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  • George Goring (1608-1657): Caroline Courtier and Royalist General
  • Barbara Donagan
Florence S. Memegalos . George Goring (1608–1657): Caroline Courtier and Royalist General.Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007. xii + 392 pp. index. map. bibl. $99.95.ISBN: 978–0–7546–5299–1.

Colonel George Goring was one of Charles I's most able cavalry commanders, but he has, in Florene S. Memegalos's view, been too harshly judged by historians and especially by the Earl of Clarendon. His father, the first Lord Goring (later the first Earl of Norwich) was a devoted and lifelong servant of the Stuart kings who grew rich on the pickings available to an influential and entrepreneurial courtier. He lost his wealth when such enterprises evaporated with the onset of civil war, leaving him little but heavily encumbered estates (he was, in modern terms, over-leveraged). His loyalty, however, never wavered. The younger George Goring showed no such consistency. Handsome and highly intelligent, in his youth he was a minor courtier with expensive habits and large debts. Thereafter his career veered with many winds. He was a soldier in the Protestant armies in the Netherlands, an absentee husband, a member of the Long Parliament, a side-changer who turned royalist early in the Civil War, an inveterate quarreler and drinker, and, after a precipitate departure from England when the royalist cause imploded, an officer in the Spanish army. Poor and ill, he died in Madrid in 1657. [End Page 1008]

Memegalos's biography takes the form of a life and times. Evidence for much of the earlier and later parts of Goring's life is fragmentary, and she is forced to traverse considerable periods with a narrative of military and political events in which Goring makes only sporadic and sometimes speculative appearances. Much of this material could profitably have been compressed. The political analysis is pedestrian and the minutiae of army movements sometimes more confusing than enlightening. The evidence thickens and the narrative takes off, however, from the time of Goring's connection to the Army Plot of 1641. The accounts of the campaigns of 1645–46 and of the collapse of the king's armies after his defeat at Naseby, in all of which Goring was closely involved, cast much light on the weaknesses of the royalist cause.

The book offers rich evidence of the hothouse atmosphere of feuds, trigger-happy quarrels and festering policy disagreements among the king's advisers and officers. The story Memegalos tells reveals the king's failure to assert authority that might have moderated, if not eradicated, these destructive habits. The passivity of the royal response to this crucial problem has rarely been so tellingly demonstrated. A study of Goring's career might profitably have been linked to a discussion of the nature of royalism, royalists, and the royalist state, but although she recognizes the debilitating consequences for the king's cause of this contentious conduct, there is little attempt to analyze social or structural issues. Money and family relations might also have repaid further exploration. The elder Goring's wheeling and dealing and its profits are briefly noted, as are his wartime losses and the younger Goring's dependence on his army pay, but it would have been interesting to see in more detail how such a family financed itself and the nature of their gains and losses. It seems surprising that in 1640 Goring could call on £882, a considerable sum, in rents from the family lands (already heavily encumbered) when his father's annual landed income at its best has been estimated at no more than £1000–2000. More could also have been done with the nature of family relations, despite the scattered evidence. The elder Goring's concern for his son went beyond maintenance of patriarchy or family interests: there is pathos in the father's fruitless efforts to save his son from himself, while the complaining letters of Goring's wife provide insight into a broken seventeenth-century marriage.

The book has weaknesses that suggest inadequate proofreading and at times a lack of familiarity with the overall historical context and even with military details. Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax, for example, appears several times as...


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pp. 1008-1010
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Archived 2009
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