Isaac Eure – The Regicide
As Axel Rose wondered, ‘What’s so civil about war, anyway?’ During the English Civil War, the Eure family divided their loyalties between the supporters of Charles I, the absolutist monarch, and the Parliamentary forces who sought to rule without a king. Sir Sampson Eure, a prominent legal figure, in his late 50s when the Civil War broke out, backed the doomed Royalist forces and suffered the consequences.
Riding alongside Oliver Cromwell at the Siege of Drogheda was Isaac Eure, a man who signed Charles I’s death warrant and served as the King’s jailer during his trial. Mark Noble in ‘The lives of the English regicides, Volume 1’ (p. 202) says Isaac belonged to ‘the ennobled family of the Barons Ewer, in Yorkshire’. He is also referenced in ‘Heraldry of York Minster’, which describes him as ‘of the ancient family of Eure of Yorkshire’. If this is true, then Isaac’s name has been wiped off all known Eure and Evre pedigrees. It is also said that the Ievers family of Mount Ievers changed their name from Eure so as not to be associated with Colonel Isaac Eure, or Ewerie, the Regicide.[i] However, sadly any assumption of a relationship between Isaac and Sir Sampson, or the Barons Eure, or the Ievers of Mount Ievers, remains unproven.
However, added to this mysterious mix is the fact that Colonel Isaac Eure was closely related to Sir John Thurloe, Oliver Cromwell’s notorious spymaster.
AN ESSEX BOY
Isaac apparently hailed from Great Waltham, Essex, although his will states that he was from Hatfield Broad Oak, about five and a half miles south-east of Bishop Stortford.[ii] Great Waltham was built in 1610 by Hugh Everard, leading to a slim possibility that, in this instance, ‘Eure’ or ‘Evre’ is ‘Everard’ in disguise.
His connection to Hatfield Broad Oak suggests that he was a relation and possibly a son of Richard Ewer of Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex. Richard was a reasonably big householder who was assessed for nine shillings ship money when still a young man.[iii] In 1634, Richard was surveyor of the highways in his parish, providing his own team of labourers, horses, and carts. In 1636 Isaac was one of ‘two honest persons’ named as the new surveyor of the highways.
THE THURLOE CONNECTION
In ‘Mr Secretary Thurloe: Cromwell’s Secretary of State, 1652-1660’, Philip Aubrey claims Isaac’s father’s, name unknown, died when he was young, leaving Isaac and two other small sons, William and John.[iv] His widowed mother Sarah (d. 1637) was married secondly in 1606 to Thomas Thurloe (d.1633), who became Rector of Abbess Roding in Essex in 1612.
The Thurloe’s only son John was born in June 1616. [There may have been a sister Joan Thurlo?]. In 1625, the Rev. Thomas Thurloe married two of his three stepsons, William and John Ewer, off to Rose and Elizabeth Sumner. Following the Rev. Thurloe’s death in 1633, the teenaged John Thurloe secured the right to run the family estate for his mother. He studied law under the patronage of Oliver St John, for whom he was a sort of personal assistant, and both men managed to avoid getting involved in the events of the King’s trial and execution.
Isaac was either John Thurloe’s half-brother or else the husband of Thurloe’s sister Joan.[v] He may even have been both. Isaac and Joan were married by 1633, the same year the Rev. Thurloe died, when Isaac was recorded as a resident of Hatfield. They had two children – a son Thomas Ewer, baptized at Hatfield in August 1634, and a daughter Joanna, who was under 16 years of age on 1 August 1649, when Isaac made his will.[vi]
HAMMOND’S REGIMENT & THE CIVIL WAR
Isaac enlisted for Parliament after the outbreak of the First Civil War. By 1643, he was a Captain of a troop and, by 10th March 1645, he was a Major of Dragoons under the Earl of Manchester in the Eastern Association.
He transferred to the New Model Army in April 1645 as Lieutenant Colonel of Robert Hammond’s newly formed Regiment of Foot. As such, he was presumably part of Hammond’s regiment when they took part in Cromwell’s massive victory over the Royalists at Naseby two months later. On 2nd October 1647, Isaac succeeded Hammond as colonel of the regiment when the latter decided to quit army life and retired to the Isle of Wight.
During the Second Civil War, Ewer’s regiment marched with Cromwell to suppress the Royalist uprising in South Wales. Ewer successfully besieged Chepstow Castle during the campaign against Pembroke. He was then ordered to join Fairfax in Essex at the siege of Colchester which he helped lift. After the fall of the town, Ewer was one of the Commissioners responsible for the execution of the two Royalist Commanders, Colonel Lisle and Colonel Lucas. Ewer seems then to have been made military governor of Portsmouth and became increasingly active in the Council of Officers of the Army.
TRIAL & EXECUTION OF THE KING
In November 1648, Ewer headed the deputation of officers that presented Ireton’s Army Remonstrance to Parliament, calling for the King to be speedily brought to justice, with other radical measures. He was then sent to the Isle of Wight to relieve his old commander Colonel Hammond of his charge of King Charles I, who was a prisoner at Carisbrooke Castle. Two days later, Ewer was ordered to remove the King to Hurst Castle on the way to his trial.[vii]
Ewer, distinguished by a large black bushy beard, was one of the Army officers appointed to the High Court of Justice and was a signatory of the King’s death warrant. He also acted as his jailer before the trial. After the trial, his regiment was assigned by the Council of State on 3rd March 1649 to guard the region of Kent, and to be quartered in Dover, Sandwich, Rochester and Queenborough Castle
IRELAND & DEATH
On 20th April, lots were drawn for regimental service in Ireland. Colonel Isaac Ewers drew one marked ‘Ireland’. He was apparently very distressed by the appointment, ‘not knowing whether God may ever bring me back again to see my children whom I must leave behind me young and undisposed of’. He arrived in Ireland soon afterwards and served during the crucial victory over the Irish Confederates at Drogheda on 11th September 1649. In his report of ‘The Storm of Tredagh’ to Lenthall, Cromwell wrote how ‘a great deal of loss in this business fell upon Col. Hewson’s, Col. Castle’s, and Col. Ewer’s regiments’ and that Ewer had ‘two Field Officers in his regiment shot’, one of these being Captain Israel Smith.[viii]
In March 1650, Isaac was with Cromwell at the capture of Kilkenny, and he was with him again at Clonmel in May. He remained in Ireland after Cromwell’s departure and served under Ireton at the capture of Waterford in August 1650. The last account of him was on 31 October 1650 when he was reported to be marching towards Kilkenny.[ix] He died, probably of plague, either in late 1650 or early 1651, and was buried at Waterford. Had he not died thus, Isaac would almost certainly have been hung, drawn and quartered by the supporters of Charles II, like so many other Regicides.
THE CHILDREN OF ISAAC
Isaac Ewer’s will, dated 1st August 1649, was proven in London on 25th February 1651 by John Thurloe whom he named as ‘my brother’ and sole executor. Isaac also left ‘the care and tuition of my said two children in the Lord’ to Thrloe, ‘intreating him to have a tender care of them’. Thurloe, who duly became guardian of Ewer’s orphans, wrote to Henry Cromwell in 1658, claiming that Isaac had left ‘a much less estate behind him than the world may possibly think’ and neither he nor his family had ever received payment for his services. The arrears were still outstanding. Nonetheless, when the wheel turned against the Regicides, his estates were confiscated, despite Thurloe’s best efforts.
It seems that Isaac’s two children were both daughters. One was Anne who married Edward Parsons of the City of Bristol. The other was Jane who was married, as his second wife, to Joseph Houlton of Farley Castle, Co. Somerset, and Trowbridge, High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1696.
After Isaac’s death, his widow Joan married Admiralty commissioner John Clarke who had also served in Ireland and under Blake at the capture of the Scillies.
ISAAC EWER’S BROTHERS & NEPHEWS
Henry Ievers of Mount Ievers is unlikely to have been a son of Isaac Ewer but he may have been a son of one of his brothers, John or William. Indeed he may have been a brother of Captain Isaac Ewer who John Thurlo, Cromwell’s spymaster and Isaac’s brother-in-law or stepbrother, tried to secure a job for in Ireland with Henry Cromwell.
By 1655, Captain Isaac Ewer, son of William Ewer, was employed by Thurloe – his uncle – as under-clerk to John Milton.[x] In a letter from Whitehall, dated 21st May 1656, Thurloe heartily recommended young Isaac to Henry Cromwell, then Major General of the army in Ireland, hailing him as ‘a very sober young man, and valiante, and otherwise capable of trust’.[xi] Thurloe claimed the young Isaac was also ‘the only person of my kindred that I have ever moved for in a case’, and emphasized that the nephew had previously been dependent on his uncle, the regicide, ‘who brought him into Ireland, and upon whom he did rely’. The recommendation was, surprisingly, unsuccessful, and so Isaac instead accompanied Sir Philip Meadowes, a protégé of Thurloe’s, on his diplomatic mission to Denmark in 1657, and afterwards to Sweden in 1658, becoming entirely privy to the diplomatic confidences. He was later was admitted to Lincolns Inn, became a barrister and Keeper of the Black Book (1692), dying in 1694.[xii]
JOHN THURLOE, SECRETARY OF STATE
Isaac Ewer’s stepbrother John Thurloe (1616-1668), a personal friend of Cromwell, and a very competent member of Cromwell’s elite, who served as secretary to the Council of State and clerk to the Committee for Foreign Affairs in 1652. In July 1653, he became Secretary of State and took over from Thomas Scot as director of the Commonwealth’s spying and intelligence network.
When Oliver Cromwell was elevated to the office of Lord Protector in December 1653, Thurloe was co-opted onto the Council of State. His agents infiltrated Charles II’s court-in-exile and he employed the mathematician and cryptographer John Wallis to break Royalist ciphers. Always apparently one step ahead of his enemies, Thurloe established a formidable reputation as a spymaster. Many Royalists were convinced that Thurloe was the real power behind Cromwell’s Republic, not least when, after Oliver’s death, he threw his support behind Cromwell’s son Richard.
Thurloe opposed the Restoration for as long as possible and was imprisoned after the King’s return. He was released on condition that his knowledge be made available to the new government when required. He subsequently wrote several memoranda on state and foreign affairs and lived quietly, dividing his time between Great Milton in Oxfordshire and his legal chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, where he died in February 1668. His papers were found hidden behind a false ceiling in his former chambers at Lincoln’s Inn during the reign of William III and were eventually presented to the Bodleian Library at Oxford.[xiii]