In the seventeenth century there was a civil war (a war between two sides of one country) in England between the Royalists, who supported the King and the Parliamentarians, who supported Parliament.
This famous nineteenth century painting by W. F. Yeames, shows a Royalist family who have been captured by the enemy. The boy is being questioned about the whereabouts of his father by a panel of Parliamentarians.
Although the picture was not painted until the nineteenth century it is a fairly valuable Secondary source about the Civil War.
Look at the picture and read the information below to learn about the Civil War.
- We know that this man is a sergeant because he is carrying a halberd and they were always carried by sergeants from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
- He is the man who has arrested the family and has brought them before the Parliamentarians for questioning.
- However, he does not seem too happy with his task.
- The arm around the girl seems to be comforting rather than arresting and he is not looking directly at the scene in front of him.
- We can guess that maybe he has a family of his own and feels that questioning of children in this way is wrong.
Bundle of Books
- The bundle of books is clearly an important piece of evidence since the man in the corner has not put them down.
- During the period of the Civil War the Puritans banned the reading of many books of literature believing the Bible to be the only book that should be read.
- It would seem that they are being offered as evidence that the boy’s father is an enemy of Parliament.
- Thigh-length boots were worn by cavalry men in the Civil War.
- The long leather boots would protect their legs from musket fire or sword attack when they were charging their horses in attack.
- This leather cowboy-type of hat was worn by cavalry men during the Civil War.
- It looks as though it would not give much protection to the wearer, but many men wore a metal skull cap under their hats so that their heads were protected.
- The man is wearing the yellow sash of Parliament over his uniform.
- During battle things often got very confused and it was not always obvious who was on which side.
- All Parliamentarian soldiers therefore wore yellow sashes during battle so that they could easily spot members of their own army.
- We can see from this picture that people in the seventeenth century used quills and ink to write with.
Man at Edge of Picture
- This man, like the one in the centre of the picture, is sprawled on the bench.
- He is wearing a heavy looking brown coat of the type worn by cavalrymen.
- He appears to be present as an onlooker rather than a member of the interrogation team.
- Possibly he is hoping for some information that will help his own cavalry to be victorious over the Royalists.
Man in Black
- Dressed in black with white collar and sitting bolt upright on the bench, this man is a typical Puritan figure.
- He stares at the boy with a stern expression on his face.
- He seems glad that another Royalist family has been discovered and probably believes that they deserve harsh punishment.
- This is the man who is questioning the boy.
- He does not seem as intimidating as the other Parliamentarians in the room.
- He is leaning forward with his chin resting on his hands and from his expression seems almost sympathetic towards the boy.
- Possibly he is tired of having to carry out such tasks and believes that the war against the King should be won on the battlefield and not through the interrogation of women and children.
Man in the Corner
- This man is almost hidden by the shadows in the room. However, he is looking directly at the boy and seems assured that the family is guilty.
- He holds in his arms a number of books, probably literature that had been forbidden by the Puritans.
- He seems to be happy that it is he that holds the evidence of the Royalist nature of the family and he is enjoying seeing the distress of the family.
- This man is a clerk.
- He is writing down everything that is said.
- His presence also makes the scene more official as the interrogation is clearly being carried out as if it were a court case.
Boy in Blue
- We can tell from the boy’s clothes that he is a Royalist.
- The title of the painting is ‘And when did you last see your father?’ – so we can guess that he is being questioned as to the whereabouts of his father.
- Possibly his father is commander of a Royalist army and the Parliamentarians are hoping to gain knowledge of their whereabouts.
- Notice that the boy is looking directly at his questioner. He does not look frightened.
- What answer do you think he might give?
Man on Bench
- This man is a cavalry officer.
- We know this because of the long riding boots that he is wearing.
- He is watching the interrogation of the boy with interest.
- This is an important piece of evidence in this picture because it tells us the identity of the man holding it.
- From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, a sergeant always carried a halberd, therefore we know that the man in the picture is the sergeant who has arrested the family.
- The girl is dressed in Royalist clothing so we can assume that she is the boy’s sister.
- She is crying, probably because she is afraid of what the soldiers might do to her family.
- The girl is standing behind the boy with the guard and may be questioned next.
Two women in the background
- We can tell by their clothes that they are Royalists.
- The lady at the back is hiding behind the other and seems to be more afraid.
- The lady in the front does not seem so afraid and is looking directly at the interrogators.
- The lady hiding could be an older sister and the tall lady in the front their mother.
- Another possible interpretation is that the lady dressed in green is the children’s mother while the one dressed in black is a maidservant.
- The maidservant could have informed the Parliamentarians that the family is hiding something.
Task: Using the evidence that you have found out, write the story that goes with the picture. Click here to open a Word document that you can use.
End of Lesson
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