Andrew Hopper

in Turncoats and Renegadoes

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199575855
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744617 | DOI:

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Rather than being a marginal activity with little impact on the war's outcome, a bewildering number of contemporaries can be identified for whom side‐changing became a critical issue. The concept of a ‘turncoat’ was culturally constructed and highly contested, as a double standard emerged over the circumstances in which changing sides was acceptable. Side‐changing shaped the war's outcome, accelerating royalist decline and radicalizing elements of the parliamentarian coalition in 1648. Notions of treachery became central to defining ‘the cause’ on both sides, while discrediting comrades as turncoats deepened the infighting on both sides. Whilst side‐changing could have a benign effect in making civil‐war divisions less absolute, the opposite sometimes occurred when particular defectors provoked extreme reactions. The concept of breach of trust, first applied to side‐changers, was turned on the king himself to justify the regicide and the regimes that followed it.

Keywords: side‐changing; loyalty; allegiance; treachery; politics; regicide

Chapter.  4604 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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