Information

John Poyer


John Poyer was a prosperous cloth merchant from Pembroke. He was also a Puritan and was a strong advocate of Parliament's stand against the king. As Poyer was also the mayor of Pembroke, he played an important role in the town's decision to declare its support for Parliament at the beginning of the Civil War.

When royalist forces attempted to capture Pembroke in 1644, Poyer served in the army under the town's military commander, Rowland Laugharne. Later, when Laugharne became overall commander of the parliamentary army in South Wales, Poyer became the military governor of Pembroke.

After its successful victory over the royalist forces in 1647, Parliament began to make plans to disband its army. This created a great deal of concern as many of the soldiers had not been paid for several months. Others were worried about the increase in taxes imposed by the parliamentary government.

On 24th December, Parliament declared that all soldiers who had enlisted after 6th August, 1647 were to be dismissed without pay. Those that had joined at an earlier stage of the war were to receive only two months wages.

Poyer was furious when he heard the news and began making speeches to his soldiers attacking Parliament's decision to disband the army. When Parliament discovered what Poyer was doing they sent Colonel Fleming to replace him as governor of Pembroke Castle.

Poyer refused to give up the castle and instead sent a letter to Parliament demanding the payment of £1,000 in wage arrears for his men. Colonel Fleming offered £200, but this was rejected. Other soldiers based in South Wales, who had heard about Poyer's actions, began to head for Pembroke to give him their assistance. Poyer's supporters included the two most senior army officers in South Wales, Major-General Rowland Laugharne and Colonel Rice Powell.

Parliament now realised that they had a major rebellion on their hands. The situation became even worse when news arrived that Charles I had made an agreement with the Scots. In return for the support of a Scottish army, Charles agreed to accept the establishment of the Presbyterian religion in England.

On 10th April 1648, Poyer declared that he now supported the king. Encouraged by Poyer's declaration for the king, ex-royalist soldiers began joining Poyer in Pembroke.

When Parliament heard about Poyer's actions in Pembroke they sent Colonel Thomas Horton with 3,000 troops to deal with the rebellion. Rowland Laugharne and nearly 8,000 rebels left Pembroke and engaged Horton's parliamentary army at St. Fagans in Glamorgan. Although outnumbered, Horton's experienced and well-disciplined army was able to defeat Laugharne's poorly armed soldiers. Over 200 of Laugharne's men were killed and another 3,000 were taken prisoner. Laugharne and what was left of his army, managed to escape back to Pembroke.

The rebellion now spread to other parts of Wales. Richard Bulkeley and the people of Anglesey declared their support for the king and Sir John Owen attempted to take Denbigh Castle from the parliamentary army. In the south of the country Rice Powell took control of Tenby and Sir Nicholas Kemeys and other local royalists captured Chepstow Castle.

Realising that the rebellion had to be put down quickly, Parliament decided to send Oliver Cromwell and five regiments to Wales. Cromwell's troops won back Chepstow Castle on 25th May and six days later Rice Powell was forced to surrender Tenby.

Cromwell now marched on to Pembroke to deal with Poyer and Rowland Laugharne. The castle, built on a great mass of limestone rock and nearly totally surrounded by the Pembroke River, was considered one of the strongest fortresses in Britain.

Oliver Cromwell did not have canons large enough to break through walls that were in some places 20 foot thick. Nor did he have besiegers' ladders that could deal with the 80 foot high walls. Attempts at storming the castle failed and so Cromwell was forced to wait and starve the rebels into submission.

Cromwell wrote back to Parliament forecasting that Poyer and his men would be forced to surrender in about two weeks. However, he was initially unaware that the castle had its own excellent water supply. Eventually, a local man betrayed the secret to Cromwell and the besieging army was able to cut the exposed water pipe on the outskirts of the town.

After a siege of eight weeks and completely without food and water, the rebel soldiers in the castle were forced to surrender. Cromwell dealt leniently with the ex-royalist soldiers. His main anger was directed towards those who had previously been members of the parliamentary army.

Poyer, Rowland Laugharne and Rice Powell were tried by court-martial in London and after being found guilty were all sentenced to death. Thomas Fairfax, the leader of the armed forces, decided that only one should die. The three men refused to take part in the lottery to decide who would be executed. The military authorities chose a young child to draw the lots. The papers drawn for Laugharne and Powell read: "Life Given by God". Poyer's paper was blank and he was shot in front of a large crowd at Covent Garden on 21 April, 1649.

Colonel Poyer... had from a low trade raised himself in the war to the reputation of a very diligent and stout officer, and was at the time trusted by the Parliament with the government of the town and castle of Pembroke.

A few men... have already gotten too much power into their hands, and want to disband us... So they can enslave the people... and establish taxes. We promise to protect the people from injury and maintain the Protestant religion... as established by the law in this land. We therefore crave the assistance of the whole kingdom.

As commander of these counties... I cannot ignore the affronts put upon my men... Instead of receiving their pay allowed them by Parliament... they have been disbanded... This happened in my absence, and to my knowledge, still unrighted... I believe that my past service for your country... merited much better treatment.

I desire that we have your assistance in procuring some necessaries to be cast in the iron-furnace in your county of Carmarthen, which will enable us to reduce the castle of Pembroke. The principal things we need are mortar shells, the depth of them being fourteen and three-quarter inches... We also desire some cannon-shot... This service being done, these poor wasted lands may be freed from the burden of the army.

We have not got our guns and ammunition yet. We only have two little guns... we made an attempt to storm the castle but the ladders were too short... so the men could not get over. We lost a few men but I am confident the enemy lost more... we hope to take away his water supply in two days.

Pembroke Castle was the strongest place that we ever saw... We have had many difficulties in Wales... We have a desperate enemy, and few friends, but a mighty God.

I must tell you that if this offer is refused... misery and ruin will befall the people with you, I know where to charge the blood you spill. I expect the answer within two hours. If this offer be refused, send no more letters to me on this subject.


A Tale of Two Samoas

Written by Ernie Smith on Oct 16, 2017

For understandable reasons, Puerto Rico is perhaps the main U.S. territory on the minds of the American public at the moment. The island of 3.5 million has been utterly devastated by Hurricane Maria and it will likely be years before it’s back to a semblance of its normal self—a situation not being helped, to say the least, by the current president.

Tedium, of course, isn’t a news blog, but sometimes it helps to take news and highlight it through the frame of history.

With that in mind, I’d like to spend a moment discussing a time that quick thinking and coordination saved a lot of lives on a U.S. territory. The territory? American Samoa, one of just two territories south of the equator. (The other, Jarvis Island, is a guano acquisition.)

Almost exactly 100 years ago, the Pacific Ocean-based territory had been informed of the Spanish flu pandemic that was then circling the globe, leaving no stone unturned. Responsible for the deaths of more than 20 million people worldwide, it killed more people than World War I, a conflict that at that point was unprecedented in scope.

John Martin Poyer, the U.S. Navy-appointed governor of American Samoa, heard the news of the risk from this disease and immediately took steps to coordinate ships from the U.S. mainland to assist with what was expected to be a dramatic outbreak.

His strategy, effectively, was to quarantine anyone with the disease on the Navy ships, with the goal of isolating the problem. He was successful—not a single person in American Samoa died of the Spanish flu, one of just a few areas in the world where that could be said.

It certainly wasn’t the case in nearby Samoa. Robert Logan, Poyer’s counterpart, had similarly been appointed to his role by New Zealand, and he was in charge throughout World War I. Logan held wide latitude over the territory’s operation, and was the person who could have prevented the fast-spreading Spanish flu from taking hold of the Pacific lands. But unlike Poyer, he failed to control for the flu, allowing ships to dock unencumbered, leading the disease to quickly overtake Samoa. Within the span of just a few weeks, a fifth of the territory’s population had died.

Poyer took a hard-line approach to quarantining American Samoa, barring ships from Samoa, where the disease had taken hold, from visiting American Samoa—which upset Logan, after Poyer had refused a ship with mail from Samoa. Logan ended radio contact with the neighboring territory. Additionally, Poyer at one point offered access to the U.S. Navy’s medical care, including the quarantine ships. Logan, apparently misunderstanding the offer, refused, likely exacerbating the problem.

Poyer’s work was so impressive, especially in comparison to what Logan had done, that people living on Samoa had decided that they’d rather have the U.S. controlling their territory, rather than New Zealand. From a 1919 San Francisco Chronicle article on the subject:

The inhabitants of what was German Samoa say theirs is a land devastated by Influenza and the rhinoceros beetle. They look upon prosperous American Samoa, forty miles away, and threaten to rebel against the domination of New Zealand, according to private advices received by John Rothschild from Tutuila, American Samoa.

According to Rothschild’s information, the natives under New Zealand’s rule can’t see why Influenza should have taken one-fourth of their number and overlooked entirely the population of the American islands. And they can’t see, it is reported, why the rhinoceros beetle threatens to return the New Zealand group to the land of brush It was, while that same insect has been exterminated in American Samoa.

The situation was such that, per the article, Samoans had taken to singing a rewritten version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” pointing out the disparity between the two territories.

Poyer, who retired soon after the above article was published, died a hero in 1922. Logan, on the other hand, was blamed for souring relations between New Zealand and Samoa.

As an official New Zealand government website puts it: “Ironically, the most important years of Logan’s life were the least successful.”

(Above: An early map of both Samoa and American Samoa, created by George F. Cram at the turn of the 20th century. At the time, Samoa was controlled by Germany, but eventually fell into the control of New Zealand before going independent. via Wikimedia Commons)

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.


John Poyer, the forgotten hero (or villain) of the civil war

When you think of the Civil War, the great rebellion against the crown that took place in the 17th century, you tend to think only of famous men like Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. Yet the war was organised and fought by dozens of less well-known individuals, all of whom contributed, in lesser or greater degrees, to the success or failure of the war.

In Wales there was one man in particular who seemed to symbolise the turmoil of the age, supporting first parliament and then the king. He was the mayor of Pembroke, John Poyer.

Initially, at least, Poyer was devoted to the parliamentary cause. He was a rumbustious and temperamental man who, unfortunately, created a large number of enemies for himself in his relatively short life.

As well as being Pembroke's mayor, in the years running up to the outbreak of war he also commanded one of Pembrokeshire's Trained Bands, the groups of ordinary citizens who made up most of parliament's forces during the early months of conflict.

Parliament needed people like Poyer and his Trained Band because by 1642 all of south Wales had come out in favour of the king - apart from the towns of Pembroke and Tenby.

Over the next few years the war in Pembrokeshire was chaotic with first one side gaining the upper hand, then the other. John Poyer was in the thick of it all, manipulating, bribing and fighting to advance the parliamentary cause.

Many of his actions were high handed and, sometimes barely legal. At Michaelmas 1642, for example, Poyer, his term of office as mayor of Pembroke at an end, refused to stand down.

The new mayor had decidedly royalist leanings and there was no way Poyer was going to let him take control. He duly retained and held the position of mayor for the next six years.

Pembroke castle and town, under the command of Poyer and General Rowland Laugharne, quickly became a serious thorn in the side of royalist forces in Wales. So serious was the threat that the local royalist commanders declared that when they captured John Poyer they would put him in a barrel pierced by nails and roll him down hill into Milford Haven. John Poyer merely shrugged and commented that they would have to catch him first.

Thanks to the military skill of Rowland Laugharne and the adept political manoeuvring of Poyer, the parliamentary forces in Pembrokeshire were ultimately successful and in May 1646, with the surrender of Charles I to the Scots, the Civil War came to an end. Parliament had clear control of the country and now, it seemed, men like Poyer could enjoy the fruits of victory.

In Pembrokeshire, however, bad feelings continued to simmer. Poyer was called to London to answer charges of appropriating land and property in the county, to the value of £6,000. The charge eventually came to nothing but John Poyer was incensed that he should be called to task by parliament, the very people he had risked his life to champion.

For some time Laugharne's soldiers - like many other armies across the length and breadth of Britain - had been refusing to disband until they were paid arrears in wages.

Sir Thomas Fairfax, general of all parliamentary forces, now ordered Poyer to appear once more before a committee of accounts and to give up control of Pembroke and its castle. Poyer, an unruly and, probably, very dishonest man, refused and used the excuse of the unpaid soldiers. He would vacate the castle, he declared, when Laugharne's men had been given the wages they were owed.

And so the country slipped towards a second civil war. There were many other causes of this second eruption of civil war but men like Poyer and Laugharne - who had been solid supporters of parliament - now declaring for Prince Charles, the king's son. When parliament sent a large force under General Horton to deal with the south Wales rebels John Poyer simply declared:

Unfortunately for Poyer and Laugharne, their army was defeated at the Battle of St Fagans on 4 May 1648 and the pair fell back on the fortress of Pembroke to lick their wounds and to take stock. Parliamentary forces soon appeared outside the town walls and a seven-week siege began. Soon no less a person than Oliver Cromwell himself arrived to take command of the besieging troops.

Poyer, like Rowland Laugharne, was tireless in the defence of the town, appearing on the walls, leading out sorties against Cromwell's troops. But inevitably, food and water began to run short and at the end of July the town surrendered. John Poyer, along with Laugharne and Colonel Rice Powell who had garrisoned Tenby against Cromwell, were sent to London for trial as traitors to the state.

A military court sat from 4-12 April 1649 and, at last, returned a guilty verdict. All three men were condemned to death for their part in the rebellion.

However, the council of state decided on leniency - only one man must die, his fate to be decided by a child who would draw lots to discover who would face the firing squad. Perhaps inevitably, the unlucky man was John Poyer.

Poyer had certainly created his fair share of enemies over the years and whether or not it was a rigged ballot will never be known. But it does seem strange for Puritans, who hated all forms of gambling, to be playing a game of chance with that most precious of commodities, a man's life.

Poyer's execution took place at Covent Garden on 25 April 1649.

Led to the place of execution by two troops of horse and three companies of foot, he made a short speech, confessing to having led a "loose life" but insisting that his loyalty to parliament had never changed. He was then shot, dying with the same courage and spirit he had displayed all his life.

John Poyer was a charismatic, contradictory and self destructive character. His final words were later taken by his family and used as a motto - "Son est contra me" (Fate is against me). It was a suitable epitaph, even though it could be argued that Poyer's fate was, ultimately, controlled by no-one other than himself.


ExecutedToday.com

On this date* in 1649, John Poyer, late the mayor of Pembroke, was shot at London’s Covent Gardens for switching sides in the English Civil War.

But the silly hats in Parliament wanted much of the potentially dangerous army to demobilize, and do so without settling the small matter of its back pay. Poyer refused to hand over his command and Pembroke Castle to a Parliamentary agent, and sought a better deal from monarchists.**

Only with a painstaking siege was the imposing medieval fortress of Pembroke reduced. Poyer, his superior Rowland Laugharne, and Rice Powell were hauled to London and condemned to death.&dagger

In an interesting twist, it was decided that one example would prove the point as well as three, and to allot the clemencies by chance. When the three refused to draw their own lots, a child was given the job instead, and distributed three slips of paper. Laugharne and Powell read “Life given by God.” Poyer’s was deathly blank.

Mark Twain latched onto the singular role of a child in this deadly lottery, and wrung it for every drop of pathos in a short story, “The Death Disk”.

Unlike the proposed victim of that story, Poyer did not benefit from any last-second Cromwellian pity. His death is related in the zippily titled “The Declaration and Speech of Colonell John Poyer Immediately Before his Execution in Covent-Garden neer Westminster, on Wednesday, being the 25 of this instant April, 1649. With the manner of his deportment, and his Proposals to the people of England.”&Dagger

Having ended his speech, he went to prayers, and immediately rising up again, called the men designed for his execution to him, which were six in number, and giving them the sign when they should give fire, which was by holding up both his hands, they observed his motion, who after some few expressions to his friends about him, prepared an embracement for death, and casting his eyes to Heaven, with both hands lifted up, the Executioners (with their fire locks) did their Office, who at one voley bereav’d him of his life, his corps being taken up, was carryed away in a Coach, and the Souldiery remanded back again to White-Hall.

* A few sources say April 21, but the overwhelming majority concur on the 25th — as do the primary citations available in 17th-century comments on his death (e.g., “he was upon the 25 of this instant Aprill being Wednesday, guarded from White-Hall in a Coach, to the place of execution” in “The Declaration and speech of Colonell John Poyer before his execution…”)

** D.E. Kennedy observes that the divide between Parliament and Royalist was not so bright as might be imagined — and that Cromwell himself was at this time negotiating with the future Charles II as an expedient to get around Charles I.

&dagger The rank and file of Welsh insubordination basically skated, a display of clemency from the Lord Protector that Ireland would not enjoy.

&Dagger The title promises much more scaffold drama than two and a half forgettable pages deliver — basically, that Poyer died (a) penitent (b) Anglican and (c) wishing for peace.


John Randal Phillips

Awarded the compensation for an estate tentatively identified as Lamberts in Barbados, and possibly for two other estates, Lascell[e]s and Britton.

There is potential for confusion here, however. There were at least three John Randal[l] Phillips alive in the 1830s.

Deaths are registered for two John Randal Phillips: Q3 1837 Isle of Wight and Q4 1845 Newton Abbot Devonshire. John Randal Phillips and J.R. Phillips junior, both witnessed the marriage of Philip Lovell Phillips (q.v.) to Mary Anne Hawkes Collyer at St Giles Camberwell 09/08/1832. John Randall Phillips is also shown as an Australian colonist, arriving in Fremantle 25/02/1830 and dying there in 1852. Philip Lovell Phillips is shown as born Barbados 26/10/1805, the only son of John Randall Phillips and Elizabeth Went [sic]. This John Randall Phillips reportedly returned to England, lived at Tor Villa, and died in 1845 at Newton Abbott. Philip Lovell Phillips is shown as the son-in-law of the evangelical preacher based at Peckham, William Bengo Collyer.

John Randall [sic] Phillips married Elizabeth Went Lovell, Winterbourne Gloucestershire 14/10/1803.

John Randall Phillips was one of the subscribers to John Poyer's History of Barbados (1808).

In 1841 John Phillips aged 70 was living with Lovell Phillips aged 30, physician at Torville, Devon.

There is an inscription recorded by Oliver: 'Sacred to the memory of John Randall Phillips of Lamberts in this Island. He died at Torquay Devon Sept 9th 1845 aged 86. Also of Elizabeth Went, wife of the above and daughter of Philip Lovell Esq. She died at Edinburgh July 20 1831 aged 61.'

The John Randal Phillips who died at Ryde is described on his gravestone as 'John Randal Phillips jnr of the Island of Barbados, long illness, died 29/08/1837 aged 38 years'.

Genealogical sources show John Randall Phillips of Western Australia (1789-1852) as the son of George Phillips of Turnham Green.

It thus appears that the John Randall Phillips who died at Devon in 1845, rather than the man who died at Ryde in 1837, was the father of Philip Lovell Phillips and was the awardee on the estate identified as Lamberts and possibly the other awards. The John Randall Phillips who died at Ryde was presumably counterclaimant on Haggatt Hall. The two men were again presumably uncle and nephew or geat-uncle and great-nephew. The connection with the Australian colonist however remains unclear, and this John Randal Phillips in Australia might conceivably have been the awardee for Brittons and/or Lascell[e]s or more plausibly the attorney in Jamaica in the mid-1820s.

Sources

T71/895 Barbados claim no. 92 (Brittons or Brettons) T71/897 Barbados claim no. 2545 T71/899 Barbados claim nos. 4368 (Lascell[e]s) and 4615 (tentatively identified as Lamberts).

T71/895 Barbados claim no. 139 counterclaim identifies a John Randal Phillips as of Ryde, Isle of Wight, as an assignee of Thomas Went. Awards no. 92, 2545, 4368 and 4615 are tied by the same attorney, Edward Thomas.

FreeUKGen, England and Wales Free BMD Database, Deaths, 1837-1983 [database online] Ancestry.com, London, England, Marriages and Banns 1754-1921 [database online] http://www.valuingheritage.com.au/adoptagrave/Phillips_George.html [accessed 27/04/2012]. http://www.wbcollyer.org/index.php?p=1_5_Who-s-Who [accessed 27/04/2102].

Ancestry.com, England and Wales, Marriages and Banns, 1538-1940 [database online].

John Poyer, The History of Barbados, from the first discovery of the island in the year 1605 till the accession of Lord Seaforth 1801 (London, J. Mawman, 1808), p xxv.

Vere Langford Oliver, Monumental Inscriptions in Barbados p. 12 item 60.


John Poyer, the Civil Wars in Pembrokeshire and the British Revolutions


‘This is a brilliant book, which not only transforms our view of the “turncoat” John Poyer, but also provides one of the most vivid, well-informed and sophisticated accounts ever written of the seventeenth-century civil wars in Wales.’
-Professor Mark Stoyle, University of Southampton

‘This exhilarating read challenges previous representations of Poyer, offering a first glimpse of the man on his own terms rather than through the eyes of his enemies. In doing so, the author illuminates the factional politics within the parliamentary cause in superb depth and with great sensitivity to the local context.’
-Professor Andrew Hopper, Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester

'It is written in such an accessible, fast moving way. fascinating story'. Listen to Lloyd Bowen discuss his book here https://newbooksnetwork.com/lloyd-bowen-john-poyer-the-civil-wars-in-pembrokeshire-and-the-british-revolutions-u-wales-press-2021

‘Poyer rebelled against the parliament which had been victorious in the first civil war (1642-6) and his actions helped to initiate a series of uprisings and provincial revolts which, along with the invasion of the Scottish Covenanters in the summer of 1648, are collectively known as ‘The Second Civil War’. But Poyer also had a fascinating history before April 1648 which can help us better understand his motivations and actions during that tumultuous spring and summer.’
-Read an extract of John Poyer, the Civil Wars in Pembrokeshire and the British Revolutions in the Booklaunch on page 5 https://bit.ly/3akxSmt

'This is a great book that attempts a very close review of the evidence (and lack thereof ) about one particular byline that has been neglected by earlier scholars as a major player in the propaganda wars behind the Civil Wars. Thus, it is a good book for all types of libraries to purchase, and it should serve as a curious supplementary textbook for graduate and undergraduate classes covering this period in British history and literature.'
- Review in Pennsylvania Literary Journal: Spring 2021, page 17. Read the full review here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095MGQNQB

Contents

Maps
Abbreviations
Acknowledgements
Preface
Chapter 1: The Setting: John Poyer and Early Stuart Pembrokeshire, c.1606�
Chapter 2: The Irish Crisis and the Coming of Civil War, 1640�
Chapter 3: Allies and Enemies: Poyer and Pembroke during the First Civil War
Chapter 4: The Struggle for Supremacy: Poyer and Post-War Politics, 1646�
Chapter 5: The Road to Rebellion, August 1647–March 1648
Chapter 6: Poyer, Powell and the Prince, March𠄺pril 1648
Chapter 7: The Siege of Pembroke, May–July 1648
Chapter 8: Revenge and Revolution: Poyer, Print and Parliamentary Justice, August 1648𠄺pril 1649
Chapter 9: Afterlives
Appendix: Timeline of the Civil Wars in Pembrokeshire


ExecutedToday.com

On this date in 1649, Oliver Cromwell had three leaders of his army’s working-class Levellers movement shot against the walls of Burford church.

The revolutionary army with which Cromwell had overthrown King Charles I came to a crisis in 1649 as the interests of senior officers and the class of landowners and merchants they hailed from clashed against those of the common soldiery.

This democratic and class-conscious Leveller movement has invited the sympathy of later radicals, and it would be hard to flatly call that attention anachronistic Leveller William Walyn even anticipated Marx’s language in dismissing the Magna Carta as “that mess of pottage.”* This is an England whose capitalist shape is coming clearly into view.

Flint struck steel when the army’s Grandees laid a nasty Sophie’s choice on troops whose pay was deep in arrears: leave the army (forfeiting the back pay) or leave the country (to invade Ireland). Both options redounded to the advantage of the state and its moneyed interests, at the expense of the lower orders.

Army mutinies commenced immediately and the massive London procession that carried the executed Leveller Robert Lockyer to his grave proved the depth and danger of the public sentiment.

In early May of 1649, Colonel Scrope’s horse regiment — another of those offered the “opportunity” of serving in Ireland — followed suit, seizing the regimental colors, re-electing its own officers and marching out from Banbury across Salisbury plain to rendezvous with other discontented soldiers. In the words of one survivor,

the whole fabric of the Commonwealth fell into the grossest and vilest tyranny that ever Englishmen groaned under … which, with the considerations of the particular, most insufferable abuses and dissatisfactions put upon us, moved us to an unanimous refusal to go … till full satisfaction and security was given to us as Soldiers and Commoners, by a Council of our own free election.

Cromwell had a different satisfaction in mind.

Aided by an envoy sent to stall the rebels with a diversionary negotiation, Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax were able to surprise the 1,500 Levellers camped at Burford with a midnight attack the night of May 13-14. By morning, 340 soldiers were locked in Burford’s church as prisoners.

The tragic denouement of this Banbury mutiny was the execution of three soldiers, Cornet Thompson, Corporal Perkins, and Private Church. A plaque at the site still commemorates the event.

On month’s end, Cromwell was certifying to Parliament that mutinous Levellers had all been pacified … and come August, he was ravaging Ireland as planned.

The Saturday nearest May 17th is marked each year in Burford as Levellers Day. (The next one as of this writing is Saturday, 20 May 2017.)

* The Biblical allusion was current in the culture Cromwell invoked the same phrase a few years later when he dismissed the Rump Parliament.

On this day..

Possibly related executions:

1649: Saint Jean de Brébeuf, missionary to the Huron

It was on this date that the Jesuit missionary Saint Jean de Brébeuf was martyred by indigenous Iroquois near present-day Midland, Ontario.

Brebeuf was of Norman stock, kin to poet Georges de Brebeuf.

Ordained in 1622, Brebeuf soon decamped to the New World to Christianize the natives.

There he teamed up with another Jesuit missionary named Gabriel Lalemant and established the Sainte-Marie among the Hurons mission.

As the name advertises, this outpost aimed to minister to the Hurons (Wyandot) to that end, Brebeuf — who learned the local tongue well enough to write a catechism and a dictionary — composed the still-beloved Christmas song “Huron Carol”.

Brebeuf’s own missives recording Huron established him an energetic chronicler who has been styled Canada’s first serious ethnographer. For instance, Brebeuf on the POW treatment he saw the Huron dish out:

when they seize some of their enemies, they treat them with all the cruelty they can devise. Five or six days will sometimes pass in assuaging their wrath, and in burning them at a slow fire and they are not satisfied with seeing their skins entirely roasted, — they open the legs, the thighs, the arms, and the most fleshy parts, and thrust therein glowing brands, or red-hot hatchets … After having at last brained a victim, if he was a brave man, they tear out his heart, roast it on the coals, and distribute it in pieces to the young men they think that this renders them courageous … we hope, with the assistance of Heaven, that the knowledge of the true God will entirely banish from this Country such barbarity. (From the Jesuit Relations, volume 10)

Brebeuf regrettably foreshadowed his own ghastly fate, for during his ministry, the Huron and Iroquois went to war. No fewer than eight men posted to Brebeuf’s mission were martyred during 1640s Huron-Iroquois wars.

On March 16, 1649, Iroquois captured Brebeuf and Lalemant, and subjected them to a horrific death just like the sort of thing Brebeuf had seen inflicted by the Huron. Other Jesuit missionaries recorded the tortures from eyewitness accounts given in the subsequent weeks:

As soon as they were taken captive, they were stripped naked, and some of their nails were torn out and the welcome which they received upon entering the village of St. Ignace was a hailstorm of blows with sticks upon their shoulders, their loins, their legs, their breasts, their bellies, and their faces, — there being no part of their bodies which did not then endure its torment.

Father Jean de Brebeuf, overwhelmed under the burden of these blows, did not on that account lose care for his flock seeing himself surrounded with Christians whom he had instructed, and who were in captivity with him, he said to them: “My children, let us lift our eyes to Heaven at the height of our afflictions let us remember that God is the witness of our sufferings, and will soon be our exceeding great reward. Let us die in this faith and let us hope from his goodness the fulfillment of his promises. I have more pity for you than for myself but sustain with courage the few remaining torments. They will end with our lives the glory which follows them will never have an end.” “Echon,” they said to him (this is the name which the Hurons gave the Father), “our spirits will be in Heaven when our bodies shall be suffering on earth. Pray to God for us, that he may show us mercy we will invoke him even until death.”

Some Huron Infidels — former captives of the Iroquois, naturalized among them, and former enemies of the Faith — were irritated by these words, and because our Fathers in their captivity had not their tongues captive. They cut off the hands of one, and pierce the other with sharp awls and iron points they apply under their armpits and upon their loins hatchets heated red in the fire, and put a necklace of these about their necks in such a way that all the motions of their bodies gave them a new torture. For, if they attempted to lean forward, the red-hot hatchets which hung behind them burned the shoulders everywhere and if they thought to avoid that pain, bending back a little, their stomachs and breasts experienced a similar torment if they stood upright, without leaning to one side or the other, these glowing hatchets, touching them alike on all sides, were a double torture to them. They put about them belts of bark, filled with pitch and resin, to which they set fire, which scorched the whole of their bodies.

At the height of these torments, Father Gabriel Lallement lifted his eyes to Heaven, clasping his hands from time to time, and uttering sighs to God, whom he invoked to his aid. Father Jean de Brebeuf suffered like a rock, insensible to the fires and the flames, without uttering any cry, and keeping a profound silence, which astonished his executioners themselves: no doubt, his heart was then reposing in his God. Then, returning to himself, he preached to those Infidels, and still more to many good Christian captives, who had compassion on him.

Those butchers, indignant at his zeal, in order to hinder him from further speaking of God, girdled his mouth, cut off his nose, and tore off his lips but his blood spoke much more loudly than his lips had done and, his heart not being yet torn out, his tongue did not fail to render him service until the last sigh, for blessing God for these torments, and for animating the Christians more vigorously than he had ever done.

In derision of holy Baptism, — which these good Fathers had so charitably administered even at the breach, and in the hottest of the fight,—those wretches, enemies of the Faith, bethought themselves to baptize them with boiling water. Their bodies were entirely bathed with it, two or three times, and more, with biting gibes, which accompanied these torments. “We baptize thee,” said these wretches, “to the end that thou mayst be blessed in Heaven for without proper Baptism one cannot be saved.” Others added, mocking, “we treat thee as a friend, since we shall be the cause of thy greatest happiness up in Heaven thank us for so many good offices, — for, the more thou sufferest, the more thy God will reward thee.”

These were Infidel Hurons, former captives of the Iroquois, and, of old, enemies of the Faith, — who, having previously had sufficient instruction for their salvation, impiously abused it, — in reality, for the glory of the Fathers but it is much to be feared that it was also for their own misfortune.

The more these torments were augmented, the more the Fathers entreated God that their sins should not be the cause of the reprobation of these poor blind ones, whom they pardoned with all their heart. It is surely now that they say in repose, Transivimus per ignem et aquam, et eduxisti nos in refrigerium.

When they were fastened to the post where they suffered these torments, and where they were to die, they knelt down, they embraced it with joy, and kissed it piously as the object of their desires and their love, and as a sure and final pledge of their salvation. They were there some time in prayers, and longer than those butchers were willing to permit them. They put out Father Gabriel Lallement’s eyes and applied burning coals in the hollows of the same.

Their tortures were not of the same duration. Father Jean de Brebeuf was at the height of his torments at about three o’clock on the same day of the capture, the 16th day of March, and rendered up his soul about four o ‘ clock in the evening. Father Gabriel Lallement endured longer, from six o’clock in the evening until about nine o’clock the next morning, the seventeenth of March.

Before their death, both their hearts were torn out, by means of an opening above the breast and those Barbarians inhumanly feasted thereon, drinking their blood quite warm, which they drew from its source with sacrilegious hands. While still quite full of life, pieces of flesh were removed from their thighs, from the calves of the legs, and from their arms, — which those executioners placed on coals to roast, and ate in their sight.

They had slashed their bodies in various parts and, in order to increase the feeling of pain, they had thrust into these wounds red-hot hatchets.

Father Jean de Brebeuf had had the skin which covered his skull torn away they had cut off his feet and torn the flesh from his thighs, even to the bone, and had split, with the blow of a hatchet, one of his jaws in two.

Father Gabriel Lallement had received a hatchet- blow on the left ear, which they had driven into his brain, which appeared exposed we saw no part of his body, from the feet even to the head, which had not been broiled, and in which he had not been burned alive,—even the eyes, into which those impious ones had thrust burning coals.

They had broiled their tongues, repeatedly putting into their mouths flaming brands, and burning pieces of bark, — not willing that they should invoke, in dying, him for whom they were suffering, and who could never die in their hearts. I have learned all this from persons worthy of credence, who have seen it, and reported it to me personally, and who were then captives with them, — but who having been reserved to be put to death at another time, found means to escape.

But let us leave these objects of horror, and these monsters of cruelty since one day all those parts will be endowed with an immortal glory, the greatness of their torments will be the measure of their happiness, and, from now on, they live in the repose of the Saints, and will dwell in it forever.

Brebeuf’s intercultural legacy allegedly lives on in sport form. Though it’s unverifiable folklore, it is said that Brebeuf saw Iroquois tribesmen playing the game of baggataway and, reckoning the sticks used to manipulate the ball resembled bishops’ croziers, conferred upon the game the name lacrosse.

Europeanized versions of this game (“with a few genteel refinements”) remain wildly popular in Canada, and are growing throughout North America. Lax bros can be found especially in the environs of well-heeled private high schools … like Brebeuf Jesuit Prep School (Indianapolis, Indiana).

On this day..

Possibly related executions:

1649: Robert Lockyer, Leveller

On this date in 1649, Robert Lockyer (or Lockier) was shot before the scenic backdrop of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral* for the Leveller-inspired Bishopsgate mutiny.

These weeks following the epochal execution of the late king Charles I were also the climax of a pivotal intra-party conflict among the triumphant Parliamentarians … one whose class dimensions map a lot more readily to a modern template. Levellers were, “in a small way, the precursors of the ‘Socialists’ of 1849” in the words of this popular history.

The prosperous gentry represented by the Grandee faction were just fine with the whip hand they’d obtained in government by overturning the monarchy against them were arrayed the more radical Levellers (or “Agitators”) who could not fail to notice that they had no say in electing the Parliament upheld by their victorious arms, and an oligarchy governing them that bore a suspicious resemblance to the supposedly defeated nobility.

Meanwhile, up in high statecraft, Oliver Cromwell was preparing to make his name accursed of Ireland by smashing up the island and the Grandees hit upon an arrangement as expedient for fiscal ambitions as for territorial: the soldiers assigned to this expedition would have the opportunity to opt out of it, for the low low price of forfeiting the substantial back pay they were due from those years of civil war — pay whose fulfillment was naturally a chief Leveller demand.

How did this cunning plan to pillage the soldiery’s pensions to conquer Ireland go over in the ranks? Reader, not well.

Since the same reason that shall subject them unto us in generall, or any of us singly, may subject us unto them or any other that shall subdue now how contrary this is to the common interest of mankind let all the world judge, for a people that desire to live free, must almost equally with themselves, defend others from subjection, the reason is because the subjecting of others make(s) the subdued strive for Dominion over you, since that is the only way you have left them to acquire their common liberty.**

So there was that, on top of that.

Grumblings gave way to refusals to march, and the refusal by a regiment stationed in Bishopsgate to leave London lest it also leave its leverage soon became the eponymous mutiny of this post — the Bishopsgate Mutiny.

Grandees quelled this particular insubordination without need of bloodshed, but thought it meet to deliver a little anyway as proof in this fraught political environment against the next such affair. Six of the soldiers drew military death sentences Cromwell pardoned five, but let known Leveller/Agitator firebrand Lockyer go to his death over the appeals of Leveller leaders like John Lilburne and Richard Overton.

The signal was unmistakable — certainly to the thousands who donned Leveller colors to follow Lockyer’s funeral procession through London.

In the days following Lockyer’s execution, several Leveller-inspired regiments would openly rise … what proved to be the movement’s last great stand, efficiently crushed by Cromwell.

*The Parliamentarians had twisted high church dogmatists by putting Old St. Paul’s Cathedral to profane use as a cavalry stable, which employment actually made it a sort-of suitable place for a military execution. (The current structure was rebuilt on the same site after the previous church succumbed to the Great Fire of London.)

** From Mercurius Militaris, quoted by Norah Carlin, “The Levellers and the Conquest of Ireland in 1649,” The Historical Journal, June 1987 — which, however, makes the case that while the Levellers were obviously not cool with the pay expropriation, their opinion on the Ireland conquest in the abstract was far from uniformly anti-imperial.

On this day..

Possibly related executions:

1649: John Poyer, the lucky winner

On this date* in 1649, John Poyer, late the mayor of Pembroke, was shot at London’s Covent Gardens for switching sides in the English Civil War.

But the silly hats in Parliament wanted much of the potentially dangerous army to demobilize, and do so without settling the small matter of its back pay. Poyer refused to hand over his command and Pembroke Castle to a Parliamentary agent, and sought a better deal from monarchists.**

Only with a painstaking siege was the imposing medieval fortress of Pembroke reduced. Poyer, his superior Rowland Laugharne, and Rice Powell were hauled to London and condemned to death.&dagger

In an interesting twist, it was decided that one example would prove the point as well as three, and to allot the clemencies by chance. When the three refused to draw their own lots, a child was given the job instead, and distributed three slips of paper. Laugharne and Powell read “Life given by God.” Poyer’s was deathly blank.

Mark Twain latched onto the singular role of a child in this deadly lottery, and wrung it for every drop of pathos in a short story, “The Death Disk”.

Unlike the proposed victim of that story, Poyer did not benefit from any last-second Cromwellian pity. His death is related in the zippily titled “The Declaration and Speech of Colonell John Poyer Immediately Before his Execution in Covent-Garden neer Westminster, on Wednesday, being the 25 of this instant April, 1649. With the manner of his deportment, and his Proposals to the people of England.”&Dagger

Having ended his speech, he went to prayers, and immediately rising up again, called the men designed for his execution to him, which were six in number, and giving them the sign when they should give fire, which was by holding up both his hands, they observed his motion, who after some few expressions to his friends about him, prepared an embracement for death, and casting his eyes to Heaven, with both hands lifted up, the Executioners (with their fire locks) did their Office, who at one voley bereav’d him of his life, his corps being taken up, was carryed away in a Coach, and the Souldiery remanded back again to White-Hall.

* A few sources say April 21, but the overwhelming majority concur on the 25th — as do the primary citations available in 17th-century comments on his death (e.g., “he was upon the 25 of this instant Aprill being Wednesday, guarded from White-Hall in a Coach, to the place of execution” in “The Declaration and speech of Colonell John Poyer before his execution…”)

** D.E. Kennedy observes that the divide between Parliament and Royalist was not so bright as might be imagined — and that Cromwell himself was at this time negotiating with the future Charles II as an expedient to get around Charles I.

&dagger The rank and file of Welsh insubordination basically skated, a display of clemency from the Lord Protector that Ireland would not enjoy.

&Dagger The title promises much more scaffold drama than two and a half forgettable pages deliver — basically, that Poyer died (a) penitent (b) Anglican and (c) wishing for peace.

On this day..

Possibly related executions:

1649: Charles I

On this date in 1649, the struggle between parliament and crown cost the Stuart monarch Charles I his head.

Charles‘ political clumsiness and unreconstructed authoritarianism had seen the realm whose unitary sovereignty he insisted upon blunder from disaster to disaster: into bankruptcy, military defeat, religious conflict and the English Civil War.

The assignation of cause and consequence in that war’s genesis has much exercised historians.

What is beyond dispute is that the confrontation between monarch and subject, pitting against each other political and economic epochs, theories of state and power, rates as one of history’s most captivating courtroom dramas.

Charles refused to answer the court’s charge of treason, occasioned most particularly by the king’s fomenting the Second Civil War while already a defeated prisoner of parliament following the first Civil War. He rested firmly on royal prerogatives against what some interlocutors take to be an almost desperate plea by his judges for some hint of acknowledgment that could open the door to compromise:

[A] King cannot be tried by any superior jurisdiction on earth. But it is not my case alone — it is the freedom and the liberty of the people of England. And do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties — for if the power without law may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life or anything that he calls his own. Therefore, when that I came here I did expect particular reasons to know by what law, what authority, you did proceed against me here.

It must be borne in mind that the trial of a king was a completely unprecedented event. Charles might be forgiven his attitude, even if it smacked of the impolitic high-handedness that had forced this deadly test of powers.

Parliament’s position — here in the words of its President — is distinctly in the stream of political discourse (if not always actual practice) ascendant in the West to this day.

Sir, as the law is your superior, so truly, sir, there is something that is superior to the law and that is indeed the parent or author of the law — and that is the people of England.

And therefore, sir, for this breach of trust when you are called to account, you are called to account by your superiors — “when a king is summoned to judgment by the people, the lesser is summoned by the greater.”

The modern and the medieval, facing each other at the bar.


A fragment from a World War II bomb-damaged and only-recently-rediscovered Hippolyte Delaroche painting situating Charles in the Christlike pose of enduring the mockery of his captors.

Charles played his lordly disdain to the end, refusing to admit parliament’s jurisdiction by making any sort of plea.

The line between heroic defiance and pig-headed obstinacy being very much in the eye of the beholder, the confrontation is typically played straight-up for its arresting clash of principles — as in the 1970 biopic Cromwell, with Alec Guinness as the monarch: Probably more troubling for the parliamentary party than the regicide taboo was consideration that the execution would transfer royalist loyalties from a man safely imprisoned to an heir beyond their power, who could be expected to (as in fact he did) resume the civil war.

Competing philosophies expounded for the competing interests the dispute involved the era’s intellectual titans, in conflict over the most fundamental concepts of the state. Thomas Hobbes wrote his magnum opus The Leviathan as a royalist exile in Paris, and its abhorrence for rebellion and divided sovereignty unmistakably reflects the English Civil War experience. John Milton earned his bread as a republican polemicist his poetic celebration of Satan’s failed rebellion in Paradise Lost, written after the Stuart restoration, can be read as a political critique.

It’s conventionally thought that the beheading was conducted by a radical minority, though that supposition is debatable, colored as it is by the ultimate restoration of the crown. But although England would have a king again, the weight of political authority would steadily, permanently, gravitate towards parliament, organ of the merchant classes who would steer England henceforward.

Did it have the right? Two implacable powers each claimed an indivisible object “between equal rights, force decides.” So on this cold winter’s afternoon — Charles wore thick undergarments, so he would not shiver with the appearance of fright — the deposed king was marched to a scaffold erected at Whitehall. He gave a short final address, with the famous words for his principle of martyrdom — “a sovereign and a subject are clean different things” — then laid his head on a low block, where a masked executioner (never definitively identified) cleanly chopped it off.

After the monarchy’s restoration, Charles was canonized as a saint by the Church of England: he’s still the last person so venerated, an odd salute to a mortal career of unalloyed arrogance and incompetence. Observance of the cult was toned down in the 19th century, although a Society of King Charles the Martyr dedicated to its preservation still exists monarchists of a more secular inclination also continue to mark his martyrdom on this anniversary.

“The most interesting thing about King Charles the First is that he was five foot six inches tall at the start of his reign, but only four foot eight inches tall at the end of it.”


Notes

There is no contents page. There is no copyright page. Some text is obscured by the binding.

Accession 01649 Addeddate 2020-03-05 20:51:03 Associated-names Frere, George Frere, Henry Lonsdale, James Lowther, Earl of, 1736-1802 Call number D768 .S559h1 Camera Sony Alpha-A6000 (Control) Digital 1 External-identifier urn:oclc:record:263027213 Foldoutcount 0 Full_bib_id 57291147 Identifier shorthistoryofba00unkn Identifier-ark ark:/13960/t6sz4vr4w Invoice 81 Ocr ABBYY FineReader 11.0 (Extended OCR) Openlibrary_edition OL27925013M Openlibrary_work OL20651558W Page-progression lr Page_number_confidence 100 Pages 142 Physical 20 Ppi 300 References Sabin 3288 Ragatz, L.J. Brit. Caribbean history, p. 182 Handler, J.S. Barbados history, p. 41 Adams, T.R. Amer. controversy, 68-9a Sowerby, E.M. Cat. of the lib. of Thomas Jefferson, 465 English short title catalogue T48168 Republisher_date 20200305144941 Republisher_operator [email protected] Republisher_time 711 Scandate 20200207220631 Scanner ttscribe1.providence.archive.org Scanningcenter tt_providence Size viii, 121, [3] p. 19 cm. (8vo) Tts_version 1.64-initial-45-g1252243

POYER, JOHN (died 1649), mayor of Pembroke,

A leading merchant of Pembroke town. He was active in local affairs and in command of the trained band. On 17 February 1642 he wrote to Sir Hugh Owen of Orielton, Member of Parliament for Pembroke borough, to draw his attention to the undefended state of Pembrokeshire in view of the insurrection in Ireland, whence refugees were arriving daily in the county. Later in the year, on the outbreak of the Civil War, he organized the defence of Pembroke town and castle, forcibly retaining the office of mayor and becoming governor of the castle. He was joined by Rowland Laugharne and Rice Powell, and together with them vigorously maintained the Parliamentary cause. When the Royalist commander in west Wales, Richard Vaughan, 2nd earl of Carbery, entered Pembrokeshire in August 1643, he failed to induce Pembroke to capitulate. It became the base for the Parliamentary offensive when opportunity offered and a retreat when difficulties arose. Poyer himself is only recorded as having been the leader in one attack when he captured Carew castle (10 March 1644). His activities involved him in serious disputes with the members of the county committee, some of whom he accused of being half-hearted in the cause. He was in London in December 1645 defending himself against charges of not giving a proper account of moneys he had received and other allegations made by his opponents. He appears to have remained there for several months. When general hostilities ceased in 1647 Parliament decided to reduce its military forces by disbanding supernumeraries. The men who had fought in west Wales were included in this order. General Fairfax sent one colonel Fleming to take over the governorship of Pembroke castle from Poyer as part of this policy. Poyer refused to hand it over. He seems to have regarded the possession of it as an important asset in view of his quarrels with members of the county committee and the claims he was putting forward for payment for disbursements and arrears. Fleming showed a willingness to treat with him but Poyer proved obdurate. There is no doubt that he was encouraged in his defiance by Royalist agents. He was in touch with prince Charles and received a commission from him issued at S. Germains on 3 April 1648. Poyer's action led to a widespread opposition to disbandment and Rice Powell, in the absence of Rowland Laugharne, took command of the resistance. After the defeat of the combined ex-Parliamentary and Royalist forces at S. Fagans (8 May 1648) a remnant escaped to Pembroke where the siege was conducted by Oliver Cromwell. It did not surrender until 11 July, when the garrison was greatly reduced and there was no prospect of help from the Royalists. Poyer, together with Rowland Laugharne and Rice Powell, was condemned to death but lots were drawn as to which should be executed. Poyer drew the fatal blank and was shot at Covent Garden on the morning of 25 April 1649. His wife, Elizabeth, petitioned Charles II for a grant on the ground that her husband had lost ٦,000 in the Royal cause. She was given a sum of ١,000, payable at the rate of 𧷤 a year.


John Poyer, the Civil Wars in Pembrokeshire and the British Revolutions

Many years ago, I attended a lecture given under the auspices of the Historical Association at Cardiff University. Chatting to one of the steadfast supporters of the local HA branch following the talk, I mentioned that I was doing some research into the civil wars of the mid-seventeenth century. “Oh”, she replied, “it is terrible what they did to poor John Poyer”.

I was surprised that she should know of Poyer, but, upon reflection, the pathos and tragedy of his final days have meant that his death is rather better known than his life. John Poyer, considered a rebel by the parliamentarian party for whom he had once fought, was placed on trial for his life at Whitehall in the spring of 1649. One of three men sentenced to death by a court martial, the head of parliament’s New Model Army, Sir Thomas Fairfax, decided to show mercy and determined that only one of them should be executed. Consequently, it was ordered that the men should draw lots to see who would face the firing squad. The men decided that an innocent child should undertake this terrible task and he drew a blank piece of paper for John Poyer who was consequently shot at Covent Garden on 25 April 1649.

This pathetic scene made a considerable impression upon later generations. The American novelist Mark Twain adapted the tale for his own purposes in the story, ‘The Death Disk’ in 1901. The great director of silent films D. W. Griffith in turn adapted Twain’s narrative for the screen in 1909. Poyer’s dramatic denouement continued to whisper down the centuries.

I also knew of Poyer’s end, but not too much about the rest of his life. As I began digging, however, I became convinced that his story was one worth telling and that there was much more to this man than merely his tragic death scene.

In John Poyer, the Civil War in Pembrokeshire and the British Revolutions, I present an account of this remarkable man’s life, death and legacy, while also discussing the times in which he lived and the society in which he moved. Poyer led a life that was surprising and full of incident, even for this period of upheaval and civil war.

He was a man of truly obscure origins: he seems to have been a servant in the household of a wealthy merchant, but struck out on his own, becoming a merchant and glover in the somewhat dilapidated outpost of Pembroke in south-west Wales. Poyer possessed a forceful personality and was full of drive and ambition, rising to become Pembroke’s chief magistrate, its mayor, just as a Catholic rebellion in Ireland drove waves of refugees onto the Welsh coast, and as the clouds of civil war between parliament and King Charles I gathered over the land.

In largely royalist Wales, Poyer stood out as a leader of the meagre parliamentarian party. Accompanied by his brother-in-law and future Major General, Rowland Laugharne, Poyer repaired Pembroke’s imposing medieval defences and turned it into a parliamentarian point of strength on the strategically crucial Irish Sea.

Poyer, however, was an intemperate and uncompromising man whom even his allies found it difficult to like. After parliament’s victory in the first civil war Poyer should have reaped the reward of his stalwart service. He was, however, outmanoeuvred and betrayed by his former royalist enemies who had come over to the parliamentarian camp when the tides of war turned against them. My book charts their efforts in print and through the organs of local and national politics to orchestrate Poyer’s ruin. Left isolated by their campaigns against him, Poyer rebelled against the New Model Army, initiating the so-called ‘Second Civil War’ of 1648 which engulfed the kingdom in renewed bloodshed and paved the way for the trial and execution of King Charles I. Poyer endured a lengthy a siege in Pembroke Castle led by Oliver Cromwell, but his defeat led to the dramatic scenes at Whitehall and Covent Garden, and two bullets in his uncompromising heart.

My book has examined a multitude of new printed and manuscript sources, and provides many fresh insights into John Poyer’s colourful life and career. It also offers much of interest for our understanding of the nature of provincial politics during the civil war, the dynamics of south Wales during the turbulent 1640s, the influence of the newly expanded world of print and debate upon local politics and much else besides. A concluding chapter explores Poyer’s legacy and treatment in popular culture.

Lloyd Bowen is Reader in Early Modern History at Cardiff University.


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