John Middleton, c.1608-74

Scottish soldier who enlisted as a pikeman and fought for the Parliamentarians, the Covenanters and the Engagers before being commissioned Major-General in Charles II's Royalist army.

Portrait of John MiddletonJohn Middleton was the eldest son of Robert Middleton, laird of Caldhame, Kincardineshire, in Scotland. After enlisting as a pikeman in the regiment raised in 1632 by Sir John Hepburn for service in France, Middleton worked his way steadily up the ranks. He was a captain in the Covenanter army led by James Graham, Earl (later Marquis) of Montrose during the Bishops' Wars: Middleton distinguished himself by leading the successful attack on the Brig of Dee outside Aberdeen in June 1639.

Middleton joined the Parliamentarian army on the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642. He fought as a volunteer at the battle of Edgehill and some accounts name him as the officer who captured the royal standard from Sir Edmund Verney during the battle. In November 1642, he was commissioned a colonel of horse in the Earl of Essex's army, taking over the regiment formerly commanded by Lord Fielding. Middleton marched with Essex to the relief of Gloucester in September 1643 and commanded the left wing of horse at the first battle of Newbury. In 1644, Middleton was promoted lieutenant-general of horse in Waller' Southern Association and served on the Oxford campaign and at the battle of Cropredy Bridge. He led a force of 2,000 horse and dragoons in an attempt to break through to assist the Earl of Essex on his disastrous campaign in Cornwall in August 1644, but Middleton was driven back by Royalist forces in Somerset.

In 1645, Middleton returned to Scotland and joined the Army of the Covenant with the rank of major-general. He rode with Lieutenant-General David Leslie's cavalry detachment on the campaign against his former commander the Marquis of Montrose, whose forces had killed his father in his own house in 1645. Middleton was Leslie's second-in-command at the battle of Philiphaugh (September 1646), which broke Montrose's power in Scotland. When Leslie returned to the war in England, Middleton stayed in Scotland. He was appointed commander-in-chief by the Committee of Estates in February 1646, campaigning against Royalists in the Highlands and negotiating the final terms for Montrose's surrender in July 1646.

Middleton supported the Engagement between Charles I and the Scots, and commanded the cavalry in the Duke of Hamilton's Engager army that invaded England in July 1648. The Engagers were defeated by Cromwell at the battle of Preston (August 1648) and Middleton taken prisoner. He is said to have broken his parole to return to Scotland, where he joined Sir Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine in an abortive Royalist uprising in the Highlands during the spring of 1649. His support for Engagers and Royalists brought Middleton into conflict with the Presbyterians of the godly Kirk Party, and he was excommunicated in October 1650. Middleton was obliged to undergo a public penance in sackcloth at St Mary's Kirk in Dundee before he could take up his command in Charles II's Scots-Royalist army. This humiliation left him with an abiding hatred of Presbyterians, who equally disapproved of him because of his reputation for hard drinking and carousing.

In September 1651, Middleton was Charles II's major-general at the battle of Worcester. He was wounded during the fighting, then captured as he tried to escape back to Scotland and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Before he could be brought to trial for treason, Middleton succeeded in escaping from the Tower and made his way to Paris where he joined Charles in exile. In 1653, he was appointed commander of the Royalist forces in Glencairn's Uprising in the Highlands. Middleton arrived in Scotland in February 1654 but the campaign came to nothing. He was outmanoeuvred by General Monck and defeated at the battle of Dalnaspidal in July 1654. Once again he joined Charles II in exile.

Middleton remained in Charles' service, and became a political associate of Sir Edward Hyde. At the Restoration, he was created first Earl of Middleton and appointed to several important offices in Scotland, where he worked to drive out the Presbyterians and reinstate the bishops. Because of his humble origins, however, Middleton incurred the jealousy of several noblemen. He clashed with the powerful Earl of Lauderdale and lost all his offices in 1663. He was governor of Rochester from 1663 to 1667, and lieutenant-general of the Kent militia. In 1668, he was appointed governor of Tangier where he remained until his death in 1674.


Edward M. Furgol, John Middleton, first earl of Middleton, Oxford DNB, 2004

Stuart Reid, All the King's Armies (Staplehurst (1998)

Keith Roberts, First Newbury 1643: the turning point (Osprey 2003)

G.W. Sprott, John, first Earl of Middleton, DNB, 1894