Musketeer Discusses English Civil War
Tuesday, 01 May 2018
Pupils studying History at GCSE and A Level were given a fascinating insight into the English Civil War from the point of view of a musketeer in the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment. An actor inhabited the part of ‘Obadiah Watt’ in full costume and visited the Girls’ Division to answer pupils’ questions.
His detailed and impressive knowledge of the Civil War went up to 1 May 1649: Obadiah’s ‘present day’. At this point in history, the first and second civil wars had twice pitted the Parliamentarians against King Charles I, while the third civil war has yet to take place. Obadiah’s personal perspective on the conflict was one of the most interesting aspects of the morning: he said that “Twice God’s judgement told us to get rid of the King” and that his side, the Parliamentarians, are “the instruments of God”.
Pupils were also fascinated to see history from the middle of the conflict, without the knowledge of what comes after. Obadiah was particularly surprised at the interest in Oliver Cromwell, as Thomas Fairfax was the Lord General in 1649 and Cromwell only rose to power later. However, the musketeer was able to talk about Cromwell as Commander of Horse, the exception made to allow him to join the army despite being an MP, his influence over the victory at the Battle of Naseby, and also Obadiah’s respect for him as a soldier.
He answered questions about the Putney debates of 1647, and gave his opinion on whether all men should have a vote. He said that although he initially agreed with the Levellers, who demanded suffrage for all men, he had now changed his mind and instead supported Cromwell and Henry Ireton’s model where only property-owners could vote. In addition, he expressed his surprise at seeing so many young women receiving an education!
Discussing his religion, he explained the Millennial Kingdom and how Christ would soon return to rule with his saints, and was very critical of Catholics. When asked why the Parliamentarians had killed the King when Obadiah had earlier said they were fighting to “save” him, he claimed that the King’s actions had made them fight twice, so executing him was for the good of the country, as it ensured that he wouldn’t cause a third conflict. Pupils were intrigued to hear his justifications.
He also talked about the Agitators and described the events of several battles in some detail. He was able to discuss at length the realities of being a soldier and particularly a musketeer in this period, including the difficulties finding food, despite being promised good meals, the long marches and the drills he performed in order to be able to load or reload, aim and fire reliably in the confusion battle.
Obadiah was able to illuminate many key issues relating to the English Civil War with his numerous tales and insights. His memorable visit no doubt helped pupils in Years 10 to 13 to come to a better understanding of this period.
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