Roundhead - Encyclopedia

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ROUNDHEAD, a term applied to the adherents of the parliamentary party in England during the great Civil War. Some of the Puritans, but by no means all, wore the hair closely cropped round the head, and there was thus an obvious contrast between them and the men of fashion with their long ringlets. "Roundhead" appears to have been first used as a term of derision towards the end of 1641 when the debates in parlia ment on the Bishops Exclusion Bill were causing riots at Westminster. One authority says of the crowd which gathered there: "They had the hair of their heads very few of them longer than their ears, whereupon it came to pass that those who usually with their cries attended at Westminster were by a nickname called Roundheads." John Rushworth (Historical Collections) is more precise. According to him the word was first used on the 27th of December 1641 by a disbanded officer named David Hide, who during a riot is reported to have drawn his sword and said he would "cut the throat of those round-headed dogs that bawled against bishops." Clarendon (History of the Rebellion, iv. 121) remarks on the matter: "and from those contestations the two terms of ` Roundhead ' and ` Cavalier ' grew to be received in discourse,. .. they who were looked upon as servants to the king being then called ` Cavaliers,' and the other of the rabble contemned and despised under the name of ` Roundheads.'" Baxter ascribes the origin of the term to a remark made by Queen Henrietta Maria at the trial of Strafford; referring to Pym, she asked who the roundheaded man was. The name remained in use until after the revolution of 1688.

Roundhead was also used during the Civil War as the name of a weapon. This is described as having "an head about a quarter of a yard long, a staffe of two yards long put into their head, twelve iron pikes round about, and one in the end to stop with."

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