Sir Thomas Lunsford c.1611-56

Tough Royalist soldier with a fearsome though exaggerated reputation.

Portrait of Sir Thomas LunsfordBorn into a decayed gentry family of East Hoathly in Sussex, Lunsford had a reputation as a swaggering ruffian "who neither fears God nor man". In 1633, he was indicted for the attempted murder of a neighbour, Sir Thomas Pelham, but escaped from Newgate Prison and fled to the Continent. In his absence, Lunsford was fined £8,000 and outlawed for failing to appear before the Court of Star Chamber. Meanwhile, he joined the French army and became colonel of a regiment of foot.

On the outbreak of the Bishops' Wars in 1639, Lunsford returned to England and offered his services to King Charles, who pardoned him and remitted his fine. He commanded an infantry regiment and became a favourite of the King after fighting courageously at the disastrous battle of Newburn in August 1640. During the riots and disturbances in London in December 1641, Lunsford was appointed lieutenant of the Tower of London, but the appointment was so unpopular that he was replaced four days later. However, the King knighted him and appointed him commander of an unofficial royal guard at the Palace of Whitehall.

Lunsford's men twice dispersed rioting apprentices and citizens at sword-point, and in January 1642 they guarded the King during his unfortunate attempt to arrest the Five Members in the House of Commons. Parliament ordered Lunsford's arrest after he joined Lord Digby in an attempt to seize the county magazine at Kingston-on-Thames in the King's name. Released from prison in June, he joined King Charles at York and was present at the siege of Hull in July 1642.

Lunsford's cavaliers"Colonel Lunsford assaulting the Londoners at Westminster Hall
with a great rout of ruffianly Cavaliers"

In August 1642, Lunsford went with William Seymour, Marquis of Hertford, and Sir Ralph Hopton to the West Country where he commanded an infantry regiment. After participating in the defence of Sherborne against the Earl of Bedford, Lunsford accompanied the Marquis of Hertford into south Wales to raise more recruits. He joined the King at Shrewsbury in time to take part in the Edgehill campaign but was taken prisoner after the battle of Edgehill in October 1642 and imprisoned at Warwick Castle until May 1644.

Upon his release, Lunsford rejoined the King's army at Oxford. He was re-appointed to command of a regiment and assisted Sir Arthur Aston in his duties as governor of Oxford. During 1645, Lunsford served as deputy-governor of Bristol and governor of Monmouth. After the defeat of the King's army at Naseby in June 1645, Lunsford attempted to rally support for the Royalist cause in Wales, but he was captured at the siege of Hereford in December 1645. He remained a prisoner in the Tower of London until 1648. On his release, he was granted permission to emigrate to Virginia with his wife and family. After serving as lieutenant-general of the Virginia militia he died there around 1656.

Lunsford married three times. His first wife was Anne Hudson, who died in 1638. They had one son, who died in infancy. In 1640, he married Katherine (d.1649), daughter of Sir Henry Neville, of Billingbear, Berkshire, with whom he had three daughters. Lunsford's third wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Wormeley, of Riccall, Yorkshire, and widow of Richard Kempe, secretary of Virginia; they had one daughter. Lunsford's two brothers Herbert and Henry were also Royalist officers; Henry was killed at the storming of Bristol in 1643.

Although he was undoubtedly a tough soldier, Lunsford's fearsome reputation for sadism, brutality and even cannibalism was wildly exaggerated by Parliamentarian propagandists.


Basil Morgan, Sir Thomas Lunsford, Oxford DNB, 2004

C.V. Wedgwood, The King's War (London 1958)


Sir Thomas Lunsford, bio-study