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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Greys, Bradgate Park and the English Civil War

During the English Heritage weekend there was so much on offer for people to see. So much so that I was a little unsure of where to go. I wanted to experience something new so when a Civil War Re-enactment was advertised at Bradgate Park, I jumped at the opportunity. Bradgate Estate holds the ruins of the Greys family home and where Lady Jane Grey lived in her younger years. I love my history as many of you will know. War re-enactments are new to me but living history is not. The only other re-enactment I had been to was that of the Romans at Waddesdon Manor a few weeks ago which I really enjoyed.

I had never looked at the Civil War through Thomas Grey before but more so that of King Charles I , Charles II and Cromwell as that is how it is taught at school. I have my own interests in Charles II as I had been told by a great aunt that we are distantly related but how, I am still to find out. There have always been rumours within the family about Charles II and Nell Gwyn but so far I have not been able to confirm this. I must say however that our second son does look a little like Charles II. Don't you think so? I used Photoshop to put his face into this old painting a couple of years ago. :)

I really enjoyed my time at Bradgate Park and it was made even more enjoyable having bumped into a friend who I had met through volunteering for the National Trust, Susan Guy who also is a volunteer photographer at other NT properties.

Thinking I was going to be on my own for the day, it was a pleasant surprise and so lovely to have  good company for the day. There were so many people in the park that day and if you have ever been, you will know how big it is. The chances of us bumping into each other wasn't very high at all!

The re-enactment at Bradgate Park included a march through the park towards the battle field, the battle itself and a camp ground where even children were dressed up in costume. The camp ground gave you a little idea of what life was like between battles.

 The display was demonstrated by 'The Sealed Knot charity' whom performs re-enactments of the British Civil Wars to commemorate that time in history but also for educational events to bring history to life for so many people. I have realised through teaching our own children that history is remembered more, when they can experience part of it either through visits to historical places, or by people like The Sealed Knot charity putting on the display that they do. It is the same with the Victorian days and Tudor days children have in their school years. They won't forget them. Now back to the English Civil War and a little history.

The Civil War and Lord Thomas Grey

The English Civil War started in 1642 at Edge Hill which is not far from where I live under the rule of Charles I. At the time and for a few years before, there had been much trouble between religious groups, that of the Catholic, Protestants and Calvinists.

When Charles I became King, he wanted to have more freedom and to rule his own way without Parliament telling him what to do all the time. He wanted to be more like the old type of Kings with more say in the ruling of his Country. This caused much unrest amongst his people and a divide in those who supported the King, The Royalists, also known as Cavaliers and those who supported Parliament, The Parliamentarians also known as the Roundheads.

Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham formally declaring war.  Both sides hoped that war could be averted and that disagreements could be sorted but it was not to be. While both armies marched towards London thinking they could take control of the country from there, they accidentally clashed in the Warwickshire countryside between the villages of Kineton and Radway in Little Kineton and Edge Hill. The first big battle was to be fought at Edge Hill on Sunday the 23rd of October 1642. If you have ever been there you will realise that anyone on top of Edge Hill looking down would have a great advantage of anything approaching from the Kineton direction.

The Edge Hill battle records 13,500 royalist and 12,500 Parliamentarians taking part in this battle. with 3,500 Parliamentarians making their way towards the battle. It is thought that around 3000 men died either during the battle or shortly after due to injuries. It was felt that no one really won this battle though each side has it's own stories to tell.

In this battle was Lord Thomas Grey of Groby who was the son and heir of  the Earl of Stamford who was elected MP of Leicester during the 'Long Parliament' at the young age of nineteen and commander of the Midland Counties. Thomas Grey commanded a troop of horses during this battle at Edge Hill under Sir William Balfour's regiment.

 In  1648 Thomas Grey was made commissioner of the court which tried Charles I and was the only person of nobility to sign the death warrant for the Kings execution. By the end 1648 Oliver Cromwell's 'New Model Army' had gained control over England and on the 30th of January 1649 King Charles I was executed at Whitehall in London. After the Kings death, monarchy was abolished and the republic was born which was called 'The Commonwealth of England'.

Lord Grey became a member of the new council and fought in the second and third English Civil war. The Second Civil War was against the Scots in 1648. Grey managed to raise an army to defend Leicestershire against their attack. During the Third Civil War and the one that was to end all English  Civil Wars, Grey defended the Midlands against the son of Charles I and the Scots who were trying to put Charles II on the throne of England. Thomas Grey was thought of as one of the leading figures in the New Commonwealth.

In the coming years Thomas Grey's beliefs were to alienate him from Cromwell and in 1655 he was arrested on suspicion of plotting against Cromwell and was imprisoned in Windsor Castle. After appealing to Cromwell on his own behalf, He was released and retired never to take up politics again. He died in 1657 at the age of 34.


Some people believe Cromwell was a great man while others believe him to be a terrible tyrant who let power go to his head. People are often made into heroes through history but it always depends on the side telling the story.

I took far too many photos as usual so I will try to get them uploaded to my new Facebook page ASAP

 For a little more on Bradgate Park itself, here is a previous blog I wrote.

A link to Susan Guy's blog which is a lovely blog and has been written very differently from mine and explains more about the soldiers and weapons which I did not do.

                  Also a link to the Sealed Knots charity web page.

                                Link to Bradgate Park itself

                                    Copyright Jana Eastwood