The road to Farndon Field: explaining the massacre of the royalist women at Naseby
English Historical Review, 123, (503), . (doi:10.1093/ehr/cen178).
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In June 1645 Parliament's New Model Army, under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax, shattered King Charles I's main field army at the Battle of Naseby. It was a famous victory for the Parliamentarians, a victory which effectively decided the outcome of the English Civil War, but, as one historian has rightly observed, the lustre of the Parliamentarian triumph was tarnished by ‘an indelible blot’. In the wake of the battle, the Roundhead cavalry launched a savage attack on the female camp-followers of the Royalist army: killing over a hundred of them and mutilating many more. The present article puts this notorious episode under the microscope and places the Naseby massacre within its wider historical context. The article begins by considering the chief theories which have been put forward by previous historians to explain the massacre. It then goes on to advance some new theories of its own, concentrating, in particular, on the way that Parliamentarian pamphleteers had helped to pave the way for the atrocity over the preceding years by portraying the king's camp-followers as a mob of murderous, knife-wielding ‘Irish and Welsh-women’. The article concludes by arguing that - while the massacre was primarily explicable in terms of xenophobia, anti-popery and a thirst for revenge for previous massacres which had allegedly been committed by ‘Celtic’ women against the English – fear of witchcraft may also have played its part in hardening the Parliamentarian soldiers’ hearts against the fleeing Royalist women whom they killed and maimed on that bloody June day.
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