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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 Army34162-h.htm'>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 “Army34162-h.htm'>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 Army34162-h.htm'>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.
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