THE 1645 CAMPAIGN AND AFTER
The Lifeguard again spent winter quarters of 1644/45 at Oxford as part of the garrison. On May 7th, 1645, Colonel Lindsey was once more in attendance upon the King when he set out on the spring campaign of 1645, hence effective command of the Lifeguard passed to Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton again.
The Lifeguard, like most of the foot regiments of the King’s Oxford Army, despite probably being given priority in replacement, had dwindled considerably by the beginning of the spring campaign of 1645. However, it had not apparently received many recruits during the winter, because according to Richard Symonds, the regiment was only 200 soldiers strong at the May 9th, 1645 rendezvous at Stow-on-the-Wold.
The main body of the King’s forces arrived at the siege of Leicester on May 29th. After marching completely around the town, and establishing various positions, it was decided to assault the “newarke” (new work), an area of some seventeen acres built by Henry, Duke of Lancaster, in 1330.
At noon on May 30th, Prince Rupert offered pardon to the town, with its garrison of Leicester, which numbered about 1500, in exchange for its surrender. While the Parliamentarian leaders prevaricated, Prince Rupert lost patience and commenced the bombardment at 2:30 p.m. Within three hours the walls of the Newarke were in ruin, the town having failed to maintain them, and the short-range cannon fire from the Royalist artillery was especially effective as well.
The storming of Leicester was planned for midnight (May 31st). The Royalists attacked from three directions, launching nearly two dozen separate assaults. Fighting in the Newarke was exceptionally fierce, as the Parliamentarians attempted to repulse Prince Rupert’s forces. It was then that the Lifeguard, forming part of Lisle’s Tertia, was sent in to add their weight to the assault, but the tertio’s assaults were repulsed three times, with the Lifeguard briefly losing two of its colours, though its casualty figures are unknown. Eventually the Parliamentarian defenders, now only about 600 strong, fell back in good order until forced to surrender.
Certainly the regiment received some new recruits around this time, since at the battle of Naseby (14 June 1645) the Lifeguard was large enough to form a separate division of the Royalist reserve. This suggests that the regiment might have been up to 500 strong, but probably no more than about 300 men strong.
The Lifeguard was not involved in the initial assault on the New Model’s foot, as it formed part of the reserve, but certainly saw action later. Its quite probable that it played a leading role in the attempt to cover the retreat of the remnants of the Royalist foot. Since during this time it staged its own last stand, as it was caught up in the attacks by Cromwell’s cavalry when attacked by John Fiennes’ horse towards the end of the battle, along with the rest of the King’s Army. A Parliamentarian account says “these stout old soldiers stood like a wall of brass to receive his charge,” but the regiment was eventually broken, and effectively destroyed.
The rank and file was captured almost to a man, with many being wounded. The Lifeguard prisoners were marched to London on June 21st, along with the ten captured colours of the regiment and the King’s own standard, along with the rest of the captured King’s Army, escorted by the Green and Yellow Trained Band Regiments of London. It is evident that since ten of the Lifeguard’s colours were captured at Naseby, that the regiment still had ten companies at that time, although based on the number of men in the regiment, this meant that each company had no more than about 30-50 men each.
In addition, fourteen of the company officers, almost all of those in the regiment at that time, were captured as well: Captains Charles Fox, Robert Levinz, Fisher, John Beeton, Nicholas Bertie, Captain-Lieutenant Waller, Lieutenants Mewsey, Brown, Ensigns Chamberlain, Porter, William Berkenhead, Ingoldsby, Peter Mowshall, and Wildhall.
Although the regiment’s commanding officers, Colonel, the Earl of Lindsey, Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton, and Major Markham were not captured, but are known to have been with the regiment. It is obvious that they were mounted, and had good horses, and thus were able to ride away when the fatal end of the King’s Army came that day. However, the Earl of Lindsey was known to have been with the King’s entourage that day, and wounded during the battle, so effective command of the regiment at the battle of Naseby again passed to Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton.
After Naseby, efforts were immediately put underway to recruit men for the Lifeguard. Presumably, the Earl of Lindsey continued as titular commander of the Lifeguard. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton and Major Markham remained in Herefordshire to reform the Lifeguard during the following month, along with recruits from the South Welsh Border. In fact, on July 2nd, Barnabas Scudamore, Governor of Hereford, and the gentry of the county, was ordered to provide 500 recruits for the Lifeguard, and present them to the newly knighted Lieutenant-Colonel Sir William Leighton. In addition, 150 former soldiers of the Lifeguard were exchanged for Roundheads captured by Sir William Vaughan at Bridgenorth (9 July 1645).
Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton remaining at Hereford until December 1645 possibly accompanied by other surviving Lifeguard officers, including Quartermaster Benjamin Stone, and some NCO’s. They were continuing efforts to raise men for the regiment, though with no real luck, as the support for the King’s cause had now dwindled with the loss at Naseby.
Another nucleus for the proposed new Lifeguard of Foot was formed in August, 1645, where it was recorded on August 6th, that “Sir Thomas Glemham’s Foot, that came from Carlisle to Cardiff, marched as the King’s Lifeguard.” These northerners were worthy successors to the lost veterans, for their determined defense and recent surrender of Carlisle was a renowned episode of a war that did not lack in soldier-like exploits. Although, Sir Thomas Glemham’s Regiment, who made their way south to join the King, was recorded on the August 13th, that “Sir Thomas Glemham’s foot were made dragoons in Brecknockshire, and march too with us.” They were probably with the King at Chester at the time of the disaster at Rowton Heath (24 September 1645), where Captain Lewis Darcy and Lieutenant James Wilson were captured. The remnants of the unit were with the King when he returned to Oxford on November 5th, 1645, and were commanded from December by Colonel Robert Gosnold, a former Captain. They may have formed the last remnant of the Lifeguard of Foot, and remained at Oxford until the time of the surrender of the city in June 1646.
In all actuality, any men that were raised for the Lifeguard after Naseby were probably captured along with Quartermaster Benjamin Stone at Stow-on-the-Wold on March 21st, 1646, when they formed part of Lord Astley’s last field army.
From its history, the King’s Lifeguard of Foot seems to have retained ten of its regular companies, plus the company of firelocks, throughout the first Civil War. The commander of the firelocks, Captain William Legge, who had been in the Scots War (Second Bishop’s War) of 1640, had a court appointment as Master of the Armory, and so it is natural that his company of firelocks was assigned to the artillery guard, as it was at Edgehill.
It should be noted that in the Royalist army, most foot regiments had only eight companies, with only a few of the strongest having so many as ten. When a regiment would dwindle in strength, its companies would be reduced, and the colours of which would not be flown. The fact that the Lifeguard kept its full ten regular companies, despite its numbers, was no doubt out of respect for the regiment’s Royal honor, at being the King’s personal Lifeguard.