The battle of Lutter in 1626 convinced Charles of the tearing need to intervene in the Thirty Years War in defence of hos sister Elizabeth’s rights and in the cause of Protestantism. But the cupboard was bare – how to raise money? Without calling that pesky parliament!
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Now then, it is important to take note of S R Gardiner’s view that the civil wars cannot be understood outside of the context of all Three kingdoms, so we’d better keep the Scots and Irish in mind, albeit this being a History of England. And afterall, there are many voices who claim the English Revolution would not have happened at all with out the Scottish one. So, my friends, let us spend 10 minutes or so north of the border and party with the Scots.
As I believe we have mentioned, during James’ reign there was considerable suspicion between English and Scots; the English thought the Scots were taking their new king away from them and being rewarded with undue patronage; the Scots resented and disliked the formality of the English court and thought they did things better back home, resented the superior attitude of the English towards them and worried about becoming a province of England. So both kicked against James’ plan for a Great Britain. Still, James had done much to bring the aristocracy of both kingdoms together and begin to build a sense of unity between them, or if not unity, joint interest shall we say.
Under Charles, the Scots no longer had a king who had ruled in Scotland, who knew intimately many of the noble families; although Charles had been born in Scotland, he had been raised in England and it would take him until 1633 to actually go back to his fatherland. So his relationships and knowledge were dependant on what he could achieve in Westminster. Charles was aware to a degree of the worries of his Scottish subjects; and to make them feel better he declared that
‘he was born a Scot and would bear for Scotland the same affection as his father
This didn’t really cut the mustard as far as the Scots were concerned. James had proudly announced that he ruled Scotland with the pen, and to a degree this was true. But he had the advantage of knowing still many of the chief ministers on the Scottish Privy Council in Edinburgh; and was served there for many years by very able ministers. Those Privy Councillors had become used to managing upwards as it were; the Earl of Mar remarked to Charles I on his accession that
A hundred times your worthy father has sent down directions which we have stayed; and he has given thanks for it when we have informed him of the truth.
Now, the Scots wanted a principal minister based in Scotland to try and compensate for the loss of influence with a resident; but Charles was having none of that and instead worked through the Scottish Privy council in Edinburgh, handed down orders after taking advice from those Scots who had moved to live at his court in Westminster, or from those who did make the long and expensive journey to the court in London as required. It should be clear then, that Charles did not govern Scotland as an English king with English councillors; he kept Scottish affairs rigorously separate from his English councillors and state institutions. That might sound like a good thing for Scottish independence, and I guess it is; but Charles was secretive about it, jealous in keeping Scotland as his own affair and nobody else’s. So when the brown stuff hit the spinny thing, it came as a bit of a shock to the English Privy Council about what had been going on, or at least to those who did not have their own sources of information. It meant they were not as helpful as they might have been.
Meanwhile, Charles treated his Scottish Privy councillors like mushrooms, an old gag you might know, which in sanitised form means that he kept them in the dark and fed them with manure. He sent them orders and expected them to execute said orders. Needless to say this one-way traffic was not what his nobles meant when they spoke of consultation. Nor of course is it an impressive management technique – unsurprisingly his councillors found their jobs meaningless and demotivating; as far as they could see, their king was not interested in having them play a role in the governing of the kingdom. And so many of them simply stayed away from the Privy council, managed there regions with their long tradition of heritable jurisdictions, and didn’t bother with national affairs too much
One consequence of this was that in a crisis, Charles would find himself opposed by many of the people who should naturally have been on his side. Just as bad, it meant that many nobles Charles could well have drawn to his side were repelled; one example would be James Graham, the Earl of Montrose who seems to have visited Charles in 1636, but been treated with little respect and left steaming and miffed. But there was more than that; the point is that the Scots had many concerns about the link with England that needed addressing and discussing.
So, first off there was the thing about money. Although it had seemed possible when James went south that with their own man on the throne, English resources could be used to further Scottish interests; well, the English parliament and Council had nixed that idea pretty quickly. The danger was that the opposite would prove true; so, Charles straightaway asked the Convention of Estates, a sort of mini Scottish parliament, to agree a tax; which they did. But they did so on the basis that the money would not be spent getting involved with in the 30 Years War, since they had no control over how such money would be spent. Which worried them. Not that the English had much more say about how English money was to be spent by their king, to be fair, given Charles’ high view of the royal prerogative.
In the early years of his reign, Charles also began to show a distressing lack of nuance in his understanding. There are two things to mention. One of the timebombs James had left his son concerned religion, as per always. The Scottish Reformation had been much more of a bottom up thing -well, led by the lairdly and magnate classes, rather than handed down by the monarch that is to say. One aspect of this had been the Radical Presbyterian movement of John Knox and Andrew Melville, and their attempt to separate church and monarch; so much so that by 1600, although Bishops formally remained part of the church, there were no Scottish bishops in place. The Scots were proud of their kirk; they believed it to be the most perfect example of a fully reformed church, far superior to its southern neighbour in particular. Much and increasing national pride was tied up with it; beginning to compete indeed with their pride in the Stuart dynasty. Through James and Charles’ reigns, given the consistent tug of war over religious policy and an absentee king, it began to look increasingly as though it was the kirk, not monarch, which would be the defender of Scottish nationhood – which was becoming a real problem for the Stuart monarchy.
Anyway, during the latter part of his reign, James had successfully fought back against the Radical Presbyterians and mobilised moderate kirk opinion to re-instate the Bishops. 15 years later all the Bishops were in place, where once their had been nonein their sees and on their thrones. Then In 1618 thee was further controversy, when James had forced an act about religion, the Five Articles of Perth, through a very reluctant, unhappy and generally grumbly General Assembly and Parliament. Many of its provisions were designed to get right up the Radical Presbyterian nose; things like kneeling at communion and requiring confirmation by Bishops. On that a quick anecdote from my church-going youth; there was a jolly hymn we sung called At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow; little did I know this was a somewhat contentious requirement. How could such a nice tune be wrong? Anyway, despite a certain amount of discontent with James, the peace was kept by some jolly sensible Bishops, who didn’t enforce the articles very much, and to be fair a clever king who knew not to push it too hard.
There was a lesson there for Charles, should he have cared to learn it – a wise king goes softly and wears kid gloves, and keeps the big sticky thing well hidden and only for special occasions. Well Charles didn’t really take said lesson to heart on his accession. He meant well probably, since he proclaimed his support of the Scottish Kirk and
The government of the kirk now happily established
Which is fine, but he then followed that up by calling for the strict execution of said law – you know including those articles of Perth – and a crack down on all non conformists. Effectively the bishops had rather let slide those rules as I say, in the interest of harmony. Now Charles appeared to be demanding the observation Easter and Christmas which the Radical Presbyterians though to be little short of paganism; and demanding that folks kneel for communion, and promoting the authority of Bishops. All of this was mighty contentious with the more radical sections of Presbyterian Scots. This funny bone had therefore been tweaked, the sleeping dog lying on his basket had been kicked. In practice, Charles had other fish to fry, and so in practical terms perhaps not too much harm was done; but there might be trouble ahead, with out love and Romance.
Because his then committed a rather more major bloomer – this goes by the name of the Revocation of 1625. Now there was a well accepted right for Scottish kings when they came to the throne before their majority, to revoke the grants of land made during their minority, which it might be expected the minor could not have controlled. Which seems like a thorough sensible policy, if harsh policy if’ you’d managed to snag a few acres, but it kept the monarchy properly resourced and repaired the damage of rapacious regents – and there were a lot of minorities in Scottish history. let me tell you. Now Charles wasn’t really a minor; he was 24 and majority for these purposes defined as 25 so technically he was if he chose to push it – which he did. And without consulting with the far away privy Council, with just the advice of his London Scots, Charles went for it. And raised a storm.
Because rather than focussing on relatively recent grants, which was the custom with these Revocations Charles made his revocation relevant to all grants since 1540. 15 when?! Yup, the last 85 years. The amount of land threatened by this was more enormous than Roald Dahl’s crocodile, and like that unfortunate reptile threatened to sizzle up landowners like a sausage. Think of all those church lands which had passed into Landowners grubby mitts over that period! In practice again the revocation came with some benefits and wasn’t quite as bad as the headlines – lairdly classes people stood to profit from it with greater rights over land they could reclaim from magnates for example, clergy should get better stipends. But the way Charles did all this was something of a propaganda disaster – once again, there was naff all consultation, he failed to get key members of his nobility behind him and on his side, the church was miffed despite profiting mightily because they’d wanted more. The Revocation caused insecurity and worry; and if Charles could go all the way back to 1540 – what could possibly be safe? One contemporary said that it was
The ground stone of all the mischief that followed after
And given the mischief ahead of us, that is a ground stone indeed.
Ok, so, nothing major yet, but there are matters of potential conflict in Charles’ northern kingdom, and he must tread carefully – keep that in a corner of your mind, somewhere you can get at easily. We’ll come back to Scotland and indeed to Ireland in due course, but let us return now down south, where the 1626 parliament had ended in chaos, confusion and bad feeling between king and his house of Commons. Just before parliament was dissolved, there was a further round in the religious struggle between Calvinist and Arminian. Charles had agreed to have Richard Montague’s works reviewed by Convocation; and for a while it looked as though the result would be a re-establishment of the status quo, the balance restored between the Calvinist and Arminian, based on an essentially Calvinist theology and restatement of the theory of predestination. Aaah, phew. Where there is discord let me bring harmony and all. But it was not to be. Because at this point, Laud and Charles had a long hard look at the convocation’s decision, took control of the proclamation, and a new strategy appeared instead – or at least, the re-appearance of an old one. Charles in his first year had appeared o be willing to open up debate about matters of contentious doctrine in religion; now suddenly he and Laud closed it down – maybe because it was not going I a direction they liked, maybe because it was just too difficult. So, the new proclamation of June 1626 simply stated Charles’
‘utter dislike of those who stir up or move any new opinions differing from the sound and orthodoxall grounds of true religion….established in the church of England’
So the Proclamation wasn’t a disaster for either side – but neither did it really re-establish the status quo, because the Calvinist interpretation was under attack. But essentially it was back to the days of his father who had squished any debate about what he saw as obscure matters of doctrine, so that everyone could just be happy believing what they thought the text said – the very heart of diplomacy in fact – agreements so vague they could be interpreted as you wished.
That’s as well – maybe a good strategy – but whereas James had supported this policy with an even-handed attitude to the implementation of the strategy – all and every transgressor was duly squished. That would not be the way of it with Charles. He rather allowed Arminians; to keep on saying as they wished – so Montague was not squished for example; but Calvinists were when they warbled about Predestination and other contentious subjects. So Bishop Neile was allowed to stop a debate at Cambridge in support of the Calvinist view of predestination; the Court of high commission in London used the proclamation as an excuse to ban the writing which had criticised Montague – but, notably did not ban Montague’s writing, so that hardly seems fair.
Ans meanwhile, Charles was far less scrupulous than his Dad had been about keeping the balance even in the appointment of senior clerical posts. Notably, Laud was made dean of the Chapel Royal, and it was whispered told that Charles intended him to become ABC when George Abbot was gone. Both the Arminians Laud and Neile were soon promoted to the Privy Council. Calvinists feared they were beginning to see the emergence of the reality of Charles’ religious settlement; on the face of it, an approach emphasising unity but in practice the favouring of Arminians. This space, gentle listener is to be carefully watched, for further information will shortly be pasted here.
But before that, let’s go behind the scenes into the private chambers of the king and queen, for there was trouble brewing. I have noted before that there are 4 parties in this marriage between Henrietta Maria and Charles, and I know you are all aware this is not traditionally a good idea, but really, being a king and queen, marriage wise was a deeply odd affair. How on earth you would be expected to have a private, personal relationship escapes me. It is worth noting, just fyi and btw and ofc, that in France Richelieu saw a political and religious role for Henrietta Maria’s household from the start. She might have been a willing tool, but a tool, a means to an end, she was, from the start. Her household was always intended to be a political centre with close connexions to English catholics, and hence why Richelieu instructed Father Berulle, Henrietta’s confessor, to reject Buckingham’s mother when she asked to join the household – she would have been uncomfortably 5th columnist among all the French courtiers of the Queen. Meanwhile the Bishop of Mende, the Queen’s almoner, had developed a healthy and vibrant hatred for Buckingham, so it’s all going on in there; the French court in Paris generally believed Buckingham was fomenting hatred between king and Queen so as not to have a rival for the King’s affections. And unfortunately, Charles rather helped give this impression – it was often his good mate Buckingham who got the nasty job of go-between, carrying those unhappy messengers from king to queen, I speak of messages curt and grumpy. In fact, the Buck’s biographer claims he was doing no such thing – for example the Buck suggested the Queen join the king at the Privy Council meetings for oil the wheels. This was an invitation Father Berulle instructed her to reject, suspecting some devilish scheme. Then you have all that formality going on about everything which really stopped Charlies and Henrietta Maria clearing the air – I mean really, not surprising things are tricky, and it must have been a mare for both of them
They squabbled a lot – is this the sort of thing you want to hear in a podcast – domestics? Once, the French ambassador had to be called to resolve a dispute – his job? To settle a dispute about whether or not it was raining. They had an argument in bed about who was to administer the queen’s jointure lands – I don’t know is that traditional in your experience?
It was a real downer for Charles and making him sad and miserable – and I suspect it was the same for the Queen. From November 1625 he started thinking that maybe getting rid of the Queen’s household might help – it would reduce the people in this relationship from 4 to 3 afterall. And by August 1626, Charles had taken the momentous decision, and the French must go. He sent for his wife to attend him – is that the best way to start a tricky conversation? I mean I don’t know, but I must try ‘sending for my wife’ one day and see how that goes. But I suppose 17th Century king and queens are different. Although to be honest the outcome here was pretty similar, because the response to said summons was a flat refusal – pleading a toothache. So Charles marched, with the entire Privy Council in tow would you believe, over to Henrietta Maria’s chambers – where he found a dance and party going on.
So with every one standing looking on, in a situation which surely deserves the work awkward Charles publicly made his announcement – I mean, I’d develop an immediate interest in the stucco work on the ceiling, don’t know about you, or maybe start looking for cobwebs and do a spot of tidying. Charles stopped the party and told his beloved that he was sending her servants back to France ‘for the good of herself and the nation’. And oh, by the way, it never was raining.
Well I don’t know how you’d react in this situation, but here it’s a matter of historical record and makes me celebrate the mercy that for most of us, our domestics don’t make their way into the national archives. I say most. Anyway, Henrietta Maria understandably lost it, yelling and howling and smashing the windows with her bare hands. Which is better than using her own hands I suppose, arf, arf. The Yeoman of the Guard were called, to move everyone out, there was much howling and lamenting, and on 7th August 1626 a miserable and angry caravan of 30 carriages and 50 carts left London for the continent, with no doubt many resentful French glances in the carriage mirrors and maybe the odd hand gesture. Charles’ parting wishes were also a matter of record, and consisted of ‘the devil go with them’. My grandmother would no doubt have been moved to remark, ‘what a to-do’, and I would suggest that it undoubtedly qualifies for the status of a ‘to-do’.
Unsurprisingly Henrietta Maria, still only 17 and now alone in a strange land, was reported to be most depressed. However worth noting she did not collapse under the strain, she was determined to play the proper role of queen yet. Some French attendants were soon allowed back along with a religious household – and this amounted to at least 40, so that’s not nothing. And she supervised at least three court entertainments in 1626 and 1627, already showing a highly developed taste in the arts which might possibly be a shared interest with Charles too. So, maybe there was a future for love’s young dream, but not quite yet it seems.
Right, now then, everyone knows that the only good kind of history is the stuff where lots of people die in a hail of bullets or people get their heads chopped off and bowels removed in front of their horrified eyes – and frankly there’s not been enough of that recently has there? So, let’s have some, and where better to find it – than the 30 years war.
Let me take you to lower Saxony, which is sort of a few inches south of the Jutland Peninsular on a small scale map of Europe. Does that help? Its 27th August 1626 and we are at a place called Lutter and it is wet ladies, gentlemen and all, it is wet. Christian IV of Denmark was there, with about 21,000 of his closest friends. He is there because he is not only the king of Denmark also the Duke of Holstein and therefore a member of the Holy Roman Empire – hmmm, and therefore had a stake in said 30 Years war. Denmark was Lutheran to boot, and a pretty powerful kingdom – the crown of Denmark controlling as it did not just Denmark, but also Norway and parts of what is now Sweden and therefore also controlling access and tolls into the Baltic – something of a money spinner. Anyway Christian IV, who is reckoned a very successful and highly regarded Danish leader I believe, had entered the 30 Years War, partly for the good of his co-religionists, but also partly, as is typical for the 30 years war, for more prosaic and secular reasons – he was worried that the imperial advance, seemingly uncheckable, would see land reclaimed for the imperium – from him. And when General Wallenstein arrived in force not far from the Danish king’s dominions, those fears rose to fever pitch. So – accompanied by English, Dutch and German protestant support, rejoicing and general flag waving (hurraaaayy), Christian entered the war. Protestantism had found a champion.
Trouble is, things had not gone too well so far. It had been a three pronged attack plan – my unscientific impression, by the way, is that every 3 pronged attack plan I have ever heard of always ends in disaster, but feel free to disagree. Let us take each of these prongs one prong at a time. Prong number 1, Count Mansfield, had continued his brilliant career by failing completely and getting his arse kicked at Dessau, Christian of Brunswick had messed up his prong number 2 and every other part of his anatomy of course by you know, dying, and prong 3 Christian had been forced as a result to runaway through torrential rain by the advance of Imperial Catholic general Johann t’Serclaes Graf von Tilly, a general who had so far given pretty much everyone a kicking. But at Lutter Christian turned, muttered presumably Luther’s famous ‘hear I stand I can do no other’ line to himself, trusted in God and hoped his powder was dry. This would be where the fortunes of the war turned back to glory.
Except it wasn’t. The fog of war was the main problem, bits of the Danish army attacking without orders, wandering up to an artillery emplacement which was fully loaded which led to decimation, panic and flight, Tilly counterattacked and all was over. A few skilful cavalry counter attacks allowed Christian to escape, but this was a military disaster rather than a glorious turn in fortune by anyone’s reckoning, losing 7,000 dead and wounded and leading to the defection of a large numbers of German princes from the alliance. Only English and Dutch money could now keep the champion of Protestantism, and the potential saviour of Frederick and Elizabeth Stuart of the Rhineland, of course, in the war.
When the news of the battle of Lutter arrived home, the government were already in the middle of a foreign policy panic. It happens. First of all there’d been a rumour that the Spanish were on their way with a flotilla of 200 boats and 40,000 men from Flanders. Turned out not to be so, but before you scoff, there would be a new panic in 1627 which would be absolutely true, when the Olivares had plans drawn up to attack Ireland, capture some Scottish Islands and then from those launchpads go on to attack England. The fear of Ireland as a backdoor into England was not actually just paranoia; paranoia, as they say, does not mean they are not out to get you.
Meanwhile, relationships with France were at an all time low and as you know that is a pretty high bar, given 1356 and all that; the expulsion of the Queen’s French household was, of course, not seen as an overtly friendly act, and there’s a matter of rivalry between Richelieu and Buckingham; everyone believed antagonism between these two were causing friction and potentially war between Charles and Louis. The Italian Ambassador in Savoy, wrote home of the despair in Savoy that
the interests and passions of those two favourites, dye red the swords of the two young kings, who allow themselves to be ruled by them, so that everywhere this is called the war of the favourites
Meanwhile there was a worrying build up of French naval forces in Brittany, which had the English worried that Richelieu was planning to break the peace with the Huguenots and launch a new attack on La Rochelle. Meanwhile the Danish Ambassador in London was spitting feathers, blaming the English for its patchy delivery of subsidies to the Danish king. So Charles cut short his summer progress to assure the Danish Ambassador that he would
Render his uncle every assistance even at risk of his own life
The trouble was of course, that compared to Charles, Old Mother Hubbard looked as rich as a hedge fund manager. This was an interesting time on the Privy Council. Charles was very close to checking out from the idea of a constitutional parliamentary monarchy completely – he’s quite not there yet, but he is completely hacked off with the parliamentary thing, though totally wedded to the king’s responsibility to consult – but in his mind that means his Privy Council primarily not those blasted Commons – who needs commons anyway. Interestingly there was a report of a conversation he had with the French Bishop Mende, whom he asked
About the means used by the kings of France to rid themselves of parliament.
Which is suggestive, I’m sure you will agree. Though also – sitting firmly in the hearsay and gossip category frankly.
With his PC Charles faced a body comprised of a range of views. On the more extreme side, Dorset and Laud led a faction that played up the threat in the Commons of what they saw as they popularists, whom were convinced were causing nowt but trouble; and that if a new parliament was called to raise money, said popularists would see too it they made as much mileage as possible. And so Laud and Dorset stressed ‘new counsels’ as they called it. New Counsels, a phrase we will hear again, essentially meant new ways of raising cash without consulting with the people in the form of parliament. Dorset’s conversation with the Venetian ambassador found its way into the report home – lord knows what history would do without Italian Renaissance diplomats, they are such a good source of a bit of high grade goss – anyway, Dorset had apparently said to the Ambassadere
War must be maintained [using] the property of the subject, all being bound to contribute what is just. And if in the last parliament the people had agreed to the promised contribution, they would have paid much less than the king will eventually compel them to disburse…at any rate there is no fear of insurrection in this kingdom as it contains no fortresses.
Hmm, well, fighting talk, and the Earl of Dorset’s Crystal ball was clearly on the blink at the time.
Against these firebrands, a core of the PC was more moderate, and still took the view that it was critical to work thorough parliament; Buckingham’s publicly stated views also seemed to be moderate, despite the threat to him from parliament. A decision must be made, money was needed right now. And so Charles wrote to all the deputy lieutenants and JPs, requesting that the subsides parliament had almost given should be given as a free gift. There’s a idea. Now we have seen kings asking for ‘free’ gifts before, in days medieval; I think they worked up the jolly wheeze of calling it a ‘benevolence’, which is a lovely word; the sort of mood music was ‘You would like to loyally give a gift to your king wouldn’t you? Oooh by the way, before you answer, have I shown you this extremely large stick I got for Christmas? Isn’t she a beauty? Anyway, go on, you were saying…’
Pus ca change, eh. The answer this time was tumbleweed. County after county wrote back saying they would give by parliamentary grant, or not at all. The idea of a new parliament was therefore mooted once more at Council, and it’s notable that Charles was now attending Privy Council meetings regularly, and taking a direct role in running things, and when this suggestion of a new parliament came up his response was
They might pledge his word and crown, but there was to be no question of a parliament.
Which seems clear enough. But things were desperate; in the summer the king had tried to squeeze the royal milchcow that was the city of London for a loan – asked for £100,000, actually managed to get £20,000 and a lot of whining. Though to be fair I don’t think London charged interest for the whining, that came gratis. The Privy Council had considered debasing the coinage, but to their credit realised just what a rubbish strategy that always turned out to be. Time was pressing, they had a plan now to send 4,000 veteran troops from the English army in the United Provinces to help Christian, but money was needed to do even that. So – the new counsel was that the country should be jolly well told that they must give the king a free loan as give it pronto. None of this Mr Nice Guy, it’s national security guv. The last refuge of the scoundrel.
Now of course, the Privy Council did not go out to the country and say hey we have this loan we are forcing you to make; but the move acquired the word, forced, from popular usage largely because it was, in fact, forced. There were now penalties if you didn’t want to make the free loan. The process was that county commissioners all crowded into London for training; actually it all rather has the feeling of a sales conference for a new campaign, although presumably no one was getting to photocopy their bottoms. But they were given training on what to say, and how to say it, with a prepared text. A sort of Sales manual.
The text had been prepared in the light of the response of the judges of the King’s Bench to the kigs enquiry about the legality of a forced loan, and they unfortunately had not been compliant. Now, I was reading about why lawyers were so hated in Stuart England, and the amount of corruption and double dealing between the better sorts of clients, barristers and judges is indeed horrifying. Also, if a king did like a judge’s judgement, they simply fired them and found one who gave judgements they did like. This obviously affected the views judges felt they could hold, there is no denying it, and we will see evidence of that soon, promise. But in this case, the judges refused to endorse the loan; in November 1626 they said it was illegal. Charles’ response was that
he will sweep clean all their benches,
and he called the chief Justice, Randolph Crewe, before him, for a cosy fireside chat, and in a cosy fireside chat sort of way – fired Chief Justice Randolph Crewe’s backside. So that was that.
But the text kind of had to deal with that legal objection and part of the proclamation was very interesting. Coming from the king; it said
“this course which at this time is thus enforced upon us by that necessitie to which noe ordinarie course can give the lawe, shall not in any wise be drawne into example nor made a president for after tyme. … we are fully prepared to call a Parliament soe soone as conveniently wee maie and as often as the Commonwealth’s and state occasions shall require it, and by our people’s affection nowe shewed unto us in this waie of necessitie, they shall the sooner invite us to the frequent use of Parliament, beinge confident in the hartes of our people.”
This is an interesting statement and like our least favourite Christmas jumper, let us unpick it a bit. The first bit stresses ‘oh there’s no time for a parliament that’s why we are going down this route and it’s to too important to abide by the law, which just takes too long. National Security, darlings, national security. Matters of state’. But look it continues ‘don’t worry poppets – it’s not going be setting a precedent, soonest done, soonest forgotten’. The second part is frankly even more alarming; because it rather suggests that, well OK parliaments will be called – but only when we the king is confident of the ‘hearts of our people’ i.e. once you have demonstrated the appropriate loyalty to me then I’ll consider it…soo… not because it’s a constitutional requirement then?
The Commissioners were instructed not to have mass meetings; no point getting objectors together to work themselves up into a lather, divide and rule, smile and wave. Over the next 12 months they would trawl round their sales territories, sorry counties, talking to those with cash well out of earshot of their peers.
As far as penalties were concerned…well there was an interesting struggle in the Privy Council and with the king. The Hardliners suggested threatening one group of 150 refusers in Gloucester with being impressed into military service by way of payment, and a letter with the royal signet was prepared. Another was – sorry just checking my notes – oh yes, to string non payers up from trees outside their houses pour encourager les autres.
None of this happened, I am happy to say; the moderates fought back in Council. Though refusers were ordered to appear before the privy council for consecutive days which was both a major expense and of course the chance to apply maximum pressure; and indeed individuals who refused to pay were indeed imprisoned or pressed.
Now, in point of fact the forced loan was super successful. It raised £243,000. This has been used as evidence that England was not in fact convinced that the king had to go through parliament to raise taxation or that his argument was valid – this being that in times of necessity the king could do what was required whatever the rules, and the king got to decide what necessity meant.
But there were refusers. 15 peers, over a 100 of the major gentry. These hit Charles hard, and it is interesting to identify aspects of his response, which are becoming a bit of a theme. Payment of the loan is not just business, forced on him and his council by necessity and extremity. For Charles, this is a test of his subjects’ loyalty to him, personally. He was coming to see Parliament’s failure to grant supply as spearheading a popular assault on the very foundation of monarchy. So, he demanded evidence from his subjects of their loyalty to his will, and the forced loan became part of that. And secondly, once again he refused to hide behind the convenient fiction that oiled the wheels – that of council. Once again he clearly identified this as his personal policy, and refused to hide behind his privy council; again, I’d say in many ways honest and laudable – but deeply dangerous politically. In the end try as they might, those who objected to the vandalism being visited on the principle of consent would have nobody to blame but the king.
However, the loan was still collected, and very successfully. But the political damage caused by the forced loan was probably far greater than at first it appeared. Archbishop George Abbot’s feelings may well be typical; even among those who helped implement the Forced Loan, there was deep distaste; to all of those who clung to the belief that government in England was based on cooperation and voluntary consent of the subjects, this was hideous, but it was difficult to organise and know what to do, without extraordinary individual courage. This is what George said later
“It ran in my mind that this new device for money could not long hold out, that then we must return into the highway, whither it were best to retire ourselves betimes, the shortest errors being best. But these thoughts I suppressed within my soul . . . swallowed my own spittle and spake nothing of it to any man.”
The way the Forced load was collected as I have said made it difficult for people to organise and resist. What resistance needed was a focus, leadership.
Well we’ll here about that next time but very briefly before I leave I have a correction to make to an anecdote I told. A Patron of the podcast, one J by name, has pulled me up on a Wittgenstein anecdote I told. I said that Ludwig had stood up for medieval folk, against a student mocking the very idea that anyone could believe the earth was not going round the sun. Now look this is a pretty esoteric discussion here so you can scrub forward to the end and go onto a different podcast right now, but it appears my memory played me false in two ways. One – this was the quote:
‘Tell me, why do people always say that it was natural for men to assume that the sun went around the earth rather than that the earth was rotating?” His friend said, “Well, obviously, because it just looks as if the sun is going around the earth.” To which the philosopher replied, “Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth was rotating?’
So I got the sense totally wrong. Secondly – it’s probably not a real quote. It comes from a Stoppard play I did at A level, called Jumpers – which I did really enjoy, but it turns out this was an obscure joke by Stoppard on Wittgenstein’s character – don’t ask me to explain that. It just conforms my view, re-inforced by going to see Stoppard plays since, that the lad is way too clever for me. For example without studying it it’s impossible to know by Zeno’s paradox proves that St Sebastian died of fright.
Anyway, sorry for the egregious error, and thanks to J for putting me right. And thanks to all of you for listening, commenting and taking part, thanks to all of you who become members through Patreon or thehistory of England.co.uk and so keep this podcast going. Good luck everyone, and have a great week.
 Lockyer, R; Buckingham p 252