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 who 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
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 for several different actions to overthrow the
monarch, following the failure of the
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 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 commanded by 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 key city of
Bristol . The rebellion ended with the defeat
of Monmouth's army at the
Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685 by forces
led by Feversham and Churchill.
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 then able to consolidate his power. He reigned until 1688, when he
was overthrown in a coup d\'état by William of Orange in the Glorious
* 1 Duke of Monmouth
* 2 Context
* 3 Plan
* 4 From
Lyme Regis to Sedgemoor
Battle of Sedgemoor
* 6 After Sedgemoor
* 7 Literary references
* 8 References
* 9 Bibliography
* 10 External links
DUKE OF MONMOUTH
Standard of the troops loyal to the Duke of Monmouth. Main
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
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
Catherine of Braganza
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 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
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
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 coronation at
Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1685 put an end to these hopes.
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
FROM 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 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
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
Exeter towards the forces of the Duke of
Somerset , who
Lyme Regis from the opposite direction. 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
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
Taunton on 20 June 1685, against the wishes of some of
his republican supporters such as Wade. The
Taunton Corporation 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 arriving in 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
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 London. The old
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 possible for
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 20 losses 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
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 failed.
The rebels, heading for
Warminster got as far as
Trowbridge , but
royalist forces cut off the route and Monmouth turned back towards
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
Somerset Levels ,
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 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
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
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 musket-fire.
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
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
of Buccleuch . Judge Jeffreys
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 Indies .
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
Peter S. Beagle 's novel Tamsin , about a 300-year-old
ghost who is befriended by the protagonist.
Arthur Conan Doyle
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
The Baroque Cycle
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
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 following
Glorious Revolution provide the setting for Robert Neill 's
historical novel Lilliburlero .
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