TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

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  Charles I, king of England

Thomas Wentworth
Edward Hyde
George Digby
George Villiers

English Civil Wars (1642–51)
The first English Civil War (1642–46)
Siege of Reading (4 November 1642 to 25 April 1643)
Battle of Chalgrove (18 June 1643)
Storming of Bristol (26 July 1643)
Siege of Gloucester (3 August and 5 September 1643)
First Battle of Newbury (20 September 1643)
Battle of Nantwich (25 January 1644)
Second Battle of Newbury (27 October, 1644)
Siege of Newcastle

Second and third English Civil Wars (1648–51)
Cavalier
Roundhead
Bishops’ Wars
Alexander Henderson
Alexander Leslie
Battle of Edgehill (Oct. 23, 1642)
Rupert of the Rhine
Robert Devereux
Battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644)
Battle of Naseby (June 14, 1645)
Thomas Fairfax
Battle of Langport (10 July 1645)
Siege of Chester (February 1645 - January 1646)
Battle of Rowton Heath (24 September 1645)
Battle of Torrington (16 February 1646)
Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold (21 March 1646)
Sieges of Newark
Siege of Oxford
Battle of Maidstone (1 June 1648)

Siege of Colchester (12 June-28 August 1648)
Battle of Preston (1648)

Battle of Worcester (3 September 1651)

Oliver Cromwell
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
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Charles I, king of England

Thomas Wentworth
Edward Hyde
George Digby
George Villiers

English Civil Wars (1642–51)

The first English Civil War (1642–46)

Siege of Reading (4 November 1642 to 25 April 1643)
Battle of Chalgrove (18 June 1643)
Storming of Bristol (26 July 1643)
Siege of Gloucester (3 August and 5 September 1643)
First Battle of Newbury (20 September 1643)
Battle of Nantwich (25 January 1644)
Second Battle of Newbury (27 October, 1644)
Siege of Newcastle

Second and third English Civil Wars (1648–51)

Cavalier
Roundhead

Bishops’ Wars
Alexander Henderson
Alexander Leslie
Battle of Edgehill (Oct. 23, 1642)
Rupert of the Rhine
Robert Devereux
Battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644)
Battle of Naseby (June 14, 1645)
Thomas Fairfax
Battle of Langport (10 July 1645)
Siege of Chester (February 1645 - January 1646)
Battle of Rowton Heath (24 September 1645)
Battle of Torrington (16 February 1646)
Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold (21 March 1646)
Sieges of Newark
Siege of Oxford
Battle of Maidstone (1 June 1648)

Siege of Colchester (12 June-28 August 1648)
Battle of Preston (1648)

Battle of Worcester (3 September 1651)

 
 
Charles I, king of England
 
 
Charles I, (born November 19, 1600, Dunfermline Palace, Fife, Scotland—died January 30, 1649, London, England), king of Great Britain and Ireland (1625–49), whose authoritarian rule and quarrels with Parliament provoked a civil war that led to his execution.
 

Charles was the second surviving son of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark. He was a sickly child, and, when his father became king of England in March 1603, he was temporarily left behind in Scotland because of the risks of the journey. Devoted to his elder brother, Henry, and to his sister, Elizabeth, he became lonely when Henry died (1612) and his sister left England in 1613 to marry Frederick V, elector of the Rhine Palatinate.




Portrait by Robert Peake of Charles as Duke of York and Albany, c. 1610

 

All his life Charles had a Scots accent and a slight stammer. Small in stature, he was less dignified than his portraits by the Flemish painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck suggest. He was always shy and struck observers as being silent and reserved. His excellent temper, courteous manners, and lack of vices impressed all those who met him, but he lacked the common touch, travelled about little, and never mixed with ordinary people. A patron of the arts (notably of painting and tapestry; he brought both Van Dyck and another famous Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens, to England), he was, like all the Stuarts, also a lover of horses and hunting. He was sincerely religious, and the character of the court became less coarse as soon as he became king. From his father he acquired a stubborn belief that kings are intended by God to rule, and his earliest surviving letters reveal a distrust of the unruly House of Commons with which he proved incapable of coming to terms. Lacking flexibility or imagination, he was unable to understand that those political deceits that he always practiced in increasingly vain attempts to uphold his authority eventually impugned his honour and damaged his credit.



Portrait of Charles as Prince of Wales after Daniel Mytens, c. 1623

 

In 1623, before succeeding to the throne, Charles, accompanied by the duke of Buckingham, King James I’s favourite, made an incognito visit to Spain in order to conclude a marriage treaty with the daughter of King Philip III. When the mission failed, largely because of Buckingham’s arrogance and the Spanish court’s insistence that Charles become a Roman Catholic, he joined Buckingham in pressing his father for war against Spain. In the meantime a marriage treaty was arranged on his behalf with Henrietta Maria, sister of the French king, Louis XIII.

Conflict with Parliament

In March 1625, Charles I became king and married Henrietta Maria soon afterward. When his first Parliament met in June, trouble immediately arose because of the general distrust of Buckingham, who had retained his ascendancy over the new king. The Spanish war was proving a failure and Charles offered Parliament no explanations of his foreign policy or its costs. Moreover, the Puritans, who advocated extemporaneous prayer and preaching in the Church of England, predominated in the House of Commons, whereas the sympathies of the king were with what came to be known as the High Church Party, which stressed the value of the prayer book and the maintenance of ritual. Thus antagonism soon arose between the new king and the Commons, and Parliament refused to vote him the right to levy tonnage and poundage (customs duties) except on conditions that increased its powers, though this right had been granted to previous monarchs for life.




Portrait by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1628

 

The second Parliament of the reign, meeting in February 1626, proved even more critical of the king’s government, though some of the former leaders of the Commons were kept away because Charles had ingeniously appointed them sheriffs in their counties. The failure of a naval expedition against the Spanish port of Cádiz in the previous autumn was blamed on Buckingham and the Commons tried to impeach him for treason. To prevent this, Charles dissolved Parliament in June. Largely through the incompetence of Buckingham, the country now became involved in a war with France as well as with Spain and, in desperate need of funds, the king imposed a forced loan, which his judges declared illegal. He dismissed the chief justice and ordered the arrest of more than 70 knights and gentlemen who refused to contribute. His high-handed actions added to the sense of grievance that was widely discussed in the next Parliament.




Charles depicted as a victorious and chivalrous Saint George by Peter Rubens, 1629–30.


 

By the time Charles’s third Parliament met (March 1628), Buckingham’s expedition to aid the French Protestants at La Rochelle had been decisively repelled and the king’s government was thoroughly discredited. The House of Commons at once passed resolutions condemning arbitrary taxation and arbitrary imprisonment and then set out its complaints in the Petition of Right, which sought recognition of four principles—no taxes without consent of Parliament; no imprisonment without cause; no quartering of soldiers on subjects; no martial law in peacetime. The king, despite his efforts to avoid approving this petition, was compelled to give his formal consent. By the time the fourth Parliament met in January 1629, Buckingham had been assassinated. The House of Commons now objected both to what it called the revival of “popish practices” in the churches and to the levying of tonnage and poundage by the king’s officers without its consent. The king ordered the adjournment of Parliament on March 2, 1629, but before that the speaker was held down in his chair and three resolutions were passed condemning the king’s conduct. Charles realized that such behaviour was revolutionary. For the next 11 years he ruled his kingdom without calling a Parliament.

In order that he might no longer be dependent upon parliamentary grants, he now made peace with both France and Spain, for, although the royal debt amounted to more than £1,000,000, the proceeds of the customs duties at a time of expanding trade and the exaction of traditional crown dues combined to produce a revenue that was just adequate in time of peace. The king also tried to economize in the expenditure of his household. To pay for the Royal Navy, so-called ship money was levied, first in 1634 on ports and later on inland towns as well. The demands for ship money aroused obstinate and widespread resistance by 1638, even though a majority of the judges of the court of Exchequer found in a test case that the levy was legal.



Antoon van Dyck. Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria with their eldest children: Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles II) next to his father and James, Duke of York (James II) next to her mother.


 

These in fact were the happiest years of Charles’s life. At first he and Henrietta Maria had not been happy, and in July 1626 he peremptorily ordered all of her French entourage to quit Whitehall. After the death of Buckingham, however, he fell in love with his wife and came to value her counsel. Though the king regarded himself as responsible for his actions—not to his people or Parliament but to God alone according to the doctrine of the divine right of kings—he recognized his duty to his subjects as “an indulgent nursing father.” If he was often indolent, he exhibited spasmodic bursts of energy, principally in ordering administrative reforms, although little impression was made upon the elaborate network of private interests in the armed services and at court. On the whole, the kingdom seems to have enjoyed some degree of prosperity until 1639, when Charles became involved in a war against the Scots.


The early Stuarts neglected Scotland. At the beginning of his reign Charles alienated the Scottish nobility by an act of revocation whereby lands claimed by the crown or the church were subject to forfeiture. His decision in 1637 to impose upon his northern kingdom a new liturgy, based on the English Book of Common Prayer, although approved by the Scottish bishops, met with concerted resistance. When many Scots signed a national covenant to defend their Presbyterian religion, the king decided to enforce his ecclesiastical policy with the sword. He was outmanoeuvred by a well-organized Scottish covenanting army, and by the time he reached York in March 1639 the first of the so-called Bishops’ Wars was already lost. A truce was signed at Berwick-upon-Tweed on June 18.




Portrait by Anthony van Dyck, 1636


 

On the advice of the two men who had replaced Buckingham as the closest advisers of the king—William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, and the earl of Strafford, his able lord deputy in Ireland—Charles summoned a Parliament that met in April 1640—later known as the Short Parliament—in order to raise money for the war against Scotland. The House insisted first on discussing grievances against the government and showed itself opposed to a renewal of the war; so, on May 5, the king dissolved Parliament again. The collection of ship money was continued and so was the war. A Scottish army crossed the border in August and the king’s troops panicked before a cannonade at Newburn. Charles, deeply perturbed at his second defeat, convened a council of peers on whose advice he summoned another Parliament, the Long Parliament, which met at Westminster in November 1640.

The new House of Commons, proving to be just as uncooperative as the last, condemned Charles’s recent actions and made preparations to impeach Strafford and other ministers for treason. The king adopted a conciliatory attitude—he agreed to the Triennial Act that ensured the meeting of Parliament once every three years—but expressed his resolve to save Strafford, to whom he promised protection. He was unsuccessful even in this, however. Strafford was beheaded on May 12, 1641.

Charles was forced to agree to a measure whereby the existing Parliament could not be dissolved without its own consent. He also accepted bills declaring ship money and other arbitrary fiscal measures illegal, and in general condemning his methods of government during the previous 11 years. But while making these concessions, he visited Scotland in August to try to enlist anti-parliamentary support there. He agreed to the full establishment of Presbyterianism in his northern kingdom and allowed the Scottish estates to nominate royal officials.




Triple portrait of Charles I from three angles by Anthony van Dyck, 1635–36


 

Meanwhile, Parliament reassembled in London after a recess, and, on November 22, 1641, the Commons passed by 159 to 148 votes the Grand Remonstrance to the king, setting out all that had gone wrong since his accession. At the same time news of a rebellion in Ireland had reached Westminster. Leaders of the Commons, fearing that if any army were raised to repress the Irish rebellion it might be used against them, planned to gain control of the army by forcing the king to agree to a militia bill. When asked to surrender his command of the army, Charles exclaimed “By God, not for an hour.” Now fearing an impeachment of his Catholic queen, he prepared to take desperate action. He ordered the arrest of one member of the House of Lords and five of the Commons for treason and went with about 400 men to enforce the order himself. The accused members escaped, however, and hid in the city. After this rebuff the king left London on January 10, this time for the north of England. The Queen went to Holland in February to raise funds for her husband by pawning the crown jewels.

A lull followed, during which both Royalists and Parliamentarians enlisted troops and collected arms, although Charles had not completely given up hopes of peace. After a vain attempt to secure the arsenal at Hull, in April the king settled in York, where he ordered the courts of justice to assemble and where royalist members of both houses gradually joined him. In June the majority of the members remaining in London sent the king the Nineteen Propositions, which included demands that no ministers should be appointed without parliamentary approval, that the army should be put under parliamentary control, and that Parliament should decide about the future of the church. Charles realized that these proposals were an ultimatum; yet he returned a careful answer in which he gave recognition to the idea that his was a “mixed government” and not an autocracy. But in July both sides were urgently making ready for war. The king formally raised the royal standard at Nottingham on August 22 and sporadic fighting soon broke out all over the kingdom.

Civil War

In September 1642 the earl of Essex, in command of the Parliamentarian forces, left London for the midlands, while Charles moved his headquarters to Shrewsbury to recruit and train an army on the Welsh marches. During a drawn battle fought at Edgehill near Warwick on October 23, the king addressed his troops in these words: “Your king is both your cause, your quarrel, and your captain. The foe is in sight. The best encouragement I can give you is that, come life or death, your king will bear you company, and ever keep this field, this place, and this day’s service in his grateful remembrance.” Charles I was a brave man but no general, and he was deeply perturbed by the slaughter on the battlefield.

In 1643 the royal cause prospered, particularly in Yorkshire and the southwest. At Oxford, where Charles had moved his court and military headquarters, he dwelt pleasantly enough in Christ Church College. The Queen, having sold some of her jewels and bought a shipload of arms from Holland, landed in Yorkshire in February and joined her husband in Oxford in mid-July. Both by letters and by personal appeal she roused him to action and warned him against indecision; “delays have always ruined you,” she observed. The king seems to have assented to a scheme for a three-pronged attack on London—from the west, from Oxford, and from Yorkshire—but neither the westerners nor the Yorkshiremen were anxious to leave their own districts.

In the course of 1643 a peace party of the Parliamentarian side made some approaches to Charles in Oxford, but these failed and the Parliamentarians concluded an alliance with the Scottish covenanters. The entry of a Scottish army into England in January 1644 thrust the king’s armies upon the defensive and the plan for a converging movement on London was abandoned. Charles successfully held his inner lines at Oxford and throughout the west and southwest of England, while he dispatched his nephew, Prince Rupert, on cavalry raids elsewhere. For about a year the king’s forces had the upper hand; yet eventually he put out a number of peace feelers. These came to nothing, but he was cheered by reports that his opponents were beginning to quarrel among themselves.
 

The year 1645 proved to be one of decision. Charles may have had some foreboding of what was to come, for in the spring he sent his eldest son, Charles, into the west, whence he escaped to France and rejoined his mother, who had arrived there the previous year. On June 14 the highly disciplined and professionally led New Model Army organized and commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax with Oliver Cromwell as his second in command, defeated the king and Prince Rupert at the Battle of Naseby. This was the first of a long row of defeats the king’s forces suffered through the summer and fall. Charles returned to Oxford on November 5, and by the spring of 1646 Oxford was surrounded. Charles left the city in disguise with two companions late in April and arrived at the camp of the Scottish covenanters at Newark on May 5. But when the covenanters came to terms with the victorious English Parliament in January 1647, they left for home, handing over Charles I to parliamentary commissioners. He was held in Northamptonshire, where he lived a placid, healthy existence and, learning of the quarrels between the New Model Army and Parliament, hoped to come to a treaty with one or the other and regain his power. In June, however, a junior officer with a force of some 500 men seized the king and carried him away to the army headquarters at Newmarket.




Charles at his trial by Edward Bower, 1649. He let his beard and hair grow long because Parliament had dismissed his barber, and he refused to let anyone else near him with a razor.

 

After the army marched on London in August, the king was moved to Hampton Court, where he was reunited with two of his children, Henry and Elizabeth. He escaped on November 11, but his friends’ plans to take him to Jersey and thence to France went astray and instead Charles found himself in the Isle of Wight, where the governor was loyal to Parliament and kept him under surveillance at Carisbrooke Castle. There Charles conducted complicated negotiations with the army leaders, with the English Parliament, and with the Scots; he did not scruple to promise one thing to one side and the opposite to the other. He came to a secret understanding with the Scots on December 26, 1647, whereby the Scots offered to support the king’s restoration to power in return for his acceptance of Presbyterianism in Scotland and its establishment in England for three years. Charles then twice refused the terms offered by the English Parliament and was put under closer guard, from which he vainly tried again to escape.

In August 1648 the last of Charles’s Scottish supporters were defeated at the Battle of Preston and the second Civil War ended. The army now began to demand that the king should be put on trial for treason as “the grand author of our troubles” and the cause of bloodshed. He was removed to Hurst Castle in Hampshire at the end of 1648 and thence taken to Windsor Castle for Christmas. On January 20, 1649, he was brought before a specially constituted high court of justice in Westminster Hall.



Charles (in the dock with his back to the viewer) facing the High Court of Justice, 1649





Contemporary German print of Charles I's decapitation
 

Execution of the king

Charles I was charged with high treason and “other high crimes against the realm of England.” He at once refused to recognize the legality of the court because “a king cannot be tried by any superior jurisdiction on earth.” He therefore refused to plead but maintained that he stood for “the liberty of the people of England.” The sentence of death was read on January 27; his execution was ordered as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy. The sentence was carried out on a scaffold erected outside the banqueting hall of Whitehall on the morning of Tuesday, January 30, 1649. The king went bravely to his death, still claiming that he was “a martyr for the people.” A week later he was buried at Windsor.

Maurice Ashley

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 
Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria
 
 
 
Henrietta Maria
 

Princess Henrietta Maria of France, Queen consort of England.
This is the first portrait of Henrietta Maria painted by Antoon van Dyck in 1632.
 
Henrietta Maria, French Henriette-Marie (born Nov. 25, 1609, Paris—died Sept. 10, 1669, Château de Colombes, near Paris), French wife of King Charles I of England and mother of Kings Charles II and James II. By openly practicing Roman Catholicism at court, she alienated many of Charles’s subjects, but during the first part of the English Civil Wars she displayed courage and determination in mustering support for the king’s cause.

Henrietta Maria was the daughter of King Henry IV of France and Marie de Médicis. Throughout her childhood she was surrounded by political intrigue; her father was assassinated six months after her birth, and when she was seven her mother was banished from Paris. In 1625, at the age of 15, she was married to Charles. At first the insolence with which she was treated by Charles’s favourite, George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, severely strained her relationship with the king, but after the assassination of Buckingham (August 1628) Charles fell in love with his wife. She was a patron of drama and generally presided over a lively court.



Henriette Marie by Anthony van Dyck

 

As the Civil War approached, Henrietta Maria began to meddle in politics. She sought without success to instigate a military coup to overthrow the Parliamentarians, and her efforts to enlist support for the king from the pope, the French, and the Dutch infuriated many Englishmen. When war broke out in August 1642, she was in the Netherlands raising funds for her husband. She landed at Bridlington, Yorkshire, in February 1643 and set about reinvigorating the Royalist cause in northern England. Deterioration of the Royalist position caused her to flee to France in July 1644, and she never again saw her husband, who was executed after a trial ordered by Parliament in 1649.

In Paris she settled for a time in the Louvre and later in the Palais Royal, but she played little further part in politics. An attempt to convert her youngest son, Henry, duke of Gloucester, to Roman Catholicism alienated her from her eldest son, Prince Charles (the future Charles II). She founded a convent at Chaillot where she spent much time. After the Restoration she visited England (October 1660) and was granted a pension of £60,000 a year. She paid two further visits to England but was not comfortable there and finally returned to France in 1665.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 

Henrietta Maria (c. 1633) by Sir Anthony van Dyck
 
 

Henrietta Maria painted by Sir Peter Lely after the restoration of her son Charles II to the throne.
 
 

Charles I's five eldest children, 1637. The future Charles II is depicted at centre, stroking the dog.
 
 
 
 

Paul Delaroche. Charles I Insulted by Cromwell's Soldiers
 
 

In Cromwell and Charles I painted in 1831, Delaroche also depicts Charles I,
with Cromwell standing over his dead body
 
 

Unfinished portrait miniature of Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper
 
 
 
     
 

Oliver Cromwell
     
 
 
 
 
 

Charles I and the English Civil Wars, 1625-49

 

 
 

The face of the court was much changed in the change of the king, for King Charles was temperate, chaste and serious; so that the fools and bawds, mimics and catamites of the former court grew out of fashion, and the nobility and courtiers, who did not quite abandon their debaucheries, had yet that reverence to the king to retire into corners to practise them. Men of learning and ingenuity in all arts were in esteem and received encouragement from the king, who was a most excellent judge and a great lover of paintings, carvings, [en]gravings, and many other ingenuities, less offensive than the bawdry and profane abusive wit which was the only exercise of the other court.

Lucy Hutchinson Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson (written 1664-71; 1906 edn) p.69.


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Triple portrait of Charles I from three angles by Anthony van Dyck, 1635–36


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[The Lords and Commons] do therefore humbly pray your most excellent majesty that no man hereafter be compelled to make or yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax or such like charge without common consent by act of Parliament, and that none be ... confined or otherwise molested or disquieted concerning the same or for refusal thereof. And that no freeman in any such manner as is before mentioned be imprisoned or detained. And that your majesty would be pleased to remove the said soldiers and mariners, and that your people may not be so burdened in time to come.

Petition of Right, 1628; Stotutes of the Realm Vol.5 (1819) p.24. In view of the arbitrary actions taken by the crown in 1627, Parliament determined to clarify the law in regard to subjects' liberties. Charles refused to accept any statutory limitation on his prerogative, but Sir Edward Coke, drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of the law, proposed a Petition of Right, which would have much the same effect. Charles eventually accepted the Petition, which thereupon became law.


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They talk of an expedition of ships and infantry... to be commanded by the Duke in person ...
They will be put on thirty ships at Portsmouth forthwith ... I gather on good authority that these troops and ships are bound for La Rochelle.


Alvise Contarini , Venetian ambassador in England, to the doge and senate, 26 March 1627; Calendar of State Papers (C.S.P.) Venetian Vol.20 (1914) pp. 159-60. Relations between Britain and France deteriorated as Louis XIII and his chief minister Cardinal Richelieu attempted to curtail the rights of the Huguenots, the French Protestants, and, in particular, to subdue the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle. Charles I had promised to defend the Rochellois, and he and Buckingham were now planning an expedition to the ile de Re, which guarded the approaches to the port.


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On Saturday, being the 23rd of August [1628], the Isle of Re soldiers went to the Duke of Buckingham to kiss his hand and to take their leaves; of which one Felton (whom the duke had disappointed of two Lieutenants' places, and bid him, if he knew not how to live, to hang himself) being the last, stabbed the duke in the left pap, who, drawing out his sword for revenge and saying 'Traitor, thou hast killed me!' fell into his surgeon's arms and died. This Felton, who was before a great melancholist, had now nothing less in him than sorrow, saying that he thought it better for one man to die than that all England should go to ruin.

'A passage concerning the Duke of Buckingham's death'; R.F. Williams (ed.) Court and Times of Charles I (1848) Vol.1, pp.389-90. John Felton, who had served under Buckingham in the ile de Re expedition, had been persuaded by the remonstrance drawn up against the favourite at the end of the 1628 Parliament that 'the excessive power of the Duke of Buckingham, and the abuse of that power, are the chief cause of these evils and dangers to the king and kingdom'. It therefore became a duty, as he saw it to remove the duke from the scene.


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Ye need not make very great haste, though I would have you come before winter; my meaning being that my commands at this time should not discommode your particular affairs, yet be assured that come when you will, ye shall be welcome to your assured friend, Charles R.


Charles I to Wentworth from Berwick-upon-Tweed, 23 and 27 July 1639; W. Knowler (ed.) The Earl ofStrafford's Letters and Dispatches (1740) Vol.2, pp.372, 374. Sir Thomas Wentworth began as a critic of the king's policies in the House of Commons, but in 1631 he accepted office as lord deputy, or viceroy, of Ireland and was so effective in imposing the king's will that he became feared and hated in both Ireland and England. He was just the sort of man that Charles needed in a crisis, and the king not only summoned him back but showed his approval by creating him Earl of Strafford.


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Here are before me the things most valued, most feared by mortal men - life and death. To say, sir, there hath not been a strife in me were to make me less man than, God knoweth, my infirmities make me ... But with much sadness, I am come to a resolution of that... which is most principal in itself, which, doubtless, is the prosperity of your sacred person and the commonwealth - things infinitely before any private man's interest. And therefore ... I do most humbly beseech your majesty, for prevention of evils which may happen by your refusal, to pass this bill.

Earl of Strafford to Charles I, 4 May 1641; John Rushworth Historical Collections of Private Passages of State, 1618-48 Vol.4 (1692) p.25l. No sooner did the Long Parliament meet than Strafford was accused of treason and the two Houses passed a bill of attainder, condemning him to death. All that was now needed was the king's signature, but Charles had promised Strafford that no harm would come to him. The deadlock was broken when Strafford urged the king to put reasons of state above personal considerations. He was beheaded on Tower Hill on 12 May 1641.


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The duty which we owe to your majesty and our country cannot but make us very sensible and apprehensive that the multiplicity, sharpness and malignity of those evils under which we have now many years suffered, are fomented and cherished by a corrupt and ill-affected party who, amongst other their mischievous devices for the alteration of religion and government, have sought by many false scandals and imputations, cunningly insinuated and dispersed amongst the people, to ... get themselves a party and faction amongst your subjects for the better strengthening themselves in their wicked courses, and hindering those provisions and remedies which might, by the wisdom of your majesty and consel of your Parliament, be opposed against them. For preventing whereof, and the better information of your majesty, your peers and all other your loyal subjects, we have been necessitated to make a declaration of the state of the kingdom ... which we do humbly present to your majesty, without the least intention to lay any blemish upon your royal person, but only to represent how your royal authority and trust have been abused, to the
great prejudice and danger of your majesty and of all your good subjects.


Grand Remonstrance, presented to Charles I, I Dec. 1641; Rushworth Vol.4 (1692) p.437. The Remonstrance, with more than 200 clauses listing all the offences of commission and omission with which the royal government was charged, was largely the work of the radical John Pym. It was a massive exercise in propaganda, designed to swing public opinion, both at Westminster and in the country, behind those who felt that Charles could not be trusted and that it was essential to impose even more binding restrictions upon him.


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His majesty made this speech ... 'I must declare unto you here that albeit no king that ever was in England shall be more careful of your privileges, to maintain them to the uttermost of his power, than I shall be, yet you must know that in cases of treason no person hath a privilege ... Well, since I see all the birds are flown I do expect from you that you shall send them unto me as soon as they return hither'... When the king was looking about the House, the Speaker standing by the chair, his majesty asked him whether he saw any of them? ... To which the Speaker, falling on his knee, thus answered: '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.'


John Rushworth Vol.4 (1692) pp.477-8, reporting the attempted arrest of the five Members, 4 Jan 1642. As the political crisis deepened in 1641, Charles I became convinced that a kernel of radical members in the Commons and Lords was planning to strip him of his authority.


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Monday, being the 22nd of August [1642] ... his majesty ... rode to Nottingham, where was great preparation for the setting up of the standard that day, as was formerly appointed ... It was conducted to the field in great state, his majesty, the prince, and Prince Rupert (whom his majesty had lately made Knight of the Garter) going along with it, with ... a great company of horse and foot, in all to the number of about 2000 ... A herald-at-arms made ready to publish a proclamation declaring the ground and cause of his majesty's setting up of his standard -namely, to suppress the rebellion of the Earl of Essex in raising forces against him, to which he required the aid and assistance of all his loving subjects ... After the reading whereof, the whole multitude threw up their hats and cried 'God save the king'.


John Rushworth Vol.4 (1692) pp.783-4. Prince Rupert was Charles's nephew, the son of his sister Elizabeth and her husband, the Elector Palatine, the 'Winter King and Queen'. The Earl of Essex, son of Elizabeth I's favourite, had been appointed by Parliament to command the forces it was raising. The setting up of the royal standard was a symbolic declaration of war against the king's enemies. As it happened, the standard so proudly erected was later blown down by the wind.


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With the ascension of Charles I to the throne we come at last to the Central Period of English History (not to be confused with the Middle Ages, of course), consisting in the utterly memorable Struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive). Charles I was a Cavalier King and therefore had a small pointed beard, long flowing curls, a large, flat, flowing hat, and gay attire. The Roundheads, on the other hand, were clean-shaven and wore tall, conical hats, white ties and sombre garments. Under these circumstances a Civil War was inevitable.


W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman I 066 and All That (1930) p.63. This irreverent but perceptive analysis of the causes of the Civil War comes from the classic work described by its authors as A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates.


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Oh Lord! Thou knowest how busy I must be this day: if I forget thee, do not thou forget me.

Sir Jacob Astley, the royalist commander's prayer before the Battle of Edgehill, 23 Oct. 1643, at which he was described as being 'hurt'; Sir Philip Warwick Memoirs (1701) p.229. Astley (1609-83) was a steadfast royalist. Warwick, politician and historian, was a member of the Long Parliament and another loyal supporter, much trusted by Charles I, to whom he acted as secretary. Both sides claimed victory in this first battle of the Civil War, fought on a ridge in southern Warwickshire.


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I would rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a 'gentleman' and is nothing else.


Oliver Cromwell to Sir William Spring and Maurice Barrow, Sept. 1643; Thomas Carlyle (ed.) Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (1845; 1897 edn) Vol.1, p.167. Cromwell's willingness to employ and advance people of no matter what social rank on grounds of merit alone contributed to the ultimate success of Parliament's forces, but at the same time it made the army a hotbed of radicalism, since traditional attitudes of respect and deference were constantly called into question.


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When I saw the enemy draw up and march in gallant order towards us, and we a company of poor ignorant men, to seek how to order our battle - the General [Fairfax] having commanded me to order all the horse - I could not (riding alone about my business) but smile out to God in praises in assurance of victory, because He would, by things that are not, bring to naught things that are. Of which I had a great assurance - and God did it.


Oliver Cromwell after his victory at the Battle of Naseby, 14 June 1644; Wilbur Corke Abbott Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (1937) Vol. I, p.365.


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Truly, England and the Church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord in this great victory given unto us, such as the like never was since this war began. It had all the evidences of an absolute victory obtained by the Lord's blessing upon the godly party principally. We never charged but we routed the enemy. The left wing which I commanded, being our own horse ... beat all the prince's [i.e. Prince Rupert's] horse. God made them as stubble to our swords. We charged their regiments of foot with our horse and routed all we charged. The particulars I cannot relate now, but I believe of twenty thousand the prince hath not four thousand left. Give glory, all the glory, to God.


Oliver Cromwell to Colonel Valentine Walton, 5 July 1644; Thomas Carlyle Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (1897 edn) Vol. I, p. 188. The Battle of Marston Moor, just outside York, which Cromwell is here reporting, took place on 2 July 1644. Prince Rupert had some 18,000 men; the parliamentary forces half as many again. It was a major defeat for the king and deprived him of any further influence in northern England. The royalists lost 4,000 dead, as well as 1,500 prisoners; their opponents a mere 300.


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I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore ... I think it's clear that every man that is to live under a government ought first, by his own consent, to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.


Colonel Thomas Rainborough, speaking in the Putney Debates, 28 Oct. 1647; A.S.P. Woodhouse (ed.) Puritanism and Liberty (1986 edn) p.53. After the Battle of Naseby (June 1645) the civil war was virtually over. The New Model Army, which Parliament had brought into being, was a forcing house for radical political ideas, and the council of the army met in Putney parish church to discuss how England should be governed in future. Rainborough was the Leveller spokesman. (The Levellers were committed to religious freedom and a much greater degree of equality, based on the rights of man.) Such radicalism found little favour with the majority of the officers, who shared the more conservative views of Cromwell.

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I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.


Charles I, last words from the scaffold, 30 Jan. 1649; C.V. Wedgwood The Trial of Charles I (1964) p. 152.


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He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe's edge did try;
Nor called the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right,
But bowed his comely head
Down as upon a bed.


Andrew Marvell 'An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland' (1650). Charles I was executed on a scaffold built outside Inigo Jones's Banqueting House in Whitehall on 30 Jan. 1649. Throughout the trial, and again on the scaffold, Charles behaved with great dignity, as even his opponents acknowledged.

 
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
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