A recent post by Courtney Barnes made me think of buff coats (the coat worn by Ewan MacGregor in Courtney’s image is buff-coloured rather than being an actual buff – i.e. leather – coat, but that’s associational anarchy for you), and that prompted me to look into the history of the coat I showed in one of my own previous posts.
That coat once belonged to Sir Alexander Carew, a seventeenth-century member of the ancient Cornish Carew clan. In the 1640s he was caught up in the Civil War, which divided not just the country but also his own family.
Sir Alexander and his half-brother John were on the side of Parliament. Other members of the family were staunch royalists, and there is a tradition at Antony that in their rage they cut Sir Alexander’s portrait out of its frame and consigned it to the cellar.
While defending the strategic St Nicholas island near Plymouth against royalist attack, Sir Alexander began to have doubts. Before he could change sides, however, he was betrayed, taken to London and beheaded on Tower Hill.
John Carew also came to a bad end. After the defeat of the royalists, he was one of the 59 Commissioners who signed the King’s death warrant in 1649. At the Restoration in 1660 he was duly convicted of regicide and executed at Charing Cross.
Sir Alexander’s kinsmen later took pity on him and had his portrait put back in the frame – the stitches can still be seen.
His eldest surviving son, John, was fortunately too young to be involved in the Civil War, and was allowed to inherit the title and the estate. He was a member of the 1660 Convention Parliament which restored Charles II to the throne.