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English Civil War 1644

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_Cooper.jpg1644 was a year where no one gained the upper hand and the casualties of war grew.  The arrival of the Scots in the Civil War ultimately tipped the balance of power in Parliament’s favour but as a result of amateur approaches to warfare the Second Battle of Newbury failed to end matters once and for all.  This had the knock on effect of ensuring the rise of the New Model Army and Cromwell’s Ironsides.

January 1644 started with the usual petitions and recruitment.  Pay remained an issue.  For example Hopton who led the rather successful Western Army for the king in 1643 found himself dealing with mutineering.  Five hundred of his men simply marched off with their weapons to join the Parliamentarians in Poole.  In the midlands as armies ebbed and flowed Nottingham fell once more into Parliamentarian hands and Newstead Abbey, the home of Lord Byron, was looted whilst he was besieging Nantwich on behalf of the king.  This resulted in the necessity of Fairfax crossing the Pennines to Manchester with a view to relieving the siege.  The result is the Battle of Nantwich on 26th January 1644 which Parliament won despite the bad weather and prevailing soggy conditions.  He went on to besiege Latham House near Ormskirk on 28th February where the Countess of Derby held out for the king.  Her husband was on the Isle of Man.  Rather than a direction confrontation she played for time which worked to a degree although Fairfax ordered his men to build earthworks around the house.

At the beginning of February, Newcastle was back in Newcastle to stop the Scots from occupying it on Parliament’s behalf and the royalist garrison at Newark started to feel a bit uncomfortable as well they should because by the end of February, which was a leap year, Sir John Meldrum had besieged the town.  He had 5,000 men and rather a lot of ordinance but the royalists held out. Prince Rupert marched his men from Wolverhampton to Newark to relieve the siege on the 21st of March.

earl of manchester.pngMeanwhile two of the Parliamentarian generals were at loggerheads with one another.  Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex felt that Edward Montagu, Earl of Manchester  (pictured above) was getting the better part of the deal from Parliament.  Montagu, married to a cousin of George Villiers in the first instance married for a second time to Ann Rich, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick – the Parliamentarian Lord Admiral.  He turned from Court towards a more Puritan way of thinking and did not support the king in the Bishop’s War.  He was also the peer who supported John Pym at the opening of the Long Parliament  and was the one member of the House of Lords who Charles I wanted to arrest at the same time as the five members of the House of Commons.  In 1642 he was on his third wife (another member of the Rich family) and had become the Earl of Manchester upon his father’s death.  Manchester had been at the Battle of Edgehill but his was one of the regiments that had fled the battlefield.  After that he was eventually appointed to the command of the Eastern Association Army – regiments covering Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridge.  By the end of 1643 East Anglia was very firmly in Parliamentarian hands and Manchester’s men had broken out into Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  This should be contrasted with Essex and the Western Association Army performance.  It is perhaps not surprising that Parliament effectively allowed Manchester to by pass Essex and to liaise with the Scots and with the Fairfaxs.

 

By April Selby was back in Parliamentarian hands as Lord Fairfax retrieved the ground that had been lost the previous year.  Newcastle also returned to Yorkshire and occupied York. The Earl of Manchester was ordered to York at the same time as Parliament realised that Prince Rupert and his men were also heading in that direction.  Inevitably York now found itself besieged with the royalists inside and Lord Fairfax outside.  It would have to be said that before that point had been reached Newcastle had got most of his cavalry out of the city.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Pennines Sir Thomas Fairfax was throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at Latham House.  On the 23rd April he asked the Countess of Derby to surrender.  She declined. At the other end of the country parliamentarian Lyme Regis also declined to surrender.  The townsfolk were hoping that the Earl of Warwick and his navy were going to come to their rescue.  Oxford prepares to be besieged by the Earl of Essex who took nearby Abingdon which the Royalists had abandoned.  Charles I had to leave the city for fear of capture.

Meanwhile the Royalists in York could look over the city walls and watch as the Earl of Manchester and his men arrived. Its best to think at this point of Prince Rupert haring around the countryside relieving Parliamentarian sieges and helping Royalist besiegers to storm their targets.  He did not cover himself in glory at Bolton where the defenders were slaughtered.  The war was beginning to take a decidedly less gallant turn.  Essentially large houses across the country swapped hands – some with the modicum of upset, others after much ammunition had been used.  Meanwhile the king arrived in Worcester and the Parliamentarian armies of Waller and Essex chased after him although somehow Waller managed to lose the king and end up in Gloucester.

The movements of the armies and key figures seem to be very much like a game of strategy where nobody is quite sure of the rules.  The king, for instance, next surfaces in Buckingham, whilst Prince Rupert rocks up  in Knaresborough.  His job is to relieve the siege of York.

With so many men and armies in the vicinity it is perhaps no surprise that July 2nd saw the Battle of Marston Moor.  The Parliamentarians on hearing the news that Rupert was int he area had withdrawn from around York and taken up a position to bar Rupert’s approach to the city. Rupert did not take the bait, he crossed around behind the Parliamentarians at Poppleton and wrote a note to Newcastle telling him to get himself and his lambs into position.  Newcastle wasn’t terribly happy with these orders.  All he wanted was for the Parliamentarians to march off and leave York in peace.

Fairfax and Manchester,along with the Scots under the command of Leven were at Tadcaster when Rupert assumed the correct position for battle on the morning of the 2nd.  A messenger carried the news to the Parliamentarians to the effect that Rupert was “up for it.” Consequently the parliaments had to turn around and go back.  The Royalists had the moor and the Parliamentarians had farmland.  There was a ditch between the two sides. By four in the afternoon there had been no move to battle and by seven the royalists had settled down by their campfires.  At which point the Parliamentarians made their move – which though not particularly gallant was militarily rather sensible.

Lord John Byron.jpgFairfax opposed Goring on the right wing: Goring 1 – Fairfax O.  Goring and his men got side tracked by the baggage wagons.  Crowell was on the left wing facing Lord John Byron (pictured right): Ironsides 1 – Royalists 0.  Prince Rupert turned the fleeing royalists round and sent them back into battle.  Rupert and his men were evenly matched with the Ironsides.  Essentially they hacked one another to a standstill at which point the Scottish cavalry charged in on the Royalist flank and scattered them.

Fairfax needing to communicate with Cromwell took off his sash and his field sign and rode across the battlefield, paling through Royalist lines as he did so, to provide Cromwell with accurate information about what was happening.  Cromwell, and his men circled the field and came up behind Goring and his men who were busily looting Fairfax’s baggage train.

Meanwhile Newcastle’s lambs at the centre had fought doggedly through the whole encounter.  Now they were forced back and rather than leave the field they died to a man. William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle was the last royalist commander left on the battlefield. As his men were slaughtered he ultimately made his way back to York and from there to Scarborough.  At Scarborough he sailed for Hamburg.  The North was lost to the Royalists.  More than 4,000 of their number died at Marston Moor.

In the Midlands, Welbeck Abbey, one of William Cavendish’s homes, fell to the Parliamentarians – who helped themselves to tapestries and silver plate.  Royalist Newark began to feel the pinch once more and Rupert made his way back to the SouthWest where Essex wasn’t having such a victorious feeling as his counterparts in the North.  Ultimately he had to make an undignified escape from Lostwithiel.  Basing House in Hampshire was still being pummelled.

The king seems to have spent much of the second half of the year popping up all over the country being pursued by various parliamentarians. He had planned to relieve Basing House but that went awry so he decided, instead, to relieve Donnington Castle – bearing in mind there was no such thing as a motorway network the various armies marched huge distances a the drop of a hat.  This meant that they were required to live off the land – which was not good news for anyone who happened to be in the path of any army and its destination.  On the 22nd October Charles was in Berkshire, near Newbury.  Cromwell, Manchester and Waller took to the field but the king escaped under cover of darkness and scarpered in the direction of Bath. From there he returned to Oxford – as clearly the Parliamentarians had cleared off by that time.

As the year drew to the close Parliamentarian generals were still writing to London politely suggesting that their men should be paid, Rupert was still popping up like a jack in the box and Basing House was still under siege.  Lord Fairfax was quietly sitting outside the castles of Pontefract and Knaresborough but had been given orders to sort out the royalists in Newark as well.  Knaresborough did surrender by the end of the year, not that it was much consolation to Lord Fairfax who felt that he was being over-stretched with insufficient men or money to do Parliament’s bidding.

In London, Parliament was pointing fingers about who was responsible for the failure to administer a crushing defeat on the king at the Second Battle of Newbury  and the Self-Denying Ordinance is proposed which would prevent members of Parliament (Lords or Commons) from holding military command.  Whilst the Commons agreed to the idea the Lords were less keen but would pass a revised version of the ordinance in 1645.

All in all – a very depressing year and that’s without considering Scotland, the Covenanters and the Earl of Montrose.

Emberton, Wilfred. The Civil War Day by Day.

 

 

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The Earl of Essex

essex3.jpgRobert Devereux was the son of the Queen Elizabeth’s favourite – the dashing one that managed to get himself executed for treason in 1601.  Grandpapa on his mother’s side was Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster.  Obviously having been attainted for treason the entire Devereux family, including young Robert who was ten at the time of his father’s misdeeds, were tainted as being of bad blood and all property returned to the Crown.

Things changed in 1604 when James I restored titles and lands to Robert and arranged his marriage to a wealthy Howard heiress. Perhaps this was because young Robert was close to the ill-fated Prince of Wales, Henry Stuart.  Unfortunately young Robert wasn’t old enough to actually marry his bride, Frances, so was sent abroad on his own version of Frances-Howard.jpgthe grand tour.  Whilst he was securing a gentleman’s education Frances Howard took up with the king’s favourite  Robert Carr and married him instead having divorced Robert for impotency in 1613 (and I should imagine that no 20 year-old wants that particular label)- France’s marriage would end in murder, a visit to the Tower and a Jacobean scandal that historians are still writing about but that’s beside the point.  The marriage ended amidst much hilarity and popular balladry.  Robert insisted that even if he was impotent so far as Frances was concerned he was more than capable with other ladies of his acquaintance.  To add insult to injury, Frances who had been carrying on with Robert Carr, was declared to be a maiden – the mirth this enjoindered can only be imagined.

Robert, the third earl, undertook a military career in continental Europe perhaps to escape the ribaldry.  The thirty years war was well under way by this time. He served in the Low Countries and or the Palatinate of which James’ daughter Elizabeth was the queen. In 1625 he was part of the Duke of Buckingham’s disastrous Cadiz Campaign.

It would have to be said that his relationship with Charles was not good.  He absolutely refused to pay Charles’ forced loans.  And things can’t have been much worse when in 1639 having been appointed as second in command of the the king’s armies in Scotland in the run up to the First Bishop’s War he was demoted so that the role could be given to one of the queen’s favourites.  Charles then became a bit sniffy about the fact that the Scots approached the earl to try and prevent the english army from marching north.  There was nothing machiavellian in the earl of Essex’s actions that warranted the king’s distrust as evidenced by the fact that Essex handed the letters he’d received from the Scots to Charles unopened.  In 1640 he wasn’t offered any role at all in the Second Bishop’s War which must have galled.

In 1640 when the king finally ran out of money and the Long Parliament sat Essex emerged as the principal speaker for the opposition to the king in the House of Lords.  He and John Pym worked together to prosecute the Earl of Strafford.  Charles, perhaps realising that insulting the earl of Essex in terms of military leadership hadn’t been one of his better ideas offered him a place on the Privy Council in 1641 and by July he was in control of the king’s army south of the River Trent and Lord Chamberlain.

It was Essex who received the news from his cousin Lady Carlisle in January 1641 that Charles intended to arrest five members of the House of Commons and one peer. After that Charles left London for Hampton Court, then Windsor.  From there he went north to York.  Once in York he ordered the earl to join him but Essex refused and was promptly removed from the post of Lord Chamberlain.  Parliament had come to regard him as a potential leader for some time and Charles as evidenced above had never really trusted him.  Essex was a bit prickly about his honour having had his father executed for treason so its perhaps not surprising that he chose to side with Parliament rather than the king.

In 1642 Essex was appointed to the Parliamentary Committee of Safety.  He also became one of Parliament’s key military figures during the early years of the English Civil War.  He wanted to negotiate a peace but from a position of military superiority – his was the middle way if you wish when Parliament was increasingly split between the War Party and the Peace Party.

He commanded the parliamentary forces at Edgehill and as with his continental campaigns he shared the experiences of his ordinary soldiers to the extent that he was actually seen at push of pike.  Edgehill was technically a draw but since Essex failed in his objective to prevent the king from marching on London it is usually deemed that he lost the battle.  But it was Essex who petitioned Londoners to send as many men as they could to Chiswick on 13 November at Turnham Green and thus ensured that the king withdrew from London rather than be responsible for untold bloodshed.

In 1643 Essex captured Reading but was unable to advance and capture Oxford where the king’s court was based.  He became embittered by his armies lack of pay whilst Parliament grew testy about his lack of success.  Despite this he raised the siege on Gloucester and won a victory at Newbury.

The king was not alone in mistrusting Essex’s military capacities.  When John Pym died in 1643 he was replaced by Sir Henry Vane who was not one of Essex’s fans. A point which seems to have been proved when, in 1644, Essex lost the Parliamentary army in Cornwall and had to escape in a fishing boat. Lostwithiel was the end of Essex’s military career. In addition to the Cornish disaster he had been militarily overshadowed by men like Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.  He resigned his commission in 1645. Whilst he wasn’t a hugely successful military figure on account of his lack of imagination and flair he was respected by his men because ehe shared their hardships.

The earl of Essex wasn’t hugely successful as a husband either.  Having been divorced by Frances Howard he went on to marry Elizabeth Paulet in 1630 having returned from his soldiering in Europe to take up his other career as a politician – and an earl needs a wife.  The marriage lasted a year, after that it was a marriage in name only.  Six years after they married Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate baby which Robert accepted as his own after some hesitation, mainly because he didn’t need the embarrassment of a second errant wife and he did need an heir.  The child, a boy named Robert, died when it was little over a moth old and the earl was left without an heir.

walterdevereux.jpgThere are three earls of Essex during the Tudor/Stuart period – the title was not used after the third earl’s death in 1646 until the Restoration. The First Earl of Essex was Walter Devereux – he is associated with Tudor rule in Ireland and is more famously Lettice Knollys’ husband.  Lettice was the daughter of Catherine Carey – making her the grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn.  Historians speculate whether Catherine was the daughter of Henry VIII  – Lettice certainly looked rather a lot like her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.  In fact Lettice managed to get into rather a lot of trouble with her cousin after the first earl of Essex’s death when she secretly married Elizabeth’s long time squeeze, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

2nd earl of essex.jpgThe second Earl of Essex was Robert Devereux.  He was Walter and Lettice’s fifth child and after Robert Dudley’s death became a favourite with the aging Elizabeth I.  Like his father he was associated with Ireland.  His campaign was not a rip-roaring success from Elizabeth’s point of view.  Handsome but petulant the earl rebelled in 1600 having already sailed pretty close to the wind when he returned from Ireland and burst in on Elizabeth having been expressly forbidden from crossing the Irish Sea and winning no friends when he saw the queen without all her finery.  He was executed for treason on 25th February 1601 – leaving a young son, also called Robert, who would eventually become the third earl.

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Road to War – from Parliament to Edge hill.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36I am currently feeling slightly out of kilter time wise as I have classes running on topics ranging from Kathryn Swynford to the English Civil War with a side interest in the names on my local war memorial – the research for which in the hundredth anniversary is proving fascinating.  I almost feel that I should do more blogs to give every area of History an airing!

So with that in mind – I shall post today about 1642.  1641 had not been a tremendously good year for King Charles I.  He had to call Parliament when he managed to mislay Northumberland and Durham into the hands of the Scots.  In August he was required to go to Edinburgh and give the Covenanters virtually everything they demanded which in turn contributed to the Irish Rebellion which like a domino toppling over onto its neighbour resulted in John Pym taking the opportunity of attacking the king and also his queen.

By January 1642 Charles I was prepared for an extremely ill-advised move against Pym and his associates.  His plan to arrest them in Parliament on the 4th January was leaked, as I’ve posted before, by Lady Carlisle who was one of Henrietta Maria’s favourites.  Charles famously discovered that the birds had flown and that most of London was up in arms about the king’s abuse of his rights.  Charles probably wasn’t terribly mused when the five men – Pym, Holles, Hampden, Haselrig and Strode returned to Westminster on the 11th of January to a heroes welcome.

The following day Charles and his family left Hampton Court for Windsor. Across the country petitions were drawn up and rumours began to circulate. One rumour said that  the Danes were going to invade whilst a more local rumour in Norwich stated that those pesky Puritans were going to destroy Norwich Cathedral’s organ.  The result of the clergy setting a guard over their prized musical instrument was a riot whilst, during August,  in Kidderminster a group of Puritans really did attempt to make the church less catholic in its ornament – and yes there was another riot.  The situation across the country was unsettled to put it mildly.  Neighbours began to look askance at one another. The threat of violence and sectarianism wasn’t far from the surface although at this stage in proceedings allegiances had not been firmly settled upon.

Meanwhile at Windsor the Stuarts had come up with a cunning plan.  Henrietta Maria was going to accompany her daughter, ten-year-old Mary to Holland – ostensibly the princess royal was going to join her spouse and Henrietta Maria was going as a doting mother. More practically the queen was going to buy munitions and mercenaries.  The family made their farewells at Dover in February 1642.  Charles’ nephew Prince Rupert turned up to thank his uncle for helping him gain his freedom.  In private he offered Uncle Charles his support which was a bit rich as his elder brother was in Whitehall at the time assuring anyone who would listen that the European Stuarts would stay neutral.

Charles collected his eldest son and headed north where he believed he would receive more support.  He entered York on the 19th March.  The king and Parliament spent several weeks firing missives and ordinances at one another which both sides rejected.  Parliament also became concerned that the arsenal at Hull was a bit too close to Charles for comfort so petition that it should be removed to The Tower.  Charles is confident that the Governor of Hull, Sir John Hotham is a good and upstanding royalist unfortunately although young Prince James receives a warm welcome on 22 April his father finds the gates of the town shut against him  on the 23rd.  Hull is promptly besieged.

In London trained bands of militia go through their drills and Parliament reserves the right to call on the militia – which is a bit difficult as Charles refuses to agree to that particular idea.  This ultimately means that every county receives two versions of a commission of array demanding armed men to take the field – one commission is for parliament whilst the other is for the king.  By June both Parliament and the King are recruiting men.  Not only that but suddenly there is a bit of a contest over fortified locations, magazines and strong points.  There is also a drive for financial aid. Charles expedited matters somewhat in York by setting up a mint.

The gentry from across the country meet to write petitions and gather signatures.  The petitions that are favourable to Charles, he kept – the rest he ignored. Derby sent two – the first asked him very politely to return to his Parliament. The most famous presentation of a petition occurred on June 3rd when Charles rode out to Heyworth Moor to receive a demonstration of loyalty from the gentlemen of Yorkshire. Thomas Fairfax who will go on to become a parliamentary general tries to present a petition to the king and is almost ridden down for his pains.  Petitions and letters continue to be swapped in a bid to avert civil strife but at the end of June Charles attempts to take control of the fleet by writing personalised letters to each of his captains.  The fleet declares for Parliament and the earl of Warwick is appointed as High Admiral.

Meanwhile Hull is still under siege and on July 12 the king leaves York and goes to Newark.  He also visits Lincoln before returning to Beverley.  He then travels down through the Midlands.

The time for the war of paper is almost over.  Parliament start appointing committees of public safety and in August passes an ordinance stating that the customs fees that have previously been paid to the king must now be paid to Parliament.  Regiments muster in different counties and batteries are raised.  Dover Castle is taken by surprise on the 21st of August by forces loyal to Parliament.  Despite this momentous event the metaphorical trail of gunpowder does not reach the powderkeg until the following day – and at the time, its something of a damp squib.

On August 22nd 1642, King Charles I raises the royal standard at Nottingham.  There is no fanfare.  England is officially at war with itself. Even now war could have been averted. The Privy Council insist that the king sends a conciliatory letter to both of the houses of parliament.  The Earl of Southampton takes the letter to the Lords where he is jeered at.  Sir John Culpeper who takes the other letter to the House of Commons is not permitted to give it to the house.  Part of the reason for this was that Parliament was much more organised in terms of recruiting and arming men for its cause.

There is rather a lot of marching around on both sides and some manoeuvring in Manchester which I’m going to ignore for the time being.  Prince Rupert turns up at Leicester and writes the mayor a very forthright letter threatening to raze the place to the ground unless a large sum of money is handed over.  This makes excellent propaganda for Parliament so Charles makes Rupert write a second letter to the mayor apologising for the content of the first one.  It should be noted that the money remained in the king’s hands.

On the 13th September King Charles marches from Nottingham to Derby.  He advances on Shrewsbury whilst Prince Rupert goes to visit Worcester which he finds indefensible.  It is at the point that he encounters some Parliamentarians  at Powick Bridge.  There is fisticuffs and it usually described as the first major encounter of the war – which in truth is a bit of an overstatement but  since Rupert won, it gave the royalists a boost and they insisted on going on about it at length-hence its place in the History books.

On the 12th October Charles left Shrewsbury to march on London. The royalist army has grown during this time but Charles is now reduced to selling titles in order to refuel his piggybank. By the 17th he is in Birmingham and on the 21st the king is in Edgcote.

The 23 October 1642 – The Battle of Edgehill.  The reasons for the battle are fairly straightforward, Charles wanted to get to London whilst the parliamentary general – in the shape of the Earl of Essex, needed to stop him from pursuing that idea.  Essex had been all over the country at this point and even on the 22nd he didn’t have an exact notion as to where Charles was because of ineffective communications. Somehow or the other both armies managed to end up in reasonable proximity to one another.  The king held the ridge at Edgehill but it couldn’t be said that the royalist army got into position quickly.  Prince Rupert was in place with his cavalry at daybreak but by the time the two armies actually got into striking distance of one another it was 2pm.  In part this was because Essex simply refused to attack up a steep hill – so the royalists had to march down.  The battle took the form of an hour long cannonade, a fight over the hedges and a cavalry charge or two. Prince Rupert demonstrated for the first time his tendency to ride straight through the battle and go for the backlines.  On this occasion he came across some fresh parliamentarian forces at the village of Kniveton, had a brief skirmish then turned his men around and headed back to the main battle rather than continuing to do his own thing which usually involved getting to grips with the baggage train.  In two hours each army fought the other to a standstill.  By then it was getting dark and the chaos of battle was confused by the the darkness of night.  Military historians describe it as a draw but practically it left the way open to London so the Earl of Essex  failed in his purpose meaning that by default the victory at Edgehill went to the king.

Essex retired to Warwick.

If Charles had marched on London he would have retaken his capital.  In medieval terms the person who controlled the capital was usually the person who ultimately won the war.  In 1642 Charles would have probably been able to take control of the fleet and he would definitely have had a larger population to tax so that he could have continued to fight Parliament.  Rupert advised his uncle to ride for London immediately but Charles was concerned about the fact that London was hostile to him.  There were also the trained bands of London militia to consider.

In November Rupert reached Brentford which he fired and plundered.  Londoners fearful of suffering a similar fate put 6,000 trained apprentices in the field and a further 24,000 Londoners took up arms. The Londoners led by the earl of Essex and the king’s army stood face to face at Turnham Green in Chiswick.  Charles eventually withdrew not wishing to be responsible for the loss of so much life.

Whilst John Pym spent the rest of the year working out how to tax people so that Parliament could pay its army, a party for peace would propose a settlement in February 1643.  The proposed Treaty of Oxford would have seen parliament called every three years, the abolition of bishops with everything else remaining in the king’s power – though he would have had to have consulted with parliament.

I suspect that I ought to post about the Earl of Essex next.

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1641 – religious ferment and Lady Carlisle

Lady Carlisle
August 1641- a step back from the Grand Remonstrance.

At this point where London was up in arms and Parliament demanding to see changes, Charles I took himself off to his other kingdom – I’m not quite sure how he marketed his visit to Scotland given that he had made war on his own Scottish subjects not once but twice and that they had ended up being paid a large amount of money each day whilst occupying Northumberland and Durham – but there you go, such was the way of the world in 1641.  On the 25th August 1641 Charles I was in Edinburgh signing over the the Covenanters virtually everything that they had demanded.  Perhaps as Leander de Lisle suggests Charles had awoken to the fact that the puritans in England’s parliament  were stirring up ferment and wanted to settle things down.

The religious situation across the country was deteriorating with different factions demanding that their voices be heard.   In Kidderminster it was the mob who saw the puritan faction off when they threatened the church’s ornaments.   But changes were afoot none the less.

Parliament ordered Catholic priests out of the country recognising that without a priesthood the mass could not be said.  William Ward, a Catholic priest was the first to suffer a traitor’s death that year – I’m not sure how much of a danger he was – he was eighty-one at the time.  By the time Charles returned to London seven more men awaited execution.

Henrietta Maria, Charles’ french Catholic queen, still in London whilst her husband visited his Scottish capital found herself the target of Puritan hostility.  Aside from her frenchness and Catholicism she was now accused of conducting an affair with  Henry Jermyn.  She was also ill in 1641 – in part it must have been the stress of the English political situation.  She asked to go to Holland to visit a spa for her health.  Parliament refused.  Maybe they realised she would use the opportunity to raise funds and soldiery for her husband.  Nor did it help, in all probability, that she was receiving letters from Charles three times a week.  He relied upon her utterly and she in her turn was telling him to be more forceful – in modern parlance to “man-up” and give the Puritans what for.

On the 23rd October the Irish revolted.  They wanted the same kind of rights as the Scottish Presbyterians had just acquired – but given the current situation with the Puritans headed up by John Pym  in the English Parliament that wasn’t going to happen any time soon – and we know the consequences of the Irish Rebellion- countless deaths and a faction in Parliament attempting to break Charles’ power by cataloguing all his abuses since he took the throne detailed in the Grand Remonstrance.  It was passed by a slim margin but Pym’s act of genius was to circulate the information and the arguments for change more widely through printed material.

Prior to the Grand Remonstrance whilst Charles was still in Scotland, Henrietta Maria was blamed for encouraging the Irish to revolt, her own priest was arrested and questioned with regard to his alleged involvement in the rebellion and attempting to convert young Prince Charles to catholicism.  The Irish uprising, in short, was an opportunity, to “have a go” at England’s most influential catholics.  Every other Catholic in the country  was required to lay their identity before Parliament.  It was 24th of November before the king arrived back in his English capital.  Parliament had passed the Grand Remonstrance two days previously.

It’s probably time to introduce another of the key players into this increasingly hostile morass – Lucy Hay, Lady Carlisle.  She was a daughter of the 9th Earl of Northumberland (a Percy) and  her mother was the daughter of the first Earl of Essex (Dorothy Devereux – meaning that her grand-mother was Lettice Knollys, her great-grandmother was Catherine Carey and her two times great-grandmother was Mary Boleyn).  In other words she was part of the establishment, knew all the key political players of the time and was related to most of them.  She married James Hay and became the Countess of Carlisle, although her father had offered her £20,000 not to marry him.  She became George Villiers’ mistress which meant that initially Henrietta Maria wanted nothing to do with her but by the time that George, the Duke of Buckingham, was assassinated, somehow or other all that had changed and she had become one of the Queen’s favourites.

Lord Carlisle clearly had nothing against his wife furthering his own ends by whatever means necessary because he sent her off to win  Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford over in 1635 when he became responsible for the running of Ireland.  Lucy became Wentworth’s mistress which probably wasn’t a bad thing in 1636 when Lord Carlisle died and left Lucy his Irish property.  Of course, at the start of 1641 Wentworth found himself in the position of official scapegoat for the Bishop’s War and was executed in May.

Lucy’s reaction after Wentworth’s death is somewhat unexpected.  She remained friends with Henrietta Maria but she now drew close to John Pym – yes, the Puritan.  She seems to have undergone a bit of a sea change when she became Pym’s mistress, even taking notes during church sermons.  It was Lucy who alerted Parliament via her cousin, the earl of Essex, to the king’s plans to arrest John Pym and four others in January 1642.    Her shifting allegiances are a microcosm of what was happening at court as men and women decided which side to support based on personal preference, political consideration and economic practicality.

The fact remains though that if Lady Carlisle loved Wentworth and wanted to punish the king for allowing him to be executed why was she sleeping with the man who forced Charles to have Wentworth executed in the first place?  What did she hope to gain?  Some men felt that they weren’t getting the kind of rewards that they deserved from the king – so switched to Parliament, others were anti-Catholic – so drew towards the anti-Catholic parliamentary faction. Some of Lucy’s actions are a matter for speculation.  Most historians regard her as an intriguer but most also admit that there is no clarity as to who exactly she was spying for.  Lucy became associated with a moderate Presbyterian faction but during the second civil war she raised money for the royalists as well as offering a conduit of information between royalists and the queen.  She even ended up in the Tower for her pains – demonstrating another about face.  May be she just liked being a conspirator or having an impact on the political situation.

Meanwhile to conclude with 1641 and lead into 1642  Pym was able to convince enough people through their own needs, through printed pamphlets and through the king’s own rather high-handed actions during the years of personal rule that England was facing its own Catholic threat and that the source of that threat lay close to the king.  This in its turn was regarded by Charles as a personal attack on the wife to whom he was devoted.

In the house of Lords where Charles could have relied on the Bishops for support there were also problems – not least the difficulty of getting through the London mob to actually take their seats on account of all the printed pamphlets and rioting – that looked remarkably like the start of sectarian violence when seen from a distance.  Elsewhere Pym and his associates were regarded as dangerous radicals – remember that the grand Remonstrance passed by very few votes.  London was a ferment of rumour and gossip.

Charles must have thought long and hard over the Christmas season.  He recognised John Pym as a threat to his power and the safety of Henrietta Maria.  He sought, in the New Year of 1642 to have Pym and leading members of his faction arrested but thanks to Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle-  who may or may not have been acting out of anger at the way in which Sir Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford had been treated by his monarch- his plans were known and Charles found himself in even more hot water than before because even though not everyone agreed with Pym for Charles to enter Parliament with an armed body of men ran contrary to parliamentary rights and privileges….who needs fiction when reality has so many twists and turns?

 

de Lisle, Leander (2018).  White King: Chalres I.  Traintor, Murderer, Martyr. London: Chatto and Windus

Purkiss. Diane. (2007). The English Civil War. London:Harper Essentials

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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. http://www.constitution.org/eng/conpur043.htm

 

They have also provided Charles’ response.

http://www.constitution.org/eng/conpur045.htm

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.

 

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