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