Friday, 27 August 2010

Colchesters Teares

In the upper room of the King's head public house in Head Street, the Royalist troops led by Lord Norwich sign ed the surrender, that ended the Seige of Colchester in 1648. This ran from the 13th of June until August 27th 1648 after the Royalist forces, fleeing from Fairfax's army, forced their way into the town, which, like the rest of the county, supported the Parliamentarian cause.

After a number of melees, when Parliament's troops failed to get through the defences, Fairfax decided to lay seige. Very quickly the situation in the town deteriorated, and the townspeople were reduced at first to eating horses, and then cats and dogs. Fairfax beat back townspeople who attempted to leave, in the belief this would bring pressure upon the Royalist force.

Skirmishes occurred throughout this period, and many buildings, including the Crouched Friars, the home of one of Colchester's MPs Sir Harbottle Grimston was badly damaged. Many of the local churches wewre also damaged, particularly St Mary in the Walls, which was especially targeted due to a large cannon being situated there. This was known locally as Humpty Dumpty, the origin of the rhyme, although my reading of comtemporary accounts do not feature the name. So, I wonder if it was in fact imposed later by the writer of the rhyme.

Eventually the Royalist forces were forced to syurender, with quarter given to all participants bar the senior officers. In the end, only two were actually executed, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, and the monument to this can be seen in my profile picture.

Wars are always terrible, but civil wars are the worst sort, as Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia have shown in recent years. The number of those who died, were a greater proportion of Britons, especially English, than were killed in World War One. The seige proved a turning point in the second Civil War, and it was only a few months later the trial, and executuion of King Charles I occurred.

As a historical note, the title is taken from a pamphlet written during the seige by 'gentlemen of quality' so spelling and grammar is correct in this context.

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