The Army of Charles II by John Childs [Book Review]
This book is just packed with fascinating details. It also has an easy to read narrative and is engaging, not your usual dry academic style often found when PhD theses become books. The subject is very well researched and referenced, as one would expect. There are detailed annexes on rates of pay, units, officers and the units in foreign pay as well as in the Army of Charles II. There are also chapters on the separate establishments in Scotland and Ireland.
The Army of Charles II
The post-restoration army of Charles II is the beginning of the British Army much more than the New Model Army was. The New Model Army (NMA) was a political force as much as a military one. It wasn’t content to support the civil power, and ended up ruling Britain during the interregnum. Technically there’s no continuity between the NMA and the army of Charles II. However many of the officers and men of the NMA served under King Charles II. A lot of them went to Tangier, or to fight with the Portuguese.
While there is a mass of material on how the army was organised, paid and used there is also a lot on the social attitudes to the army. These are exemplified by way of vignettes showing some of the behaviour. There are also bits from debates in Parliament showing the fears of Parliament that a standing army might be used again to control them as the NMA did.
Best of all is the chapter on Foreign Service. The Army of Charles II, like its predecessors, didn’t want to serve overseas. Units formed for expeditions were slower to recruit and suffered more from desertion than those reserved for home service. Some even killed their officers to escape being sent abroad.
I came away from studying this book with a much clearer understanding of both the Army of Charles II, it’s campaigns and context. Mainly I was reading it as background before moving on to the Army of James II. However I’ve ended up with dozens of post it flags and loads of pencil marks to come back to.