Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A Missed Opportunity.

Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me. March on boys.

That’s a famous prayer ascribed to Sir Jacob Astley, commander of the Royalist foot at the Battle of Edgehill. It was the first major engagement of the English Civil War in 1642.

So who were these boys who were being ordered to march on and risk dismemberment, disembowelment, decapitation, or other sundry injuries likely to be effected by the tender mercies of cannonballs, musket fire and cold steel? Who were they who were being commanded to kill or be killed?

They weren’t professional soldiers; they weren’t even volunteers. There were no standing armies until the Parliamentarians instituted one in 1644. They were farmhands, millers, blacksmiths and bakers, all coerced by their landlords into forming a company of foot or a troop of horse, thence to be added to a regiment formed by a higher ranking landlord.

It must have been pretty frightening, mustn’t it? And it was a bit of a cheek. Why didn’t they all just kill their landlords and invent communism early?

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