381 Six Days


From his return to London in November 1641, Charles and his courtiers built a party in parliament; moderates believed enough was enough, and feared the growing radicalism and social upheaval. Six days would define England’s future.

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OK everyone, the story now is this. The Junto’s reform programme is on a knife edge. Attention had moved to Ireland, and the plight of the Protestants there. The Lords have shown clearly that a majority of them feel reform has gone far enough – they are standing firm on the existence and political role of Bishop, the King’s absolute right to retain control of military command, and absolute right to appoint his own ministers. Even the Commons, though more radical, was now divided; the built a substantial party in the Commons which also believed reform has gone far enough; as a result – the Grand Remonstrance passed its vote by a squeak. For Charles the time for compromise with the Junto was over. Now he could use his parliamentary support to re-establish control – and visit vengeance on the Junto for the crime they forced him to commit, in abandoning Strafford against his honour.

If he was to succeed, Charles would need to win not only on the floor of the house – but on the streets of London, where the marchers and petitioners and church ministers had made such a massive impact.

So, scene one: nurture, feed and inspire the traditional groundswell of loyalty, reverence and fear for the majesty of the king. As Charles, HM and the Charles, the young Prince of Wales entered London, for the first time in his reign, Charles treated the world to a procession, Tudor style – this was the occasion to woo not just ordinary Londoners, but to bind the city fathers and Mayor to him; Nicholas was convinced the city elite also were weary of

The insolent carriage of the schismatics

And their efforts to

Gain the affections of the vulgar

Popular politics was a four letter word.

They came in a glittering gold coach, surrounded by the grandest names of the royal household in their Sunday best, and were met by the dignitaries of the city at Hoxton. Charles was not only showing the wealth on the monarch in all its glory, but also its power – maybe 500 reformadoes, soldiers re-contracted to royal service, accompanied the royal coach. They were joined by the mayor and 500 London liverymen, and the vast and glorious assembly processed in stately magnificence through London towards the Guildhall. The people cheered and threw their hats, one observer recorded

Drums beat, trumpets sound, muskets rattle, canons roar, flags displayed[1]

At the Guildhall were all sorts of public speeches and the mutual back slapping of the mighty we are all accustomed to and Charles threw the city fathers a bone to gnaw on – he would restore their charter to Londonderry, which had been removed back in 1635 with so much cost and political damage. In return the city gave him £30,000 in gold pieces. I kid you not. £3m or more, in the Stuart equivalent of a suitcase[2]. There you go chuck, treat yourself.

As night fell on 25th November 1641 the city fathers and king processed again through the streets of London towards Whitehall; the bells rang – all 121 parish churches kept up the peel; the conduits ran with wine, there were an unfeasible number of bonfires

The people responded with loud and joyful acclamation, crying God bless and long live King Charles and Queen Mary, and their majesties reciprocally and heartily  thanked the people with great expressions of joy

It was a PR triumph, gold star, big tick, Blue Peter badge. The news of the king’s welcome spread quickly across the country through the network of letters; Eleanor, the Countess of Sussex, wrote to Edmund Verney writing approvingly of the London crowd that

Methinks the king should love the people of England best, for sure their bounty and obedience is most to him

You might wonder why these folk, so recently petitioning and protesting with fury, whipped up by Pym and the Junto, were now so much in love with the kinghead. Was it because they just liked a party? Or were delighted to see their king hopefully come at last to lead the fight against the rebellions Irish papists that seemed to threaten disaster? Or maybe there was a large portion of them, just like in the commons, who felt enough was enough, and felt threatened by social chaos? But whatever the reason, the king had stated the first line of his message – he was back, in control, the symbol of tradition, order and social hierarchy. Someone for the people to get behind. He had forged a bond with the city elite, and they were crucial – together the Mayor and Aldermen controlled the Trained Bands, 3,000 of them, and they could help control the streets for the king, suppress the marches and petitions of the masses. The likes of the puritan aldermen John Venn and Isaac Pennington had been knocked to the background.





The struggle for control of the streets would prove as crucial but was a real challenge, and if Charles thought that all he had to do was cry ‘church in danger’ and his enemies would disappear he was being way too optimistic; London was the most radical place in England on religion, and there were many who were desperate for reform. Many considered Bishops as just a step away from Papistry. So, just days after the welcome of his return a crowd of protestors appeared in Westminster Palace yard, armed with swords and staves, and they were chanting

No Bishops! No Bishops!

Clamouring outside the windows and doors of the Commons and Lords; for the Junto this was probably a welcome noise – here was their army, their supporters. But the Lords were horrified at this show of the defiance of the commoners – they would have none of it. They ordered the Commander of the Palace guard, the Earl of Dorset, Dorset drew up his men, and gave repeated orders for the crowd to disperse. Repeatedly – they did no such thing, the chants and uproar carried on, and on until the moment of truth arrived – and Dorset ordered his men to fire on the crowd. This then was your bastille Day moment, the point when violence arrived. Except it didn’t. Dorset’s men disobeyed their orders, and did not fire. But the threat seems to have brought the crowd to their senses and this time, finally, they dispersed.

The next political challenge came on 1st December, when with a fanfare Pym and the Commons presented the Grand Remonstrance to the king, along with a petition, demanding control of the army and also the removal of the Bishops from the House of Lords. The argument was that religious leaders had no place in secular politics, a constant refrain of the Scots; for Pym and the Junto, the Bishops were a solid phalanx of 13 Arminian, ultra Royalists. Their removal might just be enough to give them back control of the Lords.

Charles negotiated the shoals of the Remonstrance with some skill; though privately it infuriated him. It infuriated the Queen even more, for the virulence of its rhetoric about a Catholic plot in conjunction with the Irish; it was a widely believed rumour that HM had conspired with the Earl of Antrim to keep control of the rump of the Army in Ireland, and it was a widely believed rumour because it was probably true. HM was ever closer to Charles now, and her advice was increasingly hard line; gone was the voice of moderation from the time of Bedford. Charles’ leading advisers now were a group refugees from the cause of reform, panicked by religious radicalism – the Episcopal Party as Simmonds D’Ewes called them – Edward Hyde, Viscount Falkland, and rather crucially George Digby – I say crucially because Charles might make some bad decisions, but with the likes of George Digby at your side it’s probably little wonder. We’ll get to that, and sorry if George’s Mum and Dad can hear from beyond the grave.

Anyway, Charles cooly and politely received the petition and said he would respond; and gave the job to his wordsmith, best and most moderate adviser, Edward Hyde. It was something of a masterpiece. It refused any reference to the Remonstrance; very sensibly, it was monstrously long, and Charles dismissed it as un parliamentary, having never been approved by the Lords; Hyde focused simply on the petition. He made a clarion call to Charles’ party, to religious moderates everywhere – it defended the bishops – fundamental, Hyde wrote, fundamental to the laws of the kingdom; appealing to law was always a good thing in England. It criticised the schismatics who were causing chaos and disorder; it re-asserted the king’s fundamental right to control the military, long accepted as the king’s sole responsibility.

He had a further opportunity to beat the drum as the last bastion of social order and defender of religious harmony almost immediately. Since the start of December the more radically inclined members of London had been gathering a petition to have Bishops and Catholic Peers removed from the House of Lords, terrified that they would bring the rebellion from Ireland into England; the petition was to be presented to parliament on 11th December. On 10th, Charles stepped in – he ordered the Lord Keeper to send 200 soldiers into Westminster Palace Yard to stop the petition being presented. He issued a proclamation confirming that no changes were to be made in religion – presumably he just copied out the other billion he’d done in the past – and condemned anyone who disrupted an orderly church service. It was a bold move, and it cut both ways. In the Commons and the streets, they saw the soldiers and feared the king was preparing to use force to dissolve parliament and suppress protest; the Commons angrily ordered the men removed. But for others it was a welcome relief – the king was being firm, restoring order. In Dover, when the king’s proclamation was read out, a local wrote that

It caused much rejoicing, the people crying out god bless his majesty we shall have our old religion settled again

But on 11th December, despite the king’s proclamation, the petition was duly presented, by a crowd of 400 alderman, deputies, merchants and members of the London Common Council.

In the end, everything passed off peacefully, but there was chaos and protest almost daily now in London, the atmosphere was fevered; there were groups of apprentices and citizens, but most alarmingly soldiers and armed men were everywhere, the king’s Reformadoes. It is now that two words enter the English usage. All these long haired Reformadoes, contemptuously dismissed as ‘cabaleros’ acquire the name of Cavaliers. Conversely one writer observed the protesting crowds and remarked that all of them wore no hair below their ears – and called them Roundheads. Cavaliers and Roundheads, these would become symbols of division as time went by, insulting words imbued with meaning way beyond the immediate hairstyle or clothes. The cavalier stereotype was a swordsman, irresponsible, swaggering, intent on destroying English liberties and revenging the humiliations heaped on the king. Roundheads were sour, kill joy puritans[3], shattering old England’s harmony and unity and banishing popular fun and games. They are stereotypes of course, but as such have a kernel of truth. And they helped foster division.

Particularly influential with Charles now were two people – HM and George Digby, heir to the Earl of Bristol. HM was not only increasingly firm against compromise now, but also increasingly fearful that she would be specifically targeted in the storm of public panic about a Catholic plot. In these fears she may have been fed by Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle. You might remember we talked about Lucy Hay before, who had joined HM’s court as a Lady in Waiting, and ran famous salons for the literary and the political. It seems that through the 1640s, Hay had increasingly aligned herself with the Reformers, and had a strong relationship with John Pym. The contention is that Hay actively fed fake plans and fears into HM’s ear. This is edge of history stuff, with much speculation; but it may be through Lucy Hay that HM got to hear a rumour of a meeting where Pym had discussed impeaching the Queen as being involved in the Irish rebellion through her contact with Antrim. Either way, fear of her security was a powerful motivator for both Charles and HM at this critical point.

George Digby was a colourful character, 30 years old now. Up to March 1641 he’d been one of the reformers – and led the trial team against Strafford. But around that time he switched; what drove Digby into the King’s camp was, like so many others, the feeling that things had gone far enough, and the cause of religion – he was a firm adherent of the Church of England, and detested religious radicalism. From April 1641 the relationship between Digby and King had become close; and Charles elevated him to the House of Lords. Charles knew he could trust him – and they became very thick. This would be a problem, because George was wildly optimistic about things, and as we have said, Charles has been guilty of the same lack of realism. Hyde was to reflect later that Digby’s

fatal infirmity was to think difficult things easy…and not consider possible consequences.[4]

Charles now played another card – acquiring credit in both houses and on the streets by boldly proposing to lead 10,000 men to Ireland if funding would be provided. This put the junto in a difficult position – and they prevaricated worrying about giving king access to such a tool of oppression as a 10,000 strong army. As more and more devastated refugees arrived back in English ports and villages and the issue waxed stronger and stronger in the public imagination. The King looked decisive, Pym and parliament looked weak.



So far so good then. For all the protests and the Remonstrance, the Bishops stayed in the Lords, the militia stayed under royal command, the Lords continued to block the Commons’ bills. Yet Charles would have to play it carefully, things could go either way. On 21st December the elections to the London Common Council were a trainsmash for royalists – puritans swept the board, and the royalist Mayor looked increasingly isolated. And Charles started to blunder.

The Tower of London was the military key to London and its security. Since the days of Billy the Conq it had been the symbol of royal power. It was in the hands of the Lieutenant of the Tower, William Balfour. Balfour had proved distressingly independent minded at the time of the Army plot; so Charles wanted someone who would be reassuringly willing to blindly follow orders and on whom, accordingly, he could reply. So Balfour’s must go and his independent mind with him.  Well handily, George Digby knew a good man, I know a good egg Sah, Thomas Lunsford sir, solid as a rock sir. Now Charles knew Lunsford; he’d fought well at Newburn against the Scots. And so on 22nd December Charles announced that Balfour was to be replaced as Lieutenant of the Tower by Thomas Lunsford.

Trouble is, Lunsford’s history proclaimed him a lout and a thug. He’d been caught killing one of his neighbour’s hounds, been fined and then taken a potshot at their servants, and duly sent to prison. From there he’d done a bunk, taken up military service in France and been outlawed. He’d returned, paid a fine and been pardoned and won the king’s admiration at Newburn. Now he was Lieutenant of the Tower – and people were terrified of him. As far as the city of London, the Commons and most people in the streets were concerned, this was the precursor to a military coup by the king – he was getting his ducks in a row. The ducks were the people of London and the guy with the gun aiming to win the big cuddly toy was Thomas Lunsford. There was uproar; rumours circulated that Lunsford was a cannibal – I mean – really? Merchants started taking their coin reserves from the Tower, the Common Council petitioned the Commons for his removal. Rumours were abroad that the Apprentices were planning to grab Lunsford after Christmas and remove him by force. In parliament they agreed – this was the first step in a new Army Plot. They petitioned the Lords to have him removed – but the Lords, interestingly, said no. Military command was the king’s gig, more than my jobsworth, this has gone far enough, sort of vibe,

The result were yet more riots. Boxing Day, though not to be called that until 1743 apparently, was a Sunday, and the pulpits burned with fury. The mayor rushed to Whitehall as the streets rang with the cries against the ‘wicked, bloody Colonel’, and in a panic he begged Charles to remove Lunsford; Charles didn’t want to do it, to appear to bow to the mob; but to keep the Mayor sweet he agreed – on condition he would control the streets instead. On 27th Charles removed Lunsford. Peace should be restored. But it was too late. Distrust of the King’s motives were home to roost with a vengeance, Westminster was awash with London citizens crying No Bishops! No Bishops!

Among them was John Lilburne, still a fireband despite his imprisonment and whipping, and marriage to Elizabeth. Becoming a married man and father did not stop Lilburne turning out into the streets and marching with the crowds to Westminster Palace, and he and the men around him were armed, ready to defend themselves against Lunsford and his cavaliers. And at Palace Yard they did indeed meet with Lunsford and the two groups faced off, the protestors shouting No Bishops in the faces of the petrified guards.

Enraged, one captain of the guards, one David Hyde drew his sword and roared that he

Would cut the throats of those roundheaded dogs that bawled against bishops …

who says no bishops?!’

and the crowd roared back

‘We say no bishops !

Call and response I think you call it in country dancing – but the dance this time came with cold steel. Lunsford and his men drew, musket shots were fired, one ball hitting Lilburne, and the protestors fled, some of them up the stairs to the court of Requests. Then onto the roof where Lilburne and others showered tiles at the soldiers below until, overwhelmed by the crowd, Lunsford and his men turned and fled, helter skelter down Parliament stairs into a boat and away onto the Thames with the jeers and calls of the crowd behind him.

But then behind them came the tramp, tramp of hundreds of feet – it was the Militia, the Trained Bands. The Mayor was to be good to his promise to the King, to clear the streets. And this time, the protestors went filing silently out from Palace yard, dispersing through the streets to their home. Order was restored.

Except it wasn’t. The people of London had breathed in the drug of power and the y liked it’s fragrance. And the next day they were back, masses of them, surrounding Westminster Abbey this time. Chaos and the threat of violence was in the air, and the Mayor was impotent to clear the street. The MP Henry Slingsby wrote home

I cannot say we have had a merry Christmas but the maddest one I ever saw

A Navy captain who was there commented

Both factions talk very big…it is a wonder there is no more blood yet spilt.

Ominously a new phrase appears for the first time – there is talk of civil war

No doubt but if the king not comply with the Commons in all things they desire, a sudden civil war must ensure, which every day we see approaches nearer

The French Ambassador looked on, agreed, and was astounded that war had not already arrived; if matters had gone this far in France he said

The town would have been alight and awash with blood within 24 hours.

On 29th December, the whole thing started again, crowd outside parliament, chanting no Bishops; Guardsmen fighting to make space for Peers to get to the White Chamber of parliament. The bishops were terrified; only 2 had come in to the Lords on 28th, none dared on 29th they feared a lynching. Mud was thrown at the guardsmen, and on at least one occasion they cracked and charged the crowd. Charles issued a proclamation ordering the crowds home and if they did not, he would order the Trained Bands to shoot to kill

‘to slay and kill such of them as persist in the tumultory and seditious way and disorders





The attitude of the Commons and Lords towards the crowds was distinctly at odds; the Lords asked the Commons to join with them in condemning their behaviour – this time it was the turn of the Commons to refuse. These people out there were the reformers’ strongest ally and lever, they had no intention of acting against them. But the Lords were furious at the disorder; Digby moved that the lords should declare their discussions unfree because of the pressure from the crowd – and the proposal almost passed.

On 30th December, Archbishop Williams brought a petition to the King on behalf of the 13 bishops. All were in fear of their life from the crowds, from the chants against them. This could not go on. The petition of the Bishops demanded that they take a stand here and now; that all acts taken be declared null and void when passed under pressure from the crowd. Charles was delighted. Here was more pressure  on the Reformers, another call to conservatives to rally behind him and the bishops, with their divinely appointed role, and reject this gross activism of the people. Charles took the momentous decision to forward this petition to the House of Lords – effectively, the king was petitioning parliament.

It was another blunder. He had misjudged the situation. What if this petition was approved and a law passed?  – what of all the acts passed in March when the crowds had marched against Strafford? Could the people no longer exercise their ancient right to petition? And who ever had heard of a king petitioning parliament? This was a king bullying the Lords to do his bidding.

Pym saw the potential; he proposed that the Bishops now be charged with treason. Incredibly, the Lords agreed. They saw this as an unwarranted interference in their independence and authority, the bishops trying to shanghai them into line. The petition of the Bishops brought Commons and Lords back into agreement line. By the end of the day, 10 of the bishops were behind bars in the Tower. A grim rejection of their case, and an uncompromising message to the king.

The following day, New Year’s Day was worse. Both Pym and the King now feared a violent coup against them. Westminster Palace outside parliament was swarming with soldiers, cavaliers, and Reformadoes who had gathered to join Lunsford and the guard to fight the cause of the. Pym dramatically ordered the doors of the house closed, and demanded the Trained Bands come to defend parliament. Meanwhile Charles himself was under siege – 200 demonstrators with swords and staves came to Whitehall Palace itself, and clashed with the king’s guards, the noise pushing through the windows of the palace to the courtiers within.

That day, Edward Hyde received an urgent summons from his friend George Digby. He was to come to Whitehall palace for a secret meeting with the king and Queen. There he learned what the king was planning; on the advice of HM and Digby, Charles had decided it was time to destroy the Junto, while he still could, before they and the crowds reduced him to parliament’s servant.

First of all, the government must be remade, populated with the King’s loyal supporters in the great offices of State. So Charles offered Hyde the post of Solicitor General, replacing Oliver St John. Hyde was horrified; such a move would incendiary, a blow against one of the key members of the Junto. He refused. Nonetheless Charles appointed John Culpepper as his new Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Falkland as his new Secretary of State. Charles was forming his team. But what he planned to follow would be the boldest master stroke of all when

All the world might see what ambitious malice and sedition had been hid under the vizard of conscience and religion [5]

Once the scales had been ripped from the eyes of his loyal subjects, they would surely return to grateful obedience and loyalty. And he would show that this small, isolated group of malicious rebels could not escape the king’s justice. He would cut off the heads of the many headed Hydra of sedition.





On the 3rd January at around 1 pm the Lords were resuming their parliamentary session. If I had been there, no doubt I would have been comparing notes on the quality of the bakewell tart at lunch or whatever, and looking forward to a good kip though the duller of the speeches. But this session was not to be an ordinary one. Instead the Attorney General requested an immediate audience. He proceeded to lay before the house articles of impeachment. The articles of impeachment of messers Pym, Hampden, Holles, Haselrig and Strode, accusing these five members of the Commons of Treason. In addition they were to seize one of their own number, Lord Mandeville, charged with the same – treason. The Attorney General then demanded that the Lords take immediate action to apprehend the members concerned.

There was shock. Digby, principal adviser of the strategy, waited confidently for the next step to take place – the King’s friends in the Lords would obediently and immediately order the Five members to be imprisoned, and any progress of the business of either of the houses would be made impossible, the Junto would be emasculated and terrified of their likely fate and eager to make amends. The King’s party in parliament would be re-invigorated and empowered, royal supremacy would be fully restored – and all this talk of curbing royal powers would be finished.

But. To Digby’s increasing horror the reaction of the Lords was nothing like he had expected. Rather than following this course, there was outrage, there was confusion, there was doubt; you see while parliamentary privilege might technically not apply to treason, it was extremely irregular for the king to make such a move; and never heard of for the King to impeach a member of parliament – that was for the Commons to do, and the Lords to then investigate. And more news kept coming in; it was quickly relayed that while the AG had been doing his thing, the King’s soldiers had been breaking into the Five members houses without warrants and seizing all their papers. Furthermore it transpired that Charles had already published publicly the detail of the impeachment. Charles was exploiting the propaganda of his master stroke to the hilt. He firmly believed that when his people saw their evil representatives brought to justice, the nation would swing behind their natural master, the king.

So from the start, Digby’s plan went wrong; instead of arresting the MPs, the Lords instead moved to investigate first the legality of the procedure; Digby had been wrong, the Lords were no longer the king’s loyal servants. This and the Petition of the Bishops had destroyed their trust in the king. Digby lost his nerve at this point; he muttered apologetically to Mandeville that the king had been poorly advised and fled. The house duly decided not to immediately arrest the 5 members of the Commons, or indeed Mandeville.

That night London again was tense. All day there had been groups of armed men gathering; Digby had been seen going from parliament to the Inns of Court trying to recruit soldiers; around 10.30 that night a contingent of 40 cannoneers were seen arriving at the Tower – now what would they be for? On whom would they be using their cannon? Nehemiah Wallington wrote in his diary

The aldermen and sheriffs were up that night and the gates looked into and the chains pulled across the streets with knocking on the doors for men to stand on their guard

Royal retribution was surely on its way. But as no tramp of marching feet or jangle of cavalry emerged, after midnight people started drifting off to bed.

But in the morning the tension remained – shops remained shut, everyone was wary, nervous. In Parliament, the Commons condemned the ransacking of the members rooms, and the printing of the impeachment. Everyone though was waiting – what would happen next? During the morning a note came from the junto member the Earl of Essex, who was at Whitehall, in his role as Lord Chamberlain; something was happening there, but he didn’t know what nor did he know when, but there were large contingents of soldiers, and Trained band members , and rough looking reformadoes milling around in the Whitehall courtyards.

Inside the palace, Charles had been planning his next move; his plan had been to let the impeachment take its course, to watch the exposed malignants fall to their inevitable destruction. So what had happened threw him into a quandary. His closest adviser at this point was probably the Queen, herself feeling terribly exposed and threatened as the country’s highest profile Catholic. This was the time for firm action; anywhere else in the world, those 5 Members of Commons would have been seized from their houses in the middle of the night and thrown into the deepest goal, never mind this legalistic faffing around neo coup.

Go you coward and pull these rogues out by their ears or never see my face more

Such are the words HM is reported to have said to him. Lucy Hay was with the Queen that afternoon, finding her solitary, and constantly referring to the clock. Then all of a sudden, HM perked up, and she exclaimed to Hay

At this hour, the king is, as I have reason to hope, master of this realm, for Pym and his confederates are arrested before now’

She had reason for optimism. For at 3 in the afternoon as the Commons nervously went about their business, at last the feared sound came of marching men. 400 armed men marching from Whitehall, at their head a coach, containing the King himself accompanied by Charles Louis the Elector Palatine. From the Palace Yard, 80 men armed with swords and pistols marched into St Stephens Chapel filled the open doorway to the chamber and stood ostentatiously making sure they could be seen by the appalled MPs inside; their captain David Hyde held his sword upright and his pistol cocked; another captain leant confidently and arrogantly against the door frame. And then their King came into the room in the complete silence, and strode to the Speaker’s chair

By your leave Mr Speaker, I must borrow your chair

The Speaker, William Lenthall, something of a toady and of course the king’s creature, scuttled aside, trying, I assume, to look dignified. Charles sat and scanned the room, looking for his targets.

I am sorry for this occasion of coming unto you…I must declare unto you here that albeit no king was ever in England shall be more careful of your privileges…yet you must know that in cases of treason no person hath a privilege…

All the while Charles was desperately scanning the room. Yet he could see none of the men he had come to seize. Pym was not in his accustomed place by the bar where he could direct the business of the house. There was no John Hampden, Denzil Holles, William Strode, not even that dour gloomy Leicestershire man Arthur Haselrig ,who’d stitched up Strafford with his attainder and would be first up against the wall. They were gone. He had missed them and his bold gamble had failed.

…since I see all the birds have flown, I expect from you that you will send them unto me as soon as they return here. But I assure you, on the word of a king, I never did intend any force, but shall proceed against them in a legal and fair way[6]

With weary desperation Charles looked again round the house. And his eyes lit on the ever so slightly snivelly speaker, William Lenthall and the ashes of his hopes burst briefly into flame and he demanded of Lenthall that he reveal where the five members were.

Possibly one of the most remarkable things about the entire English Revolution is that Lenthall, the most unremarkable of unremarkable men, found words that would echo through English history and change the role of Speaker for ever. He knelt deferentially on one knee and said

May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.

Well he wasn’t actually. The speaker was the king’s servant in parliament. But not any longer his wasn’t.

There was nothing Charles could do. He gathered his robes and his dignity around him. And he left, picking his way carefully and fastidiously through the bleached bones of all his hopes. Monarchs for centuries had known that their power relied on a veil as thin as silk of semi divine majesty and an aura of mystery and awe. As he walked in humiliation from the room that veil had not just been pulled aside, but torn from its hangings and trampled in the dirt. There was no mystique any more, just a man leaving in abject defeat. The room erupted around him, and behind him with triumphant and outraged cries of ‘privilege! Privilege!‘. The parliamentary privilege that the king’s failed coup had abused.




The king had been comprehensively outplayed by Pym and his colleagues. Traditionally, it’s said to be the French Ambassador who saved the parliamentary bacon of the five members – tipping the wink to a Captain waiting in Westminster Palace yard who rushed to warn the Five Members who then fled St Stephens through a backdoor, down to the water gate and into hiding in the city. But there is another theory that Pym knew full well what was going to unfold. Because Lucy Hay had picked up the news from the Queen’s coming and goings in the morning, and sent a message to her ally Pym. That Pym and the Five Members knew that this could be the graveyard of Charles hopes, and rather than saving themselves from a treason charge by not coming in, they stayed in the Commons that day in full knowledge, to lay out the bait for the king to take.

Still, the king wasn’t finished yet. It was crucial now that he seized Pym and his colleagues. That night he ordered the ports closed, and for the City of London to be searched. By the morning of 5th January, London was forming into armed camps – the King at Whitehall, while around the Guildhall, supporters of parliament tried to take control of the Trained bands. Parliament declared it was no longer safe at Westminster, and adjourned to the Guildhall. But it was to the Guildhall where Charles went next. If he could control the London Common Council he might be saved, because they held the key to the Trained bands, the militia. On his request, Common Council assembled at the Guildhall in the afternoon, and as his entourage travelled through the streets towards the City, a royal proclamation declared that the traitors were so ashamed they dare not even show themselves. Surely now his ally the mayor would now swing the City fathers behind their king?

The Guildhall was packed; I mean who was going to miss this? Charles appealed to them all not to harbour the five members. But the Common Council was restless, the atmosphere hostile; he had some supporters who cried ‘God Bless the king!’ but more shouted ‘parliament, Privileges of Parliament!’. In exasperation Charles asked them what they wanted

To hear the advice of our parliament

They shouted back. The mayor was now powerless. Charles had united London against him. As he left the Guildhall, the streets were packed, he had to force his way through them slowly crawling back to Whitehall, thousands of people chanting ‘privileges of parliament’. An ironmonger called Henry Walker managed to push his way past the guards and thrust a paper into the King’s coach; it contained a biblical call to arms to his fellow radicals:

To your tents, O Israel!

For Londoners, it was Parliament that represented their nation. It was no longer the King.

On the 6th London was in turmoil; offers of support for the Five members came from the apprentices, from the Southwark trained bands, from the mariners in port; in Buckinghamshire the freeholders gathered to march on London in defence of their MP, John Hampden. [7] That night yet another rumour and panic; a shot was heard from the barracks in Covent garden, the cry went up along the streets, neighbours banged on doors, shouts of ‘Arm! Arm!’ ran through the city, again the chains went up across streets, portcullises into the City were closed; women gathered furniture and boiled water to throw down on the feared Cavalier army from the rooftops.

By the 10th January, the City of London acquired a new military commander – command was removed from the control of the royalist mayor, into the hands of Philip Skippon, the hard bitten, puritan veteran of the thirty Years war. Skippon’s command quickly became a citizens army for all London, as the Trained Bands of Westminster and Southwark were quickly added to his remit. London would need its combined defence force before long.

And what of Charles? After the horrors of his visit to the Guildhall he and HM seemed unsure about what to do. It became increasingly clear that their gamble had failed, the bolt had been shot. Over Six Days in January, from the planning meeting om 1st January to the disaster at Guildhall, Charles had destroyed everything he had been working towards since Strafford’s sacrifice. It transpired that when Charles had exposed the deeds of the men he claimed had  mislead the people, the people had decided that it was in fact he, Charles, that was the enemy of the people. He had succeeded in re-uniting Lords and Commons against him, no king’s party could help him now. Charles had a choice – Flight or fight, or to put it another way, defeat or flight and fight. Both he and HM feared for her life. And although he had some military support, it was a mixed bag of guardsmen, Ex soldiers and militia; they faced the combined trained bands of the City, Southwark and Westminster, maybe 10,000 strong, under the experienced command of Major Skippon.

On the afternoon of 10th January, Charles approached his Household captains, the earls of Essex and Holland, told them that the royal family was to leave immediately and ordered them to accompany him. Holland drew Essex aside and convinced him that no sooner had they left but that their heads would be on a spike for being members of the Junto. So they refused. Thus it was that the royal barge left without its household officers, up the river to Hampton Court, Charles, the Elector Palatine, Henrietta Maria and James. Henry and Elizabeth Stuart were left behind, already on the hands of tutors appointed by parliament, to make sure they were brought up good protestants. Charles PoW was left at Whitehall under the governorship of the Earl of Hertford.

Charles had left London, and there was to be no going back.

Well there we go, the kid gloves, if not quite fully removed, were in the process of being pulled off. Can they be put back? Does either party want to anymore, or is it inevitable now that we will come to blows? You will find out at the history of eng;and, but if you are listening in real time, it may take a while. Next week, I have a real treat for you; William Clark is the author of the Grey History podcast, grey in the sense of nuanced, an absolutely superb history of the French Revolution. He has kindly produced a special episode for you all on English reactions to the French revolution, and it is fascinating stuff, I am confident you will enjoy it. Thereafter August will be a special month for At A Gallop, but I’ll do a separate announcement about that/.

Until then gentle listeners, may all your pineapples be smooth, enjoy William’s special, good luck, and have a great week.

[1] Healey, J: ‘The Blazing World’, p155

[2] Adamson, J: ‘Noble Revolt’, p439

[3] Underdown, D: ‘Revel, Riot and Rebellion’, pp142-4

[4] Cust, R: ‘Charles I A :Political Life’, p323

[5] Cust, R: ‘Charles I: A Political Life’, p5

[6] Carlton, C: ‘Charles I : A Personal Life’, p235

[7] Harris, T: ‘Rebellion’, p454

10 thoughts on “381 Six Days

  1. Regarding the theory that Pym and the other four members had been tipped of my Lucy Hay and came to the House to bait Charles, is the idea that they were in the House when he got there but he couldn’t pick them out in crowd, or is the idea that they left the hall once they knew the King was on his way?

    1. It’s not very clear, but the implication is that Lucy either told them the day before, catching wind of the meetings with HM, Hyde et al, or that morning; they came in that day, set up look outs to reporet on movement, and fled the house when the king set out. It;’s a murky story though, and I have to admit not often repeated . I had it from a biography of Lucy Hay and her sister.

  2. Ok, so I am an American not well acquainted with post Tudor, pre ~ 1700s English history and I am getting a bit anxious because at this point in the podcast I keep expecting Oliver Cromwell to pop up. Have I missed it? Is his entrance around the bend? Or am I just grossly ill-informed.

    1. Hi Ian, and yes you hit on a common whine of historians (historians are not immune from whineing at times), which is that the Revolution is seen in the publkic memory as all about Oliver Cromwell. Oliver is about; as I think I have mentioned he’s a hard working and well regarded MP; but he only comes to prominence at the end of the first civil war as he rises through the army ranks. By 1648 he’s becoming a leading figure, buthe’snot even headof the army until 1650 (Fairfax is).

  3. Oh, Lordy.
    The CivilWar looks like starting in the same way as Hemingway’s bankruptcy: first, slowly and then very fast.
    Why do you think Charles ran? Do you think he or HM was in any kind of physical danger, or was he trying to keep room to maneuver?

    1. It’ll slow down again! England really isn’t used the the idea of going to war with itself. Um, Conrad Russell, who had a very large brain, firmly believed that Charles at all times was very worried about HM’s safety, and HM herself believed she could end up on the block as a acrifical lamb. In the next episode, we’ll see Charles extemporise until he can get HM out of the country. Also though, staying effectively meant bpwing his neck to the Junto’s axe, accepting humiliation. Running from London was a disaster, but diffivult to see what else he could have done

      1. Ah, I’ll bet you’re right.

        Well, he could have compromised, but then he would have had to be a different person than Charles Stuart, no?

  4. Sorry, playing catch-up so I’m behind. But I feel like I need to admit surprise at the build up to this that I’m feeling kinda sorry for Charles. I mean, he’s certainly his own worst enemy, but this also feels like a coordinated opposition pushed affairs inflexibly toward a conflict that didn’t need to happen. I wonder how much was the junto’s genuine feelings of a king gone tyrannical versus them liking the taste of power.

    1. It’s rather remarkable isn’t it? But I find that with everything; once you get into the detail, you almost always see it better from the protagonists’ point of view

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