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Hunting down the past - The Officers of a Regiment

When I joined the regiment in 1998, there were four regional companies making up the regiment as a whole. For various reasons they were not of equal size, and eventually the regiment was reorganised and the companies ceased to exist except in memory and in the colours that we use on the field. However, for history’s sake, here are some short notes on the officers they were based on.

The Headquarters company was based in London, where the 1971 regiment was formed, and was known as Russell’s company. John Russell, the son of the duke of Bedford, had originally held a commission in Washington’s Dragoons, and was made Lieutenant-Colonel and de facto commander of the Bluecoats after the death of Henry Lunsford at Bristol in 1643. The famous painting by Dobson of Rupert, Russell and Legge (which some experts link to 1645 and Rupert trying to recover his fortune after second Bristol), is felt by other experts to be John Russell being convinced to take on the command of Rupert’s Bluecoats (with the conjecture that he had to be convinced as it wasn’t going to be called Russell’s Regiment). John Russell was wounded at the Bolton Massacre, but was recovered enough to lead again at Leicester and Naseby; he also was part of Rupert’s War Council in Bristol in 1645. John Russell later became a member of the original Sealed Knot in the low countries during the interregnum, and later still commanded the First Regiment of Foot Guards. More can be found out about Russell on various sites, and so we will not consider him in further detail in this piece.

Prince Rupert, Colonel Murray and Colonel Russell by William Dobson,allegedly whilst persuading Russell to take on the regiment

The second company was Dominic Mitchell’s company, which was based in the Guildford area. In Lawson Nagel’s 1970s history of the regiment, he is referred to as Major Dominic Mitchell; Peter Young in his Edgehill, Marston Moor and Naseby also refers to him in the same way. However, there was very little else to find about him, anywhere, apart from him being captured at Bolton. However, as a later article will show, we have unearthed some interesting aspects about this most mysterious member of Rupert’s officer corps.

The third company was Valentine Pyne’s company, based in Hemel Hempstead. Valentine Pyne is an interesting character, whose grave is in the Tower of London – fortunately there are several sources regarding him, including Samuel Pepys diary, particularly during the Restoration when he was the only man to keep his head (aged 70+) when the Dutch fleet came up the Medway.

The fourth company was Maximilian Nelson, based in Milton Keynes, and he turned out to be as hard to track down as Major Mitchell. In fact, it was when I was searching for Mitchell that I found out the little we do know about Nelson, apart from his death at Marston Moor.

Most of the information garnered by Lawson Nagel and Peter Young came from the indispensable tome, the Indigent Officers list of 1663, which lists those officers who had fought for the Royalist cause in the civil wars, and had come forward to claim their pension. From this we find Sergeant William Stokes, as well as mention of the various officers and men of the regiment, either as claimants, or as referees to the claimants.

I hope to be able to bring you the results of my research into these officers over the next few weeks.

A B George

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