Allen Apsley (Royalist)

Sir Allen Apsley
Born September 1616
St Martin-in-the-Fields
Died 15 October 1685
Buried at Westminster Abbey
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars Siege of Wardour Castle, Battle of Cropredy Bridge, Second Battle of Newbury, Battle of Naseby
Other work MP for Thetford

Sir Allen Apsley (1616–1685) was a leading Royalist in the English Civil War. He was the son of Sir Allen Apsley (1582–1630), and brother of Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681).

He began his military career as a captain in Lord Goring's regiment in 1639. He was chosen to be Master of the King's Hawks. He fought in the Battle of Cropredy Bridge on 29 June 1644. He was a Colonel in co-command, of the rearguard of foot of the Reds. He was also in co-command of the rearguard of horse.


Allen Apsley was born in September 1616 in East Smithfield near St Martin-in-the-Fields London in a house owned by the King on loan to his father Sir Allen for services to the navy and baptised on 6 September in All Hallows Church, Barking. He was the eldest son of Sir Allen Apsley and his third wife Lucy St John of Lydiard Tregoze in Wiltshire. Soon to follow were four more sons and five daughters of which only three boys and two girls survived the father. William and James were the two other boys but most notable was the eldest daughter Lucy who in 1638 married John Hutchinson. Allen and his brothers were educated at Merchant Taylors' School for boys and Trinity College, Oxford (Allen didn’t finish his masters until after the civil wars).

His father Sir Allen was a man of some reputation who in 1620 was made Lieutenant of the Tower of London where it is said he was so friendly to the prisoners that they did not want to leave. He was also a good friend of the Duke of Buckingham and it was with Buckingham in 1630 on an expedition to the island of Wre that Sir Allen contracted a fever and died. He left his wife and children with a number of estates and financial dealings that were in a state of confusion due to his habit of lending money to condemned prisoners in the Tower. Lucy soon remarried and a bitter family feud erupted over the estates and monies remaining. This feud was finally brought to a close in young Allen's favour some six years later by the personal intervention of the King himself.

Sir Allen married Frances Petre, daughter of John Petre of Bowkay, Devon and by her had at least three children, of whom:

His brother Sir Peter Apsley had a daughter, his sole heiress Catherine, who married Allen 1st Earl Bathurst, her first cousin.

English Civil War

In 1642, Allen Apsley served as a captain in Lord John Byron's Horse and possibly served at Edgehill with them during the English Civil War. It is also known that he spent some time with the King's forces garrisoned at Nottingham that year as he stayed in the house next door to his sister, Lucy. He was knighted by the King later that year and commissioned to raise a troop of horse of his own in the West Country and by the end of 1642 he had been made Governor of Exeter in Devon (Exeter itself did not fall until 7 September). It is in that area that he also first set about raising a regiment of infantry. By spring 1643, Sir Allen had managed to raise a regiment 300 strong with a mixture of men from Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall and South Wales although a few of his officers were experienced soldiers from the Irish wars as well.

During the civil wars, it was common practice in campaign season for the bulk of a city or town defending force to join with the field army until the winter months, leaving only a token force as garrison guards until their return. This is what most likely happened to Sir Allen's Regiments of horse and foot because by October that year Apsley's were heavily engaged in the siege of Wardour Castle.

It was there that they received orders from Oxford; Sir William Ogle had surprised Winchester and it was considered imperative he be supported. Sir Ralph Hopton (Commander of the army of the west) accordingly dispatched some of his own dragoons under Major Philip Day and 600 foot under Sir Allen Apsley to help (300 of his own regiment and 300 recently raised Dorset & Somerset Coys who were as yet unassigned).

By this point, his horse troop (probably no more than 25–30 strong at best) had been deployed under Sir Edward Stawell's brigade to make up the numbers for Hopton's field army. Apsley's were not long in waiting to see more action as they recalled to take part in the Cheriton Wood skirmish and the Cropredy Bridge campaigns in 1644. It was at that point that Apsley's was placed under Sir Bernard Astley's tercio (again with Vavs) for the Lostwithiel campaign. Apsley's were also recorded as being at the Albourne Chase muster in spring 1644 as part of the Oxford Army, although no other record of this exists other than the colour documentation.

It is not known if Apsley himself was still with the field army at this point as Exeter was a pro Parliament town and he would most likely have been needed there to keep order. It seems more likely that Sir Edward Hopton the lieutenant colonel would have taken charge, as he was the more experienced soldier. Astley's tercio was now split in half, one lot going to the relief of Portland castle while the other half made up the left wing at the second battle of Newbury. It is not known at present who went where, but presumably Apsley's was at Newbury due to its good strength compared to the other regiments in the tercio.

On 29 May 1645, Apsley's and the rest of Astley's tercio made up the right flank at the storming of Leicester, which fell the next day in a bloody massacre to the royalist cry of "Kill Dead!" It is presumed by this point that Apsley's horse had either gone back to Exeter with Allen or been amalgamated into one of the other horse regiments as no further records of them exist.

By the Battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645, what was left of Astley's tercio was amalgamated into Sir Edward Hopton's brigade. Hopton was also promoted to colonel of Apsley's at this point (hence no listing of Apsley's at Naseby because they were now known as Sir Edward Hopton's regiment). It seems most likely that Apsley's/Hopton's met a brave but bloody end on that fateful day in June 1645. However some of Apsley's were recorded as being at the battle of Langport later that year under Goring (presumably either survivors from Naseby but more likely some of the garrison troops who had never left Exeter before). The Prince of Wales visited Sir Allen in Exeter in 1645 and towards the end of 1645 Apsley was made the Governor of Barnstaple, the largest town in north Devon. Exeter fell to Parliament on 9 April 1646 and Sir Allen surrendered Barnstaple on 19 April.


When Sir Allen surrendered Barnstaple on 19 April 1646, the terms were that he would remain a free man but would suffer several large fines, penalties and sequestrations. Sir Allen ever the optimist decided to turn to whatever allies he could muster, most notably his brother James who had at first fought for the King then unsuccessfully tried to raise a regiment for Parliament in Sussex in 1643 due to his unpopularity with the locals and Sir William Waller. But most successful was his brother-in-law Colonel John Hutchinson. On 30 January 1647 Sir Allen and his brother begged parliament to restrain from sequestering his wife's (Frances Petre) estates and on 2 February this was approved (presumably through pressure from Hutchinson and some well-placed bribes). On 25 February he received a fine for raising arms against the parliament for the sum of £9551 15 shillings.

Once again he turned to his brother-in-law's influence to get the sum three times reduced till eventually it was only £1741 10 shillings. This was still a hefty fine by the day's standards but it was paid off by the end of 1648. Somewhere in the next few years Sir Allen took ship to Holland and served as a courtier for the exiled King Charles II. He may well have been with Charles for the Worcester campaign of 1650–1651 but it does not look like he had any military command at that time. While in France during the Commonwealth, Sir Allen became a drinking crony of the exiled King. Charles II rewarded Sir Allen with a few minor offices of state during this period but it was not until the Restoration that he would reap his real rewards.


Upon the restoration Sir Allen Apsley was made Keeper of the King's Hawks (a very prestigious and enterprising affair with many benefits) in 1660 and keeper of the North Park of Hampton Court in 1661, also treasurer to James Duke of York's household later that year. Also many of his old estates and revenues were returned to him.

Sir Allen did not give his brother-in-law a helping hand — rather he did the opposite. John Hutchinson being a regicide was arrested and while Sir Allen assured his sister Lucy he was doing all he could to save him he was actually giving evidence against him in private. He did however gain permission for Lucy to see John on a number of occasions and even to allow them to walk on the beach together with a guard behind them at one point. It did not last long however, John Hutchinson perished in the Tower of London a broken man in 1664; one of his dying requests was "To remember him to Sir Allen and tell him he hoped God would reward his labour of love to him". The reason for Apsley's indifference to his sister's pleas is not known. Although Sir Allen received some considerable rewards and stations from the King during the following years Apsley was renowned for his complaining of being short of cash "Sometimes cursing the King and all parliaments to hell".

From 1661 to 1678 Sir Allen was MP for Thetford, Norfolk.This however did still not placate Sir Allen who in 1666 caused many disturbances in the House of Commons by coming there in a state of drunkenness. Samuel Pepys said of him "he would often give good sport to the house, arriving in a drunken mood of foul mouthed obscenities!" By this time it seems that Apsley had many estates in England stretching from Norfolk to Sussex to Devon and a richly decorated house in St James Square, London.

In 1667 a new threat to the peace of Britain was on the horizon and Sir Allen now aged 51 was commissioned by the King to raise a horse regiment to repel the Dutch in case of invasion.

On 15 October 1685 Sir Allen died at his London home and was buried two days later in Westminster Abbey; his inscription reads simply "Here lies Sir Allen Apsley Born 1614 Died 1683".

The epic poem "Order and Disorder: Or, the World Made and Undone, being Meditations upon the Creation and the Fall as it is Recorded in the Beginning of Genesis" anonymously published in 1679, was long attributed to Apsley. However, in his 2001 edition of the text David Norbrook convincingly reattributed the poem to Apsley's sister, Lucy Hutchinson, and the work is now widely acknowledged to be hers.[1] A private letter written by Apsley to John Evelyn relating to some business of the Duchess of York survives in the British Museum. Throughout his career Sir Allen was an opportunist with an attitude. At times a drunken roué at others a scheming plotter who always just managed to end up smelling of roses.


  1. Hunt, Katherine "Some Notes on Order and Disorder" Retrieved 2 February 2013
Court offices
New title Master of the Hawks
Succeeded by
Charles Beauclerk
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Philip Wodehouse, Bt.
and Robert Paston
Member of Parliament for Thetford
with William Gawdy 1661–69,
Sir Joseph Williamson from 1669

Succeeded by
Sir Joseph Williamson
and William Harbord
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