(Shorter version of this here)
I have never seen a blog post about how a history book was written. So this blog is either breaking new ground or doing something too boring to bother about. Lets see!
When I pitched this book to Pen and Sword, I was able to say, with confidence, that nobody had ever produced a 59 person history of the period of Civil War, Regicide and afterwards. When starting to write such a book, I discovered why; it was an organisational nightmare. There were 59 stories, sometimes different but often the same, sometimes over-lapping and sometimes not, covering the period 1590 to 1692. How do you structure that?
I started with a database of their births and deaths and decided that stage one would be to make a list of those who died early. There were five; so I had my first chapter.
Chapter 1 The Morning Stars of the Regicide ;John Alured, John Moore, John Blakiston,
James Temple, Peregrine Pelham
The plan was to get those who died early out of the way. But this was also an introduction; and it soon became obvious that each of these men represented a different ‘aspect’ of the regicide. Alured was as the three- generation puritan, and I put him first because he also had most of the other qualities of the regicides. Moore as the Northern hater of Catholics; Blakiston as the anti Bishop figure ; Temple as the early military fighter for Protestantism and Pelham as the local military commander and run-of- the mill MP. Temple was my first compromise; he did not die early, but seemed to do nothing after 1650. Another early death was John Venn, who was a famous iconoclast in an age that was already infamous for such behaviour. However, when I researched him, he struck me as far too important to go in this chapter. I debated which I wanted more; a 100% all round watertight introduction OR Venn in the correct place.
Next, Chapter 2. I kept telling myself that this was NOT a book about Oliver Cromwell. Chapter Two needed to be an overview of the period up to 1649, but not via Cromwell. It was then that Ireton came to the rescue; I could tell the story through him and insert a bit of Cromwell. It was then I thought of the ‘main/ other’ structure that runs through the book.
Chapter 2 The Main Regicide; Henry Ireton
I think it is a fair comment that Ireton was the main force towards regicide. It was realistic enough to be written, but just different enough to be….. different. My main problem was that it also had to act as an introduction to the period up to 1649 for those who may not be totally well informed about the period. So it was a little longer than I intended, and of course because it was Ireton, Cromwell kept appearing.
Six regicides down, fifty- two to go. My next chapter had to provide an overview of the military situation and battles 1640- 1649, and introduce a new category. So this is what I choose;
Chapter 3 The Gentry Soldiers; Oliver Cromwell, Richard Deane, John Okey
Ideally, these three should be in the order of their death so that the stories overlap as little as possible, but as you can see, this is not the case. However, because this was not a book about Cromwell, help was at hand. The Cromwell story stopped at 1649 ( it also worked well that Ireton was so close to him in the previous chapter). Anything about Cromwell that happened after c1650 is told through the narratives about the others; this meant that OC received the correct level of importance without the book being about him. Deane followed as a similar ‘gentry soldier’. Okey was a boon on one level because he was different in attitude to Cromwell and Deane, which allowed the narrative to develop, but problematical as he lived until the end of the story which meant that I had reached 1662 by chapter 3. I had to watch out that I did not repeat myself. So I saved as much as possible about Okey until the execution section at the end of the book
I decided to repeat the format with the next chapter with the lower class regicides.
Chapter 4 The Brewer, the Servant and the Cobbler?;Thomas Pride, Isaac Ewer, John Hewson
I was happy with this; it allowed me to add to the narrative without repeating it, look at a different type of regicide and cover the whole period again, but differently. It made a nice balance with Chapter 3. They were mostly soldiers again, which suited me too. I was still worried about John Venn….where else could he go, and who could go with him?
London dominates the Civil War Story. I gathered together the London men, but I was never going to brave/stupid enough to create a chapter called ‘Regicides From London’ . But when I looked at them, my heart leapt. They were the same type of person! They did the same type of things, sometimes together! All but one was horrible, and horrible in similar ways! Then I had my alliterative next chapter! John Venn was at home!
Chapter 5 The Metropolitan Militia Men ; John Barkstead, Robert Tichborne,
Owen Rowe, John Venn
I was always going to write a chapter about the events of 1648. They made the execution move from unthinkable to inevitable. I had the title early on; but what about the regicides to go in it?. Then it became clear that there were three men who rose to prominence in that year for broadly similar reasons which allowed me to develop a hypothesis around them; that the second civil war hardened hearts. They also faded away very quickly after 1649 so I didn’t need to tell the later part of the story again. I was, for about 10 seconds, going to call it The Undoubting Thomases;
Chapter 6 Turning Point, 1648 ;Thomas Waite, Thomas Horton, Thomas Wogan
After 1648, I wanted an extended narrative on the trial and the legal aspects of the regicide, and also wanted to return to the ‘main/ other theme’ started with the chapter on the ‘main regicide’. So the next two chapters were shoe- ins.
Chapter 7 The Main Lawyer ; John Bradshaw
Chapter 8 Two Regicide Lawyers ; William Say, Augustine Garland
The problem with the lawyers was that the regicide group was swarming with them. I eventually put them into other chapters, arguing that they were more significant for that criterion than law. Whether I convince people is a different matter!.We were now entering the ideological part of the book. For those considering a purchase, I am not able to cast much light on the military strategy and battles; it is a book about ideas; and I decided to approach republicanism with the same strategy of ‘main/ other’
Chapter 9 The Main Republican; Henry Marten
Chapter 10 The Regicide Republicans; Thomas Chaloner, Thomas Scot, Valentine Walton
This worked well; the first three names knew each other, worked together and had similar fates in the end. They were mostly ideologues rather than fighters which allowed me to blend in with the earlier chapters on law. Valentine Walton was, I admit, a little bit of a push. Less is known about him than I anticipated…but he was a republican in his own way. Buy the book and tell me if you agree!
Two regicides have extensive documentary evidence. I decided early on that they would be in the same chapter. They were both republicans in the same way as those in the previous chapter, so the ideal place was here.
Chapter 11 Two Well Documented Men? Edmund Ludlow, John Hutchinson
There is no chapter called puritanism; it would have included 50 names. However, the next step after the lawyers was the extreme millenarians/ fifth monarchists who were small in number but influential. The main/ other theme is repeated
Chapter 12 The Main Fanatic; Thomas Harrison
Chapter 13 Three Fanatics ; John Carew, John Jones, Thomas Grey
Once again, like the republicans, these men knew each other and worked together . It made the narrative more economical and allowed me to build on chapters. The inclusion of Thomas Grey is a little controversial; but I think it works well, but then I would, wouldn’t I?
My next two chapters used the main/ other structure to examine those who supported Cromwell in the 1650s. Those who opposed him had already been covered in the republican/ fanatic section, so this felt like the logical place for it.
Chapter 14 The Main Cromwellians; Edward Whalley and William Goffe
Chapter 15 The Cromwellians ;Robert Lilburne, William Constable, John Dixwell,
The further into the book, the more compromises were necessary. Goffe could have been in Chapter 15 ; Robert Lilburne was a wavering Cromwellian. Stapley was so weak he could have gone into the infamous chapter 19.
Then I wanted a chapter on the people who mostly did the paperwork and the administration:
Chapter 16 The Committee Men ; William Purefoy, Vincent Potter, Miles Corbet
You could argue that Purefoy should not be there; my heart sank when he took up the military struggle; you could argue that this was the best place for William Cawley, but in the end I decided that he was a crook ( see Chapter 18) .
My next chapter resulted in real imposter syndrome. Two regicides were singled out for being wastes of space by the great Dame Veronica Wedgwood. I wanted to test her hypothesis, and I can’t believe the conclusion I came to.
Chapter 17 Unprincipled, Choleric, Malcontents? ;Thomas Mauleverer, John Bouchier
Then there were the greedy and naughty. Greedy was hard to define; naughty less so, but the chapter on adulterers and cowards only includes those who were caught out
Chapter 18 Mostly About The Money? Humphrey Edwards, Gregory Norton, John Downes, Daniel Blagrave, William Cawley
Chapter 19 Adulterers and Cowards; Gilbert Millington, Michael Livesey, Peter Temple,
Then there were two people who seemed to have been involved in the regicide for no really important reason
Chapter 20 Suspect Motivations John Danvers, Simon Mayne
At this point, I was desperate. Chapter 22 was sorted; it was men that, it could be argued, did not cover themselves in glory when they were punished, although I don’t hold that against them. Then I had two regicides left. I was about the slot them into existing categories until I realised how differently they were treated by the authorities in 1660, and it created an interesting chapter on the uneven nature of justice at the restoration.
Chapter 21 The Strained Quality of Mercy ;Richard Ingoldsby, Adrian Scrope
Chapter 22 Reluctant to Kill, or Just Reluctant to Die?; Hardress Waller, Henry Smith, George Fleetwood
That’s it. I hope that I have provided the world with something a little different.
Charles I’s Executioners