The Earl of Northampton's Regiment of Foote

Historical background

The original Earl of Northampton's Regiment was really two: a regiment of horse, and a regiment of foot. The horse regiment was raised in Warwickshire and Oxfordshire in the summer of 1642 by the then Earl Spencer Compton. He had been a lifelong friend of the Royal Family and was a veteran of the Thirty Years War in Europe, fighting at Vlotho and Breda. He commanded the horse regiment with distinction as part of the Oxford field army, until his death in action at Hopton Heath near Stafford on 19th March 1643. After his horse fell among rabbit warrens he was stranded amongst Parliamentarian soldiers. He laid into them with his pole-axe, killing several of them before his helmet was struck from his head by a musket butt. Offered "quarter" by them, he is quoted as saying "I scorn to take quarter from such base rogues and rebells as yourselves!" At that point his head was cleaved by a halberd.

A 19thC engraving of the death of Earl Spencer Compton

The Earl's body was stripped naked and was then held ransom by the Parliament commander Sir John Gell, himself wounded by the Earl before his death. Gell demanded the return of several guns captured in the battle, however Spencer's successor, the 20-year-old James Compton, refused to accede to the demands. Four of Spencer's sons fought in the Oxford field army. They were James, Charles, William and Spencer. The horse are known to have fought in a number of the major battles of the Civil Wars including Hopton Heath, Newbury, Cropredy Bridge, and Naseby.

The foot regiment was raised by, among others, Spencer Compton's 18-year-old son William. He became a commander in the Banbury Garrison after Banbury Castle, in Oxfordshire, was captured by forces of the King following the battle of Edgehill, on 27th October 1642. Once the Earl's forces were established in Banbury, William and other senior field officers set about raising a foot unit for the Earl of Northampton. Banbury also became home to two troops of horse and a number of dragoons. During 1644 Banbury Castle was placed under siege by Parliamentary forces for three months, from 19th July of that year. The Earl of Northampton's Regiment of Foote held out magnificently under the command of William Compton until 25th October, when the siege was lifted by forces commanded by the Earl James Compton, after they had travelled up from the battle of Newbury. Shortly after, William was knighted for his gallant defence of the castle.

The regiment finally gave up Banbury on 9th May 1646, after a second siege was again defended successfully by Sir William Compton. The foot regiment also fought in battles at Leicester and Middleton Cheney. Sir William Compton was to earn the nickname of �that Godly Cavalier� by Oliver Cromwell after the siege of Colchester in 1648, and was one of the founder members of the original Sealed Knot, a covert organisation founded in 1652 with the aim of restoring the Stuart Monarchy. The regiment today is modelled after the Banbury Garrison.

Click here to read a brief chronology of the events involving the Earl of Northampton's Regiment!

The Regiment Today

This regiment was one of the founding regiments of The Sealed Knot Society, which was formed in 1969 by Brigadier Peter Young, a highly renowned WW2 army officer and English Civil War historian. Today the Earl of Northampton's Regiment of the Sealed Knot has more than 100 members and fights with Prince Rupert's Tercio in the Royalist Army, alongside the foot regiments of Prince Rupert (who was the Prince Palatine, a nephew of King Charles and expert cavalry commander), Earl River, and Sir Thomas Glemham. We still retain links with the original regiment, as we are honoured to have as our patron the present Marquis of Northampton, who, along with his son Lord Daniel Compton, maintains a keen interest in our regiment and its activities. We have displayed at the family homes of the Compton family, Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire, west of Banbury, and Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire, just east of Northampton.

Compton Wynyates (or "Compton in the Hole" after the topography) is an impressive Tudor mansion complete with great crenellated towers, like castle battlements. At the time of the Civil Wars it was moated, and was initially garrisoned by Royalist forces, one of a ring of garrisons protecting the Royalist heart at Oxford. However the house was captured by Parliament forces on 9th June 1644 after a three day siege. Compton Wynyates was to remain in Parliamentary hands until the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 when it was bought back by the family on payment of a fine. By this time the moat had been drained and the outer fortifications demolished so that it was no longer defensible.

We have members all over the country, with social groups found in and around Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Leics.), Bodelwyddan (N. Wales), Harpenden (Herts.), Bishops Stortford (Herts.), and Kettering (Northants.). But members of the regiment are spread far and wide, from Essex to Cornwall, Lincolnshire to Manchester, and everywhere in between. If you do not live in one of the major areas above do not worry, feel free to contact us to see if any members are local to you.

The regiment is divided into three main companies (as well as the regimental staff):
 - Earl Spencer Compton's Company of Pike;
 - Col. Sir Charles Compton's Company of Musket (comprising Cptn. Flamock Colbourne's Squadron, Cptn. John Moore's Squadron, and Cptn John Clark's Squadron);
 - Col. Sir William Compton's Company of Artillery.
 - We also have a substantial Drum Corps, Baggage Trayne and Living History arm.

As you can see, our regiment has a wide range of roles for its members. As new members you are welcome to try any or all of these to see which you might prefer to do in the long run. There are both combatant roles e.g. the Pike, Shotte and Artillery, or non-combatant activities with the Baggage Trayne. Members from all these companies are also involved in Living History displays and events at musters and other events. The regiment has members from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of interests, and welcomes families and children; we currently have about 25 children in our membership. With a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and such wide range of roles we think that anybody could find a comfortable niche in the Earl of Northamptons Regiment. If you would like any more information about us or how to join please Contact Us.

God save the King!


Above: Portrait of the 2nd Earl of Northampton Spencer Compton, lifelong friend to King Charles I, who had experience of wars in Europe and Scotland.

Above: Portrait of Spencer Compton's eldest son, the 3rd Earl James Compton, a highly skilled cavalry commander with the Oxford field army.

Above: Portrait of Sir William Compton, an officer of, and later commander of, the Banbury Garrison. He would endure two lengthy sieges at Banbury and the siege of Colchester, before becoming a founder of the Sealed Knot, the secret group that plotted to bring about the Restoration.

Above: The standard of Sir William Compton. The Latin text translates as "The Rebel Rout are hated and despised".

Above: The standard of Sir Charles Compton. The Latin text translates as "Bravely face whatever opposes". The present regiment carries a replica of this standard for the Shotte Company.

Above: The complete coat-of-arms of the Compton family. The arms design is described as "Sable, a lion passant guardant or, between three esquires' helmets argent." The crest is "On a mount a beacon fired proper, behind it a ribbon inscribed with the words, Nisi Dominus." The supporters are "Dexter, a dragon ermine, ducally gorged and chained or; sinister, an unicorn argent, horned, maned, hoofed, and tufted sable." Below it is a ribbon inscribed with the words "Je ne cherche qu'un." This is translated as "I seek but One", while Nisi Dominus translates as "Nothing but God". Together these imply a deeply religious family who believe in Divine Rule, which would have been through the King, God's divine representative on Earth. True Royalist sentiments! Did Cromwell know the family motto when he nicknamed Sir William Compton "that Godly Cavalier"?