By Stephen Ede-Borrett
Extant Army Officers’ Commissions from before 1660 are rare and, as far as I am aware, the example shown here is the only surviving example dating to this period, the last year of the English Commonwealth.
After the death of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell on 3rd September 1658, his son Richard briefly assumed the title and powers but had neither the trust of the Army nor the ambition for the post and was overthrown the following May. With the downfall of Richard Cromwell, the Protectorate came to an end and the Republic and Commonwealth restored. The new Government lost little time and swiftly remodelled the Army; all officers that retained their posts received new commissions. The commission under consideration here is that of Captain Thomas Else of General Charles Fleetwood’s Regiment of Horse, from that new Government.
When Thomas Else entered the Army is not known although, as he is termed “Thomas Else, gent. of East Dereham” in his General Pardon from Charles II dated 2nd March 1661,  he may be assumed to have come from the landed gentry classes. Firth and Davies refer to Else as having already been a Lieutenant in Charles Fleetwood’s Regiment of Horse during the campaign in Scotland in 1650 , although he was not commissioned as Captain with command of a Troop (in succession to Richard Sankey) until around October 1651. Else had probably served with the Regiment at the Battle of Dunbar and in the Worcester campaign (although there he would still have been a Lieutenant), after which the Regiment returned to its ‘home’ in the Eastern Counties, where it had originally been raised in 1643 and which must have been convenient to Else as well as a number of other of the Regiment’s officers. Else accompanied the Regiment to Scotland in August 1655 and the following year his troop is listed as the garrison at Cupar, in Fife . The Regiment returned to England in 1658 and was in London by the end of that year.
When, as mentioned above, the Republic was re-established in the Spring of 1659, Fleetwood was appointed Commander in Chief  and his Regiment of Horse, along with the rest of the Army, was restructured. Although two of the Regiment’s Troop commanders lost their places in this restructure, Else retained his  and despite the fact that we have no precise knowledge of his actions throughout the crisis between the Army and Parliament that autumn and Winter, it may be assumed that he followed the majority and eventually backed Monk and Parliament. Despite this, when the Regiment was again remodelled by the restored Long Parliament on 20th January 1660, Else was omitted from the new list of Captains ; two of the Regiment’s Troop commanders were considered dangerous enough to be ordered to leave the capital although Else himself was not (or perhaps he had already returned to his Estate in Norfolk). The Regiment was disbanded at Salisbury in November 1660.
After the loss of his commission in January 1660, there is no further mention of Else, although one further item of interest survives in Norfolk Records Office; Thomas Else’s Pardon from Charles II, dated 2nd March 1661. Thereafter Thomas Else, like so many veterans of the Civil War, disappears from the records.
The Commission is fourteen inches by ten and a half inches, ink on vellum and, together with the complimentary Pardon mentioned above, was donated to the Norfolk Records Office by Norwich City Museum on 10th August 1971. Respectively, these two items are MC 467 / 5 768×2 and MC 467 / 6 768×2 in the Norfolk Records Office catalogue.
The Commission, as is apparent from the photograph above, was prepared in blank even though it was handwritten – not printed – as would later be the case with blank commissions. Details of name, rank, regiment and date have then been inserted in a different hand and the resultant excess words deleted. These additions are shown as italics in the transcription below.
The black marks at both edges are not binding marks but small spots of ink, which have been used as a guide to rule faint pencil lines between, upon which the text of the commission is written.
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, Doe Constitute and appointe you ThomasElseand you are hereby Constituted and appointed Captain of a TroopofHorse
in the Regiment whereof Lieutenant Generall ffleetwood is Colonell raised and
maintained under the Comand of the Parliament for the service of the Commonwealth. You are therefore to take into your Charge and care the said Troope as Captain thereof and duly to
Exercise the inferior Officers and Souldiers of the same in Armes and to use yor best Care and
endeavor to keep them in good Order and Discipline, Commanding them to obey you as theire
Captaine : And you are likewise to observe and follow such Orders and directions as you shall
from time to time receive from the Parliament or Council of State appointed by Parliament.
And also you are to obey the Superior Officers of the said Regiment and Army according to
the discipline of war. In pursuance of the Trust reposed in you and of yor Duty to the Parliament
and Commonwealth. GIVEN at Westminster the Ninth day of July In the
yeare of Our Lord One Thousand six hundred fifty Nyne.
Signed in the Name of the Parliamt
of the Commonwealth of England
To Captain Thomas Else
 East Dereham is approximately fourteen miles West of Norwich. No member of the Else family appears in the phone book for either Dereham or Norwich today.
 The Regimental History of Cromwell’s Army: C H Firth & G Davies, Oxford 1940, p 97.
 The Regimental History of Cromwell’s Army: C H Firth & G Davies, Oxford 1940, p 98, quoting a source in the Clarke Mss.
 9th June 1659. The appointment was for a limited period and under certain conditions
Journal of the House of Commons: volume 7: 1651-1660, London 1802, pp. 677-78.
 On 30th July the House of Commons approved
“To Captain Thomas Else, his Commission to be Captain in Lieutenant-General Fleetwood’s Regiment”
Journal of the House of Commons: volume 7: 1651-1660, London 1802, pp. 739-44.
 20th January 1660. Journal of the House of Commons: volume 7: 1651-1660, London 1802, pp. 816-17.