Roundheads and Cava­liers

History Revealed - - COVER STORY CIVIL WAR -

The idea that the Civil War was fought be­tween som­bre Roundheads in hel­mets and gaily dressed Cava­liers in plumed hats is a mis­lead­ing one. But it does have a long his­tory. ‘Round­head’ and ‘Cav­a­lier’ were terms of abuse that dated from the Civil War. Some of those who ri­oted in sup­port of par­lia­ment in 1641 had short hair, earn­ing them the nick­name ‘Roundheads’, while the gal­lants in Charles’s court were dubbed ‘Cava­liers’, im­ply­ing that they were ar­ro­gant for­eign horse­men.

Such peo­ple were just a small mi­nor­ity of those in­volved in the wars, but stereotypes were a god­send to pro­pa­gan­dists and the names stuck. In re­al­ity, both sides dressed iden­ti­cally, and any­one given the op­por­tu­nity to wear a hel­met would prob­a­bly have done so with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

A pro­pa­ganda illustration from the time de­picts Cava­liers ( left) and Roundheads ( right) with their ‘dogs of war’

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