The Last Ironsides - The English Expedition to Portugal, 1662-1668, Jonathon Riley

The Last Ironsides - The English Expedition to Portugal, 1662-1668, Jonathon Riley

In the aftermath of the Restoration Charles II was faced with the problem of what to do with the old Parliamentary army. Most units were simply disbanded, but a force based around the garrison of Scotland was sent to Portugal to help in their war of independence from Spain. This was one of the arrangements that surrounded Charles's marriage to Catherine of Braganza, the Infanta of Portugal (in return Charles was given Tangier and Bombey, as well as his bride). This small force was made up of a mix of old Ironsides and Catholic supporters of the Stuarts who were unable to find employment in the small post-restoration English army. The Portuguese war effort relied on a multi-national force, a mix that was well demonstrated by its commander, the half-English half-German Frederick Hermann, 1st duke of Schomberg, sent to Portugal by Louis XIV of France.

The first few chapters set the context for the campaign, and include a look at the Portuguese revolt, the state of European politics at the time and the raising and nature of the English bridge. There is also a look at the nature of warfare at the time, with a focus on the special situations on the Portuguese borders, where there were two short campaigning seasons each year (before and after the hottest part of summer), the limits of how long armies could stay in the field and the impact that had on the campaign. This was a war of frequent sieges and short campaigns that rarely led to a major battle.

Riley is very good on the problems caused by the Portuguese high command, political disputes in Lisbon and the low abilities of many of the Portuguese high commanders. Schomberg's successful attempts to deal with these problems play a major part in the story and it was his political successes that allowed the army to win its military successes. The accounts of the sieges and rarer battles are clear and readable, quite an achievement with the limited sources available.

This is an excellent account of an almost forgotten episode in English military history, and essential reading for anyone interested in the New Model Army and its fate.

1 Portugal, Spain and Europe, 1580-1660
2 The Portuguese Marriage Treaty, 1660-1662
3 Raising the English Brigade, 1661-1662
4 The English Brigade, 1662-1663
5 The Capture of Evora, May 1663
6 Ameixial, May 1663
7 The Recapture of Evora, May-June 1663
8 Valencia de Alcantara and the Campaign of 1664
9 Montes Claros, 1665
10 Taking the War into Spain, Autumn 1665
11 The Campaigns of 1666-1667
12 THe Last Acts, 1667-1668

Annex A: List of the English Brigade
Annex B: Rates of Pay

Author: Jonathon Riley
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 192
Publisher: Helion
Year: 2014

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