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Howell Gwynne (MP)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Howell Gwynne (16 April 1718 – 1780)[1][2] was a British politician. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Radnorshire from 1755 to 1761, and Old Sarum 1761 to 1768.

Educated at Christ Church, Oxford,[3] Howell stood unsuccessfully at the 1754 general election as candidate for Breconshire. The following year he was chosen by chosen by the agents of the Duke of Newcastle as their candidate for the Radnorshire seat which had been vacated by Sir Humphrey Howorth. He was elected unopposed, and his expenses £173 were paid out of secret service money.[3]

His subsequent appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire offended Lord Carnarvon, and a deal was eventually reached whereby Gwynne would remain Lord Lieutenant for five years, and at the next election abandon Radnorshire in favour of a seat in the rotten borough of Old Sarum. Carnarvon took the Radnorshire seat, and Gwynne was duly returned for Old Sarum at the 1761 general election, and held it until 1768.[1] Described as "dim", he not recorded as having ever spoken in the House of Commons.[3]

By 1765 he was canvassing again in Radnorshire. However, Chase Price then entered the race and won such support that Gwynne did not contest the 1768 general election.[3]

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  • Turncoats and Renegadoes


Thank you very much, Amy, and thank you very much everyone for coming along today. I'm very grateful for this opportunity to speak because I'm currently finishing a book on this topic and I'm going to argue that side changing was much more widespread and complicated than previously thought. And next week I have to submit the typescript to the publisher. So if I've made any last-minute howlers or mistakes I'll get a chance to rectify them by talking to you today. Cavaliers and Roundheads alike condemned the practice of changing sides yet both encouraged it. Hope, fear and expectation of side changing determined strategy at the highest level. Common soldiers, officers, even generals changed sides, sometimes more than once. And the practice does much to illuminate 17th-century perceptions of honour whilst the justifications employed by the turncoats themselves reveal how they sought to defend their reputations with their contemporaries or for posterity. Civil war historians have often tended to write about the war efforts of either side and not examine the crossover between them in the way that this topic may well open up. Let's start with a little story of what side changing meant to people in the mid-17th century. On 2 February 1659, Major Lewis Audley was summoned before the House of Commons for abusing two MPs. He was charged with having called one a 'base rascal' and the other a 'base stinking fellow and a shit-breech'. In his defence, Major Audley claimed he had been provoked because one of them had goaded him that he was no gentleman, that he had no arms and that he was a turncoat. Denial of gentility has long been considered a grievous insult for a gentleman and provocative of violence. But Audley explained that being denounced as a turncoat was, to him, still more insufferable. He was judged guilty and committed to the Tower of London but protested further, 'I have faithfully served you these 18 years and was never guilty of being a turncoat. That sticks with me.' So in this lecture, I'm hoping that we'll see why poor Major Audley was so upset. The experience of civil war and revolution, then, politicised the language of insult. From the social, sexual and scatological slights of the 1630s, new overtly political smears emerged that reflected widening spheres of political discussion and participation. Alongside 'Roundhead rogue' and 'popish Cavalier' stood 'turncoat', a term in use since the 1560s, but increasingly employed during the 1640s. From Oxford and Westminster it penetrated into everyday conversations the length and breadth of England. Henry Cholmeley, Constable of Tunstall in Yorkshire's North Riding stood accused of berating his neighbours as 'turncoats', saying they were not worthy to come into honest men's company. At Weymouth, John Jourdane stood accused in the Corporation Court of admonishing the bailiff and saying, 'thou art a double-faced man,' and Fabian Hodder, who'd been executed by the Parliamentarians, 'is an honester man than thou for he hath stood to what he hath undertaken, but thou hast turned on every side.' Although the full extent of civil war side changing can never be known for sure, I hope that my book will move towards indicating a general impression. The book's first half looks at the nature and extent of side changing. It looks at peers, MPs, army officers and common soldiers seeking to determine how many changed sides and for what reasons. Let's start off with the nobles. Historians have long considered that a majority of peers supported Charles I as the best guarantor of social hierarchy. Yet in reality, much noble allegiance was murky, shifting and particularly susceptible to turncoating. Very few English peers held military command on both sides during the First Civil War, the war that ended in 1646, yet many travelled the road between Oxford and Westminster, where the rival camps were headed, and they travelled this road in both directions and on multiple occasions. Analysing noble allegiance is difficult as their religious and political attitudes, concepts of honour, kinship networks, all these warrant consideration as well as their personal relationship to Charles I and their concern for the safety of their landed estates. For those holding land in multiple counties, as many of them did, protecting their patrimony and honour was especially troublesome. Aristocratic estates endured the depredations inflicted by soldiery of both sides and most peers feared personal losses from continued warfare inclining many of them to support peace negotiations. Some even maintained rather self-important delusions that their prestige might be decisive in brokering a negotiated peace. This led to several changing sides and fostered suspicion that many more would do likewise. In August 1643 the Earls of Holland, Bedford and Clare defected from Westminster to Oxford claiming their lives were at risk from the tumults and popular agitation that was occurring around Westminster. They were very soon followed by the Earl of Portland, Viscount Conway and Lord Lovelace and this led to excited rumours that the whole House of Lords was on the point of deserting the Parliamentary cause, although those lords that remained at Westminster were on the point of withdrawing their allegiance. Their defections, particularly these three, placed Charles I and his council in a dilemma. Should they welcome and reward these turncoat peers in the hopes of sparking further defections or might this risk offending stalwart Royalists by showing former traitors such favour? The situation was inflamed by the Earl of Holland's refusal to sue for pardon, claiming that he'd done nothing wrong. Ultimately their defections were accepted but they were not interested with council, command or office so, by early 1644, all of them, apart from the Earl of Portland, had returned to Westminster with rather implausible excuses that their defections had been to try to broker a peace. Overall, the tide of aristocratic defections, then, reflects the fortunes of war, with Parliamentarian peers turning Royalist in 1643 but with a greater number abandoning their Royalism from 1644, if not becoming committed Parliamentarian activists. And those Lords who withdrew from Royalism include the Earl of Bath, the Earls of Carbery, Carlisle and Thanet, Viscount Inchiquin in Ireland, Lord Chandos, Lord Paget, Lord Paulet and Lord Rich who all attempted to reach some kind of early accommodation with Parliament. Lord Paulet tried to betray his brother's key Royalist garrison at Basing House but was arrested and forced to hang his accomplices. The King's high command was beset with other conspirators such as the Earl of Sussex, Lord Percy and Lord Wilmot, all of whom sought to negotiate peace on terms which the King found objectionable. So I think English peers, many developed flexible views on loyalty with a third being prepared to collaborate with both sides. More changed sides at some point than those who consistently remained at Westminster. Leading the Leveller, John Lilburne, to denigrate the peerage not as natural Royalists but, as he put it, 'a turncoat lordly interest'. Well, the Scottish and Irish peerage made the English look like amateurs. The Scots included multiple turncoats such as the Earl of Seaforth while even the King's general, the Marquis of Montrose, had formerly been in arms amongst the King's enemies. Nobles with abysmal reputations for disloyalty and treachery, such as Randal McDonall, Marquis of Antrim, as Jane Ohlmeyer has shown, put their clannish and land-holding interests first and notions of treachery and patriotism meant very little in Gaelic territories where even a nobleman's loyalty to his sovereign was often subordinated to concerns for his kinsmen and religion. So now let's look at the House of Commons. Here side changing influenced factional definitions of what constituted the Parliamentary cause. This fuelled in-fighting and the emergence a more adversarial style of politics. Discrediting political rivals on the same side as turncoats or conspirators allowed individuals and parties to redefine the nature and purpose of the cause for which they contended. In this way we might say allegiance was culturally constructed with individuals labelled as turncoats when they were perceived as such by hostile contemporaries. Denouncing turncoats also served to underline one's own legitimacy with claims to unswerving constancy and loyal service. 27 MPs were excluded from the House of Commons for defecting to the King, mostly during 1643. These defections may have reflected Parliament's declining military fortunes that year. But they also demonstrated alienation from the radicalisation of Parliament's rhetoric and its increasingly punitive wartime administration which made the defensive war, envisaged by so many MPs in 1642, seem increasingly distant as the war proceeded on. Now, of the ten MPs who abandoned their Royalism for Parliament at a later stage, from 1644, Sir Edward Dering was the most politically significant. He changed sides in February 1644, trying to return to Westminster. He was closely followed by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the future Earl of Shaftesbury, who was soon to command for parliament in Dorset. Yet Westminster never attracted the number of turncoat MPs it might have done once it gained the military ascendancy. Defectors from the King were never numerically comparable to those who had deserted Parliament in 1643. A part of the explanation for this lies in the contrast between the King's free pardon and embracing of converts with Westminster's refusal to re-admit Royalist MPs back into the House of Commons. So let's now turn to army officers. Officers might change sides through hopes of superior rank, employment and pay. But frequently defections were prompted by more negative motives. Frustrated ambition, slighted honour or disenchantment with the cause itself. Such defections could often be long planned and were facilitated by friends and contacts deliberately cultivated beforehand amongst the enemy. The largest group of officers who changed sides in England were the military professionals who had joined the Earl of Essex's Parliamentary army in 1642, attracted by the Earl's martial reputation and the highly favourable pay and prospects. Many became Royalists by 1643 as their pay arrears mounted and they clashed with the Puritans in Parliament's ranks. Many of these officers had enlisted for Lord Wharton's army intended for Ireland in June 1642. Nearly all of Wharton's projected force was shoehorned into the Earl of Essex's Parliamentary army in England by September 1642. Therefore many of Wharton's officers later claimed, with some justification, that they had enlisted under false pretences, never purposing to serve against the King's person in England but, rather, fight the insurgence in Ireland. Prominent examples include Sir Faithful Fortescue, well known for changing sides at Edge Hill, and the Scotsman, John Urry, who changed sides so many times he was later described as 'of turncoat memory.' I think Urry changed sides four times. He might be the record-holder. I'm open to be corrected if anyone knows of anyone else. Another professional, Edward Massie, became the only army commander to change sides in England. He commanded the Western Brigade for Parliament in 1645-6 but was in arms for the King at Worcester in 1651. Mark Stoyle's excellent book, 'Soldiers and Strangers', has also pointed to the high level of defections to the King from Parliament's foreign officers during 1643. Stoyle saw this side changing as influenced by an escalating xenophobia amongst English Parliamentarians directed towards their foreign colleagues who were fighting alongside them. Among these turncoats stood the infamous Croat, Captain Carlo Phantom, a serial dualist who allegedly declared - I won't attempt a Croatian accent here - he allegedly declared, 'I care not for your cause. I come to fight for your half crown and your handsome women. My father was a Roman Catholic and so was my grandfather. I have fought for the Christians against the Turks and for the Turks against the Christians.' However, this is an extreme example. Not all foreigners in Parliament's service were so depicted. Reputations for reliability and constancy were an important facet of a professional soldier, by which means they could market themselves as reliable officers. Even if their motivation may well have been pay. The Frenchman, Major Dowett, was particularly interested by parliament and was showered with fulsome praise. Northern Parliamentarians praised the loyalty of three Dutch captains who remained true to the Parliament when Sir Hugh Cholmeley changed sides at Scarborough. Lord Fairfax chose a German to captain his Lifeguard of Horse. Another German, the siege engineer, Jan Rosworm, faithfully defended Manchester for Parliament despite many attempts by the Royalists to persuade him to change sides. When petitioning for relief from Fairfax and Cromwell, with this pamphlet here, in 1649, Rosworm fashioned himself 'the faithful stranger who abhors all faithless and indirect courses'. He reminded Parliament, 'How many of your own country betrayed you while I stood firm?' And he was rewarded with the appointment of Engineer General of all garrisons and forts in England during the 1650s. So despite the defections among Parliament's foreign professionals, Peter Newman has reminded us that... the quote he wrote that the true mercenary, 'one who made a living by drifting into other people's wars, shifting allegiance, as his pocket dictated,' was a rarity in civil war England. Most professionals who defected from Parliament remained constant Royalists thereafter whilst associations of turncoating with soldiers of fortune were often politically motivated and retrospective. Indeed, 'soldier of fortune' was often used as a derogatory phrase. One restoration martyrology denounced the regicide, Sir Hardress Waller, as a turncoat and soldier of fortune, 'minding profit more than conscience,' merely to render him the more despicable. Let's now turn to common soldiers. Thousands of these changed sides during the 1640s, despite the laws of war proclaiming death as the punishment for desertion. Recaptured turncoat soldiers were particularly vulnerable, and perhaps a few hundred even were hanged or shot during the 1640s. Now, I was unable to find an illustration of this happening in England so I've fallen back on the French engravings by Jacques Callot. If anyone knows of an English equivalent to this, I'd be very interested to hear of that. Yet in England these capital sentences were only sporadically enforced. This was because, from 1643, high rates of desertion occurred and both sides struggled to recruit infantry. Side changing offered an important means to overcome this through the widespread practice of re-enlisting prisoners in the armies of their captors. Charles Carlton argued that so many changed sides in this fashion that it suggests most had very little ideological commitment to the cause in the first place. Carlton considered most soldiers were more motivated by plunder than religion or politics, thinking of themselves, 'not as saints in arms but as labourers worthy of whoever happened at the time to have hired them'. Practical considerations of food, shelter and survival outweighed political commitment rendering popular allegiance flexible and pragmatic. This was recognised by contemporaries who consistently suspected that soldiers would change sides for better pay, billets or even fresh shirts and footwear. Rank and file defections were therefore unlikely to be heartfelt political conversions. Instead they were led into defecting by officers or were required to do so when captured by the enemy. Yet I would like to tweak this interpretation somewhat. I don't think this represents the universal experience of rank and file side changing. Demonstrating soldier's inner motives remains problematic in the absence of explicit evidence. While pay was no doubt an incentive, we should be careful about over-emphasising mercenary motives. Common soldiers' wages offered only a very precarious and poor maintenance. Likewise we should not assume that all were forced, pressed or compelled into changing sides. A minority, especially among the cavalry, actively chose to defect. Some displayed conspicuous loyalty in the face of treacherous officers. Accepting that all soldiers lacked political motivation panders to the very stereotypes espoused by contemporary elites and adheres to what is now a rather unfashionably narrow conception of what constitutes 17th-century politics. By 1642 the protestation, oath-taking, print and petitioning campaigns had done much to mobilise popular opinion. Gentry expectations of deference no longer automatically commanded obedience. Several turncoat officers discovered this to their cost. Whilst soldiers maintained a front of obedience and submission, some plotted to desert, defect or even turn upon their own commanders. Two Catholic officers were murdered by their own soldiers in 1640. In 1644, Lord Byron lamented that two of his officers were forced to yield one garrison after their own soldiers threatened to kill them unless they surrendered. When Major General Richard Brown disputed with his mutinous soldiers after the battle of Cropredy Bridge, they struck him in the face. There were several attempts on John Hotham's life, while the prosecution witnesses at his trial included his own family servants. In Leinster, in Ireland, it was claimed that Sir Charles Coote had been shot by one of his own men. And one Parliamentarian musketeer, apprehended for trying to shoot Sir William Waller, merely replied at his court martial that he was sorry for nothing but that he had not killed him. So side changing, if we can look at the regions now of England and Wales most affected by side changing, we can see the north of England, Wales and the West Country standing out as hotspots. And these were usually areas initially held for the King but thereafter gradually brought under Parliament's control. In contrast, those areas where Parliament controlled from the outset were comparatively unaffected by side changing until 1648. For instance, in East Anglia, rather than attempting to build local support, Royalist gentry there either left home to serve the King outside their native region or they fled overseas or bided their time and kept their heads down. In Wales, by 1646 so many Welsh Royalists had changed sides that local Parliamentarians were hardened with cynicism. The Royalist colonel, Howell Gwynne, was accused of declaring, upon his surrender, 'Hey God. Hey devil. I will be for the stronger side.' With jaded cynicism committed activists came to expect a degree of side changing in response to local conditions and the fortunes of war. The Royalist, Richard Symonds, commented that one Herefordshire gentleman, 'was first for the Parliament, then for the King, then theirs, then taken prisoner by us, and with much ado got his pardon, and now pro Rege, God wott'. The second half of the book will look at several analytical themes such as fear of treachery, its reportage in the printed news of the day, the concept of honour and the theatre of execution. Let's start by arguing that turncoats were not marginal to the war's outcome. Fear of treachery frequently determined strategy on both sides along with a hope or expectation of winning converts from among the enemy. The failure of the King's strategy in 1643 in tying his armies down to unsuccessful sieges at Plymouth, Gloucester and Hull was prompted by misplaced hopes that all three of these garrisons could be obtained by undermining their commanders through treachery. Parliament's success in winning the First Civil War had much to do with their successful capture through treachery of several Royalist garrisons in the Royalist heartlands of Wales and the West Midlands during 1644 and 1645. The fall of towns such as Shrewsbury, Hereford and Monmouth did much to undermine the morale and functional capacity of the Royalist war effort, denying the King an opportunity to rebuild after Naseby. In 1645, Parliament Scoutmaster General, Sir Samuel Luke, reported to his superiors that the Royalists had grown so accustomed to losing towns in this fashion that Prince Maurice's own letters to the King, 'had certified the taking of Shrewsbury by Parliament's old and ordinary way, which they term a "golden bridge"' - the idea that you could bribe your way into an enemy garrison and undermine it from within. By 1648, the political circumstances changed completely with the outbreak of the Second Civil War in which the Prince of Wales promised converts from Parliament's forces a full pardon and their pay arrears to join his insurgence. Parliament witnessed the haemorrhaging of their support and came close to destroying itself through the self doubt unleashed by so many former comrades joining these Royalist insurrections. So during 1648, harsh punishment of defectors became more routinely employed. Alongside this grew the realisation that if the King's life was spared, Parliamentarians would continue to face treachery and backsliding from among their comrades. In this way, fear of treachery and side changing helped determine the course of the English revolution. If so many turncoats could be executed for betraying their trust and turning against God's judgment in 1648, then why not the King himself? Anxious about maintaining themselves in political power, Parliamentarians enlarged and redefined traditional concepts of treason during the 1640s. The King's judges used this language of breach of trust against the King during his trial, claiming after all that he had traitorously and maliciously declared war on his subjects. And this developed from what Parliament had argued from the outset that the King was in breach of his coronation oath to protect his own people. So now let's turn to the language of treachery in news books. Both sides used the press, not merely to report events, but also to try to shape them. With both sides perennially anxious about maintaining support, stories about turncoats came to utilise the wonderfully rich world of 17th-century insult. There was clearly a large popular appetite for salacious stories of turncoats and treachery. To ruin a turncoat's name, propagandists drew upon images of treachery from the bible, from literature and the stage, all to generate enduringly derisive nicknames for side changers. In this way, Sir George Chudleigh was dubbed 'The Grand Ambo-dexter' for having abandoned the Parliamentary cause in Devon. Here's an example of a pamphlet Parliament published against him ridiculing his own attempt at a printed self-justificatory narrative. Terms such as 'base', 'rogue' and 'knave' were used to deny gentility, while fictitious material was propagated in vilifying turncoats in order to turn particular individuals into hate figures for popular consumption. Baseness, lying, irreligion, cowardice were the most frequent themes while occasionally sexual incontinence was also implied. The most frequent aspersion was to strip turncoats of their gentility. To eject them from the community of honour and therefore render them incapable of further public trust. Colonel John Poyer, a turncoat in South Wales who defected to the King in 1648, was scorned in the press as 'the father of bastards', 'an indiscriminate plunderer', 'the leader of a lawless rabble', 'a great swearer and quarreller', but above all he was derided as 'born to nothing, sprung up from a turnspit to a glover.' The most elaborate denial of gentility was reserved for Sir Richard Grenville. Parliament found his portrayal particularly galling. A week after his defection, two gibbets were erected at the Royal Exchange and Palace Yard, Westminster where he was proclaimed 'The Grand Apostate' and 'Renegado of England'. This proclamation envisaged his death as a common felon, dubbing him 'skellum', a Dutch term denoting particular contempt, which seems to have been particularly reserved for Sir Richard. The strength of this was exceptional and even startled some Royalists. Predictably, the most biblical allusion was, of course, to Judas Iscariot. 'Judas' was a commonplace insult in 17th-century England. By comparing treacherous backsliders to the betrayer of Christ, propagandists implied, of course, that they, the injured party, were on God's side. The appellation was applied to many turncoats including the Leveller, Henry Denne, who was persuaded to side with the generals against his former comrades taken at Burford. The Levellers blasted him as 'Judas Denne' thereafter. In 1647 the Royalists blasted the Scots for selling the King to the English Parliament, one tract observing, 'Iscariot was but a puny Scot in avarice,' and rhyming, 'Judas before a traitor Scot shall wear, a saintly rubric in time's calendaire.' After the King's execution, Royalists commonly compared the trial commissioners and regicides to Jews, to Caiphus and, of course, to Judas to emphasise their treachery and to liken Charles I to Christ. The press were keen to print stories illustrating the ghastly, or supposedly ghastly, ends suffered by turncoats in order to deter others from emulating them. When Richard Grenville was wounded, the London press were eager to trumpet this as a sign of divine providence. One news book rejoiced that Grenville had received a brace of bullets in his groin as a just judgment of God because he was 'a notable whore-master' and 'a notable prophaner of the Lord's day'. Furthermore, the matter was conceived particularly providential because he received this wound on the Lord's day and in the West Country, 'where he hath hanged and murdered so many men.' Another tract written, warning against the dangers of backsliding was William Prynne's 'Doom of Cowardice and Treachery', written in October 1643 to orchestrate support for the forthcoming prosecution of Nathanial Fiennes for having prematurely surrendered Bristol to the King. This was a cheap and mass-produced tract hoping to reach a mass audience of soldiers. In it Prynne conflated the adjectives 'cowardly', 'mercenary' and 'treacherous', writing that this was, 'an age of timidity and treachery'. He concluded that exemplary capital justice was required for those that betrayed their trusts for the purpose of deterrents and to make Parliament's officers and soldiers more diligent and incorruptible. Side changing was particularly prominent amongst the pamphleteers and propagandists themselves. In particular, four writers defected to the King in 1647 from Parliamentarian or neutralist positions. They were John Crouch, John Hackluyt, Samuel Sheppard and Marchamont Nedham. They produced Royalist propaganda, often at considerable personal risk, until they were captured and imprisoned. Nedham, Crouch and Hackluyt then agreed to write for the Republic, whose propaganda became considerably reliant upon former Royalist writers. Their defection invited particular hostility from the Royalists. Anthony Wood called Nedham a 'weathercock', 'valuing money and sordid interests rather than conscience'. Samuel Butler dubbed him 'a Mercury with a winged conscience', 'the skipjack of all fortunes' and 'a shittlecock' - I think that's a badminton allusion there: whichever way you hit a shuttlecock it will land with the head pointing forwards. Yet they changed sides to avoid hardship, imprisonment and possibly even execution. Historians are now uncomfortable with depicting these writers as completely unprincipled pens for hire. They were seeking to make a living in difficult circumstances rather than amass great fortunes, while their shifting positions often correlate with fundamental changes in the nature of the Parliamentarian and Royalist causes. So let's turn to honour, reputation and self-fashioning. How did turncoats justify themselves? Changing sides was deemed objectionable because it smacked of putting personal interests before those of the public at a time when gentry concepts of honour stressed constancy. Therefore, those changing sides sought to portray themselves as having remained constant. It was not they, but others, that had changed, or even the cause itself that had changed. Whilst they may have acted to protect themselves, family and estates and to profit from victory, nearly all denied such self-interested motives. They frequently faced suspicions that they sought to side with the strongest, so consequently many sought to spin their past actions to support a self-image of constancy, reliability and untarnished honour. To do this they fashioned constancy narratives to portray their actions in the best possible light. These narratives could take various forms. For example, those written by Royalists coming to terms with Parliament's courts tend to minimise their Royalism and allege their faithfulness to Parliament's cause from the outset. Propaganda conversion narratives, in print, focused most on the alienating features of the enemy whilst memoirs and autobiographies, for posterity, were most inclined to stress principle and constancy. And also we have the wonderful resources of some letters written by turncoats themselves. The next volume with the Camden Society, which should be published in the next few weeks, is going to look at the Hotham family's letters and these do much to reveal the temperamental nature of gentry turncoats. The Hothams were Parliament's governors of Hull who had done much to aid Parliament's war effort in 1642 but had harboured second thoughts thereafter. The younger Hotham engaged in a lengthy correspondence with the Royalist General, the Earl of Newcastle, in which his repeated self-justificatory references to his honour strung Newcastle along and were intended to protect his family estates from Royalist soldiers until, prepared with strong arguments against having broken their trust, the Hotham family were ready to defect. The Earl of Clarendon, the great Royalist writer, was not alone among his contemporaries in claiming that turncoats never prospered and were never trusted by the side to which they turned. A chorus of contemporary abuse, for instance, greeted the eventual execution of the Hothams, father and son, when they were condemned by Parliament in January 1645. I have here a picture of their executions on Tower Hill. Yet not all turncoats were shunned or executed. Barbara Donegan has shown that the record is dotted with turncoats who survived and prospered. James Chudleigh, Bussy Mansell and George Monck became highly valued by their new comrades. Those able to persuade themselves, and enough others, that they changed sides from conscience might retain their sense of honour and public reputation despite the bitter condemnations from those they had deserted. Both sides executed a number of turncoats who were recaptured but after the King's execution, the Rump Parliament's execution of turncoats was intended to demonstrate the legitimacy of the new regime. We met the Earl of Holland earlier: he led a failed uprising in 1648 and was beheaded on Tower Hill. Colonel John Morris, who betrayed Pontefract Castle to the Royalists, was manacled like a common felon, and then hanged, drawn and quartered by common law at the York Assizes. He was even denied a military tribunal. Christopher Love, a Presbyterian minister was beheaded for having assisted the turncoat Edward Massie in 1651. And the Royalist sea captain, Browne Bushell, was beheaded on the 8th anniversary of his betrayal of Scarborough Castle. So these occasions ignited a lively pamphlet literature, as you can see, that sought to read meaning into the performances during their trials and their personal demeanour at their executions. The scaffold became an arena for participation in political conflict in a new way during the Civil Wars. Changing notions of what constituted treason were asserted and resisted during executions before large crowds. Executions of turncoats were central to this process because so many turncoats proclaimed their own political constancy at their death. Public debate about the condemned's behaviour and their last speeches and the meaning of their last speeches encompassed whether it was more honourable to remain constant to a transformed cause or to follow the concerns of conscience in response to changing circumstances. Competing interpretations of scaffold events became harder to control as these execution pamphlets proliferated. After the regicide, the Rump Parliament was naive to expect that Royalist hard men such as Browne Bushell and John Morris would die a traditional obliging death in which they confessed their guilt. Rather they would use the platform granted by their public executions to defy the regime, prolong the conflict and mobilise Royalist sympathy. So I would like to conclude now by saying turncoats served a useful purpose. Many useful purposes. One of which was allowing civil war commanders to explain away defeats in their self-justificatory memoirs. Fairfax, Cholmeley, Hopton, Belasyse, Monckton and Grenville all claimed that their defeats were due to treachery from within their ranks rather than accepting responsibility for their own failures. This revealed something of the state of mind of the defeated but also the urge to safeguard their military reputations long after the fighting had ended. After the Restoration, those whose loyalties shifted to navigate the troubled 1640s and '50s with success aroused much resentment, understandably, amongst those less fortunate. Three such Pembrokeshire gentlemen were ridiculed after the Restoration, quoting here: 'Roger Lort: of any principle or religion to acquire wealth. Samson Lort: he can pray, as long as there is profit. James Lewis: forced from a Royalist to act as a colonel for the King, loved more for doing no wrong than for doing any good.' Ballads and broadsides mocked the time servers of the republic as amoral opportunists but reflected sadly on their success in ballad and broadside literature such as this, the 'Turncoat of the Times' from 1665, which ends, 'For he that is wise and means to rise, he must be a turncoat too.' Prominent restoration politicians in the generations thereafter acquired nicknames that scornfully revelled in their inconstancy. Anthony Ashley Cooper was dubbed 'The Dorsetshire Eel' for his shifting loyalties. John Erskine, the Jacobite Duke of Mar, was later nicknamed 'Bobbing John' for his political double-dealing. Yet, as Melinda Zook has shown us, shifting with the wind was more or less a national pastime in Restoration England. According to Jonathan Scott, the Whigs and the Tories of the 1680s were, with the exception of some hard liners, essentially the same people. In time, many simply changed sides and this was political behaviour learned in the Civil Wars. Whigs were shamefacedly reconciled to James II before abandoning him again in 1688. The collapse of James's support that year had its roots in civil war side changing. When 200 troopers from the regiments of the Dukes of Berwick and St Albans defected to William III at a critical moment in November 1688, it had been expertly planned and executed. Having lived through the Civil Wars, James II knew only too well the fluid and unstable nature of his subjects' allegiance. In this way, Charles de Rémusat's observation of post-Waterloo France might equally be applied to England in the wake of its own civil war and that is that, 'the public that scoffs at the people who have served strikingly different governments, forgets that it has done the same itself.' I'd like to end there. Thank you.


  1. ^ a b Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "O" 
  2. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "R" (part 1)
  3. ^ a b c d Namier, Lewis. "GWYNNE, Howell (1718-80), of Garth in Llanleonfel, Brec". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Member of Parliament for Radnorshire
1755 – 1761
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of Parliament for Old Sarum
With: Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc
Thomas Pitt the younger
Succeeded by

This page was last edited on 17 October 2021, at 00:32
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