Will the real Francis Hacker please stand up? National Civil War Centre set to unveil new portrait of soldier...

Posted on: Friday, April 19, 2024

The National Civil War Centre in Newark is set to be reveal a new likeness of a renowned civil war soldier to the public during a special Hacker Day at the National Civil War Centre on Saturday, 25 May in Appleton Gate.

A previously unseen portrait of a 17th Century British Civil War soldier, Colonel Francis Hacker, who played a pivotal role in the trial and execution of Charles I, is set to be unveiled at The National Civil War Centre in Newark.

Francis played a key part in national and local events that changed history and a new painting, discovered by Historian Charles Malcolm Brown was found in the USA. Now it will be revealed to the public during a special Hacker Day at the National Civil War Centre on Saturday 25 May in Appleton Gate. It is markedly different to the official depictions of the historical figure, currently on display at the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. This might just uncover the true identity of a local man who played such a fundamental role in the nation’s history. 

The British Civil Wars tore families and relationships apart, as the exhibition at the National Civil War Centre shows. The impact of this was certainly felt by the three Hacker brothers, Rowland, Thomas and Francis, who hailed from East Bridgford and Colston Basset in Nottinghamshire. Colonel Francis Hacker fought for Parliament, while his brothers fought for the King. At the trial of Charles I, Francis Hacker was the custodian of the King and later walked out with him onto the scaffold at his execution. During the restoration of the Monarchy, Francis was arrested as one of the regicides who ordered the kings execution in 1649. It is 374 years on from the execution of Charles I who ruled England between 1625 to 1649.While Francis' comrades were brutally hung, drawn and quartered, Francis was simply hung during his own execution on 19 October 1660 and his body was returned to his family perhaps thanks to the influence of his royalist brother Rowland who fought for the King.

Francis was a member of the militia committee for Leicestershire and defended Leicester. He was one of the cavalry commanders at the Battle of Willoughby Field in 1648. As one of Cromwell’s trusted supporters, he also commanded the cavalry at the Battle of Dunbar, and escorted Scots prisoners on their march from Dunbar to Durham.

But it is Hacker’s important role in commanding the soldiers who escorted Charles to and from Westminster Hall, that earned him such a coveted place in history. He issued the warrant for the king’s execution as well as being present on the scaffold and signed the order to the executioner. Accounts say he treated the king respectfully throughout this time and thus when it came to his own execution, Hacker was granted a more humane death.

The execution of Charles I at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, was a seismic moment in British History. The following decade was a time of extraordinarily ambitious political innovation, when England became a republic and Oliver Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth from 1653 until his death in 1658.

Councillor Rowan Cozens, Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and the Arts, said: “Francis Hacker played an instrumental role in the British Civil War, so it is great to have an event which commemorates him. This is a story which really brings this conflict to life, revealing the devastating impact on families. The National Civil War Centre in Newark already has a buff coat belonging to Francis Hacker and we are delighted to unveil this portrait discovered by Charles Malcolm Brown. Don’t miss this event, which will be a great chance to discover more about this fascinating national and local history story. We hope that the latest twist in the story will bring people to the town and the Civil War Museum, where they can discover more about an important local historical figure.”

This event is free. Advisable to book in advance. Entry to the museum is £8 for adults and £4 for children between 11 and 4pm, although  people can drop in during the day. Local history groups who book in advance can enjoy 10% off the entry price.