Mastodon The Writing Desk: Guest Post by Mark Turnbull, Author of Allegiance of Blood: 17th Century Historical Fiction

12 May 2020

Guest Post by Mark Turnbull, Author of Allegiance of Blood: 17th Century Historical Fiction

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Sir Francis Berkeley strives to protect his wife and family from the brutal effects of the English Civil War. But aside from the struggle between king and parliament, the allegiances of family, friendship and honour entangle him at every turn and prove to be just as bloody.

I have been a fascinated follower of the British Civil Wars since the age of ten, and this passion spurred me on to write my first novel called, Allegiance of Blood, which is set during the war. When considering a guest post for Tony’s excellent blog, I decided to mark the upcoming 375th anniversary of the Battle of Naseby. A turning-point battle, it marked the beginning of the end of the King’s cause.

Battle of Naseby, hand-coloured copper engraving
by Dupuis after Parrocel, 1727 (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s one of the most famous civil war battles and a lot has already been written about it, but I have decided to let those who fought it speak for themselves and offer only brief narrations. So, this is the Battle of Naseby in 12 quotes, and through the eyes of six participants. [royalist in red and parliamentarian in blue]

In the lead up to the battle, a fog of war and confusion enveloped both sides. The parliamentarian New Model Army was besieging the royalist HQ of Oxford, so the royalists headed north to draw them away. The tactic succeeded and a game of cat and mouse ensued as the parliamentarians gave chase.

After doing some reconnaissance in the early hours, Joshua Sprigge tells us that the parliamentarian General, Sir Thomas Fairfax, returned to his army but, “having forgot the Word [password] he was stopped at the very first Guard; and requiring the Souldier that stood Sentinel to give it to him, he refused to do it … and so made the General stand in the wet, till he sent for the Captain of the guard…

Even when the fog began to clear there was still uncertainty about each side’s exact locations. Sir Edward Walker, the King’s Secretary at War, recounted, “But that night an Allarum was given, that Fairfax with his Army was quartered within six Miles of us. This altered our design, and a Council being presently called, resolutions were taken to fight; and rather to march back and seek him out than to be sought or pursued ...

Despite the royalists only being two-thirds the size of the parliamentarians, they had decided to go on the offensive. With both forces almost upon each other at Naseby, Walker goes on to say, “one Francis Ruce the Scoutmaster was sent to discover; who in a short time returned with a Lye in his Mouth, that he had been two or three miles forward, and could neither discover nor hear of the Rebels. This and a Report that they were retreated, made Prince Rupert impatient; and thereupon he drew out a Party of Horse and Musquetiers both to discover and engage them ...

Joshua Sprigge documents the parliamentarian response as both sides met, and the royalists began to deploy into battle formation. “We retreated about an hundred paces from the ledge of the Hill, that so the Enemy might not perceive in what form our battell was drawn, nor see any confusion therein, and yet we to see the form of their battell; to which we could conform ourselves for advantages ...

The royalist Sir Henry Slingsby remembered how Prince Rupert was quick to go on the attack and open the battle. “Immediately he sends to ye King, to hasten away ye foot, & Cannon, wch were not yet come off the Hill where they first made ye randevous.”

Edward Wogan, a parliamentarian dragoon in Colonel John Okey’s regiment, records honestly how their left wing of cavalry was soon broken by Rupert. “The King’s horse … routed us clear beyond our carriages … a great many of our horse went clear away to Northampton and could never be stopt.

Wogan details the effect this had on their infantry in the centre. “The King’s foot got ground apace, upon our foot being discouraged by our horse running away, and by Major-General Skippon’s being desperately wounded; insomuch that all our foot gave ground and were in a manner running away…

Fortune seemed to smile upon the King’s army. But Rupert’s victorious horsemen had left the field in pursuit of the enemy, leaving the remaining cavalry on either side to go head to head. Walker was part of the royalist horsemen. “Yet I needs must say that ours did as well as the Place and their Number would admit; but being flanked and pressed back, [we] at last gave Ground and fled; Four of the Rebels Bodies close and in good Order followed them, the rest charged our foot.

The King’s infantry was now devoid of all cavalry support. They were sitting ducks, attacked in flank by the remaining parliamentarian cavalry, and in front by their infantry who had been bolstered with reserves.

Bulstrode Whitelocke fought with the parliamentarian infantry. Here he details what passed between General Fairfax and the commander of his lifeguard. “Fairfax bid him to charge [a royalist regiment] once again in the front, and that he would take a commanded party, and charge them in the rear at the same time, and they might meet together in the middle … both charging together put them in confusion, and broke them; and Fairfax killed the ensign, [whereupon] one of [the] troopers took the colours, bragging of the service he had done …

Whitelocke tells us of General Fairfax’s response to this man’s exaggerated claim. “I have honour enough, let him take that to himself.

The royal infantry was now near to collapse. At this crucial point the King made ready to charge with his small reserve. Sir Edward Walker describes that, “a person of Quality, ‘tis said the Earl of Carnwath, took the King’s Horse by the Bridle, turned him about, swearing at Him and saying, Will you go upon your death?

The veteran royalist infantry – the backbone of the King’s army – was crushed and Rushworth describes a small part of what happened next. “The Irish women Prince Rupert brought upon the field (wives of the bloody Rebels in Ireland his Majesties dearly beloved subjects) our souldiers would grant no quarter too, about 100 slain of them, and most of the rest of the whores that attended that wicked Army are marked in the face or nose, with a slash or cut.

This was a terrible defeat for the royalists, yet in Scotland, the royalist Marquis of Montrose had all-but conquered the whole country. King Charles had ideas about joining his spectacular general, but these were dashed with Montrose’s defeat three months later.

When writing Allegiance of Blood, my aim was to bring this nation-changing period of history and its characters to life. As I threaded my fictional character, Sir Francis Berkeley, through the events of the civil war, Berkeley and his family (and my plot!) were turned upside down and shaped by what had occurred, just as the populace had been at the time. The storm of Brentford, Battle of Turnham Green, sieges of Reading and Bristol, and the Battle of Newbury all shake Sir Francis Berkeley’s world. The novel is set in 1642-43, slightly earlier than Naseby, and encompasses family drama, politics and warfare – which results in conflicts off the field as well as on.

Mark Turnbull

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About the Author

Mark Turnbull thoroughly enjoys reading and writing about this overlooked period of history and bringing it to life. He has written articles for magazines, newspapers and online educational sites and has also re-enacted battles with The Sealed Knot. He is currently working on the sequel to Allegiance of Blood, as well as a non-fiction overview of the first six months of the English Civil War. Find out more at Mark’s website, or social media pages, where he regularly posts articles about all aspects of the war and those who fought in it. Find out more at Mark's website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @1642author

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