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On the 335th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution – the historical significance of the English Civil War (Part Three)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted May 15, 2023

Political Allegiances: Broadly speaking, these were between Tories and Whigs (as these terms were defined in the second half of the seventeenth century). The term "Tory" is derived from the Irish Gaelic, toraidhe, from a phrase meaning "Come, O King". The term "Tory" was originally used as a term of abuse denoting an "Irish Papist or Royalist bandit", with the added meaning of "the pursued". The term Toryism at this time referred to a creed embracing the belief in the ultimate supremacy of the monarchy in the realm (with Parliament a distinct but junior partner) which was justified as constituting the ultimate, organic, and unifying element of the kingdom. Religiously, it generally embraced Roman Catholicism, or Anglicanism, or the Scottish Episcopal Church. Royalist is another general term, while Cavalier is used to describe this side in the English Civil War itself. The term Cavalier, roughly equivalent to "knight", "gentleman", or "armed horseman" was derived from the medieval French chévalier. The stereotypical image of the Cavalier was as a horseman in a fancy, "musketeer-type" hat, richly-dressed, with long, flowing hair behind, sword in hand. The Cavalier lifestyle was said to be uninhibited, including a large element of "wine, women, and song". The term is also used in the study of English literature to describe the so-called Cavalier poets of the same period, who embraced similar themes in their work. The primary meaning of the word today, through the adjective "cavalier", is largely negative, meaning "rude" or "disdainful". This could be seen to reflect the perception which ultimately prevailed as a result of that conflict, which saw the traits typical of an aristocrat or nobleman as excessively arrogant.

The term Whig was derived from the shortening of the Lowland Scottish word whiggamore, which was originally a form of a cry used for herding horses or cattle. It had been adopted as a battle-shout of the most radical faction of the Presbyterian Covenant in Lowlands Scotland. The term was extended to refer to advocates of the ultimate supremacy of Parliament in the English constitution, which was justified as being the best political arrangement: as a so-called mixed constitution of checks and balances (King-in-Parliament, House of Lords, House of Commons); and as the best guarantee of certain so-called "ancient rights of Englishmen", which were to be enshrined in the constitution. The term Parliamentarian is used to describe this side in the English Civil War. Roundhead, often used as a synonym for Parliamentarian, refers more specifically to Puritan soldiers, and was derived from the closely-cropped hair typical of Cromwell's cavalry. The stereotypical Roundhead wore the "lobster" helmet and a plain coat of hard leather, with no vain adornments. One should note a degree of divergence between the Parliamentarians and Roundheads, as Cromwell eventually came to rule as Lord Protector. Ultimately, however (after 1688) the Parliamentarian position won out.

Dynastic Allegiances: The Stuarts, originally Kings of Scotland, had come to the throne of England in the person of James VI (of Scotland) and I (of England). The term Jacobites (derived from the Latinized name of James -- Jacobus) referred to partisans of the Stuarts in the period to the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1688, the so-called Glorious Revolution in England had effectively deposed King James VII and II. The emphatically Protestant William of Orange was brought over from Holland to England as King William III. Upon his death, the Protestant Hanoverians were drafted to keep the Catholic Stuarts from the throne.

Territorial Allegiances: Ireland was an almost exclusively Roman Catholic society, although there was an ongoing influx of English and Protestant settlers, in the so-called Pale of Settlement. Ironically, the spark for the English Civil War was a great Irish Catholic rising against the English in Ireland. Charles I needed money to raise troops to prosecute the war, which Parliament refused to grant, suspecting they were more likely to be used at home. The King managed to reach an effective truce with the Irish when the fighting began in England.

Scotland was at this time a kingdom unified with England only in the person of the monarch, with its own Parliament, law-courts, system of customary law, foreign relations, and coinage. The term "Auld Alliance", for example, refers to the traditional close ties between Scotland and France. It was divided between the basically Jacobite Royalist Highlands, and the Whig-oriented Lowlands, although even the Scottish Presbyterians had a degree of allegiance to their native Stuart dynasty. All Scots participated in the great invasion of England in 1648 (at the behest of Charles I), but their army, three times larger than Cromwell's, was decisively defeated at Preston.

In England, support for the King, at the beginning of the war, was centered in Wales, Cornwall, and northern England, and Wales and Cornwall were the last Royalist bastions in England.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.


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