Soldiers' Clothing of the Early 17th Century

The latest tome from Helion focuses on an issue that is right up there in the list of favourite topics at Château KeepYourPowderDry.

Occasionally Helion send me books to review, for clarity I bought my copy.


I might not be the intended audience for this book, as I know a little bit about the subject, and my bookshelves groan with the weight of Civil War books. But I bought it none the less.

Laurence Spring is one of those Civil War historians/researchers whose books will always make me sit up and take notice. 

This volume, unsurprisingly, takes a long hard look at clothing issues to soldiers both in Britain and also on the continent. I'm going to be honest, I've not read the 30YW chapters (plus I feel unqualified to comment upon their accuracy), but I have read the 'British' chapters four times. Yes, four. I'm that sad.

On the subject of my copy being well thumbed, the cover is, somewhat disappointingly, already delaminating. Not good.

This book is chock-full of accountant's records of clothing supply. Sounds dull, when written like that. It isn't quite that dull, but might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Lots of this material has appeared in a number of Laurence's other books, and other authors' works, most notably Peachy and Turton's "Old Robin's Foot".

But is there anything new? Laurence has unearthed a reference to the King's Regiment of Foot wearing green coats, which is a completely new one on me. (I've checked it, he's correct - good find sir!).

Many gamers will, of course, be excited about the coat colours lists that appear in the appendices. Contemporary references being not too important for them. 

This is where I have a few issues with Spring's lists, "see text for sources" doesn't quite cut it I'm afraid. Which might explain why I have read the bulk of the book four times.

Appendix III lists coat colours for Parliamentarian regiments. There's 3 problematical ones listed: Colonel Thomas Essex, Colonel Goodwin, and Lord Halifax.

I knew that Tom Essex's regiment had had coats issued, however as far as I was aware no colour was known. Whilst new finds are regularly made by those hardy souls who delve in to SP28 at The National Archives, there is no mention of the source for this claim.

I have found one mention (p134) of a 'Mr Benjamin Goodwin from the Irish Committee' being given 87 suits to be issued to Captain Jasper Hartwell's company (who were garrisoned in Plymouth). But if Benjamin Goodwin had a regiment surely he'd be referred to as Colonel rather than Mister? I have come across a Colonel Arthur Goodwin's regiment of horse (Essex's Army) before but not a Goodwin's foot. I haven't seen, or found any references for riding coats for Goodwin's Horse.

Lord Halifax is even more problematical, as there was no Lord Halifax until 1667. George Saville (future Lord Halifax) would have been 12 in 1645, so pretty unlikely to have been a Colonel in any of the 3 Civil Wars, if he had had a regiment raised in his name then I would have expected it to fight for the King rather than Parliament as he was well rewarded during the Restoration for his family's support of the Royalist cause during the Wars. His father, Sir William, was Colonel of one of the Yorkshire trained bands, but as he fought as a Royalist it can't be him either. Anyway he was Baron Thornhill, never having Halifax in his title while he was alive. This claim of coat colours for Lord Halifax first appeared in "Old Robin's Foot", without a source; there is no source for this mentioned in this volume either.

>>>>

If you are just starting out, or don't really have much up to date reference material, this is an interesting, and worthy volume to find a place on your shelves; my quibbles should not detract from Spring's extensive work. And who knows, maybe you too might develop a frisson of excitement at the mention of the Mungeam Contracts.

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