Meet the God’s Vindictive Wrath characters. This page will give you an idea of who they are and what has brought them to the battlefield of Edgehill. You can find more about their causes, factions and beliefs at Notes and Maps.
Francis Reeve, Ralph Reeve, Clem Tooley and Luke Sherington – Westleton, Suffolk
Ralph Reeve (aged 21 year), an orphaned refugee, outcast and failed apprentice has joined the ranks as a soldier. It is all that is left. He fights for the King to appease his stepfather. Beside him are Clem Tooley and Luke Sherington. All three have volunteered to serve in Lord Grandison’s Regiment of Horse under Captain John Smith.
Francis Reeve (19) is bereaved, stigmatised, a Puritan fanatic. He fights to cleanse England of sin and to build a New Jerusalem. Expelled for his beliefs, he serves God as a trooper in the ranks of Sir William Balfour’s parliamentary Regiment of Horse.
The Reeve, Sherington and Tooley families all lived in the East Suffolk village of Westleton in the 1640s. The Reeves were of gentleman stock. But the successful yeoman Sheringtons owned more land in the parish. Like its neighbours, economic depression, as well as political and religious tensions, gripped Westleton. People searched for answers in the face of the General Crisis. In 1645, Katherine Tooley was hanged as a witch.
Anthony Sedley and Robbie Needham – Birmingham and Castleton, Derbyshire
Anthony Sedley (26), a hard Birmingham ironworker and militant leveller, fights for change, equality, revolution and an end to exploitation. He leads a file of young musketeers. They follow the leveller captain ‘Freeborn John’ Lilburne. Together, they march in the ranks of Lord Brooke’s rebellious Regiment of Foot.
Robbie Needham (28) is a proud Derbyshire patriot, reactionary, miner and ex-convict. He fights for his livelihood, against elitism and injustice. He has joined the King’s Lifeguard of Foot to serve a king that promises to curb Parliament, its privileged members and city lawyers. A king that promises to give the people back their rights and way of life.
Birmingham was a known hotbed of the English Revolution. Acts of enclosure forced poor inhabitants to leave their villages. Many of these worked in appalling conditions as nail makers. This early urban industrialisation threatened the ancient rights and way of life of groups such as the Derbyshire free-miners. Four hundred free-miners formed the core of the King’s Lifeguard of Foot. A number of them were from the Peaks village of Castleton.
George Merritt, Hywel Lloyd and John Benion – Whitehall, Denbigh and Shropshire
George Merritt (25) is scarred, indebted, trapped in a corrupt Court system. He serves his patron, the Earl of Newport, as a Gentleman of the Ordinance. He serves to save England from chaos and to keep his family from penury. His brother, Christopher Merritt FRS FRCP, was the celebrated physician and scientist instrumental in the development of champagne.
Hywel Lloyd (23) is a tough, proud, Welsh hill farmer. He fights to save his culture, language and religion from a Puritanical English Parliament. And for the honour it brings. He has followed his lord, Sir Thomas Salisbury, to war armed only with a cudgel and a hunting knife. He will fight his way to the Tower of London if needs be.
John Benion (30) is frightened. A hen-pecked husband and struggling tailor, he has sold his all his stuff to buy a musket. Now he marches with the Welsh soldiers that billeted in his home. In his Shropshire village of Newton. But he is no soldier. The Welshmen laugh at him. They call him pidyn bach – little prick. We know of him through Richard Gough’s The History of Myddle.
William Bennett, Thomasine Bennett and Nehemiah Wharton – St Swithin’s, London
Captain William Bennett (40), a struggling London merchant, has staked all to fight in the name of progress, meritocracy, liberty and the rule of law. He must overcome his own weakness and melancholic depression to lead his foot company. To save the city, his wife and family.
Thomasine Bennett (36) is angry, abandoned. She must manage home, children and business in the face of economic collapse and Cavalier assault on London. She throws herself into digging London’s defences to atone for her sin, her guilt and regret at her rejection of her husband, William.
Nehemiah Wharton (23), the roundhead London apprentice and letter writer, has left St Swithin’s Lane in the City of London to serve Parliament. He is a sergeant in Denzil Holles’ Regiment of Foot. But he must face internal rivalry and inefficiency to keep his company together under its stumbling captain, William Bennett.
We know of William and Thomasine Bennett through her petition to Cromwell. She had seven children. The Bennetts were possibly related to the Bennett family of St Olave’s Hart Street in the City of London. This included the Puritan merchant Edward Bennett who established the first large Virginia plantation at Warrosquyoake. Other Bennetts were still living in Tower Ward London in 1666.
We know a good deal of Nehemiah Wharton. His regular letters home to his London master, sent via the Golden Anchor inn on St Swithin’s Lane, survive. The last letter was sent shortly before the Battle of Edgehill.
God’s Vindictive Wrath Historical Notes and Maps
I hope you will get to know each of the God’s Vindictive Wrath characters in more detail. You can find historical notes and maps to accompany their story at Notes and Maps. This includes a range of articles on the English Revolution and Great Rebellion, as well as notes to accompany the text on the battles of Edgehill, Aylesbury and Brentford.