The Monmouth Rebellion, also known as The Revolt of the West or The
West Country rebellion, was an attempt to overthrow James II, the Duke
of York. James had become King of England, Scotland and Ireland upon
the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II
was a Roman Catholic and some Protestants under his rule opposed his
kingship. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of
Charles II, claimed to be rightful heir to the throne and attempted to
displace James II.
Plans were discussed to overthrow the monarch, following the failure
Rye House Plot
Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II and James in 1683,
while Monmouth was in self-imposed exile in the Dutch Republic. The
Monmouth rebellion was coordinated with
Argyll's Rising a rebellion in
Scotland, where Archibald Campbell, the Earl of Argyll, landed with a
small force. The Duke of Monmouth had been popular in the South West
of England, so he planned to recruit troops locally and take control
of the area before marching on London.
Monmouth landed at
Lyme Regis on 11 June 1685. In the following few
weeks, his growing army of nonconformists, artisans and farm workers
fought a series of skirmishes with local militias and regular soldiers
Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham
Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham and John Churchill,
who later became the Duke of Marlborough. Monmouth's forces were
unable to compete with the regular army and failed to capture the city
of Bristol. The rebellion ended with the defeat of Monmouth's army at
Battle of Sedgemoor
Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685 by forces led by Feversham and
Monmouth was executed for treason on 15 July 1685. Many of his
supporters were tried during the Bloody Assizes, led by Judge Jeffreys
and were condemned to death or transportation.
James II was able to
consolidate his power and reigned until 1688, when he was overthrown
in a coup d'état by William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution.
1 Duke of Monmouth
Lyme Regis to Sedgemoor
5 Battle of Sedgemoor
6 After Sedgemoor
7 Literary references
10 External links
Duke of Monmouth
Standard of the troops loyal to the Duke of Monmouth.
Main article: James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
Monmouth was an illegitimate son of Charles II. There had been rumours
that Charles had married Monmouth's mother, Lucy Walter, but no
evidence was forthcoming, and Charles always said that he only had
one wife, Catherine of Braganza.
Monmouth had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the English Army by
his father in 1672 and
Captain general in 1678, enjoying some
successes in the Netherlands in the Third Anglo-Dutch War, as
commander of a British brigade in the French army.
English Civil War
English Civil War had left resentment among some of the population
about the monarchy and the penalties which had been imposed on the
supporters of the Commonwealth. The South West of England contained
several towns where opposition remained strong. Fears of a
potential Catholic monarch persisted, intensified by the failure of
Charles II and his wife to produce any children. A defrocked
Anglican clergyman, Titus Oates, spoke of a "Popish Plot" to kill
Charles and to put the Duke of York on the throne. The Earl of
Shaftesbury, a former government minister and a leading opponent of
Catholicism, attempted to have James excluded from the line of
succession. Some members of Parliament even proposed that the crown
go to Charles's illegitimate son, James Scott, who became the Duke of
Monmouth. In 1679, with the Exclusion Bill - which would exclude
the King's brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the
line of succession - in danger of passing, Charles II dissolved
Parliament. Two further Parliaments were elected in 1680 and 1681,
but were dissolved for the same reason.
Rye House Plot
Rye House Plot of 1683, an attempt to assassinate both
Charles and James, Monmouth went into self-imposed exile in the
Netherlands, and gathered supporters in The Hague. Monmouth was a
Protestant and had toured the South West of England in 1680, where he
had been greeted amicably by crowds in towns such as Chard and
Taunton. So long as Charles II remained on the throne, Monmouth
was content to live a life of pleasure in Holland, while still hoping
to accede peaceably to the throne. The accession of
James II and
Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1685 put an end to these
James Scott, Duke of Monmouth on horseback (Henri Gascar, 1672)
The Monmouth rebellion was planned in Holland and coordinated with
another rebellion in Scotland led by Archibald Campbell, the Earl of
Argyll. Several areas of England were considered as potential
locations for rebellion, including
Lancashire along with
the South West, as these were seen as having the highest number of
opponents of the monarchy. Argyll and Monmouth both began their
expeditions from Holland, where James's nephew and son-in-law,
stadtholder William III of Orange, had not detained them or put a stop
to their recruitment efforts. Argyll sailed to Scotland and, on
arriving there, raised recruits mainly from his own clan, the
Campbells, as part of the Scottish revolt. He had previously been
involved in the
Rye House Plot
Rye House Plot of 1683.
Another important member of the rebellion was Robert Ferguson, a
fanatical Scottish Presbyterian minister. He was also known as "the
plotter". It was Ferguson who drew up Monmouth's proclamation, and he
who was most in favour of Monmouth being crowned King. Thomas
Hayward Dare was a goldsmith from
Taunton and a Whig politician, a man
of considerable wealth and influence who had been jailed during a
political campaign calling for a new parliament. He was also fined the
huge sum of £5,000 for uttering "seditious" words. After his release
from jail, he fled to Holland and became the paymaster general to the
To raise the funds for ships and weaponry, Monmouth pawned many of his
belongings. His wife Anne Scott, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch, and her
mother also pawned their jewellery to hire the Dutch warship
Lyme Regis to Sedgemoor
Route of Monmouth's army
On 30 May 1685 Monmouth set sail for South West England, a
strongly Protestant region, with three small ships, four light field
guns, and 1500 muskets. He landed on 11 June with 82 supporters,
including Lord Grey of Warke, Nathaniel Wade, and Andrew Fletcher
of Saltoun. They gathered about 300 men on the first day at Lyme
Regis in Dorset, where a long statement prepared by Ferguson
denounced the king.
King James had previously received intelligence about the impending
plot, and the ships leaving Holland ten days before. He was warned
of Monmouth's arrival soon after the first landing. The mayor of the
town, Gregory Alford, informed the local militias while Samuel
Damsell and another customs officer rode from Lyme to London, arriving
on 13 June, having ridden 200 miles (322 km). To face
Monmouth's rebels, John Churchill was given command of the regular
foot in the King's army, and the honour of leading the campaign passed
to Earl of Feversham. It would take a few days to assemble the
army and travel from London to the west country, therefore initial
defence was left to local militias.
Over the next couple of days volunteers arrived in Lyme offering to
serve under Monmouth. By 15 June he had a force in excess of 1,000
men. On 13 June he lost two of his leading supporters when Dare
and Fletcher disputed who should ride one of the best horses provided
by local supporters. Fletcher shot and killed Dare and was then put
under arrest and sent back to the frigate Helderenberg. The next
day, 40 cavalry and 400 foot soldiers, under the command of Lord
Grey and Wade, moved on to the nearby town of Bridport, where they
encountered 1,200 men from the local royalist
Dorset militia. The
skirmish ended with the retreat of Grey and the cavalry followed by
Wade with the foot soldiers. Many of the militiamen deserted and
joined Monmouth's army. Following this confrontation, Lord
Albermarle led a royalist force from
Exeter towards the forces of the
Duke of Somerset, who were approaching
Lyme Regis from the opposite
Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham
Monmouth learned of the approach of royalist reinforcements and
departed, but instead of marching to London, he headed north with his
force towards the county of Somerset. On 15 June he fought with the
militia at Axminster, taking the town before the militias could join
up. More recruits joined his disorganised force, which was now
around 6,000, consisting mostly of nonconformists, artisans, and farm
workers armed with farm tools (such as pitchforks). One famous
supporter was the young Daniel Defoe.
Monmouth again denounced the king in Chard and was the subject of
a coronation in
Taunton on 20 June 1685, against the wishes of some of
his republican supporters such as Wade. The
was forced to witness the event at sword point outside the White Hart
Inn, to encourage the support of the country gentry. In Taunton,
Monmouth was joined by many new supporters and formed a new regiment
of 800 men. The king's force of Dragoons under Churchill continued
to close on Monmouth, arriving in Chard on 19 June. With the
assistance of the local militias they attempted to stop new recruits
Taunton to join Monmouth. Feversham meanwhile moved
with his forces into Bristol, on the assumption that this would be
Monmouth's next target, and took overall charge of the campaign.
Monmouth and his growing force then continued north via Bridgwater,
where he took up residence at
Bridgwater Castle (21 June),
Glastonbury (22 June) and
Shepton Mallet (23 June) in worsening
weather. Meanwhile, the
Royal Navy captured Monmouth's ships,
cutting off any hope of an escape back to the continent. The
Royalist forces of Churchill, who was now in Chard, and of Feversham,
in Bristol, also received reinforcements who had marched from
Keynsham bridge seen in 2011. The course of the river has been
On 24 June, Monmouth's army encamped at Pensford, and a small force
skirmished with the Gloucester Militia to take control of Keynsham, a
vital crossing point over the River Avon. Monmouth intended to
attack the city of
Bristol (the largest and most important city after
London at that time). However, he heard the city had been occupied by
Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort. There were inconclusive
skirmishes with a force of Life Guards commanded by Feversham.
These attacks gave the impression that there was a much larger
royalist force in the vicinity then there actually was. Several
historians have speculated that if Monmouth had marched as quickly as
Bristol at this point, when it was only protected by the
Gloucestershire militia, he would probably have been able to take the
city and the final outcome of the rebellion might have been very
Bristol had been taken, more recruits would have been
attracted to the Rebellion and a later march on London would have been
Monmouth left his headquarters at
Keynsham Abbey and moved towards
Bath, which had also been occupied by royalist troops, making entry
into the city impossible. Monmouth camped in Philips Norton (now
Norton St Philip), where his forces were attacked on 27 June by the
leading elements of Feversham's forces, which had now combined into a
larger force, but were still awaiting their artillery. The Duke of
Grafton led some cavalry, dragoons, and 500 musketeers into the
village, where they were surrounded by the rebels and had to hack
through hedges to escape. They were rescued by Churchill and withdrew
with approximately twenty casualties on each side; however, each side
believed that the other had taken greater losses.
The George Inn at Norton St Philip
Monmouth then marched overnight to
Frome arriving on 28 June. The
morale of Monmouth's forces started to collapse as news of the failure
of the rebellion in Scotland arrived that day, while the makeshift
army was camped in Frome. Argyll's small force had been
involved in minor skirmishes at
Greenock and Ellangreig. He took
Ardkinglass castle, but after disagreements with key supporters about
when and where to fight the royalists commanded by Rosse and William
Cleland, his supporters dwindled away and the Scottish rebellion
The rebels, heading for
Warminster got as far as Trowbridge, but
royalist forces cut off the route and Monmouth turned back towards
Somerset through Shepton Mallet, arriving in Wells on 1 July. The
soldiers damaged the Bishop's Palace and west front of Wells
Cathedral, tearing lead from the roof to make bullets, breaking the
windows, smashing the organ and the furnishings, and for a time
stabling their horses in the nave.
Feversham aimed to contain the rebels in the South West until the rest
of his forces, including three battalions of British mercenaries sent
by William III of Orange from Holland arrived. In the light of
propaganda suggesting the rebels had an army of 40,000 and that 500
royalist troops had been lost at Norton St Philip, Feversham was
ordered to engage Monmouth's forces. On 30 June the final parts of
Feversham's army, including his artillery, arrived and eventually
Monmouth was pushed back via
Shepton Mallet to the
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great had found refuge in his conflicts with the
Vikings. Becoming hemmed in at
Bridgwater on 3 July, he ordered his
troops to fortify the town.
Battle of Sedgemoor
Battle of Sedgemoor
Battle of Sedgemoor memorial
Main article: Battle of Sedgemoor
Monmouth was finally defeated by Feversham with John Churchill, his
second in command, on 6 July at the Battle of Sedgemoor.
Once Monmouth's force had entered and started to fortify Bridgwater,
he sent some of his cavalry to collect six cannon from Minehead. He
planned to stay in
Bridgwater until they returned and then break out
and head for Bristol. Feversham and his army of 500 horse and 1,500
militiamen camped on the edge of Sedgemoor at the village of
Westonzoyland. Monmouth could view them from the tower of Church of St
Mary and may have inspected them more closely from the Church of St
Mary in Chedzoy, before deciding to attack them.
The Duke eventually led his untrained and ill-equipped troops out of
Bridgwater at around 10:00 pm to undertake a night-time attack on
the King's army. They were guided by Richard Godfrey, the servant of a
local farmer, along the old
Bristol road towards Bawdrip. With their
limited cavalry in the vanguard, they turned south along Bradney Lane
and Marsh Lane and came to the open moor with its deep and dangerous
rhynes (drainage ditches).
A wounded supporter of Monmouth taking refuge in a hay barn after the
battle by Edgar Bundy
There was a delay while the rhyne was crossed and the first men across
startled a royalist patrol. A shot was fired and a horseman from the
patrol galloped off to report to Feversham. Lord Grey of Warke led the
rebel cavalry forward and they were engaged by the King's Regiment of
Horse which alerted the rest of the royalist forces. The superior
training of the regular army and their horses routed the rebel forces
by outflanking them. His untrained supporters were quickly defeated by
the professionals, and hundreds were cut down by cannon- and
The death count on the rebel side has variously been given as between
727 and 2,700, with royalist losses of 27 who were buried in the
churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Westonzoyland, which
was used as a prison for rebel soldiers.
Monmouth's execution on Tower Hill, 15 July 1685 (O.S).
Monmouth fled from the field of battle, but was captured in a ditch on
8 July (either at
Ringwood in the New Forest, or at Horton in
Dorset). Parliament had passed an Act of Attainder, on 13 June
sentencing Monmouth to death as a traitor, Therefore, no trial was
needed before his execution. Despite begging for mercy and claims of
conversion to Roman Catholicism, he was beheaded at
Tower Hill by Jack
Ketch on 15 July 1685. It is said that it took multiple blows of the
axe to sever his head. Though some sources say it took eight blows,
the official Tower of London website says it took five blows,
while Charles Spencer, in his book Blenheim, claims it was seven.
His dukedoms of Monmouth and Buccleuch were forfeited, but the
subsidiary titles of the dukedom of Monmouth were restored to the Duke
Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffreys were a series of
trials of Monmouth's supporters in which 320 people were condemned to
death and around 800 sentenced to be transported to the West
James II took advantage of the suppression of the rebellion to
consolidate his power. He asked Parliament to repeal the
Test Act and
the Habeas Corpus Act, used his dispensing power to appoint Roman
Catholics to senior posts, and raised the strength of the standing
army. Parliament opposed many of these moves, and on 20 November 1685
James dismissed it. In 1688, when the birth of James Francis Edward
Stuart heralded a Catholic succession,
James II was overthrown in a
coup d'état by William of Orange in the
Glorious Revolution at the
invitation of the disaffected Protestant Establishment.
Monmouth Rebellion and the events surrounding it have formed the
basis for several works of fiction. John Dryden's work Absalom and
Achitophel is a satire partially concerned with equating biblical
events with the Monmouth Rebellion. The
Monmouth Rebellion plays a
key role in Peter S. Beagle's novel Tamsin, about a 300-year-old ghost
who is befriended by the protagonist. Arthur Conan Doyle's
Micah Clarke deals directly with Monmouth's landing
in England, the raising of his army, its defeat at Sedgemoor, and the
reprisals which followed. Several characters in Neal Stephenson's
trilogy The Baroque Cycle, particularly Quicksilver and The Confusion,
play a role in the
Monmouth Rebellion and its aftermath.
Dr. Peter Blood, main hero of Rafael Sabatini's novel Captain Blood,
was sentenced by Judge Jeffreys for aiding wounded Monmouth rebels.
Transported to the Caribbean, he started his career as a pirate
there. John Masefield's 1910 novel Martin Hyde: The Duke's
Messenger tells the story of a boy who plays a central part in the
Monmouth Rebellion, from the meeting with Argyll in Holland to the
failed rebellion itself. The Royal Changeling, (1998), by John
Whitbourn, describes the rebellion with some fantasy elements added,
from the viewpoint of Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe. In Lorna Doone,
Richard Doddridge Blackmore's romantic novel of 1869, Farmer John Ridd
rescues his brother-in-law Tom Faggus from the battlefield of
Sedgwick, but is captured as a rebel, and is brought before Judge
Jefferies. Another novel covering the events of the Rebellion was Sir
Walter Besant's For Faith and Freedom. The events immediately before
and after the Battle of Sedgemoor, and leading up to James II's exile
Glorious Revolution provide the setting for Robert
Neill's historical novel Lilliburlero. The aftermath of the
Rebellion is the setting for
A.E.W. Mason's 1896 novel The Courtship
of Morrice Buckler.
^ a b Fraser, 1979 page 175
^ Bevan1973 pages 11–25
^ Tincey, 2005 page 12
^ Dunning, 1984 page 22
^ Bevan, 1973 page 98
^ Miller, 2000 page 87
^ Miller, 2000 pages 99–105
^ Harris, 2006 page 74
^ Miller, 2000 pages 93–95
^ Miller, 2000 page 103
^ Milne, Doreen J. (1951). "The Results of the
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HTV series following two children who get caught up in th