371 Parliament Recalled

John Pym, Lord Saye & Sele, Warwick

As an exhausted king arrived back in Whitehall, his view had not changed one whit – the Scots must be taught a lesson and returned to obedience. More ,money raising ventures followed, but it was quickly clear that only one could solve the problem – parliament

Download Podcast - 371 Parliament Recalled (Right Click and select Save Link As)

Kisses on a Postcard

To find out more about this musical drama, please visit your podcatcher, Bandcamp, or the Kisses on a Postcard website  



Now then, this week we are going to hear about yet another Parliament. Incidentally, in an irrational burst of stubbornness, I have not called any of my episodes short parliament or Bishops wars because, I don’t know why really, but that is course is what we are talking about. And incidentally from another episode, there is a thing I found out, which I need to share first of all. I mentioned a while ago that Laud and Strafford were bosom pals, who wrote to each other discussing political tactics and things. In the 1630s, they both agreed that, talented financial wizard though he was, Richard Weston was a bit exasperating and somewhat over cautious, and so they had a nickname for him. I didn’t tell you the nickname, and a Long Time Listener, Mr C Cat by name, threw his hands up at my teasing. Honestly though I wasn’t teasing – I’d forgotten. Well, quite by chance I learned they Billy the Conq’s ship was called the Mora, and it turns out the mora is Latin for ‘delay’. The ship was a present from his wife, Maud, though nobody knows why Maud would have called it that. Nice idea for a Christmas pressie though, I can imagine many people would like a fully manned warship complete with horses and a claim to the king of England. You can have that one on me.

Well that jogged a memory – and I remembered that Lady Mora is the missing nickname – Laud and Strafford called Treasurer Weston Lady Mora because of his dithering. In terms of a useful fact, probably scores quite low; I remember Sherlock Holmes tearing a strip off Watson once for telling him trivia and saying that he’d try hard to forget, because the brain is like a box room – it can get full up, so fill it with use FUL, not use LESS facts. This one then is probably for deletion, but I have scratched the itch.

So, after writing a quick note to Wentworth along the lines of Cathy come home, Charles trundled back to Whitehall. He entered the city with his entourage to be welcomed back by the good burgers of London; though once again, he made a bit of a faux pas. I mean it would seem marginal to thee and me – he happened to use his Mother in Law’s coach. Well what of that I hear you ask? Well, in this wildly febrile atmosphere, with suspicion about Charles’ religious intentions running amok, there were Reds under every bed, even those little put me up truckle beds. Well, Popes rather than Reds. The grandeur of Marie de Medici’s coach got everyone thinking this again was a signal of Charles’ inclinations. It seems a little harsh, to be fair.

Charles had decided not to attend the General Assembly and Scottish Parliament after all. You might think this was because he was confident of how it would go, or had reconciled himself to making concessions, and so any old deputy could do give away the farm. The real reason was revealed a letter from him to the ABStA – where he revealed that as far as he was concerned what ever happened at the Assembly was strictly temporary. He was coming back with a bigger stick, and with that big stick, all would be put right. Hamilton by this stage was reluctant to return to Scotland, assessing the situation with some despair; indeed he wrote

My heart is broke since I can see no possibility to save our master’s honour…or the country from ruin

So Charles was forced to rely on Traquair, who he didn’t trust. As it happens, he was right not to trust Traquair, because he made a right pig’s bottom of the whole thing, appearing to approve all the decisions taken by the Assembly in the king’s name. In religious terms, that was pretty much as revolutionary a clean sweep as could be imagined; all the foundations of royal policy for the last 50 years, so hard won, were neatly piled up and one by one, covered with petrol and thrown onto the bonfire of history; Bishops were deleted, the canons too, Book of Common Prayer, gone; High Commission, abolished, 5 articles of Perth made no articles of Perth. Men of the kirk were excluded from secular offices; and maybe the biggest kicker in a way, the King’s right to call General Assemblies was refuted. Whether the king liked it or not, the General Assembly would meet every year to do its thing.

That same spirit was repeated in the parliament, as far as it got. Charles was livid with Traquair, understandably. Covenanter propaganda was flooding London now, and Charles vented his spleen on the Scots by having the public hangman burn one of the sheets on the grounds that it was

Full of falsehood, dishonour and scandal

And he then declared all Scots who had invaded England as arrant traitors who could be pardoned only if they acknowledged their crimes and begged for forgiveness.[1] The force of compromise was not strong with this one.

Meanwhile, things in the north were going south, as it were. As the parliament got going, the Covenanters managed to take control of the process of drafting legislation through the Lords of the Articles. This had to now been the sure fire way the king could control the Scottish parliament and its agenda. Well by clever manoeuvring, the Covenanter instead drafted a set of wildly revolutionary legislation which we’ll come to in the Autumn, and in 1641. It’ll take that long, because Charles tried to turn off the tap through his traditional route – dissolving parliament, so that he could, um, sort things out first and then be there when the big stick had been applied to various parts of the Scottish anatomy. But darn me if the Scottish parliament didn’t simply refuse to be dissolved; in the end they agreed to be prorogued until June 1641, but in the meantime they appointed an executive committee to manage Scottish affairs until the parliament met. Now I have to tell you that the Scottish revolution is every bit as revolutionary constitutionally as the later English one, or at least initially. So now we have a new innovation – a government, or an executive, appointed by a legislature.[2] By Golly, houdi elbow.

When Wentworth arrived in London on September 21st, Charles fell on his neck. Well, I don’t suppose he did exactly that, I think that only happens in Russian 19th century novels, but he was very, very pleased to see him; he needed Wentworth’s firm strength, decisiveness and aggression to bolster his determination to see off this hideous combination of events. Together with Wentworth, planning started on issue number one: how to raise the money needed to put an army together to reduce the Scottish rebels to obedience.

Plans were already afoot, and to a large degree, and an unfortunately large degree for Charles’ reputation with his subjects, this plan relied on Catholics. The faction with most influence at this point in court was the Spanish party; hopefully you remember the discussion we had a while ago about the Patriot, protestant and French party om one hand, and the Spanish oriented party on t’other. The correlation between Catholics and the Spanish party are not a direct one to one; Wentworth for example was a thorough going Prot, though Cottington, Windebank and Arundel were Catgolic. But in the eyes of a general public obsessed and frantic about fears of a Popish plot, many people assumed they were all either Catholic or Crypto Catholic. As we’ve discussed before, for the radical Calvinists, Laud’s love of ceremony, belief that salvation was not entirely predestined, and suspicion of idolatry – marked him in their minds as a papist even if not a Catholic.

The Spanish party therefore saw alliance with Spain as a possible route out of this conundrum. Wentworth negotiated a loan with Spain of £100,000 and maybe a full alliance would yield more, and return of the Palatinate maybe – remember that? Meanwhile, a series of favours might oil the wheels. England had already delivered great services to Spain – 5 shiploads of Spanish soldiers disembarked at Plymouth, and marched through southern England, then taking passage across the Straits on English ships, allowing them to take the shortest route for the war against the Netherlands. Though it did no good – The Dutch under Admiral Tromp stopped the ships and removed the Spanish soldiers. It was agreed the Spanish could recruit 3,000 men from Ireland. Now in September, they gave permission for 70 Spanish Ships of war to take refuge in the Downs , the roadstead or area of sheltered, favourable sea off the coast of Kent after a sharp engagement with Admiral Tromp of the Netherlands; and the English Ship Money fleet came to hover close by to provide protection.

Those fleets in the Downs the became a public spectacle. People lined the cliffs to look, watch and wait – and hope for a chance to line their pockets and well as the cliffs if a ship were to run ashore. Tromp waited for his moment; and by October he was ready; one squadron took a northern station to stop the English interfering while the nimble Dutch ships attacked and set fireships at the Spanish and Portuguese. Many ships were destroyed, some beached themselves on purpose to avoid being boarded. They were then promptly ransacked by the waiting English, spectators no more but full participants. Others managed to run the blockade and escape, and land their soldiers in the Spanish Netherlands. When the engagement was over, Tromp fired the regulation 21 gun salute to recognise English sovereignty over the Downs, and sailed away.[3]

There are three things about this really. The first is that Charles does not appear in a good light over the whole episode, or at least here is an example of the harshest realpolitick – albeit an incompetent example. First of all he tried to take advantage of Spanish distress by demanding £150,000 to protect the Spanish fleet, £50,000 up front. The poor old Spanish ambassador had kittens and

Fell to crossing himself and told me I demanded impossibilities

While he was trying to make the most of Spanish bad fortune, he also approached France to see if they would pay more in return for sacrificing the English the Spanish to the Dutch fleet. The Venetian envoy saw the whole affair and described it as

An indication rather of imbecility than of magnanimous resolution [4]

If fact of course, the result was to demonstrate England’s naval helplessness, and humiliation for Charles and the Spanish party and the end of the prospect of a Spanish loan. England claimed the Straits were sovereign territory; and yet the Dutch had yet again flouted their authority, while Charles’ much vaunted Ship Money fleet stood by, helpless to intervene. Tromp’s final salute probably simply made it worse. And secondly, there was now without doubt a new supreme naval power in Europe – and her name was not Spain, Portugal nor England – it was the Netherlands.




There were other money raising plans, and some met with success – such as the forced loan Charles imposed on his Privy Councillors, which came up with the impressive sum of £300,000. HM publicly demanded all the Catholic lords make donations, which in itself prompted public fears of the Queen’s Catholicism. It was expected her appeal would 10s of thousands – but in the end £14,000 was yer lot. There should then have been £200,000 from this year’s ship money and more from coat and conduct money. But Ship Money had now definitively dried up; even the amount still collectible was taking an age to bring in against fierce objections. Once more the City of London failed to deliver relief, and dragged its feet over possible loans.

Wentworth had persuaded the king to set up a special 8 man committee to manage Scottish affairs; and Charles had agreed. Now the policy of separation was reversed – the Scottish committee had 7 Englishmen, and just one Scot – the ubiquitous Hamilton. On 27th November, the committee received Traquair and his report on the Assembly and Parliament – and gave him a thorough roughing up for his performance. Together with the struggling money raising campaign, this led Wentworth to make the dreaded suggestion whose name should not be spoken – it began with a P and ended with a ‘t’ and had ‘arliamen’ in the middle. The argument was fierce; normally Laud would have equally eaten his own liver than support a parliament, but both he and Hamilton realised that straits were unusually dire, and supported the proposal to recall parliament. On 5th December the proposal was put to the full Privy Council. With their star in serious decline, the Spanish party could not put up the resistance they normally would, and a historic decision was taken – ‘arliamen’ must be called.

Wentworth was now without doubt in the ascendant as Charles’ right-hand man, assuming Charles wasn’t left handed; he was unofficially the king’s chief minister, and in January Charles  made his favour public; Wentworth was ennobled as the Earl of Strafford, and promoted to the king’s Lord Lieutenant. He had arrived; now he just needed to steer his king to the safe harbour and he had a clear view of how to do it. He was confident he could manage the Irish parliament to be generous – he’d done it before; and given his previous success in Ireland, he was confident the same could be achieved in England. So he was bullish, and Charles realised that without money from Parliament, he was going to struggle anyway. William Laud went along with the general plan – but was far from bullish; he feared the parliament would target him, and that

He would be destroyed the very first day of the sitting

But Charles had a plan. In foretaste of the strategy that his son would adopt in the Restoration, Charles had an idea – to use the loyalty of the Irish parliament as an example to the English; look over there he would say, that is how a loyal people behave to their king at a time of war. He had another ace up his sleeve too, or he thought it was an ace anyway. A letter from the Covenanters had been intercepted, from Covenanters to the king of France. The letter was aimed to get the French king to intervene to help improve the relationship between the Covenanters and king; but it was clumsily worded, and addressed ‘au roi’ – to the king. To Charles’ mind this was nothing short of treason, or at least he could spin it that way; they were addressing Louis XIII as their king. Surely, when this was read out to the English parliament, nothing could stand in the way to a wave of patriotic fury against perfidious Alba.

Writs were issued for parliament in Ireland for the parliament there to meet in March, and in England they were issued for an April parliament. The bounce in Charles’ bungee – was back.

Wentworth – or well, let’s call him Strafford from now on shall we? Is that OK? Wentworth = Strafford, Strafford = Wentworth, Alles Clar? So Strafford approached the parliament in Ireland with some care; it is clear I think why the likes of Warwick and Pym feared Strafford; he might be an incendiary sort of bloke, good at putting peoples’ back up, but he was subtle, clever, determined and good at getting what he wanted. Although a pretty fierce Protestant himself, he had become very concerned at the attitudes of the Scottish settlers in Ulster; they showed a marked support for the Covenanter cause and an increasing desire to take up a Presbyterian church organisation. So he came down on them hard – for example a Scottish gent had been fined £10,000, forced to stand in the pillory and have his tongue bored. His crime? For airing his theory that the Queen was intending

To join with the French when the king was gone north against the Scotch[5]

Hardly the most vile accusation. I have one further comment to make on this statement. Not only did it demonstrate Strafford’s determination to keep his subjects in line; it also uses the word ‘Scotch’ to denote Scottish people. Now it has been axiomatic all my life that you have to careful with Scots in terms of nomenclature – I mean calling them English is obviously a shooting offense, no questions asked, no quarter given or asked for – but calling them Scotch rather than Scottish isn’t far behind – Scotch refers only to whisky is what I understand. Well, here we are then, if you do make this egregious error and the trigger is cocked, simply suavely assure your potential avenging angel that you are, of course, employing 17th century usage. Hopefully that’ll be so impressive you’ll be able to leave in one piece.

Strafford had caused more upset, however, when he had imposed an oath of loyalty on Scots in Ulster, requiring them to state their disapproval of the Covenant. So much was it hated, that the Ulster Scots called it the Black Oath; rather than take it, many upped sticks and left for Scotland and the Covenanter cause.

Despite the upset Strafford had caused with his policies, yet their appeared no sign of trouble elsewhere in Ireland; there was a deal of prosperity about, and the Old English were not causing trouble. Partly, because the Old English now had an even worse enemy to worry about. The Covenanters made Charles look like their very best buddy by comparison. If the Scottish Covenanters prevailed, that could mean real trouble for the Catholic Irish. And anyway, persistent gerrymandering meant that the Catholics now held only 74 seats in a parliament of 235, despite their overwhelming dominance of the population. The result was a parliamentary triumph for Strafford; 6 subsidies voted for Charles, and a further 6 by the Convocation of the Church of Ireland – that being the protestant church of course. All of this gave the funding and permission to Wentworth to raise an army of 9,000 in Ireland to use for the king’s aid. Well, when Strafford returned to England as the all-conquering hero, and his stock could not be higher with his king, or his voice stronger in the Privy Council.

Ok, so we come to the parliament known in history as the Short Parliament; I am going to give you no clues at all why it bears that name. As the news about the coming parliament spread, interest and expectations were high, after an 11 year gap. In Somerset, Edmund Phelips wrote that the news

Begat much joy amongst all the country people[6]

And threw himself and his colleagues into the election, contested for the first time in their area; they formed a mini political party called the Robin Hoods, did some rabble rousing and tried to shift the incumbent Poulett family – and didn’t entirely manage it, but did get one of their two candidates elected[7].

Meanwhile Lord Keeper Finch, the same man who had been held weeping in the Speakers’ chair in 1629, briefed the Judges that they must serve the king and support him in the problems he was facing

It is your part to break the insolence of the vulgar before it approacheth nigh the royal throne[8]

But it is time for me to make a confession to bare my breast and beat it, and tear my hair like a Greek hero. When I think about the English Revolution I think of two parties trying to work towards an acceptable solution, failing to do so, and therefore resorting to war. Which kind of does happen, but I was shocked to learn, I had no idea, that for some, there were tactics and clever tricks involved. That at various points, a solution was not the objective. In the Short Parliament, there was a group of people who needed the parliament to fail, in order for them later to win. This had never happened before, this was new; even in those parliaments of the 1620s everyone was trying to reach an accommodation. Parliaments were about consensus, not about adversarial politics where one side wins – which of course is what we expect of politics these days.

Who were these people that did not want peace and agreement? Well, not Charles, who is usually the one who gets blamed for the failures of parliaments; it is in fact a group of reformers often referred to as the Junto.  Now I am breaking a rule here, a rule of chronology – nobody called these folks the Junto in early 1640, but they would from 1641. The term seems to have been traced to one Edward Nicholas, who was a clerk to the Privy Council, writing to a colleague in Scotland about the prospects for the forthcoming Long parliament. He wrote:

Mr. Pym and others will not yield. But I believe Mr. Pym will find few (besides those of his Junto) of that opinion.

Junto refers to the Spanish for an administrative council; Nicholas, a staunch royalist, was referring to the group centred around the peers Warwick and Saye and Sele, Lords Brooke and Bedford, the Warwick House group who had helped Hampton prepare for the Ship Money case. In 1640 they had something of a history behind them of skating on thin ice, of corresponding with the Scots, of very half-hearted support for the king in the First Bishops War.

Their agenda remained the same; religion and politics were intertwined, the king’s power must be restrained so that when his church reforms were unwound, they could not be rewound once parliament had gone, and the king’s backside was back in the driving seat. So substantial concessions were required from the king whenever this deal took place, the king would need to be forced to an agreement; and for that a big stick was needed.  The only non royal big stick in the house was held by the Covenanters, with their army. They held the coercive power. So the Junto was also the Scottish party, tied to the absolute necessity of keeping the Scots in the hunt. Now, if the Covenanters were defeated by the king, the only lever the Junto had would be gone, and more years of personal rule, absolute power and religious reform and, to their minds, Papism, would beckon.

So the king must not win the war against the Scots. He must not get his subsidies from parliament to allow him build a powerful army. He must be forced to come back to parliament once more, cap in hand.

So they needed the parliament to fail – but, given what an alien concept this was – they could not be seen to the majority of moderate MPs to be trying to bring the king down. That would cause outrage, and swing MPs against them. So the Junto needed to plan their tactics carefully. Conrad Russell has a lovely phrase for their one, hope the absolute requirement for them to pull this act of smoke and mirrors off

They had to hope that Charles would not prove too flexible.

There was a second half to the quote – we’ll come back to the second half later.  They had to hope that Charles would be seen to be the guilty party. Charles had ranted about a small group of malignants in the 1620s, and he’d been dead wrong. But d’you know what? For those who believe fervently in the story of Charles the Martyr – now, he had become dead right.

Well, there’s a way to go before we reach that – elections first. Now as I believe I have mentioned elections in England were largely ‘selections’ by the great men of the county, the Buzones or magnates, often buggins’ turn. So when I say that 63 seats were the focus of contested elections you might roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, send ‘whatevs’ emojis. But I urge you not to do so; there were normally only something like a dozen contested elections, 63 is mega. And bear in mind that most county constituencies had two MPs,[9] so in the end about a quarter of the parliament would have MPs elected by contest in 1640.

Nationwide, royal candidates did poorly – the court nominated candidates for 38 constituencies, only 3 were elected. For Opposition peers, Warwick, Say & Sele, Essex, Brooke – it was almost exactly the reverse; of the 35 candidates they nominated, 32 were elected.  Feelings against Laudian reforms ran high and formed a focus, but also a feeling against courtiers and the unreliability of the court, a feeling of country rejecting the values of the court.

Expectations ran high then on all sides when parliament assembled on 13th April 1640, and given the level of contested elections and the ravages of time, there were a lot of new faces in parliament. Do  not be fooled by all this talk of Juntos into thinking that the new parliament was revolutionary in intent, though it might be described as irritable in intent. The large majority were not typified by John Pym, a man with an agenda, and no real territorial base and a community to satisfy. A more representative figure might be Francis Seymour.

You might not remember Seymour, but you have heard his name before in the parliaments of 1629, speaking in favour of the Bill of Rights, and so outspoken as to be one of those kicked upstairs to keep him out of the 1628 parliament. His concern was not to seek constitutional change nor restrict the king’s freedom of action, but the re-establishment of liberty of the people to what it had been before, as he saw it. So he’d refused to pay Ship Money in 1639, despite being hauled up in front of the Privy Council, where he’d stood firm

he had against his conscience…paid that money twice, but now his conscience would suffer him no more to do a thing…so contrary to law and to the liberty of the subject.

But he was a firm believer in the episcopy, and by January 1642 would be described as one of the king’s chief counsellors. Following the path of people like Francis Seymour helps understand that the Junto had a tough job on their hands to shackle the king and prevent him from reversing any reforms they might gain.

None the less, Pym had around him in the Commons allies from the 1620’s who shared his views, and others who might be persuadable. There were the likes of John Hampden, Oliver St John; William Strode, who’d been part of the 1629 protest and only now in January 1640 been released from prison; William Erle, one of the Five Knights who’d been imprisoned for refusing to pay forced loans. And there were New faces who might be persuadable; such as Henry Marten, sitting with his father as an MP for Berkshire. Marten had refused Ship Money, but was not at this time an obvious radical, and made no speeches in the parliament. In fact he was known as a bit of a rake and hell raiser in addition to his main occupation as a farmer; he’d already had a run in with the king at the races in Hyde Park; the king had seen him, and heard of his reputation and contemptuously dismissed him, as John Aubrey relates:

Let that ugly Rascal be gone out of the Parke, that whore-master, or else I will not see the sport. So Henry went away patiently, sed manebat alta mente repostum [but it lay stored up deep within his heart].

Another was Harry Vane the Younger, a real religious radical and inclined to religious toleration for protestants, and newly returned from New England where he’d served for a while as a Governor. He was the son though of Henry Vane the Elder, who would serve the king as Secretary of State. The Elder was described as a prosperous official, ‘well satisfied and composed to the government’. For the moment in the Short Parliament, even Marten and both younger and elder Vane could go either way.

Now Charles was nervous about his stammer, and so did not like making long speeches. So it was Lord Keeper Finch who made the opening address, and this was unfortunate for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because Finch had become very associated with the Ship Money judgement, and not in a good way, he being one of those who had vehemently supported the king. The other problem was the tone of his speech – presumably set by the king – which really pushed the boat of royal authority out into mid stream and down the rapids of hyperbole and the whirlpool of supremacy. He set the king’s of divine right sky high, and demanded an unconditional and generous grant of subsidies, warned against any idea that the King was looking for counsel, because he wasn’t, that wasn’t for oiks in the Commons, whose job was simply to provide the wherewithal – I am paraphrasing, obviously – and no one was to question his policy to squash the Scots who were guilty of ‘foul and horrid treason’ – that last bit’s actually a quote. Only at that point would the king graciously consent to look at his subjects’ grievances. As he spoke, you can imagine the Junto all relaxing happily into their seats; this wasn’t sounding as though flexible Charles had come to the party. Nothing to worry about.

Charles did then get up and speak, but briefly. He decided to go hard and early on his bombshell – the letter from Covenanters to Louis XIII, with the famous Au Roi appellation; sadly, there was not uproar, and most sitting there seem to have thought that the idea they were proposing Louis XIII to be king of Scotland to be an utter absurdity.

Off the Commons trooped to the cramped surroundings of St Stephens church. There followed a few speeches on that first day in the Commons which would not have pleased Charles; Francis Seymour spoke in the style of 1629, not focussing on the subsidies or the Scots but on bad government, blaming the king’s ministers

Though the king be never so just, his bad ministers may corrupt justice

Then rose a man who gloried in the name of Harbottle Grimston, which definitely sounds like a teacher of charms and hexes at Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry. Harbottle took the view that before subsidies could be dealt with there was

A case here at home of as great a danger…and…to cure an ulcerous body you first cleanse the veins.

An unpleasant image, cleansing veins – how would you do that? Glad he’s not my GP. But the point was not missed – charity begins at home I suppose my granny would have said. Take the plank out of your own eye.

But the scene setter was the next day, when the junto made its pitch – through the mouth of John Pym. This would be when Pym came into his own, the start of his rise to King Pym status. As far as most of parliament was concerned, this was unexpected; but in truth there were few of the old guard of 1629 left, and it was this that gave Pym the room to lead the charge of reform.

Pym was not the greatest speaker; worthy but dull I think might be the phrase, and when he rose on 14th April to address a packed St Stephens, he broke a tradition of the house of speaking from notes; not a man for off the cuff our John Pym. Thomas Peyton described the occasion

An ancient and stout man of parliament, that ever zealously affected the good of his country…he left nothing untouched, ship money, forests, knighthood, recusants, monopolies, the present inclination of our church to popery…and in the close desired the Lower House to move the Upper in a humble request that they be pleased to join with them in a petition to the king for redress of all grievances

What Thomas didn’t mention is that the speech was two hours long; and bore all the signs of having been carefully prepared so that it could then be copied and distributed – not printed otherwise it would have to go to the censor, and good luck with getting that past the king. Pym complained that the liberties of the house had been transgressed at the last parliament and this must be redressed before subsidies could be even considered.

The speech captured the agenda; a Committee of the House was set up – a neat convention that allowed debate away from the beady eye of the king’s lackey, the Speaker. As they debated the injustice of the dissolution of 1629 without its grievances having been dealt with, Charles’ temperature rose. It is clear Charles had not learned anything over the last 11 years – a parlement a sa mode was still the only parliament he had in mind. And so a royal summons was sent to both houses to come to Whitehall. After they’d all shuffled in like naughty schoolboys, they received a lecture from Finch again that money was needed, and needed now, and that the army of 15,000 being assembled was already costing £100,000 a month so get on with it; and he managed to drop into the speech the King’s second ace in the hole – the exemplary behaviour of the Irish parliament. That went down every bit as well as the first Ace. Essentially, Charles had yielded to advice to call a parliament – but was not prepared to pay the price for a successful one.

More debate followed. Very few of the Commons, even those who would fight for the king in a couple of years time, none of them could conceive of going back to their countries with a larger subsidy than ever asked for before – with no answer to the grievances their communities had expressed. However well disposed towards the king, they just could not do it, what would they say? Meanwhile a tranche of petitions from a number of home counties arrived in parliament complaining of the very issues Pym had raised – Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk, Norwich, Northamptonshire, Northampton. All oddly contiguous and connected with Junto peers[10]. Now this was spookily helpful. So spookily it’s pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that this was the Junto’s work; that the protests to parliament were no more spontaneous and off the cuff than the Prayer Book protests of the Covenanters. However, like the covenanters – they may have been organised, but the grievances were not made up – these were the real concern of the people.

In the end they agreed with Pym’s suggestion to send a request to the Lords for a conference. The Speaker brought his report back to Charles – picture the scene, king…humble servant…speak humble servant…well your Madge, those horrid and foolish MPs said

Till the liberties of the house and kingdom were cleared, they knew not whether they had anything to give or no

Cump. Sound of royal head exploding. In fury, Charles ordered an immediate late night emergency meeting of the PC. When his advisers were assembled, he angrily proposed an immediate dissolution of the house. Strafford held the line; why not meet with your besties, the House of Lords, and get them to talk the Commons round? They’re PLUs, they’ll see sense. And so it was the following day that the House of Lords met with their king. Speaking for himself this time, Charles asked them to press the Commons to pony up immediately; for parliament to delay was to deny. Well, that didn’t go quite as planned; Saye and Sele insisted that voting supply was none of the Lords’ business, purely the other Place. Stafford demanded loyalty to their king, Saye & Sele stood his ground. Eventually all 68 lay peers voted – 25 of them voted against.

Well, that put the cat among the ferrets. The following day the Commons took umbrage and told the Lords supply was none of their business. So the Lords in turn took umbrage right back and said it jolly well did concern them – parliament, frankly, was by now awash with umbrages, couldn’t move for tripping over an Umbrage. Strafford had succeeded in sewing dissent between the houses – but was no closer to the objective.

On Saturday 1st May Secretary Henry Vane the Elder told the Commons an answer was demanded today on supply. Without doubt, the Commons now knew they worked under threat of immediate dissolution and promised a response on Monday. Charles and his PC put their heads together and then that Monday morning at 8 O’Clock, as the House assembled, Vane took, at last, a deal to the Commons, a concession – in return for 12 subsidies, yes that’s 12 subsidies, the King would drop Ship Money.

Well, it’s not much to give up in practical terms; Ship Money had by now gone the way of all flesh, no one was paying it. But I suppose it was something MPs could take back to their constituents. But there was nothing about liberties or religion, it was thin gruel. Debate dragged on until lunchtime, until tea time, until 6 in the evening. Still no vote. Worse, two speakers actually dared to speak against having any war against the Scots at all.

That was it – to dare to speak against such a righteous war against those confounded traitors! There was a loud snap as the camel’s back broke, the royal camel. Even worse, an ill wind had blown a rumour onto Charles’s desk that Pym had been talking to the Scots Commissioners about formally presenting the Scots’ grievances to the house. Bang. Parliament was dissolved. In the confusion and chaos, the offices of Saye, Brooke, Pym, Erle and Hampden were all searched for incriminating papers – another flouting of parliamentary privilege.

Well that was that. The failure of the Short Parliament was, even in the context of the fractious parliaments of the 1620s, really very fast. Hence the name of course. A big part of the reason for this was that the king felt he was on a schedule – every moment of delay meant the Covenanters grew in strength and permanence. But Richard Cust makes the interesting reflection that it’s also a consequence of the Personal Rule; after 11 years of driving the ship on his own with his loyal Privy Councillors, Charles and the PC had become much less receptive to the concerns of the political nation than they had once been. Added to Charles’ view that it was his conscience, honour and judgement that matters, and that negotiation was not a matter for subjects, and the parliament was doomed.

The question has been raised by historians though – had Charles just missed his last chance for a peaceful settlement with a minimum of concessions? After all as time would tell, the next parliament would be a good deal more bloody minded and radical than this one. But it seems to me to be a non question really. Charles would have to have been a different person. He still no doubt hoped against hope that he would do better militarily, and maybe he could if he was quick.  Whether or not the Junto had tried to nix parliament had been made a bit irrelevant – Charles did nothing to make it work, he was nowhere close to making the level of concessions required. But it would have been a lot cheaper and saved a lot of lives if he had.

Let’s finish on the rest of that Conrad Russell quote shall we, about the Junto:

They had to hope that Charles would not prove too flexible, and not for the first time he did everything they could have hoped from him

For the Junto, everything had gone as planned. All they had to hope now was that Charles’ military skills could not snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Next week, gentle listeners all, we will hear about the Bishop’s war, the second of that ilk. Can Charles pull it off, against all odds? Tune in next time…

Meanwhile, I need t thank you all very much indeed for listening, for getting in touch with thoughts and comments, and especially to my beloved members. Good luck everyone, keep your fingers crossed for Charles – and have a great week.

[1] Carlton, C: ‘Charles I: The Personal Monarch’, p209

[2] Healey, J: ‘The Blazing World’, p116

[3] Rodger, N A M: ‘The Safeguard of the Sea’, p412

[4] Jackson, C: ‘Devil-land’, p236

[5] Harris, T: ‘Rebellion’, p379

[6] Healey, J: ‘The Blazing World’, p117

[7] Underdown, D: ‘Revel, Riot and Rebellion’, p135

[8] Harris, T: ‘Rebellion’, p380

[9] Woolrych, A: ‘Britain in Revolution’, p131

[10] Woolrych, A: ‘Britain in Revolution’, p135


11 thoughts on “371 Parliament Recalled

  1. I really enjoyed this episode, and not just because the sheer dramatic excitement of the looming civil wars. You are able to craft a wonderful listening experience without ever failing to do justice to the complexity of the topic, and you make it sound all so natural, as if you were telling a story! Brilliant stuff. I cannot praise this enough.

    1. Hi Sam, and thank you, it is very lovely of you to take the trouble to get in touch, and it is brilliant to hear you are enjoying it. I have to say it is a dream to write at such an exciting period of our history.

  2. You have a wonderful ability to tell a complex story clearly but also with the excitement such important events deserve. Thanks for a fascinating episode.

    Can’t see why people worried about popery would focus on Marie’s coach while Charles was giving the Spaniards a chance to replay the Armada, against the background of the 30 years’ war.

    Very interesting to hear that the Junto wanted the Short Parliament to fail. What would a success (which met the needs of both king and people) have looked like: I.e. what compromise agreement was possible? Particularly, as you rightly note, the personal rule had made Charles even more entrenched in his own views than he had been in the 1620s.

    If the Scots were the first to figure out what Charles’ word was worth, perhaps the Junto were the first English to do so, and to act accordingly.

    1. That’s very kind of you! I think the madness of the fear of Popery is the most difficult thing to empathise with and understand. I remember doing the Gordon Riots at school – late 18th century, and still such a wildly strong prejudice! Incredible really.
      And I don’t know, but there were more out and out royalists – maybe dumping Ship money and prerogative taxes and agreeing to ‘return to the Elizabethan’ church ? I’m busking – as you say Charles had no intention anyway

  3. Thankn you! And I learned the name of William the Conqueror’s ship, which is interesting. Rather feel like I need to use that, just not sure how yet.

    1. Also, impressed at your restraint at not following “straits were unusually dire” with a quip that he wanted money for nothing. I clearly lack that fortitude.

    2. In case anyone else cares, yes, Francis Seymour is. His grandfather was son of The Lord Protector/Duke of Northumberland. Also, said grandfather was married to Katherine Grey, Jane’s sister. The (secret) marriage that pissed off Good Queen Bess quite a lot. I had forgotten it was to a Seymour; I’m kind of understanding Elizabeth’s reaction better, although she was never found of relatives secretly getting married without permission.

          1. I approve though – it’s following those thread that’s the best thing. I just didn’t see the end of the piece of string. Darn.

Leave a Reply