Archive for November 27, 2017

Friends at War

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , on November 27, 2017 by telescoper

I found this letter by accident yesterday while I was searching for something else. Apparently, it’s very famous but I had never seen it before, and it struck me as unbearably moving. It was written by Sir William Waller to his friend Sir Ralph Hopton on 16th June 1643, during the (First) English Civil War and it is the last known communication between the two men. The former was a General in the Parliamentarian army, the latter held the same rank in the Royalist army.

This one heartbreaking letter reveals the tragedy that was unfolding all over the country at the time, as friends and families were torn apart by  forces not of their making but that proved impossible to to resist. It seems that countries are doomed to do this from time to time.

To my noble friend Sir Ralph Hopton at Wells


The experience I have of your worth and the happiness I have enjoyed in your friendship are wounding considerations when I look at this present distance between us. Certainly my affection to you is so unchangeable that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship, but I must be true wherein the cause I serve. That great God, which is the searcher of my heart, knows with what a sad sense I go about this service, and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy; but I look upon it as an Opus Domini and that is enough to silence all passion in me. The God of peace in his good time will send us peace. In the meantime, we are upon the stage and must act those parts that are assigned to us in this tragedy. Let us do so in a way of honour and without personal animosities.

Whatever the outcome I will never willingly relinquish the title of Your most affectionated friend.

William Waller

Following the eventual defeat of the Royalist cause Sir Ralph Hopton fled to the Continent with the young Prince Charles. He died of fever in Bruges in 1651. Sir William Waller served as a Member of Parliament but became increasingly disillusioned with the new Commonwealth and subsequently worked for the Restoration of the Monarchy, which began in 1660 with Charles II. Waller died in 1668.