The History Behind

Church, State and Household Church, State and Household Church, State and Household


The Political Picture



War on the Island

Dr Nicodemus Merriweather - the abridged version

The Political Picture

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, England was ruled by the Scot, King James, who followed the principles of Divine Right. In 1605, he was the subject of a Catholic assassination plot that would have killed him and all of Parliament in a huge gunpowder explosion.

His son, Charles, succeeded him in 1625, and followed the same path of Divine Right, quarrelling with Parliament, and dissolving it to rule alone in 1629.

In 1640, in an attempt to force bishops and his own prayer book on the Presbyterian Scots, Charles sent soldiers to Scotland, but his men were badly beaten, and chased back as far as York. The Scots occupied many Northern English towns, refusing to move until paid to go home. Charles recalled Parliament, intending that it should help him raise money by means of the (unfair) ship tax.

Parliament refused to help until previous business (including a Bill of rights) had been discussed first; Charles refused, Parliament refused. Charles tried to arrest five ringleader MPs, but failed, as they had all run away. In April 1642, he sailed north, and attempted to remove powder and arms from the Royal Arsenal at Hull, but the townspeople barred the gates against him. In August 1642, he raised his standard over Nottingham, declaring war on his own country.

Despite the best efforts of Sir Humphrey Bennet, by the end of 1643 the king looked to be well on the road to victory. Only the arrival of the Scots on the side of Parliament swung the Battle of Marston Moor. At the same battle, the king's nephew Prince Rupert lost his beloved poodle 'Boy' to an enemy musketeer, while his cavalry overshot the field, meanwhile Colonel Oliver Cromwell led his 'Ironside' cavalry with deadly panache, and was generally applauded (or reviled) as the man of the hour.

A year later the Army of Parliament new-modelled, and this united force dealt the king crushing blows, first at Naseby then at Langport; since then, the NMA has been clearing up pockets of Royalist resistance - as it did at Winchester in October 1645.

War on the Island

In August 1642, Sir Humphrey Bennet raised a regiment of Foote at Arreton, this he led into battle against the Newport Traynd Bands, the militia and a force of gentleman, hoping to aid Lord Goring's attempt to take Newport by sailing three boatloads of troops up the Medina. The whole plan went drastically wrong, and those of Bennet's Foote who escaped death, fled the island, or stayed and changed sides.

In September 1642, the Mayor of Newport, Moses Reade, marched a force of 400 up to Carisbrooke Castle, demanding it surrender. After an impressive stand-off, Countess Portland won honourable treatment for her men (about twenty of them), and opened the gates.

Since then the island has been held for Parliament by Sir John Lee's Regiment, the local force being disbanded by Sir Henry Worsley in autumn 1642. The occupying troops are foreigners from Southampton and generally disliked, though their tyrannical (and corrupt) leader Colonel Carne departed the island at the end of 1645 (and there was much rejoicing).