Charles’ response to the Scottish Declaration was severe; but it also caused a division in the Junto, and among MPs. Meanwhile, as poublic religious debate exploded, divisions also grew between Presbyterians and Independants.
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Now look last week I shamelessly and most unprofessionally left you with a dramatic and cliffhangery kind of statement. I am sorry about that. just tawdry and populist. I feel so ashamed.
So what was this grenade that the Scottish Commissioners lobbed into the English body politic, and why did it knock the growing prospect of a peaceful outcome – over mid wicket for six? Well, the Scots were worried about how things were going. I’m not suggesting for a moment that they wanted to derail a peaceful settlement and condemn the three kingdoms to war, far from it. But as I have previously stated, ad nauseam I believe, it was essential for them that it was the right kind of settlement. They did not trust Charles any more after all the evasions and half truths, and who can blame them? They did not want Charles patching things up with the English parliament, and then appearing over the border to rip up the most perfect church and impose Bishops once more. So, England must become Presbyterian; the shelving of the Root and Branch petition, the apparent moderation of Pym, Hampden and the reformers put the wind up where it really had no right to go. Plus, it seemed to them that the arch incendiary, the King’s right hand man, the lord with the finger on the button of an Irish army, was going to escape destruction. That would never do.
So the Scottish Commissioners got their best wordsmith on the job – Alexander Henderson who had penned the National Covenant that had captured the imagination and aspirations of a nation, broke out his Ollivander’s box with his golden quill with a core of Phoenix feather, and penned a proclamation to make the Scottish cause rise from the prospect of the ashes ahead. The Declaration was a bitterly written document, and it had two main messages. Firstly, it demanded that Strafford’s trial must go ahead immediately, stop dragging your feet you darned Sassenachs.
Mercy to the bad is cruelty against the good…better one perish than unity
They declaimed. The date is very important here; it’s the 24th February, which in a few centuries would be my brother’s birthday. That though was not the reason, the reason was about Strafford – that very day he was due to come before the Lords to make his formal responses to the accusations made against him. The Scots needed to stiffen the sinews of the listening Lords
Secondly, the declaration demanded the abolition of the episcopy in England. This was even more explosive, and the king went bonkers. He hauled the Scots Commissioners in front of him. Robert Baillie in his letters reported that the king was livid
Inflamed as he never was before
One of the other commissioners and co author of the National Covenant, Archibald Johnston of Waristoun might have been a bit alarmed at the level of reaction
The king has run stark mad at it
Well, no wonder. There was ranting, or probably knowing Alec Guiness, restrained but evident fury. Charles threatened to denounce the declaration and make the Commissioners pay for having printed it. The fact that it had been printed and found its way onto the streets was a major escalator, it quadrupled the offence – this meant popular rabble rousing, public coercion; the fact that it was printed as a handbill, and therefore as an easy to circulate single page, made it clear that the Scots wanted as many people as possible to see this declaration. There was Scottish back pedalling – oh no King, we don’t mean to intervene in English politics. Yah, right, thought Charles.
There are a few things – I don’t want to go overboard, but indulge me. Firstly, here were the Scots, supposedly here to negotiate a treaty for Scotland, playing politics with England, trying to whip up the London mob. And the Scots had gone precisely and professionally for the most delicate of issues, around which king and Reformers were dancing; for Charles, both these issues, the life of Strafford and the role of the divinely appointed Bishops were non negotiable.
Well, how to interpret this? I am presenting currently the case for the prosecution – that the Scots were playing power politics with insufficient regard for the prospect of peace. That they had taken out a gun and pressed it to the collective temple of the Junto and wider reformers; that they must not make a peace that did not fit with needs of Scotland. They were wielding the big stick against their allies – they knew full well that the English reformers could not achieve their aims without the Scottish army. They had the reformers over a barrel, just to mix my metaphors.
There are other interpretations though, or nuances. One is that the Commissioners were working with a faction of the Junto – the more radical side, the likes of Warwick – Presbyterian to the core, supporters of the Root and Branch bill. It seems possible that it was not the Scots who had printed the handbill – John Adamson, the historian, believes it to have been Warwick’s bro’, the Earl of Holland. Jonathan Healey also suggests that Warwick called in his allies, the Scots, that the radicals of the Junto initiated this as a tactic and were as responsible as much as the Scots.
There’s another suggestion that whether it was Scots or not, Charles was not as angry as he might have seemed, and that actually this suited him just fine. Because this was a faultline among the Reformers. Maybe here was a rock on which to wreck the ship of opposition; the likes of Bedford, Pym and Hampden had not wanted to push the issue of the episcopy now, they wanted to get to a peace which looked tantalisingly close, so they’d held back – it’s very probable for example, that if simply following his desires, Hampden would have supported the abolition of the Bishops. So Charles saw this declaration as driving a wedge between the moderates of Bedford, and the radicals of Warwick.
The consequences for peace though, as I suggested in my flamboyant declaration last week, were dire. Pym and the moderate reformers could not afford to split from the Scots; that would have been Charles’ golden scenario, but Pym could not afford for that to happen – hate it or loathe it, his giddy was hitched to the Scots. But all were aware that this declaration and the abolition of the episcopy was way too far for many in parliament – maybe only 130 MPs would support it at this time – I think I’ve said that before. Moderates in the Commons, the lords and in the court were now showing signs that things were getting out of hand, reform was going too far, too fast, whoa Silver. People like George Digby, Edward Hyde, Culpepper, Falkland; who’d all supported the need for reform were now shuffling towards the king. They still wanted a resolution based on the concessions given and Laud removed; but Simmonds D’Ewes called them the Episcopal party – the church must be reformed only to the days of Elizabeth, not transformed.
Charles again, was not an idiot – albeit he commits some howlers. He saw now that he could build a party, a party of moderate royalists who would stop the reforms in their tracks. Conrad Russell believed that within a few hours of the meeting of 24th, Charles had abandoned the strategy of settlement, and concentrated on building a royalist party. Indeed, he pushed the issue – on 27th February, he had Digby raise the issue of the Scots intervention in a parliament debate, so that the moderates would come to his defence. He was fanning the flames, and exploiting the ever present fear amongst moderates of social upheaval, and of the mob, of chaos
Some men will put no difference between reformation and alteration of government: hence it comes that divine service is irreverently disrupted, petitions tumultuously given and much of my revenue detained or disputed
Charles warned. The Venetian ambassador reported home that behind the scenes Charles warned whoever he could get hold off that, to paraphrase, they were all going to hell in a handcart; that people might be encouraged to
‘shake off the yoke of monarchy’
If they did, they’d be coming for the rest of you and
Apply themselves to abase the nobility also and reduce the government of the realm to a complete democracy
No! Horror! Democracy is such a four letter word. Digby in challenging parliament on the Scots’ paper denounced the
Tumultuous assemblies of the people
He painted a picture of a tyranny of Presbyterianism, and warned of the Bishops being replaced by a ‘pope in every parish’. Worse, going back to that four letter word again,
If we make a parity in the church we must come to a parity in the Commonwealth
This is the formation of the message from Royalists through the forthcoming years, and at the Restoration; the monarch stood for permanence, social stability, the maintenance of the established social order. The king was forming a party, with its manifesto, it’s philosophy and its rallying cry. He does seem to have finally learned something from his failure to succeed with the same strategy in Scotland.
In might be nice at this point to briefly nip across the channel and see what the Europeans thought of all this this. Very briefly, Spanish knickers were in a bit of a twist. Philip was fearing the worst, and was reported as saying that it was imperative
That we do not lose the king for, should that country become a republic, I have no doubt I will lose my province of Flanders
Olivares warned the imperial council that a resulting alliance between the English and the Dutch would
Form a union of neighbour republics from which could be feared an irresistible invasion of all Europe
By ‘ck. In France, the English Ambassador the Earl of Leicester was hearing a similar dire view of English fortunes. The Earls of Leicester, by the way are now Sidneys, not Dudley’s anymore. Robert Sidney was a rather hapless sort of bloke, who became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland after Strafford, but resigned in 1643 having never set a foot there. His sons Philip and Algernon would fight for parliament, and Algernon would die the darling of the Good Old Cause. Anyway, that’s for the future. For now, Leicester reported that
They begin to talk here already as if England were half-lost, and that the English nation dares not, or will not look the Scot in the face.
There was even a rumour that Protestants were plotting that Charles was going to be replaced by the Winter Queen. Richelieu, however, was a man made of iron, and had none of the apocalyptic fears of the Spanish. Tosh he said, in French obviously, which might be something like Toesh, not sure. Anyway
England today has become a nation useless to all the rest of the world and consequently of no consideration
Ouch, cutting. Les Francaises, alors, quell betes. So when the Prince of Orange came seeking a marriage alliance between his lad William and Charles’ lass Mary, HM suggested an alliance with the French; Richelieu said Non, Non. Non. And so it was the Dutch to whom Charles turned, and history was made.
Now, I know you are all waiting to hear about Strafford, and how his response to the accusations of parliament would go. But there’s plenty of time for that; more importantly now it would be good to have another chat about religion. You know it makes sense
It’s not necessarily particularly sexy to the modern ear – we want to hear about democracy, freedom, liberty. But the fact remains that the health of the soul for eternity was far more important to most 17th century Europeans, and who are we to say they were wrong?
Charles had apparently accepted that some compromise even over the church was required; I mean it has to be said that his announcement that the church would be modelled on Queen Elizabeth’s time is worryingly vague. What exactly was that? Charles had already made that sort of announcement before – and his idea of the Elizabethan church had turned out to differ wildly from what most others had been living with. Still – let’s give the lad the benefit shall we?
Charles had called a couple of divines to him in January to help him out; an Irishman, the Archbishop of Ireland James Ussher, and a Welshman the Archbishop of York John Williams who just been sprung from prison where Laud had popped him. They came up with a scheme to try to bridge the gap between Laudianism and Presbyterianism, something of a challenge, but it had a sort of stripped down episcopy which they claimed took them back to the early church, a key desire of Protestantism of course. It seemed some aspects of this had the king interested. Incidentally, James Ussher is the bloke, I did not know this, who worked out that the earth was created around 6 pm on 22 October 4004 BC, give or take an hour or so either way. I did know that was the figure – I had a bible once with the dates in the margin – but did not know who came up with it. Wild.
The remarkable thing about the 1640s – or one of the remarkable things about this extraordinary decade, is that the rain fell on the ground of religion and a thousand flowers bloomed. In a couple of generations this would lead to Voltaire to remark on the scene a hundred years later that
If there was only one religion in England there would be a danger of despotism, if there were two they’d cut each other’s throats, but there are thirty and they live in peace and happiness
Well it would take a while and a lot of throat cutting to get to that point, but the 1640s and 50s is when, despite the Cavalier Parliament’s best efforts in 1660, the stopper was taken out of the bottle. I got the Voltaire quote from Jonathan Healey’s book, The Blazing World, by the way, and he follows it up with another beauty from Monsieur François-Marie Arouet who also remarked that England had 42 religions but only 2 sauces. I was left struggling with that a bit; I mean I’m OK on the religions, and there’s gravy, but can’t think of the second sauce.
Anyway, it’s not just Arminianism that was at dispute. For many, the Elizabethan Settlement had been unfinished business – we’ve been through all this…but by her death, almost all the separatism had disappeared, just a few so called Brownists; puritans might hope for more, but tended to concentrate more on the reformation of manners within the church.
One impact of Laudianism was to blow this sky high. And the disagreements in the 1640s went deep, and among ordinary people not just among the MPs and Gentry. This concerned everyone. On the one hand then the Church of England needed reformation. But now the puritans were off the leash looking for radical change, the Scots were in town, and another model of church organisation was being discussed and promoted in a vast wash of pamphlets and cheap publications; seriously, during 1641 censorship begins to fall over and here is an explosion of print – we’ll come back to that. Anyway, the Scots had strengthened the more radical Calvinists in their desire for a Presbyterian organisation of the church. As you probably know better than I, Presbyterianism did away with the idea of Bishops, and replaced governance with Parish based consistory of Elders of the Parish. Hence George Digby’s crack about a pope in every parish. Presbyterianism was as focussed on uniformity and compliance was Catholicism and the Church of England.
But among the desert flowers, there’s no another species; Independency, or congregationalists. They felt even more strongly that the way to God was not only through individuals, but groups of like minded people who came together and worshipped in their own way. They were therefore by definition separatists and pluralists – there can be no one model. Presbyterians wanted to transform their national church to a more thoroughly Calvinist model; Independents thought a national church would inevitably involve some people telling others of the right way to God, rather than through the scriptures. And that in their view was wrong. It is by and large through independency, through the advocacy of political leaders like Vane and Cromwell, that the idea of religious pluralism and toleration would at last begin to dig deep roots and get official recognition.
I thought I’d use the work of one Katherine Chidley to illustrate this, and this gives me a chance for a quick digression, so sorry Anjin San, about the role of women generally in the civil wars. There was a review for the podcast on Apple a couple of years ago I think, which hurt a bit; the bloke was very nice, but took a star off for being a bit of a sausage party. The expression made me laugh – does the sausage in question imply a particularly male love of pork based offal tubes or have something to do with the male anatomy? Don’t send me a postcard on that one. I recognise this as an issue; frankly it’s quite hard, because the political narrative is so driven by men, and women almost universally excluded, which is why figures like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margaret Paston and Margaret Beaufort are so attractive; I have done a few episodes focussed on social history, where it’s easier.
Anyway, that’s enough naval gazing, must do better, less sausage, and you might hope that the Civil War period will be easier; and to an extent it is, though not dramatically so. I was reading a book by Antonia Fraser called The Weaker Vessel, and she sort of lays out the ways in which women were actively involved in events which shows up in the historical record. Obviously there is the impact that’s difficult to see but without doubt existed everywhere; women of course had opinions on political matters as much as men, despite being excluded from the official debate, and exercised influence through others. Then there are higher profile stories of this kind of influence like the one I’ve mentioned of Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle. There are in addition a number of women writers and thinkers; whether public like Margaret Cavendish, or more privately based, like diarists and writers such as Lucy Hutchinson. They are fundraisers – women who come forward with personal and household valuables for the cause. Then in the wars there are a bunch of stories that feel to me very like Margaret Paston stories; the owners of landed estates, run, managed and defended by women while their menfolk are away at the wars or dead – so Brilliana Harley in Herefordshire, Charlotte de la Trémoille, Countess of Derby, and her defence of Lathom House. There’s a few of those, and also stories of people like Jane Whorwood, who get involved either in royalist intelligence and resistance, or trying to help the king escape from various fortresses.
Then there’s a series of stories, with a slightly long suffering feel in some cases, of women coping with and managing the family, keeping the wheels turning while blokes go off and fight or go and do the glory stuff of politics for which the civil wars are so well known; I’m thinking for example of Lady Ann Fanshawe, through whom we see something of the impact of being uprooted from a comfortable life by war and discord; she writes letters about moving to royalist Oxford. And Elizabeth Lilburne, such a story; married to a right wick bugger as I think James Heriot’s clients would have called him; wick meaning stubborn, stiff necked to the extreme sort of thing. Throughout it all, there is Elizabeth, getting passionate about the Leveller cause, distributing leaflets, organising petitions to have her husband freed at various points. All the while having to manage a big family. And all she gets in Lilburne’s writings are complaints about his wife’s attempts to calm things down a bit, find some compromise and think of the good of his family. There are quite a lot of similar stories to that – Mary Overton wife of Richard Overton for example.
Many of these latter stories, and one of the glories of the Civil Wars, are about more ordinary people getting their place on the stage of history as individuals, though even the Lilburnes came from lesser gentry and in Elizabeth’s case merchant backgrounds. There are exceptions though, and one of those was in the ancient tradition of the Prophetess, or visionary. It is a role for women that had run throughout the medieval world; think of Julian of Norwich in the 14th century, or indeed Joan of Arc; usually women with a mystic experience were treated with respect and even reverence. So there will be a bit of a run of such people; and it sort of ties together with the importance of providence to the protestant mind, the idea that God has a direct impact on day to day activities, that he may well be directing your actions, and it’s important to think long and hard about what God’s will is. So very often parliament will call a halt and all go and pray hard about what’s best; they are a serious bunch. So it was with one Elizabeth Poole, who seemed to have been a thoroughly ordinary person in all other ways, in the sense of their being nothing grand social – we are all of course special in our own ways, and we are all individuals. Except me. In 1648 her prophecies advised against the killing of the king, and the council talked and prayed with her for a good couple of days before making their decision. They still chopped his head off of course. Well, do get in touch and make suggestions – my task is to weave it into the narrative, but ideas are always welcome.
So anyway it’s in religion where there was greater scope for women to drive events, express ideas, which is where we come to Katherine Chidley’s example, as an illustration of the growing religious debate. No longer just about Arminianism and Calvinism within the church of England – but a growing range of religious practices that could not be encompassed, or comprehended, within the existing church. So the Scots’ proclamation and mission included using the power bestowed on them by the army, and the power bestowed on them by their eloquence and faith, to bring England to the true church, the kirk. The four ministers who came with the Commissioners were specifically part of that mission to evangelise and convince, and their sermons and pamphlets had found an audience.
But resistance and other ideas were also brought to life by Laud’s reforms, and before long the Scottish ministers were complaining that they must work
to satisfy the minds of many in England who love the way of New England better than that of Presbyteries used in our Church
And one such will be the Chidleys.
Katherine Chidley was probably born around the turn of the 16th century in Shrewsbury and we have absolutely zero idea of her background and early life. The first we have any record of her is in 1616 when she marries a tailor, one Daniel Chidley. You see my problem with sausages? Katherine then flits across the record of history because in 1626 she and her husband were reported to the church courts for non attendance; the local vicar had a running battle with a conventicle that met regularly, and it seems the Chidleys went there instead of to the parish church. I should explain Conventicle – sorry if I have done so before, I’ve done it over and over in the History Scotland but I don’t think so here; so many blessed podcasts, they all get jumbled up in my head like socks in a tumble dryer, like some sort of Kafkaesque dream sequence. Anyway, Conventicle basically just meant a meeting, but it increasingly become a specifically religious meeting, outside the official church. Unlicensed preachers or individuals might preach there, or there might be readings of the bible, that sort of thing; by the 1630s in many places, especially with an Arminian Bishop like Wren at Norwich, attendance at conventicles began to outnumber those at parish churches. Katherine was also reported because she refused to be churched; churching was the rather nice sounding old tradition of blessing women after they’d given birth. Sounds rather lovely for everyone to gather and coo a bit. Not sure if you’d agree! Katherine anyway thought it was all flummery and superstitious nonsense.
So essentially Katherine was probably something of a puritan, inclined towards separatism, but not all the way there yet; she continued to have her children baptised in the local parish church, though that might be because you could get serious gip if you didn’t. Gip by the way, I learn is a 16th century word; I take it to mean getting told off, but apparently it used to be originally a word used only towards horses. Nice that isn’t it; so many horses around back then, they had their own insults.
Katherine and Daniel had a few children; including two Daniels; I believe we may have discussed the practice of having more than one child with the same Christian name; people were super keen to have children with their own forename, so went for belt and braces, just in case one of them dropped off the perch. One of Katherine’s children Samuel Chidley would also be a very well-known religious figure and writer.
At the end of the 1620s the Chidleys moved from Shrewsbury to London; maybe because they wanted to find more freedom to practice as they wished in the relative anonymity of London, maybe for working opportunities, there are many reasons to move to London. Within a short time Daniel Senior moved up in the world, and gained the freedom of the Haberdashers’ Company in 1632. But their real passion was their religion, and they seem to have become fully fledged separatists, setting up conventicles with others like John Duppa and John Lilburne.
Katherine then jumps into the public eye in 1641. The debate about religion was constant and furious. The Scots were very much joined by many puritans who also wanted to adopt the Presbyterian model and the pamphletting war was intense. One Thomas Edward was an English Presbyterian, and he like many were as disapproving of the Independents as they were of the church of England. They mocked what they saw as the chaos of independency, and the lack of authority and order. They trusted not one whit the ability of ordinary people to preach or understand the word of God, as Thomas wrote:
Now how can the people three or foure visible Saints, or more, joined into a Church, examine and try the learning, gifts, soundness of men for the Ministry, who are themselves ignorant in all kind of Learning, and may be weak and injudicious?
This got Katherine proper worked up, and she published her first tract, an 81 page document called The Justification of the Independent Churches of Christ. Katherine was very aware that women had to tread carefully in this world of debate; her arguments are hooped around with various bits of self deprecation and deference to men, acknowledgments of her own unworthiness. Women writers were often conscious of this and were forced to apologise for their sex; Elizabeth Warren for example, a pamphleteer in 1645 even included in one tract
‘we of the weaker sex, have hereditary evil from our grandmother Eve’.
This was very much the way of it with women preachers too, and there are a number of women who preach in the independent churches. There’s the example of Mrs Attoway, so called ‘Mistress of all the She preachers in Coleman Street’, who was capable of preaching for well over an hour. Unfortunately, St Paul had written in 1 Corinthians 14 34-35
‘Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak’
And so women who were brave enough to stand out had to run the gauntlet of misogyny – they might be called ‘brazen faced’, or a ‘prattler’ or worse. There was a poem doing the rounds in 1641 called Lucifer’s Lackey; it went
When women preach and cobblers pray
The fiends in hell make holiday.
The puritans and Presbyterians were as hard on this element as any of the other churches and they condemned the Independents for their latitude; William Prynne for example, presbyterian himself, condemned them for including ‘bold impudent huswives’ in their governance and meetings.
So Katherine pays her dues; she begs for indulgence that her intervention is
‘not laid down in a scholler like way’
But despite the apology she goes for it with a will, and The Justification is a ringing declaration of the principles that underpin Independency. She defends their beliefs since they are based on
‘the plaine truth of holy Scripture’
She celebrates the choice individuals should be able to make to worship as they wished, denied the right of any congregation to condemn any other, and that they needed to have no pastors as Edwards, the Church of England and Catholics claimed
‘all the Lords people, that are made Kings and Priests to God, have a free voyce in the Ordinance of Election, therefore they must freely consent before there can be any Ordination’
There is a strong thread of anti clericalism, attacking priests as
‘those Locusts, which ascended out of the bottomlesse pit
I have to say that the Rev Walters of my youth, did share a passing resemblance with a locust, but I doubt very much he came from a bottomless pit, lest it be the pit of long and slightly dull sermons, but hey, times have changed.
Gloriously, she refuted the claim that the lower social orders and less educated needed to be lead rather than to choose their own path; everyone was able to create a good and godly church
‘whether they be Taylors, Felt-makers, Button-makers, Tent-makers, shepherds or ploughmen, or what honest trade soever’
It’s another example of how radical Protestantism went hand in hand with political and social radicalism, without really intending to I suspect; because it was not that Katherine was a social radical outside of religion; she accepts the social rules that placed men over women in secular matters – or says she does – but not in matters of conscience
‘I pray you tell me what authority this unbelieving husband hath over the conscience of his believing wife; It is true he hath authority over her in bodily and civil respects, but not to be a Lord over her conscience’
Chidley finished by challenging her adversary Thomas Edwards to a meeting for a verbal duel in front of an audience over the merits of Independency; again with lashings of self deprecation that she was ‘a poor worm and unmeet to deal with you’. It appeared that no-one from Thomas Edwards was available for comment on this invitation.
Katherine Chidley and many others like her were part of a rising tide of Independency, and they would become a force in the social, religious and political development of mid 17th century England. It’s a little confusing in some ways; Independent gets used as both a religious and political tag, and they aren’t always exactly the same. So you could support the group of MPs that identified with the views of the Independents in the Commons; without necessarily being an independent in religious terms.
The rise of Independency and separatism has consequences with a capital K. As time goes by, despite the desperate application of as much pressure and leverage as they could apply, the English Presbyterians and their Scottish allies find their objective of imposing a Presbyterian national church an increasingly remote proposition, though it takes them a long time to accept it, and they will continue to exercise a lot of influence. The rise of Independency will introduce yet another division into commons; for the moderates, the prospect of Independency, even more than Presbyterianism will terrify them into the arms of the king as the upholder of social order. Among the Reformers, there will be an increasing rift and conflict between Presbyterian and Independent.
 Stevenson, D: ‘The Scottish Revolution, 1637-1644’, pp218-9
 Fraser, Antonia: ‘The Weaker Vessel: Woman’s Lot in Seventeenth-Century England’, Kindle 5414