Prince Rupert's Burning love of England, discovered in Birmingham's Flames

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Prince Rvpert's Burning Love to England, discovered in Birmingham's Flames; or, a more Exact and true Naration of Birmingham's Calamities, under the barbarous and inhumane Cruelties of P. Rupert's forces, 1 May  (1643) 
Thomas Vnderhill

London: Printed for Thomas Vnderhill, 1643. [A MS. Note adds, "1st of May.]. The spelling of Rupert as Rvpert in the title is a deliberate affection. along with some other words have been retained but are archaic.

Source

  • Hutton, William & Guest, James (1836), The History of Birmingham: With Considerable Additions (6th ed.), G. Berger, pp. 52–60 

Prince Rvpert's Burning Love to England, discovered in Birmingham's Flames; or, a more Exact and true Naration of Birmingham's Calamities, under the barbarous and inhumane Cruelties of P. Rupert's forces.

Wherein is related how that famous and well affected Town of Birmingham was

Unworthily opposed, By Prince Rupert's Forces.
Insolently invaded
Notoriously robbed and plundered,
And most cruelly fired in cold blood the next day.

Together with the Number of Prince Rupert's Forces, his considerable Persons slaine, or mortally wounded; their many abominable Carriages in and after the taking of the Town. The small Strength which Birmingham had to maintaine their defence, the Names of their men slaine; the number of houses burned, and persons thereby destitute of habitation ; with divers other considerable passages.

Published at the request of the Committee at Coventry, that the Kingdom may timely take notice what is generally to be expected if the Cavaliers insolencies be not speedily crushed.


A righteous man regardeth the life of hit Beast, but the lender mereies of l/w wicked are cruell.—Prov. xii. 10.


London: Printed for Thomas Vnderhill, 1643. [A MS. Note adds, "1st of May.]

To correct the many false Reports already spread abroad, and to prevent all false narrations for future, concerning the late surprisall and spoyling of the Towne of Birmingham, in the County of Warwick. This ensuing Relation of Passages, hath beene collected from the severall Informations of divers trusty and Intelligent Inhabitants of Birmingham, who were eye witnesses of, and sufferers under many the said calamities of that Towne, so farre as the truth of such turbulent distracted Occurreuts can be yet discovered.

The Towne of Birmingham perceiving that for their faithfull affection to King and Parliament, they had derived the hatred of Popish and prophane Malignants[1] upon themselves; and that since the Noble Lord Brookes death, these parts of the Country began to be much infested with divers Troopes of Robbers and Plunderers, whereby their persons and estates were much indangered, resolved to Arme themselves and estates, and to maintaine two Captaines for the better Disciplining and ordering of their men to that end: But whilst they were beginning to make some slight mounds and Breast-works for defence the week before Easter last, information came that Prince Rupert with 1500 or 2000 men with 4 Drakes and 2 Sacres was upon his march at Stratford upon Avon and about Henly some 10 miles distant from Birmingham, where these forces hovered about 4 dayes, pillageing the Country extreamly (as their manner is) Birmingham hoped they might passe by them, but afterwards perceiving on Saturday night, that it was probable their designe was toward Staffordshire, and that they would take Birmingham in their way; The Minister of Birmingham entreated the Captaines and chiefe of the Towne, by no meanes to thinke of such an impossible defence of themselves against 2000, themselves having scarce six score Musqueteers in all the Towne, but rather to march away with all their Armes, and so secure their Armes and persons, though their goods were hazarded, as a thing farre more safe and rationall, which motion the Captaines and chiefe of the Town readily imbraced, but the middle and inferior sort of people, (especially those that bore Armes) would by no meanes be drawn to leave the Towne, and so they all resolved to stand upon their own guard, otherwise the chiefe of the Towne and the Captaines must have departed as Cowards, with great Contempt many scornes and curses.

On Easter Monday Prince Rupert's Forces approached to the Towne about 2 or 3 o'Clock in the Afternoone, at one end, presently assaulted it with great fury, discharging their Musquets and great pieces onely about 100 Musketiers opposing them (the rest hiding themselves) which were also divided into severall ends of the Town, and not many in any one place, a good while the Musketiers kept them off their works, and drove them back till they fired a thatched house, and burnt two or three houses at Towns end and their Horse also broke into the fields and came in at the backsides of the Town through Lake-meadow, which forced the Towns-men to retreat back into the Towne to charge them, when they came up, when they slew some very considerable man who was presently stripped of his rich garments, and wrapped in a grey coat, and a woman of theirs suborned to lament for him as her husband, they called him Adam a Bell, but this loss so enraged them that they presently burnt 2 or 3 houses to the ground, where they conceived he was shot; then they broke in so forcibly upon the few men in the town that they were forced to scatter and fly for their lives. It is very remarkable that none of them were slaine or hurt whiles they stood upon their Guard (as is credibly averred) till they scattered and were so singled out. The Cavaliers rode up into the Towne like so many Furyes or Bedlams, the Earle of Denbigh being in the Front, singing as he rode, they shot at every doore or window where they could espy any looking out, they hacked, hewed, or pistolled all they met with, without distinction, blaspheming, cursing, and damning, themselves most hideously. Discovering a Troope of Horse, which was under the command of Captaine Greaves at the further end of the Towne facing them, they pursued after them, who after a little flight wheeled about, and most stoutly charged them through, and the Captaine recived five small wounds (which are now almost well: In which charge the Ea. of Denbigh was knockt off his horse, laid for dead, and his pockets rifled (though his wounds not so mortall as to die presently) the rest of his horse were chased till they came neere their own Colours, which was excellent service, for meane while most of the Townes foot escaped away.

After which Captaine Greaves retreated, and so advanced to Lichfield. Their Horse rode desperately round the Town, leaping hedges and ditches (wherein one is reported to breake his neck) to catch the Townes-men; no madmen could ride more furiously. They slew in their frenzy as we are informed, about 14 in all, viz. John Carter, junior, William Knight, Glasier, William Billingsley, junior, Joseph Rastell, William Turton, Cutler, Thomas the Ostler at Swan, pistolled comming officiously to take their Horses, Richard Hunt Cobler, Henry Benton Labourer, Samuel Elsmore Cutler, William Ward Cutler, Richard Adams, Cobler, Widdow Collins, Lucas his Wife, and one Mr. Whitehall a Minister, who hath bin long Lunatick, held Jewish opinions, and had layn in Bedlam and other prisons (some say) 16, some 22 yeares, and was lately come out; they comming to him asked him if he would have quarter, he answered to this (or like purpose) he scorned Quarter from any Popish Armies or Souldiers, whereupon they supposing him to be Mr. Roberts Minister of Birmingham, did most cruelly mangle and hack him to death, and found certain idle and foolish papers in his pocket, which they spared not to divulge (as they thought to the Roundheads infamy) and so went insulting up and down the Towne that they had quartered their Minister, out of whose bloody hands the Lord's gracious providence delivered him a little before the Town was assaulted, and (blessed be God) hee is neither slain nor hurt. All the considerable men escaped out of their snare, some 40 (they say) were taken prisoners, whereof scarce 20, of their own Town, all inferior men, most of them their own favourers, and since for trifling sums of money they are released all, save 2 or 3 (as unworthy to be kept.)

Having thus possessed themselves of the Towne, they ran into every house cursing and damming, threatning and terryfying the poore women, most terribly, setting naked Swords and Pistolls to their breasts, they fell to plundering all the Towne before them, as well Malignants as others, picking purses, and pockets, searching in holes and corners, Tiles of houses, Wells, Pooles, Vaults, Gardens and every place they could suspect for money and goods, forcing people to deliver all the money they had. It is credibly believed they took from one Thomas Peake a Councellor 1500 or 1300 li. at least, for he afterwards deeply professed that they had but left him in money 15d. q; and it was commonly known he had about the said sums lying cankering and rusting by him for these many Yeares, and yet to this day he would never voluntarily lend or give the least summe for the Relief of God's Ch: and the Land in the present saddest distresses, who being under Oneals hands (as we are credibly informed) when tidings of their Minister's death was brought to him, replied (thinking thereby to curry favour) that it had bin well if he had bin killed 7 yeares agoe. They have had divers great Summes also from others, who have shewed small love to King and Parliament; tooke much money to protect people's Houses, and afterwards betrayed them, and set them on fire. It is conceived they had 3000l. in money from the Towne. They beastly assaulted many Women's chastity, and impudently made their brags of it afterwards, how many they had ravished; glorying in their shame, especially the French among them, were outrageously lascivious and letcherous. They broke the Windowes, spoyled the goods they could not take away, and carried with them all the chiefe goods in the Towne, some having little left, some nothing but bare walls, some nothing but cloathes on their backs, and some stripped to their very shirts and left naked. That night few or none of them went to Bed, but sate up revelling, robbing, and Tyrannizing over the poore affrighted Women and prisoners, drinking, drunke, healthing upon their knees, yea drinking healths to Prince Ruperts Dog.

Nor did their rage here cease, but when on next day they were to march forth of the Towne, they used all possible diligence in every Street to kindle fire in the Towne with Gunpowder, Match, Wispes of Straw, and Besomes burning coales of fire &c. flung into Straw, Hay, Kid piles, Coffers, Thatch, and any other places, where it was likely to catch hold; many of which attempts were successlesse and found after their departure, yea, it is confidently related, that they shot fire out of their Pistolls, wrapping lighted Match with powder or some other ingredients in formes of slugs, or bullets in brown Paper, which themselves confessed was the Lord Digbies devise, that English Firebrand; and lest any should save any of their goods they had left, or quench their flames, they stood with their drawne swords and Pistols, about the burning houses, shooting and indeavouring to kill every one that appeared to preserve goods, and quench the fire, domineering at the flames, Where's your Coventry now? Where's your God Brookes now? You may see how God fights against you, &c. And when some of the Towne (whose purses had dearely purchased some interest among them) diswaded them for further fireing, one of their owne men confessed that every Quartermaster was sworne to fire his owne Quarter, and that they durst not but doe it. By all which it notoriously appeares, that their full intention was, and that by command (let them pretend what excuse they can) to burne downe the whole Towne to the ground, and doubtlesse would have done it, had not the Lord been the more mercifull: the houses burned were about 87. besides multitudes of Barnes, Stables and other back buildings, belonging both to these dwelling Houses and to others that escaped the flames. Persons unfurnished and fallen into extreme distresse by this fire, 340, and upwards. So that many are quite undone by these barbarous cruelties, which are so much the more cruell, in as much as all these (except five or six Houses) were burnt in cool blood, the next day after they had sacked the Towne. And yet for all this the Souldiers told the Inhabitants, that Prince Rupert dealt mercifully with them: but when they came back againe with the Queenes Army, they would leave neither Man, Woman, nor childe alive. Such are the Cavaliers mercies. This Towne (as is thought) was the first Towne in the Kingdom, that was generally plundered when the King marched from Shrewsbury, before Keynton, battell and the first that in cold blood was barborously fyred: However Prince Rupert hath got himselfe eternall honour, by conquering so mighty an enemy as 100. Musketiers, with so small an army as 2000. men. Since their departure Prince Rupert hearing that some in Birmingham, cursed him for his Cruelties, had designed (as one of their owne Party informed) two Troopes of Horse to fire the rest of the Towne. Whereupon some of the Towne petitioning him not to doe it, he replyed he would not if they rebelled not againe, nor returned to their vomit. Sithence they have caused one Mr. Porters Blademill in the Towne, to be pulled downe, wherein swordblades were made and imployed, onely for the service of the Parliament, and so they were informed (which cost erecting about 100l.) threatning if it were not pulled downe, the rest of the Towne should be burnt. For now they begin to be great Agents in Fire-Workes.

On their part it is probably believed there fell three very considerable Men, viz. Earle of Denbigh who died not long after of his Wounds, another as is supposed, was Sir William AYRES. The third as yet not knowne.

Certainly two Coffins were made in Birmingham, while the Earle of Denbigh was alive; and many common Souldiers are supposed to be slaine, some suspected to be buryed in the Breast-workes ditch they entred, which they laid flat, and charged that none should meddle with it upon paine of death, and when they came into the Towne, they cursed at the Round-heads, and swore they shot, as if they had been shooting at Sparrowes, scarce ever missed Man or Horse. They tooke away two Cart load of wounded Men, about 12 in a Cart, when they went away. Now they have made Birmingham a woful spectacle to behold, a thorow Faire for Thieves and plunderers; the rich are wofully wasted and spoyled multitudes, almost quite beggered, and undone; it is thought 20000l. cannot repaire their losses, their own Malignant neighbours rage at the well-affected, like mad men, their minister is driven from home, debarred from all imployment and deprived from all his maintenance; besides his many losses by fire and plundering, and till those parts be cleared small hopes of his safe returne, being so much maligned and threatned by the Cavaliers, and the domineering anti-guard left in Birmingham. The People that are left are fed with such rayling Sermons as one Orton Curate to Parson Smith the ancient Pluralist can afford them, rankly tempered with the malignancy of his owne distempered Spirit. And all well-affected People are forced to be absent from their habitations, to their excessive charge in this their low estate, for fear of surprizalls, large summes being preferred to apprehend them, especially those of better ranke. Yet they desire to bear all these crosses patiently and profitably take with joy the spoyling of all their goods, knowing in themselves that they suffer in a good cause, and that they have in Heaven a farre better and more enduring substance.

Let all the Kingdome well consider Birminghams calamities and conclude what all are like to feele unlesse they maturely bestirre themselves to shake off the Cavaliers more then Egyptian yoke.

FINIS.

  1. Roundhead term for those who did not support Parliament.