Date: 14th June, 1645
War: English Civil War
Location: Naseby, Northamptonshire
Belligerents: Royalists and Parliamentarians
Numbers: Royalists around 9,000, Parliamentarians around 14,000
Casualties: Royalists around 1000, Parliamentarians around 150
Commanders: King Charles I and Prince Rupert of the Rhine (Royalists), Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell (Parliamentarians)
This battle was staged by The Sealed Knot The Sealed Knot is the oldest re-enactment society in the UK, a registered educational charity, and the single biggest re-enactment society in Europe.
Their website is located at
Prior to the battle there was a talk about the disposition of the two armies and the key men acting as Commanders on both sides, how the battle progressed with key moments pointed out and explanations as to the thinking behind how the opposing forces were deployed on that day.
We are blessed with so much rich history and that very often we take this for granted, but think for a moment what we might have (or not have) today had the defeat of the King and the foundation of a Parliament which speaks for and acts on behalf of the people not taken place.
OK I know in these days of widespread and often justified cynicism of the political class some might say that Parliament is increasingly divorced from the will of the ordinary men and women of the UK but that is an argument or discussion for another day.
So the reason I went along to see this re-enactment, well for many years the Sealed Knot have been staging a re-enactment of the Battle of Naseby in the Village of Naseby in Northamptonshire, and this year I finally made sure I got there to witness the event, an event I'm glad I finally got to see in the flesh.
If these people can give up their time and stage these spectacles for us to remind us of our shared history and keep it alive then me going along is no effort.
I love a day out in the countryside, and although its a bit parched at the moment due to the weather it's still beautiful,
Northamptonshire is a fairly flat county but on some of the more elevated parts there are some magnificent views, at this time of year the wheat fields glow as the sun starts to set in the early evening which is a magical sight, a reminder of our rural past.
After eight weeks of continuous unrelenting heat, you guessed it, it rained, which was a double edged sword (no pun intended), for the re-enacters it must have been great because dressed as a soldier and fighting your adversaries in extreme heat would have been hell, on the other hand I think the weather stopped more people from attending, which was a shame.
By the time the battle started the rain had stopped and the opposing forces started to assemble marching into position around the edge of the battlefield, some mounted but most on foot, then forming up opposite each other ready to do battle.
I managed to get some photo’s which don’t really do justice to the occasion as I’m not a photographer but I hope you like them anyway, first off and before the melee commenced I spoke to a gentleman called Tony who told me about muskets, and specifically boots, which apparently were only made in one way ie without a left and a right which makes sense as it must have been much easier for the manufacturers.
Tony by the way has been taking part in these re-enactments since the 1970's, fair play to him, it's good to see somebody who obviously gets a lot of enjoyment from keeping our past alive.
Somebody told me that Naseby Church has some original musket shot on display which I'm hoping to get over to and see at some point in the near future.
Musketeers obscured by smoke.
The mounted cavalry looked and sounded wonderful, and considering the amount of noise the cannons were making as they went off I was surprised how well the horses behaved.
The pikemen and women must have been sweating like horses with the sheer effort they put into pushing each other back, I wouldn’t have liked to have been in the middle of the scrum.
The number of people involved in the re-enactment on the day was obviously limited, but on the day of the actual battle there were thousands on each side so you can only imagine the scale of the noise,
It is estimated that on the day 14,000 Parliamentarians and under 9,000 Royalists opposed each other, when the two forces found each other in the fog the Royalist centre advanced first to meet the Parliamentarian infantry, both sides then became involved in fierce hand to hand fighting.
During a cavalry charge on the western flank Prince Rupert's Royalist forces swept aside the Parliamentarian horsemen, chasing them from the battlefield and on to attack the baggage train.
One of the reasons apart from many others that Charles 1st was executed after his defeat at Naseby was the discovery of certain documents which proved beyond doubt that he had been actively trying to enlist the help of foreign soldiers to his cause, notably from Ireland and Spain, and these mercenaries were Catholics which condemned him even more so in the eyes of many.
The Royalists with Rupert at the fore had started well, but things were about to change,
Cromwell launched an attack on the left wing of the Royalist cavalry. This was also successful and the Royalist's that survived the initial charge fled from the battlefield. While some of Cromwell's cavalry gave chase
The majority were ordered to attack the now unprotected flanks of the infantry. Charles was waiting with 1,200 men in reserve. Instead of ordering them forward to help his infantry he decided to retreat. Without support from the cavalry, the royalist infantry realised their task was impossible and surrendered.
Artillery was used in the English Civil War. Smaller guns were manoeuvrable enough to follow an advancing army while heavier guns were used in siege warfare against fortified static positions. However, the artillery used in battles was dispersed and not used in mass batteries and their impact was likely to have been minimal The noise they made was probably out of all proportion to their effectiveness.
In theory horse regiments consisted of 600 men. This was further divided into six troops of 100 men. However, the sheer cost of maintaining a horse regiment invariably meant that regiments were frequently no greater than 100 men. Those who did have a horse were armed with a heavy sword and possibly two pistols and were issued with a back and breastplates and a buff coat. Prince Rupert is credited with changing the way horse regiments fought in battle.
It was explained to us that during the heat of battle it would have been very difficult to know who was on your side or not. Colours could be obscured during close quarter fighting.
Even if two different coloured sashes were used, the bulk of a ‘uniform’ would have been very similar for someone who had to make a split-second decision involving their life.
The most common type of soldier was in the foot regiments. Each regiment contained musketeers and pikemen. In theory, each regiment contained 1,300 men and was divided into ten companies.
Each company was meant to have two muskets for every pike. However, during the civil war desertion was an issue and these would have been the ideal figures but many regiments failed to reach their expected numbers.
Muskets were a lot more expensive than pikes so many men made do with a pike as a regiment’s finances would not stretch to the required number of muskets.
It's easy to take for granted those things we have a lot of, history being one of them, but once lost some things can never be regained, we should cherish our history and those men women who have made an idelible mark.
The lives we live today are largely shaped by events of the past whether we acknowledge it or not, the decisions we make today will shape the lives of those to come, perhaps those in power should think on that carefully.
So at this point I would like to thank all the people who took part on the day for a great spectacle, and if you ever see an event advertised like this near you go along, even if you are not a history buff I think you would still enjoy it.
I will be going along to Naseby Church to get a look at those musket balls so will post about that with some more stuff about the county of Northamptonshire in the near future.