Thursday, 1 June 2017

Interview with Robert Hodkinson-Author of Cromwell's Buffoon

The book Cromwell’s Buffoon -The Life and Career of the Regicide Thomas Pride, has just been released. Helion publishers kindly sent me a review copy. Before the report comes out, I am publishing a short interview with the Author Robert Hodkinson.

What drew you to the subject of Thomas Pride?

Some years ago I joined the English Civil War re-enactment group, The Sealed Knot. While researching Thomas Pride with a view to portraying his soldiers on the battlefield, I was interested to find that there was very little known about the man, despite the fact that references to 'Pride's Purge' appear in practically every book on the Civil War ever written. I realised that I had found not only a gap in our knowledge of a famous seventeenth-century figure but an opportunity to undertake some exciting new research in the archives. The more my research revealed about Thomas Pride, the more interesting a figure he became, and I realised I had uncovered the story of the man whose life could draw together all the threads of Civil War historiography: social, political, religious and military.

Did Pride have any connection to the Leveller movement?

Thomas Pride had ties with London's Baptist churches, which were at the forefront of the independent religious movements of the 1630s. Baptists shared the Levellers' ideals of religious liberty and the abolition of tithes, both of which were espoused by Pride himself in the later 1640s. But while Pride and the Levellers may have had certain principles in common, and mutual enemies, the fact that by 1649 Pride was a wealthy and self-interested London businessman meant that any commonality he may have had with the Levellers stopped far short of their other political goals, such as the release of enclosed lands to common ownership.

Would you describe him as a Republican, and how much connection did he have to the Fifth Monarchists?

As the Fifth Monarchists emerged from among London's Baptists, it is not surprising that Thomas Pride had connections to some Fifth Monarchist men, notably William Goffe, with whom Pride served alongside for the whole of the Civil Wars and whose signature appears next to Pride's on Charles I's death warrant. But although Thomas Pride was instrumental in bringing about the execution of Charles I he was not a Republican himself and was a supporter of Cromwellian government during the 1650s. There were certainly Republican elements in the regiment he commanded, which emerged in the Overton Plot of 1654 and after Cromwell's death in 1658. Pride was able to curb his soldiers' republicanism for most of the 1650s. The fact they supported the Rump Parliament against Richard Cromwell following their colonel's death is a testament to the force of Pride's command and strength of his personality.

Is there any other research possibilities to further our knowledge of Pride?

The length of time that this project has run, and the depth of the research undertaken, means that I feel confident that I have unearthed all the surviving information that we have on Thomas Pride. One thing that my research never revealed was the whereabouts of his final resting place, which appears to have been kept a secret to prevent his remains falling into the hands of the Royalists. If further research could reveal the site of Thomas Pride's burial, both he and I would be very grateful.

What are you working on at the moment?

I don't think my appetite for researching and discovering more about the English Civil War will ever be satisfied. At present, I am working on a new proposal for Helion military history publishers on Fairfax's sieges and the New Model Army's storming of Bristol in 1645.