King Charles I stayed in the King’s Manor, York in 1633 and again in 1639. The building which had formerly been part of St Mary’s Abbey was in the aftermath of the Reformation turned into the residence of the President of the Council of the North. Charles’ father stayed there on his journey from Edinburgh to London.
The 1633 visit that Charles made followed his journey to Edinburgh to be crowned King Charles I of Scotland. Six years later Charles arrived in York on his way to make war with the Scots because they refused to accept Archbishop Laud’s Prayer Book. The resulting war, known as The Bishop’s War was ultimately a disaster for Charles.
The King’s Manor where he stayed on both these occasions is now part of the University of York but Charles’ coat of arms can still be seen above the door near to the art gallery– but not seen in this blog because I focused on the bricks around it rather than the heraldry when I took my photograph (not once but thrice): don’t ask me why!
In any event York was to become the stage on which King Charles I played once more in March 1642.
Charles attempted to arrest five MPs at the beginning of January 1642. The unrest that followed disturbed him so much that the king fled with his family first to Hampton Court and from there to Windsor on the 10th January.
The Royal family split up soon afterwards. Queen Henrietta Maria escorted her eldest daughter Princess Mary to Holland. Mary had married William of Orange the previous year. Charles accompanied his wife and daughter to Dover. It is said that the king was in tears when he said his farewells to Mary whom he never saw again. The queen, in addition to ensuring her daughter was settled into her new home also had other business in Holland. She had a selection of the crown jewels in her luggage which she intended to sell in order to pay for men, munitions and weaponry as civil war looked inevitable.
Charles meanwhile travelled north to York with his court. He remained there for the next six months. What this effectively meant, given that Charles I governed by personal rule, was that if anyone wanted anything done that required the king’s attention then they had to travel to York.
York became England’s capital city if not in fact then in practice. A procession of officers of state, petitioners, foreign ambassadors and even a parliamentary committee arrived in the city to keep an eye on the king, although officially they were there to keep the channel of communications open. Unfortunately the king’s supporters were also gathering so occasionally the communications involved fisticuffs as well as hard words.
A printing-press was set up in St. William’s College (more recently it featured in the recent adaptation of P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberly as the location for the trial scenes). The press enabled Charles to issue declarations and to send messages around the country in a bid to increase his support. The country was not at war yet but the war of words was well under way. Propaganda was an essential part of the war effort for both king and parliament.
As winter turned into spring and then into summer more and more men arrived in York to offer their swords to their king. Other men came to the city in a bid to persuade Charles that negotiation with Parliament was the only way forward.
Charles held two important meetings in York; one in the castle on 12 May 1642 and the other on Heworth Moor on the 3rd June. Charles summoned over 70,000 lords and gentry of Yorkshire. Not everyone attending the meting was sympathetic to the Charles. Lord Ferdinando Fairfax petitioned the king to stop raising troops against Parliament and was virtually ridden over for his pains when the king refused to accept the petition.
Events took yet another turn for the worse when Hotham (who was Governor of Hull) refused Charles entry to the city.
Fortunately for York although Charles talked about raising his standard which would in effect be a declaration of war on his own parliament he didn’t do so until August by which time he was in Nottingham.
The image in this blog depicts the gateway to St William’s College.