Cavaliers & Roundheads: The English Civil War, 1642-1649
C. Scribner's Sons
, 1993 - History
- 337 pages
In a field in Nottingham in the summer of 1642, King Charles I watched his standard being raised in a high wind and driving rain. For six years thereafter, England was rent by civil war. "Whole counties became desperate," in the words of a Suffolk gentleman. Families and friends were bitterly divided as men left home to fight for King or Parliament. Castles and towns, which a year before had been "scenes of happiness and plenty," were besieged and attacked. Houses were plundered, churches and cathedrals desecrated. Savage battles were fought; and, as once-peaceful villages were overrun by hungry troops, so-called Clubmen seized arms to defend against one side or the other. Some 200,000 lives were lost, many from plague in strife-torn towns - and the king himself was beheaded on January 30, 1649. A social as well as a military history that vividly re-creates these scenes of war in England 350 years ago, Cavaliers and Roundheads is enlivened by astute and revealing character sketches, not only of the leading participants - the slight, sad, obstinate King; his dashing, ruthless nephew, Prince Rupert; the toweringly forceful and slovenly Oliver Cromwell - but also such half-forgotten characters as Sir Arthur Aston, the brutal, detested governor of Oxford whose brains were beaten out of his skull with his wooden leg; the fat French wife of the Earl of Derby, bravely defying her husband's enemies as cannon balls thudded into the walls of Lathom House; Abigail Penington, the Lady Mayoress, marching out with other City ladies and the fishwives of Billingsgate to work on London's fortifications. Making skillful use of numerous contemporary accounts as well as the fruits of modern scholarship, Christopher Hibbert once again demonstrates his mastery of narrative history.