Two days after his speech in Shropshire it was reported that the king’s army ‘increases beyond imagination.’ His appeal had struck a chord, and the small band of ex-officers of 1640–1 was soon diluted by the volunteers who clamoured for commissions to raise men and horse, often at their own expense. Recruits were from all regions, for the army was a more national one, reflective of society as a whole, than that of their opponents, raised mainly in London and Essex. The monstrous apparition identified as a Cavalier was replaced by a more complex image, because it was composed of many more numerous and varied elements. The majority of the English aristocracy supported the king, and he gave commands accordingly. His own family was involved. Three of his Stuart cousins were to die in the cause. He made his nephews, Rupert and Maurice, leading generals. His initial weakness, deprived of his revenues and military and naval establishments, meant that he had to depend on his wealthiest supporters and reward them appropriately. The earl of Newcastle, although a great courtier, a poet and dramatist with no military experience, was given command of the North. Politically influential figures, such as lords Hertford, Worcester and Winchester – the last two despite their Catholicism – made vital contributions in money, men and prestige. Within six weeks of his ban on recusant recruits the king had asked Newcastle to enlist them, and they proved to be important in the Northern counties.
At the regimental and troop level the typical senior officer was an amateur in military terms but usually a prominent local figure. In most counties beyond the reach of London, East Anglia and the South East the majority of the leading gentry, of greatest wealth and highest status, who customarily filled the bench of justices, and were deputies to the Lord Lieutenant, were sympathetic to the royal cause. It has been roughly calculated that of 1,630 field officers who had served in the royal armies, and claimed benefit of a reward in 1663, a thousand were of armigerous family. They included forty-four peers, fifty-six baronets and seventy-two knights. Thirteen peers and forty-two baronets and knights died in his cause. Such men were experienced administrators, and able to persuade tenants and servants to take up arms. Salusbury was elected Colonel of the Regiment of Foot in Denbighshire. The typical Cavalier officer needed guidance in arms, however, and was often advised by one of the swordsmen from foreign parts, or with at least Scots’ Wars experience.
The latter category of veterans had a crucial part to play in the compiling of the Military Orders by which the army being raised was to be regulated. These, consisting of eighty-two articles, were first printed at York in August, a whole month before those of the earl of Essex, perhaps reflecting the greater doubt in the minds of the parliamentarian leaders about their legal status, a matter that had lessened the generals’ authority in the Scots’ Wars. The Orders were read to the troops first mustered in Shropshire, and the king solemnly promised that he would severely punish any who disobeyed them. An oath of allegiance was then taken by all, no doubt designed to counter the Protestation oath that parliament had asked all adult males to subscribe to in early 1642. Like many of the swordsmen, the key articles of the Orders bore the stamp of earlier campaigns. They were based on the code produced for the army of 1640: some articles even possessed an Elizabethan ancestry. Machinery was created to enforce the orders, under a Provost Marshal General; every regiment was to have its own provost to punish and imprison as required. On the march in this first campaign of the war it is not known how effective this code was: if Hyde can be believed there was little indiscipline, and punishment was severe and exemplary when it occurred. The inhabitants of the country through which the king’s men passed, who hid their goods and were ready to resist – having believed the black propaganda of the London press, that the Cavaliers were ‘fierce, bloody and licentious’ – were evidently surprised at their good order. The king could afford to be merciful, resisting calls for the notoriously disobedient town of Birmingham to be punished. If the letters of Sergeant Wharton of Essex’s army are any guide it was the Roundhead forces which robbed and desecrated their way through the Midlands. Summer 1642 was a bad season for the deer of any ‘malignant’ landowners in the path of the army. It was obvious too that the parliamentarians had their fair share of the rogue element among the career soldiers employed as officers for this expedition.
It was not too farfetched to believe that, in their own eyes, with the ideals eloquently set forth, and the restraint displayed, the reputation of the king’s followers would be transformed. Certainly Edward Symmons, addressing the troops, claimed that the term Cavalier could be rescued from its ill fame. ‘A complete Cavalier is a child of honour . . . the only reserve of English gentility and ancient valour, and [he] hath rather chosen to bury himself in the tomb of honour, than to see the nobility of his nation vassalised’. Under its royal and noble leadership the army could not fail to be imbued with aristocratic values of generosity, unselfishness and mercy, and Christian virtue.
In the maintenance of these high standards, and the improvement of morals among his followers, royalist army chaplains would have a vital part to play. Those of the king’s officers who had served abroad in the Swedish forces knew the contribution made by Lutheran ministers to the Protestant crusade of the great Gustavus Adolphus. Charles had, as we have seen, an equal sense of the goodness of his mission, and its sacred character: his quarters would be a strong bulwark against the persecution of his loyal clergy. Oxford, as royal capital, welcomed ‘many great bishops, and learned doctors, and grave divines’. The king appreciated that recruiting active and eloquent clerics into his army would benefit his cause. He created a hierarchy of chaplaincy, headed by two Chaplains General, and required every regiment to appoint and pay for a suitably qualified person. The revised Military Orders included the daily reading of prayers for units not in the field, with compulsory attendance. The use of the Book of Common Prayer was enjoined. A special Soldiers’ Catechism was published in 1645, a direct response to that of Parliament, and several chaplains evidently worked hard at the improvement of their flocks.
But the plans of war rarely survive first contact with the enemy, and the idealized behaviour depicted – or hoped for – in the earliest sermons and speeches soon came adrift. The high command, after the first battle, Edgehill, was forced to publish royal proclamations to prohibit plundering by their troops. The printed Orders had forbidden it, but they had been ignored. The first real encounter of the war unhinged and dismayed many of the participants, not least the political leaders of parliament. No doubt surprised by the strong showing of the royalists, and horrified by the ensuing carnage, few had acquitted themselves well: they blamed their followers for desertion and cowardice. Lord Wharton acquired his nickname, it was alleged, by hiding in a sawpit. When Denzil Holles’s regiment was destroyed in the sudden and bloody attack on Old Brentford, the true nature of warfare was revealed. It confirmed their view, already formed, that they should retire from the fray and that ‘Scotch commanders’ would be more useful.
On the king’s side too many of the untrained, poorly armed and badly led infantry ran away, leaving their squires-in-arms disheartened. Salusbury’s Foot, for example, may initially have shared their colonel’s high hopes, but at Edgehill they were largely unprotected – having only pikes and agricultural implements, few muskets – and were severely mauled. It must have been plain to the king and his generals that part-time soldiers could not be relied on, and that the work would have to be done by the experienced officers. The swordsmen were ‘a generation of men much cried up and of great worth’, and honoured among the king’s followers: they were men of ‘great esteem’. The leadership had to be strengthened, as well as the code of war. There was considerable doubt as to what was legitimate spoil following a successful encounter with the enemy, or the occupation of a hostile town. In early November, as his forces passed through the Thames valley – an area considered disloyal – his men took the law into their own hands. A prominent courtier thought that if the king’s orders were disobeyed, and essential supplies withheld, they could be forcibly distrained. This may explain, though not excuse, the action of an equally senior officer, Lunsford’s brother, on first entering Oxford, now the royal capital. With another field officer of the Lord General’s Foot, an elite regiment, and a file of musketeers, he threatened to blow up the house of a wealthy citizen, privileged of the university, unless he paid them all he had. He did so, and died three years later lamenting the fact. This theft took place within 400 yards of the royal apartments.