Hopton's Narrative of his Campaign in the West

The papers included in this volume relating to the military affairs in the western and southern counties of England were largely used by Lord Clarendon in the preparation of his history. They have been made use of by others also, and extracts from them have from time to time appeared in print, but hitherto they have not been available in their entirety for reference in a printed form. When the first volume of the "History of the Great Civil War" was written, the first of Hopton's documents was missing, and Mr. Gardiner had not seen it {see vol. i. p. 81). It was rediscovered and used by him in his second edition (see vol. i. p. 32, ed. 1893). Lord Hopton's narrative is contained in three documents, copies, numbered in the printed calendar of the Clarendon Papers in the Bodleian Library as 1738 (1), (4), and (6). The first covers the period from September, 1642, to June, 1643. The second continues the account down to and inclusive of the taking of Bristol by Prince Rupert on the 26th July, 1643. The last of the three brings the narrative down to the battle of Alresford on the 29th March, 1644. To this account are added Colonel Slingsby's relation of the battle of Lansdown, fought on the 5th July, and that of Roundway Down, fought on the 13th July, 1643; of the siege of Bristol and of the battle of Alresford. These three papers are No. 1738 (2), (3), and (7) in the calendar. A few further papers relating to the same period are included, and some notes from contemporary sources, chiefly the Thomasson tracts, known as the King's Pamphlets, in the British Museum, have been added. The documents are printed here as they are written, except that some trifling abbreviations, such as "yr" and "Math" have been extended. The proofs have been collated with the original manuscripts. Here and there dates have been inserted between square brackets where blanks had been left in the original.

An endeavour has been made to trace upon a map Hopton's movements during the period covered by his narrative. The line of march so laid down is intended merely to show the movements of the headquarters of the army. The operations of bodies of troops detached from the main force could not be added except at the expense of clearness. As it is, the marchings and counter-marchings, around Launceston for example, are sufficiently complicated.


Lord Ralph Hopton

Ralph Hopton was born at Witham, Somerset, the eldest son of a wealthy landowner, Robert Hopton, and his wife, Jane, daughter of Rowland Kemeys of Monmouthshire. Ralph was said to be a child prodigy who could read by the age of three. After grammar school, he studied at Lincoln College, Oxford, and the Middle Temple, but in 1620, he abandoned his studies to take part in Sir Horace Vere's expedition to rescue Elizabeth of Bohemia from Imperial Catholic forces. During the expedition, Hopton became friends with William Waller when they served together in Elizabeth's lifeguard. Hopton carried Elizabeth on the back of his horse for forty miles during her escape from Prague. Upon his return to England, he was elected MP for Shaftesbury in 1621 and married Elizabeth Capel Lewin (d.1646) in 1623. He gained further military experience in 1624 when he served as lieutenant-colonel in Sir Charles Rich's regiment on Count Mansfeldt's expedition to the Palatinate.

Hopton was made a Knight of the Bath in the coronation honours list when King Charles I came to the throne, then elected MP for Bath in 1625 and for Wells in 1628. After inheriting his family's estates upon the death of his father in 1636, Hopton lived the life of a country squire. Throughout the 1630s, he served as a Justice of the Peace and Deputy-Lieutenant of Somerset. On the outbreak of the Bishops' Wars in 1639, Hopton returned to military service and was appointed a captain in the King's lifeguard.

In 1640, Hopton was elected MP for Somerset in the Short Parliament and for Wells in the Long Parliament. He was prominent in denouncing the Earl of Strafford, and also advocated reform of the Church and further measures against Catholics. As a trusted confidante of the King, Hopton was chosen to lead a delegation to present the Grand Remonstrance at Hampton Court on 1 December 1641. In all other respects, he remained instinctively loyal to the Crown. He defended the King's right to levy ship-money and spoke in favour of bishops retaining their religious offices and their seats in the House of Lords. In January 1642, Hopton supported Charles' attempt to arrest the Five Members. After he angrily protested at Parliament's criticism of the King, Hopton was arrested by order of the House of Commons on 4 March 1642. He was held in the Tower of London for two weeks. Upon his release from the Tower on 15 March, Sir Ralph declared his allegiance to King Charles. - See More