401 The Mind of a Martyr

In June 1646 Charles’ path had taken him to the Scots, on the hope he could persuade them to put him back on the English throne. But he was not prepared to pay their price, and in England Holles and the Presbyterian party saw a way to break the power of the New Model Amy and the Independents once and for all. And achieving the departure of the Scottish army was the key.

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Today we are going to start the story of war by other means. On the one hand that means a long protracted and drawn out mental battle between various folks and the king. You might think that doesn’t sound very good; surely now that the war is over what is needed is reconciliation. After all, for nations to heal there must be honesty, goodwill on both sides; from the Victors there must be magnanimity; from the losers there must be a willingness to accept the consequences of defeat and accept a reasonable settlement. Together they must build a firm consensus of what’s needed to bring the nation back together.

Sadly, in 1646 none of this was present. As far as parliament was concerned, this was victory and time for the king to cough up the spoils. On the losing side, Charles displayed a ‘HA! It was just a scratch I’ve got you just where I want you’ attitude.

Let us consider Charles first and his experience in the Scottish camp where he had fled from Oxford. Charles’ plan was that the Scots would be persuaded to re-install their king on the throne of England. It’s not clear on what terms Charles expected the Scots to turn their coats on their English allies, but it is possible that the go between,  going between king and Scot, the French envoy Monterul, had been guilty of being, shall we say, economical with the truth, and led Charles to expect that the Scots were panting for his help and led the Scots to believe that their king, beaten militarily, was now willing to implement their dream – the Presbyterian Kirk established in England. Now, I imagine that you can see why the Scots might think this – after all the king’s arse had been kicked. But why on earth would Charles think the Scots would now help him from their now Olympian position of strength? Zeus and Hera, as Olympians, were after all rarely given to kindness and compromise, mainly to vengeance, and quite a lot of rogering as well to be fair, often inappropriate rogering, but definitely not forgiveness. Anyway I fear I have wandered off the point – oh yes, why would the Scots do Charles’ bidding?

Well there is some small grounds for it; Charles was aware that Parliament was more and more divided between two parties – Independent and Presbyterian, and hoped to exploit the cracks:

Knowing assuredly the great animosity which is between Independent and Presbyterians, I have great reason to hope that one of the factions would so address themselves to me that I might without great difficulty obtain my so just ends

Charles was aware that the Scots had taken the parliamentary independents off their Christmas Card list. I mean the Scots no longer had a Christmas card list at all, since they’d cancelled Christmas in 1640, way back, on the basis that there’s no mention of mince pies in the bible, but my point is that even if the Scots DID have a Christmas card list – the Independents wouldn’t be on it. They feared the power of the English independents meant the death of their hope for a unified Presbyterian church in the face of that four letter world, toleration.

So, Charles was very confident they needed their lawfully and divinely appointed monarch, they needed his help to stop the independents. And a few vague promises should be enough to do a deal. He would make the Scots and the English parliament as he said, ‘irreconcilable enemies’. He would then stand at the head of a great alliance of Scottish Covenanters, New Scots from Ulster, and even Highlanders and regain his kingdom. A bright future. What could go wrong?

So, Charles tipped up at the Scottish camp in Newark and I think it is fair to say that if Christmas bunting had not been banned, bunting would have been hung out by the Scots. Their flabbers were well and truly ghasted to see him knock on the tent flap, and they were delighted to have such a powerful negotiating tool now in the fight for the true church. And goodwill appeared to rule – Charles graciously ordered Newark to surrender which it did, He also wrote to Montrose still causing trouble in northern Scotland and told him thanks and all, but time to call it a day. Monrose reacted in his idiom, of course, with lots of despair, tantrums, furious denials and probably some poetry, but eventually accepted the order and set sail for Norway.

But then things started to sour a little. The English were a little miffed as it happens, and stuck their heads over the garden fence and asked – ‘can we have our their king back please?; Argyll and the Covenanters said ‘ Sorry – surely you mean our king?’ and took the bone they had found back to their kennel in Newcastle to chew it in peace, away from prying eyes.

Charles found his life very different to his imaginings. His kennel was not bedecked with canopies of state, nor were canapes served for supper. Nor indeed mince pies. He was accompanied at all time and in all places by grim faced musket men, he was accompanied at all times and in all places by a grim faced covenanter, in fact co author of the Covenant itself, Alexander Henderson. Alex and various divines set about to convert Charles to the ways of Presbyterianism. They used argument, they used thundering imprecation, they said please, pretty please and even begged, on their knees. The Covenanters had proved in Scotland an irresistible force. Even Montrose as victorious as Hannibal had, like the Carthaginians, failed to lure away the Italian allies and so failed capture Rome, so fierce was that irresistible force called the Covenanter. So Now they set about moving an object called Charles Stuart, which surely could not prove immovable.

Charles saw what was happening. He was horrified, and if he’d had a dart board, the picture of Montereul would have been on it. Hopefully nowhere near the triple 20 which is clearly impossible to hit, in my experience anyway. He told Jack Ashburnham, nice but dim, to save himself and leg it. He set down and relentlessly fought the Covenanter divines trench by theological trench, and no strongpoint was abandoned, but left soaked with intellectual blood. Let us have some sympathy and praise for Charles here. Sympathy because as he wrote to HM,

I never knew what it was to be so barbarously baited before there never was a man so alone as I[1]

Tragic – although undeniably whiny. Praise – because Charles is nothing if not resilient. As Conrad Russell wrote, it was Charles’ strengths that caused the civil wars as much as his egregious weaknesses. Had he not been so good at being a party leader, the civil war would not have dragged on for 4 years. Had he not been so resilient, surely peace some would have been reached quickly. But he was an immoveable object. A mind more closed that the tightest of wallets at the time of buying a round.

In a short while, a new set of peace proposals would arrive from a joint team of the English Parliament and the Scots in the form of Argyle, and they will be called the Newcastle Propositions. So let us spend a little while considering the attitudes that lay behind Charles’ approach to negotiation over the next couple of years, because by the time we get here, in 1646 I would contend, controversially perhaps, that Charles may have already decided what he meant to do. I have for you THREE items. Ahem:

Item the First: Charles would not compromise on what he called ‘his grounds’ – principles shall we call them. He might make tactical decisions about how to get there, and concede some trivialities, but his grounds were non-negotiable. As evidence just one quote – there could be others I have to say, let me use this one. He wrote to the ever loyal Nicholas:

Never to yield up this church to the government of papists, Presbyterians or independents, nor to inure my successor by lessening the crown of that ecclesiastical & military power which my predecessors left me, nor forsake my friends, much less to let them suffer when I do not, for their faithfulness to me

He did this for reasons of conscience. May I remind you that while one received history of the civil wars is of nasty puritan religious fanatics, Charles was every bit as a fanatic as William Prynne or Hugh Peters.  He had turned his country’s painfully but finally embedded and accepted religion upside down in pursuit of his own vision.  He refused to abandon bishops because he believed they were divinely appointed on which no one agreed with him. And like the most fanatic puritan, he was a fanatical believer in divine providence. As he had made clear to Hamilton, everything had gone so badly and bloodily wrong not because he was incompetent, but because of God’s providence; he was being punished for allowing Strafford’s execution.

  1. Item the SECOND. He was perfectly happy to lie cheat and mislead during negotiations. This is a claim that the great Samuel Gardiner made when he described him as Obstinate, unrealistic and untruthful. Now I can see your hand going up at the front – you at the back sit straight would you – and your objection is that Charles was a man of honour. Well, by his lights he was; if he made a specific oath, he would abide by his word until death – such as giving his parole for example. But putting suggestions and making commitments on the negotiating table was not by his light an oath. It was entirely reversible. He admitted the same to the Scots Commissioners when he said to them

many things may be fitly offered to obtain a treaty that may be altered when one comes to treat’.

But not just that. The rebels were barely worth respect, let alone the rough end of a pineapple. In his mind he was not dealing with equals or people that deserved honesty; they were simply rebels, rapacious and malignant opportunists, and therefore of no account. Never once would Charles be intelligent or flexible enough to realise that his opponents were every bit as passionate and sincere as he, or worse, worthy of accommodation.  I could be wrong, but I do not think there is a single occasion where Charles thinks hard enough to initiate a negotiation with a set of proposals – all he does is respond. Charles has already been guilty of multiple examples of lying and outrageous duplicity. But that was fine as far as he was concerned, because, as he reminded Nicholas,

That they were arrant rebels and that their end must be damnation, ruin and infamy except they repented

Despite his public protestations, Charles was not looking for a peace that both sides could live with and then get on in harmony and prosperity, he was looking – to win. His honour, position and conscience required it, as did God. If he was father to his people as he claimed, I’m very glad my father was nothing like him, not my ideal of parenthood. He was in the Spare the rod spoil the child school I suppose.

Ok. Last, ITEM the Third. He was confident of winning in the end. Charles believed deeply in providence as I say, and that God would not suffer rebels to succeed. He displayed constant over confidence in whatever his latest scheme was, this history is littered with him backing wild and silly long shots like the Incident in Scotland or the Army plot in England in 1641. But irrespective of those, he knew in the end that he had the ace in the hole, he help the nuclear bomb, the ultimate planet buster – because of course there was no solution possible without a king. So it didn’t matter where power lay – he always had the power of veto. He would show his hand in one negotiation when he dismissed the best offer he would ever get, and absolute giveaway budget – with utter conviction. As we will hear, he looked Ireton, Rainsborough and others in the eye and said

You cannot be without me. You will fall to ruin if I do not sustain you

But even if he was not to be the instrument of God’s providential punishment of the rebels, then it would be his son who would be the hammer of the rustics. And to ensure that, he was prepared to die rather than give way. I have two quotes for you. Firstly to Hamilton. Here, he writes that he was

Resolved that no extremity or misfortune shall make me yield for I will either be a glorious king or a patient martyr

And then writing to Georgeous & Gormless George Digby

If I cannot live as a king I will die as a martyr

OK, so there are my three items. Possibly a little extreme, and possibly my mask of balance and even handedness has dropped to reveal the snarling, dribbling republican fanatic behind. But Conrad Russell’s view was Charles’ adherence to conscience effectively meant a rejection of the entire political process. That seems to me harsh but fair – a large part of why we got into this mess, and the answer as to why we’re not going to get out of it in one piece, or indeed in peace. Austin Woolrych criticises Charles for not having a strategy, a view of what he would settle for in the end; on his  reading of what happens, Charles just keeps holding out for more, driven runaway optimism. But in my humble opinion, and I am not worthy so much as to gather up the historical crumbs from around Woolrych’s camping stove, even this gives Charles too much credit. I prefer Richard Cust’s view that all the concessions Charles offers are simply to play for time. Time. Time to allow him to raise a new army from Scotland. Or from Ireland.  Time. To Raise an army from France, Holland. Time – to find a clever trick from anywhere. Essentially, the Second Civil War, which in on its way, was exactly what Charles was working towards from the moment he crossed Magdalen bridge. Another bite that the cherry of glorious victory. I am sorry, all you CTM, Charles the Martyr adherents out there, I know this is an uncompromising view, but that is my view, with which I imagine many more intelligent people than I will disagree, but that’s my hill. On which I am categorically not prepared to die, offer me a nice jam donut and I’ll come down willingly. Maybe that’s where parliament went wrong…

Anyway; in summary. Item One: No Compromise on matters of conscience. ITEM TWO Play for time with plausible concessions because they’re only rebels, give me time because in the end I will inevitably crush them. Item THREE no one can succeed without the king, if it doesn’t work out, martyrdom is preferable and will preserve my legacy for my son the king that follows.

Right better get on with some events then dear boy, Events. In July 1646 as he sat in his prison schoolroom in fair Newcastle Town, Charles will receive a delegation from London with a set of peace proposals, with the blessing of the Scots. They have become known as the Newcastle Propositions, and I’m not going to tell you why. They were a disaster for Charles. Even harsher than the 1644 Uxbridge treaty, which had stood no chance. Presumably the idea here was that hey, the king had been beaten he has no options left and must agree to whatever poison we serve him. But of course we know, that in Charles’ view, and everyone else’s to be fair except Henry Marten, was that there good be no treaty without the king. I mean – we must have a king don’t we? So without the king’s agreement there is nothing.

The sense of reconciliation however was absent from the parliamentary authors of the Newcastle proposition, and they may even not have considered what would happen if Charles turned them down. Here are the main points; he had to swear to the Solemn League and Covenant; his kingdoms would all become Presbyterian, no bishops. Also, there would be no book of Common prayer. That was out. Parliament was to control all military forces for 20 years, so probably after Charles’ death, and even after that they’d resume control if there was any war going on. Parliament would control the appointment of all ministers. There’s a load of other stuff – any peers he made since 1642 were, um, not peers, a massive list of his mates were excluded from any pardon and therefore presumably heading chop wards.

The Newcastle Propositions came with the spirit of the Treaty of Versailles as opposed to the Congress of Vienna, squeeze him until the pips squeak sort of thing. I believe the Commissioners doing the propositioning of this cup of poison were the Earls of Pembroke and Suffolk, and the Scottish Lord Loudon and Argyl. Not unreasonably, Charles looked up from reading, and assuming these were a starting point given that’s what getting to yes means, he asked them all if they were authorised to negotiate. They looked grim. Pembroke and Suffolk probably shuffled their feet a bit and looked at the floor, Argyl wasn’t given to shilly shallying so probably just took another long pull on the quarter of Lemon he always kept handy. And Loudon developed his bon mot in his head. Because the answer was no – this is what you get.  Sign here please.

Charles lost his famous composure just a little bit; why are all you posh guys here then?

An honest trumpeter might have done as much

Which is a good point. Loudon then delivered his bon mot which was that if he was intransigent he might be deposed. Which I have to say is a line that doesn’t get used enough n what follows; though it has to be said Charles the PoW was free and out of parliaments control. But his younger sons James and Henry weren’t, they could have been popped on the throne. Still. It would have been horribly messy. Interesting though, they could have threatened it more. Anyway, Charles’ formal reply therefore was that he’d need time to think about it, so that’s where it was left for a while. Although he did have another suggestion – look he said, pleasantly no doubt, reasonably – why don’t I come down to London? So much easier to talk there, get in touch with everyone.

It’s a cunning suggestion. Sounds so reasonable. But Charles knew exactly what he was doing. He knew there was a strong desire among the poor people to get rid of all the expense of armies, there was a strong groundswell of sympathy for the king.  He figured there’d be plenty of pressure for an easy deal once in London, people would rally to him. However, none of the parliamentary leaders Charles has to deal with are foiled by this little ploy even for a nano second. And they will never agree to Charles coming into London before an agreement is signed and sealed. Nice try – but Nah.

While he was thinking about all of this, am old flame came out of the woodwork. If flames come out of woodwork. The old flame was called the Duke of Hamilton. Remember him? Charles’ servant in Scotland, thrown into Pendennis castle by a king with frankly unreasonable expectations, and freed by Fairfax and his army? Well for good reason Hamilton had declared his solid, unshakeable resolution never to go back into politics again. he had signed the Covenant, put his previous life behind him and put his slippered feet up. However, his brother, the Earl of Lanark, had other ideas, had nagged him, and shaken his bottle of resolution, and Hamilton’s resolution had fallen out. So it was he that returned, and added his voice to the chorus telling Charles to just sign the Newcastle propositions – there just under the line ‘abject defeat’. Hamilton will have a significant part still to play in our story.

Charles felt he had options, remarkably. The first was in Ireland. We spoke last time we were there, about a split in the confederate Associations. The split was Between the Royalists on the one hand, and the clerical party on t’other. The Royalist party in the Confederacy wanted to work and revise the existing paradigm. They wanted to treat with Ormonde, to keep Charles on the Throne and win the war – and then negotiate with a grateful king. And until June 1646 they were still in the ascendant and even at the point of gathering an army of 9,000 soldiers to breathe life back into Charles’ chances.

Ranged against them in the Confederacy, was the Clerical party led by Cardinal Rinucinni. They were separatists. Rinuccini cared not one jot about Charles. His focus was international, from the counter reformation church. He agreed with most of the Irish clergy that the thing to do was to seize control of all Ireland, kick out the jams, ooh and the English, reestablish the supremacy of the Catholic church under the Pope. And only then negotiate with Charles from a fortress Ireland. Or indeed ignore Charles and find a fresh protector from Catholic Europe.

Still, brushing aside the Clerical objections, the Royalists and Ormonde’s army of deliverance was on the point in leaving for England –  when news arrived. News of a great victory.

For that news, let me take you to Ulster, and the commander of the Confederate forces there, Owen Roe O’Neill. A thoroughgoing supporter of the cardinal, the clerical party and the papal cause, O’Neill was ‘Bred in a nursery of arms since a boy’, he had fought for the Catholic church, Spain, and sought the liberation of Ireland since he was knee height to a Grasshopper. He had returned to Ireland and had fought the New Scots under Robert Munro to a standstill. But, in June 1646 Munro, his New Scots and the Laggan militia – the local protestant Ulstermen – sensed an opportunity to bring this rebel to his destruction and doom. So they went after him with all they had, and after a long exhausting chase, ran him down at a place called Benburb; where O’Neill was finally forced to tur and fight.

As the battle lines were formed, O’Neil gave this rousing battle speech to his men

All Christendom knows your quarrel is good—to fight for your native birthright and the religion of your forefathers[2]

Well, that did the trick. Munro and his men were thoroughly routed. 3,000 Scots and Ulstermen killed or taken prisoners, and Munro fled to Carrickfergus. His days as an offensive threat were ended. Meanwhile in Rome the Pope did a bit of a cartwheel, went to that old chest of his in the Vatican and dug out the sword of Hugh O’Neill. He gave it a bit of spit and polish with his cassock, and sent it out to Ireland with his congratulations.

Rinuccini, the clerical party and his warrior O’Neill were now dominant, and Charless hope for an army of salvation from Ireland was now dead. Ormond now was left trying to hold on to Dublin with the English government forces, as O’Neill and the Confederate forces gathered to destroy him and throw the last of the Scots and English out of Ireland.

Now there seemed to be no real prospect of help from France or Spain either, and so it was to England that the great eye of Charles turned from his mental Barad-Dur. He had high hopes that as Jacob Astley had predicted, the Independents and Presbyterians would fall out; and he was right, the two groups really were not getting on. As illustration of this point we might turn to a chap called Thomas Edwards, a rather intolerant Presbyterian divine of firmly held opinions, because the wind had been placed right up the good Minister Edwards, in places where  breezes should not blow, and he was determined to sort the weather out.

The basic worry of the Edwards and all the Presbyterians, English and Scots was all this blather about toleration. All the foment from Coleman street and ministers like John Goodwin. And not only home grown sectaries; a returner from the Colonies, one Roger Williams had published a tract while back in London for a while called The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, which extended toleration not only to protestants which was bad enough, but even Catholics, Jews, Muslims. I mean what was to be done with people like that? Fortunately for Edwards, Williams had managed to get a charter to establish the colony of Rhode Island through the offices of that other raging sectarian, Harry Vane, and off he’d gone, good riddance to bad rubbish in Eddy Baby’s view.

So Edwards lashed out. In three volumes of a book called Gangrena, over 6 months he lashed out at all of these tub preachers, atheists, anabaptists and worst of all unruly and opinionated women; remember Katherine Chidley and her tract of 1641? Well she’d published more by then and so she got the evil eye, described in Gangrena as ‘a brasen-faced audacious old woman’. In the third volume, Edwards proper steaming at two more sources of outrageous toleration; the Levellers and all their potty half-baked ideas; not just about toleration but their appalling disrespect for the constitution – how dare they? The other was the New Model army – you know, the army that had won the war for them? That was a breeding ground for the disease of independency he thundered; he turned his guns particularly on the wildly charismatic army preacher and chaplain Hugh Peters, with his vulgar, chatty, almost buffoonish style.

Now the independents didn’t let Gangrena go unchallenged; there were over 30 pamphlets published in response. But it was massively popular, and in the face of the perceived threat to England’s new Reformed religious settlement and the partnership with the Scots, the forces of Presbyterianism assembled. William Walwyn was one of those who had published responses to Grangrena, one of the more polite ones, gently based on reason, using wit and irony to promote a society based on love; but Walwyn later remembered this as a time of furious reaction

there brake forth here about London a spirit of persecution; whereby private meetings were molested, & divers pastors of congregations imprisoned, & all threatened; Mr. Edwards, and others, fell foule upon them, with his Gangreen after Gangreen, slander upon slander.

Charles might have enjoyed the discord in his opponent’s camps, but the truth was that for the moment all the guns seemed to be held by the Presbyterians, and so it might be unlikely to do him much good; it was beginning to look as though Independency would be just one more blip, one more sleeping policeman in the highway of English history. The trouble is, that the independents didn’t seem to have enough powerful friends outside the army, while the forces of the Presbyterians were legion and powerful. The London Common Council with all that money and influence was dominated by Presbyterians; public opinion was becoming rather anti army, because armies cost money, and everyone hated all the excise taxes and the weekly assessments. Now the presence of the Scots did seem to suggest the English army was still needed for the moment, but the strength of independency was most concentrated in the army, and sadly, the army was no longer flavour of the month and probably on the way out. It was rather yesterday’s news, rather ‘yeah I used to have an army once’.

In parliament, the house of Lords was dominated by Presbyterians, leaving Saye & Sele and a couple of others isolated. The story in the Commons was a little more complicated. It’s composition had changed, because from August 1645 a very large number of elections had taken place – recruiter elections they were called. Basically these were bye elections to refill empty seats which had been vacated by death or royalism. One view has it that many of these 270 MPs were largely conservative because they often came from constituencies which had formerly been royalist; but the more common view I’ve heard is that actually most were more radical; certainly among the 270 MPs were some of the most radical. Despite the old self denying ordinance, presumably now thought out of date, there were radical army officers among them – Henry Ireton, Edmund Ludlow, Thomas Rainsborough, and Thomas Harrison. Others were also radical in January 1646, the Republican Henry Marten returned to parliament.

It’s tricky for this circle to be squared – as to where power lay in the Commons; in general, the autumn and early 1647 saw a steady building of the Presbyterian dominance of policy and parliament; and yet they were to lose some key votes, suggesting that the independents could still summon large numbers of MPs in the Commons if they were forced into a corner.

There are a few possible answers to this circle squaring challenge. One was that as yet, the Army and its leaders were not particularly engaged with parliament. Fairfax was with the army having failed to get elected as an MP in rather dodgy circumstances. Cromwell was of course in parliament but seems not to have taken a particularly active role. By the way, in June Cromwell had seen his eldest daughter Bridget married to Henry Ireton. They were married by Fairfax’s chaplain, in the house of lady Jane Whorwood; which is faintly ironic given that Jane Whorwood was to be famously active in helping royal escape attempts of which more at some point. Cromwell was close to Biddy, as he called her though worried about her; both she and her new husband were as furiously religious as Oliver himself, and so Cromwell would be moved to urge her to listen less to ‘the voice of fear’ and more to the ‘voice of love’.[3] Cromwell seems at this time to have a quiet domestic period for six months rather than revolutionary; he and Elizabeth moved to a smaller house in Drury Lane and set up shop there, he appears to make few interventions in the Commons. Not that Fairfax and Cromwell were unaware of the conflict; in August 1646 Cromwell had written to his friend and commanding officer that

‘Things are not well in Scotland; would they were in England! We are full of faction and worse!’

Another us answer to the squaring of circles is that parties are very much not firm, the majority of MP’s voted on the issues. And it was perfectly possible to be a presbyterian in religious terms, and independent in political allegiance, or vice versa. Isaac Pennington of the London Council was such a beast – Presbyterian by religion, a supporter of the independents in politics.

The other explanation lies in organisation. Whereas independents seem to have been not much of a party, and more of a collection of people who sometimes agreed with each other, the Presbyterian faction had better organisation and a strategy. This came together in the form of an old friend of ours, Denzil Holles.

Holles was strongly Presbyterian, and fully aware of the danger posed to a Presbyterian settlement by the independents. He had also been shocked by the violence of the war, and recognised that what most people wanted was an end to war, and an end to taxes, they wanted things to go back to normal as far as could be. And Holles had a plan to do that. So, here is the Holles Roadmap to Pece and Glory. It is a mansion with many rooms.

The first task – was to get rid of the Scots. They were deeply unpopular, and their bill would be enormous, so getting rid of their army would remove a source of anger towards parliament – both money and the pain they were causing the citizens of the north with their plundering. Next, the English army needed to go, and as quickly as possible, and with the Scots gone and war over there would be no need for them anyway. So the army must be disbanded – except a contingent which would need to be sent over the Ireland to finally finally put down that rebellion. Final room in the mansion – He would then organise face to face talks with the king and surely it should be easy enough to reach a deal once the pressure was off. Oh, and also the added benefit of demilitarisation was that it would lead to the end of the New Model, which as Edwards had thundered was a hot bed of independency.

I think I may start using a code here, Holles & Co, if you don’t mind. For of course he wasn’t alone -but he’s a good short hand as the leading member of the presbyterian party and policies. Some of his close associates we have heard of before – William Prynne, the earless; ex general William Waller, and Edward Massie of the Western Association Army; William Strode of the early days of the revolution; Edward Harley – the son of Brilliana Harley – the Ned at Oxford she’d written to, grown up. There will be 11 of them their enemies will want gone in 1647. OK? So Holles & co.

Well, Holles & Co were far better organised than the independents. The Committee of Both kingdoms was no longer appropriate with the end of the war, and so a new version was formed, which would become known as the Derby House Committee. It was so dominated by Presbyterians that the few independent on it like Vane and Saye and Sele rarely bothered to attend.

Holles also had the tacit support of the London corporation and of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and the Westminster assembly would be critical for Holles’ plans. First of all, they helped him with a scheme to clear independents out from the army – by insisting that all officers signed the Solemn League and Covenant, which no independent would want to do, insisting as it did on a uniform Presbyterian church. It put Fairfax in a tough position; so he took a leaf out of Charles’ book, and he dithered, prevaricated – considered the idea. But the bigger prize was the means to get rid of the Scottish army. Because that was going to need money and a lot of it.

Now by the autumn Argyll and the Covenanters were beginning to realise that while they thought they’d won the jackpot when Charles popped his head around the corner of their tents in Newark and called out his friendly ‘wotcha’, their prize actually fell under the category of boobie. Because Charles was very stubborn. Now I have to say that the stubborn box was a very crowded place, certainly Charles had to fight for space because it was heavily populated by Scots and Presbyterians, but he still stood out.

Because Charles did make some concessions to try and get the Scots on board – or at least pretended too; look he said, I must control the military, but will give it up for 10 though not 20 years, and I’ll put up with Presbyterianism for 3 years and then we’ll see. But no I won’t sign that damnable Covenant.

Now, matters around the end of the year got very very heated in the Scottish parliament on the subject of what to do about this. It was proposed that if Charles refused to sign the Newcastle propositions and the Covenant, the Scottish Army should come home, and they would charge the English a fee for providing said army – as originally agreed of course – and also they hand over the king to sweeten the deal.

Well the debate in the Scottish parliament was red hot. Because Argyll now faced strong opposition from an emerging royalist faction – headed by none other than the Duke of Hamilton, who at Lanark and Charles’s urging had wearily returned his bloodied nose to the grindstone of royal service. With a leader the royalist faction revived and the debate was not gentle

I never remember to have seen anything carried with so much violence and bitterness

Wrote one. But the proposal was carried – if the English paid their dues, they were out of there.  Charles contemplated flight, tried to bribe David Leslie – all to no avail.

Which brings us back to money. Argyll ordered the Scottish commissioners in London to agree a price for the Scottish contribution to the war effort. So they presented a bill – for £2m. There was much laughter and the use of the phrase ‘ooh you are a card’, and ‘oh Archie you will have your little joke won’t you?’ In the end, the price was £400,000 – still over 4 times the value of a king’s ransom by Richardian standards. Where on earth were they going to get that from?

Well that brings us back to the Westminster assembly of Divines. In October at last, on their recommendation, the nature of the English church was changed. The book of Common Prayer, Cranmer’s masterpiece, was banned. It was no more, it had ceased to be, and was not simply resting. Secondly. the Episcopy was finally abolished. No Bishops, No More. This was one of the easier votes Holles had to arrange – Independents were no keener on Bishops than the Presbyterians. But one key corollary of the departure of the Bishops – was that their lands now belonged to the state. Abd could be sold. You know for money. Over £400,000 of the folding stuff. Well, bending tuff.

It took precisely 8 days for all the Bishops’ land to be sold such was the quality of the deal given. And Holles had his money. By February 1647, the last Scottish soldier had left Newcastle. There sitting alone on a pile of suitcases and half finished sudukus was king Charles, left to the tender mercies of the English. The Scots had done their best to batter him into compromise – let the English have a go now.

I have three more things to say. Many in Scotland were appalled. Charles angrily complained that he had been bought and sold, acidly remarking that that he had been sold ‘at too cheap a rate’. Many of his subjects agreed, and the strength of the royalist Covenanter party grew in strength. That would have consequences.

Secondly, the abolition of bishops hit the traditional church of England very hard. There were broadly three responses. One group accepted that the church of England had changed and stayed within it. Another group refused to accept that this was their church anymore but stayed to manage their congregations. A third group became effectively recusants, carrying out services around the BCP in secret.

And thirdly, the New Model Army and along with it the cause of Independency stood on the edge. Holles and his allies calculated that what little support there was for the Army would now evaporate with the departure of the Scots. And it could be safely disbanded. Cheaply, hopefully.

Against the will of parliament, the independents looked powerless. It wasn’t that there had been no resistance in 1646; Fairfax in particular had assumed a sort of political leadership from the army, and he and the independents had achieved one major victory. When in September the Presbyterian MPs had demanded a start to demobilisation, Fairfax had raised a storm that it should not be from the New Model but from the Presbyterian Edward Massie’s Western Association Army who were an unruly, deeply unpopular lot; and so bad was the Western Army’s reputation that blow me if the independents didn’t win the vote. It was the one major triumphs for the independent cause and kept the New Model together. For the moment.

But one uncomfortable result of the demobilisation was that London was rammed with angry, out of work Reformadoes in their demob suits, all furious with the New Model for putting them out of a job. And now that the Scots were gone, it was time for Holles to execute steps 2 and 3. Negotiate face to face with the king. And delete the new Model army and with it the cause of religious toleration, and implement a new national, uniform church. Cry Harry, and all that.

[1] Carlton: ‘Charles I: A personal Monarch; p310

[2] Jerrold I. Casway, Owen Roe O’Neill’, ODNB

[3] Fraser A: Cromwell, p178




4 thoughts on “401 The Mind of a Martyr

  1. The tricky issue with this period, as with any revolutionary period, is gauging how much the players reflect the attitudes of the populace at large. My sense is that your average person (if there is such a thing) probably just had a vague notion of what they wanted: a continuation of the old ways (including the king, but possibly not Charles), no army foreign or otherwise, freedom to practice religion as they saw fit without meddling by outsiders. But I don’t really have any evidence of this though, because the loudest voices tend to come from the politically engaged. I find this problem with the French Revolution as well, whose narrative is overwhelmingly dominated by the Parisian educated classes. The best I can come up with is that the eventual winners (e.g. constitutional monarchy of Charles II, Napoleon’s empire of the Enlightenment) must at some level represent an acceptable compromise between stability, national pride, and consolidation of the more popular social gains.
    Do we have any sense of what your average rural labourer in Cumbria thought of Hollies, Charles I, Cromwell, Walwyn, etc in this period?

    1. I think you are absolutely right, and it is a matter of constant argument, with a very wide range of opinions. On the one hand there’s the example of places like Bradford & the West Yorkshire clothing towns, where locals take up arms spontaneously; on the other end, the Clubmen of the South West who appear completely non plussed and just want King and parliament to sort it all out. There’s very little in the way of the radicalism French Communes in Paris; but in 1789 France had such greater range of exclusion and wealth inequality than England. No-one has ever been definitive on this one…!

      1. It’s a fascinating topic, and probably one that in the absence of comprehensive evidence is very much coloured by your politics. For what it’s worth, I used to view the English revolution mostly as a political one, but your podcast has shifted my view that it is a religious conflict first and foremost which has consequences for political thought later on. It is striking how letters and pamphlets written by “common people” during this period are almost always religious in nature. Compare that to what Samuel Pepys is writing 20 years later for example.

        1. That may be my retelling painting a skewed picture. There are plenty of people during the Revolution writing non religious material (Taylor the Water poet, Anna Fanshawe, John Aubrey, Thomas Hobbes etc); and probably plenty of people writing religious tracts under Charles II (though censorship was back). Nonetheless like you I have become more aware of the importance of religion. Partly it’s more obvious because censorship has broken down. But I think it’s partly because religion drives important aspects of the political ideas. It drives change by the implcation in radical protestantism of equality; and it drives the need for a secure political settlement to protect the religious changes. You are quitre right though the change in tone is remarkable-but I don’t believe religion was suddenly less important to people

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