Rowland Laugharne, c.1607-75

Parliamentarian military commander in south-west Wales during the English Civil War, he fought for the King in the Second Civil War.

Portrait of Rowland LaugharneThe son of a gentry family of south Pembrokeshire, Laugharne was employed in the household of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, on his estates in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. He gained military experience in the Netherlands, possibly while still in service to Essex. Laugharne returned to Wales when the First Civil War broke out in 1642 and became prominent in the defence of Pembroke, one of the few Welsh towns to support Parliament.

Initially, the Royalist commander in south-west Wales, the Earl of Carbery, was content to allow an informal local truce to prevail in the region, but the situation changed with the Cessation of Arms of September 1643 which allowed government troops stationed in Ireland to return to England to fight for the King. The Pembrokeshire seaports became strategically vital to Parliament as potential bases to disrupt troop convoys crossing the Irish Sea. Lord Carbery attempted to secure the region by imposing a blockade on Pembroke and establishing garrisons to surround it, but in February 1644, a Parliamentarian naval squadron arrived. Laugharne co-operated with the naval force in a series of assaults on the Royalist positions around Pembroke, seizing them one after another. By the end of March 1644, Laugharne had captured the whole of Pembrokeshire. During April, he went on to take possession of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire almost without resistance.

In May 1644, the ineffective Carbery was replaced by Prince Rupert's protégé Lieutenant-General Charles Gerard. With ruthless efficiency, Gerard drove Laugharne's forces back into Pembroke and Tenby. By the end of August he had regained all the ground that Laugharne had captured. When Gerard left the region in October 1644 to reinforce the Oxford army, Laugharne broke out of Pembroke to re-establish Parliamentarian control of south-western Wales but Gerard returned in the spring of 1645. Laugharne's forces were routed at Newcastle Emlyn in April 1645 and he was forced once again to fall back to Pembroke.

After the King's defeat at Naseby, Gerard was recalled from Wales and Laugharne went back on the offensive. On 1 August 1645, he defeated the Pembrokeshire Royalists under Major-General Stradling at the battle of Colby Moor. By mid-September, Laugharne had re-asserted Parliamentarian control of Pembrokeshire; by the end of 1645, he had secured the counties of Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire, Glamorgan and Brecknock and was Major-General of Parliament's forces in south-west Wales. Laugharne was generously rewarded with money and land for his services to Parliament.

During the political turmoil of 1647, Laugharne sympathised with the Presbyterian faction in Parliament against the Independents and the New Model Army. The Welsh army was counted among the "supernumeraries" that Parliament attempted to disband without settling the soldiers' arrears of pay. In protest, Colonel Poyer, the governor of Pembroke, refused to hand the castle over to his replacement, Colonel Fleming. In April 1648, with the Second Civil War imminent, Poyer declared for the King. Laugharne joined him in May.

Parliament sent Colonel Horton to contain the rebellion. Laugharne marched against Horton, anxious to defeat him before a larger Parliamentarian force arrived. Although outnumbered, Horton's experienced troops defeated Laugharne at St Fagans near Cardiff in May 1648. Laugharne was wounded in the battle but retreated to join Colonel Poyer at Pembroke Castle where they were besieged by Lieutenant-General Cromwell from May until July 1648. Finally starved into submission, Laugharne, Poyer and Colonel Powell were sent to London and court-martialled. All three were sentenced to death but General Fairfax decreed that only one should die, to be decided by lots drawn by a child: Colonel Poyer was executed by firing squad in April 1649.

Laugharne spent most of the 1650s in prison. After the Restoration he was elected MP for Pembroke in the Cavalier Parliament (1661-79) but became preoccupied with his own financial difficulties. He died in London in November 1675.


Peter Gaunt, A Nation Under Siege: the civil war in Wales 1642-48 (HMSO 1991)
Stephen K. Roberts, Rowland Laugharne, Oxford DNB, 2004