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Sir Arthur Hesilrige

(1601-1661), Statesman and parliamentarian

Sitter in 4 portraits
Colonel Sir Arthur Hesilrige was a powerful Republican politician and distinguished soldier. He was one of the five Members of Parliament who, warned of Charles I's intention to impeach them, fled the House of Commons on 3 January 1642; this was a key moment in the breakdown of the King's authority. In the war Hesilrige commanded a cavalry regiment known as the 'lobsters' on account of their old fashioned full armour. At the Restoration his life was saved because he had refused to sign Charles I's death warrant, but he was committed to the Tower of London, where he died shortly afterwards.

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Sir Arthur Hesilrige, possibly by R. Grave - NPG D28931

Sir Arthur Hesilrige

possibly by R. Grave
line engraving, early 19th century
NPG D28931

Sir Arthur Hesilrige, by R. Grave, after  Unknown artist - NPG D3330

Sir Arthur Hesilrige

by R. Grave, after Unknown artist
line engraving, early-mid 19th century (1640)
NPG D3330


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Laurie Pettitt

03 March 2017, 21:57

A strange character, this. Governor od Newcastle at the time of Cromwell's invasion of Scotland. When Cromwell left Berwick Upon Tweed, the Guild Book says that Hesilrige was given 2,500 men to keep the road between Berwick and Edinburgh open. This he failed to do because Cromwell complained on the 2nd September 1650 that the Scots had occupied the pass at Cockburnspath blocking his retreat. Retreat proved unnecessary because Cromwell demolished the Scottish Army. Even so, Hesilrige shewed a tardiness in sending much needed reserves to Cromwell.
Where Hesilrige really comes into the firing line was in the treatment of the Scottish Prisoners. The 'story' has always been that the men were force marched to Durham, falling down in starved and exhausted condition etc. They were force marched to Durham for the single reason that there was no0 food to be had in the Whole of East Lothian. Nowhere between Dunbar and durham would have the resources to feed up to 5,000 men. Many of the men complained of not having eaten for four days before the Battle. Basically, the Muster had demanded 30 days supplies for up to 30,000 men (40 days if above Aberdeen). All the men from 14 to 60 had gone to the muster.
Everything that could produce new crops had gone to war. Leslie was 45 days into 30 days worth of supplies.
I don't need to say much more on this, but point you towards Hesilrige's Letter to the Council of State for Scotland and Ireland which describes the journey and the treatment of prisoners in Durham Cathedral. It will look to you as it looked to me, a pack of lies until you see what happened to the Allied Prisoners of the Japanese when people tried to feed them in 1945. They Died. It is now called 'Refeeding Syndrome'. A dangerous condition today, even in modern hospital surroundings.
I think that Hesilrige did try to feed the prisoners and failed because of a syndrome that would have to wait for 295 years for a name.