One of the most impressive parts of any large battle are the cavalry. Cavalry troops made up a third of a 17th Century army and were decisive shock troops who would charge at opposing cavalry troops to try and drive them off.
The cavalry usually appears at big events but owner riders do sometimes attend smaller ones. Horses are either owned by their riders or are hired from a stable yard. To ride with the cavalry you must be able to ride and must pass a riding test.
There are two cavalry regiments in the Knot – Williams Waller’s (Parliamentarian) and Prince Rupert’s Horse (Royalists). Manchester’s has strong ties with Waller’s and if you’d like to try cavalry, have a chat with our Commanding Officer.
The Cavalry of the English Civil War
Prior to the English Civil Wars there were two types of cavalry – heavy cavalry and light cavalry. As their name suggests, heavy cavalry wore heavy armour and would ride headlong into the enemy to smash them apart. Light cavalry were lightly armoured – usually wearing thick leather coats called ‘buff coats’ – and would be used for skirmishing or as a screening and flanking force for the heavy cavalry, riding up to the enemy to discharge their pistols and then retreating to reload.
But during the English Civil War neither side had much heavy cavalry and even when they did was rarely decisive. Learning from the lessons of the 30 Years War in Europe, the Royalists under their General of Horse, Prince Rupert, adapted most quickly to this – they realised it didn’t matter that they had no heavy cavalry, a body of tightly ranked horses charging at the enemy is still effective, even if it’s not covered in armour.
Parliament was slow to adapt and this led to several stunning charges by the Royalist cavalry at battles such as Edgehill (1642) and Roundway Down (1643). The Royalists’ problem, however, was discipline – after smashing their opponents, the cavalry would keep charging and not return to battle until it was often too late.
It was the discplined cavalry of the Eastern Association – soon to be nicknamed The Ironsides – that would neutralise the Royalist advantage. Led by rising star Colonel Oliver Cromwell, they were trained to scatter their opposition and then quickly reform, ready to attack the flank of the Royalist infantry. This critical difference was what ensured victory at the decisive battles of Martson Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645).
Do I have to join a different regiment to Manchester’s?
No, you can still be a member of Manchester’s and participate in the cavalry.
What kit will I need?
The cavalry have their own uniform of thick leather buffcoats, steel armour, and helmets, and have some spare kit you may be able to borrow depending on how many troopers are participating in a battle.
Do I have to have my own horse?
No, the cavalry source horses from contractors across the UK whose horses are primarily used for film work and re-enactments. This can be expensive and does mean that at some large events there are no spare horses.
Can I and my horse take part?
Some members of the Sealed Knot own their own horses and bring them to events with great success, though not every event can allow horse and participating in cavalry must be coordinated with the officers in Waller’s.