Baron George Goring was a senior Royalist commander during the English Civil War. Goring commanded a detachment of horse at the Battle of Marston Moor and while he was considered a brave fighter he could not compare with the likes of his opponent at Marston Moor, Oliver Cromwell.
Goring was born in 1608. He was the son of one of Henrietta Maria’s favourite courtiers. As a young man he developed a reputation as a hard gambler but he honed his fighting skills fighting for the Dutch in Flanders. Goring was wounded in 1637 during the siege of Breda and had to return home. In 1639 he was appointed Governor of Portsmouth.
Goring was known to be a very ambitious man who was not too fussed about what he had to do to advance himself. Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, wrote:
“He would, without hesitation, have broken any trust, or done any act of treachery, to have satisfied an ordinary passion or appetite; and, in truth, wanted nothing but industry (for he had wit, and courage, and understanding, and ambition, uncontrolled by any fear of God or Man) to have been as eminent and successful in the highest attempt in wickedness of any man in the age he lived in, as before.”
In the build up to the start of the Civil War, Goring tried to keep in with both sides. He made Portsmouth a base for Charles I but told the Commons that he was loyal to their interests. His performance in the Commons was so good that senior Parliamentarian figures even discussed appointing him to their senior command. However, when Charles raised his standard, Goring declared for the King.
Goring spent a short time in the Netherlands at the start of the war but returned to fight for the King as a cavalry commander. He inspired his men but there can be little doubt that his bravery bordered on the reckless. In 1643, he was captured by Fairfax at Wakefield. In 1644 he was exchanged for Parliamentarian prisoners and led a cavalry unit at Marston Moor that fought on Prince Rupert’s left flank. In the initial opening phase of this battle, Goring’s men took on and defeated horsemen commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax – a highly respected cavalry commander at the time. However, Goring could not press on his success and his unit was defeated by Oliver Cromwell. When the Royalist foot soldiers started to retreat at Marston Moor, so did what was left of Goring’s cavalry.
The defeat left a mark on Goring and he turned more and more to drink. However, his reputation was such that he was appointed Captain of the Horse in the west of England. In October 1644, he fought with bravery at Newbury but away from the battlefield, he became more and more unpredictable. He quarrelled with Prince Rupert and intrigued against him and disobeyed orders to join up with Rupert just prior to the Battle of Naseby.
Regardless of this Goring was still favoured by Charles and in May 1645 he was given the command of all the Royalist forces in the West of England – despite the loss of Taunton earlier in the year. In July 1645 his forces were heavily defeated at Langport and he was forced back to north Devon. His army suffered badly from desertion and lack of morale. In November 1645, citing ‘ill-health’ he left for France.
In 1646, Goring moved to the Netherlands where he was appointed Commander of the English Regiments serving the Spanish there. In 1650 he moved to Spain and spent the rest of his days there, dying in Madrid in 1657.