a strategic use of hats

I have recently been reading through an anthology of “newsbooks” from the English Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century. These are sometimes seen as the first English newspapers, in that they were the first weekly publications containing English news. However (perhaps not too unlike today’s newspapers) they are not always reliable sources of information as they have a propaganda function favouring either the parliamentarian or the royalist side of the conflict which leads them to select, interpret and sometimes invent “news” in ways which suit their cause. Nevertheless, they often make entertaining reading, as with this episode of the efforts of a resourceful lady to resist the royalist siege on the house of the MP William Purefoy:


At last prince Robert beat for parley, those of the house advised upon it, being but 8. Men, a Gentlewoman of 80. yeares age, and 2. maides, the old Gentlewoman advised them not to yeeld, but to fight it out to the last, and shee would make bullets for them, as fast as they could use them (most of their bullets being spent) and during the parley she made bullets accordingly, and caused the 12. Men that staid within to appeare with Hats, sometimes with white Caps, and sometimes with Hats and feathers in severall parts of the house conspicuous to their adversaries, which made their number to be apprehended far greater than it was.

(Speciall Passages and certain Informations from severall places, number 4, 30 August – 6 September, 1642, in Joad Raymond (ed.), Making the News: An Anthology of the Newsbooks of Revolutionary England 1641-1660 (Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire: The Windrush Press, 1993), p. 88)

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