Thursday, 19 April 2018

Who was John Cromwell? - English Civil Wars

Who was John Cromwell?

An interesting snippit taken from official military archives and embellished with a little background history in reference to English regiments serving in the Low Countries: 

The Civil War was still ongoing in England and the regiments were, on the face of it, pro-Royalist. In Jan 1649 when Parliament took control of the country and executed the king the general feeling in the Netherlands was one of shock and horror especially as William, Prince of Orange was the king's son-in-law. When the ruling Commonwealth in England sent Chief Justice St John to the Hague to forge a confederacy between the two republics he was abused by the public and failed to achieve his objective. There followed a war between the English and Dutch, placing the English regiments in a difficult position. But they were regarded as being supporters of the Royal family and therefore not loyal to Oliver Cromwell. 
The Colonel of one of the regiments was *John Cromwell* - related to Oliver but a staunch royalist, so much so that he changed his name to Williams. Fortunately for the officers and men the war was carried on at sea and not involving land forces.
And a mistake that was, because several of the officers were in Cromwell's pay throughout and were dutifully spying on the Royals. But interestingly two of the most notorious re royal scandal and accusations of shared mistresses, were embraced by Charles shortly after the restoration despite both were related to Lucy Walter - one a true gentleman albeit a spy, and the other a blackguard double-agent of the worst kind. But who was John Cromwell?

In Dedication to the "Buffs" amongst many!

The Companies in Dutch Service 1664

After 80 years of cooperation between the English and the United Provinces in the fight against the Hapsburgs the two countries now found themselves on opposite sides. 'It was alleged that the Dutch had been guilty of encroachments and depredations on English commerce and on the English settlements across the seas.' In 1664 the English and Scots companies in the service of the States were mostly in the pay of the state of Holland with some maintained by Friesland, Utrecht and Zealand. Altogether there were 32 English companies and 21 Scottish. In December 1664 the records show that these 53 companies were distributed in 31 different towns with no more than two companies stationed together, except at Maastricht where there were six. However, on paper the companies were allotted to 4 English regiments and 3 Scots.

The Four English Regiments serving in the Low Countries 1665

From various documents the regimental history was able to compile a list of English officers who served in the Dutch service in 1665 and they are listed under four regiments named after their Colonels:

Lord William Craven's Regiment - ( Lt-Col Sir Walter Vane )
Colonel Thomas Dolman's Regiment - (Lt-Col John Cromwell aka Williams) *this is where the name change shows up in official records and states he had previously changed his name.*
Colonel William Killegrew's Regiment - (Lt-Col Humphrey Peyton)
Colonel Robert Sidney's/Sydney's Regiment - (Lt-Col Sir William Sayers)

The Oath of Allegiance

Letters from Sir George Downing, the envoy at the Hague, to Sir Henry Bennet in England give details of the choice facing the English soldiers. The Dutch did not want potentially hostile troops in their country while there was a state of war between England and Holland so the choice was to swear an oath of allegiance to Holland or be disbanded. The oath was to include a renunciation of allegiance to the English King. Many of the soldiers had been born in the Low Countries and had strong ties with the country, and others, especially the Scots had no love for the English King, Charles II. For some reason, Charles did not exercise his prerogative to recall the English troops although urged to do so.

The Disbandment of the Regiments 1665

The Dutch authorities decided to honourably discharge the English and Scots troops serving in the regiments and replace them with Netherlanders. Those Englishmen and Scotsmen who were prepared to swear the oath of allegiance to The Dutch republic would be re-admitted into the regiments. The discharged officers and men were given no assistance from the English government for their repatriation, so the English envoy Sir George Downing paid for their passage to England and gave them letters of recommendation.

The 3 Scots regiments were converted into 3 nominally Dutch regiments and the 4 English regiments were replaced by only one Dutch regiment. Those English officers who remained in Holland were placed in the 3 former Scots regiments. 'The States General, on 14th April, ordered that the transformed English and Scottish companies, being now Netherlands companies, the drums were to beat the Holland March on guard mounting, and on all other occasions, and that the sashes and badges of the officers were to be orange-coloured, similar to those worn by the Dutch officers.'

The King's Change of Heart

In early 1665 the discharged officers and men began to arrive back in England and the King reconsidered the question of taking them back into his service. A list was compiled, dated 11th April 1665, of 17 subalterns who had arrived or who were expected. On 20th April a warrant was issued taking them into his pay at a reduced rate, 3 shillings a day for lieutenants and 2 shillings and sixpence for ensigns. Captains were given 5 shillings a day.

The Appointment of Col Robert Sidney/Sydney, 31st May 1665

The King finally decided to form the officers and men into a regiment and issued a commission to Colonel Robert Sidney to be 'Colonell of Our Holland Regiment of Foot, raised or to be raised, for Our service.' Robert Sidney, who had commanded one of the English regiments in the Dutch service, was the 3rd son of Robert 2nd Earl of Leicester. He was born in 1626 and died suddenly in 1668, buried in Penshurst. He was a handsome man and many thought due to scurrilous rumours put about by John Evelyn, Killigrew, James Duke of York and Col Thomas Howard, he was the real father of the Duke of Monmouth. (The reasons for this assumption were that Robert's mistress was at one time the King's mistresses/wife (?), Lucy Waters (Mrs Barlow), also that the resemblance was so strong that many remarked on it, forgetting Lucy and Robert were cousins - also seems unlikely Charles II would have asked Robert Sydney to raise a new Hollander regiment if he thought the Duke of Monmouth was from Robert's loins.

The Holland Regiment, 23rd June 1665

The official date of the raising of the Holland Regiment for His Majesty's service was the 31st May 1665 the day of the Colonel Robert Sydney's commission but the other officers received their commissions 3 weeks later on 23rd June. These 21 officers included Major Alexander Bruce who was the only officer of the Scots regiments to refuse the oath of allegiance to the Netherlands. The establishment was fixed at 6 companies of 106 NCOs and men each. The field officers acted as captains to the first 3 companies so that, as an example of the organisation:

The 1st Company had Colonel Robert Sidney/Sydney as captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, 2 sergeants, 3 corporals, one drummer and 100 private soldiers.

The 2nd Company had Lt-Col Thomas Howard - *Spy extraordinaire (double agent) during the ECWs, and Master of the Horse to Princess Mary, wife/widow Prince William of Nassau/Orange*.   
The 3rd Company by Major Alexander Bruce, 
The 4th Company by Capt Sir Thomas Ogle
The 5th Company by Capt Henry Pomeroy
The 6th Company by Capt Baptist Alcock

All the officers in the regiment had served in the English-Dutch regiments except the surgeon. It should be noted that when the officers and men refused to take the oath in Holland they faced a very uncertain future so their loyalty to the English crown had been proved. Another regiment, the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot (The Lord High Admiral's Regiment), had been raised the previous autumn. This, and the Holland Regiment, were primarily intended for service at sea. On the 11th July the cost of these two regiments was ordered to be charged to the Navy. The Holland Regiment remained on the naval establishment until May 1667.