Basher Dowsing and iconoclasm in Suffolk

The medieval splendour of Suffolk’s wool churches took a bit of a battering during the Tudor period. By the time Cromwell and Protestant reformers had removed saints from their niches and destroyed assorted altars and rood screens.  Saints were toppled from their niches and altars removed to be replaced by communion tables.  Then came the orders to white wash wall paintings. Everything started to look decidedly monochrome.

Matters deteriorated even further when William Dowsing (who was born about 1596 and pictured at the start of this post)  was appointed by the Earl of Manchester to inspect the parish churches of East Anglia during 1643 and 1644.  He visited something in the region of one hundred and fifty churches in Suffolk. Dowsing was not sympathetic to Armenianism of Archbishop Laud.  He destroyed stained glass, removed brasses from tombs and defaced anything that could have been defined as Papist idolatry.  Altar rails were removed, steps to altars lowered, fonts took a bit of a battering as well and holy water stoups were deemed to be fit only for Papists.  He defaced tombs that requested prayers for the Dead as this was a bit too close to the Catholic idea of purgatory for comfort.  He wasn’t wildly keen on any depiction of the Trinity either.  He also had a thing about angels – in that he didn’t like them one little bit.

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Dowsing was born in Laxfield, Suffolk from farming stock – with a large landholding.  During the 1620s he married Thamar Lea who was a member of a minor gentry family.  Her name is redolent of Puritanism.  She bore him ten children. Her death in 1640 seems to have made William a stricter puritan than ever. As a consequence of his deepening beliefs he let his land and moved to Dedham, a parish noted for its strict Puritanism. He demanded that the region’s churches should become more godly – and ensured that a letter to that effect reached the Earl of Manchester (a religious moderate who let Dowsing get on with it.)  Part of this belief stemmed from the theological argument against graven images – which is where “pictures” whether of glass or paint or stone met with Dowsing’s disapproval.  There was also the fact that Archbishop Laud had been rather busy reintroducing altars and altar rails to prevent the masses from getting up close and personal with the Almighty.

 

Having wrought destruction in Cambridgeshire Dowsing moved into Suffolk in April 1644 and spent the summer smashing up churches.  He charged parishes for the privledge.  We know this from his journal.  This is supported by the evidence of various church accounts – and from the fact that there are lots of defaced churches with missing brasses, plain or Victorian glass, damaged fonts and various chunks of masonry missing their faces.  The journal often also accounts for what was destroyed.

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Dowsing spent a lot of time trying to remove hammer beam angels from their perches.  In Blythburgh church there’s plenty of evidence of Dowsing’s defacement but the angels survived.  It was believed that he had attempted to shoot them down but when the roof was restored it became apparent that the lead shot dated from eighteenth century bird scarers.  By 1663 Blythburgh was in danger of falling into disrepair – no doubt shattered windows didn’t help matters very much.

 

In nearby Southwold he and his men broke down more than one hundred and thirty pictures and four crosses. Today it is possible to see the thirty-five vandalised Rood Screen panels with their faces scratched out ( just be grateful that the screen survives.)  Dowsing also managed to remove twenty angels from the roof – demonstrating that he was nothing if not determined.

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In 1646 in the aftermath of the First English Civil War William Dowsing married for a second time to Mary Cooper and then lived long enough to see the monarchy restored.  He died in 1668 and is know to history as Basher Dowsing.  His journal is available to read online http://www.williamdowsing.org/journal_online.html

 

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Cooper, T. (ed.), The Journal of William Dowsing: Iconoclasm in East Anglia during the English Civil War. Woodbridge, 2001.

http://www.williamdowsing.org/journal_online.html,

J. ‘Dowsing, William (bap. 1596, d. 1668)’, in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: University Press, 2004

 

Sir Charles Lucas -parole breaker or royalist martyr?

charles lucas.jpgCharles Lucas was one of Margaret Cavendish’s brothers.  An anti-Royalist mob sacked their home in 1642.  This was when Madge was sent off to Oxford to live with her sister.  She gained a place as one of Henrietta Maria’s ladies in waiting and went into exile with her.

Charles meanwhile as a younger brother was Cambridge educated but expected to make his own way in the world.  Like so many other younger sons he spent much of the 1630s on the Continent fighting in the Thirty Years War.  When Charles I declared war on the Scots in 1638, Charles returned home to fight in the so-called Bishop’s War.  He commanded a troop of horse under his brother Sir John Lucas’s command.  As a consequence he was knighted by the king and for those of you who like a Yorkshire link was made Governor of Richmond in 1639.  During the civil war itself Charles was part of Prince Rupert’s cavalry.  Later he transferred to the army of the Marquis of Newcastle – who Charles’ sister Madge would marry in 1645 in exile in Paris.

Eventually in 1646 Charles was taken prisoner at the Battle of Stow-On-The-Wold.  He gave his parole to Sir Thomas Fairfax that he would lay down his arms and go home.

Lucas went back on his word in June 1648 when Lord Goring, fresh from the rebellion in Kent, arrived in East Anglia.  Lucas occupied his home town, Colchester, in the name of the King.  The intention was to raise support in East Anglia but instead of which Thomas Fairfax surrounded Colchester and settled in for a siege.  Things were somewhat complicated by the fact that Fairfax absolutely refused to negotiate with Lucas – who had broken his parole. Lucas was executed – by firing squad (a fact which I couldn’t remember this morning.)  He and Lord Lisle were excluded from the terms that ended the siege because they had gone back on their words.  This may not have been strictly legal.  His tomb states that he was barbarously murdered.  The portrait of Sir Charles Lucas at the start of this post can be found in Colchester Castle.

 

I have posted abut the Siege of Colchester before.  That post can be found here: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/charles-lucas/

The Putney Debates- one man, one vote…or not.

putney-debatesAt the end of the First English Civil War in 1647 the men who had fought against the king found themselves in disagreement.  One group of politicians wanted to reach a settlement with the king other groups wanted more radical reforms.  It is safe to say that none of them trusted one another much by the end of 1647. The Putney Debates, held at St Mary’s Church Putney in the autumn of 1647 presented the views of different factions within the army.

On one side of the argument were the so called Grandees.  These were officers who came from the landed gentry. Unsurprisingly they did not share the Levellers’ desire for a redistribution of land.  Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and Thomas Fairfax were the most influential of the Grandees as well as being respected military commanders.  These men were initially prepared to negotiate terms with Charles I as the war drew to an end.

On the other side of the argument were men such as Colonel Rainsborough who after four years of war had been radicalised.  The men who represented the radical groups and rank and file had been first appointed as agitators or “new agents” elected to take the grievances  of the soldiery to the Grandees when the news of Parliament’s desire to disband the New Model Army had first been aired in 1647.  Initially men wanted to know when they would receive their back pay, receive indemnity from actions carried out during the war and dispute the way in which they were being drafted to Ireland.

In October 1647 five particularly radical regiments selected new agitators and issued a manifesto contacting their viewpoint.  This was endorsed by civilian levellers as well as radicals within the army.  They wanted universal male suffrage, two-yearly parliaments, reorganisation of constituencies, equality of law and freedom from being pressed into military service – all of which seems very reasonable to modern eyes but were the cause of concern to the Grandees who saw a world turned upside down in the Levellers’ Agreement.

The debates began on the 28th October 1647 and were initially recorded.  Essentially the Levellers argued they had rights as Englishmen to a say in how the country was run.  The Grandees thought that it would result in chaos.  A compromise was arrived at with the Grandees saying that soldiers who fought in the civil war should be entitled to a vote and the Levellers conceding that if a man was in receipt of alms or a beggar that he should not have the franchise.

However on the 8th November Cromwell ordered the agitators back to their regiments.  The opportunity to present the manifesto to the Army Council and from there to Parliament would be denied to the Levellers.  Another manifesto was drawn up by army officers and this was the one presented to the Army Council.    The men of the New Model Army would not have a large meeting and a vote.  Instead they would be offered three smaller reviews.  Knowing that they were being cheated of their manifesto there was nearly a mutiny at Corkbush Field on the 15th November 1647 ending with the execution of Private Richard Arnold, one of three ringleaders who had been forced to draw lots.

The beginning of the Second English Civil War in 1648 and divisions with the Scots saw the army close its ranks for the time being. The Grandees disgusted with the perfidy of Charles I were no longer prepared to negotiate whilst the Levellers found themselves mutinying in 1649.  Anger over the failure of Parliament to pay back wages not to mention the way in which men were selected for service in Ireland led to a number of regiments refusing to obey their officers.

 

The Midlands in the English Civil War

Sir_John_Gell_originalDuring 1642 Parliament and the Crown laid out their various pieces on the chess board that was England. Each side attempted to take control of  places of strategic importance.  Having passed the Militia Bill, Parliament thought that it had control of the Commissions of Array and the appointment to offices such as Lord Lieutenantry responsible for the raising of armed forces.  They also assumed that they would have control of each county’s official magazine (by law each county was required to have a stockpile of arms).  However, this didn’t stop the king sending his own commissions nor for that matter some Lord Lieutenants declaring for the king.

The Midlands became important when the Battle of Edgehill, fought on the 23rd October 1642, failed to have a clear outcome.  It was at that point that the Royalists took control of Newark and Sir John Gell (pictured at the start of this post) became the military commander in the area for Parliament.  In Nottingham, John Hutchinson of Owthorpe, who would be one of the signatories of Charles I’s death warrant, together with Gell took Nottingham for Parliament.

Control of key locations in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire became of central importance for communications and resources.  The king was based in Oxford so it was essential that information could pass through the Midlands to the Royalist army in Yorkshire and that there was safe passage to Royalist Wales – to get to Chester and North Wales from Oxfordshire the main road passed through Staffordshire.  It was also an area rich in resources important for war – from grazing for horses to the materials necessary to manufacture weapons and ammunition.

And yet there were no major battles in the North Midlands – consequently popular history does not tend to portray the four counties as being as heavily involved in the conflict as other regions.  It’s almost as though sieges don’t count whereas large set piece battles such as Marston Moor do.  Newark was essential and besieged on three occasions as was Lichfield.  Local historians, as might be expected, are far more aware of the sieges of Ashby de La Zouche and Tutbury.  In fact all the Royalist garrisons were besieged at least once. Even Tissington still has the remains of its own siege works built to defend the village from attack.

Parliament gradually seized control of the major towns to the south of the region so that they held Northamptonshire – its cobblers receiving vast orders for boots and shoes to fit the Parliamentarian army, Leicester, Derby which was unwalled and Nottingham as well as Stafford.  The Royalist garrisons  included Belvoir Castle, Newark, Bolsover Castle and Welbeck Abbey owned by the Marquis of Newcastle, Lincoln, Gainsborough,  and Tutbury as well as many smaller manor houses including Wingfield Manor more famous for the incarceration of Mary Queen of Scots and, of course, Tissington.  The fight for the Midlands was just as bitter as anywhere else but on a smaller scale with many local disputes.  The problem for the Royalists was that gradually their forces were drawn into the conflicts to the North and the South. For instance, Prince Rupert took cavalry north to relieve the Siege of York. The Royalists did not have the manpower left to control the Midlands where they were under pressure from local Parliamentarians as well as Parliament’s “national” New Model Army. Their command chain was not as efficient as that of Parliament and relied more heavily on the local magnates.

For a more detailed appraisal of the role of the Midlands read Martyn Bennett’s article entitled “Holding the centre ground; the strategic importance of the North Midlands 1642-1646.”  which can be found a www.eastmidlandshistoryorg.uk

 

Chester and the civil war – besieged.

John1stLordByron.jpgEven before the Civil war started various key ports and fortifications were being snaffled either by Parliament or the Crown.  Some, like Bristol and Lichfield, changed hands more than once inflicting severe damage on the local populations.

Chester sitting as it does on the River Dee was one of those strategic locations.  It gave access to Wales, to Ireland and to the North. It was also Royalist in sympathy.  Before the war it was a very fine town indeed.  After the civil war, the siege and the plague which struck in 1647 it looked very much worse for wear.

william_brereton_original.jpgBy the end of 1643 Sir William Brereton (pictured right) who had been one of the MPs for Cheshire and been elected in 1640 to the Long Parliament had secured most of the surrounding countryside for Parliament.  The Royalists extended Chester’s defences to include new earthworks recognising that their time would come.  In 1644 those defences were improved by Prince Rupert – who seems to have got everywhere.

Rupert, had been named President of Wales in February 1644 but very swiftly irritated the local military commanders – mainly because he replaced them with experienced English commanders.  The Welsh, unsurprisingly, were also becoming a bit fed up with the war.  Rupert, having rocked the metaphorical boat left the region with rather a lot of its soldiery to lift the siege at York.

Parliament took the opportunity to gain an advantage over the depleted Royalist troops and took Oswestry which had, until then, been in Royalist hands.  As the year went on things became even worse for the Royalists.  A shipment of gunpowder on its way to Chester from Bristol was captured.  The gunpowder was then used against the Royalists at Newton.  This in turn led to the loss of Montgomery Castle.  On the 18th of September the two forces met in open battle.  The Battle of Montgomery is the largest battle to have taken place on Welsh soil during the English Civil War. The Royalists lost.

As a result of this loss Lord John Byron, the Royalist military commander (pictured at the start of this post) could not put an army in the field and so Chester was effectively besieged.  The Wheel of Fortune had turned in less than a year – from besieging Nantwich at the start of the year Byron now found himself besieged. By the summer of 1645 Brereton had control of most of Cheshire but the royalists still controlled the crossing point of the River Dee which enabled forces and supplies to get into and out of the town via North Wales which was Royalist.

Basically the siege was somewhat protracted by the fact that both sides kept nipping off to have a fight somewhere else.  For example Prince Maurice, Rupert’s little brother, arrived in February 1645 but then left again taking a large number of Byron’s Irish troops with him.

With depleted numbers it was only a matter of time before the Parliamentarians drew closer to the town. There was also the bombardment.  Byron wrote that Brereton had sent a barrage of 400 canon balls into Chester – which is pretty impressive. The original aim of the Parliamentary command had been to break the walls so that the town could be taken by storm.  This proved ineffective and a tactic of bombardment was employed. There was widespread damage to property, injury and terror.  On the 22nd September 1645 there was a partial breach of the wall but Byron received word that King Charles was coming with 4,000 cavalry.

On the 23 September Charles marched out of Wales and crossed the Dee into Chester – he had approximately 600 men.   The rest of them were with  Sir Marmaduke Langdale who crossed the Dee south of Chester with the intention of outflanking the Parliamentarians -making them the filling between his force and Byron’s.

Unfortunately the Northern Association Army were in the vicinity and upon receiving news of what the Royalists were up to had made a forced night march to intercept Langdale.  The two armies spent the morning of the 24th September in a staring match before repositioning themselves at Rowton Heath.  The king and his commanders inside Chester could do little but watch from the walls as the royalist cavalry was broken.

On the evening of the 25th September Charles recrossed the Dee with the tattered remnants of his relieving force.  Byron refused to surrender.  The Parliamentarian noose grew tighter  around Chester and the bombardment became ever more intense.  This didn’t stop Byron from trying to attack his besiegers on occasion.

When Chester did surrender it had more to do with starvation that the number of rounds of artillery fired at it. The mills and water supplies had been badly damaged by the bombardment.  Lack of ammunition meant that the Royalists lost control of the crossing point and supplies could not enter the town.

Brereton shot propaganda leaflets across the walls to persuade the defenders to surrender but from October onwards there were no further attempts to breach the walls.  Approximately 6000 people behind Chester’s walls were starving and diving of disease.  It was just a question of waiting. By December 1645 the town’s defenders began to desert.

Chester’s mayor persuaded Byron to surrender in January 1646.  The able bodied were allowed to leave whilst the sick and the starving were to be permitted an opportunity to recover.  Brereton took possession of Chester on 3rd February 1646.

A quarter of Chester had been burned. What their artillery hadn’t destroyed the Parliamentarian soldiers now smashed.

 

Newcastle’s Lambs

battle of Marson moor.jpgAt the beginning of the English Civil War, in 1642,  William  Cavendish of Bolsover and Welbeck Abbey who was the Earl of Newcastle at that time gave Charles I £10,00 and raised a troop of 200 horsemen. In June of that year William was sent to secure Newcastle.  He was on his way to becoming the king’s general in the north and about to start a military dance with Lord Ferndinado Fairfax and his son Sir Thomas Fairfax that would only end in 1644.  Not that it was all plain sailing.  The slide to war met with opposition and not every local lord was keen on Cavendish’s recruitment campaign.

Cavendish summoned his tenants and the trained bands of the North. They came largely from Northumbria at the beginning of the conflict- remember he was also Earl Ogle – his mother was Catherine Ogle.  He kitted them out in a new uniform – the coats were undyed because, according to Margaret Cavendish’s biography of her husband, the soldiers asked for them to be left white so that they could dye them in the blood of their enemies.  They were also kitted out with caps of  so-called Scots’ blue.  The “whitecoats” or “lambs” had an identity that was immediately recognisable on the battle field.

In total there would be seven divisions of Whitecoats. Their first action might have been against the trained Bands of Durham who seemed to have had a falling out with the men left by Cavendish whilst he went on to Newcastle to secure it for the king.  The earl went back to Durham and smoothed ruffled feathers.  One of the men from the Durham trained bands stated that he liked the earl well enough but not his soldiers.

At first the Royalists dominated the war in the north. They first saw action at Tadcaster and the following year (30 June 1643) at the Battle of Adwalton Moor. The battle initially went against the royalists because of the position that Fairfax held on a ridge and because Newcastle didn’t have enough musketeers but ultimately there was a final push of pike led by the wonderfully named Colonel Posthumous Kirton – you may not have royalist sympathies but what’s not to love about the name Posthumous Kirton! Kirton’s attack ultimately caused the Parliamentary left wing to collapse. The war continued and Newcastle’s Regiment of Foot fought where it was required in the North, Yorkshire and the Midlands, but there is surprisingly little information on its exact movements.

The Whitecoats saw action at the sieges of Hull and Gainsborough as well in 1644 of York – when they were being besieged and repulsed the Parliamentarian forces when they breached the walls at St Mary’s Tower by mining it. The tide had turned against the Royalists in 1644 when the Scots became involved.  This was why Newcastle was forced back into Yorkshire.

Rupert of the Rhine arrived to relieve York on the 1st July 1644 but took charge of the army and insisted on fighting the Parliamentarians.  On the following morning he led his own men out onto Marston Moor between Tockwith and Long Marston. The Whitecoats joined Rupert at 4pm having spent the day looting what was left on the Parliamentarian siege line.  The earl arrived in his carriage.  Aside from a little skirmishing the two armies faced one another and waited.  Rupert will have been able to work out that his army was smaller than that of Parliament – by some 10,000.  By 7 pm the Royalists decided that there wasn’t going to be a battle that day so settled down for the evening.  There was also a thunderstorm.  At which point the Parliamentarian army attacked.  It didn’t all go Parliament’s way.  Thomas Fairfax had to make his way through the Royalist lines on his own at one point. Victory really belonged to Oliver Cromwell who turned his wing in an arc behind the Royalist force.

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Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 16.59.48.pngAt the Battle of Marston Moor Newcastle’s Regiment of Foot were killed almost to a man.  They remained in formation in the centre of the Royalist line  and it is thought defended White Syke Close. The Parliamentarians recognising their bravery asked for their surrender but the regiment refused. By the time the Whitecoats died the battle was already lost – their deaths were futile. They were buried in mass graves where they fell.  If you walk the route of the Battle of Marston Moor White Syke Close is marked on the ordinance survey map. Alternatively take advantage of a Country File walk which outlines the battle and leads you on a circular walk,  https://www.countryfile.com/go-outdoors/walks/marston-moor-north-yorkshire/  The Battle Fields Trust website has information about the battle and the site today.

It is thought that William Cavendish was the last Royalist commander left on the battle field.  Personally brave but not necessarily charismatic he arrived in Scarborough the following morning where he boarded a vessel bound for Hamburg.  He had £90.  Upon arrival he borrowed £160 and set off for Paris and Henrietta Maria. At the family seat of Welbeck Abbey his daughters would have to face a Parliamentarian force, hide the family plate and get some of their father’s art collection to safety.

The image of the Battle of Marston Moor was painted in 1819 by Abraham Cooper.   He painted a second image of the battle in 1824 entitled  Rupert’s Standard.

 

I would politely remind you that I am not a battle field historian although I can describe key moments in some of the battles of both the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War.  I can also tell you that it is incredibly easy to get lost on Marston Moor even when armed with a map and book of war walks – although a couple of  fully costumed re-enactors emerging out of the morning mist is certainly enough to make you sit up and pay attention.

The Book of Sport V The Player’s Scourge

prynneThe Book of Sport was issued initially by James I.  It identified the need to go to church in the morning and enjoy yourself in the afternoon.  Charles I reissued it in 1633.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature states that Charles probably republished the text in response to William Prynne’s Histrio-Mastix.

Histrio-Mastix was subtitled the Player’s Scourge or Actor’s Tragedy.  It had taken Prynne the better part of ten years to write the book which was essentially an attack on the theatre, Christmas and dancing.  Prynne was not complimentary about women actors – in particular French ones and unfortunately this was taken as an insult on Henrietta Maria rather than french actresses.  Prynne was hauled up in front of the Star Chamber on charges of seditious libel in 1634.

I’d like to say that the judges in the case were measured.  Unfortunately Prynne found himself being pilloried – twice.  He was imprisoned for life, fined £5,000, his book was burned by the hangman, chucked out of his university, had his ears cut off and was stopped from being a lawyer.

Unfortunately despite the heavy hint to stop writing Prynne continued and wrote a series of anonymous pamphlets which his friends arranged to have published for him.  When it was discovered that he had been writing inflammatory things about the Church and Archbishop Laud the rest of his ears were cut off and  his cheeks were branded with the letters SL and his nose was slit.

And where does the Book of Sport fit in?  Charles was essentially saying that by conforming to the Church of England and going to church in the morning you were entitled to enjoy yourself in the afternoon in appropriate and proper pursuits.   The Book goes on to suggest that if Puritans didn’t like English laws and the Church’s canons that they were free to clear off elsewhere.

The list of approved actives included:

“such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances; and the setting up of May-poles and other sports therewith used: so as the same be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service: and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decorating of it, according to their old custom; but withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull-baitings, interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling.”

I must admit to being slightly puzzled by the inclusion of bowling – never having considered it a hot-bed of sinfulness for the “meaner sort” but perhaps I missed something.  The Puritans of whom Prynne was one, as you may have already deduced, declared the Book of Sports to be The Devil’s Book as all recreation, presumably including bowls, was sinful.

For Puritans, and Presbyterians come to that, strict observance of the Sabbath was politicised.  Some non-conformists chose to leave the country, others chose to write pamphlets on the subject. Prynne’s first trial didn’t make many waves but his exile to the Channel Islands in 1637 caused a bit of a furore as did his return in 1640.  The second trial when his writings against Laud had been punished had turned him into a Puritan martyr.

Helmer, J. Helmers. (2016) The Royalist Republic: Literature, Politics and Religion in the Anglo-Dutch Public Sphere, 1639-1660

 

 

 

Charles I and his parliament 1625

charles i full lengthMost of Charles I’s problems with Parliament during the first years of his reign stemmed from financial difficulties. Sir Thomas Crewe, the speaker at Charle’s first parliament, was delighted not only that Parliament had been summoned but that Charles expressed the desire to regain the Palatinate.

Charles soon found the whole process frustrating.  He understood Parliament to be for the provision of money.  He did not understand why Parliament which had agreed to England’s alliance with other Protestant countries against the Hapsburgs  refused to grant him the money to go to war against Spain. Parliament had been enthusiastic in its support of the Palatinate and Elizabeth of Bohemia, the so-called Winter Queen, but was critical of the Duke of Buckingham as a commander and felt that whilst war was desirable there should be a better plan than the vague proposals presented.  In addition to which taxes had been levied only shortly before and it seemed to many Parliamentarians that the money had not been used wisely.  There had been no account given Sir Robert Philipps stated  of money or men and there was already a heavy burden on people- “We no yet of no war nor of any enemy.”  Taking these three things into consideration Parliament did not vote Charles tonnage and poundage for life as had become normal with the ascent of a new monarch to the throne but for a year only.

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Sir Edward Coke (former Attorney General and Chief Justice) – whose daughter Frances had been married off to Viscount Purbeck – George Villiers brother John.  The marriage had lasted less than a year before Viscountess Purbeck ran away with Sir Robert Howard whose father was the Earl of Suffolk – it is hard to know which George was more offended about, the fact that Frances had run away from his brother or that she had run to the son of his political rival.

Sir Edward Coke, who had been James I’s Chief Justice had fallen from favour (thanks to Bacon and Buckingham) and now used his legal knowledge to advantage in Parliament.  He noted that tonnage – the tax levied on the tuns of wine imported into the country and poundage – the tax on imports and exports- equalled £160,000 annually and was within the gift of parliament rather than being a royal right. Parliament wanted to discuss the book of rates which needed reform. The question of monopolies needed addressing (Coke argued that only new processes/items should require licences and that the practise of introducing new license requirements for “old”  things was illegal).

There was also the question of Buckingham’s competence to consider. Buckingham had been the power behind the throne since 1618. Since 1621 his  impact on royal policy and his monopoly of offices meant that he was a de facto prime minister – even though the office hadn’t yet been invented.  This would end only with his assassination in 1628.

george villiers

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham also known as “Steenie.”

 

Limited royal funds gave Parliament leverage over the king.  MPs felt that they held a financial carrot, or possibly stick, by which they could make Charles enforce the recusancy laws. Charles actually refused to sign the bill that granted him subsidies for a year.  He regarded them as his right and he maintained that he was entitled to them for his lifetime.  He claimed that it was his right to collect the customs dues until such time as Parliament passed the necessary bill. He did not regard himself as doing anything illegal.

Parliament was adjourned on account of an outbreak in Plague in London but reconvened in Oxford on 1st August 1625.  Charles once again insisted that Parliament was called to aid him in his war against Spain.  He estimated that the war would cost £700,000.  Parliament felt free to discuss where the king’s income was being wasted and mismanaged and the fact that Buckingham had so many different offices and monopolies.  Charles promptly dissolved parliament in order to avoid difficult questions about the Duke of Buckingham, it had sat for only two weeks.

Essentially Charles’ first parliament identified the difficulty which faced England during this period. Charles was applying the theory of absolute monarchy to his interactions whilst Parliament, with Common Law behind it, increasingly saw itself as a representative body – which is odd really as Charles did not have all the powers of an absolute monarch.  Nor could Parliament be described as representative of the whole population.  Charles clung to what he believed was his by right and royal prerogative  whilst Parliament clarified and expanded on what they believed to be their rights and privileges.

Taken together with the Thirty Years War, conflict over religion and the radical viewpoint of some of the members of Parliament it is not surprising that Charles’ determination upon personal rule was ultimately destined for disaster.

 

 

 

English Civil War- Course beginning in Derby -March 5th 2019

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_CooperI’m pleased to say that the venue in Derby has been lovely – although it does mean numbers are limited to a maximum of 15 as although the room seats more it quickly becomes crowded once the tables are in place.  So if you would like to find out more about the English Civil War please book your place as spaces are going rapidly. If you do not use Paypal please contact me for alternative methods of payment.

St Mary’s Parish Centre is sited between Darley Lane and Arthur Street, overlooking the Derby inner ring road (A 601 – St Alkmund’s Way) though it cannot be reached directly from the ring road. The address is,  St Mary’s Parish Centre, Darley Lane, Derby DE1 3AXPlease follow the link for exact directions:

http://www.stmarysparish.co.uk/#howToFind

It has the advantage of a car park and is not too far from the town centre.

 

Tyranny and Civil War

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-367 weeks commencing Tuesday 5th March

10:00am- 12.00pm

Charles ruled as an absolute monarch for eleven years, fought a civil war and was executed by Parliament in 1649. Meet Mad Madge Cavendish, Sir John Gell and the Duke of Newcastle amongst others as the story of England’s most turbulent decade unfolds.  Prepare for rioting, iconoclasm and sieges!

Tyranny and Civil War (Derby- St Mary’s Parish Centre)

7 weeks commencing Tuesday 5th March 10:00am- 12.00pm Parking at St Mary's Centre. We are in the room at the top of the slope on the right hand side of the foyer.

£50.00

The battle for the bed chamber – Henrietta Maria

henrietta maria 2Henrietta Maria has undoubtedly had a bad press in English History – in the past she has either been fitted into the pattern of she-wolf or interfering wife. And yet prior to arrival in England in 1625 and in the weeks afterwards she was praised for her youth and her beauty.  Her arrival was, after all, the beginning of an Anglo-French partnership. Not that every was wildly happy about a French Catholic becoming queen.

The power of a consort was very indirect so far as most Stuart kings of England are concerned.  Henrietta is the best known of the Stuart wives and she undoubtedly arrived with an agenda.  Pope Urban VIII had made her a member of the order of the Golden Rose prior to her departure for England. She wrote to her brother, Louis XIII, saying that she would improve the lot of Catholics in England.  She made no secret of the fact that she was a good Catholic princess.  Her pilgrimage to Marble Arch and Tyburn where Catholics had been executed caused consternation amongst her Protestant subjects.  Yet, she was also supposed to engineer a firm Anglo-French alliance.  She was fifteen and it was a very tall order.

george villiersGriffey explains that her presence in England quickly became a political liability so far as Buckingham was concerned.  In the first instance she was French and Catholic so did nothing to enhance Buckingham’s popularity at home given that he brokered the match and secondly Charles was predisposed to love his bride. In terms of the first Buckingham broke the escrit secret that he had agreed promising to suspend the recusancy laws, declaring it was nothing but a trick to get the French to agree to the marriage and in the second he sought to impose his various female relations upon Henrietta not to mention the female relatives of men who owed their ascent at court to him so that he could control who had access to her. The effect of both was to leave her feeling embattled and isolated – which in turn made her more determinedly Catholic in her outlook.  She refused to be crowned because it was a Protestant ceremony.  The same applied to Garter events and other events. It did nothing for the royal marriage either as Charles became ever more resentful of her lack of obedience to his husbandly requests – though apparently the fact that her sixteenth birthday passed unremarked was neither here nor there as indeed was the fact that he was flagrantly breaking the promises that he made prior to their marriage.

charles i full lengthCharles came to believe that her household was keeping her too French and too intransigent. In part her relationship with her confessors did have that effect and whilst there were few English women in her household she had no need to speak the language – indeed I  imagine that girls around the country were being tutored in French in the hopes that they might get a place in her household.   Charles came most of all, it would appear, to blame Jeanne St George.  Madame St George or Mamie as she was known had been with Henrietta since the princess was a child. She had unintentionally caused a diplomatic incident when Charles and Buckingham insisted on travelling in Henrietta’s coach to Canterbury from Dover along with Buckingham’s mother and wife.  There had been no space for Mamie which was a serious breach of French etiquette. The whole affair was repeated when the royal couple fled the plague that summer. Buckingham was offended at the suggestion that his family should not travel with the queen.

Gradually the household of four hundred was eroded.  Henrietta took up the lute. Her lutist was arrested as a spy and packed off to the Tower, some other household members were arrested under the recusancy laws which were very much in force. Matters came to a head for Henrietta when her entire household was sent back to France in 1626 – Charles having forcibly separated his wife from their company.  It was a total breach of the marriage treaty. It left her hysterical and a virtual prisoner.  She was unable to write any letters unless an English lady-in-waiting supervised its content.

Henrietta who still did not speak English now found herself surrounded by the Duke of Buckingham’s female relatives including his niece Susan who slept in her bedchamber.  Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle was imposed on her.  Lucy was beautiful and witty and Buckingham’s sometime mistress. There is evidence to suggest that Buckingham was planning to set Lucy up as Charles I’s mistress but the king was a loyal husband – not that Henrietta would have initially known that.  Instead she might have thought of her own father with his more than forty mistresses as well as the court of her brother.  No wonder she was hostile to Lucy – and her rather colourful reputation.

Ultimately the two women became friends and allies whilst it suited them both. Lucy was older than Henrietta and she was able to fulfil a role as mentor – which was as alarming to most Puritans as the thought of Mamie St George. Their relationship sums up the informal nature of female Stuart politics.  It was based on personal relationships and favour.  Interestingly Lady Carlisle only fell from favour when her husband became Pro-Spanish in sympathy.

The reorganisation of Henrietta’s household structure in 1627 at Charles’ behest meant that access to the bedchamber and personal spaces of the queen were more limited than they had been under previous monarch and consorts. A distinction was drawn between the bedchamber and the privy chamber in a way that it hadn’t been before.  The extended hierarchy was Charles I’s preference.  He disliked the free and easy way that Henrietta associated with her French ladies and wanted to impose more regulation upon the whole proceeding so that it mirrored his own household.

She was angered that he had imposed his will on her independence.  She pointed out, quite reasonably, that his mother had ordered her own affairs but Charles said that was a different matter entirely. At which point Henrietta lost her temper and proclaimed that she was a daughter of France whilst Charles’ mother was only from Denmark.  It wasn’t tactful but it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Henrietta  at this point.

 

The limiting of access with its heightened powers of influence initially  seemed to work to Buckingham’s advantage as the key jobs were given to his people but after his death in 1629 it meant that access to Henrietta was still limited.  The difference was that Henrietta who had rushed to console her husband on Buckingham’s death had much more influence than anyone could have anticipated. The lack of range of voices and opinions surrounding Henrietta and Charles would be one of the factors that led husband and wife down a dangerous path.

Men have always blamed evil councillors when they revolt against their monarchs.  The death of Buckingham removed a hated advisor so it was perhaps only to be expected that Parliament began blaming Henrietta Maria for Charles’ actions – she was after all a foreigner ( a French one at that), a Catholic…and a woman!

 

Erin Griffey (ed) Henrietta Maria: Piety, Politics and Patronage

Wolfson, Sara J. The Female Bedchamber of Queen Henrietta Maria: Politics, Familial Networks and Policy, 1626–40  in The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe