The 1626 parliament was opened by William Laud – not a good sign for the resolutely Calvinist parliament. Despite a remarkably positive response to the call for subsidies – their linkage to resolutions of grievances did not go down well with Charles
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So we are gathered here today to talk about the 1626 parliament. Before everyone got to go the year’s greatest social extravaganza, there was another event to get out of the way while Charles waited for the writs to be sent and the statutory 40 days to pass before parliament could convene. Namely, to get himself crowned anointed and blessed, a ceremony much delayed by plague – and actually he never did carry out the traditional procession through London, worried that such exposure to the people of London and their diseases might mean the event would eventually terminate at somewhere more pearly than the Abbey at Westminster. There are a couple of wrinkles about Charles’ Coronation on 2nd February 1626 that I should bring to your attention. Ahem. Firstly, you would obviously, expect the Queen to be crowned to boot. But we are still in the kind of adolescent phase of Henrietta Maria’s tour of life duty. So she tried to get one of her Catholic confessors to officiate at the coronation – like that was ever going to happen, and then refused to be in any way involved in a ceremony conducted under the protestant rite. Not only would she never be crowned herself, she refused to even attend Charles’ coronation, behind a screened off area that had been prepared for her, thoroughly dressed with anti protestant spray. Charles was deeply offended by the affair, and the frosty air of February thickened between the young couple, frostily.
The other notable things were firstly that the prelate officiating was not the one who had originally been planned – because that had been the Lord Keeper and Bishop of Lincoln, John Williams and his face no longer fitted around court. Charles’ choice as a replacement sent yet another shiver through the spines of Calvinists everywhere – it was one William Laud already noted for his Arminian views. And then also there was the text of the coronation oath; for the most part it was pretty standard; it did not, in fact, include the phrase ‘subject his peoples to abject tyranny and civil war’, but to preserve the laws and customs of England as per normal; but there was a slight addition about Bishops – he now swore to be
A protector and defender of the bishops and the churches under their government
Now that’s a significant change, especially in the light of what we know about the odd extremity of Charles’ views about the importance of Bishops we heard about last time, of the divinity of Bishops and Charles’ view that they were absolutely central to the very legitimacy of the church of England.
Charles and Buckingham would show to an extent that they realised they had managed the 1624 parliament poorly, and would try to deal with that. But the most important point, the one to be written on the mountain in words of fire, was that the need to manage parliament for supply of subsidies was critically affected by the struggle for supremacy between Calvinist and Arminian. This was because the house of Commons was dominated by lay Calvinists, and so Charles could not follow his heart towards policies to the liking of Arminians, he still had to keep the parliamentary firebrands on side. I mean Charles is already on a tightrope here, pity the poor chap – this is something the Nolan Sisters really ought to have mentioned in that song where when their messy relative dreamed of when they would be a king, and focussed on the people bowing low and carriages to take you everywhere. In the interests of historical accuracy, the Nolans should really have pointed out that people would also be on at you constantly with incompatible demands, and that being king could lead to decapitation. Much as I would hate to shatter the dreams of small children.
Anyway, moving away from the Nolan Sisters, Charles still had to keep the French happy with regards to his new bride and the marriage contract and their supposed collaboration against the Hapsburgs – for which purpose to had suspended the Recusancy laws to keep their Catholic hearts warm. Despite that, now he had to run to the other side of the boat, and throw the Calvinist parliament a bone, showing how of course he wasn’t going soft on the Papist enemy perish the very thought. So he issued a proclamation banishing seminary priests and disarming recusants which was his attempt to walk this thin line. You might note, just FYI, that it might have occurred to Charles that a pretty substantial set of shackles would be removed from his wrists should he no longer have to call parliament. You know – in the unlikely event that should ever happen. Nudge, Nudge, wink and if you will, wink.
So, we have started then with a bit of tightrope walking – suspension of recusancy fines to the left, a bone thrown to the Calvinists in the proclamations against seminary priests to the right. Expectations for the parliament where high; around this time, two Venetian envoys arrived in London, and were able to sample the atmosphere in the capital as parliament met. It alarmed them, recording that they encountered
An undesirable agitation which is widespread and a feeling of resentment which seems incredible
There was a sense of panic and impending disaster in the wake of the Cadiz fiasco
The common opinion is that the Spanish force is about to invade this kingdom
And at the same time feeling was running high also against the French – as it does, you know how it is, we love them nonetheless; but our envoys observed that Buckingham ‘never lost an opportunity’ for ‘denouncing Louis’ government’; and to give Buckingham his due, the envoys empathised with the lad, agreeing that
The Court of France is a rose with many thorns; one must be careful to pluck what is good, and always fear being hurt by them
Meanwhile there was some dismay among Charles’ allies that he’d closed the 1625 parliament so unsatisfactorily – they needed the money promised to the anti Hapsburg league and Christian of Denmark for his army. Robert Anstruther, Charles’ Ambassador in Copenhagen, was lectured by the Danish court on running a successful parliament, advised to treat it as a marriage ‘between man and wife, both in honour and profit’, aimed at ‘preventing of any mistakes to understand truly one another’. Right you are Christian, sire, man and woman, check, truly understanding, on it right away, sah.
Charles next went through the time honoured royal process he had failed to go through last time of trying get a parliament peopled with the MPs he deserved by nobbling the people he felt he no one deserved. People traditionally called ringleaders. He did this by promoting them, a pretty classic way of getting rid of the incompetent, specifically by making them Sheriffs for a year – which sounds like a promotion until you realise that Sheriff was both no longer the powerful nice little money earner it used to be back when we were back in the Middle Ages, or carried any real power; it was in fact a bit oof a bottom buster. So Edward Cooke, Robert Phelips, Francis Seymour were all pricked out of parliament in this way; and another as Thomas Wentworth, rightly identified at this point as an opponent, actually, despite his later relationship with Charles – and his fate.
As parliament opened, though, Richelieu’s temporary pro-Huguenot swerve resulted in peace being declared between king and Huguenot. This was confusing for Charles and the Buck; it completely took the wind out of the sails of government policy, to raise money for a French campaign, in a serious and extended luff. The absence suddenly of a policy had parliament wandering up its own channels for the first few weeks which was no more useful to the king than it had been last time. Once again, Charles failed to set an agenda, and felt unable to ask for his real purpose of parliament – a war chest. None the less, he tried to make it clear that what was required of parliament was the right sort of attitude and behaviour and then all would be well. The man selected to deliver this message is highly significant – it was William Laud. That man again.
Laud reminded parliament in his opening sermon that ‘the King’s power was God’s ordinance’ and the subjects duty was therefore to – hang on let me choose the right words – Oh got it, yes, SO WHAT THEY ARE TOLD. He took a swipe at Presbyterians on the way
A parity they would have; no bishop, no governor…and they, whoever they be, that would overthrow bishops…will not spare if they get the power to have a pluck at the throne of David.
Laud, like James, like Charles, was increasingly using an equation that radical Calvinist = rebel. It was a dangerous equation.
Now, I might once more, sadly do a little shimmy and talk a bit about the parliament we are seeing in principle before we talk about the actualite, because we have not talked about that for a few centuries.
Anyway I thought it might be worth just mentioning a couple of things about parliamentary procedure, apropos of nothing, just a bit of colour. First thing; inflation over the last 100 years had inflated the electorate very considerably; it’s now thought that between 27 and 40% of adult males had the vote which is more than a hill of beans, the bean count being the traditional measure of relevance here. Second fact; we have been used – or at least I have mentioned it before if you happened to be checking in at that point – that elections might be better described as selection processes, but the times, in the words of Bob, were a-changing. It’s a little known fact that Bob Dylan was in fact passionate about English 17th century voting procedures, and the changes rattling the windows in Bob’s lyrics were in fact the steadily increasing tendency for elections to be contested. He strenuously denies it whenever questioned, but you can tell he’s just embarrassed to admit it. Anyway, by 1626 about 20% of elections were contested, which probably [asses the bean test. Generally everyone hated a contested election – so demeaning for the Gentry – except the electorate, who often got to be bribed with a hooley.
Lastly in this utterly random list, there were a few offices and wrinkle which had grown up, particularly the Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the house on this occasion was one Heneage Finch, whose words we had occasion to hear last week, giving the view that the law limited the rights of the king. Heneage was a Judge, and despite that quote was something of a royal toady; the world of the 17th and indeed before and after sadly required a lot of toadying to make it in public life. It is one of the great boons of the modern world it seems to me, much less toadying required. Not saying there aren’t occasions where it’s not used even now of course, we’ve all seen a bit of toadying going on from time to time. In the 17th century, it was part of the fabric that due deference was given to the great men of society and power.
The Office which Heneage held for this parliament and Speaker of the House, originated with Peter de La Mare, something of a hero and champion of the people back in Edward III’s time. It was an auspicious start, but things had changed, and the role of Speaker of the House is an odd hybrid sort of role. Everyone in Jacobean England says that the Speakers is the mouthpiece of the Commons, so that must be true; the question though, is who is pulling the strings on the back of the Speaker? Because although there is a wafer thin veil of respectability about the process – the speaker is elected by the MPs – it is made pretty clear by the monarch who the MPs were going to vote for. When the Speaker is elected they get to make a speech, a speech using notable only for just how outrageously you can praise the monarch.
The dual nature of the role is a little tricky; not least for the Speaker. I mean under Tudor parliaments, where contention is really not much in evidence, and consensus is the thing, it’s not much of an issue. But with parliaments under the Stuarts borrowing from both Messers Argy and Bargy, it’s tricker – there are sides, whose side is the Speaker on? And the Speaker does have some significant power, through control of procedure, so it matters. He decides at what points a vote is taken and debate closed down; makes sure MPs conform to the rules of debating; proceedings in Parliament can’t start until the speaker is there. Those powers can be manipulated by a clever manager – so one wizard wheeze Charles uses is to keep the Speaker talking is his morning consultation so that he can curtail debate on subjects he doesn’t think they should be debating – as in ‘ooh before you rush back, you must have a look at my latest collection of East Hungarian basket weaving. Oh dear, has the parliament gone home? Oh dear, what a shame, never mind!’.
The speaker began to be treated, therefore, with some contempt by the Commons. Firstly, the Speaker was anyway at the best of times seen as a mouthpiece not a leader; so you wouldn’t have been appointing your brightest and best, he’s just a gopher. Secondly, since the Speaker to a degree managed and controlled, or at least heavily influenced the agenda of the house, the influence of the monarch and Privy Council began to matter – the members of the PC in the house for example, all tended to seat themselves around the Speaker so they could um, ‘advise’ and double um, ‘guide’. So MPs invented things to help get round the Speaker; the Committee of the Whole house set up by Edwin Sandys in 1606 ending up doing this, allowing MPs to get together and decide what they wanted to talk about, without being festooned with PC members, or have their debates closed down by the speaker when they got fruity.
I’m sorry I have a couple more things super quickly. I saw a contention some time ago that parliaments anyway were in the pocket of the great men and the king; and that is something to bear in mind, but by the times of the Stuarts is much less of a factor, but still a factor. So, the majority of members of parliament it should be noted were in some way royal officials – from JPs, Justice of the Peace in the provinces, to paid office holders, and if you held a paid position in particular that could well affect how you voted. The power of patronage is an incredibly important tool of the Crown. It is a vast jellyfish, floating silently in the waters of politics, the sort of thing we’d see as corruption these days; an often unspoken, but frequently spoken, ‘if you support me I’ll see you right with a nice little money earner or privilege’. On the other hand, that support it is by n means a gimme – many provincial office holders demonstrably voted against the king’s desires. It’s also worth noting that in Charles’ parliaments of 1626 and 1628 the number of MPs without any office at all rose sharply – about 120 had no office, about a quarter of the house. More straightforwardly, there were members of the royal household in the commons – and the king could expect some loyalty from them, and again in times medieval the numbers could be significant. By Charles day it’s less so – in 1626 and 1628 it’s probably only about 24.
And absolutely finally, there’s the thing about great men; this might well have been very significant I the times of regional medieval satraps, but was less relevant now. In 1626 the peers with the greatest number of MP clients in their pocket were Buckingham with about 27 and the Earl of Pembroke with about 16. That gave them influence, but was a very long way from being decisive, as Buckingham had already discovered.
Sorry, here endeth the noodle. Okally dokally, then, it’s the 10th February 1626, and ever aware of Laud’s demands that the MPs behave properly and concentrate on thinking not what the king could do for them, but what they could do for their king, namely, enhance him in his glorious divine appointed majesty and stop causing trouble, here is MP John Eliot talking about the disaster at Cadiz
‘Is the reputation and glory of our nation of a small value? Are the walls and bulwarks of our kingdom of no esteem? Were the numberless lives of our lost men not to be regarded? ‘Our honour is ruined, ‘our ships are sunk, our men perished, not by the sword, not by an enemy, not by chance, but . . . by those we trust.’
Hmm. So not in Charles and Laud’s rulebook then. Eliot did not name names, but every one knew about whom he was talking – the Duke of Buckingham was in Eliot’s oratorical cross hairs, and those hairs were indeed cross. Cadiz had been a bonefide, honest to goodness, 24 carat disaster, and who better to take responsibility that the Lord Admiral – said Duke of Buckingham. Part of the problem is the vacuum that existed in the place of a government agenda – I am told that nature abhors a vacuum, and if so then Eliot was the natural force that rushed to fill it. And so started 18 fractious weeks.
Eliot demanded enquiries into Buckingham’s seizure of a French merchant vessel, but to begin with his invective was not that well received by parliament, but factional infighting in the Lords led by Pembroke meant there was some support here. Meanwhile faute de mieux, the Commons set up one of those committees, to look at grievances which would no doubt have had Charles rolling his eyes in frustration. It was attractively named the Committee for Evils, Causes and Remedies. Everyone should have an hour set aside in their day, it seems to me to consider Evils, Causes and Remedies, along with a custard cream and a nice cup of tea. Meanwhile one John Pym, a gentleman from an old Somerset family, and MP for Calne in Wiltshire made himself head of a Committee of Religion, eager to nail that Arminian Preacher Richard Montague that Charles had defended from prosecution at the last parliament. John Pym had already crossed the royal firmament, being briefly arrested by James after the 1621 parliament. He’s also a good example of the rule that someone in receipt of royal patronage could perfectly well cut up rough against their king – Pym earned his daily bread as a Receiver of Crown lands, responsible for collecting royal rents.
On 7th March, finally, a royal spokesman got the ball of a government agenda rolling, and asked the Commons to consider subsidies – on the basis of money required to support the Danes in their entry on the Protestant side in the 30 YW; through this Buckingham and Charles were able to ally with the Patriotic faction led by Pembroke, and the Commons responded favourably, and started looking at how much, so good start. Better if it had happened a month ago but better late than never etc. But while that was going on, trouble started elsewhere. One Dr Turner got on his hind legs and had a right old go at Buckingham. And he was naming names, listing all sorts of evils. The Duke had allowed England to lose control of the Narrow Seas, weakened the crown’s finances through excessive gifts to himself and his kindred, accepted more offices than he could remember let alone perform, had sold honours, harboured recusants, and was responsible for the failure of Cadiz. Which is quite a list it must be said with a large kernel of truth.
So, when the Commons presented their plan for a series of subsidies – very helpfully it must be said, to the tune of probably £300,000, it came with a kicker presented by John Eliot. It was the sort of kicker that multiple kings since the time of Edward I had faced – Eliot actually referenced Henry III and Richard II’s reigns; that supply would be dependent on resolving their grievances. So they said that although they loved his Madge more than life itself, any grant could only be made, so sorry, after they’d had an answer to the evils, causes and remedies.
Well this was doing in the royal bonce. As far as he was concerned he’d been more than reasonable and made major concessions to MPs such as his proclamations against Jesuits and Seminary priests, he was giving them the war they’d asked for, now with added Danishness, and here they were refusing to give him the wherewithal. So he warned them off Buckingham – Buckingham he said was only following orders, his orders, Charles’ orders. By so doing Charles puts his pretty feet on the first road to a position which will make it harder and harder for the old formula to save face and avoid armed confrontation – the evil councillors card, used throughout English history to dump unpopular ministers to pretend the king wasn’t responsible. Charles keeps insisting on making it personal; probably for two reasons. He’s honest about accepting responsibility which is a nice personal attribute. But also he believes that by asserting his royal status he can simply make resentment go away. When instead, the resentment simply remains and festers, and people begin to ask in royal authority is being used reasonably.
He makes it personal in other ways which will have an impact on later events. Here’s what Charles says to Buckingham
Let them do what they list you shall not go to the Tower. It is not you they aim at, but it is me upon whom they make inquisition
So again, he’s making this personal. And for Charles, loyalty was a big thing; he struggles with the idea that you can disagree with your boss, and still be loyal.
The commons ignored the warnings and just carried on digging away at Buckingham’s ins and outs. Actually Buckingham would remain pretty relaxed about this whole process throughout, confident he could defend himself in any bust up, and the Secretary of State, John Coke, who had worked under Buckingham to reform the navy, was resolutely supportive about Buckingham’s work. But Charles got increasingly irascible and on 29th March he cracked, and ordered representatives of the house to come in for what, with hindsight, looks like a highly significant meeting.
Charles started by thanking the house of Lords for their efforts. And then lambasting the Commons for their ‘unparliamentary proceedings’. Then he handed over to his mouthpiece, Baron Coventry, who laid things out, essentially that their king was a good egg who believed completely in the need to be a good egg to his people and talk to them and address their grievances.
Can you hear a But coming? Here’s the but, and it’s a big but and I tell no lie. He told them that he believed they were also good eggs, but were being led astray by ‘the corrupt humours of some particular persons’. He made it clear that he didn’t think the Commons really believed in their pursuit of Buckingham – it was just a blind, a pretense, and that their real aim was ‘to wound the honour and government of his majesty and his late blessed father’. Also they were guilty of a shocking lack of trust – he’d promised he’d address their grievances, in his own good time – and that should be enough for them. Basically, it was the king’s responsibility, and they should mark this well
To maintain the difference between counselling and controlling, between liberty and abuse of liberty
Essentially – MPs could advise if they wished, but the decision making was what kings did, not parliament, and they must put up with whatever he decided. When Coventry had finished speaking, Charles had more to say, and it was pretty menacing
‘Remember Parliaments are altogether in my power for their calling, sitting and dissolution. Therefore, as I find the fruits of them good or evil, they are to continue or not to be.’
There is an important point to make here, which is difficult to remember because we spend so much time talking parliaments, and parliament now is where resides the sovereignty and executive of the people. To Charles, sovereignty lay with him, and policy was provided by his courtiers, and government by his Privy Councillors and him, Parliament was an occasional body, there to provide money and if the king graciously permitted, to air their grievances, and then go home. He had no doubt who was wearing the doublet and pantaloons, and it wasn’t some oik from the provinces.
Well, the commons thought carefully about this, and tugged at their goatees. And decided not to take this verbal spanking lying down. They resolved to suspend every other bit of business until they had put together a comprehensive Remonstrance, a formal statement of complaint, responding to the charges of unparliamentary behaviour and laying out why they thought Buckingham to be not a good, or even a curate’s, but an out and out bad egg.
Now you might have thought that to be the end of it – toast, dissolution. But Charles allowed parliament to continue, and even tried to emolle. John Pym’s committee of Religion produced a series of complaints about Richard Montague, and instead of spitting feathers, Charles promised to send the statement to ask Convocation to review and consider Montague’s work in the light of the theology of the Church of England. Buckingham’s confidence that the accusations against him had not a leg to stand on, and that anyway a compromise could be sorted out behind the scenes before push came to shove, persuaded Charles to let parliament continue. You might ask why Charles was not more trigger happy. One answer lay in his need for those blessed subsidies. But the other may well have lain in another direction, which really would blow up in his face; he wanted the House of Lords, to hang out to dry one John Digby, Earl of Bristol.
You might remember Bristol as the Ambassador to Spain when a couple of dodgy looking blokes with falsies turned up one night in Madrid and started bidding for the hand of the Infanta. Well, the Earl of Bristol did not befriend himself to Charles and the Buck at that time; he’s rather believed maybe Charles was going to convert to Catholicism, which accusation offended the Prince, who had no such intention. Bristol was then foolish enough to let slip how much the court of Philip IV hated Buckingham. He was recalled from Spain, and Charles invited him to confess to his errors – Bristol refused to do any such thing. As soon as Charles had the chance in 1625, Bristol was removed from the Privy Council and told to stay away from parliament and his coronation. Square face in a round hole.
Bristol though was a fighter; he insisted on being tried by his peers rather than secretly banished; Charles was forced to give way allow him to attend the 1626 parliament. But Charles had not given up he now wanted the House of Lords to condemn Bristol – and therefore needed parliament to continue until that business was done.
However, after May, that would change. Because Bristol fought back with a series of accusations against Buckingham – including one probably potty one that he’d poisoned James While Buckingham did insist on treating James with his own remedies, it’s very hard to imagine it was in his interests to poison his king. The lords decided that both the King’s and Bristol’s claims should be heard. Suddenly prolonging parliament was a little less attractive – the King’s claims appeared to be in the dock too, that’s not the way Charles had envisaged this going.
Charles tried a new tack to turn the heat up and make the Commons less intransigent. He turned to one of his favourite courtiers, one Dudley Carleton, Viscount Dorchester. Dudley was a foreign diplomat and specialist; he’d travelled to Madrid, been ambassador in the Venetian Republic and the United Provinces; he was also an art collector, something that would endear him to Charles whose art collection would be one of his most positive legacies. Charles liked Carleton and his writing ability – he once said of him that he
Ever brought me my own sense in my own words
So Carlteton was sent to the Commons to make the case for getting on with voting subsidies and not warbling on about Buckingham and grievances. Carleton offered the Commons a warning. He painted a dire picture of the politics he had seen abroad and warned parliament they were headed that way in they carried on as they were
In all Christian kingdoms you know what parliaments were in use anciently until the monarchs began to know their own strength: and seeing the turbulent spirit of their parliaments at length they, by little and little, began to stand upon their prerogatives and at last overthrew the parliaments throughout Christendom except only here with us
So; basic messages firstly – Stop pushing or you’ll be closed down like over there in La France; and if Charles closes you down, parliament, it’ll be your fault for being turbulent. And there was a further sting in the tail
Move not his majesty with trenching upon his prerogatives, lest you bring him out of love with parliaments …he hath told you that if there were no correspondancy between him and you, he should be enforced to use new counsels
What did ‘new Counsels’ mean? Well the message there was that the king was looking at other ways of running this joint, without parliament. And indeed, there is other evidence that by May 1626 Charles was indeed considering ruling without parliament – he had set up a commission to consider other ways to raise money. And his need was again desperate; 3,600 men were needed to replace the troops provided to Christian of Denmark in his war against the Hapsburgs as part of the league; Buckingham’s coach had just been mobbed by a crowd of 150 unpaid sailors. Things were dire.
On 10th May, the Commons presented their petition to the Lords for prosecution of Buckingham; the 12 articles were presented by John Eliot, Dudley Digges and John Pym. Charles intervened and told the lords that any attack on one of their members was an attack on himself – and Eliot and Digges were thrown into prison; the Lords delayed a pronouncement on Buckingham – effectively a victory for him – but claimed Digges and Eliot had done nothing to warrant imprisonment, and Charles felt obliged to release them.
But none of this helped build collaboration. By June, the most moderate of Charles’ Privy Counsellors were losing hope of reaching any accommodation with parliament. Here’s Lord Conway of the patriot group
Spoken with three or four of the parliament, the wisest of my acquaintance and find so little to build any hope upon as if I did not defy despair it would take up every corner of me…I cannot see any help than that which they used to say in plague times – every man for himself, lord have mercy upon us
When the lords agreed with Bristol’s request to appoint impartial judges to hear his case on 13th June, and on 14th the Commons prepared yet another remonstrance against Buckingham. Charles’ head finally exploded. He instructed Coventry to dissolve parliament; the lords begged him not to, but he was implacable
The wound is not from your house, but the house of commons
Parliament was dissolved and sent home, the subsidies bill was lost.
What then has just happened here? Broadly you might take two different tacks. One argument has it that this train smash was indeed caused by a bunch of turbulent lawyers and troublemakers. That the commons were guilty of a complete lack of realism – failing yet again to properly fund the policy they had demanded. Their focus was different that of their king’s – while Charles was focussed on a national strategy and foreign policy, they were focussed on the needs of their constituents; and there they saw deep suspicion of Buckingham and the court, and a deep reluctance to pay these taxes. It is at heart a lack of willingness to look at the true costs of their desires in the face, and despite a deep commitment to parliament on Charles’ part, he was simply getting nowhere against the intransigence of the Commons.
And I have to say that I have some sympathy with this point of view; poor Charles, desperately trying to follow through on a strategy that at very least was agreed in principle – and not given the tools he needed to do the job.
But there is another point of view. The Commons had twice voted money – and look what had happened; it had been wasted, in Count Mansfield and a disastrous raid on Cadiz. There were destitute sailors all over the place, they were forbidden from discussing how the war was conducted; meanwhile all they could see was no accountability, a royal favourite whose wealth and royal reward was seemingly limitless and immune to actual achievement – a bit like handing out vast bonuses to water company bosses when their companies continually spew millions of tons of raw sewage into our rivers and beaches. Who was to be accountable? Charles made it abundantly clear that they had but one choice in his view; he was not prepared to discuss the whys and wherefores, the very idea of questioning how he and his government spent the money was an outrage and an intrusion on royal prerogative. And in his high view of his prerogative – and low view of parliament’s role – he refused to play a game that was old and well understood enough – responding to grievances in return for parliamentary subsidies – mutual back scratching. Couldn’t bear to lower himself to such a thing, beneath his dignity.
Charles does seem to have been committed to parliament; after all, under his father and the first two years of his reign he’d already been involved in three. But I am tempted to agree with a French Ambassador who remarked that Charles’ vision of the institution was a ‘parlement a sa mode’, parliament in his own image, parliament as he wished it. The price he demanded of the Commons for doing business was to adopt his point of view and perspective. If they did not, he did not appear to be able to view this as a genuine difference of opinion that needed investigation and consideration – it was simply an excuse for troublemaking and disloyalty.
Word of the Week
Well you pays your money – frustration on both sides, but– another parliament bites the dust… in the words of Freddie.
Now look, the stuff about Lawyers last week was a bit of a nightmare because it led me into all kinds of digressions and I went over length as per normal, but I do try to keep things under control, so I kicked this word of the week to this episode.
Can I briefly inflict a bit of pettifogging on you? I mean this episode has been an episode of digressions, so what would it hurt to have one more eh? Let’s call it a word of the week and the word is Pettifogging.
The word has two elements; Petty as I am sure you will know is described from the Norman French petit, or small, rendered by the English as Petty, such as in the area of London called Petty France, where buying a house would these days require an amount of money both far from Petty, and indeed better described pretty considerable. The area was traditionally so called for a community of Huguenots, though they were called that rather early so they may just have been French. Anyway. Petty, from the French for small, so coming also to mean of lesser or secondary importance, or junior; such a Petty Officer in the Navy for example.
Now the second element of fogger is even more interesting. You may have come across the enormously wealthy German merchant family, the Foggers, who dominated the European banking world of the 15th and 16th centuries. Jakob Fugger who lived at their height, has been estimated to have controlled 2% of the entire GDP of Christendom, today’s equivalent of $400 billion, which is a pretty penny rather than a petty penny. Well – therein lies the origin of fogger – an intermediary, a middle man originally but watch this space. It also gets used in other European languages – so apparently according to OED the Dutch had focker. Dutch always sounds rude don’t shout at me – there’s a Douglas Bader joke that plays on that isn’t there about the fokker Wulf aeroplane in the second world war. Shall I tell it? Maybe not. Anyway Dutch Focker, a monopolist, or more insultingly, a moneybags. In Germany Luther, a notorious potty mouth by the way, as was Saint Thomas More, uses the term fucker in 1520 to denote a corrupt dealer, merchant, or financier. Spanish Fucar, French faukeur for a rich man. Houdi Elbow.
Anyway, in English the etymology develops in the 16th century in slightly differently although also with a negative sense – a fogger becomes a word for a low level legal practitioner; sometimes seems to be a professional term but more usually once again with very negative connotations; so a lawyer who engages in petty quibbling, employs dubious or underhanded legal practices, who abuses the law. No one is quite sure why it gets used differently in English, maybe just because we are part of life’s rich tapestry or maybe because the word sounds like fog, so you know, purposefully complicating and obscuring the issues so that they can charge more fees. So there you go – Pettifogging.
That’s it everyone, thank you for listening, for your reviews and contributions, I love to read them and respond. I’ll be back in two weeks’ time for the continuing story of the struggle between commons and king to find middle ground. Until that time good luck, and have a great fortnight