Turncoats and Renegadoes: Treachery and Traitors during the English Civil Wars
Lecture by Andrew Hopper, University of Leicester
Given at the the National Army Museum, on 22 September 2011
I’m very grateful for this opportunity to speak because I’m currently finishing a book on this topic and I’m going to argue that side changing was much more widespread and complicated than previously thought. And next week I have to submit the typescript to the publisher. So if I’ve made any last-minute howlers or mistakes I’ll get a chance to rectify them by talking to you today.
Cavaliers and Roundheads alike condemned the practice of changing sides yet both encouraged it. Hope, fear and expectation of side changing determined strategy at the highest level. Common soldiers, officers, even generals changed sides, sometimes more than once. And the practice does much to illuminate 17th-century perceptions of honour whilst the justifications employed by the turncoats themselves reveal how they sought to defend their reputations with their contemporaries or for posterity.
Civil war historians have often tended to write about the war efforts of either side and not examine the crossover between them in the way that this topic may well open up. Let’s start with a little story of what side changing meant to people in the mid-17th century.