1648, John Langley, a wounded veteran, asks for arrears of pay after serving under General Fairfax at Naseby

John Langleye, late trooper under his excellency’s command. SP 16/516 f. 35 (1648)

To the right honourable the Committie of Lordes and Commons for his Excellencye Sir Thomas Fairfax his Armye

The humble peticion of John Langleye late trooper under his excellencies command

Sheweth That your petitioner hath not spared to sacrifize his dearest life, for the preservacion of your honoures and publique good of the kingdome, haveinge bin severall tymes wounded and [especial?] att the battell att Nasbye, where hee was left for dead, and also received a greate loss in that field, but by the providence of his protectour after alonge continuance, in greate misserye recovered but is therebye disabled and maimed for ever. And hath nothinge to subsist on but 2 [shillings?] per weeke his pencion which is not sufficient to relieve him, but hath bin enforced to sell and pawne all the litle he had for maynteinance, and his father who was before of abillittie is nowe become verye poore haveinge beene extraordinarilie plundred by the enemie for his affection to the Parliament and for setteinge forth 2 sonnes with horse and armes for the states service in which one lost his life, thother maimed wherebye he is undone for ever himselfe closelye imprissoned and ajudged to be drawne hanged and quartered, in so much that your petitioner is in adeplorable condicion beinge daylye threatned to be areasted and cast into prisson, for debt contracted in his weaknes, where he must unavoydablye end his days unlesse speedilye relieved there beinge due unto your honoures petitioner 24 pounds as by the anexed certificate appeareth

Your petitioner most humblye implores, that your honoures (even for Godes cause) wilbe pleased to take into serious consideracion his misserable condicion and graunt him parte of his arreares, as above mencioned, what in your pious and charitable dispositiones shalbe thought expedient, to preserve him from famishinge and to relieve him in this his greate necessitie, that he end not his dayes in prisson

And your petitioner will ever pray for your honoures eternall hapinesses

[paratext:] This petissinor is in pay at Crist Church Robert Binckes [.master?] / 16 March 1647 / State and pay / Att the Committee of the Lordes and Commons for the Army 19o Junii 1648 / Ordered that the commissary generall of the musters or his deputy doe forthwith certify to this committee how the petitioner standes upon the severall musteres for the [army?] and [illegible] [affix?] the same to the peticion John Venn

Report by Sue Willoughby

In this petition, John Langley, a severely injured soldier, asked for arrears of pay and financial support. He addressed his petition to Parliament’s Committee for the Army, which was then under the command of Thomas Fairfax and Langley claimed to have served under Fairfax’s command in battle.

Sir Thomas Fairfax was the first commander of the Parliamentarian “New Model Army”.  He is best remembered for leading the army in the Battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645, a decisive victory against Charles I’s forces. By the time of this petition in 1648, he was Lord Fairfax and was commander-in-chief of the whole Parliamentary army.[1]

Thomas Fairfax, possibly by Francis Engleheart, published by Edward Jeffery, after Edward Bower line engraving, published 1808, © National Portrait Gallery, London

In 1645, the Parliamentarians formed the first mass professional army in England and called it the New Model Army.  In theory, the servicemen of the New Model Army were trained in warfare and were paid a salary, financed by Parliament – in the past there had been irregular training and irregular pay.  It soon had 22,000 men who were trained to fight and promoted on merit rather than social standing, making it a much stronger army than the Royalist Army. “Troopers” like Langley were cavalrymen and were paid a higher salary than infantry.  They had to provide their own horse, uniform, arms and supplies, but were paid two shilling per day in the New Model Army.[2]

At the Battle of Naseby, the Royalists had only about half the number of men as the New Model Army.  It seems inevitable that the Royalists would lose the battle as, in their arrogance, they believed that their army, being a veteran force, would defeat the Parliamentarians – many of whom had not fought before.  However, the Royalists were preoccupied with trying to plunder the Parliamentarian camp after the first charge and by the time they had returned to the battlefield, the battle had been won by the Parliamentarians.[3]

As a cavalryman, John Langley would have been part of the initial charge at Naseby but instead of attempting to recover what he could from the fallen, would have been ordered to regroup immediately after the charge in order to launch another attack.  As he was able to recover his horse, and another afterward to give to his two sons, it is likely that he did not fall during the initial charge.

After the Civil War, members of the New Model Army expected to remain in service, causing Parliament a problem as funds were not available to support this.[4]

There appears to be no record of whether John Langley received the £24 which was owed to him at the end of the Civil War, but he was ‘in pay at Christchurch’ at the time of the petition, so not entirely helpless.[5]


[1] ‘Sir Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax, 1612-1671’, British Civil War Project, http://bcw-project.org/biography/sir-thomas-fairfax

[2] ‘New Model Army’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Model_Army; ‘New Model Army’, British Civil War Project, http://bcw-project.org/military/new-model-army

[3] Laura MacKenzie, ‘10 facts about the battle of Naseby’, HistoryHit, https://www.historyhit.com/facts-about-the-battle-of-naseby/

[4] Clive Holmes, The Eastern Association in the English Civil War (1974), p. 14

[5] ‘Charles I – volume 516: March 1648’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1648-9, ed. William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1893), pp. 23-39. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1648-9/pp23-39

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.