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"Foreign troops during the English Civil Wars" Topic


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wdrenth25 Jun 2020 12:13 a.m. PST

dear all,

By no means an expert on military matters of the English Civil Wars, I was triggered by a reference to the employment of French mercenaries in the Royalist army between 1643 and 1645. This is stated in 'The Civil Wars. A Military History of England, Scotland and Ireland 1638--1660', edited by John Kenyon and Jane Ohlmeyer, on page 105 in Ian Gentles' chapter on the Civil Wars in England. The related note refers to an unpublished thesis.

So I am curious if this statement is correct, i.e., did Charles employ French troops.
And if this is true, I would be interested in details of these foreign troops: what was the treaty between Charles and Louis for these troops, how many of them where there, what was the composition, etc. I tried Google on this, but surprisingly little comes forward.

More in general, what was the involvement of foreign troops during the English (British) Civil Wars (if any)? I am not directly referring to individuals that went around and sought employment, but foreign troops taken into pay/service based on some treaty and/or contract.

kind regards, Wienand

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jun 2020 4:24 a.m. PST

I have seen reference to French troops fighting for the King, can't remember where. I'll try and 're find' it…

There was certainly a French cavalry captain (Jean DuBose St George) who fought for Parliament.

I would imagine that there were a number of battle experienced men in Europe ready to follow a cause for money. With the Royalists primarily looking abroad for arms and equipment, I would imagine where they looked for arms became almost recruiting grounds

There were also a number of men who returned from the Americas to fight (again I'll try and locate the source material)

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jun 2020 4:39 a.m. PST

Turmile describes Major Francis Duet (sometimes Dowett) as a Frenchman (Parliamentarian). He also describes Captain John Allured as a German (again Parliamentarian) although further research suggests that Allured is most probably John Alured who was English.

A quick perusal of Reid's Cavalier Army Lists shows Bertrand Rossen de La Plane commanding a regiment of horse in the west country, many of his officers being French also

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jun 2020 5:06 a.m. PST

Another Frenchman commanding a Royalist regiment of horse, this time under Byron in the North West Vicomte St. Oil.

Also a few professional military engineers sought service on both sides

From what I have very quickly re-discovered, mercenary use doesn't appear to be on a massive scale. (Although unlikely we'll know about common soldiers)

Dadster Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2020 5:38 a.m. PST

Rainborough came back from the colonies with a regiment to fight for Parliament. But they were considered English subjects and not 'foreigners' in service.

Dadster Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2020 5:39 a.m. PST

And of course Rupert and his brother though nephews of Charles were Germans.

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jun 2020 5:47 a.m. PST

Having had a perusal through a few books – French troops – more of an individual level rather than massed numbers.

Whilst the three kingdoms were newly united under one king, Ireland and Scotland were still considered foreign powers. So Irish and Scots troops were foreign soldiers.

(And of course the Americas are seen as an extension of England, I had written a sentence in on an edit to make that more explicit, but obviously clicked the wrong button and didn't save my edit – d'oh!)

Timbo W25 Jun 2020 7:10 a.m. PST

Hi all, great to see you here Wienand,

as has been said above it seems rather ad-hoc with plenty of individuals serving as officers for both Royalists & Parliamentarians but not so much clear evidence of rank-and-file (not unnaturally so of course).

Col. Bertrand Rossen de la Plane is here is the BCW wiki link with some nice evidence found by Victor Judge. Allegedly (Vicars Anglia Rediviva) in command of a brigade of 3 or 4 regiments of "French" horse.

Also late-war in the West Country was the mysterious Lord Muller (perhaps German or Danish?) but his troopers were recruited in England.

The Queen's Regiment of horse certainly had some French officers and likely troopers coming from the Continent with Henrietta-Maria. The Queen's regiment of foot likewise.

Under Byron was Lord St Pol (I think KYPD got autocorrected!) leading French & Germans officers with Irish troopers apparently.

Odds and ends of German, French and Dutch officers scattered throughout eg Vandruske and Vermuyden for the Parls. I've seen a Pole mentioned, and of course the infamous Croat Carlos Fantom, who fought on both sides and was hung by the Royalists for rape. Allegedly some 'Turkish' pirates were busted out of jail and recruited (either for or against Hopton in 1643, I forget which), though this might well be enemy propaganda.

As for treaties and contracts, nothing much comes to mind. I don't know on what basis the 'French' West country horse was recruited, perhaps by consolidation of individual French volunteers already in Royalist service?? I think there was a Royalist plan to bring in the Duke of Lorraine with a force, but nothing came of it. The Venetians apparently discussed offering help but Walker, the King's secretary, lost the letter on campaign!!

Montrose led a motley crew of Scots Royalists, Orcadians and Danish mercenaries in his last invasion of Scotland, but that ended quickly and messily at Carbisdale, followed by the Marquis' execution.

The Irish and Scots are different questions, beware some of Ohlenmeyer's earlier work that doesn't distinguish well between the Irish and the English forces that had previously been sent to quell the Irish rebellion.

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jun 2020 8:23 a.m. PST

Thanks Timbo, shakes fist in air at autocorrect

RudyNelson25 Jun 2020 9:15 a.m. PST

I watched the old Cromwell movie last night. Over two hours and still after all this time good.
In the kings trial, the main point of treason was the use of foreign troops. If he had been able to launch a second war with the support of Manchester and Essex, I think, then those would have been clearer.
Agreements with the French, Dutch, Scots and Irish for troops.

Maybe someone can clarify but I thought Ruperts personal guard of mounted troop were Germans that he brought with him.

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jun 2020 9:54 a.m. PST

Cromwell is an entertaining film, but it has very little to do with historical fact.

KeepYourPowderDry25 Jun 2020 10:43 a.m. PST

Rupert had two lifeguard units – foot and horse. The horse lifeguard had English officers who had fought with Rupert on the continent; the foot lifeguard were originally raised on the continent by a contract between Rupert and a Dutchman. The officers of the foot lifeguard were English, whether the officers joined the unit on the continent or England I don't know.

wdrenth25 Jun 2020 3:06 p.m. PST

hello KYPD, Timbo, all
Thanks for the pieces of information, most interesting and useful! It helps to fill-in the mental map of the period.
kind regards, Wienand

Green Tiger26 Jun 2020 2:44 a.m. PST

I suspect that if foreign troops were mentioned at trial it would have been the 'Irish'.

MajorB26 Jun 2020 12:37 p.m. PST

Foreign troops. Irish. Or Scots. Or both.

arthur181527 Jun 2020 9:14 a.m. PST

Or even Welsh, perhaps?

KeepYourPowderDry27 Jun 2020 9:56 a.m. PST

The Welsh weren't foreigners, the territory known as Wales had been conquered by Edward I, and politically subsumed in the 16th century. The term 'England' included England and Wales from the 13th century onwards (we'll gloss over the brief interlude of Glyndwr).

The Welsh were seen as being different (very much in the way that modern city dwellers often think people from the countryside are bumpkins), and were treated differently by the state (to avoid any chance of Welsh uprisings).

The Welsh were just referred to in the same way one would describe someone from a different county. Certainly not as foreigners (which is how the Scots and Irish were)

wdrenth27 Jun 2020 2:22 p.m. PST

Regarding Irish and Scots and considering them foreign because a different nation, can the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant that fought in England be considered as subsidy troops employed by English Parliament? If I am not mistaken, English Parliament paid (part) for their upkeep.

Timbo W27 Jun 2020 3:41 p.m. PST

You're correct Wienand, Parliament did pay for the Scots, and the Scots hung on to surrendered King Charles until their back-pay was delivered :-)

Of course its not as if the Covenanters were up for hire by the highest bidder, but they were canny enough to strike a deal to help them help out! Similarly they sent an army under Leven, then Monro, to Ulster in 1642 to quell the Irish rebellion that was partly funded by Parliament.

newarch28 Jun 2020 1:32 a.m. PST

Some foreign troops served on an individual basis during the Civil War. It isn't always possible to identify them by name alone because they often used an anglicised name.

For example one of Prince Rupert's colonels was a soldier from Florence called John Devalier (his real given name being Giovanni).

I don't believe it is possible to separate the wars from the wider European context, most factions had supporters and patrons in Europe who had a vested interest in the outcome. Religious following was possibly more significant than nationality to many people during this period.

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