Duke of Monmouth

Duke of Monmouth declared King in Frome

Duke of Monmouth declared King in Frome 150 150 Frome Heritage Museum

“Now therefore We do hereby solemnly declare & proclaim Warr against JAMES DUKE of YORK, as a Murderer, and an Assassin of Innocent men; A Popish Usurper of the Crown; a Traitor to the Nation; and Tyrant over the People. And we would have none that appear under his Banners, to statter themselves with expectation of forgiveness; it being our firm resolution to prosecute him & his adherents, without giving way to Treaties, or Accommodations, until we have brought him, & them, to undergo what the Rules of the Constitution, & the Statutes of the Realm, as well as the Laws of Nature, Scripture, & Nations, adjudged to be the punishment due to the Enemies of God, Mankind, their Country, and all things that are honourable, virtuous, & good.”

So declared the Duke of Monmouth, the Protestant illegitimate son of Charles II, as he started out on his ill-fated voyage to Lyme Regis en route to a military engagement with the Catholic James II on the Somerset Levels near Westonzoyland. He marched north to rouse support and at its peak it was said his ‘army’ consisted of around 7000 rebels. However, by the time a rain-sodden Monmouth and his men arrived in Frome, on 28 June 1685, the tide had begun to turn. They had been involved in a skirmish in Norton St Philip just the previous day.

The constable of Frome publicly declared Monmouth the rightful king, the first such declaration in the whole country, but in this he probably had no option, and elsewhere in the region too the local populations were forced to rally to Monmouth’s cause. Then, while in staying in Cork Street, Monmouth learnt a simultaneous rebellion in Scotland had been defeated and royal forces were massing in Trowbridge.

A war council was hastily called and against Monmouth’s belief that he should now return into exile, he was forcibly told by his generals he must fight on. Monmouth and what were left of his rapidly dispersing army then left Frome on 30 June 1685 and headed west, towards his destiny at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Within a little over a fortnight of leaving Frome he would be dead; having been defeated, found guilty of treason and then executed on London’s Tower Hill. After Monmouth left Frome, royal troops entered the town and completely ‘plundered’ it, although this was only the start of the retribution. At the subsequent trials – known as the Bloody Assizes – 50 Frome men were tried and found guilty of treason, being either executed or transported for life. 12 rebels found guilty at the Assizes were hanged, drawn and quartered and their remains strung up at Gibbet Hill. Monmouth Chambers on Cork Street is believed to be the location of Monmouth’s 2 very unhappy days and nights in our town.