MANY people may assume Wales did not have much of a role in the English Civil War of the 17th century, but a number of castles in Gwent were put into the centre of the action as they defended the royals from Parliamentary attacks.

Here we take a look at Raglan Castle’s involvement in the Civil War before it came under siege.

The Civil War took place between 1642 and 1651 as tensions between Royalists loyal to King Charles I and Parliamentarians over how England was governed came to a head. At the time Wales was unanimously Royalist, and therefore stood in support of Charles I against Parliament.

The role of Raglan Castle in the war began before the war even started. The Earl of Worcester was settled at Raglan Castle and provided Charles I with a loan after Parliament used its ‘power of the purse’ to limit the supplies given to the King in February 1626. It led to the King using illegal means to get the supplies.

South Wales Argus:

The loan from the Earl came around 1634 and helped to alleviate the financial issues the King was having. Parliament sent men to the castle after this to disarm the Earl, who was on a list of Roman Catholic ‘recusants’ who were all to be disarmed.

His manner of response caused Parliament to walk away empty-handed after declaring he was a ‘peer of the realm and no convict recusant.’ He then began to pour money into the service of the King over the next few years. Within two years, he gave £12,000 to the Royalist cause and appointed his son Lord Herbert as his deputy for military matters.

When the war began in 1642, Raglan was used as a base by the now Marquis of Worcester, where communications were made between the marquis and Bristol. The Royalists were in possession of a number of castles in Wales including Raglan, Monmouth and Chepstow, which were owned by the Marquis, and later captured Cardiff, Newport and Caerleon castles from the Parliamentarians.

In response to this, Parliament ordered no ammunition to be sent to Wales, meaning the Welshmen who marched on London under the King were armed only with pitchforks - if they were armed at all.


As tensions escalated, the dungeons at Raglan were being prepared for use, but the castle had not yet been regularly garrisoned. The residents at the castle were put in command of the South Wales forces in 1643 as the Marquis’ son Lord Herbert was named lieutenant-general of the district, and his youngest brother Lord John Somerset was put in charge of the cavalry.

A sum of £60,000 was put into arming 1,500 infantry and 500 cavalry by the family. Over the following two years, Raglan Castle remained in the hands of the Royalists, but after Monmouth fell to the Parliamentarians in October 1644, those stationed at Raglan sent a summons calling for the county’s militia and a number of Prince Rupert’s horses.

The people responded with a call to arms. Sir William Blackistone helped to create an army of 1,200 infantry troops and 200 horsemen, with a number of these concentrated on both Chepstow and Raglan Castle.

Raglan provided troops to help the Royalists recapture Monmouth, led by Lord Herbert in December 1644.

In the first half of 1645, Charles I had suffered a heavy defeat at Naseby and was left as ‘a fugitive without an army.’ He attempted to seek refuge in Hereford. In Abergavenny in July of that year, commissioners from South Wales re-proclaimed their loyalty to the King and on July 3, he arrived at Raglan Castle where he ‘partook in the hospitality of the Marquis of Worcester.’

The King spent 13 days at Raglan Castle before moving to various other parts of the still-Royalist Wales. During the next two months, he visited many places in Wales, but the Royalists were becoming unsettled, and Parliamentarians were gaining hold in parts of Wales.

South Wales Argus:

Charles returned to Raglan in early September, where he spent a week and organised a relief effort for Bristol. By late September only Raglan, Monmouth and Chepstow were still Royalist in South Wales after Cardiff was captured by tPe parliamentarians.

Chepstow surrendered on October 24 and troops from Raglan looked likely to recapture the town shortly after, by stationing their troops on the bridge across the river Monnow, but Parliamentary reinforcements arrived on November 3 and drove them off.

The Governor of Gloucester hoped to attack Raglan later that month but was unable to raise the forces he needed to complete this. Raglan’s troops then became instrumental in the efforts to recapture the lost territory for the Royalists.

They seized five leading citizens in Chepstow early one morning with troops from Hereford and held them hostage for contributions. The size of the forces for Raglan increased and in January and February 1646, they were vital in reclaiming a number of areas as they marched on Cardiff.

The Raglan troops were given a boost when Colonel Carne of Ewenny was called to rally forces by the Parliamentarians and while he did do so, they joined the side of the troops from Raglan and on February 6, they attacked the castle. The troops then lost the castle on February 18.

By March 1646, only Raglan and Usk remained loyal to the King in Monmouthshire.

You can read more about the siege and the history of Raglan Castle in Raglan Castle and the Civil War in Monmouthshire by Arthur Clark.