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Cavliers and Roundheads

These familiar terms for the two sides in the English Civil War are contemporary with the events. Indeed both are first recorded as early as 1641.

They are originally derogatory, coined by the opposing side. Cavalier is a word only recently imported into English, deriving from a Spanish word for a mounted horseman or trooper and implying someone both brutal and papist. Roundhead, an invented word, applies to the puritan preference for short hair - and perhaps particularly to the style of the London apprentices, who feature in the mobs rioting in the streets on behalf of parliament.

The distinction between the two sides has been immortalized in the comic classic of English school history 1066 And All That (by Sellar and Yeatman), where the Cavaliers are described as 'Wrong but Wromantic' and the Roundheads as 'Right but Repulsive'.

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