William Everard: The forgotten man of the English Revolution

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sun Nov 27 22:27:58 GMT 2016

William Everard: The forgotten man of the English Revolution
by Jemahl Evans - August 18, 2016

"Propriety and single interest divides the people 
of a land and the whole world into parties and is 
the cause of all wars and bloodshed and 
contention everywhere" (Gerrard Winstanley, 
William Everard and thirteen others 1649.)


The collapse of central authority during the 
English Civil Wars saw the rise of radical 
thinkers and reformers who wanted to refashion 
the state. The Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Fifth 
Monarchists, and Muggletonians were all perceived 
as a threat to what was left of the establishment.

The most dangerous, of course, were the 
Levellers, with mass support in the army and 
among the radical pamphleteers. Another group 
that has resonated down the centuries are the 
Diggers, and in particular their leader Gerard 
Winstanley. The historian Christopher Hill 
depicted the Diggers in the 1960s as a 
proto-communist movement crushed by a capitalist 
state. There is even an annual Diggers Festival 
held in Wigan. Alongside Winstanley, but almost 
forgotten, as instigator and leader of the 
Diggers was William Everard (1602 - c1651).

Everard is a central character in The Last 
Roundhead series, but there is little known about 
the man himself. Indeed, he is sometimes confused 
with another agitator called Robert Everard (both 
in contemporary sources and by historians) and 
Christopher Hill even proposed that the two were one and the same.

Everard was baptised in St Giles parish Reading 
on May 9th 1602 to a poor Berkshire family. 
Whilst the family were not wealthy enough to be 
assessed for parliamentary subsidies (and thus 
exist in the historical record) Everard next 
appears on 14th August 1616 in the Apprentice 
Binding Book of the Merchant Taylors Company as a 
new apprentice to one Robert Miller. He is 
recorded as: William Everad, son of William 
Everad, yeoman of Reading, Berkshire.

It is possible that it was in the Taylors that 
Everard first made the acquaintance of Gerrard 
Winstanley, who was a freeman of the guild at the 
same time, but Everard did not complete his 
training and disappears from the historical record during the 1620s and 30s.

As England stumbled towards civil war in the 
Spring of 1642, Everard took the Protestation 
Oath in St Lawrence, Reading: “to live and die 
for the true Protestant religion, the liberties 
and rights of subjects and the privilege of 
Parliaments." The oath was an anti-catholic 
covenant whipped up by press hysteria reporting dubious atrocities in Ireland.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in the Summer 
of 1642, Everard joined Samuel Luke’s scouts and 
was active throughout Berkshire in 1643, but he 
then again disappears from the record. Some have 
speculated that he was captured and imprisoned 
between 1643-46 but nothing concrete is known. (I 
do provide an explanation for this in my series, 
but it’s a few books down the line - and entirely fictional.)

By 1647, Everard was in the New Model Army and 
beginning his career as an agitator. In May, he 
signed a petition voicing the army’s grievances; 
he was then implicated in a plot to kill the King 
and imprisoned in Windsor. In December 1647, 
whilst awaiting his court martial, he petitioned 
Thomas Fairfax - the commander of the New Model 
Army - against his unfair imprisonment. It was to 
no avail, and he was cashiered out of the army in January 1648.

After his discharge from the army, Everard seems 
to have suffered an emotional and spiritual 
crisis. He visited the Baptist Samuel Fisher at 
some point in 1648 in Kent. Fisher, writing in 
1653, claimed Everard had taken the name 
Chamberlain, claiming to be ‘in the secret 
chambers of the most high’. Everard also 
denounced infant baptism and said he was ‘sent 
from God.’Fisher was unimpressed, calling him 
‘strange,’ with ‘uncouth deportment,’ and ‘blasphemous pratings’.

Everard was arrested in Kingston, Surrey and 
imprisoned accused of holding ‘blasphemous 
opinions’ denying God, Christ, Scriptures, and 
prayer. Gerard Winstanley defended him in October 
1648 in the pamphlet Truth Lifting up its Head 
above Scandals declaring Everard ‘innocent of 
these slanders’ but he continued to cause the 
authorities concern. On 6 March 1649 he was 
charged with a disturbance of the peace at a 
church service at Staines, where he threatened 
the minister with a hedging bill shouting: ‘come 
down thou sonne of perdition, come down’. A 
fellow Digger - John Barker - stood bail for him.

In mid-February 1649 at Walton on Thames, Everard 
is believed to be one of six soldiers who 
disturbed the end of a church service claiming to 
have received visions from God, and to deliver 
their message abolishing the Sabbath, tithes, 
magistrates, and ministers, and even the Bible - 
which one soldier then burned a copy of in the 
churchyard. They really were the Sex Pistols of 
the English Reformation! Professor Claire Jowitt 
has done some wonderful research showing clear 
evidence of mystical Judaism in his ideas and 
spirituality at this point - and that of many of 
the other radical groups and individuals bouncing around the republic.

In  April 1649, the first Digger commune was 
established on the common land near St George’s 
Hill in Weybridge; Winstanley later claiming that 
he heard the words: ‘Worke together. Eat bread 
together’ while in a trance. The commune sparked 
immediate concern amongst local landowners that 
their enclosures would be pulled down, with one 
writing "It is feared they have some design in hand."

Winstanley and Everard and thirteen other Digger 
leaders released the pamphlet The True Levellers 
Standard Advanced in response. Thomas Fairfax - 
who must have already known Everard by this point 
- interviewed him and Winstanley at the urging of 
the local landowners on 20th April 1649.

Everard and Winstanley refused point blank to 
remove their hats in front of Fairfax, and it was 
Everard who acted as the group’s spokesman with 
the general, declaring that he: ‘was of the race 
of Jews; that all the liberties of the people 
were lost by the coming in of William the 
Conqueror, and that ever since, the people of God 
had lived under tyranny and oppression worse than 
that of our forefathers under the Egyptians.' He 
justified the Digger actions by claiming a vision 
had told him. 'Arise and dig, and plow the Earth 
and receive the fruits thereof.'

Despite their obvious sedition, Fairfax decided 
that the Diggers were essentially harmless rather 
than revolutionary, and told the local landowners 
to take it to the courts. By now Everard’s 
reputation had been shredded in the newsbooks and 
pamphlets. He was accused of being ‘a madd man’ 
and claimed that he ‘termeth himself a prophett’

The Diggers abandoned St George’s Hill in August 
1649 after being accused of being Ranters -  a 
sexually liberated radical sect proscribed under 
the republic - and losing an ensuing court case. 
Everard seems to  have already left the movement 
by this point. There were reports in the national 
press that he was involved in the army mutiny in 
Oxfordshire in May 1649, but this is now believed 
to be a case of mistaken identity with the agitator Robert Everard.

In August 1649 Everard appeared in Bradfield, 
Berkshire, where John Pordage was the rector. 
Pordage claimed Everard first appeared to him in 
the form of ‘a spirit’, but it is likely that the 
two were already associated through local 
Berkshire connections. A year later Everard 
certainly appeared in the flesh, disguised as a 
harvest worker, sparking havoc in Bradfield. On 
Sunday, 1 September, a thirteen-year-old boy 
called William Snelling recited mysterious verses 
proclaiming ‘the great Jehova’ probably at 
Everard’s instigation. A week later, Pordage went 
into a trance during a church service running 
about and ‘bellowing like a bull.’ It was 
believed that Everard, Pordage, and a local 
self-proclaimed prophet called Tawny were all 
involved, but most people blamed Everard as a 
‘man suspected to be a Sorcerer or Witch’, and 
the ‘malefic presence in the parish’.

Shortly after this, at the end of September 1650, 
Everard was seen in a ‘frantick posture’ in 
London and the authorities once again arrested 
him at the start of October. This time it was 
decided that his visions were feigned and he was 
sent to Bridewell Prison as a charlatan on the 
orders of the Lord Mayor. His wife deperately 
tried to have him commited to Bedlam, but was 
unable initially to find the money to have him 
moved. He was still described as being 
‘distracted’, and in the punishment book for 
Bridewel and Bethlem Hospital in December 1650: 
‘many of Ranting Everard's party are lunatick, 
and exceedingly distracted; they talk very high 
against the Parliament, and this present 
Government; for which some of them have received the lash’

By March 1651, it was realised that his mental 
breakdown was anything but feigned, and at 
Bridewell he was a danger to himself and others. 
He was finally moved to Bedlam on March 19th, but 
frustratingly yet again disappears from the 
historical record. He does not seem to have died 
in the hospital as no burial is recorded, and no 
release is mentioned. However, a William Everard 
was buried at St Katherine Cree, London, on 2 March 1659.

Of course, his enigmatic appearances and 
disappearances from the historic record are 
fertile ground for someone like me, but the real 
Everard was one of the most significant of the 
radicals of the 1640s, and should be remembered 
alongside Lilburne, Hampden, Winstanley and the 
rest. Although, I have always had a 
sneaking  suspicion that there is something of 
the Agent Provocateur about him - I wonder how that will play out!


The Last Roundhead 
available now, for around £8.00, through 
bookfinder.com - 
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So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish participation in Bormann 
companies that when Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv 
to stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the Jewish and German 
communities of Buenos Aires. Jewish leaders informed the Israeli 
authorities in no uncertain terms that this must never happen again 
because a repetition would permanently rupture relations with the 
Germans of Latin America, as well as with the Bormann organization, 
and cut off the flow of Jewish money to Israel. It never happened 
again, and the pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of 
these Jewish leaders. He is residing in an Argentinian safe haven, 
protected by the most efficient German infrastructure in history as 
well as by all those whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
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