petitions would have been made to the petitioner’s local parish.
I have contacted my local records office which should hopefully be able to furnish me with more information so as and when I get this I hope to be able to post details of local men and women who made requests for assistance and some background information on these people and their individual stories.
On this day in 1645 a second version of the Self-Denying Ordinance Bill was passed by both Houses after the House of Lords threw it out in January 1645.
An extremely rare Parliamentarian flag has been put on display for the first time in 350 years, many flags were used during the war but very few survived intact to this day and this particular flag has an incredible history.
The flag has been kept by no less than 11 generations of the same family and has been kept in many different locations during its lifetime, the man behind the flags creation and the Parliamentarian regiment he founded is even more interesting.
Sir John Gell was a successful Derbyshire man who had divided loylaties, at one time supporting the King and giving financial aid to the Royalist cause but later becoming a staunch Parliamentarian who founded a regiment to fight against the Cavaliers.
It was Gell's financial assistance that helped the King rule without reference to Parliament, but it was religion that was the cause of his switch of allegiance to Parliament.
However Gell later and again in the name of religion swapped sides and fought for the King, and again he helped the King with the donation of money.
He was subsequently arrested and incarcerated for 3 years in the Tower of London by the Parliamentarian authorities, however on the restoration he was pardoned by the new King Charles 11.
Other objects to be displayed are a Parliamentarian sword with and insulting image of Charles 1st upon it, but being man of Northamptonshire for me the most interesting is the Iron cannon ball apparently retrieved by a local farmer after the Battle of Naseby and kept in the same family right up till the mid-20th century.
I came across this map recently, to be honest I can't remember where, must be an age thing, but I thought it's a lovely old map and thought it worth posting up.
I know it's a bit late but Happy New Year I hope it is a great one for you whoever you may be.
The images below are displayed by kind permission of Pieta Greaves.
The effigy of a recumbent knight is thought to be Sir Thomas de Astley d.1265. It was severely cut about when the box pews were installed in the 1770s, and previous to that it had been badly defaced, possibly in the Civil War, when parliamentary troops may have been billeted in the church before the Battle of Naseby in 1642. They did not care for ‘graven images’ and sometimes used them as sharpening stones for their swords as well as breaking off pieces.
Even after all this time fascinating finds which proves the past is not dead its not even past.
I discovered this article today which I hope you find interesting.
I recently came across a book I had forgotten I had which is entitled "Who's buried where in England" by Douglas Greenwood, the dedication inside reads " To those of the historically famous who at one time proudly trod the soil of England and now lie deep within".
Curiosity got the better of me as I looked through the index and came across an entry for Oliver Cromwell so this is an addition to what I wrote a while ago on his last resting place which I thought may be of interest to some.
The entry reads as follows, (I have omitted some of the text).
Cromwell, Oliver (1599-1658)
Henry V11's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, London, in the small east chapel, now known as the RAF chapel, where a stone in the pavement records his burial there together with members of his family and some of the regicides. St Nicholas's Church, Chiswick Mall, London W also lays claim to his body.
He died in 1658 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. At the Restoration, however, his body together with those of other regicides was disinterred and hung on Tyburn gallows until 30 January 1661, the anniversary of Charles 1's execution, his head being stuck on a pole on top of Westminster Hall.
The Times of July 1969 reported that according to letters from Captain E. L. Dale, the son of the Reverend Lawford Dale, Vicar of St Nicholas's Church, Chiswick Mall in West London, in 1882, the Protector's remains has been switched at burial on the Protector's own orders and were later buried in the vaults of St Nicholas's Church. If this is true, they are now sealed under a thick cement floor. A letter to the Times, 31 August 1989, from Phillida Grantham, stated that she once held Cromwell's head, 'then in the possession of the Wilkinson family', and that it is now buried at his Cambridge college, Sidney Sussex.
I came across this very interesting broadcast from the BBC, a macabre tale of Cromwell's fate even after his death.
This shows the fickle nature of power and how quickly people will revert back to that which they know and how deeply embedded was the idea of the Divine right to rule.
Just read that Cromwell's signature just before his death sold at auction a few days ago for £4.800
Cromwell died at the age of 59 in 1658
Recent investigations have mooted that malaria weakened Cromwell and this in conjunction with typhoid fever, possibly caused by a Salmonella infection lead to his death.
Interestingly these conclusions were reached as a result of records made by Doctors and embalmers at the time of his demise, he was a man whose family had a record of long life.
Cromwell's death mask
I was perusing Twitter this morning and came upon a picture taken at Althorpe house which for the last few days has been hosting a literary festival, the post was by Suzannah Lipscomb and mentioned Paul Blezard, I duly asked if I could use the photo and very kindly Paul agreed, thank you Paul.
So pictured below is the table used by Cromwell to plan his campaigns, what a fantastic item and what tales it could tell.
Saturday 2nd July 2016 - Sunday 3rd July 2016
To mark Charles 1’s imprisonment at Holdenby in 1647, there will be a re-enactment by The Sealed Knot entitled ‘ Holdenby 1647. Battle to save a King. ‘ A Living History camp, weapons displays and scenes from Charles’ imprisonment will culminate in a battle by some 2,000 soldiers.
There is a civil war event taking place in Newport Pagnell over the August bank holiday weekend, see details below.
If you are interested in events taking place througout the UK which relate to the War then this could quicken your pulse, the event takes place on June 23rd 2016 the title being -
Quacks, butchers or pioneers ? Surgeons and the treatment of wounds in the Civil Wars.
The venue is
The Commandery, Sidbury, Worcester, WR1 2HU
The description sounds particularly grisly and includes video footage of a shoulder or pork being cut by swords, you can only imagine the injuries inflicted by the weapons commonly used in the war, and given the fairly primitive methods used to treat these wounds the suffering must have been pretty nasty .
The talk will be given by Dr Stephen Rutherford of Cardiff University, he owns a collection of replica surgical instruments which will be on show and Stephen will be using examples of some of the surgical procedures taken from the writings of Richard Wiseman a Surgeon who was present at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
In yesterdays edition of the Times newspaper an interesting article concerning the upcoming auction of a ring given by King Charles 11 to a woman who helped to save his life. The ring is expected to fetch up to £10,000 and what a fantastic piece of history to own for whoever ends up owning the ring.
The lady concerned, one Lady Jane Lane risked her own life in aiding the King's flight after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles was an exceptionally tall man by the standards of the time which made the enterprise all the more difficult. Lady Jane dressed him as a member of her household staff and they travelled to Bristol seeking a boat out of England, they were unlucky as no boat was due to sail for a month.
The price on the Kings head was £1,000 a small fortune in those times, his luck held although not before some very close calls, Charles did eventually leave England and spent nine years in exile in France, returning after Cromwell's death to reclaim the throne.
He Gave the ring to Lady Jane who was by now Lady Fisher as a token of his thanks.