Tuesday 19 January 2021

The Armies of Sir Ralph Hopton, 1642-46, from Helion and Co.

Another gem from prolific author Laurence Spring, courtesy of Helion and Co. arrived last week, number 62 in their extensive Century of the Soldier series. Hopton is a well known personality for enthusiast of the British Civil Wars, throughout which he was an active supporter of the King. The book doesn’t just focus on the man, and his life, service and death, but also looks in detail at all aspects of a soldier’s life from, for example, recruitment, clothing, training, arms and equipment. In doing so, the book follows the well tried structure of other Helion publications. Contemporary sources have been used extensively, and these are noted in the bibliography. 

The accounts of Hopton’s campaigns, of the three Royalist armies he commanded during the war, are well written and like the rest of the book include excerpts from contemporary correspondence which in my opinion at least always adds to an understanding of the human side of war. The maps accompanying these chapters, outlining the campaigns as well as several maps of key battles, are clearly drawn and helpful, especially when used in conjunction with the narrative.

No Helion book of this genre would be worthy without the usual central spread of glorious colour illustrations showing the dress of soldiers and detail of the colours carried by the regiments. A nit picker or button counter could say that a soldier in Hopton’s army would look just the same as one, say, in the Kings Oxford army, but I don’t hold that viewpoint. These illustrations relate to this book, which is reason enough to include them.

The several appendices cover various aspects of Hopton’s forces, such as lists of regiments and officers in the Cornish Army in 1643, rates of pay and another extensive list of regiments that served with Hopton throughout the wars, including the fates of their commanding officers. One feature I particularly like is the chapter covering “what happened next” to the participants in the campaigns, senior officers and common soldiers alike. 

Overall then, this is another marvellous escape into the subject. I actually like the trend of publishing very focussed studies of the various and varied aspects of the Civil Wars, and in my opinion it works well as we, the reader, gain the benefits of the author’s very deep digging when researching their book. It could easily fail and end up as a rather dull thing, but Laurence’s growing series of books are excellent and for any serious student of the era this publication is a very welcome addition . I’m STILL  not going to start another collection of ECW figures this year!  

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