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Astley, Jacob Astley

ASTLEY, JACOB ASTLEY, Baron (1570-1652), royalist commander in the English Civil War, came of a Norfolk family. In 1598 he joined Counts Maurice and Henry of Orange in the Netherlands, where he served with distinction, and afterwards fought under the elector palatine Frederick V. and Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years' War. He was evidently thought highly of by the states-general, for when he was absent, serving under the king of Denmark, his company in the Dutch army was kept open for him. Returning to England with a well-deserved reputation, he was in the employment of Charles I. in various military capacities. As "sergeant-major," or general of the infantry, he went north in 1639 to organize the defence against the expected Scottish invasion. Here his duties were as much diplomatic as military, as the discontent which ended in the Civil War was now coming to a head. In the ill-starred "Bishops' War," Astley did good service to the cause of the king, and he was involved in the so-called "Army Plot." At the outbreak of the Great Rebellion (1642) he at once joined Charles, and was made major-general of the foot. His characteristic battle-prayer at Edgebill has become famous: "O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not forget me. March on, boys!" At Gloucester he commanded a division, and at the first battle of Newbury he led the infantry of the royal army. With Hopton, in 1644, he served at Arundel and Cheriton. At the second battle of Newbury he made a gallant and memorable defence of Shaw House. He was made a baron by the king, and at Naseby he once more commanded the main body of the foot. He afterwards served in the west, and with 1500 men fought stubbornly but vainly the last battle for the king at Stow-on-the-Wold (March 1646). His remark to his captors has become as famous as his words at Edgehill, "You have now done your work and may go play, unless you will fall out amongst yourselves." His scrupulous honour forbade him to take any part in the Second Civil War, as he had given his parole at Stow-on-the-Wold; but he had to undergo his share of the discomforts that were the lot of the vanquished royalists. He died in February 1651/2. The barony became extinct in 1668.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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