The Last Ironsides

The English Expedition to Portugal, 1662-1668

Jonathon Riley

Date Published :
November 2017
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
50 illustrations with 8 pages in color, 22 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781909982208
Pages : 192
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781912174102
Pages : 192
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock


When Charles II returned home he began the search for a dynastic marriage. He fixed upon the Infanta of Portugal, Catherine of Braganza, whose dowry included the possession of Tangier, Bombay and valuable trade concessions. The Portuguese had been fighting for their independence from Spain for twenty years and needed alliances to tip the scales in their favor. In return for the concessions Charles agreed to send to Portugal a regiment of horse and two of foot, which provided an excuse to ship away the remnants of the Cromwellian armies that had not been disbanded at the Restoration. The prospect of service was at first well received - "Major-General Morgan drew forth his regiment of foot consisting of 1000 proper men besides officers, and made a short speech, acquainting them that his Majesty had been graciously pleased to design them for honorable service abroad. . . Whereupon they all with great acclamations of joy, cried out ' All, all, all. . ." There were also officers and men who had remained loyal to the crown to them Charles owed a debt of employment, Former Royalists therefore made up the balance of the regiment of horse - uncomfortable bedfellows for their former enemies.

The English and French regiments fought with courage and discipline at the series of major battles and sieges that followed, most of which have never been properly described. This is, therefore, the rediscovery of a lost episode in our military history. It was the English and French soldiers, under Schomberg's leadership, who proved the decisive factor in winning back Portugal's independence. But in return for their courage in battle, the English soldiers were rewarded with insults and want of pay. At the conclusion of peace in 1667, only 1,000 out of the 3,500 men who made up the force were left standing. 400 of these received what was effectively a death sentence: they were shipped to Tangier to join the fight against the Moors. The remainder returned to seek service in England or abroad - but places were hard to find. One veteran of the horse summed up the feelings of many - ". . . there was never a more gallant party went out of England upon any design whatever, than were that regiment of horse. . . they came into the country full of money and gallantry, and those which survived left it as full of poverty and necessity."

The author's detailed but lively text is fully supported by a range of illustrations and specially commissioned maps.

About The Author

Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley is a General Officer with multinational operational command experience at all levels from platoon to corps in theatres from Northern Ireland to the Balkans, the Gulf, Iraq, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

General Riley has been awarded the DSO and NATO Meritorious Service Medal and is an Officer of the Legion of Merit of the United States of America. He holds the degrees of MA and PhD in modern history and has written numerous books. He is currently Visiting Professor in War Studies at King’s College London, a member of the British Commission for Military History, and Chairman of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum Trust.


“ … a riveting story, very well told and eminently readable

- Casemate: Journal of the Fortress Study Group

“ … Excellent and highly recommended book if you have any interest at all the early British Army”

- Arquebusier: Journal of the Pike & Shot Society

“This impressive volume … is another nail in the coffin of that tired old saw that all history has been written, especially of the British Army and its antecedents …”

- Newsletter of the Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

“ … Riley has done a good job of introducing Schomberg to a new generation of readers … a very welcome study…”

- The Seventeenth Century

"a very interesting look at a long forgotten campaign, one which saw the last elements of Cromwell’s New Model Army take the field alongside Royalist troops to fight for Portugal against Spain in the name of the recently restored Charles II. It’s a tale of tough campaigning, grueling marches, hard fighting, bureaucratic neglect, and more that reduced the small army from 3,500 men to 1,000, few of whom ever saw England again. As he tells this story, Riley touches upon the conduct of war inthe period, and at times makes comparisons with later English campaigns in Portugal and Spain. Despite its rather obscure subject, this lively, well written account will prove interesting reading for any armchair general."

- The NYMAS Review

“ … This books fills an important gap in the history of the British Army in the 17th century …”

- Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research

“ … a rewarding narrative of a neglected piece of British military history.”

- Michigan War Studies Review

“In short a great book that will be going with me to Normandy next year.”

- Army Rumour Service

"This book is a valuable contribution to seventeenth century military history, and a fitting tribute to the brave men, whether royalist or parliamentarian, catholic or protestant, who took the redcoat of the English Brigade to the Iberian Peninsula a century or more before Wellington"

- Battlefield Magazine

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