The Last Ironsides

The English Expedition to Portugal, 1662-1668

Jonathon Riley

An account of the English soldiers who fought for the Portuguese against Spain 1662-1668. A rediscovery of a lost episode of British military history.
Publication date:
October 2017
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
c 50 ills incl 8pp colour, 22 maps
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781912174102

Dimensions : 234 X 156 mm
This book is temporarily out of stock.


• Fascinating study recounting a long-forgotten campaign conducted by the British Army in Portugal during the early years of the reign of Charles II
• The majority of the British soldiers were English Civil War veterans
• Includes many images of the battlefields today, as well as historical illustrations, and specially-commissioned maps

When Charles II returned home he began the search for a dynastic marriage. He fixed upon the Infanta of Portugal, Catherine of Braganza, whose dowry included the possession of Tangier, Bombay and valuable trade concessions. The Portuguese had been fighting for their independence from Spain for twenty years and needed alliances to tip the scales in their favour. In return for the concessions Charles agreed to send to Portugal a regiment of horse and two of foot, which provided an excuse to ship away the remnants of the Cromwellian armies that had not been disbanded at the Restoration. The prospect of service was at first well received - "Major-General Morgan drew forth his regiment of foot consisting of 1000 proper men besides officers, and made a short speech, acquainting them that his Majesty had been graciously pleased to design them for honourable service abroad. . . Whereupon they all with great acclamations of joy, cried out ' All, all, all. . ." There were also officers and men who had remained loyal to the crown to them Charles owed a debt of employment, Former Royalists therefore made up the balance of the regiment of horse - uncomfortable bedfellows for their former enemies.

The English and French regiments fought with courage and discipline at the series of major battles and sieges that followed, most of which have never been properly described. This is, therefore, the re-discovery of a lost episode in our military history. It was the English and French soldiers, under Schomberg's leadership, who proved the decisive factor in winning back Portugal's independence. But in return for their courage in battle, the English soldiers were rewarded with insults and want of pay. At the conclusion of peace in 1667, only 1,000 out of the 3,500 men who made up the force were left standing. 400 of these received what was effectively a death sentence: they were shipped to Tangier to join the fight against the Moors. The remainder returned to seek service in England or abroad - but places were hard to find. One veteran of the horse summed up the feelings of many - ". . . there was never a more gallant party went out of England upon any design whatever, than were that regiment of horse. . . they came into the country full of money and gallantry, and those which survived left it as full of poverty and necessity."


…Excellent and highly recommended book if you have any interest at all in the early British Army.

This books fills an important gap in the history of the British Army in the 17th century.
Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research

…a very interesting look at a long forgotten campaign…this lively, well-written account will prove interesting reading for any armchair general.

…a riveting story, very well told and eminently readable…
Fortress Study Group

In short a great book that will be going with me to Normandy next year.
Army Rumour Service

This book is a valuable contribution to seventeenth century military history, and a fitting tribute to the brave men, whether royalist or parliamentarian, catholic or protestant, who took the redcoat of the English Brigade to the Iberian Peninsula a century or more before Wellington.
Battlefield Magazine