373 Dreaming of a Golden Age

The Parliament that convened in November 1641 would define Charles’ reign. He would have to offer some concessions. but who would define their extent? The sympathetic royalist MPs, the moderate Reformers – or the Radical members of the Junto? And Charles still had Strafford at his side, breathing fire.

Download Podcast - 373 Dreaming of a Golden Age (Right Click and select Save Link As)


Quick note to kick off, because I have been made aware of causing pain, with my use of the word Junto, and I suspect there are a load of you out there not on the Facebook group where we discussed this, who are probably wincing every time I say it. Because I understand that the Spanish would say something like Hootoe – or more likely hoontAH, though don’t quote me. However, I am using the English pronunciation advisedly, according to various dictionaries, OED Collins, and Meriam Webster – on the basis that the word being used is a loan word. It is derivative of the Spanish but also from the Latin to join, and the C in Junctum stayed in as Juncto in English for most of the 17th century. Anyway, Junto it is unfortunately, I hope you can live with it.

I must admit that I get embarrassed when my fellow British get high horsey about the English pronunciation of things and places, you often see it online; I mean, unless you are born here how an earth are you supposed to deal with words like Towcester, Kirkcudbright, and what I am going to cop out by calling Llanfair PG? It should all be a bit of fun, no one means to insult anyone. On the other hand, we could all be like the Norweigians, Danes, Swedes and Dutch who I suspect have perfect pronunciation for every language in the world – they certainly do for English. But then we have always realised they set standards we can’t live up to. Despite all of that – irregardless is still not a word. Just Sayin.

So, let us turn to John Evelyn. John kept notes about his life and the world around him from the age of 11 in 1630. He was the scion of a well-off family with 700 acres at Wotton in Surrey. He didn’t record every day like Pepys, and nor was he present in England throughout the civil wars, because he stayed much in Europe until 1652. He was a botanist of some fame to boot, and a staunch royalist; his return to England permanently in 1652 was one of those signs that the Commonwealth seemed to have finally ended the royalist cause, and that the English would need to get used to being a republic. That, my friends, is what they call a plot spoiler.

Anyway, Evelyn’s diary gives insights into many famous public events; the execution of Charles I, the death of Oliver Cromwell, the Great fire of London to name but a few. And his diaries also provide something of a counterpoise to the puritan writing of those like Lucy Hutchinson, of whom you have heard already and will hear more.

In October 1640, Evelyn was in London, and recorded this entry on 30th; I should warn you that the piece includes plot spoilers, though I guess the plot is pretty much in pieces already, but you know if you want to reserve the threads of mystery, turn away now:

I went to the Temple, it being Michelmass term, and October 30th I saw his Majesty (coming from his northern expedition) ride in pomp, and a kind of Ovation, with all the marks of a happy prince restored to the affections of the people; being conducted through London, with a most splendid Cavalcade; and on November following, the third (a day never to be mentioned without a curse) to that long, ungrateful, foolish and fatal Parliament, the beginning of all sorrows for twenty years after.

It is of that parliament that we must speak; it’s known to history as the Long Parliament, so you can gather it’ll not be over by Christmas. When he rolled into London, Charles had but a few days to put his washing in the laundry, dig himself out a new suit of clothes and prepare himself mentally for the challenges ahead; no one could doubt this was a session that would define his reign. There was no getting around it. Not even Charles could hope, as he clearly had in April, that he’d have a quick, clean fight, get a bunch of money in return for a pile of vague promises and away you go. There is a view, fiercely refuted by Revisionists and Second wave Revisionists, that Charles would never compromise; but actually, we are going to see that the revisionists here have a point. Had to have his nose pressed to the grindstone, but he did have it in him.

Just like the parliament representing the English these days, the Long Parliament was not just a matter for the English. Under the Treaty of Ripon, the Scots had demanded that after they had conducted their own negotiations with the king to resolve the issues between them, the resulting Treaty be ratified by the English parliament. The practical consideration here was that the people with a biggest stick were the Scots, their view would be bound to have weight, and certainly had friends in the Junto. The King still had an army in York, but frankly that had been weighed already and found wanting.

The party of Scottish commissioners arrived in London in November, just in time for parliament; they included those commissioners who had negotiated at Ripon who included the architects of the Covenant, Henderson and Johnston of Waristoun; then there were representatives from each estate; and along with them came 4 ministers; watch those ministers, they were there for a reason, and evangelical one. See 3, below. All together then I think there’s about 15 of them in all. One of them, Robert Baillie, kept a diary so we get a lot of his view of how things went. So there’s a mix – lairds, lawyers, burgesses and peers. This is a symbol of one of the great achievements of the Scottish Revolution; from a country previously dominated politically by the great magnates, Lairds and burgesses were now every bit as important in driving the bus. There would be a reckoning for that come 1660, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves, and let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Anyway, they were popular; Charles no doubt hoped they’d be jeered in the streets as rebels and welcomed with a flurry of vegetables that had passed their sell by date. But that didn’t happen. They arrived to a great fanfare and were welcomed with open arms – or at least by the puritans. Cheering crowds pressed around their cavalcade. Parliament assigned a church for their special use, and Londoners thronged in their enthusiasm to hear the Scottish preachers doing their thing – and in return received a healthy dose of diss’ing of the very idea of Bishops. Yuk, boo, sucks. Now look we’ll come to the detailed aims of the Scottish commissioners in a while – this is after all the Wars of the Three Kingdoms as well as the English Revolution – but three things to note is this. Firstly, the existence of the Scottish army in the North East at a price of £850 a day which I think we can all agree was bargain basement and cheap as chips, not, meant that Charles had to get an agreement for subsidies at this parliament – every day his treasury looked more and more rude and bare.

And secondly, the Scots were assured of friends in the English parliament for if the junto was to be the pen of change, the Scots were the sword. And thirdly, if there was one overriding aim for the Scots it was security; the revolution of the Covenanters must be made irreversible. This would have consequences with a capital K. For just as Alfred believed true peace with Guthrum would come only when he and his people became Christian, so the Scots believed peace would come only with one true, presbyterian religion in both kingdoms. Well all 3, but let’s start with England eh?

Ok. so as Charles was in York and travelling south, around the time he reached the Watford Gap Service station the election to parliament was being carried out. You know we talked about how many uncontested shoo ins there were in English elections? Well if 1640 had been record breaking at 60 contests, 1640 Take 2 was even more so – 80 contested elections, a quarter of MPs had fought it out in front of their electorate. But also generally even in constituencies where Gentry or Aldermen made selections, court candidates got a kicking, and the swingometer was going crazy. The Court seems to have not tried as hard as it should anyway, but it backed 47 candidates – only 23[1] of whom were actually elected.

And the whole election was accompanied by unease and a general atmosphere of unruliness. I mean it’s always important to keep these things in perspective; in the rural parish of Swyncombe with its 100 people as poor as church mice and 10 or so enormously wealthy ones, I doubt a leaf stirred, a rabbit started, a vole scuttled for its nest. But in many places there are riots about religion – unruly people broke into a church in Reading and smashed altar rails, and similar things happened in Ipswich and Sudbury and even Marlow, and no one revolts in Marlow anymore. The very idea, things were bad. But just a note about the oft repeated ‘ooh that Cromwell and his soldiers wrecking everything’ le. Ugh Arrc,  Waa Waa oops. Happens way before Crommers gets anywhere near power. Ordinary people, the country all over smash stuff, including images and windows. Spread the word – it’s not all about Cromwell.

And then, when a visitation of the High Commission rocked up at St Pauls Cathedral they were followed about by a crowd, all of them quacking. I’d hate you to think this is a normal way of expressing dissent in these parts, I advise you not to do it in the pub if someone says Prawn & cocktail crisps are the best – it just so happens the Bishop’s Chancellor happened to be called Dr Duck. When a commission was set up to try the rioters for their lack of rule, the jury refused to take any action. There was a general sense of lawlessness, ahead of an expectation that things were going to happen. In the words of the Stranglers, Something Better Change.

This is the signal for me to introduce you to a character not much talked about. One of the frustrations of being a podcaster like me is the pain of not being able to really dig into the fine details of a period, like proper historians who have spent years grubbing around in the records. I don’t have the time or knowledge or skills really. Which is why the academics on whose shoulders I stand are so fantastic. Anyway, before I get all emotional, there are many diaries that survive, personal recollections, and I thought it is would be important to share the odd one from time to time. And I am aware that the general history of the Civil Wars is very Whiggish generally – you know the rise of democracy and all that. Well there are other points of view; one being, with which I have much sympathy, that these civil wars are nothing but a tragedy of self mutilation which the British will try hard avoid for the rest of their history, and maybe that’s the main outcome of it all – the English will never want to go through all that again!

Anyway, so let me introduce you to Henry Slingsby. He comes from a gentry family from Knaresborough in Yorkshire, a reasonably grand one, the family had bought one of James’ new fangled Baronetcies. He was married to Francis Vavasour He will be a royalist and all through the civil war, just so you know his bias. He wrote in his diary at this time reflecting on the mood of the people:

Common people were bound to think themselves loose and absolved from all government, when they should see that which they so much venerated so easily subverted.

We’ll come back to Henry a little later. But even Henry understood that people wanted change.

More solidly, then, 18 counties submitted formal petitions of grievances for their newly elected MPs to take with them to Parliament. In elections at this time, contested or otherwise, it was the custom, as now, for your successful candidate to make a speech on the hustings, and elections were often attended by a lot of people, whether they had the vote or not. Back then, though, the people then had a right of reply – to tell their representative what they expected of them. So the number of petitions is the tip of the lettuce – this happened in Dorset for example, where local Lord and arch royalist Digby, complained of the

Irregular and tumultuous assemblies of the people

This is the sort of thing you would know if you were a history of England member, by the way, and were currently listening to the Party, Parliament and Politics series, having signed up at thehistoryofengland.co.uk. Just so you know. By and large the complaints were the same – arminianism, taxes like ship money, and monopolies.

So as November approached, London was humming, for all sorts of reasons. There was a trade slump, people were out of work as the Thirty Years war played havoc with industries such as textiles; coal coming out of Newcastle was, surprise surprise, getting expensive, the weather was getting colder. And there was plague stalking the city. It would claim a very influential politician before too long, as I touch one finger to a solitary nostril.

Meanwhile, over 500 MPs had taken lodgings as good as they could find in the city, and were seeking each other out, catching up on the gossip, who was saying what, and why, what was going to happen, taverns and alehouses were packed out, and to the fury of James I’s shades, there was no doubt much baccy being consumed. Every thoroughfare was clogged with extra traffic – the river buzzed with boats, the roads groaned with coaches. Preachers were pumping out sermons ten to the dozen. Proclaiming or condemning this or that. Things, ladies and gentlemen were cooking, cooking on gas, and expectations were high;

We dream now of nothing more than of a golden age

Wrote one. That’s all very well, but others looked towards Whitehall and the Tower, where new artillery was being installed, and to Deptford where naval guns being tested – the thud and boom of distant guns spoke of a future less golden, more red.

Whitehall and the area around where the houses of parliament would meet were crammed, as they always were during parliaments. I mean now of course we are used to solemn and serious politicians talking in hushed tones with great wisdom and steady words about the serious matters of the nation – I’m sure you recognise the picture I am painting. Back then – it was not like that. Around Westminster Hall there were masses of people milling about – no one was excluded. Wiltshire magnate John Danvers complained of an ‘inundation of Beggars’. Well one person was actually stopped when he asked for his MP – but he was riding a horse, dressed in a full suit of armour and carrying an arrow so it was thought reasonable to ask him to explain himself. But that was an exception. The doors of the chambers were closed during debates, but you could mill around outside and hear what was going on anyway, and people would duly report back what was being said.

Also, I understand that there were 4 well known drinking holes in the precincts. Alongside the Exchequer buildings were two taverns called Hell and Paradise; in 1648 when Pride’s Purge removed royalist sympathisers and held them in one of the Taverns for the night, Henry Marten quipped that it was quite right that friends of the king ‘should go to hell’, Arf, arf., who says revolutionaries have no sense of humour?

Pepys would visit Hell in 1660, but then Pepys was like that, and he’d also drink at two more establishments – Heaven – so called because it was on an upper storey in the angle made by the Court of Wards and Court of Requests – and another called Purgatory on the east side of New Palace Yard. All seems a little irreverent for such a religious age[2]. Anyway if you want to see where all these things are, and where MPs and Lords go at various time; and see some engravings of the environment at the time, I have lovingly prepared a few for you – hie thee to the History of England.co.uk. It really is a paradise of goodies that place isn’t it? You can download a map of Whitehall palace, and stick it to the back of your iron, or the inside of your glasses, on windscreen of your car so you can see where people are when they say what, as you listen.

Anyway, away from all the hustle and bustle, the hawkers and hucksters, the strawmen and lobbyists, priests and printers, behind closed doors conversations were happening about secret plans and clever tricks. Over time, royalist factions and parties will emerge in 1641, on a scale from those prioritising peace to the out and out cavaliers, swordsmen as it were. But at this early stage two of Charles’ advisers were particularly influential; the firebrand, Strafford; and the more politique and emollient Marquis of Hamilton. As these two men led the charge in discussing tactics with their prince it is worth noting that, powerless as Charles might have seemed at this point, he had one very powerful asset. Unlike everyone else in parliament and beyond, the king could not be removed. And at no point did the thinking of the Junto and the most firebrandy of reformers in 1641 consider tactics on any other basis – the king could not be removed. Any agreement must be made with his approval. He effectively had a veto.

Even with this in mind, Charles had three broad options; he could roll over and concede his way out. There were many of his more moderate councillors for whom this was the burden of their advice; Hamilton one of them. But for the moment that wasn’t his gig. He could try to divide and rule – build a party within parliament; after all he’d tried that in Scotland under Hamilton and it had seemed to have some potential at one point; and Hamilton in particular was pivotal right now. He was facing both the English parliament, and leading negotiations with the Scots.

But while others were wringing their hands, Strafford had more aggressive ideas. His plan was for Charles to visit the Tower and take command of the garrison; and meanwhile round up the leaders of the Junto and charge then with treason on the basis that they’d been talking to the Scots. Which might well work, and might well stick.

For Pym and the Junto therefore, the threat was Strafford. This I think is the critical thing to burn on your hearts, or brain or wherever you burn things, hankie maybe; Strafford was a threat. The Scots knew this, the Junto knew this, and they knew of Strafford’s skill in managing the Dublin parliament and his access to the king’s other remaining sword – the army of Ireland. They feared Strafford as much as the king. Any agreement must be made in such a way as to make revenge impossible. It is squeaky bum time.

Ok enough messing about scene setting and all that, get on with it, man. The big day arrived, 3rd November 1640. The opening of parliament was normally a chance for a bit of a pageant, glory of kingship and all that; this time there seems to have been none of that. Rather than a grand cavalcade through the streets, Charles took a gilded royal barge and landed at the back through the gardens. In his opening speech to both houses, Charles served up the standard dish really – money was needed to fight his just wars, and quickly, and of course he’d then address their grievances. A couple of things did not pass notice; firstly he rather rudely called the Scots rebels. I say rather rudely, although I suppose not inaccurately, but as it happens this didn’t go down well with either MPs or the Privy Council. Rather embarrassingly on the 5th he returned to the Lords to say sorry about that, of course they are my subjects…a piece of work that had him giving all encouragement to Strafford to develop his attack plans. The other thing was that he didn’t mention religion; I think it very likely Charles hoped to duck that, but if so, it was a forlorn hope.

On 7th November the real speeches got under way, and it was John Pym, predictably, who made the central speech which set the agenda. Pym was not a charismatic speaker, and hated interruptions; banter, one-liners, witty repartee and messing with the audience there was none. But he was thorough – and some. He was forensic and crystal clear in laying out an agenda. And he had a talent for reflecting the mood of the house.

He was addressing a range of groups in the Commons. At one end there were the loyal members and office holders; but as we have already said there were unusually few of those, maybe only 25 or so. Much more numerous were folks like Henry Slingsby. They had great expectations that their King would deliver just redress for grievances; despite their loyalty to the king, MPs like  Slingsby very much recognised there were grievances to be redressed. There was remarkable unanimity in the house that these were taxes, a way to prevent the king dissolving parliament, reform of High commission and Star Chamber; even the performance of Bishops. Slingsby would continue to favour the Elizabethan church and role of Bishops, but like many he objected to many aspects of Arminianism – though not all; he rather liked the ceremony stuff. Interestingly, he recognised the reality of the political situation writing that

They fear not the dissolving of parliament for the Scots are at Newcastle with an army

Pym and the Junto had what they wanted from the Short Parliament. But then there’s a deal of irritation from Slingsby at the need to satisfy the Scottish demands; he writes

We treated of the demands of the Scots; our own business which concerned ourselves and our country were neglected.

So there are royalists, prepared and recognising the need to raise money to pay the Scots and willing to help the king – but even they expect reform.  Then Richard Baxter, a puritan lecturer and friend of Pym, described two groups supporting Pym’s agenda

One party made no great matter of these alterations of the church; but they said that if parliament were once down and our property gone, and arbitrary government set up, and law subjected to the Prince’s will, we would then all be slaves…These the people called Good Commonwealth’s men. The other sort were more religious men, who were also sensible of these things but were much more sensible of the interests of religion

The Junto, Hampden, St John, Strode, Holles along with the peers Bedford, Essex, Warwick et al, had hammered out the grievances Pym now introduced – and met with wide acceptance in the house. To reverse the church’s perceived drift to popery; to roll back arbitrary government in the form of equity courts, illegal taxes, the hated Ship Money; the end of truncated parliaments; the fear and need to restrict the king’s control of the military, because of what he might do with it. And of course to deal with the king’s money needs – even the Junto recognised that if Ship money was deleted the king needed some other way to pay the bills. How they achieved all this was sadly to be decided – the Junto had no programme, though one would quickly emerge.

But before any of that happened – there were wrongs to put right, people persecuted who must be un persecuted. On 7th November, parliament released William Prynne and his fellow sufferers, Bastwick and Burton. Three weeks later they would arrive in London and London would go potty with delight. The church bells were rung, there were 2,000 people on horseback, and innumerable others cramming the streets, crying out ‘god bee thanked for your returne’ and that sort of thing. It was a massive symbol that the mood had shifted, that change was now possible and even inevitable.

On the 4th day of Business the MP for Cambridge stood up to present a petition for the release of another victim of Star Chamber’s tyranny – one John Lilburne.

Anyway, back to the Commons. There is a famous description of the man that stood to speak, by a royalist MP called Philip Warwick

I came into the House well clad, and perceived a gentleman speaking (whom I knew not) ordinarily apparelled, for it was a plain cloth suit which seemed to have been made by an ill country tailor. His linen was plain, and not very clean, and I remember a speck or two of blood upon his little band (at his throat)…His hat  was without a hat band, his stature was of good size, his sword stuck close to his side, his countenance swollen and reddish, his voice harsh and untuneable, and his eloquence full of fervour

Warwick went on to remark that the speaker was ‘very much hearkened to’; and in another speech it was said he ‘dropped tears down with his words’; This man was of course Oliver Cromwell. Hutton’s view was that Cromwell’s speaking style in the House was very much like that of a puritan speaker. Full of emotion, certainty, and passion. Cromwell and Lilburne will have a history and will come eventually into conflict; but for many years they will be of similar minds, until Lilburne goes further than the socially conservative Cromwell was prepared to follow. But there’s no reason to suppose that Cromwell ever regretted speaking for Lilburne now – for he had no doubt he was a victim of a great injustice which must be put right.

Now parliament at this time, let it be remembered, was a body with the power to offer council to the king, but not with executive powers in any way. So much of the time of the parliament was spent commissioning enquiries from all over the country to find out what people thought and to present that to the king and his ministers. But none the less, a programme emerged remarkably quicky.

First was to scotch the snake that threatened to strike them down. On 11th November they were resolved to strike; they would launch impeachment proceedings against Strafford. The procedure involved presenting charges in the Commons, which, if passed would then be tried in the Lords.

As Pym waited for his chance, business dragged – there were worrying reports of continued arming of the Tower, accusations against a Minister, Windebank. News came to Pym that Strafford had left the House of Lords to go to the Palace to consult with Charles – immediately of course there was panic – what tactics were they cooking up? Would they already bring charges of treason against the junto before they could impeach him? Pym slipped from the chamber and spoke to Warwick and Brooke and others – to keep the Lords talking in session until they heard back from the Commons. Timing was essential – they had to strike first before Strafford sprung his plans

Back in the Commons, finally a committee was appointed to consider business to be presented to the lords.

re was Pym’s chance; to get an impeachment of Strafford onto that agenda. Into committee they went, there to argue what the priorities for business were; was dealing with Strafford even one of those. If it was, should they push for impeachment, or would that bring royal retribution on their head? Back and forth went the debate as the day worse on until eventually, they returned to the house – they were ready to put forward proposals for business for consideration by the house. In front of the full House of Commons the committee declared their view; that the House  of Commons should immediately debate whether or not to accuse Strafford of Treason; and, crucially, ask the Lords to order Strafford detain until a formal case could be prepared. Why was detention crucial? If Strafford was not immediately detained, he would remain free to accuse the Junto of treason, and strike them down. The proposal was put to the house. The acclamation was so great, so loud, that no division was needed. The house was of one mind – Strafford was as the architect of the evil advice that had led their good and noble king astray. He was the viper.

Pym led a delegation immediately out from St Stephen’s Church across the Palace of Westminster in the gathering dark to the White Chamber and the House of Lords. Warwick and Brooke had kept the Lords in session. But the Lords however would be nothing like as easy a challenge. They knew the king’s love for his minister. Nor was it just a question of whether the Lords would accept there was a charge to answer; would they go along with the idea that he should be detained, even before formal charges had been prepared?

As the Lords started to debate, the Common’s proposal brought to them by John Pym, there was a moment of drama – Strafford at that very moment returned from the king to enter the chamber and take his seat. He was met with cries of Withdraw! Withdraw! In anger and frustration, Strafford was forced to agree. He withdrew outside the locked doors of the house, left to wait and pace outside while the debate wore on.

Eventually all was finished, a decision was taken. Strafford was recalled. As he entered the Lords he was ordered by the Speaker of the Lords to kneel. As he pulled himself to his knees in front of his peers, humiliated, the king’s favoured adviser was informed of the decision of the house. He was to be removed from his seat in the Lords, immediately, and taken into custody. On the 25th, Strafford would be taken to the Tower through the streets of London, while ecstatic London crowd gathered to jeer him and throw insults at a man described to them as ‘full of cruelty and blood’[3].

The reformers had overcome their first challenge, and lived to fight on. Charles’s hopes had been frustrated again. He would have to look for new counsels once more, to rethink his approach and his course.

That’s it for this week, though I have a sort of codicil. It’s about one specific member of parliament, the member for Cambridge, Oliver Cromwell. Oliver gives me a narrative challenge I’m going to share with you. I am aware that the interest in Cromwell is high, with opinions running from the evil to hero, although somewhat usefully an American listener the other day reminded me that many of his fellows would not know him, and others might compare him with George Washington, which I hadn’t imagined. My assumption was that the dominant narrative in the US was the Catholic Irish American angle, and therefore the man is condemned for English and Scottish, well British policy in Ireland in the 1650s. In the UK of course there is a wide range of views. Anyway, a range of opinions, and so I feel honour bound to make sure we cover his career and weave it in from the start. There’s no denying he’s one of England’s most important statesmen, and afterall, a man who was a simple Huntingdon Farmer rising to be the head of State has got to be extraordinary, whether you love im or hate im.

But the trouble is that we all do this – focus too much on Oliver Cromwell. So I command you, in the words of the Who, don’t be fooled again. Oliver Cromwell was not responsible for the smashing of every single piece of beautiful church ornamentation from here to eternity. He did not cancel Christmas. Cromwell did not execute the king, the Commonwealth did. But most of all he was not even a particularly influential mover in the English state until 1648, he was not the commander of the army until 1650, he was not the prime mover in English politics ‘til the 1650s.

So my way out of this, is that for the first months of parliament, year maybe, I am not going to mention Oliver again, otherwise it’ll be Oliver this and Oliver that as I tried to weave him in, and you’ll get a skewed view of his importance.  So I’ll talk about Oliver and parliament here for a while and his style, so you have an idea, and them leave him for a but – he is essentially just another MP, though an active and well regarded one.

So Cromwell’s actions reflects the style of dress Warwick had noted earlier in the episode. A royalist soldier at Basing House much later would write of him

His figure did in no way promise what he performed. He was personable but not handsome, nor did he look great, nor bold. He was plain in his apparel and rather affected a negligence than a gentle garb’

Gentle in this context meaning posh, noble, expensive. He looks like an ordinary bloke sort of thing, didn’t give himself airs or think himself out of the ordinary – that was 1645. This is very much confirmed by what William Waller, the parliamentary commander initially known as William the Conqueror. He reflected much later that Cromwell had

Never shown extraordinary parts, nor do I think that he did himself believe that he had them, for although he was blunt, he did not bear himself with pride or disdain

So through the story, for many years he was a hard-working and committed MP, with an unpretentious though passionate style, and fervent belief in divine providence that gave him force. He would also prove to be a talented military leader. He was involved in the genesis of a number of bills, always working with others; reform of the church was always his primary concern. He was involved in launching actions against individual Laudians – such as being part of the committee that drew up charges against Archbishop Wren, although that foundered. He sat on the houses committee of religion with the likes of Hampden – one MP called Hampden Cromwell’s ‘bosom friend’. He was part of 21 committees in the 12 months to the Autumn of 1641, so he was active, and move 9 items in debate. By way of comparison by the way, the majority of members never spoke at all; our friend Henry Slingsby certainly never did, and indeed almost nothing of the 1641 parliament even makes it to Slingsby’s diaries – he was more concerned about family matters. He produced a draft bill for the abolition of Bishops with Harry Vane Junior, and produced a successful proposal to allow preachers to operate on weekdays – supporting lecturers and preachers was always a passion for Cromwell.

He was also involved in more secular projects – such we’ll hear next time, seconding Strode’s proposal for laws to compel regular parliaments, and the Protestation oath. And finally he pursued local interests – supporting complaints from locals about fen drainage projects for example. In some of these he ran in opposition to members of the Junto. One of those I’ve not yet mentioned was Edward Lord Mandeville, who I am tempted very much to call Manchester from the start, for earl of Manchester he will become, and will have a super famous quote to deliver.

One of the questions was, in this period, about whether Cromwell was part of the Junto or not. He was certainly a reformer, and often times his views ran together with the Junto; and he had family connections with Hampden and Oliver St John. But he appears to have ploughed his own furrow, and been prepared to act in opposition to them on individual matters when he felt moved to do so; he was his own man. He had little concern for privileges of rank if he saw an injustice., albeit he would prove more socially conservative than folks like Lilburne; so he successfully accused Sir James Thynnes of abusing parliamentary privilege to try and acquire some land. He tends to look like something of a maverick moved by his own interests and enthusiasms; he’s notably lacking of any leadership role in the struggle with Strafford, for example. He was clearly valued as an active and effective member of parliament, and well known there, and acquired a reputation as a formidable advocate or opponent. We’ll leave him for a while at that then.

OK, so that’s it for this week. Next time we’ll talk about a developing programme of reform which looks as though it could have a good chance of leading to an amicable and lasting peace, with no need for the death of hundreds of thousands of people. Until then, thank you kindly for listening, I am most grateful; and thanks for your comments and reviews and all that sort of thing. Good luck, and have a great week.

[1] Harris, T: ‘Rebellion’, p404

[2] Jones, C: ‘A Short History of Parliament’, p122

[3] Lincoln, M: ‘London and the 17th Century’, p93





9 thoughts on “373 Dreaming of a Golden Age

  1. Someone must have mentioned this by now, but Benjamin Franklin founded a “mutual improvement” club in Philadelphia in 1727 that he called The Junto (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junto_(club) ).
    I’ve always heard it pronounced as you did. I think people who say “hunta” generally try to pronounce Spanish as Che would have.

  2. Of course I can live with “jun-toe”. English is a great language – we steal from everybody.

    You’re right to keep this the History of England, and not the Oliver Cromwell Story.

    Referring back a week, I loved the quotes from Conrad Russell; can you recommend a particular book by him? Thanks for another great episode; amazing how you can keep a story moving with so many different cogs and wheels.

    1. Such a clever historian and insightful writer! I think he did know if though! The think I’d go for the ‘Causes of the English Civil War’ – tha’s the one I have by my elbow. The chapte on Charles I is one of those where I constantly found myself noding furiously of thinking ‘Yes! that explains it!. The maybe also The Fall of the British Monarches. And thank you as always! It’s always heartening to see your comments!

      1. Thanks, will look into The Causes. As to knowing how smart he was : “it’s not bragging if it’s true.”
        My pleasure! Learning so much is fun.

  3. This really belongs to last episode, but I’ll throw it in here anyways;

    Why in the name of everything Bloodsome (to qoute Dahlia Travers) did the Spanish store thousands of pounds worth of gold in a British (Heathens and Heretics!) vault?

    Also; why would the government, having half-inched (love that expression) a load of pepper sell it att a third of it’s value? I understand selling at a discount but 70 percent?

    Incidentally I read somewhere that the price of pepper and the price of gold were basically identical for 300 years or so… then again; a kilo of Basil is still about 300 euros…

    1. Good question! I can’t be sure but…on the first point, there’s a myth that gets constantly repeated that England ‘cut herself off from the continent’ with the Reformation. It did no such thing. Not only did it join a community iof other reformers, givernment level contact kepot going – it’s perfectly and coinstantly visible. So it wasn’t too long since Charles had been woo’ing a Spanish Bride; the Spanish faction was in the ascendancy at court, an alliance was on the cards! For the Spanish having coin in London was so much easier to be able to quickly pay their enormous armies in the low countries.
      OIn the sale price – I assume it was panic – they needed the money vwery quickly, it was a lot of cash…could be wrong though!

  4. Interesting, the spanish crown trusting the English with their gold, bet they regretted that!
    But maybe they did get something back eventually?
    Doubt if Crommers was any to keen on that though…

  5. So happy to hear Watford Gap Motorway Services make an appearance. My son and I stopped there while “fleeing the country” on March 16, 2020, as we raced early morning from the Belper area to Heathrow for the “last flight out” back to Philadelphia. Lovely place *ahem* wished we could have lingered, but “fleeing” got in the way.

Leave a Reply