A Brief Chronology of events involving the Earl of Northampton's Regiment

When you read most popular 20th century histories of the Civil War you will find few references to the activities of the Regiment or its personnel. However dig deeper and a rich story emerges, involving characters that would have a lasting impact on events in the latter half of the 17th century. In the war itself, the main characters took part in a great many of the major incidents, and on a smaller scale the day-to-day activities of the regiment give an insight into general life in the Kingdom during this period of turmoil, since the daily struggles were mirrored across the country. This brief history should be considered a basic primer for anyone in the current Earl of Northampton�s Regiment, for you to think about who we are attempting to recreate.

1637/38 � The 2nd Earl of Northampton Spencer Compton, a lifelong friend of King Charles, gains military experience on the continent alongside Prince Rupert, under the Prince of Orange. At the siege of Vlotho, near Hanover in present-day Germany, Rupert is captured but Spencer escapes and returns home.

1639/40 � Spencer attends the King against Scottish rebels, but the King is eventually defeated.

Summer 1642 � Spencer executes Commission of Array in and around Warwickshire to raise troops for the King.

August 1642 � Spencer lays siege to Warwick, eventually relieved by a strong force under Lord Brooke for Parliament. The King raises his Royal Standard in Nottingham. Spencer�s troops are outnumbered and defeated at Southam by Brooke�s and Hampden�s troops.

September 1642 � Spencer with 100 horse are involved in the King�s victory at Powick Bridge, taking several prisoners.

October 1642 � Spencer, in command of a troop of the Prince of Wales Regiment, and his three eldest sons (James, Charles and William) take part in the Battle of Edgehill. James and Charles are both knighted for gallantry. Afterwards Banbury is captured and given to Spencer to garrison, who delegates governorship to Lt Col Sir Henry Huncks, his most senior field officer. The Banbury Garrison quickly becomes notorious as a �den of theeves�, due to the amount of plundering that takes place in the local area.

February 1643 � Spencer is commissioned as a Colonel General of Horse and Foot. Parliament forces under Lord Brooke lay siege to Lichfield. Brooke is soon killed by a boy shooting him in the eye from a cathedral tower, but the siege continues.

March 1643 � Spencer marches north to help relieve Lichfield. After closing roads between Warwick and Lichfield he occupies Stafford. He hears of a large rebel force under Gell and Brereton advancing from Cheshire, and meets them on Hopton Heath. The rebels are beaten off but Earl Spencer Compton is killed in the battle. His 20-year old son James succeeds as the 3rd Earl of Northampton. Gell keeps Spencer�s body as a ransom for the return of rebel artillery pieces. However James refuses the demand.

May 1643 � Cavalry under Earl James Compton defeat many rebels in a skirmish at Middleton Cheney, just outside Banbury, capturing their arms. James removes the Governor of Banbury, Sir Henry Huncks, on a charge of corresponding with the enemy. Lt Col Anthony Greene replaces him. A feud develops between James and his younger brothers William and Charles, mainly to do with the running of the Banbury Garrison.

August 1643 � James with his cavalry attends the King�s siege of Gloucester.

September 1643 � James distinguishes himself as a cavalry commander at the First Battle of Newbury, but the rebels win the day.

December 1643 � Charles Compton leads a troop of cavalry under Sir John Byron, who defeats Brereton near Nantwich in Cheshire.

June 1644 � The Earl�s family home of Compton Wynyates, in Warwickshire, is captured by rebel forces after a two-day siege. However the King defeats the Earl of Essex�s army at Cropredy Bridge, aided by the Earl of Northampton�s Cavalry. James and his cavalry then assist the King in pursuing Essex all the way to Cornwall.

August 1644 � The first great siege of Banbury begins. The siege severely damages Banbury Castle and the surrounding buildings, but the garrison valiantly hold out under the exemplary leadership of Lt Col Anthony Greene and William Compton, though vastly outnumbered by rebels.

October 1644 � The siege is lifted after James and a large cavalry force arrive under orders from the King�s camp at Newbury. The garrison are saved from starvation, but due to the reduction in his cavalry force, the King marginally loses the Second Battle of Newbury. Soon after, William Compton is knighted, and becomes Governor of Banbury following the death of Col Anthony Greene.

January 1645 � William and Charles lead a failed attempt to recapture Compton Wynyates with over 1000 troops. At least 60 of the Banbury Garrison are killed, and the rest are attacked by rebels from Northampton upon retreating to Banbury.

February 1645 � William and Charles rout a strong force of rebels near Daventry who are attacking Sir Marmaduke Langdale�s troops, heading north from Banbury to relieve Pontefract. They return to Banbury with many captured horse, arms and colours.

March 1645 - The four eldest brothers (James, Charles, William, Spencer) fight in a skirmish at Kingsthorpe near Northampton, where they "charged and rescued one another so often, that if any of the foure had beene absent some of them might have fallen".

May 1645 � The King leaves Oxford and heads to Cheshire with his army of 5000 foot and 6000 horse, including the Earl of Northampton�s cavalry. Prince Rupert leads a force which includes James� cavalry that captures Leicester.

June 1645 � Earl James Compton leads a large cavalry brigade in the Battle of Naseby, helping Rupert to smash Parliament�s left flank. However the King�s Oxford Field Army is destroyed.

September 1645 � In vindictive reprisals for the Royalist defeat at Naseby, the Banbury Garrison destroy several great houses owned by rebel families in the areas neighbouring Banbury. Remnants of the King�s Army, including two troops of the Earl of Northampton�s cavalry, are defeated at Rowton Heath in Cheshire.

January 1646 � Second great siege of Banbury begins. Again the garrison is valiantly lead by Sir William Compton, who allegedly �had Prayers four times every day, the spiritual armes seconding the temporal, so eminent his piety�.

April 1646 � Earl James Compton is ordered by Parliament to leave the Kingdom by 1st May or face prosecution as a spy. The King leaves Oxford in disguise and heads for the Scots camp at Newark.

May 1646 � Earl James Compton takes the National Covenant and Negative Oath before heading overseas with 20 of his officers. The King surrenders to the Scots at Southwell. The Banbury Garrison finally surrenders to Parliament forces, although the record of supplies inside the castle indicates they could have held out much longer. William and other officers are allowed to march free with their arms, and are given two months liberty to make arrangements to travel overseas.


Dan Howe