Women in the English Civil War (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Women in the Civil War

Question 1: Read the introduction and look at sources 1, 3 and 6. Select the painting that might not be an accurate representation of the individual concerned.

Answer 1: Sophia of Bavaria met Henrietta Maria in 1641. She later recalled: "I was surprised to find that the Queen, who looked so fine in the Van Dyck painting, was a small woman... with long skinny arms and teeth like defence works projecting from her mouth." Source 3 shows a painting of Henrietta Maria by Anthony van Dyck. He was king's court painter and would have been expected to paint pictures that made the royal family as attractive as possible.

Question 2: Study source 5. Why was Captain Palmer angry with Lucy Hutchinson?

Answer 2: Captain Palmer was angry with Lucy Hutchinson because she treated the wounds of Royalist soldiers.

Question 3: Source 8 was written by the wife of a parliamentary soldier. However, it was published in a Royalist newspaper. Can you explain why?

Answer 3: The Royalists published the letter because it showed that there was pressure on Roundhead soldiers to leave the army. The Royalists hoped that this letter would improve the morale of their own soldiers.

Question 4: Study source 6. Why do you think the artist has painted the skulls piled up on a broken pedestal in the top right corner?

Answer 4: William Dobson was commissioned by Richard Streatfeild (1611–1676), to paint a "family portrait". The skulls piled up on a broken pedestal may allude to the death of some of the Streatfeild's children in infancy.

Question 5: Select information from these sources that help to explain the different reasons why so many people died during the Civil War.

Answer 5: In source 7 Henrietta Maria describes people being killed by cannon balls. Lucy Hutchinson reveals that the soldiers were "badly bleeding". Musket fire, sword thrusts and cannon balls probably caused these injuries. However, most people who died during the English Civil War did not die from battle injuries but from disease. In source 2, Mary Springate describes how her husband died of camp fever. Anne Fanshawe in source 4 also mentions the large number of people that died from disease during the war. She also supplies the main reason for this when she explains how people were "packed together". Large numbers of soldiers living in confined areas created serious hygiene problems. When poor sanitation resulted in disease, the large number of people living close together caused it to spread rapidly.