Charles Worsley, 1622-56

Lancastrian officer who assisted Cromwell in expelling the Rump Parliament and became Major-General for the north-west.

Portrait of Charles WorsleyBorn at Manchester in June 1622, Charles Worsley was the son of Ralph Worsley of Platt near Manchester, a prosperous cloth merchant, and Isabel, the daughter of Edward Massey of Manchester.

Charles Worsley fought for Parliament during the First Civil War and was a captain in a Lancashire infantry regiment by 1644. He assisted Parliament's sequestrators in Lancashire by informing on Royalists attempting to conceal their holdings and made a substantial fortune through investing in confiscated Royalist estates.

When Oliver Cromwell returned from Ireland in 1650, Parliament voted to raise a regiment of foot for him in Lancashire to join the army of invasion for Scotland. Cromwell appointed Worsley lieutenant-colonel of the new regiment. He joined Cromwell at Edinburgh shortly after the battle of Dunbar. In August 1651, Cromwell sent Worsley to assist Colonel Robert Lilburne against the Earl of Derby in Lancashire during the Worcester campaign. Worsley garrisoned Manchester then intercepted retreating Scots after their defeat at Worcester. During October, the regiment was one of three sent under the command of Colonel Duckenfield to capture the Isle of Man, which surrendered at the end of the month.

By the end of 1652, Worsley's regiment was stationed at St James's in London. He commanded the company of musketeers that accompanied Cromwell when he forcibly dissolved the Rump Parliament on 20 April 1653. Worsley took charge of the key to the House of Commons and the mace.

Worsley was a loyal supporter of Cromwell's Protectorate. He was elected MP for Manchester in the First Protectorate Parliament (1654) and appointed Major-General for Cheshire, Lancashire and Staffordshire during the Rule of the Major-Generals (1655). Worsley was extremely zealous in persecuting Royalists, closing alehouses, banning race meetings and working to promote a godly reformation in his region. His strenuous efforts exhausted him and brought about his sudden death in June 1656 when he was in London attending a meeting between Cromwell and the other Major-Generals. Worsley was buried in Westminster Abbey with full military honours. His burial was not registered — consequently he was one of the few Cromwellians buried in the Abbey whose remains were left undisturbed at the Restoration.


Christopher Durston, Cromwell's Major-Generals (Manchester 2001)

Christopher Durston, Charles Worsley , Oxford DNB, 2004

C.H. Firth & G. Davies, The Regimental History of Cromwell's Army vol ii (Oxford 1940)