My Family's Impact on
the English Civil Wars
Cousin Hugh loses at Charing
This story is about my cousin Hugh whom I met more than 300
years after he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and was
eventually taken to Charing Cross where on Oct. 16, 1660 he
was hung, drawn and quartered by King Charles II of
It was a horrid way to die and was the same fate Guy Fawkes
had suffered earlier as a result of his involvement in the
"Gun Powder Plot" to assassinate King James I.
This grizzly method of execution was in the style of the
day. They would put you on the scaffold, "half" hang you so
when you were removed from the gallows you were still
conscious. Then they'd cut off your private parts and burn
them in front of you! Next, they would slit open your belly
from navel to nether then cut out your intestines and add them
to the fire. All while the victim watched. Finally, your torso
was hacked into four quarters and your head skewered onto a
pike, later to be displayed and rot on London Bridge! (is
anyone still yearning for the "good old days"?) Hopefully
Cousin Hugh died quickly.
What did he do to deserve this
If he had stayed in Massachusetts and hadn't returned to
England at the outbreak of England's Civil War, he probably
would have died an old man and be resting peacefully, buried
in Salem, Peabody, or Cambridge, Massachusetts.
You've probably guessed that the matter runs deeper than a
simple visit to his homeland.
The English Civil Wars of
At that time in history, my family were wealthy land owners
and merchants in the County of Cornwall in the tiny village of
Fowey. (None of the wealth was passed down to me.) Cousin Hugh
was the son of my great-and many greats more-aunt. Her Treffry
relatives, my multi great-uncles and cousins, were up to their
hips in politics. Many were members of parliament, high
sheriffs and other roles of high-status. As in most families,
political thoughts often fell on either side of an issue and
this is the crux of my story.
Cousin Hugh was born less than a quarter mile from the
Treffry place. ("Place" in Cornish means "palace" and it looks
like a fortified castle! Some "place"!). His house was down
the hill from the Trefry's and was at the shore of Fowey
Harbor, sitting upon the town quay (wharf). For centuries, the
town of Fowey was known for its smugglers and pirates along
with legitimate shipping and fishing businesses. From Hugh's
house he could see all the boats and ships plying the River
Fowey, sailing in from, and out to, the English Channel and
points beyond. He could walk up to the cliff and view the
Channel and its activities and as a child, he was captured by
all this hustle and bustle and would dream of sailing away
some day to yet unknown destinations.
The Family's Church and
The family church sat between Hugh's home and Treffry's
place. Many Treffry's had been baptized, married and eulogized
here and many had been its pastors. The church and the family
were to play an active part in the history of England and its
Cousin Hugh was born during the waning years of the reign
of Queen Elizabeth I (1598). He lived through the reigns of
James I and Charles I... but I'm getting ahead of my story.
Cousin Hugh became a Radical Puritan minister after he got
his religious education from Trinity College at Cambridge
University. He was deep into politics too and became a staunch
supporter of Oliver Cromwell's political philosophy.
Divine Right of Kings
These anti-Royalty or "parliamentarian" supporters were the
Puritans, also nicknamed "Roundheads", some say, because their
haircuts gave them that appearance. Their opponents were the
"Cavaliers" or "Royalists" and were the fancy-dressed, feather
and lace wearing "gentlemen" and merchants - yes, just like
the Treffrys. Recent historians are of the mind that both
sides had an equal amount of poor and wealthy and therefore
you really wouldn't have been able to tell one side from the
other by its appearance or the cut of their hair. It is my
contention that the Roundheads were placed in the avant
garde of the Parliamentarians and the fancy aristocrats
hung out in the back lines and therefore weren't seen enough
to be part of the army's "description".
No Taxation Without
Representation! (I think I've heard that before)
Cousin Hugh was born into money as were his cousins the
Treffry's but he carried a different political banner than
most his family. He played a vocally active part in swaying
the public's opinion in favor of abolishing the Divine Right
of the King and advising that Parliament have more say in the
government - especially in the collection of taxes. His
radical sermons were very persuasive. On the other hand, King
Charles ruled without Parliament for eleven years and set up a
court that had arbitrary powers to suppress political and
religious opposition to his personal rule.
Most Treffrys were
shown was worn by families who supported King Charles I and
opposed the Cromwellian politics. It pictures the king. I dug
one up during my 1996 trip to England. It was solid silver
with a thick gold plating. This photo is a complete medallion
I photographed at the Museum of London. My find is missing the
bezel and is quite deteriorated. You can see the actual
recovered medallion at my website.
Hugh's cousin John Trefry was a staunch supporter of
Charles I and even hosted the King's stay at the family home,
Place, in Fowey.
Are you beginning to get the idea that this is not too
different from conflicting loyalties in families during the
American Civil War?
Hugh and the Massachusetts Bay Colony
Cousin Hugh was directly involved with the establishment of
the Massachusetts Bay Colony which, by the way, was a New
World haven for those in search of religious freedom -
something King James and King Charles didn't want to give
their English subjects. Therefore it wasn't long after that
Cousin Hugh sailed to the colonies to join them. However, not
before he got more deeply into the support of Oliver Cromwell
and his parliamentarian ideas to rid England of a Divine
Monarchy and enhance it with a parliamentary government.
In October 1635, Cousin Hugh arrived in Massachusetts,
built a home and began his ministry at Salem. He spent much of
his own money to support many colonial projects and even was
instrumental in establishing the plans for a New England
college. In addition, he immediately began making trouble by
complaining about Governor Winthrop, then set up a
self-appointed kangaroo court to render a verdict on
Winthrop's style of government. These actions resulted in a
conflict between Cromwell and the New England group of
colonists. It seems that Cousin Hugh was a rabble-rouser on
both sides of the pond!
While Colony Struggles, Hugh Called
Back To England
The colonies were struggling to carry on but England, with
her own problems, was not helping. So in 1641 Cromwell called
for Cousin Hugh to return to England and plead for
Cousin Hugh left his congregation at Salem, Massachusetts
and via Newfoundland, returned to England. He eventually
become chief chaplain in Cromwell's army and the staunch
opponent of Archbishop Laud at King Charles' trial. In 1650 he
was appointed Chaplain to the Council of State. This position
was comparable to the previous post of Archbishop of
Not two years after Cousin Hugh's return to his homeland,
Civil War began. (1642-51) The first war ended with the arrest
of King Charles, his internment in the Tower of London and
eventual trial and execution.
Let's Be Brief
OK, this is getting to be too much history for a short
article so I'll outline the rest in order to get to another
The deposed King Charles lost not only the trial but his
life. He was beheaded before a large but silent crowd in front
of Banqueting House in Whitehall on January 30, 1649.
End of Civil War?
Beginning of The
With King Charles dead, Cromwell started his
Parliamentarian government. This lasts for 11 years. A Council
of State is set up with Cromwell as its Chairman. During these
years, his army fought and defeated the Irish Royalists, then
took on the Scottish Royalists who, during the second battle,
were led by Charles son (Charles II). When Charles II's army
is defeated, Charles flees into exile in Holland. The next
year Cromwell took on and defeated the Dutch! During this war,
Cromwell pronounced himself "Lord Protector of England" -
virtually a King minus a crown! After a few more years of
causing trouble, Cromwell dies. (1658)
The Restoration of the Monarchy
(Charles II: 1660-1685)
Charles II restored to the throne. However not a complete
victory in that he now Rules in combination with Parliament.
His reign is wracked with religious problems, troubles with
Nonconformists, wars with Holland, the Plague and Great Fire
that strikes London and the fabricated "Popish Plot" which
carried rumor of a Catholic plot to murder the King. Ain't
that just a Merrie Olde England?
The Glorious Revolution -
Upon Charles II's (natural) death, James II succeeded to
the throne but after three years he abdicates and flees into exile
and William of Orange takes the throne. This date is
considered by many as the REAL end of the English Civil Wars -
and almost the end of my story, as I am sure some of
you have read more than you ever wanted about England's Civil
What about Cousin Hugh?
Poor Hugh. All he did was follow the wrong leader. It was
because of his participation in the trial of Charles I that
the son, Charles II condemned Hugh to death. But remember
those "good" things about him I told you earlier? He actually
never got much credit for that.
Death by hanging, drawing and quartering. What a terrible
testimonial to the man who was instrumental in the founding of
Harvard University! (I suppose Yalies won't be too
unhappy) Cousin Hugh is none other than Hugh Peter(s) who was
the first to plan for a New England college in the
Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Well Done Hugh!
Today, Cousin Hugh's legacy of good is commemorated in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. Somewhere on the grounds of Harvard,
a plaque dedicated to Hugh Peter adorns one of its gates and
Hugh is given his due. Also, in Devon, England, his name can
be found on The New World Tapestry, claimed to be the biggest
embroidery in the world. He is listed among the founders of
the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
How does all this affect
Why wasn't Harvard
named "Peter College"?
It seems that John Harvard bequeathed his library and half
his estate to the college. Money talks. Hugh talked too much.
That's about all I inherited from my ancient family!
Let's look at some dug coins
that have a definite relationship to the English Civil Wars,
The Massachusetts Bay Colony and my Cousin
The coins above were found by:
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Commemorative: Non-dug from collection of Donna Trefry
Charles I Shilling: Kenny Russell
(actually two pence): Gus Dombrowski
James II: Ed Laub
Pine Tree Sixpence: Rich