With A Rebel Yell

It is June 1685. A young son of King Charles II has landed at Lyme Regis in Dorset and is laying claim to the throne of England. Following the death of his Father Charles II, three months earlier, this popular but illegitimate son is raising troops and marching towards Bristol in a revolution to overthrow his uncle King James II. James Scott, The First Duke of Monmouth, is on the warpath.

What did all this have to do with Leicester? I hear you ask. The answer is more than you think. The Government of King James II was very worried that the rebellion might spread. If it did, then fears grew that there might be considerable support for such an uprising amongst the people of Leicestershire in particular. The Lord Lieutenant's men were alerted and within days, various suspects were being taken into custody or in the words of the time 'fetched in'. In total 21 individuals were imprisoned and 12 fetched in.

I am grateful to an article in the current edition of the Leicestershire Historian by Alan Betteridge which describes how these suspected troublemakers were rounded up. Many were connected to nonconformist sects and included ministers of religion thought to be hostile to the rule of King James. One of those imprisoned was William Inge of Knighton, who came from quite a well to do family.

MonmouthThe revolt itself came to an ill-fated end in Somerset at the Battle of Sedgemoor and a few days later its leader, Monmouth, was captured hiding in a barn, and soon executed for treason at the infamous Tower Hill on the 15th of July.

The Leicestershire suspects were all quickly released as the initial panic died down. The citizens of Leicester even held a victory bonfire to celebrate the failure of the rebellion and no doubt to prove their loyalty at the same time.

Others were not so fortunate and after the defeat at Sedgemoor, the last pitched battle ever fought on English soil They were arrested and sentenced either to death or transportation by Judge Jefferiesin what became known as the 'Bloody Assizes'.

As West Country people, six Blackmores fought at Sedgemoor, all on the rebel side. At least one was executed and two transported. My Leicestershire ancestors, as far as I know, did not get involved.

Roger Blackmore