Sir Edward Massie, (Massey) d.1674

Presbyterian soldier famous for defending Gloucester for Parliament during the English Civil War, he came over to the Royalists after the King's execution.

Portrait of Edward MasseyThe son of John Massie of Coddington, Cheshire, Edward Massie became a professional soldier and military engineer in the Dutch service, then returned to England in 1639 as a Captain of Pioneers in the army raised by Charles I against the Scots in the Bishops' Wars.

As a devout Presbyterian, Massie was disturbed at the King's toleration of Roman Catholics and sided with Parliament on the outbreak of the First Civil War in 1642. He was commissioned lieutenant-colonel to the Earl of Stamford. Early in 1643, Massie was promoted to colonel and appointed governor of Gloucester. He repaired the city's derelict defences and conducted operations against local Royalists.

Parliamentarian Governor of Gloucester

In March 1643, Massie co-operated with Sir William Waller, commander of Parliament's Western Association army, to defeat Lord Herbert's newly-raised Welsh army at Highnam. When Prince Maurice was sent from Oxford to counter Waller's campaign on the Welsh border, Massie marched north from Gloucester to seize Tewkesbury. However, Maurice defeated Waller at the battle of Ripple Field and the Parliamentarians were forced to withdraw to Gloucester.

After Prince Rupert captured Bristol in July 1643, Gloucester was one of the last remaining Parliamentarian strongholds in the West. King Charles led the main Oxford army to besiege the city in August 1643, possibly believing that Massie was ready to come over to the Royalists. However, the resolute defence by Massie and the citizens of Gloucester had an inspirational effect on London, where new regiments were raised to march to its relief. Under the command of the Earl of Essex, the London regiments arrived at Gloucester on 5 September and the Royalist army withdrew. Massie's small garrison was said to be down to its last three barrels of gunpowder.

Despite a bitter feud with leading members of the committee for Gloucestershire over the control of local forces, Massie fought tirelessly against the Royalists in his region throughout the winter of 1643 and spring of 1644 and finally took over as commander of the Western Association army. When the New Model Army was formed in April 1645, Massie retained an independent command. He captured Evesham in May 1645 which broke up Royalist lines of communication between Oxford and Worcester, then marched against Lord Goring's army. Although his forces were not strong enough to relieve the siege of Taunton, Massie co-operated effectively with General Fairfax in the campaign leading up to Goring's defeat at the battle of Langport in July 1645.

Presbyterian & Royalist

After the defeat of the Royalists in the First Civil War, Massie became active in the political struggle between the Independents and Presbyterians. His troops were disbanded by order of the Independent majority in the House of Commons in October 1646, but Massie himself was elected recruiter MP for Wooton Basset and emerged as a resolute supporter of the Presbyterian tendency in Parliament. In June 1647, he was one of the Eleven Members denounced by Army leaders. The following month — as Presbyterian MPs prepared to defy the New Model Army — Massie was appointed commander of the London militia. But when the Army occupied London in August 1647, Massie fled to the Netherlands with his associate Sydenham Poyntz. He resumed his seat in the House of Commons in August 1648, only to be excluded at Pride's Purge the following December. He was imprisoned in St James's but escaped to the Netherlands in January 1649.

After denouncing the execution of Charles I, Massie came over to the Royalists as a leading representative of the English Presbyterians. In 1651, he joined the English contingent in Charles II's Scots-Royalist army with the rank of lieutenant-general. When Charles marched into England in August 1651, Massie accompanied the Earl of Derby into Lancashire where they tried to rally support for the Royalist cause. A few days before the battle of Worcester, Massie was badly wounded when Major-General Lambert captured the bridge over the River Severn at Upton. Too weak from his wounds to fight at Worcester, Massie fled with Charles after the battle. He got as far as Droitwich, but was unable to keep up and was taken prisoner. From November 1651, Massie was confined in the Tower of London. In August 1652, he escaped by climbing out of a chimney and once again got away to the Netherlands.

Massie joined Charles in exile on the Continent. He became active in soliciting support for the Royalist cause amongst Presbyterians and made secret visits to England in 1654 and '56. In 1658, Massie was associated with Lord Mordaunt and other Royalist and Presbyterian conspirators of the Great Trust. He returned to England in March 1659 to organise an uprising in Gloucestershire as part of a series of insurrections planned to take place simultaneously around the country. However, Massie was arrested by the Gloucester militia on 31 July, the day before the insurrection was due to take place. The other regional uprisings also failed and only Booth's Uprising in Cheshire achieved even partial success. Once again, Massie succeeded in escaping abroad. He returned to England in January 1660 and caused a riot in Gloucester when he stood for election to the Convention Parliament in March. Duly elected, Massie worked tirelessly for the Restoration.

Charles II rewarded Massie for his services with a knighthood, a grant of money and lands in Ireland. He was also recommended for the governorship of Jamaica, but never took up the appointment. Massie commanded troops in the Dover garrison during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. He died in Ireland in 1674.


G.N. Richardson, Sir Edward Massey, DNB, 1894

Andrew Warmington, Sir Edward Massey, Oxford DNB, 2004.