The Grand Remonstrance

00pym2.jpgAside from the fact that spelling remonstrance is not straight forward its an interlude that heads me off in the direction of the English Civil War.

The Bishop’s War of  March 1639 and its renewal in August 1640 culminating in the Treaty of Ripon meant that Charles I had to call Parliament because he had finally run out of cash despite his best efforts to raise taxes through every other means possible. It wasn’t long before the earl of Strafford who had led the army was in the Tower and by spring 1641 Archbishop Laud was there as well.

The atmosphere was became more tense with the failure of Common Law to condemn Stafford.  Charles was pressured into signing a bill of attainder against Strafford and the earl was executed on May 12th even though Charles I had sent his son to plead for the peer’s life.  At the same time as Parliament was exacting its punishment on the earl, John Pym had also reveal the details of the first so-called Army Plot which allegedly involved Royalist army officers seeking to force Parliament to do the king’s bidding.  Whilst affairs were difficult there was some movement and it appeared that having resolved to summon Parliament every three years and declared Ship Money as an illegal tax that Crown and Parliament might have come to some kind of accommodation.

Unfortunately in October 1641 the Irish rose in rebellion (I’m not going to get side-tracked by the roots of the rebellion or the fact that this unhappy chapter was the start of many more.)  It’s estimated that some 15,000 men, women and children died.  Initially Catholic rebels put Protestants to the sword but the sectarian violence spiralled when the Protestants took their revenge on their Catholic neighbours.  Those who did not die by violence were left homeless and without food – so many more succumbed to starvation and exposure.  In part the whole horrible affair had been triggered by the late earl of Strafford who encouraged Protestant plantation, irritated the local Catholic nobility and employed what can only be described as bullyboy tactics.

In England there was a move to supply an army to go and put the rebellion down – the enemy was seen as being on the doorstep.  King Charles found that he was a bit more popular than he had been in previous years.  In Parliament, John Pym (pictured at the start of this post), Charles’ old adversary was less convinced.  He believed that Charles was ultimately sympathetic to the Catholic rebels.  It didn’t help when a document to this effect was circulated.  It was neither here nor there that the document expounding the king’s support had in fact been forged by Irish rebels.  Pym now took the opportunity to stop the provision of money and arms for the king to make war upon his unruly Irish subjects and instead to attack the king and his perceived abuses of power.

Parliament was not united behind John Pym when he outlined the content of his Grand Remonstrance which was effectively an outlining of Parliaments case against the Crown.  Ultimately, Parliament passed it by only eleven votes being accepted by 159 MPs.  Essentially three groups of people were seen as having caused the nations problems – Catholics who’d had their heads turned by Jesuit propaganda (Charles’ queen,  Henrietta Maria was a partial target here)  Catholic leaning clergy like Laud who wanted music with their church services and stone altars and the usual scapegoat – bad advisers. It then went on, in great detail, to outline everything that had gone wrong in Charles’ reign since 1625 and demanding the right to choose the king’s advisers in future – in essence it was a challenge on the king’s power to rule absolutely. If Pym had succeeded at this point, power would have rested in Parliament’s hands and Charles would have become the first constitutional monarch.

Charles, not unsurprisingly rejected the document. It had the effect of sending some moderate parliamentarians into the king’s camp but when it was printed and circulated in London it resulted in riots.

The Constitution Society have very helpfully placed a complete copy of the text of the Grand Remonstrance online for those of you who wish to read through it in its entirety covering the disasters of foreign policy to illegal taxation.


They have also provided Charles’ response.

Relations between King and Parliament would deteriorate rapidly after the Grand Remonstrance and it wouldn’t be long before Charles attempted to arrest John Pym but arrived at Parliament to discover that his “bird had flown” and that the population of London were up in arms.  Charles would go from making one mistake to the next on a road that would ultimately lead to the raising of the royal standard in Nottingham in August 1642.

Harris, Tim (2014) Rebellion: Britain’s First Stuart Kings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


5 thoughts on “The Grand Remonstrance

  1. My sort of history is Civil War. A story for you. In my travels I have met with many famous or interesting people. One stands out as man set so far back in time it made me think why many thought him clever. In fact I had come to a house to ask directions to the house nearby I could not find. A Clergy man opened the door .A Bishop who asked why I had called. i told him he had no idea. So he invited me in to ask his friend. To my surprise sat reading papers at table in the window was Michael Foot , one time Prime Minister of England. A scruffy big spec man who looked like death. He asked me one question. Which side in the Civil war did your family fight on? For the King I told him. He gazed at me in total upset and I was ushered back out never being told my answer to location. It was in Nottingham area near Sutton in around 1980

  2. You know history is my passion as well as yours dear friend but really is it as Earl of Oxford said we look back at old achievements in despair of new. When I was young we had a vast empire that the sun never seat on. We traveled as i did in the Pink. The map still has it pink as we owned trade in all nations and a man could go nay place and be seen as a lord. i worked In India and Africa and paid by British Government all the way. What have we now but war over EU who Wellington funded first Brussels office in 1815 after we finished the raper of Europes war. Government did not want to help the Duke who had saved us and Europe so all fell down. If we had the bottle we could take the Eu over and run fair and square and tell them we own them not they own us. If we sit like beggars moping then that is what we now are. My judgement is we fight and get our own way crying England and Saint George you will not get our fish nor our money but we will have your blood on our rose bushes. It is becoming a one way street with Germany we fought and beat twice telling us what to do. I simply will not take it and I would cut Junctures throat for him as reply to his threats.. We are English not British and with fire we fight it unto the end. We will win but not as we remain. No Scot in English parliament as we cannot enter theirs. May should stand up and rule like Elizabeth Tudor with us all behind her. Millions of pounds in trade with China is epic Elizabeth 1.The nation is run on sneaky little slime bags on high salary who care nothing about that man in the street or what he stands for. Cromwell was right we are one fighting force we are the English and never give in we must win or die. The bible and sword and God on our side this is war and Eu will bring it to us all the way. Let us make history not read it as others fame but ours.

    • Now you know I don’t dabble in the modern world! There are probably good reasons for that – so thank you all the same but I shall stick to nothing more recent than 1947 if its all the same. And ultimately the past is a foreign land but the events, the motivations and the politics all have their ripples whether it be a small rural parish or a nation.

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