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Arabian Horse In History

Oliver Cromwell:

by Linda White

Battle of Naseby, June 14, 1645.


Arabian Horse Times • May 2007

Arabian Horse Times • May 2007


The Arabian Horse

In History

he legend of Richard the Lionheart’s receiving, for his bravery, two Arabian stallions on the battlefield from his opponent Saladin may well be true. Whether he ever got the horses across the English Channel is another matter. Written evidence regarding precisely when the first Arabian horses arrived in England is speculative, but Roman soldiers in Yorkshire probably introduced the sport of racing around 200 A.D. Stories of early English monarchs and their fine, speedy horses abound, and in the 15th century the Stuart kings launched steeplechasing, which would become one of England’s signature sports. King James I bought Markham’s Grey, an Arabian stallion that cost him the princely sum of £500—more than £50,000 by today’s standards. Henry VIII was famous for rewarding Protestant partisans with fine young stock from wealthy Catholic monasteries he dissolved. One of those monasteries was Jervaulx Abbey, especially renowned for its horse breeding. Jervaulx was destroyed on the orders of the king, its leaders were executed in 1537, and Henry VIII busily parceled out its valuable, Oriental bloodstock to loyalists for nominal sums. Another Englishman noted for his devotion to fine Eastern horses was the famous (or infamous) Oliver Cromwell. Author Erika Schiele remarks o n C r o m w e l l ’s a r d e n t fascination in The Arab Horse in Europe. “Cromwell hunted, enjoyed racing, and permitted it when, in

his judgment, the political situation allowed such a relaxation. Coming from what was then an important horse-breeding country, he was a great admirer of Oriental blood. His agents combed the markets of Aleppo and Tripoli for fast horses to mount his messengers and staff officers. Rowland Place, his Master of the Horse, imported from Aleppo for Cromwell the celebrated White Turk, who through his daughters had a great influence on posterity.” In his “Early Horse Racing in Yorkshire and the Origins of the Thoroughbred,” published in 2003, David Wilkinson writes: “Oliver Cromwell was a keen horseman, and he imported expensive Oriental horses, including stock from Aleppo, and six coursers from Naples at a cost of 2,382 piastres. He was particularly interested in developing a light cavalryhorsetoreplacetheheavier,outmodedchargersmore suited to carrying soldiers in heavy armor.

“After Cromwell’s death in 1658, Rowland Place, his stud master, removed one of these stallions to his own estate at Lower Dinsdale, where it became ‘Place’s White Turk,’” Wilkinson continued. The General Stud Book, Vol. I (GSB) is loaded with references to the White Turk, his sons D’Arcy’s White Turk and D’Arcy’s Yellow Turk and their innumerable descendants. According to the GSB, Place’s White Turk was “the property of Mr. Place, stud master to Oliver Cromwell, when Protector. He is also the same horse known as the‘white stallion’belonging to Oliver Cromwell.” The White Turk was imported from Aleppo in November, 1657, for Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector. (See C. M. Prior’s “Early Records of the Thoroughbred Horse, Vol. II,” p.213, pub. 1924.) Rowland Place was the Master of the Horse to the Lord Protector of the

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England from 1653-1658. Soldier,

Battle of Marston Moor, July 2, 1644.

statesman and passionate horseman, Cromwell imported and bred Arabian stallions and mares that became influential foundation sires and dams in England’s General Stud Book. 168

Commonwealth, and upon Cromwell’s death in 1658, Place took the horse home to his family seat, the estate at Dinsdale on the Yorkshire border, just 10 miles from the D’Arcy Stud at Sedbury. “Some speculate that Place’sWhiteTurk is one and the same as Darcy’s White Turk, considering the close proximity of the D’Arcy’s stud at Sedbury,”writes Ann Peters in“Thoroughbred Heritage: Historic Sires.” “It is possible that James D’Arcy (the elder, and possibly the younger, as well) patronized the stallion as well as his own White Turk, but the dates don’t make it feasible for these to be the same horse. The Darcy White Turk was covering mares c.1690, at which time, Place’s White Turk would have been well over 30 years old. “The White Turk’s leading offspring was the good runner Wormwood. Daughters of Place’s White Turk proved to carry the line on to more influential ends, as he appears as the sire of at least five mares in the GSB including several attheverybeginningofsome foundation families. Place’s White Turk sired a daughter of Tregonwell’s Natural Barb Mare, who produced a daughter of the Taffolet or Morocco Barb, dam of a Byerly Turk mare, the first mare from this family with an entry in the GSB. “Perhapshismostnoteworthy product,” Peters continues, “was the Sedbury Royal Mare, who appears five times in the pedigree of Eclipse. The Sedbury Royal Mare is speculated to being the same Place’s White Turk mare known as “Trumpet’s Dam,”Trumpet’s dam being the granddam of Brown Farewell (granddam of Matchem) ancestress of

This surprise attack and Parliamentary victory was Royalist commander Prince Rupert’s first confrontation with East Anglian landowner and devout Puritan Oliver Cromwell and his psalmsinging horsemen. Arabian Horse Times • April 2007

Arabian Horse Times • May 2007


The Arabian Horse

In History

(Old) Cartouche. A daughter of Place’s White Turk also produced Wyndham.” Place was also credited with the removal of an important mare, the so-called Coffin Mare. The Coffin Mare was thus named because she was kept concealed in a cellar in Fenchurch Street, Whitechapel, at the time of the Restoration. Pick’s Turf Register, Volume 1, page 223, gives the pedigree of Mab as: “got by Hobgoblin; her dam, Little Bowes, by Lord Chedworth’s Mixbury; granddam by Mr. Hutton’s Grey Barb, brought over by Mr. Marshall, great granddam by the Byerly Turk, out of a full sister to the Coffin Mare. The Coffin Mare was out of a daughter of Mr. Place’s White Turk.” The General Stud Book, Vol. I, page 90, gives the pedigree of Mixbury as: “got by Regulus - Brother to Mixbury Hutton’s Barb, brought over by Mr. Marshall - Byerly Turk - Selaby Turk - Mr. Place’s Mare, which he had out of Oliver Cromwell’s Stud.” An “Introduction to a General Stud-Book,” page 194, gives the pedigree of Lord Chedworth’s Snap as: “got by Old Snap, his … great great grand dam by the Byerly Turk, out of a full sister to the Coffin Mare, whose dam was the Place Mare. Mr. Place of Dimsdale [sic], Stud Master to Oliver Cromwell, stole this Mare out of Cromwell’s Stud, and kept her concealed in a cellar, till the search for her was over.” “D’Arcy’s White Turk’ is later found in the D’Arcy stables at Sedbury, near Richmond,” notes Wilkinson in his book, “but such animals were rare, and it would be unusual that two would exist within ten miles of each other. Place may have passed the horse on to James D’Arcy, who succeeded him as royal stud master or, as Dr. Mackay-Smith has suggested, D’Arcy’s White Turk and D’Arcy’s Yellow Turk were the offspring of Place’s White Turk. Historians agree that these horses, when crossed with the mares located at D’Arcy’s Sedbury Stud, produced much of the foundation stock of the English Thoroughbred.” Breed histories of the English Thoroughbred often focus on the Byerly Turk, Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Arabian, brought to England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and crossed on English and imported mares. While it is true that all modern Thoroughbreds descend in tail-male line to one of these three foundation stallions, more than 200 other Arabian, Barb and Turk mares and stallions also were imported into England, and are so noted in the GSB. History has managed to overlook many of these early individuals, but several had an even more profound influence on the breed than any one of the three foundation sires. Some, Thomas


like the White Turk (a.k.a. “Cromwell’s white stallion”) had male lines that survived five and six generations and produced many important runners, dams and sires. Oliver Cromwell’s colorful career as a horse importer and breeder was eclipsed (no pun intended) by his deeds as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, but his is a remarkable story from any perspective. He was born on April 25, 1599, in Huntingdon, near Cambridge. His father, Robert, was the younger son of a knight, which in those days meant that he had very little property. Cromwell grew up in genteel poverty—not quite a member of the nobility; yet, not quite a commoner. Despite his impoverished circumstances, he had many opportunities to interact with powerful figures at court. His maternal grandfather, Sir James Bourchier, lived in state outside Huntingdon, where he frequently entertained royalty and court officials. The Bourchiers were an ancient family of anti-royalist leanings, whose family seat was Beningbrough Hall, with its 1,000-acre park in Galtres Forest, near York. Through Bourchier, Cromwell also met influential London merchants and leading Puritan figures. In 1630, Cromwell suffered what we would call a nervous breakdown. At the same time, he underwent a powerful religious conversion to Puritanism. Afterwards, he said he felt as if he had been waiting for God to give him a mission. That mission began to come into focus when, in 1637, he inherited a modest income and property. By 1640, he was a vocal Member of Parliament. An outspoken critic of royal policies and the Anglican Church, Cromwell advocated that Parliament, and not the king, have the power to name army generals. When the Civil War broke out in 1642, Parliament relied on soldiers recruited by large landowners who supported their cause. In February, 1645, Parliament formed a new force of professional soldiers and amalgamated the armies of several noblemen. This army of 22,000 men became known as the New Model Army. Its commander-in-chief was General Thomas Fairfax. For the first time it was possible for working-class men to become army officers, and Oliver Cromwell was put in charge of its cavalry. Whenever possible, he recruited men who, like him, held strong Puritan views. Thus, Cromwell’s New Model Army went into battle singing psalms, convinced that God was on their side. Although Cromwell had no military training, his experience as a landowner gave him a good knowledge of horses. Even as a minor cavalryman in the New Model Army, he became convinced that if he could produce a well-disciplined army, he Fairfax

Arabian Horse Times • May 2007

could defeat Prince Rupert and his Cavaliers. He also speculated that pikemen, armed with pikes 16-feet long, who stood their ground during a cavalry attack, could do a tremendous amount of damage. On October 11, 1643, Fairfax, Cromwell and their army met the Cavaliers at the town of Winceby. Although only a small cavalry engagement, the Battle of Winceby helped to secure Lincolnshire for the Parliament. Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax showed their mettle in this significant battle. Cromwell rose rapidly through the ranks, continuing to lead his cavalry in some of the most vital battles of the Civil War. While Winceby was admittedly a small skirmish in the English Civil War, its ramifications were great. The early gloom in which 1643 had begun was replaced with new hope for the cause of Parliament against the King. In another, larger skirmish, the July 1644 Battle of Marston Moor, Cromwell’s new cavalry took part in their first major battle inYorkshire.The king’s soldiers were heavily defeated. Cromwell’s soldiers became known as the “Ironsides” for the way they cut through the Cavaliers on the battlefield. Following Marston Moor, Cromwell wrote a letter of condolence to his brother-in-law, ColonelValentineWalton:

“Truly England and the Church of God hath had a great favor from the Lord, in this great victory given unto us, such as the like never was since this war began. “It had all the evidences of an absolute victory obtained by the Lord’s blessing upon the Godly Party principally. We never charged but we routed the enemy. The Left Wing, which I commanded, being our own horse, saving a few Scots in our rear, beat all the Prince’s horse. God made them as stubble to our swords. We charged their regiments of foot with our horse, and routed all we charged. The particulars I cannot relate now; but I believe, of twenty thousand the Prince hath not four thousand left. Give glory, all the glory, to God. Sir, God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannon-shot. It brake his leg. We were necessitated to have it cut off, whereof he died.” For the next few years, the savagery of conflict continued as the New Model Army, with Cromwell’s cavalry, sought out and killed Royalist troops. Later, names like Slash Hollow and Slash Lane would be given to places where Royalists met their end by sword. Regarded by many as an extreme radical, Cromwell

Charles I. Cromwell supervised this dethroned monarch’s beheading in 1649. Battle of Naseby, June 14, 1645. Civil War’s turning point, where Cromwell and Fairfax’s troops chased the king’s men for 12 miles, killing many, and ending hopes of Royalist victory.

Arabian Horse Times • May 2007


The Arabian Horse

In History

strongly opposed Parliamentary leaders who advocated a negotiated settlement with the king. He would settle for nothing less than total victory over the Cavaliers. On the other hand, early on, Cromwell seems to have made a genuine effort to work within the existing forms of government and to negotiate in good faith with King Charles for governmental and religious reforms. Cromwell’s tepid advocacy of tolerance vanished in 1647, when Charles instigated an unsuccessful uprising. Cromwell and his men swooped down on the royal allies, after whose defeat he held out against a trial, hoping that the king would abdicate in favor of one of his sons. Charles refused to step aside, however, and Cromwell became a loud, vocal supporter of regicide. A footnote to his role as an influential horseman is that in 1650, after Cromwell supervised his king’s execution and became chairman of the Council of State, new rebellions arose in Ireland and Scotland, in favor of the monarchy’s return. Cromwell dealt with Ireland first, and his ferocious retribution on the Irish people earned him a reputation for unbounded cruelty. The cavalry horses Cromwell left behind originated the lines of many of today’sfinestIrishhorses. However, the horses seem to be the only positive reminder of the fellow whom most Irish, even today, view as an arch-villain.Scotlandand the Scots were his next conquest, and Cromwell defeated the younger Charles at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

Cromwell participated in the debates of the “Rump Parliament,” which sat until 1653. Finally, tired of the continuous bickering, he dissolved the Rump by the evereffective method of armed force. Similarly unsuccessful in working with resistant religious leaders to “design a blueprint for a Godly commonwealth,” Cromwell took up the reins as Lord Protector. Several efforts were made to have him named king, but this he resisted firmly. “When, in 1657, a delegation of major-generals and members of Parliament called on Cromwell to accept the crown, he kept them waiting for three hours, while he inspected a Barb stallion offered him for sale,”Erika Schiele writes.“Having taken time to make up his mind, he bought the horse and declined the crown.” Ostensibly, Parliament was in control, but the real power lay with Cromwell and the army. Fortunately, for his

cause, the army was still standing, for when the late King Charles’ son landed in Scotland, he had himself declared Charles II, and invaded England. Soundly defeated by Cromwell at Worcester, Charles II was forced to hide in a tree to avoid capture. The man who would be king fled back to France. The Protectorate (1653-1658) with Cromwell as Lord Protector was a time of rigid social and religious laws along radical Protestant lines. Church attendance was compulsory. All horse racing was banned in 1654, and many horses were requisitioned by the state. Despite this, Cromwell himself kept his own stud operating. Dogfights and cockfights were banned, plays were prohibited, gambling dens and brothels were closed, as were most alehouses. Drunkenness and blasphemy were punished harshly; these measures were extremely unpopular,

necessitating that Cromwell surround himself with a bodyguard of 160 men during the Protectorate. In the end, most scholars conclude, he became as dictatorial and autocratic as his royal predecessors ever had been. He convened Parliament when he needed money, and dismissed it when members argued with him. On September 3, 1658, Oliver Cromwell died and was buried at Westminster Abbey. On Cromwell’s death, his son, Richard, tried to carry on as Lord Protector (165859), but he was not the forceful character that his father had been. After Richard’s abortive attempt to govern as Lord Protector, Charles II was called back from his French exile to resume the monarchy. In 1661, Oliver Cromwell’s body was exhumed from its grave and hanged at Tyburn. His head was then cut off and put on public display for nearly 20 years.

Charles II (right)

triumphantly returned to London (far right) to reclaim the British throne after fleeing to France following a humiliating defeat by Cromwell’s forces at Worcestershire. 172

Arabian Horse Times • May 2007

Arabian Horse Times • May 2007


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