The English Civil War

Sir Arthur Hesilrige

Born in 1601, Hesilrige was the eldest son of Sir Thomas, first Baronet, Hesilrige who hailed from Leicestershire. Hesilrige’s political career began in earnest after being elected MP for Leicestershire in the Short Parliament of 1640 and soon after in the same seat in the Long Parliament. Like many of his contemporaries, his fiery puritanical values put him on a direct collision course with Archbishop Laud. In 1641 he was noted for his involvement in the Act of Attainder that saw the execution of the Earl of Strafford. Mainly in response to this, Hesilrige was one of the five MPs the King targeted for arrest in 1642, leading in no small part to the war that followed.

Hesilrige was prominent throughout the conflict. After raising horse for the Earl of Essex, he fought at Edgehill and subsequently at the battles of Lansdowne, Roundway Down and Cheriton; in the first two of which he survived wounds. Much is made of his later falling out with Cromwell. When Cromwell came to blows with the earls of Manchester and Essex, Hesilrige supported him and, after achieving success as Governor of Newcastle, joined Cromwell in taking up arms against the Scots in 1650.

His position against the King is also clear. Though he turned down the opportunity to act as a judge at the trial, he remained an unrepentant republican. His success as a soldier and as governor of Newcastle made him an obvious member of the four-year commonwealth. Still, his relations with Cromwell became fraught when Cromwell dismissed the Rump Parliament and took on the title of Lord Protector. Remaining fixed to his republican ideals, he was barred from taking his seat in the two protectorates and later instrumental in the downfall of Richard Cromwell in 1659. After being re-elected to the restored Rump Parliament, he was one of the key members of the Council of State before becoming marginalised over the next year as his republican ideals were undermined by parliament’s decision to restore the monarchy.