I’m about to publish the fourth book in my Uncivil Wars series – set in spring 1644 – featuring a rascally and unromantic crew of Parliamentarian cavalry as heroes.
Actually, that’s not true. I don’t write heroes and villains. I don’t think the King was a bad man and I don’t think Cromwell was a good one – or vice versa. All my research (almost 20 years of it and I’m still finding new people to investigate) leads me to the same conclusion… seventeenth century people were pretty much the same as we are. They had hopes, fears and dreams. They got cold, hungry, tired and miserable. They missed their families; worried about their children; and thought the world was going to Hell in a handcart. There’s nothing new under the sun.
I’m drawn towards the Parliamentarian side because of the politics and intrigue… the multiple conspiracy theories around the murder of the Parliamentarian Colonel Rainsborough (pictured above left). Was it the King who ordered it? Was it Cromwell to prevent Rainsborough’s rousing the Army against him? Or an independent agent hoping to impress either?
I find it both fascinating and horrifying that more people don’t know who Rainsborough was – the first man in England to espouse an approximation of universal suffrage. He was murdered for it because such radicalism was dangerous. My sympathy for the political ‘intriguers’ drops like a rock after Rainsborough’s out of the picture. But what about the ordinary men and women who were already embroiled in the war? Who’d committed themselves either financially or physically?
The English Civil War was about more than dates and battles and politics. It was (in my view) mostly about people, with little to choose between the sides. What makes me so passionate about my subject is not the King against Parliament but the Army of Parliament against its politicians. An army raised to intimidate and enforce like a pit bull terrier – muzzled and leashed for fear that it might turn on its masters.
Its soldiers drank too much; swore more than they ought; fancied girls; and thought about going home. (We know this, because the New Model Army tried to legislate for it. If they were having to make desertion, swearing, drunkenness and lewd behaviour punishable in the ranks of the Godly, you can be sure that someone was doing enough of it to annoy the authorities.) Commanded by decent men like Thomas Fairfax (and yes, like Cromwell – much though I might dislike the man); men whose consciences troubled them but who could not turn aside from a cause they were honour-bound – no matter what it cost them.
It doesn’t make for your standard blood and thunder adventure fiction. It makes a troop of fictional Ironsides into real people for hundreds of my readers (not words on a page but people like me and you who think about their families at home; what they’re having for supper; and worry about paying the bills). It might be the first time anyone has ever done that for the Parliamentarian cause; depicting not judgemental cardboard cut-out Bible-bashers with bowl-cuts but people.
That, and I got bored with people telling me the English Civil War isn’t sexy (the clanky side of Ironside even less so). Damn well is! I should rather have a plain russet-coated captain who knows whereof he fights and loves what he knows than that which is a gentleman and nothing else.
Passion, honour and principle. How could you not?
MJ Louge’s books can be found on Amazon, here.
Date for your diary: August Bank Holiday Weekend, 29 August 2015
M J Logue, Jemahl Evans and D W Bradbridge will be appearing at a ‘Meet the Author’ event at Bishop Lloyd’s Palace, Chester, on Saturday 29 August from 1pm to 5pm. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet not only some of the finest up-and-coming authors of Civil War fiction in the country, but a rare chance to visit the amazing 17th century palace as well.