Lieutenant Philip Monoux: The First Officer of the Household Cavalry Killed in Action, 1685

Monoux’s stone in the floor of St Mary’s in Wootton (SE-B Photograph)

By Stephen Ede-Borrett

The Royal Regiment of Horse was raised in 1660 from an ex-Republican Regiment and remained as the sole Regiment of Horse in the British Army when all others were converted to Regiments of Dragoon Guards in 1746 and 1788.  The Regiment became the Royal Horse Guards (Blue) in 1750, although it did not officially become a part of the Household Cavalry until 1815.

Philip Monoux was the 3rd son of Sir Humphrey Monoux, 1st Baronet of Wootton Bedfordshire (the occasional spelling of the name as ‘Monocks’ in contemporary documents is a good indication as to how the name was pronounced at the time, as indeed it still is today).  The 1st Baronet died in 1675 and was succeeded by Philip’s elder brother Humphrey, as 2nd Baronet.  The second Sir Humphrey died in July 1685 and was succeeded by his eight-year-old son Philip who was later responsible for the moving and reburial his uncle’s body.  The Baronetcy finally became extinct with the death of Sir Philip, 7th Baronet, in 1814[1].  Later Baronets are often termed “of Sandy, Bedfordshire”, where the family was living by the end of the Eighteenth Century, although the family continued to be buried at Wootton.

Philip Monoux was commissioned Cornet in the troop of Captain Sir Thomas Slingsby of the Royal Regiment of Horse on 22nd May 1680.  Monoux was then promoted Lieutenant, in the Troop of Captain Walter Littleton, on 22nd December 1682.  Along with the rest of the officers of the Regiment, Monoux was recommissioned by the new King, James II, on 10th February 1685 (Charles II had died on 6th February).

Littleton’s troop was one of the seven troops of the Royal Regiment forming part of the Army that was sent West in June 1685[2] to put down the rebellion by the Duke of Monmouth.  Littleton commanded his Troop at the Battle of Sedgemoor on July 6th but by then however, Monoux was no longer with the troop.

On June 19th the first cavalry action of the campaign took place at Ashill, near Chard in Somerset, in which Lieutenant Monoux was killed, giving him the highly dubious honour of being the first officer casualty of any of the Household Cavalry Regiments.  Two of Monoux’s troopers were wounded in the action, whilst four rebels, also including their Commanding Officer, were killed.

The only contemporary account of this action that I am aware of is that by Edward Dummer, an Engineer serving with the Artillery Train[3], who records under the date of June 19:

“My Lord Churchill arrives at Chard, sends out twenty commanded horse under Lieutennt Monaux and a Quarter Master[4], who met with much the like number of sturdy Rebells, well arm’d; between whome hapned a very brisk encounter.  Twelve of the Rebells were killed and the rest being wounded fled and alarmd the body of Rebells wch lay neare; so that a fresh part apperd and caus’d ours to retreat, leaving Lieutennt. Monoux upon the place, shot in the head and killed on the first charge.  The Quarter Master with the rest came off well, saving two or three that were wounded.”

The skirmish took place about half a mile from the village proper in an area known as the “fight ground” as late as 1844[5], although the exact location now appears to be lost.

Tradition has it that Monoux was buried in St Mary’s Church, Ashill – presumably on the day of, or the day after, the battle (although since the Parish records for the years 1670-1686 are missing, it is impossible to confirm this).  However, the stone over his body records his burial to have been in Chard and since a) Chard was firmly in the Army’s hands whereas Ashill was disputed land and b) we can be certain that those who moved the body knew where they had moved it from, it seems certain that the burial was initially in St Mary’s in Chard.  (Ashill is approx 8 miles due North of Chard).

Wherever the Lieutenant was initially interred, Sir Philip, 3rd Baronet later had his body moved to the family church of St Mary’s in Wootton, Bedfordshire, where he was reburied in the floor of the Chancel just inside the rood screen.  However, there was some movement around of the Monoux stones in the 19th Century so this positioning may not have been the original one.

The stone over Monoux’s reburial reads :

Here lieth the body of

Lievtenant PHILIP MONOUX

who was Slaine in Majefties

Service (King Iames ye Second)

in ye Forrest of Rouse in Somerset =

Shire against ye Rebels of ye Late

Duke of Monmouth Iune ye 19o

in ye yeare 1685

in ye 29o year of his Age

He was first buried in ye Church

of Chard in Somerset Shire from

thence removed at ye defire and

Charge of his Nephew SR PHILIP

MONOUX Barron & Layed in this

place with this stone over him

in Memory of him

As a footnote, on 24th February 1688 a Jonathan Monoux was commissioned as Cornet in Captain David Lloyd’s Troop of the Royal Regiment of Horse.  However, after this initial commission, there is no further record of him within the Regiment or the Army.

My sincere thanks to Alan Larson who drew my attention to Monoux’s memorial and first suggested this piece and to the Vicar of St Mary’s Wootton, Revd Peter Ackroyd, who kindly allowed me access to photograph Monoux’s stone.

[1] In order the seven Monoux Baronets were: Humphrey, Humphrey, Philip, Humphrey, Philip, Philip, Philip.

[2] The Regiment had a full strength of eight troops at the time.  See Army of James II: Stephen Ede-Borrett, Helion & Co 2017.

[3] Dummer’s account is reprinted in Sedgemoor 1685: David Chandler, London 1985.

[4] Presumably Walter Chetwyn of Littleton’s Troop.

[5] The Life, Progresses and Rebellion of James Duke of Monmouth & to His Capture and Execution; In Two Volumes: George Roberts, London 1844 p325.

The Army of James II, 1685-1688. The Birth of the British Army can be purchased from Helion & Company Ltd here.

This entry was posted in Century of the Soldier and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *