357 Vipers



Dramatic events in 1628 – a horrible murder, and one of the great set pieces of the English Revolution. Mayhem! Treason!  Murder!

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A Boston Box of the English Revolution

There was a period of my life when there seemed to be an extraordinary amount of 2×2 boxes, or 3×3’s sometimes to help make decisions. Oddly enough, I used to find them rather useful for boiling things down to  their essentials. Well anyway, here’s one as a bit of fun, comparing Pym and Charles relative positions, and Charles direction of travel!



As an independent podcaster, I note that these days history podcasts supported by networks and other organisations now dominate the upper echelons of the most popular podcasts. In many ways this is a good thing, since the quality and range of history podcasts is absolutely amazing. But it does make it so hard for small independents to get themselves noticed among the 2m podcasts jostling for attention, of which so many now have marketing budgets to support them. So you may find the odd, short read by small independents introducing their podcast for a while.  They will be less than a minute of your time, and I hope you will find something of interest, and bear with me. I get no sponsorship for these

It is a standard interpretation of the prorogation of the 1628 parliament that Charles did it because he saw no prospect of success but also to save the skin of his favourite, Buckingham. There is an argument against that, in the sense that Buckingham himself was confident he could refute the charges; but hey, George was not a man who lacked self confidence, that doesn’t mean he was right, and Charles as not the man to have his noble Bessie mates hounded by hoi polloi.

Whether or not George was Charles’ main concern, it appears that once parliament was gone, the emotion that gripped the young king in his jimmies at night was one of deep regret – regret that he’d been too much the Mr Nice guy, worn velvet gloves not iron gauntlets. Now obviously you will know that there is no problem that could not be solved by a Boston Box, a 2 x 2 grid. If we have Calvinism and Accommodation towards parliament top and right, and absolutism and Arminianism bottom and left, he felt he’d gone too far top right. So once parliament had left he took action and travelled bottom left. This may well be incomprehensible for you so I have put a Boston Box on the website. All this verbiage is me shedding the pain of business life past, so in essence all I am saying that accommodating parliament and Calvinists was no a lesser priority.

First off, that Petition of Right worried him; so he cancelled and pulped the printing of the thing, and got Attorney General Heath to produce instead a version which gave his first answer – the one saying he’d do things according to laws and customs, which of course he’d interpret as he saw fit; and then added a bunch of qualifications anyway. I mean this is most outrageous – I mean words fail me, what kind of tin pot monarchy is this where decisions jointly and publicly made get re-written?

And there’s more. There is a suggestion that he had the statute number on the statute roll erased with a pumice stone so it couldn’t be identified and verified in future. That is a matter of some debate between historians I have to say. It’s difficult to believe – I mean seriously that would be the actions of a tin pot dictator, I suspect Charles’ conscience wouldn’t have allowed that. But I could  be wrong.

Ok so that took him out of the parliamentary accommodation box. Now for the Calvinist one. In July Laud was made Bishop of London; Neile was promoted to Winchester, Howson to Oxford. George Montaigne was made Archbishop of York, and Harsnett replaced him when he died rather too soon; White took Norwich, Buckeridge Ely. Most of these names mean nothing to you. The common factor in all these appointments? All of them were Arminians. And then the piece de resistance, the cherry on the top, the last straw, the final countdown, the blow of the proverbial hammer, the fall of the sword of Damocles – Richard Montague, the fella at the centre of the storm whose writings had caused such upset amongst Charles’ MPs – was made Bishop of Chichester. So much for balance and listening to the will of the people then. Game, Set and Match to the Arminians, surely. With Abbot rusticated, the roost that was the church hierarchy was ruled by a pigeon of the most Arminian plumage.

Buckingham meanwhile was continuing to busy about spending the subsidies that had been granted; feelers about peace were still out to Spain, but the diplomatic situation had shifted again, as European diplomatic situations are wont to do; there had now blown up a brand shiny new war, the War of Mantuan succession, A proxy war, with France and Spain promoting the cause of alternative candidates – a sort of 17th century north and South Korea thing. So – the France-Spain love-in was now once again a love out, and it could have been that the war against France could be re-considered; but Charles saw his commitment to La Rochelle as a matter of honour, and Buckingham was equally afeared of the fall out from the GP if the Protestants at La Rochelle were abandoned. And so preparations for war continued.

Not that this helped Buckingham’s reputation with the masses; for a large section, quite unfairly, Buckingham was a closet Spaniard and Catholic. There were death threats. After an astrologer called Dr Lambe was beaten to death by a suspicious mob, a libel appeared

Let Charles and George do what they can,

The Duke shall die like Dr Lambe.

Plus ca change, eh?

Buckingham tackled the preparations at Portsmouth to prepare the fleet with customary energy, in person; his quarters were at the Greyhound inn where also were to be found Soubise and other leading Rochellois. Kate Villiers, Countess Buckingham to you and me, was there too, grabbing a few moments with her hub before he went away on his foreign business trip. On 17th August 1628 there was an ugly incident; as Buckingham set off to Southwark for the day to report in to the king, several hundred sailors surrounded the coach demanding their pay; one tried to drag Buckingham, from the coach, but SuperBuck, nothing daunted leapt from the coach grabbed the man by the scruff of the neck,  shouted something along the lines of ‘you ‘orrible little man’ and hauled him to the Greyhound to be clapped in irons – damn your eyes. That’s the way to deal with these boundahs eh? George didn’t lack for Chutzpah you have to admit.

A day later he was back, and preparations for the great campaign proceeded apace. On the 22nd the king visited again and they parted with sweet sorrow, as you do, and the following morning fake news arrived that La Rochelle had been relieved! Well hurrah for that, Buckingham literally danced for joy, cut a little jig he did. He had a quick breakfast, preparing to rush off to tell Charles the glad tidings and out into the lobby he went. Now presumably you have hung around great noblemen and women, as you do, hoping for a bit of patronage to fall your way, so you’ll easily be able to imagine the scene. Bustle and hustle, crowded room, people trying to catch the Great Man’s eye. One of his Colonels was the first to manage it, Thomas Freyer, who was surrounded by army men, one a veteran of Ireland and a former Captain at the disaster at Isle de Rhe. A consultation with Freyer took place. When the matter was sorted, Buckingham, of course bowed courteously and stood, Freyer then bowed in turn, and as he leant over the Captain behind him thrust his arm forward over Freyer’s shoulder, there was a flash of steel. And suddenly there was blood on the Duke’s left breast and a knife there. Murder! Treason!  Buckingham pulled out the knife and cried Villain! And in typical fashion tried to pull his sword from its scabbard, setting off to take his revenge on the killer. But after no more than a few steps into the horrified crowd he stumbled and stopped and fell dreadfully silent, held up only by the press of people around him. He was taken and laid out on a table – but it was too late, he was dead, blood running from his mouth as Kate appeared above the stairs to see what the noise was about and gazed down at her husband, once so full of life and passion, and now a corpse.

The Captain, whose name was Tom Felton mooched off to the kitchens, unremarked as the killer; but he didn’t seem too anxious to escape, though it seems he could have done so. Everyone put 2 and 2 together and came up with Frenchman and started yelling Frenchman – Felton misheard and thought they were crying for him and so helpfully stepped forward and introduced himself saying

I am the man

A few hot heads wanted to run him through, there and then, damn your eyes, but he was instead taken to the magistrates. In his hat was found a statement

‘that man is cowardly, base, and deserveth not the name of a gentleman or soldier, that is not willing to sacrifice his life for the honour of his God, his King and his country. Let no man commend me for doing of it, but rather discommend themselves as the cause of it. For if God had not taken away our hearts for our sins, he would not have gone so long unpunished

Honestly I’m not 100% sure what he’s going on about, but I think he’s saying Buckers should have died rather than return a failure from the Isle de Rhe, but that he, Felton, should not be commended for killing him. It’s a confused message to the fair.

Charles meanwhile was a few miles away at a place called Southwick house. He was at a service when Edward Hyde, later Earl of Clarendon saw a messenger come in, make for the king and whisper in his ear. Clarendon recorded that Charles

continued unmoved, and without the least change in his countenance, till prayers were ended; when he suddenly departed to his chamber, and threw himself upon his bed, lamenting with much passion and with abundance of tears the loss he had of an excellent servant and the horrid manner in which he had been deprived of him; and he continued in this melancholic. . . discomposure of mind many days.

Felton’s trial took place on 27th November. He came to the conclusion of his own accord that what he had done was inspired not by God but by the devil

‘It was abhorrent. I have much dishonoured God in it.

He pleaded guilty, was condemned on and hanged on 29th.

Buckingham had been buried on 18th September; his body was laid in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey  and in 1634 Kate Buckingham, had a grand memorial done which also made it clear that in her humble opinion her husband had been badly misjudged by the people.

Some members of the Great English Public did not reach such a realisation. The news of Buckingham’s death was greeted by many with unrestrained joy; toasts to Felton were drunk all over the country, sermons preached about the good news. Felton was lauded as a protestant hero who had saved the country from the crypto catholic Buckingham. Libels circulated

Here lies leachery, treachery pride

Well, there goes Buckingham, in tragic circumstances. I was left understanding that Buckingham was a good deal more than a time-serving, glory and power seeking courtier. He had verve, style, charisma; and also energy and a determination to succeed; I fully believe his devotion to both James and Charles was real and heart felt. He had far too much testosterone than was wise for the country I suspect; I haven’t gone into the rumours of his various affairs or given credence to the idea that he really tried to get it on with the Queen of France but these things could be true. I could have sexed things up a lot mea culpa. But the boring stuff; the vastness of the wealth he acquired and the way he feathered the nests of his family to the detriment of policy in Ireland in particular is more than a bit gross, far more than the likes of Cecil were even. He was, like Charles, very concerned that his client should do him service rather than provide advice – he was ruthless in removing enemies like Bacon. his dominance limited the advice and options available to James and Charles, though I suppose this last one is not his fault in a way, but James and Charles’. You can take this too far I think, when some historians say this blocked off all advice.  It seems to me there are always factions, like Pembroke’s who still manage to influence events. In the end poor old Buckingham, committed the worst crime of all – he was unlucky. Two days earlier and Dt Martin would have fallen, Two days more and Wimbledon might have caught the fleet, a few more days and re-supply would have arrived at Rhe. Close, so close.

It’s tempting to date the start of the next phase of Charles’ reign, the personal rule where he resolved to manage without parliament, from the death of Buckingham; but it doesn’t seem to be quite that simple. In fact some have seen this as a last opportunity for Charles and his parliaments to build a better, closer working relationship. Dorchester reported that Charles was indeed resolved

Not to discharge of himself so much of affairs on one man, but to take main direction to himself

There was a re-algning of roles within Privy Council. A cabinet reshuffle, you might say. In one sense that was bad for a harmonious working with parliament; because the biggest winner was Richard Weston, who became the Lord Treasurer. Weston had been close to Buckingham, and would be close to Laud also; was very suspicious of parliament. His advice on the Council was most uncompromising as regards parliament. He favoured adopting the threatened ‘new Counsels’ and peace with Catholic Spain, and in this formed something of a partnership with the Earl of Arundel and Francis Cottingham. Interestingly, and here’s a thing for the future, Weston also managed to recruit an old enemy turn his coat and climb aboard the to the new team of the king. I speak of one Thomas Wentworth, Yorkshireman. As you will remember Wentworth had been such a troublemaker, he’d been targeted for exclusion from the 1626 parliament, and pricked out as the phrase went. But like Weston, he favoured peace with Spain; and so was blandishable, open to the arts of Blandish. In July he was made a baron, and in December a Viscount and President of the North. He had been recruited. There would be consequences.

But while Weston and the likes of Laud were now most powerful within the PC, the older patriot party also retained a lot of influence, under the likes of Pembroke; people began to talk openly of a return to the days of Elizabeth, where multiple individuals and temporary groups and alliances formed over specific issues, where all had access to the royal lug.

And we get very briefly to actually mention a couple of women here; because one of the routes to the royal lug was Henrietta Maria, and when Buckingham shuffled off the stage, the relationship between king and queen underwent a very obvious transformation. A new closeness of their relationship impressed everyone; Lucy Carlisle wrote that one could not wish to find a happier couple; when Henrietta Maria caught a fever, Charles was constantly by her side. By the way I can’t do this two names thing any more it’s a pain I the neck. I am told Charles said she should be called Queen Mary, but that she hated that and called herself Henriette R. So from now on – Henrietta it is. Just sose you know. At this tome their first child was conceived; horribly enough the following May Henrietta would miscarry, as the baby was being born feet first; while things were in doubt, the doctors asked Charles what they should do, and Charles told them to save Henrietta, even if it meant they could have no more children. Not 100% confident Henry VIII would have said that. Answers on a postcard.

Anyway, Henrietta’s growing influence meant that like many queens in history she was a route to the king, a possible intermediary in disputes, an intercessor, a source of influence and information. So let me introduce Lucy Carlisle again, the daughter of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. In 1617 she married James Hay, who became earl of Carlisle in 1622 and was an influential courtier and diplomat. Lucy Carlisle, then was a wildly conspicuous figure at Charles’ court, she had wit, intelligence, beauty and charisma and was prepared to use all her talents to gain influence for herself and her husband. People wrote verses in her praise, she was rumoured during her life to have had affairs with people as diverse as Buckingham, Wentworth and Pym. At this stage then she and her husband decided Lucy should cultivate the queen; and she managed to do so, although her biographer, Roy Schreiber, reckoned that Henrietta and Lucy were not closely aligned in their tastes. Henrietta loved the visual and dramatic arts like the masque, Carlisle was much more about wit and conversation, symposia, words. But none the less, she managed to gain the Queen’s favour. She deployed her influence in support of her husband’s desire as a member of the patriot party, to avoid peace with Spain, against the wishes of the Weston party. Though embarrassingly, unknown to her Charles sent her husband on a secret diplomatic mission to Spain to discuss peace, so a sudden shift of was required, and ineluctable principle was discovered to be quite luctable. Anyway, Lucy Carlisle was a player; her tool was the salon, where influential courtiers and politicians could come and shine, but also meet in corners, hear the gossip and rumour, make alliances away from the strict confines of court. And Lucy Carlisle was at the heart of it.

So, there was certainly a problem that needed to be dealt with, whether you chose to tackle it with or without parliament. The failure to vote tunnage and Poundage at parliament led some merchants to refuse to pay customs dues; and there was all manner of conflagration, with Charles throwing John Rolle, a Levant merchant, into prison along with others. Meanwhile Robert Bertie, Lord Lindsey had been poked and prodded into leading Buckingham’s fleet to La Rochelle – which turned out to be the last word miserable failure. In fact Lindsay hardly even tried. Turned out to be a real snowflake, and went back instead to draining the fens and throwing people off their lands, the proper occupation for the nobleman. If another attempt on La Rochelle was to be tried, more money would be needed.

Despite the influence of Weston, the efforts of Pembroke his Patriots and the moderates began to raise the definite possibility of another throw of the dice between king and parliament. The failure of Lindsay’s flotilla rather helped actually, although Soubise and the Rochellois were hardly pleased; in the Autumn, realising there was little prospect now of raising this siege, and with the city a shadow of its former self, La Rochelle finally surrendered. So the legs that carried the war against France were removed, not a single leg to stand on. What was the point? Surely the only idea which retained its legs was back to restoring Elizabeth Stuart to the Palatinate, in alliance with France against the Hapsburg. Those legs were made to look even more necessary because the other legs to deliver that strategy, the Danes, were now looking so thin and pasty, their knees so knobbly as being in dire need of support. I think I shall drop the leg metaphor now, as having outlived its usefulness.

But the business of the 1628 parliament left outstanding was of course the customs dues, and that was the only real source of revenue to strengthen Danish legs in defence of Protestantism. Long term right to collect customs, tunnage and poundage, had not yet been voted by parliament. Now Charles also seemed to be persuadable once more to consider paying the price required for parliamentary support; that price being religion, because as sure as eggs is eggs Arminianism would come up. So a ‘new deal’ seemed in the offing. Dorset excitedly reported that Charles seemed very malleable for a change

So capable of good counsel, so patient to hear truth, so loving justice, so discerning right and so zealously affecting the good of his people

By which I take it that Dorset was referring to his and Pembroke’s counsels. Not really, Charles obviously. Anyway, to give the opportunity practical teeth, Charles invited his councillors to supper on 27th November to prepare for parliament, and after the cheese and port or whatever you ended supper with those days, he proposed to promise parliament to turn all papists out of office; and refer the teachings of all Arminians to the Bishops for review against the 39 articles. He proposed to set up a council committee composed of Lords and Commons. Parliament, only prorogued in June of course, was set to be recalled after they had deliberated, in January 1629. In return he would expect parliament to grant customs dues for his full reign.

This was a significant move; here was Charles actually encouraging parliament to discuss grievances, without being forced to do so down a dark alley and having a knife pressed against his windpipe. There was much to-ing and fro’ing, and in the fro’s there were victories for the Arminans in the to’s for the Calvinistas; It was dourly noted that referring the sermons of Arminians for review to the Bishops probably wouldn’t get far, since all the Bishops were now Arminians anyway, and instead the Calvinists wanted the Canons of Dort adopted into the 39 articles – those being the canons adopted in the Netherlands. But on the other hand Richard Montague was dumped by Laud and as a result rather humiliatingly and publicly repudiated Arminianism in a statement to AB Abbot.

Next in the secular arena, the PC planned a deal with the Commons to answer their concerns about the Petition of Right and the prosecution of Merchants who had refused to pay customs because they had not been approved by parliament. So look it’s complicated but here essentially was the new deal to which Charles appeared to prepared to play; a re-positioning of Calvinism at the heart of the religious settlement; and reassurances that the king would play fair in the future by the Petition of Right, and not duck, weave or backslide.

Parliament opened In January therefore in an atmosphere of hope among the Privy Council; surely they had a workable accommodation here. The 1628 parliament had delivered subsidies – now it would deliver customs dues, and harmony would be re-established.

Well, unfortunately it didn’t turn out like that, and the reason for the problems appear this time to lie at least as much with the intransigence of the house of commons as with the king. Essentially, two factions emerged in the Commons. Last week I read a pronouncement from William Erle that linked the matter of religion with that of constitutional secular politics; Calvinism and a concern for the liberties of parliament appear to coalesce. You might note that I do not use Calvinism or constitutional radicalism as synonymous with puritanism; not yet, if I ever will do. The two come together for the majority of MPs because Arminianism were as hot for the rights of the king as they were hot for their theology. It’s not yet a matter of establishing a new, perfect puritan city of a Hill, it’s about defending a Calvinist view of the Elizabethan settlement. On that just to digress for a moment; it’s always slightly odd to hear parliamentarians or puritans described routinely as religious zealots; because the Arminians who will be primarily ranged on the royalist side were every bit the zealot as puritans. It was in the water of Christendom still.

Anyway, at one end of MPs, John Pym and Nathaniel Rich were primarily concerned with religion; the demands of their committee went well beyond what Charles would ever agree to – it demanded condemning those named recently by Charles as promoted to Bishops, and specifically naming Neile and Laud as contrary to orthodox religion. Charles was outraged.

I might mention at this point that there were 2 representatives from the fair borough of Huntingdon at the parliament, as per normal. The primary candidate was a scion of the leading family in the area whose family would produce the Earls of Manchester, prominent commanders of the parliamentary army in the future conflict. There was another rather down at the heels member of the area, in no more than the top 20 of householders in the borough, who wibbled on the line between very minor gentry and yeoman farmer. His name was Oliver Cromwell. It’s generally thought that Cromwell’s religious views and move towards independency would come later, but it is worth noting that his first speech in parliament was in opposition to the Arminian Richard Neile; so he’s already in the Calvinist camp, and worried about Arminians. He had clearly not yet started swimming however, since his speech sank like a stone.

Another group in parliament, more interested in the secular side, was led by John Eliot and John Seldon and focussed very much on the Petition of Right. It has to be said that Charles had been surprisingly emollient so far, promising to give a commitment to abide by the Petition, and to collect customs only after the Commons had voted their grant.

Let us not be jealous of one another’s actions so that the session might end in a perfect good understanding between us

He said, clearly an attempt at least to reach a compromise. But this was not sufficient for Eliot; they wanted the petition to be sealed and signed in blood. There must be vengeance visited on the government for prosecuting the merchants who had refused to pay customs dues since 1628, citing for justification that parliament had not yet made the official grant to the king. The MPs John Eliot and John Seldon focused on the case of said aforementioned Thomas Rolle, because he was an MP as well as merchant. Seldon and Pym’s problem was that to win their battle required, or seemed to require a climbdown specifically by the king, and so they proposed a face-saving formula; they proposed to prosecute the government officials who had collected the customs dues in 1628 as individuals, on the implicit basis that they had acted on their own initiative not the king’s – it’s a variant on the evil counsellors defence; it was the evil counsellors what did it, guv, not our lovely king.

It would have been thoroughly sensible for the king to accept it, in a real politique kind of way – some customs officials would suffer for it, but what the hell, this is the government of the country we are talking about here. But here we run up against Charles’ not unattractive acute sense of honour again, or inflexibility if you prefer that. He could not do such a thing, throw his customs officials to the wolves just for the sake of hundreds of thousands of pounds every year and constitutional peace.  On 23rd February he insisted Secretary John Coke to make a statement on his behalf:

What these men did they did by his express command or by the council board, he being there in person or directing; that this cannot be divided from his own act and there be no proceeding against them as highly concerning his honour

Charles was convinced that if he threw his officers to the wolves, his authority would be damaged; it was too much compromise for him to stomach; if he did so, he said

None would ever obey him again

He probably recognised that despite the face-saving formula, Eliot and Seldon fully realised that this was a test case, and an arm m wrestle; let it not be thought parliament were all sweetness and light. By this stage, Eliot and Seldon had decided that Charles had effectively decided not to deal, and that he was planning to dissolve parliament; they were encouraged in this by a command from Charles on 25th February 1629 to adjourn parliament until 2nd March. So they planned a protest should further adjournment be proposed. In this belief, it could well be that they were deceived; the Venetian Ambassador reported home at this time that the moderates on the PC were still in command of the boat, and that the king did not intend to dissolve parliament. But Elio and Sedon believed otherwise, and were ready.  So, when the Speaker, John Finch, announced in parliament on 2nd of March that parliament was to be adjourned until 10th March there was an absolutely unprecedented uproar. It is one of the set pieces of the revolution; the sort of event that Victorian artists like to paint.

So, as Finch finished his announcement, that stalwart of English liberty John Eliot stood. He furiously and passionately declaimed that the intentions and suggestions of the Commons must have been misrepresented to the king, that the adjournment should not take place until a declaration he had prepared should be read out and adopted by the house. With an impressive sense of theatre, he threw the papers of his declaration to the floor. And MP sir William Fleetwood rushed forward to pick them up and carried it to the Speaker’s chair. Fleetwood is an interesting  chap –  one of three brothers,  one a baron in Sweden fighting for Gustavus Adolphus and Oxenstierna, another Charles who would  be a parliamentary general and one of the Major Generals, and he himself who would withdraw from the civil war.  Anyway, Finch knew when he was being stitched up – parliament had been adjourned, there was no business here to be done now, so rather than take the declaration to read it, he hurriedly made to stand up, lift up his robes and head for the hills.

Before he could vacate his chair two of Eliot’s allies – Denzil Holles and Benjamin valentine

Plucked him back by force and held him in his chair

This was an outrage, hands had been laid on the speaker, and pandemonium ensued. Over the next two hours the house debated in defiance of both the king and his supporters in the house; the king sent increasingly frantic message for them to disperse, carried by his sergeant of arms responsible for maintaining security in the houses, a position known as the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, a man called James Maxwell. He hammered on the door, and they heard him knocking but he couldn’t get it – because another MP Miles Hobart had locked the door and pocketed the key. The Venetian ambassador reported that the Commons were by no means of one mind – some of the more royalist MPs furiously objected to all of this non standard behaviour, some punches were thrown by the radicals and the Royalists threatened to draw their swords on them. All most unparliamentary.

But Eliot would have his way and he spoke

Mr Speaker there was never the like of this done in this House. It is the fundamental liberty of this House that we have ever used to adjourn ourselves.

He went on to protest

There hath been some misrepresentation of the course for our proceedings to his Majesty. It may be, he hath been informed that we have encroached too far upon the power of the sovereignty, but I hope, we shall in all things be ever ready to obey him as the highest under God

Then he went on to his carefully prepared, and quite extraordinary protestations, three of them. I mean listen to this. Here we go, in full

  1. Whosoever shall bring in innovation of religion, or by favour or countenance seek to extend or introduce Popery or Arminianism, or other opinion disagreeing from the true and orthodox Church, shall be reputed a capital enemy to this Kingdom and Commonwealth.
  2. Whosoever shall counsel or advise the taking and levying of the subsidies of Tonnage and Poundage, not being granted by Parliament, or shall be an actor or instrument therein, shall be likewise reputed an innovator in the Government, and a capital enemy to the Kingdom and Commonwealth.
  3. If any merchant or person whatsoever shall voluntarily yield, or pay the said subsidies of Tonnage and Poundage, not being granted by Parliament, he shall likewise be reputed a betrayer of the liberties of England, and an enemy to the same


No formal controlled vote was taken; but many of the MPs shouted their approval as if it had. And then the parliament voted its own adjournment, the civil war equivalent of yah boo sucks to Black Rod

Now, a bit like Flashman, I need to hold the buttocks of your understanding to the toasting fire of constitutional history here. Let’s take a couple of lines:

Shall be reputed a capital enemy to this kingdom and commonwealth

Be reputed a betrayer of the liberty of England and an enemy to the same

What is being proposed here is pretty much the anteroom to the events of 1642 and 1649. Parliament is declaring such actions to be defined as treason. But against what? Treason was, and had always been since defined in 1352 as an offense against the monarch as an embodiment of the state. Now it appears there’s a second type of treason – which could be visited on a subject carrying out the king’s express command. By ‘eck, by golly, blow me down and knees up mother brown. This is radical. Treason against the state, the state something separate to the king.

Well, it won’t surprise you to learn that Charles immediately ordered parliament dissolved rather than just prorogues. On March 10th he told the House of Lords that it wasn’t their fault. Nor was it the fault of the majority of MPs who were

‘as dutiful subjects as any in the world

No it was a group of troublemakers

Some few vipers that did cast the mist of undutifulness over most of their eyes

Well, now there’s a thing. Charles was not finished yet, the venom of the Vipers would provoke Charles to administer further serum to his kingdom.

Which we will find out next week, and Charles makes a series of resolutions that will set his feet and the feet of his subjects on a new path. Until that time, thank you very much for listening everyone, thank you for your comments and reviews, I am eternally grateful. Good luck, and have a great week.

4 thoughts on “357 Vipers

  1. Putting Buckingham finally to bed — while he was extremely avaricious even by early modern standards and lacked the political “nous” of the Cecils, he doesn’t seem to have been completely lacking in ability and certainly was loyal to his royal masters. I wonder what his reputation would have been if James and Charles kept him on a tighter leash and were less generous with over-promoting him. But that may have been out of character for them.

    1. Maybe one of the problems is that I also red a biography of him; and I think biographers often, or usually choose their subject because they like the subject. Lockyer was pretty positive about his subject, and yes I agree with you. He didn’t turn down any of the riches he was offered (who would, I might ask), but he clearly had a string sense of service and worked hard to succeed, and was bold; he wasn’t guilty of much he was accused of, and with just a smidge better luck, things might have been very different.

  2. Great episode, thanks!
    For all Charles keeps harping on his honor, it weirdly permits him to renege on the Petition of Right and his word given in public. If I had been in Parliament, a king who made concessions and went back on them as soon as convenient would inspire no trust at all. How can one negotiate with a bad-faith partner?

    1. Yes, I noticed that too! And I think that is what finally leads to his death – he could never quite bring himself to accept that he might have to concede something he really valued in order to achieve peace. Negoatiation was about nothing but winning for him, not reaching a mutually acceptable compromise

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