An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702

By Roger B. Manning | Go to book overview

5
Military and naval expeditions
of the 1620s

King Charles, in the entrance to his reign, proceeds with preparations for a war
begun in his father’s time; the militia1 of the kingdom, through long continued
peace, were much decayed, and the musters of the trained bands were slight, sel-
dom taken, and few of the commons were expert in the use of arms.

John Rushworth, Historical Collections, 8 vols. (1682–1701), i. 168.

Our Army’s lingering so long at the Isle of Rhé … hath been the occasion of
the greatest and shamefulest overthrow the English have suffered since we
lost Normandy….

[Mr Beaulieu] to the Revd. Joseph Mead, 16 Nov. 1627, printed in Thomas
Birch, The Court and Times of Charles I, ed. R F. Williams, 2 vols. (1848), i. 285.

They rank the duke2 with Bevis,3
This skirmish4 they do place
Before the cow of Dunmowe Heath5
And next to Chevy Chase;6
And swear that through our chronicles
We far and near do wander,
Before that such an one we find
Employed as a commander.

Anonymous song about Buckingham written sometime after the Isle of Rhé
expedition of 1627, in Poems and Songs relating to George Villiers, duke of
Buckingham, and his Assassination by John Felton, August 23, 1628
,
ed. F. W Fairholt, PS 29 (1850), 16–17.

1 In this sense, the armed forces of the crown, including the trained bands.

2 Charles Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham.

3 The tale of Bevis of Hampton (c.1324) is a chivalric romance which exists in a number of versions in Norman French and Middle English and concerns a knight of obscure birth who battles dragons and giants and has many other improbable adventures. One version of the tale was written by Geoffrey Chaucer.

4 Buckingham’s capture of the town of St Martin on the Isle of Rhé, which was empty of soldiers and contained only their wives and children whom he drove into the citadel of St Martin by shooting at them so that the soldiers and their dependants would consume the provisions of the fortress and force the garrison to surrender sooner. This was Buckingham’s first and only ‘battle’.

5 This is possibly a reference to one of the well-governed husbands of the Wife of Bath in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ‘Wife of Bath’s Prologue’, ll. 218–19.

6 A late medieval popular ballad depicting a fictional bloody encounter between Earl Percy and Earl Douglas in which several thousand die in a poaching foray across the River Tweed. It reflected the

-94-

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