The Rider of the White Horse
First edition cover







Historical era

17th century, English Civil War

The Rider of the White Horse is a novel for adults published in 1959 by Hodder & Stoughton. The US Coward-McCann edition was titled Rider on a White Horse. The novel follows Parliamentarian general Sir Thomas Fairfax and his wife Anne through the first two years of the English Civil War in the north.

Penguin Books published an abridged edition[1] under the young adult Peacock imprint[2]. The Endeavour Press e-book is also abridged.

Later UK editions from Hodder & Stoughton and Methuen included an introduction from novelist Elizabeth Goudge.

Plot Edit

On a pleasant afternoon in January 1642, Sir Thomas Fairfax, a private gentleman of Yorkshire, and his wife Anne, along with their guests at their great house Nun Appleton, receive the news of King Charles's attempt to arrest five MPs who led Parliament's push to remove control of the militia from the autocratic king. They know that it is a crisis likely to lead to civil war and their sympathies lie with Parliament. Anne and Thomas are a young couple five years into an arranged marriage, which has been fairly successful except that Anne loves Thomas and is resigned to the fact that he does not love her. (1) The King addresses the Gentlemen of Yorkshire after the Governor of Hull's refusal to hand over the city's magazine to him; Thomas and his cousin William are among those who do not rush to join the royal bodyguard. The King appoints a day to address the freeholders of Yorkshire on Hayworth Moor and Thomas is deputed to present a petition on behalf of York's wool trade, brought to a standstill by the prospect of war. The King avoids him until Thomas forces the petition on him and then nearly rides Thomas down. Two months later, the King declares war on Parliament (2). In September, two-year-old Elizabeth, Anne's favourite of their children, falls ill and dies of the sweating sickness. Anne's grief takes the form of unbearable restlessness, and when a worried Thomas tells her that he has to leave for the mustering of the Yorkshire militias under his father Lord Fairfax, Anne decides that she and their four-year-old daughter Moll will go with him, as her own family accompanied her father on campaign while she was growing up (3).

Thomas manages to hold Bradford against Royalist forces out of York, but Lord Fairfax's army is outnumbered and outgunned by Lord Newcastle at Tadcaster, where Anne helps to nurse the wounded, and they fall back to Selby, abandoning the west and south (4). On Christmas Eve, a messenger from Bradford comes to beg for support, as the citizens have held the town longer than anyone expected. Their reasons for abandoning the west have not changed, but Thomas pleads for another chance and Lord Fairfax lets him go, arriving on Christmas Day to the acclaim of the townspeople (5). A week later, Thomas's cousin William arrives in Selby, bringing reinforcements from the south, and Anne and Moll ride with him to Bradford. En route he explains the need for a reorganised army and describes the Battle of Edgehill against the dashing royalist champion Prince Rupert, while in Bradford, Anne hears of the legend of the Rider of the White Horse now beginning to gather around Thomas (6). Thomas retakes Leeds while suffering from one of his attacks of "the stone," but is forced to dismiss his ambitious, discontented subordinate Captain Hotham. The Queen lands on the Yorkshire coast, and Captain Hotham's father Sir John, the governor of Hull, Parliament's main supply base in the north, changes allegiances to the King's party (7). Thomas's men are badly routed covering Lord Fairfax's retreat to Leeds, with many taken prisoner. Thomas attacks Wakefield, discovering only at the last minute that his scouts have underestimated the number of defenders, but he nevertheless carries the town and makes his reputation in doing it (8).

In June, Anne rejoins Thomas in Bradford, but the town is about to be besieged. Unable to defend it, the Fairfaxes decide to seize the initiative by attacking nearby Howley Hall (9). The royalists intercept them en route and Lord Fairfax's men are defeated at Adderton Moor, falling back through indefensible Bradford while Thomas's wing is still missing. Anne insists on staying in Bradford until Thomas's force arrives (10). They hold the town under bombardment through the next day, until at evening envoys from Lord Newcastle send to negotiate the town's surrender. While the envoys play for time, the royalists bring up a gun under cover of the truce and attempt to break through the barricades, but are pushed back (11). Before dawn, Thomas's force tries to slip out of Bradford under cover of darkness, but are caught by Newcastle's men. Anne's horse is shot from under her and she is taken prisoner (12). Allowed out of her room on parole, Anne overhears Newcastle's men mention his order to make an example of the defiant town. Anne confronts Newcastle and his sympathetic brother Sir Charles Cavendish, pouring scorn on Newcastle's justifications for the imminent sack, and Newcastle admits that he would be more likely to reverse his order because of a vision or omen than out of justice and chivalry. The next morning, Newcastle informs her that he will spare the town the worst, having seen the vision Anne suggested to him (13). Meanwhile, Thomas and Lord Fairfax's forces (and Little Moll) retreat eastward toward Hull, where the town has overthrown its turncoat governor. Covering their retreat at Selby, Thomas is shot in the wrist and his troop stranded on the wrong side of the river Ouse (14). They make for the river Trent, leaving Moll and her nurse Christian to spend the night at a fen farm. Moll befriends the son of the house, a young man with an intellectual disability (15). Gallant Cavendish escorts Anne out of the neighbourhood of Bradford on her way to join Thomas at Hull, where the family reunites with great relief (16).

In September, the leaders of Lincolnshire's Parliamentary forces, Lord Willoughby and Colonel Cromwell, cross to besieged Hull to confer with the Fairfaxes. The rustic visionary Cromwell denounces Parliament's lack of a grand war strategy and unified military organization, striking a chord with Thomas (17). While Thomas combines forces with Cromwell in Lincolnshire, Anne takes Moll to have a tooth drawn on the morning of Hull's decisive counter-attack against the besieging force. The disembodied head of a Roman emperor on a coin Cromwell left for Moll suddenly strikes Anne as an unpleasant omen, and the surgeon Openshaw points out that even victorious, Parliament will not be able to resolve the conflict with the uncompromising king short of executing him, an action that would be deeply disturbing to both sides (18). As the armies in the north go into winter quarters, Thomas sends Anne and Moll to stay with her mother Lady Vere outside London, telling Anne that he does love her in his way. Her mother remarks that Anne has matured profoundly (19). In February, while visiting Thomas's grandfather Lord Mulgrave, they discuss the difference between Thomas and Cromwell's characters: Cromwell is inspired and inspiring, but ruthlessly pragmatic, while Thomas remains quixotic. News arrives of Thomas's lifting of the siege of Nantwich, brought by Hill, the trooper with whom Anne was captured at Bradford (20).

Meanwhile, while Newcastle marches north to confront Lord Leven's Scots, Thomas is finally freed up from Lincolnshire to support his father against York. The besieging force (from Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Scotland under no unified command) receives word of the approach of Prince Rupert and decides to meet him outside the city at a place called Marston Moor (21). On July 2nd, the armies face off across a mile-long ditch between the villages of Long Marston and Tockwith, joining battle in late evening after several hours' standoff. Thomas's cavalry on the right wing crumbles, as does large sections of the infantry centre, and Thomas rides across the battle to the left cavalry wing to summon Cromwell's help. Cromwell, taking charge of the remaining Parliamentary forces, turns the battle around, driving off Prince Rupert's cavalry and annihilating Newcastle's infantry. Rupert abandons York; Newcastle and his loyal brother Cavendish flee to the Continent; and Parliament's forces move out to mop up the royalists in the north (22).

Shortly after the second Battle of Newbury, Anne is summoned back to York to rejoin Thomas, who is bedridden with a wound. They receive the news that his cousin and best friend William, with whom he grew up, has been killed in action. His wife Frances and Thomas are both devastated, though Thomas's reserve will not at first let him accept Anne's sympathy, yet Anne is deeply grateful she can help him at all in his worst moment (23). At the end of the year, Cromwell convinces Parliament of the need to reform the army, starting by removing military office and patronage from the hands of its Members (with the special exception of Cromwell himself.) In the New Year, they vote Thomas Commander of the New Model Army, though he is beginning to look askance at the rising influence of extremists in Parliament. He rejoins Anne and Moll, who have settled permanently in London, asking Anne for her continuing love (24).

Chronology Edit

The Rider of the White Horse covers the outbreak of the First English Civil War in 1642 to the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644.




  • Horace Vere died (19)
  • Thomas and Anne were married (1)
  • King Charles and Archbishop Laud imposed new ritual on the Church of Scotland


  • Scotland signed the Covenant
  • Moll Fairfax born (2)


  • First Bishops' War between King Charles and Scottish Covenanters. Thomas fought for the King (1) and was knighted (2)


  • Second Bishops' War between King and Covenanters. Thomas fought for the King (1)
  • Elizabeth Fairfax born (2)
  • Death of Grandfather Tom (1)



  • 4 January: attempted arrest of the Five Members
  • c. 20 January (2 weeks to Candlemas) : news of the charge of treason against the MPs (1)
  • William Fairfax born (2)
  • King addresses the Gentlemen of Yorkshire (2)
  • June, three weeks later: the assembly on Hayworth Moor (2)
  • Mid-August: the king declares war (2)
  • September: Elizabeth Fairfax dies (3)
  • October: Parliament's forces muster at Bradford (3)
  • c. 10 December (a fortnight before Christmas Eve): battle of Tadcaster (4)
  • 21 December: Thomas fails to relieve Bradford, Bradford and Halifax drive off Saville (5)
  • 23 December: Bradford calls for aid
  • 24 December: And Selby answers
  • 25 December: Thomas's force reaches Bradford (5)
  • 31 December: William Fairfax returns from the south (6)


  • 1 January: William's force rides for Bradford (6)
  • 2 January: they arrive (6)
  • 20 January: Thomas defeats Sir Henry Slingsby at Guiseborough (7)
  • 23 January: Thomas retakes Leeds (7)
  • March: the Queen lands, Fairfax falls back to Leeds (7, 8)
  • May, Whit Sunday: Thomas takes Wakefield (8)
  • June: Newcastle moves on Bradford (9)
  • 30 June: battle of Adderton Moor. Lord Fairfax pulls out of Bradford (10)
  • 1 July: Bradford besieged (11)
  • 2 July: Thomas's men break out of Bradford; Anne is taken prisoner (12)
  • 3 July: Newcastle sees a White Lady and takes Bradford (13, 16), the Fairfaxes retreat from Leeds (14, 16)
  • 4 July: the Fairfaxes reach the Ouse (14), Thomas's troop retreats via the Trent, Moll rests on the Humber (15)
  • 5 July: Moll escorted to Hull (15)
  • 6 July: Anne is dispatched to Hull, sleeping at Wetherby (16)
  • 7 July: Anne reaches York
  • 9 July: Anne arrives at Hull after four days' travel (16)
  • Early September: Newcastle besieges Hull (17)
  • Late September: Parliaments of England and Scotland sign the League and Covenant. Willoughby and Cromwell visit Hull. Thomas departs for Lincolnshire (17)
  • 3 October: Hull cuts the river banks (18)
  • 5 October: Sir John Meldrum's reinforcements arrive (18)
  • A week later: Newcastle's assault on Hull
  • Next day: Moll's toothache
  • Next day: Moll's tooth drawn. Meldrum's counterattack. Battle of Winceby (18)
  • A few days later: Eastern Association retakes Lincoln (19)
  • Late October: Fairfaxes go into winter quarters (19)
  • Mid-November, Martinmas: Anne and Thomas visit Nun Appleton (19)
  • A fortnight later: Anne and Moll arrive in Hackney after a nine days' journey (19)
  • around Christmas: Thomas ordered to relieve Nantwich (20)
  • just before New Year: he marches for Nantwich


  • Mid-January: rumours of Thomas's battle of Nantwich
  • Early February: Lord Leven crosses the Tweed (21)
  • February: Anne and Lord Mulgrave receive news of Nantwich (20), Thomas besieges Latham House (21)
  • April: Thomas returns to Yorkshire, defeats Bellasis at Selby
  • Mid-May: Cromwell's Ironsides join the siege of York
  • 30 June: Prince Rupert reaches Knaresborough, Parliament forces move to Marston Moor
  • 1 July: Prince Rupert bypasses Marston to reach York (22)
  • 2 July: morning, Rupert crosses the Ouse. Evening, battle of Marston Moor
  • 3 July: Prince Rupert retreats to Lancashire
  • 4 July: Newcastle and Cavendish flee to the continent; siege of York resumes
  • 5 July: York surrenders
  • 2 September: Essex's army defeated at Lostwithiel
  • 27 October: 2nd battle of Newbury
  • November (or September): Anne rejoins Thomas after 5 days' ride north (23)
  • 2 days later: they receive word that William died 5 days earlier
  • Next day: Frances goes home. Thomas grieves with Anne.
  • 23 November: Anne travels south again. Parliament sets the Committee of Both Kingdoms to reorganise the army (24)
  • 25 November: Cromwell denounces Lord Manchester's generalship
  • 9 December: Cromwell proposes the self-denying ordinance
  • 11 December: the Self-Denying Ordinance passes


  • 10 January: Archbishop Laud executed on dubious grounds
  • 20 January: Thomas appointed to command the New Model Army
  • February: Thomas joins Anne and Moll in London

Characters Edit

Sir Thomas Fairfax, a veteran of the Low Countries and Scotland, with intermittent illness (1)

  • ‘Thomas is not a politician. One Member for York is enough in one family, and he leaves that to his father. He is a one-time soldier who breeds horses and grows the best roses in Yorkshire.’ (1)
  • She saw Thomas, her dark faintly scarecrow Thomas, with the bony, sensitive sallow face, the sombre eyes and vulnerable mouth. (1)
  • Thomas was relaxed and at ease, the stutter that at most times needed such careful control seeming scarcely to trouble him. (1)
  • she had learned to accept the fact that he had nothing to give her but gentleness and unfailing courtesy. (1)
  • Fairfax smiled, the swift, leaping smile that was like the springing up of a light in his dark face. (2)
  • And all the while his deep humility — for he was a very humble man — was crying out within him, ‘Why all this for me? I’ve done nothing for them, nothing that any man wouldn’t do. Oh God, I’m such a shabby hero — I can’t even speak to them without stammering!’ (5)

Anne (Vere), Lady Fairfax (1)

  • Frances had her means of capturing beauty, and Anne Fairfax envied her sharply. She envied so many people so many things. (1)
  • Lady Fairfax of Nun Appleton, a stocky young woman, brown of skin and hair, and with a small plain face in which the strong level brows and big nose seemed meant for a much larger and more commanding owner. Only her eyes under those too-heavy brows were beautiful; large and brilliant, hazel or grey by turn. (1)
  • She had many faults and failings, but disloyalty was not one of them. She told Thomas plainly, sometimes too plainly, when she disapproved of what he did; she never told anyone else. (1)
  • He saw a woman short and thickset and hardy as a fell pony, saw moreover the resolution of the brilliant hazel eyes under the strong brows that seemed more fitted to a man than a fine lady. (4)

The Fairfax and Vere families

  • Grandfather Tom (Lord Fairfax), recently deceased, "the terrible old white lion" and "family tyrant". A noted horse breeder (1).
  • Sir William Fairfax, cousin of Thomas and husband of Frances, also a soldier (1)
  • White Surrey, a prize stallion named after Richard III's horse (1)
  • Frances Fairfax, William's wife, dark and pretty, a musician (1)
  • Lady Vere, Anne's mother, now living in London (1), very beautiful (19)
  • Lord Vere, Anne's father, a general who campaigned over the Low Countries in her childhood (1)
  • Elizabeth and Catherine Vere (1, 18) Anne's sisters
  • Mary Fairfax (or Little Moll), Anne and Thomas's eldest child (1)
    • Bathsheba, her doll (1)
    • Dandelion, an orange kitten presented to her by Dicken Gibberdyke (15, 17)
  • Elizabeth Fairfax, their younger daughter (1)
  • Lord Fairfax, Thomas's father, Member for York (1). One of the committee sent to refuse the King access to the Hull magazine (2). Commander of Parliamentary forces in Yorkshire, though no soldier (3). Governor of Hull from July 1643 (16)
  • Lord Sheffield, Thomas's maternal grandfather, once President of the North (2) now Lord Mulgrave, living in Hammersmith aged 89 (20)
  • William Fairfax, William and Frances's second child, born 1642 (2)
  • Fairfax daughters, Thomas's sisters (3)
  • Mary Arthington, Thomas's sister in Leeds, fat, kind, and fussy (7)
  • Arthington children (9)
  • Mr. Arthington (9)
  • Fairfax twins, William and Frances's third and fourth children (19)
  • Maia, a chestnut mare (1), White Surrey's successor (24)

Other citizens

  • Midgely, a groom at Nun Appleton (1)
  • Ben Midgely, an old serving-man, uncle to the groom (1)
  • Relf, a young servant at Nun Appleton (1)
  • Sibby, a maidservant at Nun Appleton (1)
  • Mr. Peebles, the writer of Thomas's weekly newsletter from London (1)
  • Christian, the Fairfaxes' nursemaid (2). She accompanies Anne and Moll on campaign (3, 4). Big-boned and fair-haired (14).
  • Luke, brother of Christian, a York wool-merchant (2)
  • Mr. King, the doctor at Ilkley (3)
  • Selathiel, a farmer west of Selby (6)
  • Thomas Sharpe, the Fairfaxes' host in Bradford (6, 10)
  • Dorothy Sharpe, a Highlander and a royalist sympathiser (6), pregnant in 1643 (10)
  • Josiah Crabtree, a Bradford preacher who dubs Thomas the Rider of the White Horse (5, 6)
  • Oglethorp, the Arthingtons' steward in Leeds (8)
  • Euphemia, the Arthingtons' nursemaid (9)
  • Master Forret, Bradford wool stapler in whose house Thomas treats with Newcastle's envoys (11)
  • Mr. Raikes, mayor of Kingston-upon-Hull (14)
  • Maudlin Gibberdyke, proprietress of a farm in Lincolnshire. Her husband has been drafted into the militia (15)
  • Dicken Gibberdyke, her mazelin son, very fond of animals (15)
  • Ship, their sheepdog (15)
  • Robert Cromwell, Cromwell's eldest and favourite son, who died at school (17)
  • Seth, a manservant at the Governor's Palace in Hull (18)
  • Phyneas Openshaw, surgeon of Hull, gouty, who operated on Sir Walter Ralegh (18)
  • Portidge, the steward of Nun Appleton (19)
  • Crabstock, a gardener at Nun Appleton (19)
  • Collins, Lady Vere's servant who escorts Anne back north (23)
  • Cherry, Lady Vere's horse (23)

The English court and Royalist forces

  • King Charles I Stuart, an autocrat. "the King’s physical inability to see any point of view but his own, his passionate belief in his own Divine Right..." (1)
  • Archbishop Laud (1)
  • Queen Henrietta Maria, gone to the Low Countries (2)
  • Sir Henry Slingsby, an older friend of Thomas's, destined to hang in the King's cause (1). Thomas defeats him at (
  • Sir John Bellasis, a distant kinsman of the Fairfaxes, for the King (2). He holds York and overruns the East Riding while Newcastle goes north to hold off Leven's Scots. Thomas defeats him at Selby (21).
  • Sir Francis Wortley, a young Yorkshire royalist cavalry officer (2)
  • Robin Strickland, a young Yorkshire royalist infantry officer (2)
  • Ingram, a Yorkshire gentleman for the king (2)
  • Lady Bellasis, from whom Anne has a lace pattern (2)
  • the Prince of Wales, 12 years old in 1642 (2)
  • the Earl of Newcastle, unpopular new Governor of Hull. A noted horseman and an old friend of Thomas's grandfather Fairfax (2). Replaces Cumberland as General in the North, takes York, Tadcaster (4) Leeds, and Wakefield (5). His Whitecoats, or Newcastle's Lambs, are wiped out at Marston Moor, and he leaves England (22).
  • Lord Lindsay, a redhead, attending the king at Hayworth Moor (2)
  • Sir Jacob Astley, the Sergeant-Major-General (3)
  • Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Charles's nephew, commander of the cavalry (3). The victor of Edgehill, an inspiring though reckless young leader (6). He engages a larger force at Marston Moor for reasons that are never clear to the Parliamentary forces, and loses, leaving York to surrender (22).
    • Boy, his white poodle (22)
  • the Duke of Cumberland, holding York in 1642 (3)
  • Sir Thomas Glamham, Cumberland's lieutenant, a Low Country veteran (3), driven off at Bradford (4). Prince Rupert leaves him to defend York after Marston Moor (22).
  • Saville of Thornhill, attacking Bradford from Leeds in December 1642 (5), Newcastle's envoy to Thomas in Bradford (11)
  • George, Lord Goring, Newcastle's commander of Horse (7). He crushes Thomas's wing at Marston Moor, but fails to mop up Essex's horse after Lostwithiel (22).
  • Captain Cathgart and Captain Philips, Newcastle's envoys to Bradford (11)
  • Tim Thornton, the trooper Anne tried to shoot outside Bradford (12)
  • Lady Tempest, discreet hostess of Bowling Hall (13)
  • Sir Charles Cavendish, Newcastle's brother and General of Horse, a hunchback and a gentleman (13, 16). He goes into exile with his brother (22).
  • Lieutenant Robert Gascoigne, officer of Anne's escort from Bradford to Hull (16)
  • Lord Hopton, commanding the King's western army (17)
  • Prince Maurice, commanding the King's western army (17)
  • Strickland, a young kinsman of Robin Strickland, killed in the the siege of Hull (18)
  • Lord "Bloody" Byron, commander of forces in Ireland and Cheshire (20)
  • Byron, Gibson, Warren, Earnley, Sir Fulke Hunkes, Lord Byron's officers at Nantwich (20)
  • Charlotte de la Tremouille, Countess of Derby, "an Amazon" ruling Latham House (21)
  • Earl of Derby, absent in the Isle of Man (21)

The English Parliament and its forces

  • Lord Kimbolton, leader of the Militia Bill, charged with treason (1)
  • John Pym, charged with treason (1). Dying in September 1643 (17).
  • John Hampton (or Hampden), charged with treason. Leader of the Buckingham Trained Bands (1)
  • Sir Arthur Hazelrigg, charged with treason (1)
  • Denzil Holles, charged with treason (1)
  • William Strode, charged with treason (1)
  • Sir John (or Thomas) Hotham, replacement Governor of Hull (2), possibly feeling slighted (5). Passed over in favour of Lord Fairfax, he hands Hull magazine over to the King's forces (7). Deposed (14).
  • Sir Hugh Cholmley, one of the committee sent to refuse the King access to the Hull magazine (2). A vulgar drunk, he speculates on the Hothams' loyalties (5). He hands Scarborough Castle to the royalists (7).
  • Sir Henry Cholmley, one of the committee sent to refuse the King access to the Hull magazine (2)
  • Sir Philip Stapleton, one of the committee sent to refuse the King access to the Hull magazine (2)
  • Savile of Lupset, a Yorkshire gentleman for Parliament (2)
  • Hutton the Sheriff, a Yorkshire gentleman for Parliament (2)
  • Lord Essex, commander of Parliament's forces (2), who carries his shroud and coffin about with him (3).
  • the Gentlemen of the Inns of Court, joined Essex's bodyguard (3)
  • the London Apprentices, under Holles and Brookes (3)
  • Oliver "Noll" Cromwell, East Anglian MP and Captain of 67th Horse, cousin of John Hampden (3). Joins the Fairfaxes in Hull and inspires Thomas (17).
  • Captain Hotham, son of Sir John, a veteran of the Low Countries, unreliable (3). He defends the ford of the Tees against a large royalist force (4). Passed over for drunkenness, he joins Cromwell's Lovely Company (7).
  • Captain John Lister, a young veteran of the Low Countries from Leeds (3). He is shot in the head retaking a house at Tadcaster, aged 23, leaving a widow and son (4).
  • Lieutenant Charles d'Oyley, Thomas's galloper (4)
  • Davie (or Davey) Morrison, a Scottish surgeon with the army. Anne works under him at Tadcaster (4) and Bradford (10)
  • Corporal William Hill, a veteran of Sweden (5), promoted cornet before Howley Hall in June 1643 (9). Anne rides out of Bradford with him and they are taken prisoner. His elbow is injured (12). He returns to fight for Thomas at Nantwich, promoted to Lieutenant (20). Killed at Marston Moor (22).
  • Major-General Gifford, a swordsman and oenophile (5), commands a detachment under Thomas at Wakefield (8). In the left wing at Adderton Moor (10), retreats from Bradford with Thomas (14). Commands a detachment at Hull (18).
  • Peter Metcalf, messenger from Bradford (5)
  • Harry Gill and Samuel Webster, the best shots in Bradford (5)
  • Captain Hodgson, a native of Halifax who leads their militia to the relief of Bradford (5), and remains after Adderton Moor, leading the charge against the gun (11), leads the Foot out (12). Reassembles the West Yorkshire forces and rejoins Thomas at Nantwich (20). He remains in the north when Thomas becomes Commander of the New Model (24).
  • Clayton, Taffler, Holms, commanders of three companies under Thomas at Bradford (5)
  • Captain John Bright, joins Thomas at Bradford (6) and Nantwich (20). Colonel at Marston Moor (22)
  • Sir Thomas Norcliffe, comes north with William Fairfax (6)
  • Sir Henry Fowlis, comes north with William Fairfax, slender and pretty (6). Shot at Potterton Beck, with Thomas at Wakefield (8), and Bradford (14).
  • Captain Mildmay, comes north with William Fairfax (6), a fop, promoted (7)
  • Sergeant Major Forbes, comes north with William Fairfax, a Highlander (6), with Thomas at Leeds, promoted (7)
  • Lord Manchester, raising a new model army in Lincolnshire (6). Sends reinforcements to Hull (18)
  • Swaine, Thomas's orderly (7)
  • Captain Tyrwhit, under Thomas at Leeds (7)
  • Colonel Alured, commanding a troop under Thomas at Wakefield (8)
  • Jud, a patient in Bradford (10)
  • Lieutenant Illingworth, with Thomas in Bradford (12)
  • Peterson, one of Thomas's scouts outside Selby (14)
  • Trooper Wagstaff, Moll and Christian's escort at Selby (14)
  • Major Ledgard, Thomas's second-in-command at Selby (14), and Marston Moor, where he is killed (22).
  • Lord Willoughby, of the Lincolnshire forces, meets the Fairfaxes in Hull (17)
  • Sir John Meldrum, a Scot with an incendiary career, commanding Hull's reinforcements (18)
  • Lawrence Crawford, Lord Manchester's Major-General of Foot, incompetent (21). At the left of the infantry centre at Marston Moor (22).
  • Oliver Cromwell (the younger), Cromwell's second son, dead of fever in early 1644 (21)
  • Colonel Lambert, under Thomas at Marston Moor (22)
  • Colonel Eglinton, under Thomas at Marston Moor (22)
  • Sir Philip Skippon, 2IC of Lord Essex, left to surrender at battle of Lostwithiel, Cornwall (22)

Scottish allies of Parliament

  • David Leslie, commanding forces from Scotland (18, 21). In reserve at Marston Moor, he comes to the support of Cromwell's Left Wing against Prince Rupert and is ultimately decisive in the battle (22).
  • Lord Leven, commanding forces from Scotland (21), in overall command at the centre at Marston Moor, driven towards Leeds (22)
  • Baillie, with Leven at the siege of York (21), right of Lord Fairfax in the infantry centre at Marston Moor (22).
  • Buccleuch, with Leven at the siege of York (21), infantry broken at Marston Moor (22).
  • Loudoun, with Leven at the siege of York (21), infantry broken at Marston Moor (22).
  • Lindsey, with Leven at the siege of York (21), right hand infantry holds on at Marston Moor (22)
  • Maitland, with Leven at the siege of York (21), right hand infantry holds on at Marston Moor (22)

Other notables

  • King Richard III Plantagenet, a Yorkshireman with a horse called White Surrey (1)
  • Francis Bacon, who noted King Richard's legacy in the north (1)
  • Sir Walter Ralegh, under whom John Lister's grandfather fought at Fayal (4), and Phyneas Openshaw at Cadiz, executed by James I (18)
  • Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cervantes' idealistic knight on a white horse called Rosinante (18)
  • Leicester, Essex, Cecil, old Elizabethan acquaintances of Lord Mulgrave (20)

Places Edit


  • river Wharfe and Wharfedale, southwest of York (joins the Ouse south of York)
    • Nun Appleton, the house of Sir Thomas and Anne Fairfax (1)
    • Denton, the Fairfax family seat (1)
    • Ilkley, home of Dr. King (3)
    • Tadcaster, a bridge on the Wharfe between York and Leeds, defended by Fairfax in Dec 1642 (4)
      • the Falcon inn, Fairfax's HQ
      • the church
    • Wetherby, another bridge on the Wharfe held by Thomas before Tadcaster (4). Anne stays there en route to Hull (16).
  • river Ouse, empties into the Humber
    • York, the county town (1)
      • The Manor house, the seat of government (2)
      • York Minster (2)
      • Bishophill, where the Fairfaxes have a house (2)
      • Micklegate, a main street (2)
        • Micklegate Bar, a city gate (4)
      • the Merchant Venturers' Hall, POW housing (8)
      • Stamford Bridge, outside York, menaced by the Fairfaxes in Hull (17)
    • Selby, whither Parliament forces fall back after Tadcaster (4)
      • the George and Dragon, their HQ (5)
      • Selby Abbey (6)
      • the Gowthorpe, road west (6)
      • Ousegate, the road along the river (14)
        • Ousegate Wharves, whence Lord Fairfax's men embark
      • Church Park
      • the marketplace, next to the church
      • Finkle Street, the royalists' route into the marketplace
      • Brayton Barf(f), high ground south west of Selby and Brayton
    • Cawood, outpost of Selby held by Captain Hotham (5)
    • Long Marston, a village 7 miles west of York under Marston Moor (21)
      • Long Marston Moor, uncultivated land
      • Long Marston Ditch, a mile-long ditch dividing rye fields from moorland between Long Marston and Tockwith, across which the armies face each other
    • Poppleton, where Prince Rupert crosses the Ouse en route to Marston Moor (22)
    • Tockwith, a hamlet a mile west of Long Marston (22)
  • the river Hull, empties into the Humber from the north (17)
    • Hull or Kingston-on-Hull, the site of a magazine (1) holding munitions left over from the Bishops' Wars. Parliament replaces the Earl of Newcastle with Sir John Hotham as Governor, who refuses to give the arsenal to the king (2). He later closes the town to Parliament (7), then is deposed (14).
      • Beverley Gate, to the north (16)
      • Silver Street, on which is the Governor's Palace
      • the Charterhouse, on the riverbank
    • Beverley, north of Hull on the road from York (16)
  • the Ainstey, an area between York and Wharfedale (2)
    • Hayworth [Heyworth] Moor, the scene of the king's address to the Yorkshiremen in June 1642 (2)
  • The West Riding, containing the "clothing towns"
    • Steeton, Christian's childhood home (3), also the William Fairfaxes' (6).
    • Leeds, home of John Lister (3), Thomas's sister Mary (4). Fairfax's HQ in early 1643 (7).
      • Boar Lane, site of Mary Arthington's house (7), with garden backing onto Briggate (8)
      • Briggate, where Thomas's force entered (7)
      • Headrow, where William's force entered (7)
    • Bradford, where the Yorkshire militias gather at the outset of the war (3). Fairfax holds off Cumberland and Glamham in autumn 1642 (4). Drives off Royalist forces in December 1642 (5).
      • Goodman's End (5)
      • Kirkgate
      • St. Peter's Kirk
        • Leventhorpe Chapel, with the preaching cross (12)
      • Ivegate (6)
      • the Sharpes' house
      • the Unicorn Inn
      • Baker End, damaged in Newcastle's bombardment (11)
      • Vicar Lane (12)
      • Barker End, the thinnest part of the barricade (12)
    • Wakefield, Lord Newcastle's HQ at Christmas 1642 (5), left after taking of Leeds (7), reoccupied after Hull, but recaptured by Thomas (8)
      • Wrengate and Norgate, attacked by Thomas's force (8)
    • Halifax, comes to the aid of Bradford in December 1642 (5)
    • Pomfret (Pontefract), held by Lord Newcastle (5)
    • Dewsbury (6)
    • Guiseborough, where Thomas defeated Henry Slingsby in January 1643 (7)
    • Potterton Beck, Potterton, where Thomas's men broke discipline and were routed by Goring (8)
    • Howley Hall, Batley, taken June 1643 (9)
    • Drightinton [Drighlington], near Bradford, in the direction of Adderton Moor (10)
    • Adderton [Adwalton] Moor, battle of 30 June 1643 (10)
    • Gomersal, village through which Thomas retreats to Halifax from Adderton Moor (10)
    • Bowling [Bolling] Hall, outside Bradford, occupied by Lord Newcastle (11)
    • Craven, whence Hill and Hodgson join Thomas at Nantwich (20)
  • Burlington (Bridlington), East Riding, port where the Queen lands in spring 1643 (7)
  • Scarborough Castle, handed to the Queen by Sir Hugh Cholmley (7)
  • Knaresborough, North Riding, end of a defensive line north from Wakefield in 1644 (21)
  • Holderness, East Riding, whence Newcastle departs England (22)
  • Helmsley Castle, North Riding, Thomas is sent to besiege it after fall of York (22)

Points north

  • Newcastle
  • the river Tees, Captain Hotham's force defeated by Newcastle's
  • the river Tweed, Lord Leven's Scots cross it in early 1644 (21)
  • Chester-le-Street, County Durham, Leven and Newcastle face off there (21)

Lincolnshire, home ground of the Eastern Association

  • Sheffield and Rotherham, bases of Lord Newcastle (9)
  • the river Trent, empties into the Humber from the south (14)
  • Owston Ferry, where Thomas's troop crosses the Trent (14)
  • Barton (-upon-Humber), where they cross the Humber (15)
  • the Gibberdykes' farm, in the Humber marshes 7-8 miles from Barton
  • Bolingbroke, taken in October 1643 (18)
  • Lincoln, retaken by the Eastern Assoc. (19)

Points south and west

  • London, where Anne's mother lives (1)
    • The City of London, where the MPs fled treason charges (1)
    • Whitehall, royal palace (1) in Westminster (2)
    • Turnham Green, where the King is turned back in sight of the city (4)
    • Hackney, the village where Lady Vere lives (19)
    • the Three Blackbirds, Fleet Street, where Thomas lodged before his marriage (19)
    • Hammersmith, the village where Lord Mulgrave lives (20)
    • Queen Street, between Drury Lane and Lincoln's Inn, where Anne takes a house (24)
  • Nottingham, where the king sets up his standard in August 1642 (2)
  • Edgehill, Warwickshire, site of battle autumn 1642 (4)
  • Oxford, the King's HQ (4)
  • Plymouth, Devon, held for Parliament in September 1643 (17)
  • Dartmouth, Devon, held for Parliament in September 1643 (17)
  • the Severn Valley, held by Gloucester in September 1643 (17)
  • Flintshire, Wales, where the King's reinforcements land from Ireland (20)
  • Nantwich, Cheshire, besieged by Lord Byron and relieved by Thomas in early 1644 (20)
  • Delamere Forest, scene of skirmishing on the approach to Nantwich (20)
  • Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, where Cromwell's son dies of fever (21)
  • Latham [Lathom] House, Lancashire, castle of the Countess of Derby, besieged in early 1644 (21)
  • Newpark, Lancashire, Latham House's home village, siege HQ (21)
  • Lostwithiel, Cornwall, where Essex's Army is defeated in September 1644 (22)
  • Newbury, Berkshire, Lord Manchester loses 2nd battle of Newbury in 1644 (22)


  • The Low Countries, where Anne's father campaigned in her childhood (1). The Queen flees there to sell the Crown Jewels (2)
    • Boi[s] le Duc, Brabant, where Thomas served under Lord Vere (1)
  • Fayal [Faial Island], Azores, Portugal, where John Lister's grandfather fought for Walter Ralegh
  • Cadiz, Spain, where Phyneas Openshaw searched Walter Ralegh's wound (18)

Background Edit

The Bible verses quoted at the end of Chapter 5, from which Thomas is given the nickname "the Rider of the White Horse," are the King James Version translation of Revelations 19:11-15:[3]

‘[11] And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. [12] His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. [13] And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called ‘The Word of God’. [14] And the armies which were in Heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. [15] And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword …’

Abridged editions Edit

The Rider of the White Horse was originally published for an adult readership by Hodder and Stoughton. An abridged[4][5] paperback edition of the novel was published in 1964 for the Young Adult (teenage) market by Peacock Books, an imprint of Penguin.[6] The 2014 Endeavour Press Kindle edition does not indicate that it is abridged, but a comparison of the text to the 1967 Hodder and Stoughton hardcover and the Peacock paperback shows that it is based on the abridged Peacock text.

Most of the edits appear to be small deletions intended to reduce length and increase pace, for instance in the novel's opening paragraph (text which does not appear in the Endeavor Press Kindle edition is in bold):

It had been one of those days when, with more than half the winter still to come, the year quickens, and suddenly, faint but unmistakable as the sound of distant trumpets, the promise of the far-off spring is in the air. There had been a thin warmth in the sunlight at noon; down in the lowings by the river the alders were beginning to show the first intangible deepening of colour that comes before the bloom of rising sap, and In the sheltered angle of the terrace steps the first chilly snowdrops were in flower, though it still wanted almost a fortnight to Candlemas. But the snowdrops were always early at Nun Appleton.
Lengthy cuts also occur, however, to passages of description or dialogue that primarily illustrate theme, setting, or character and do not directly advance the action. For instance, the significance of the unicorn signboard in Chapter 6:
She went down the circular stair slowly, clinging to the newel post as she lowered herself from stair to stair. Half-way down, where the door to Master and Mistress Sharpe’s bedroom opened from the stairway, a little window looked into Ivegate, and she checked a few moments with a child’s superstitious hope that if she stood at the window, Thomas would come up the street while she was looking out. But nothing stirred in Ivegate, except the great painted sign of the Unicorn Inn next door, swinging to and fro in the wind. (Endeavour Press Kindle edition, 2014.)
The complete paragraph continues:
Moll loved that painted unicorn. When first she saw it she had greeted it with delight as a portrait of White Surrey; and when Christian had pointed out the horn that grew from its forehead, and explained, she had been disappointed, but when her disappointment was over, she had continued to love the creature for its own sake. She would be glad to see it again in the morning. In Anne, too, something reached out in greeting, in recognition and longing, not merely to the painted beast above an inn doorway, but rather through it to the things of which it spoke to her so clearly in the language of the far country. The unicorn that meant happiness; not just the fat happiness of content, but a winged and piercing happiness of the spirit, happiness like fire and a drawn sword. Looking at the fierce and milk white creature in its dark enchanted wilderness, the arched neck and flowing mane, the fantastic foliated tail, the wild eye that seemed to flash back into hers every time the sign swung, Anne thought that the painter who had set the creature there on three bare boards, set it among ruins with the desolate curve of a broken archway echoing the wave-break curve of the neck, but the blue-flowered Herb of Grace springing from the fallen stones beneath its trampling golden hooves must have known something of that kind of happiness. Surely only one whose own spirit has spread wing like the pigeons when they exploded upward in the sunlight could have caught that joy and beauty and terror and truth in his paint-filled brush. Her mind, inconsequent with weariness, wandered off to the stiff deer in her own tapestry, and to Frances with a lute in her lap, because the memories were linked together. It was dreadful––wicked, to go through life envying so many people. The unknown dauber of an inn sign because he could capture beauty with his brush; Frances because her husband loved her... She looked once more up the street, and then down, her nose pressed like a child's against the cold glass; but there was no sign of Thomas. And she turned away from the little window and went down. (Hodder & Stoughton hardcover edition, 1967.)
In some cases, edits appear to be intended to minimise violent imagery or sexual allusions. For instance, the death of John Lister in Chapter 4:
John Lister lay crumpled and twitching, not quite like a man, any more than the tattered bundle of bloody feathers that a cat leaves is like a bird. He had been shot in the temple, only quite a small wound, with blue edges; a piece of bone gouged out, and blood and shattered white pulpy stuff pulsing in it. Davey Morrison rose, and touched her shoulder and went where his skill might be of some use. Anne remained with Captain Lister. There was nothing to do for him but let him die, and mercifully he was unconscious; but something in her could not leave him to die alone. She did not dare raise his shattered head, not that it would make any difference now, but she set her hands on either side of it, holding it as though in that way she might help him, make some kind of contact with him in the last loneliness. Five minutes later, with a convulsive shudder, he died between her hands. (Hodder & Stoughton hardcover edition, 1967.)
Is reduced to:
John Lister had been shot in the temple, only quite a small wound, with blue edges[;] but there was nothing to do for him but let him die. He was unconscious but something in her could not leave him to die alone. (Endeavour Press Kindle Edition, 2014.)
It is not clear whether Sutcliff herself carried out the abridgement. In an interview with Emma Fisher for The Pied Pipers (1974) she described doing so for a youth edition of another of her adult novels published by Peacock Books, Sword at Sunset:
After I’d written Sword at Sunset, I did an edited version for children, and they made me cut certain things – details of the battles, because they were too violent; and the fact that two of the soldiers were homosexuals, which was in fact a most natural thing to happen, and part of being a warrior. I discovered later that lots of children had been reading the adult version and loving it!
The original 1959 US edition from Coward-McCann was retitled Rider on a White Horse. It is not known if it contained other significant changes to the text.

Publication history Edit

In English:

  1. The Rider of the White Horse. London : Hodder & Stoughton, 1959.[7]
    1. London : Hodder & Stoughton,1967. Introduction by Elizabeth Goudge.[8]
    2. London : Hodder & Stoughton, 1971. Introduction by Elizabeth Goudge.[9]
    3. London : Hodder & Stoughton, 1981. Introduction by Elizabeth Goudge.[10]
  2. Rider on a White Horse. New York : Coward-McCann, 1959.[11][12]
  3. The Rider of the White Horse. London : Methuen, 1980. Introduction by Elizabeth Goudge.[13]


  1. The Rider of the White Horse. Harmondsworth, England : Penguin Books, 1964. Peacock Books imprint juvenile abridged edition.[14][15]
  2. The Rider of the White Horse. Endeavour Press, 2014. E-book. Abridged text.[16]

In translation:

  1. Hakuba no kishi : Ai to tatakai no igirisu kakumei. [The Knight of the White Horse: Love and Battle in the English Civil War]. Japanese by Shiro Yamamoto. Tōkyō : Hara Shobō, 2008.[17]

References Edit