EUROPE Wars & Plays 1588-1648 has been published as a book .
For ordering information, please click here.
Charles Stuart was born on November 19, 1600 at Dumfermline Castle in Scotland. He came to England in July 1604 and lived with Robert Carey and his wife Elizabeth. From the age of six he was tutored by the Presbyterian Thomas Murray. He was made Duke of York and a knight in 1605, and after his brother Henry’s death he became Prince of Wales in 1612. The next year Charles was given his own home. He wanted to go with his father James to Scotland in 1617, but permission was not granted. By 1620 the Earl of Buckingham had become his best friend as well as the King’s favorite; both men called him “Baby Charles.” In 1621 Charles attended 63 of the 89 sessions of the House of Lords and worked on several committees, but his wounded honor and sense of prerogative were blamed for provoking a confrontation that ruined that parliament. He had started attending the Privy Council in 1620 and was sworn in as a councilor in March 1622. Charles did not have the patience, adaptability, and love of peace of his father. Charles studied the Basilicon Doron that James had written for his sons and was especially influenced by the advice to obey his conscience. James emphasized that the duty of a king is to serve the public good, not one’s private interests. The book also advised him to banish the arrogance of the Puritans. The princely court of Charles established in 1613 was at first dominated by his Calvinist chaplains George Hakewill and Richard Milborne. Charles became enthusiastic for the Protestant war policy related to his sister Elizabeth’s marriage but at first was unhappy about marrying the Spanish Infanta.
In January 1622 Murray was replaced as the secretary to Charles by Francis Cottington who favored Spain, and in 1623 King James insisted that two anti-Calvinists, Matthew Wren and Leonard Maw, accompany his son Charles and Buckingham to Spain. James had found a middle way between the Catholics and Calvinists that he wanted his son to follow. Neo-Stoicism that emphasized detachment had also become a popular moral philosophy that shaped Charles through the writings of Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson.
During his last year King James suffered from deteriorating health, and the Duke of Buckingham controlled the bedchamber and access to the King. The Duke and Prince Charles organized a coalition against Spain and prepared for war. James made his last important speech at the opening of the Parliament of 1624, and Charles was credited with making this session a success. James asked for six subsidies, but Charles and Buckingham persuaded the Commons to grant three subsidies and three fifteenths.
Charles I became King of England, Scotland and Ireland upon the death of his father on March 27, 1625. James had put the German general Ernst von Mansfeld in command of an English army of 12,000 men; but desertions limited those who sailed from Dover in January 1625, and they had only 3,000 English soldiers left to relieve Breda. When the Dutch surrendered the city to the Spaniards on June 5 (May 26 on the English older Julian calendar), only about 600 English had survived. Charles suspended the recusancy laws on May 1 so that he could marry the French Princess Henriette Marie on June 13. The funeral of James had cost £30,000 and the wedding £40,000. The Queen arrived with 1,000 attendants, and her expenses would be £37,000 a year. Charles restored credit with the city of London by mortgaging land for £216,000 and got a loan of £60,000. The coming war against Spain was estimated to be more than £1,000,000.
In 1624 Richard Montagu had criticized Calvinist predestination in A New Gag for an Old Goose, accepting the theory of Arminius that humans have free will and can attain salvation by good works. He noted that predestination had never been part of the Church of England’s 39 Articles, and he called it a doctrine of the Puritans. Montagu attacked Calvinists again in Appello Caesarem in 1625. Parliament condemned Montagu, but the King read it and appointed him his chaplain.
A plague had broken out in London in May, and the 1625 Parliament met from June 18 to August 12. Robert Phelips noted that no war had been declared, and the Commons offered only two subsidies worth £140,000 and limited collection of some customs duties to only one year. In August they moved to Oxford, but the epidemic spread there also. Members criticized the Duke of Buckingham, and on August 4 King Charles reminded them of their “mutual engagements.” Buckingham worked out a compromise on a grant for £40,000 in exchange for concessions on religion and the war. Charles promised to enforce the recusancy laws; but they could not agree on the Parliament’s grievances, and he dissolved the Parliament. The King banished Jesuits and seminary priests and ordered recusants disarmed. England had promised Denmark’s King Kristian, uncle of Charles, £30,000 a month for the war in Germany, and the alliance with the Dutch was renewed. An English fleet of nearly a hundred ships sailed with 5,400 seamen and 10,000 soldiers, and they were led by Edward Cecil and were joined by twenty ships from Holland in October. They attacked Cadiz and lost 7,000 men killed and captured in the first week of November, and they sailed for home.
Meanwhile England’s prospective alliance with France against Spain was threatened by the French conflict with the Huguenots at La Rochelle, and on December 12 the Privy Council approved an English fleet to relieve the Protestant port. However, King Louis XIII made peace with the Huguenots in February 1626. That month Buckingham became chancellor of Cambridge University.
The English Parliament opened on February 8, 1626, and the Commons proposed three subsidies and three fifteenths worth £300,000 if their grievances could be redressed. The Cornishman John Eliot demanded an investigation of the Cadiz debacle, the confusion with France, and advised the impeachment of his former friend Buckingham. King Charles and his new Lord Keeper Thomas Coventry spoke to both houses at Whitehall on March 29. Charles demanded they grant the needed supply and drop their attack on Buckingham. On May 2 the Commons debated whether to charge Buckingham before the King or the House of Lords. The King sent Eliot and Dudley Digges to the Tower until Parliament dissolved and ordered the trial of Buckingham in his prerogative court, the Star Chamber which acquitted him. Then on June 9 Charles gave the Commons an ultimatum. The Earl of Bristol as ambassador to Spain had persisted in trying to arrange the royal marriage, and now he was accusing Buckingham of poisoning King James. On June 15 Charles ordered Coventry to dissolve the Parliament to prevent the impeachment of Buckingham, and that day the peers drew up a Petition of Right. The Parliament was prorogued on June 26. That summer Charles expelled French attendants from his wife’s residence, and he met with the Huguenot leader Soubise and promised to send 6,000 veterans to support threatened La Rochelle. However, the Habsburg imperial forces defeated the Danes at Lutter in September, and the Council diverted the English forces to Denmark.
In October 1626 the English government began collecting a loan at the rate of the £300,000 Parliament had offered, and until the end of 1627 it was enforced by imprisoning those refusing to pay. The levy brought in £243,000; but more than a hundred gentry were detained, and five knights had been denied the right of habeas corpus. The Commons believed the King had no right to tax without their consent. Judges found it illegal too, and Chief Justice Carew was dismissed because of the ruling. In November judges declared the enforced loan illegal. Charles even had the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, arrested for refusing to license a sermon by Robert Sibthorpe. The French captured the English wine fleet at Bordeaux, and Louis XIII repudiated the settlement on Henrietta Maria’s household. In June 1627 Buckingham sailed with 6,000 soldiers to challenge Richelieu’s blockade of La Rochelle. They besieged the St. Martin fort that summer but withdrew in late October after losing 4,000 men. At the end of 1627 London loaned the King £120,000 after extensive crown estates were transferred to the city.
In 1628 William Harvey published On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals in Latin, though he had been lecturing on his theory of blood circulation to the College of Physicians since 1616. He was physician to King Charles from 1632 to 1646.
Charles summoned another Parliament and spoke at the opening on March 13, 1628. He wanted money, but Edward Coke, Eliot, and Thomas Wentworth offered the Petition of Right demanding that the King not levy taxes without consent of Parliament, not imprison subjects without due cause, not force people to make loans, not billet soldiers in homes, and not apply martial law to civilians. On April 4 they granted five subsidies worth £300,000 but would not pass it until their demands were addressed. Charles insisted on his prerogative to arrest without showing cause.
In late April a fleet led by the Earl of Denbigh sailed for La Rochelle, but they failed again and returned in May. Charles demanded money to send them back, and he drafted answers to their petition. When Charles rejected a compromise on June 2, the Commons created a Remonstrance condemning Buckingham. On the 7th the King accepted the Petition of Right as valid law, and Parliament passed the subsidies on June 16. The session continued ten more days, and Charles explained that he did not grant new privileges but only confirmed the old ones. He prorogued the Parliament until October 20. The Petition had not mentioned impositions or tonnage and poundage; so the King levied customs duties, and merchants who did not pay were imprisoned. Denbigh had returned from La Rochelle in April. Buckingham organized another expedition, but in Portsmouth on August 23 Navy Lieutenant John Felton stabbed him to death. The fleet sailed in September; but the Huguenots at La Rochelle surrendered to Richelieu on October 18 (28 in France), and England made a peace treaty with France at Susa in April 1629.
Charles turned to his wife Henrietta Maria; they became constant companions and conceived their first of seven children. Their son Charles was born on May 29, 1630. The new Lord Treasurer, Richard Weston, became the chief minister. Charles took a more active role in governing and presided over his Council continuously. Parliament was postponed to January 1629. Bishop Laud criticized the Puritans. The Commons adjourned for a week on February 25, but on March 2 John Eliot led a demonstration as Speaker John Finch was forcibly stopped from reading the order of adjournment. In the next two hours the King’s messengers were kept out as they passed three resolutions making capital enemies of anyone who advised collecting or willingly paying tonnage and poundage, or introducing innovations of Popery or Arminians. Eliot and eight other members were imprisoned in the Tower on March 4. Eliot was treated severely and died there on November 27, 1632.
During the era of personal rule by Charles from 1629 to 1640 he refused to summon a Parliament, imposed heavy taxes, and avoided wars. England signed a peace treaty at Madrid with Spain on November 5, 1630. Rising grain prices and unemployment in cloth manufacturing led to plagues and food riots. On January 5, 1631 most Privy Councilors were made commissioners to implement the laws on relief of the poor, and the Books of Orders were sent to sheriffs, justices of the peace (JPs), and municipal officers.
In 1628 Charles had named Montagu bishop of Chichester and William Laud, another Arminian, bishop of London. Laud was influential and rose to be Archbishop of Canterbury in August 1633, and in October the Book of Sports was republished to challenge Puritan restrictions on the Sabbath. Those afraid of change to the status quo felt threatened by Arminians. Ecclesiastical courts began deciding issues of tithes ownership, probate of wills, alimony payments, adultery, prostitution, incest, drunkenness, swearing, ribaldry, and usury. The Catholic Cottington was restored to favor and admitted to the Privy Council in November 1628 and was made Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 1629. In May a crowd of 300 looted grain from ships at the port of Maldon in Essex, and Ann Carter and three men were hanged on the 30th. That month King Charles said that anyone who spoke to him about a parliament would be his enemy, and in 1631 he proclaimed that he would never call the Parliament again.
The Star Chamber was used to try and punish serious political offenders. In June 1630 the Scottish physician Alexander Leighton was prosecuted for having published An Appeal to the Parliament in which he called the episcopacy “satanical.” He was pilloried in snowy weather, whipped, and had his ears cut off, his nose slit, and his face branded. The lawyer William Prynne was also mutilated in 1634 for having published his Histrio-mastix in 1632 that criticized plays, court masques, dances, lewd pictures, cosmetics, and long hair. Prynne published the pamphlet News from Ipswich to expose the troubles in East Anglia and was punished again with physician John Bastwick and cleric Henry Burton for publishing libelous and schismatic books. They were mutilated and imprisoned for life.
Recusancy fines brought in £26,866 in 1634. In October levying ship money was introduced, and in the first five years 90% of assessments were collected, yielding £218,500 in 1635. Royal revenues averaged £600,000 a year in the five years ending in 1635. That year customs revenues were £358,000, and by then the annual deficit had been reduced to £18,000. The forest law expanded the Rockingham Forest tenfold, and William Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, was fined £20,000. Revenue from wardships reached £61,900 by 1637, angering rich families. By 1639 the crown revenue was nearly £900,000. During the summers of 1635, 1636, and 1637 English fleets patrolled the Belgian coast to intimidate Dutch fishermen. France’s Queen Mother Marie de Medici arrived in England in October 1638 to take refuge with her daughter, Queen Henrietta Maria, who reported that her upkeep cost King Charles £800,000 until he stopped her pension in January 1641.
Charles disregarded the advice of Laud and Wentworth and extended the ship tax to the entire country, and in August 1637 the Puritan John Hampden, who lived in an inland county, refused to pay 20s. Seven of twelve judges found him guilty. Yet because of this case many more people refused to pay the tax. The Leveller leader John Lilburne and John Wharton were condemned in 1638 for importing seditious books and were imprisoned. On April 18 Lilburne was flogged at Fleet Prison and pilloried at Westminster. In prison he wrote The Work of the Beast and urged withdrawing from the Anglican Church in Come out of her, my people. He and most of these prisoners were released in 1640 by the Long Parliament. About 20,000 English emigrated to New England between 1628 and 1640, and many more went to Ireland, Europe, the Caribbean, or to Chesapeake Bay.
A French theater company scandalized London by putting women on the stage at Drury Lane, but after throwing rotten apples, audiences accepted them. Many children in London suffered from rickets, and a plague in 1636 took 10,000 lives and 3,000 the next year.
In the fall of 1626 Ireland’s Lord Deputy Henry Cary, Viscount Falkland, asked for an army of 5,000 infantry and 500 cavalry, and in return he offered concessions of “grace and bounty” such as suspending recusancy fines, abolishing the religious test for inheriting property, office appointments, legal practice, and securing Irish land tenure. King Charles asked to see a delegation from Ireland, and in January 1628 eight Old English Catholics and three Protestant settlers expressed their demands. Charles promised to uphold ownership rights and stop confiscation and plantation. Protestant opposition led to a compromise in May that offered 51 graces for three annual subsidies of £40,000, but Falkland failed to get the approval of the King and his Council in London, and the elections scheduled for September were canceled. On April 1, 1629 Falkland ordered Catholic houses dissolved, but he was removed on August 10. King Charles sent to Ireland the Justices Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, and Viscount Adam Loftus temporarily. They ordered the Protestant Archbishop and Mayor of Dublin to have soldiers raid a Franciscan chapel on December 26, 1629, but the congregation prevented the arrest of the friar holding mass. Authorities then closed ten Catholic chapels in Dublin. James Ussher was Archbishop of Armagh and primate for Ireland, and he sent letters to Bishop Laud of London describing the miserable conditions of the churches and the bad behavior of ministers in the Irish Church.
In July 1631 Charles decided to appoint as Lord Deputy Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford and President of the North Council, , but he did not arrive in Ireland until July 1633. On March 8 Charles fined the city of London £50,000 and took over its plantation in Ulster, blaming them for neglecting the settlers. The Irish peerage had been expanded from 25 to 99 members by 1634 when eight new boroughs were added to the Irish Parliament. Protestants held 142 seats; but the native Irish were very under-represented with only 18 having Irish names and only 8 from native Irish areas. At its first session on July 14, 1634 the Parliament approved six subsidies, doubling Irish revenues to about £80,000 a year and creating an annual surplus of about £20,000. They also legislated against bigamy, abduction, sodomy, blasphemy, and usury. England wanted to impose its 141 canons, and in a compromise the Irish Church accepted 100, including the use of the English Book of Common Prayer.
Prosperity in Ireland was increasing, and by 1641 population would reach 1,500,000. England had been subsidizing Ireland, but in 1638 the Irish treasury sent £10,441 to England. The policies of Wentworth offended the interests of the New English settlers. Wentworth himself owned 57,000 acres in Ireland and built a mansion and a hunting-lodge that took his property spending up to £60,000. By 1640 his investment in customs farming brought him £35,250, but his attempt to monopolize tobacco sales did not make a profit. In February 1635 the court of the Star Chamber fined the city of London £70,000 and forced them to surrender their patent to Londonderry. By 1637 the Catholics no longer trusted the government, and the commission on defective land titles affected the plantations of the Protestants as well as older property. In 1638 Scots in northern Ireland learned of the revolutionary changes in Scotland. In the summer of 1639 Wentworth imposed the “Black” Oath of Abjuration because of the Covenanting movement in Scotland.
King Charles I began his distant reign over Scotland by appointing Archbishop Spottiswoode as President of the Exchequer and by adding four more prelates to the Privy Council in Scotland. In October the Council claimed for the King all the property alienated since the accession of his grandmother Mary in 1542. In 1626 he removed all the Lords of the Session. Charles wanted to provide ample livings for the clergy, and by 1629 a commission had allowed those owning land and tithes to secure payments for themselves. Charles visited Scotland and was crowned on June 18, 1633. Bishop Laud came with him and introduced the English service to the Royal Chapel, the Kirk of St. Giles, and made Edinburgh an episcopal see. Scottish Parliament met and accepted 168 acts on one day including the ecclesiastical changes, taxation, and the Act of Revocation which cancelled all grants of crown property since 1540. The King had the names of those opposing recorded, and he rejected a supplication by nobles. Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury on August 8, and the English service was also imposed on Holyrood and St. Andrews. The English Prayer Book was ordered used in certain places, and in 1634 he ordered the Scots to use the English book as a basis for their liturgy. The Scottish Parliament had granted Charles taxes for four years in 1625 and in 1630, and for six years in 1633 which amounted to regular annual taxation.
In 1634 Charles appointed a new Court of High Commission for Scotland with extended power. In 1635 Spottiswoode became Chancellor and authorized a new liturgy and the Book of Canons that made the King head of the Church. The Lord Advocate Thomas Hope of Craighall prosecuted John Elphinstone Balmerino for treason for more than a year before he was barely convicted and pardoned. John Stewart of Traquair presided over the court. In 1636 a rumor spread in Scotland that Charles wanted the Church to have a third of the nation’s wealth. The new Book of Canons was published in 1637. On July 23 the new Scottish Prayer Book was used in the St. Giles cathedral, but women and perhaps apprentices dressed as women shouted it down. Charles ordered petitioners to leave Edinburgh, and a riot on October 17 was aimed at Treasurer Traquair, the Bishop of Galloway, and the local magistrates. The petitioners dispersed on November 15 as cold weather approached; but people in the provinces began electing commissioners with two of the gentry, one minister, one burgher, and six nobles. Charles continued to ignore supplications, and in December these nobles, lairds, burghers, and ministers elected four “Tables” to draft a joint supplication demanding the liturgy be withdrawn and bishops be removed from the Privy Council. The petition on December 17 opposed the service-book and one on the 21st was against the bishops. Charles refused and warned them he could punish them for treason. Spottiswoode and most of his brothers fled from Scotland.
The minister Alexander Henderson and the lawyer Archibald Johnston in response drafted the National Covenant that included the Negative Confession which showed how the changes conflicted with acts of Parliament. They pledged mutual defense of their religion and promised to disobey the King’s innovations until their free assemblies and parliaments decided. The Covenant included an oath to defend and preserve the religion, liberties, and laws of their kingdom, and on February 28, 1638 nobles and gentlemen in Edinburgh signed this, followed by ministers and burghs the next day. People began signing it on March 2, and eventually representatives of all shires signed except Aberdeen, St. Andrews, and Catholics in the Highlands. The Covenanters demanded a free Assembly and a free Parliament in Scotland, and in September 1638 King Charles directed his new commissioner James Hamilton to promise these and suspension of the Prayer Book and canons while inviting people to subscribe to the anti-papacy Negative Confession of 1581 which they called the “King’s Covenant.”
The General Assembly met at Glasgow in November 1638. Commissioner Hamilton tried to dissolve it, but they went on without him to abolish episcopacy and condemn the Five Articles, the Book of Canons, and the liturgy. They affirmed the right of lay elders to attend, and bishops and clergy opposing their Covenant were deposed or excommunicated. The Lord Advocate Hope even declared the Covenant legal. Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll, supported the effort. Charles mobilized 21,000 soldiers at Berwick while Scottish nobles organized local regiments. Ladies even helped with fortifications at Leith and other places. Alexander Leslie had defended Stralsund, and the Parliament appointed him general on May 9. Alexander Hamilton of Redhouse, who invented a mobile gun, took charge of the artillery. Other veterans returned from Sweden to fight.
Charles left London on March 27 with an army of 20,000 and headed north for the border, and the English army reached Berwick by the end of May. The Scottish Parliament met again on June 2 without a royal commissioner and elected their own president. They voted for supplies and appointed a Committee of the three Estates that cooperated with the Commission of the General Assembly. Some Covenanters did not want to fight the King and negotiated concessions that he promised in the Pacification of Berwick on June 18, 1639. Both armies withdrew, but neither side fulfilled the agreement. Charles did not remain to attend the Assembly or the Scottish Parliament of 1639. On August 12 Traquair opened the Assembly that confirmed the actions of the Glasgow Assembly. The Covenanters who met as a Parliament on August 31 were 50 nobles, 47 gentry, and 52 burgesses, and they turned the Assembly’s resolutions into law. Traquair refused to give royal assent to these and prorogued the Parliament until June 1640. The Privy Council made the Covenant obligatory.
Scotland had an outburst of persecuting people for witchcraft 1628-30, and in the revolutionary General Assembly crusaded against immorality and passed acts against witches in 1640, 1644, 1645, and 1649.
The Lord Deputy in Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, was recalled to England in September 1639 and advised King Charles I to summon a Parliament. In January 1640 Charles made him Earl of Strafford. Charles also appointed him a lieutenant general and sent him to Ireland to raise and finance 9,000 soldiers. The Irish Parliament that met in March 1640 had one-third less Catholics than it had in 1634. On March 26 they obediently granted four subsidies worth £180,000 for the King. A Convocation of Clergy offered £120,000 while bishops were sitting in the House of Lords. Soldiers were trained at Carrickfergus. On November 7 John Clotworthy, who had been in the Irish Parliament for six years, spoke to the English House of Commons criticizing the government’s policies under Wentworth in Ireland. That month the Irish Parliament sent a delegation to England to ask for a redress of grievances, but the English governor Christopher Wandesford, who had succeeded Wentworth (Strafford), forbade them to leave Ireland, disallowed the subsidy order, and prorogued the Parliament. John Pym managed to convey the petition of remonstrance to the Commons on November 19.
After Wandesford’s death on December 3 power was divided in Ireland between two former justices, William Parsons and John Borlase, because Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, the next Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, stayed in England until he resigned in 1643. In January 1641 the Irish Parliament met and provided information against Strafford including the tobacco monopoly. Ulick Burke, Earl of Clanricard, and Francis Cottington persuaded Charles on April 3 to stop intended plantations in Ireland, transmit bills incorporating graces, and correct defective land titles.
Charles convened a Parliament in England that opened on April 13, 1640 with a speech on behalf of the King by the new Lord Keeper John Finch. The members complained about the “Eleven Years’ Tyranny” of royal rule without them, and John Pym spoke for two hours urging them to seek redress of grievances. The King asked the Commons for £840,000; but they refused to supply his army. Charles spoke to the House of Lords on April 24, and they declined to violate the privilege of the Commons to initiate expenditures. So he dissolved the Short Parliament on May 5. The city of London and foreign nations also declined to loan Charles money. The number of pamphlets and broadsides printed increased from an average of 459 a year in the 1630s to 848 in 1640, 2,042 in 1641, and 4,008 in 1642.
In Scotland the Presbyterian Church was revived and led by Argyll. The estates met on June 2, 1640, elected a president, and declared themselves the Parliament. Without the clerical estate they ratified the acts of the General Assembly which made the Covenant obligatory. They also agreed to meet at least once every three years, and they voted for supplies. They ignored the “Articles” and appointed a committee of the three estates which cooperated with the Commission of the General Assembly. Eighteen nobles led by Montrose signed the Cumbernauld Bond in August pledging to promote the Covenant against Argyll and others using it for private gain. On August 20, 1640 General Alexander Leslie led the Scottish army across the Tweed. King Charles was at York, and Edward Conway commanded the English army of 15,000 men camped at Newcastle. While the Scots were crossing the Tyne at Newburn, Conway attacked them on the 28th with a much smaller force of 5,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. The Scots also had more artillery, and the English fled. The Scots took over the coal trade at Newcastle and occupied Northumberland and Durham. Charles had an army of 16,000 men at York; but it was costing £40,000 a month, and by September his Exchequer had only £1,037 left. He summoned another Scottish Parliament, and on October 16 he agreed at Ripon to advance the Scots £850 a day to pay their occupying army if they would go no farther.
Meanwhile Pym had drawn up the Twelve Peers’ Petition against popery and grievances that was presented to King Charles in early September. He met with his Council of Peers at York on the 24th and summoned the Parliament. The Long Parliament in England began on November 3, 1640, and Charles asked for help in driving out the Scottish rebels. Strafford (Wentworth) had an army of 9,000 men in Ireland, and he returned to London on the 9th to take his seat in the House of Lords. Two days later the Commons accused him of plotting to bring the Irish army over to make England obey the King, and he was arrested. Covenanter commissioners arrived from Scotland in November to negotiate for their eight demands. Progress was made until the mediator James Hamilton urged bringing Scots into the government. On January 23, 1641 Charles made a conciliatory speech to both houses, and on February 16 he approved the Triennial Act which required Parliament to meet for at least fifty days once every three years. Eight days later the Scottish commissioners declared their intention to abolish the episcopacy in England and to see Strafford punished. On March 3 the Commons charged Hamilton. The Scottish Committee of Estates convicted Montrose of plotting against Argyll and imprisoned him on June 11 in Edinburgh Castle.
Strafford defended himself in the trial by the House of Lords. The Commons resolved that anyone moving the army without approval by the King and the Parliament was an enemy of the state. On April 10 the Commons passed a bill of attainder that condemned Strafford for treason. On May 3 a rumor spread that the King’s northern army was marching toward London to free Strafford and dissolve the Parliament, and that day on the King’s orders Captain Billingsley with a hundred soldiers tried to rescue Strafford from the Tower; but the House of Lords sent the Master of Ordinance, Earl of Newport, to defend the Tower, and a delegation persuaded Charles to back down. On May 10 Charles signed a bill keeping the Parliament from being dissolved without its consent. On the same day he approved Strafford’s death warrant, and he was executed two days later before a crowd of 200,000 people. Archbishop Laud was arrested and would be put to death in 1645. Other government ministers were also executed or fled the country.
A majority in the Commons wanted to abolish English bishoprics, and Oliver Cromwell proposed banning the Book of Common Prayer. On June 8 the Lords rejected the bill to exclude the bishops. Both houses passed Ten Propositions as a basis for negotiation, but Charles would not consider them. However, on June 22 he approved a bill for customs duties which conceded his earlier impositions but ended his right to collect duties without the consent of Parliament, and on July 5 he accepted the Commons’ abolition of the Star Chamber and the courts of High Commission and the Councils in Wales and the North. Taxes lacking Parliamentary approval were declared illegal. A treaty with Scotland resulted in the disbanding of both armies in the north, but a poll tax the Commons levied to pay for this was unpopular. On August 4 the Commons sent the impeachment of thirteen bishops to the Lords.
Charles went to Scotland in August 1641 to appeal for support and stayed for three months. Balmerino, whom he had condemned for treason in 1633, was allowed to preside over the session of the Parliament. Charles approved the Covenanters and ratified the acts of the Scottish Parliament. He appointed Argyll chief commissioner and made Alexander Leslie the Earl of Leven. Charles released Montrose from prison, but an attempt to abduct Argyll ruined his hope of gaining support from the Scottish army.
The Commons suggested religious reforms on September 8, and on October 21 Parliament assigned a hundred men to guard Westminster. News of the Irish rebellion arrived on November 1, and the Commons approved £50,000 and 8,000 troops to aid the Protestants. They passed a Grand Remonstrance with 204 clauses on November 22 by a vote of 159-148; but they voted not to print it because many Londoners believed the demands were not radical enough. They also petitioned the King to remove the bishops from Parliament, and on December 1 both were submitted to Charles, who had returned to cheering crowds on November 25. However, on December 21 city elections in London replaced the ruling oligarchy with a faction supporting Parliament.
The Commons impeached thirteen bishops, and Charles was afraid they would charge Queen Henrietta Maria. She had met with the papal nuncio Count Rossetti and promised that the King would allow Catholics more freedom and would punish Puritans in exchange for a subsidy of £150,000. The Commons began treason proceedings against George Digby and John Digby, Earl of Bristol. On December 28 the Privy Council informed the King that the annual deficit was £285,000. Crowds protested bishops and kept them from attending the House of Lords. An attempt was made to dissolve Parliament because it was under duress; but the Lords voted that Parliament was free. The Commons feared dissolution, and the Lords agreed to send ten bishops to the Tower. On December 30 a rumor spread that the Commons was going to impeach the Queen for supporting the Irish rebellion.
On January 1, 1642 Charles appointed John Culpepper chancellor of the exchequer and Viscount Falkland secretary of state. He had Attorney General Herbert charge Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, Arthur Hesilrige, and William Strode with treason for subverting the laws, and On January 4 Charles took 400 swordsmen to arrest them; but they were warned and hid in London. The next day the Commons adjourned to Guildhall, and military control of London was given to Parliament. Charles and his family fled to Hampton Court on January 11. The next day the Commons returned to Westminster with the five who were cheered.
Also in January thousands of signatures on petitions persuaded the Lords to approve a bill on February 5 excluding the bishops from the House of Lords and clergy from secular offices. The Militia Ordinance was issued without the King’s signature on March 5. King Charles and about forty attendants went to Kent, and on February 23 Henrietta Maria departed for The Hague. In York the King ordered the Lord Keeper to dissolve the law-courts. The Parliament also approved the raising of £400,000 from the counties and prepared to defend the state by appointing lieutenants in the counties. On April 22 Charles with 300 cavalry tried to get munitions from Hull, but the gates were shut to keep them out. On June 1 both houses approved Nineteen Propositions to revise the English constitution by giving the Parliament control over the government, and the King ordered Culpepper and Falkland to answer them by warning against a “tyranny of the people.” Loyalists pledged to maintain 2,000 cavalry for the King, and Edward Herbert, Lord of Raglan, contributed £100,000. On July 9 the Commons authorized a force of 10,000 volunteers under the command of Arthur Capel, Earl of Essex. Two days later the Parliament declared that the King had started the war. On the 13th Charles was greeted by cheering crowds in Lincoln.
Charles with his family and followers moved to Nottingham, but he had only 800 horsemen and 300 infantry. Many advised him to grant Parliament favorable terms, but he declined. On September 6 Parliament declared that the cost of raising their army should be paid by delinquents, but this persuaded many who were neutral to defend themselves. Parliament already had the London militia. By the end of September the King had 2,000 cavalry and 6,000 infantry. The navy had been built up by ship money, but they sided with the Parliament. Charles marched into Wales to recruit. In some places people agreed to disband their troops to prevent war.
Catholics gained a majority in the Irish Parliament in early 1641. Rory O’More met with Lord Conor Maguire in Dublin in February and suggested an uprising by the Irish. On May 21 Strafford’s Catholic army was ordered disbanded. King Charles in July ordered James Butler, Duke of Ormond, to recruit more soldiers. On October 5 Catholic leaders in Ulster planned an uprising to seize Dublin Castle on October 23; but the Protestant convert Owen O’Connolly betrayed the plot, and Hugh Oge MacMahon and Conor Maguire were arrested. Yet Phelim O’Neill and his followers managed to seize several forts in the north in the name of the King, forging from a Royal Commission and then publishing the proclamation recognizing his authority at Dungannon on October 24 and again at Newry on November 4.
The English administration in Dublin sent Protestant settlers to suppress the rebellion, and 1,100 English soldiers arrived in December. The uprising against the Protestant government spread to every county during the winter as English settlers were turned out of their homes and took refuge in towns or suffered hardship. Thousands of Protestants died, many from infectious diseases. About 4,000 may have been killed as some 8,000 died from privations because of disease, hunger and cold, though exaggerations were reported. The Irish Parliament met in November, and even attending Catholics condemned the rebels. The King appointed Ormond commander of the army on November 10. Insurgents moved south from Ulster and captured Dundalk on October 31 and Ardee a few days later. On November 29 rebels defeated a force from Dublin when they relieved Drogheda at Julianstown and captured many weapons.
In February 1642 the English Parliament sent 3,000 soldiers to Dublin, and they passed the Adventurers Act on March 19 which authorized £1,000,000 to be financed by the confiscation of property from Irish Catholics who supported the rebels. Owen Roe O’Neill landed in Donegal in July and with other officers from an Irish regiment in the Spanish army began training soldiers. They raised troops in the name of the King and fought for Catholic rights. On March 17 nobles signed a Catholic Remonstrance at Trim in County Meath, and five days later Catholic bishops at Kells declared the uprising a just war. By the end of March forces from Dublin expelled the Old Irish from the Pale. At Kilrish in County Kildare on April 15 James Butler, Earl of Ormond, led a smaller Irish Royalist force but defeated the Irish Catholics commanded by Richard Butler, Viscount Mountgarrett. On that day 2,500 Scots led by General Robert Monro landed at Carrickfergus. Catholic priests held a synod at Kilkenny on May 10 and swore allegiance to King Charles. On June 22 the Irish Parliament expelled 41 Catholic members. By summer the rebellion had spread throughout Ireland. The English Parliament sent a force led by Lord Forbes that reached Kinsale in July; but they could not take Galway and left for England on September 26.
On August 29 the assembly at Clones recognized Owen Roe O’Neill as general of the Ulster army. Thomas Preston arrived from Flanders and commanded the Leinster army, and Garret Barry, another veteran from the Spanish army, led the Irish in Munster. Lord Mountgarrett presided over an executive council of twelve until an assembly of the confederate Catholics began meeting on October 24 in Kilkenny.
The Parliament had raised an army of 5,000 horseman and 25,000 foot soldiers. In the first battle of the English Civil War fought on October 23, 1642 at Edgehill in Warwickshire each side had about 15,000 men. The Parliamentary army was led by the 3rd Earl of Essex, and the King’s nephew Prince Rupert commanded the Royalists. Both sides suffered heavy losses, and the Royalists established their capital at Oxford. Their 6,000 Cavaliers attacked London; but 24,000 men including soldiers from Essex’s army turned them away at Turnham Green on November 13, and the Royalists returned to Oxford for the winter. At first fighting was local, and most volunteers declined to leave their regions. On December 1 Royalists led by Newcastle took York, and five days later they forced the Parliamentarians led by Thomas Fairfax to retreat to Selby. The Parliamentarians organized the Eastern Association for Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire on December 20, 1642. On December 13 volunteers in Warwickshire and Staffordshire were organized under Robert Greville, Baron Brooke.
Parliament in December agreed to peace negotiations which began at Oxford on February 1, 1643, but they failed and ended on April 14. Queen Henrietta Maria had returned to England in February with arms and money which she took to the army at York led by William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Newcastle. On April 13 Essex’s army besieged Reading which surrendered on the 26th. In May many in his army were sick or deserted, and Royalists took over Devonshire. Edmund Waller had remained in the House of Commons and tried to work for the King, but on May 31 he and his brother-in-law Nathaniel Tomkins were arrested. Waller recanted, was sent to the Tower, paid a fine of £10,000, and was banished, but Tomkins and another man were executed on July 5.
On June 30 the Earl of Newcastle’s army greatly outnumbered and routed Fairfax’s forces at Adwalton Moor, killing 500 men and taking 1,400 prisoners. Essex’s army took Gainsborough in Lincolnshire in July and moved south into East Anglia. Ralph Hopton moved through Cornwall and Devonshire to Somerset where he joined Royalists led by the Marquis of Hertford and Prince Maurice. On July 13 these combined forces defeated those fighting for the Parliament led by William Waller near Devizes in Wiltshire. This gave the Royalists most of southwest England which was completed when Prince Rupert’s army stormed Bristol on July 26. Afterward his troops ravaged the countryside. On August 8 and 9 thousands of women demanding peace surrounded the Parliament. Charles had his army besiege Gloucester on August 10, but Essex’s army of 15,000 men forced them to withdraw on September 8. Both sides suffered heavy casualties at Newbury on the 20th, but no one won. By the end of 1643 the Royalists held about three-quarters of England.
Denzil Holles led those who wanted to make peace with King Charles, and he advocated only a defensive war which Essex supervised in the Thames Valley. Those for war until their demands were met were led by Henry Vane, Henry Marten, and Arthur Hazelrige. The moderates were led by John Pym, and after his death in December by Oliver St. John. They were willing to fight until a constitutional settlement could be reached. The Parliament financed their war by passing financial ordinances in 1643, implementing weekly assessments in February, sequestrations in March, forced loans in May, and excise taxes in July. Parliament imposed the Sacred Vow and Covenant on June 9. Three days later they established the Westminster Assembly with two divines from each county, four from London, and two for the universities at Oxford and Cambridge, and the Commons approved fourteen added by the Lords. They debated only issues selected by the Parliament, but they agreed to reform the Church of England to make it nearer the Church of Scotland and other reformed churches in Europe. The Scottish General Assembly sent five commissioners and three elders. However, the English retained control, and the Scots called that “a lame Erastian presbytery.”
On August 10, 1643 Parliament authorized Edward Montague, Earl of Manchester, to impress 20,000 men for the Eastern Association. In Scotland a Convention was held in July and the General Assembly in August when they agreed with the English commissioners and signed the Solemn League and Covenant. The English Parliament removed the religious provision on September 7 and ratified it on the 25th. In November they agreed that Scotland would send 21,000 troops in exchange for £30,000 a month. England accepted, but the House of Lords did not approve the Scottish alliance until February 16, 1644.
In January 1643 King Charles ordered Ormond and others to listen to the grievances of the Irish Catholics, and Ormond and the commissioners invited up to thirty of them to a meeting in Drogheda in February, and they met again at Trim on March 17; but they could not agree. On April 23 the King ordered Ormond to seek a one-year truce. Owen Roe O’Neill had trained and equipped about 5,000 soldiers in Connacht, but he was outnumbered and defeated at Clones on June 13. In August the English summoned only Protestants to the Irish Parliament, and on September 15 Ormond and the King’s representatives agreed to a Cessation Treaty with the Irish rebels. The first Confederate General Assembly in Ireland met at Kilkenny on October 24 with 25 lords and 226 commoners, and on November 14 they elected 24 men to the Supreme Council which authorized the raising of £30,000 and the recruiting and training of 31,700 men in Leinster. They supported the Irish Catholic Church, freedom of religion, Catholic officials in government, restitution of land confiscated because of religion, and an Irish Parliament independent of England. On November 23 the King appointed Ormond Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
In mid-January 1644 Alexander Leslie led the Scottish army of 18,000 infantry, and his brother David Leslie commanded the 3,000 cavalry that crossed the border and joined Fairfax’s forces. On January 22 the Oxford Parliament was assembled by King Charles with 44 peers and 137 commoners. Three Scottish commissioners went to London, and in February a committee of both kingdoms was organized. On March 29 Waller’s army of 10,000 men near Cheriton defeated the 6,000 Royalists led by Hopton and Patrick Ruthven, Earl of Forth. Rupert’s army relieved Newcastle’s forces, and on July 2 at Marston Moor about 25,000 Parliamentarians defeated 17,000 Royalists who had 4,000 killed and 1,500 captured to only 300 Roundheads killed. Newcastle and other officers gave up and departed to the European continent. Rupert held together 6,000 men but had to let York surrender. Parliament paid foot soldiers 8d a day, dragoons 1s 6d per day, and cavalry 2s each day. In the summer of 1644 a tenth of the Eastern Association army deserted. Many died of diseases, especially typhus.
In February 1644 the King appointed James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, general of his forces in Scotland, but his invasion with a thousand men in April failed. Reinforced by a thousand Irishmen and Islesmen led by Alasdair MacDonald, Montrose came back and defeated the Roundheads (Parliament forces) at Tippermuir on September 1, occupied Perth, sacked Aberdeen, and then fled into the hills. The Scots wanted to spread Presbyterianism, but the Parliamentarians resisted that. Scottish general Lawrence Crawford accused Oliver Cromwell of purging Presbyterians from his regiments in the Eastern Association.
The Irish Confederates sent delegates to meet with King Charles at Oxford on March 24, 1644 and the Protestants came on April 17. That month the Parliament appointed Robert Monro commander of the English forces in Ulster, and he seized Belfast on May 14. The Scots army in Ulster had stopped supporting the King and became a Covenanter force for Parliament. On June 24 Charles urged Ormond to be more lenient with the penal laws and to summon a new parliament. Murrough O’Brien, Earl of Inchiquin, had governed Munster, but on July 17 he declared for Parliament. After negotiations at Dublin in September the truce was extended to December 1.
Essex advanced westward into Cornwall but was defeated by Royalists led by Prince Maurice and Hopton near Lostwithiel on September 2, 1644. As Cromwell became more militant in his religion, Manchester became less eager and was reluctant to fight in the second battle at Newbury on October 27. He feared the King would remain even if they won; but if they lost, they would be hanged. Differences between Rupert and Digby weakened the Royalist command. Montrose with his Highlanders captured Newcastle for the Royalists in October and made his winter headquarters there.
The Royalists taxed regions they controlled with Oxfordshire’s contribution ten times that of others. Villages and towns also had the cost of quartering soldiers who often pillaged to make up for lack of pay. In November the Long Parliament proposed 27 articles that were discussed by both sides at Uxbridge from January 29, 1645 to February 22; but the King’s counter-offer to give Parliament some control over the militia but only for three years was rejected.
Montrose’s army defeated Scottish Covenanters led by Duncan Campbell at Inverlochy in February 1645 as his adversary Argyll fled in a galley. Montrose took Dundee in April, defeated Hurry at Auldearn in May and Baillie at Alford by the Don in July.
In January 1645 the Long Parliament replaced the Scottish Book of Prayer with the Directory of Worship. In February they established the New Model Army under Captain-General Thomas Fairfax and passed a new Self-Denying Ordinance requiring all members of Parliament serving in the armed forces to resign their seat or their military commission. Cromwell gave up his commission; but Fairfax needed him, and in June he was appointed Lt. General of the Horse. In March money from Royalist fines was paid to the soldiers, and the Parliament’s army, unlike the Royalists, paid for its quarters. On May 31 the King’s army led by Rupert sacked and plundered Leicester, killing about a hundred people and taking away 140 carts loaded with spoils to Newark.
The climactic battle of the Civil War was fought at Naseby in Northamptonshire on June 14. Fairfax and Cromwell had an army nearly double the forces led by King Charles and Prince Rupert. The Royalist cavalry fled and were pursued nearly to Leicester. The Parliamentarians suffered only 200 deaths while killing 1,000 and taking 5,000 prisoners. The New Model Army led by Fairfax also defeated the Royalists led by George Goring at Langport on July 10. The Parliamentarians besieged the Royalists at Bridgewater on July 16, and it capitulated a week later giving up 1,400 prisoners, 2,000 horses, and 4,000 arms. That month the Leveller Lilburne criticized members of Parliament for living in luxury during the war, and he was put in prison until October and wrote England’s Birthright Justified.
Fairfax’s army besieged Bristol on August 23, 1645 and took it by storm on September 10. Rupert surrendered with terms and was dismissed by Charles who sent Prince Charles of Wales to France. Montrose’s Royalist army of Irish and Scottish Highlanders defeated a much larger force of Covenanters at Kilsyth on August 15, but David Leslie’s army defeated these Royalists at Philiphaugh on September 13. Cromwell’s forces marched south and took Devizes on September 23 and Winchester five days later. Charles retreated to Oxford. About 10,000 Scots were killed during the civil war in 1644 and 1645.
In March 1645 the Irish Confederates captured Duncannon. Charles sent Edward Somerset, who was called Lord Herbert of Raglan but was promoted to Earl of Glamorgan by Charles, to negotiate with the Irish Confederation, offering religious concessions to the Catholics if they would provide an army for the King. Glamorgan made a secret treaty at Kilkenny with the Catholic Confederates on August 25; but the Irish Protestants and Ormond could not accept these concessions, and King Charles repudiated them. The papal nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini arrived at Kilkenny on November 12. He opposed Glamorgan’s treaty as not going far enough, and he said he would excommunicate anyone who respected the truce. Ormond had Glamorgan arrested in late December. Lord Mountgarrett demanded his release, and the earls of Kildare and Clanricard provided the £40,000 bail on January 22, 1646.
In 1645 the most extensive witch hunt in English history was perpetrated in East Anglia. On July 17 at Essex assizes 36 people were tried for witchcraft; nineteen were executed; nine died in prison; six were still in jail in 1648; and only one was acquitted. In Norfolk forty trials resulted in twenty executions, and trials also took place in Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, and in other towns. Scholars estimate that all together about 250 were tried, and more than a hundred were put to death.
In March 1646 the Parliament directed every county to set up a Presbyterian organization which gave the Parliament the supreme authority in the Church, but Cromwell spoke for the army in opposing such an intolerant system. The Independents who wanted more religious freedom had supported the war while most of the peace party led by Denzil Holles were Presbyterians. The middle group led by Oliver St. John and William Fiennes (Lord Saye) worked for parliamentary control over the militia and governmental appointments and supported the Independents to avoid selling out to the King. Charles fled from Oxford in a disguise on April 27 and surrendered himself to the Scottish camp outside Newark on May 2 and was taken to Newcastle on the 13th. Argyll came to an agreement with Covenanter leaders in June, but Charles refused to accept the Covenant. Montrose tried to recruit more Highlanders; but Charles in June ordered him to disband his army at Blairgowrie, and he sailed away to Norway.
Parliamentary forces took over Oxford on June 24. Captured correspondence between the King and Digby showed that Charles had been negotiating with the Irish and foreign powers, and an angry Parliament in July sent propositions to the King at Newcastle demanding that he give up control of the army for twenty years. In September the Parliament abolished the episcopacy and authorized the sale of the bishops’ lands. That summer army mutinies had erupted in 22 counties, and unpaid soldiers plundered. After five years of war the Parliamentary soldiers were owed £2,800,000, and even the New Model army had £601,000 in pay arrears. About 62,000 people had been killed in the war, and typhus, dysentery, and plague probably took another 100,000 lives or more.
On March 28, 1646 Ormond made peace with the Irish Confederates at Dublin, pardoning everything that occurred since the revolt began. O’Neill defeated the Scots at Benburb on June 5, and on July 14 the Confederates seized Bunratty. The peace treaty was published in Dublin on July 30 and at Kilkenny on August 3. The Catholic synod rejected the treaty three days later. Rinuccini came back to Kilkenny on September 13 and had the councilors who agreed to the peace imprisoned. The Irish Assembly met on January 10, 1647 and rejected the peace treaty on February 2. O’Neill’s Irish defeated the English and Scots at Benburb in June. Preston’s Irish captured the outpost at Carlow on June 2. Five days later a Parliamentary army of 2,000 men led by Col. Michael Jones arrived in Ireland, and his forces defeated Preston’s on August 8 at Dungan’s Hill. Parliamentary commissioners and Ormond signed a peace treaty on June 19, and Ormond left for England on July 28. Conor O’Mahony had published a Disputatio apologetica at Lisbon in 1645 that criticized how the English treated the Irish and urged a revolt. Copies of this book were burned at Kilkenny in the fall of 1647. Inchiquin’s forces devastated the army of Munster at Knocknanuss on November 13, but he signed the truce on May 20, 1648. Those supporting the truce were excommunicated on May 29, and two days later the supreme council appealed to Rome.
In January 1647 the Scots were paid £400,000 for handing over the King and withdrawing to Scotland. In February the Scottish army left England, and Charles was escorted to Holdenby House in Northamptonshire. On February 18 the Commons ordered the army reduced to 5,400 horses and 1,000 dragons, and on March 8 they decided that only Presbyterians were to be officers. In April they rejected a petition from the army and appointed the unpopular Scottish generals Philip Skippon and Edward Massey to lead the army to Ireland, and London militia was purged of Independents.
In May the Parliament considered proposals from Charles, and on the 20th the Lords invited him to his palace at Oatlands near London. They also voted to pay some of the army’s arrears. By then the infantry’s wages were behind by four months, and the cavalry had not been paid for almost a year. Mutinies broke out in eight regiments which elected agitators as spokesmen. Between June 2 and 5 New Model Army officers led by Cornet Joyce moved King Charles to Hampton Court under army control. On June 5 the New Model Army’s Solemn Engagement pledged they would not disband until their grievances were addressed. On June 14 Ireton, Cromwell, and John Lambert announced in A Declaration or Representation of the Army that the army had a political program to guarantee liberty of conscience. They demanded that Holles and ten other MPs be impeached, but the members hid in London. Cromwell, who alone had been allowed to keep his seat while remaining in the army, restrained the agitators on the Army Council. On June 23 Parliament declined to discuss constitutional issues, and that day the army’s Humble Remonstrance came out. On July 6 the army submitted articles of impeachment against eleven members of Parliament.
On July 21, 1647 crowds gathered in London to support the Solemn Engagement which pledged to restore the King based on his May proposals. On the 26th during widespread rioting apprentices and Presbyterians entered the House of Commons, held down the Speaker, and demanded the return of the eleven members who came back as Independent leaders fled. The Speaker and 57 members and 8 peers took refuge with the army, and Fairfax’s soldiers took over Westminster on August 6 and occupied London in the next two days. The Independents regained their seats on the London militia committee, and the Commons repealed all the votes compelled by the rioters from July 26 to August 6. The government now presented to Charles the Heads of the Proposals which allowed bishops as long as they had neither coercive power nor a compulsory liturgy. Parliament would control the militia and the appointment of major offices for ten years, and parliamentary elections would be held every other year.
The Levellers emerged as a movement calling for power to be spread more widely by letting more people vote. William Walwyn had published England’s Lamentable Slavery in October 1645, and in July 1646 he and Richard Overton published A Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens. That month John Lilburne called the Earl of Manchester a traitor and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Efforts to free him led to the organization of the Levellers who wanted freeborn rights. On October 12 Overton launched An Arrow against all Tyrants and tyranny, shot from the Prison of New-gate into the Prerogative Bowels of the Arbitrary House of Lords and all other Usurpers and Tyrants Whatsoever, and in that he wrote,
For by natural birth all men are equally
and alike born to like propriety, liberty, and freedom,
and as we are delivered of God by the hand of propriety
(as it were in the table of every man’s heart,
never to be obliterated) even so are we to live,
every one equally and alike
to enjoy his birth-right and privilege.1
Lilburne London’s Liberty in Chains was printed in November, one of more than eighty pamphlets, broadsheets, and petitions that he wrote. Starting in 1646 Puritan preacher Thomas Edwards published Gangraena in three parts with more than 800 pages cataloging reports of religious heresies and excesses. More than twenty responses were published, and Walwyn, who urged religious toleration in a series of pamphlets, was a prominent critic. The Leveller Large Petition in March 1647 complained that the nation was oppressed by Parliament and Presbyterian clergy; laws and the penal system had not been reformed; tithes and monopolies still persisted; and thousands of people suffered poverty. The Commons had the petition burned. On March 26 An Apology of the Soldiers protested that Lilburne and Overton were still in prison.
On October 27, 1647 Robert Everard delivered to the General Council An Agreement of the People which was probably written by Walwyn or John Wildman, calling for a written constitution with signatures from the freeborn men of England that would reserve power to the people and prohibit military conscription, legislation on religion, or any violation of equality before the law. The Levellers persuaded the Army Council to sponsor a series of debates starting on October 28 at Putney Church. Cromwell’s son-in-law Henry Ireton, who had written the Heads of the Proposals, spoke for the army against the radical Levellers, warning that to give power to people without property would result in the abolition of private property. Col. Thomas Rainsborough defended the rights of the poor; but on October 29 while trying to abduct him, four Royalists assassinated him, and thousands of Levellers demonstrated at his funeral. In their Agreement the Levellers had demanded extending suffrage that was limited to men with property to all men, but they did not consider women.
On November 15 a mutiny in two regiments inspired by Levellers had soldiers wearing copies of the Agreement of the People on their hats with the words “England’s Freedoms, Soldiers’ Rights” written on them. Cromwell ripped the papers from their hats and then led a wedge of officers with swords who brutally crushed the demonstration. On the 25th a Leveller petition led to five Levellers being imprisoned that day.
Worried Charles had escaped on November 11 and fled to Carisbooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. He wanted the Scots to negotiate with Parliament without preconditions, but Cromwell said he was not to be trusted. On December 15 the Levellers presented Foundation of Freedom, or an Agreement of the People to reform the basic laws of the land. They wanted full religious liberty, impressment prohibited, and amnesty for those who fought in the civil wars. Parliament should not meddle in the execution of the laws nor would they be allowed to take away common rights. On the 26th three Scottish commissioners signed the Engagement with Charles and pledged to support a treaty to restore his authority or else invade England. On January 3, 1648 both houses rejected negotiation by passing the resolution “No Further Addresses to the King,” and anyone negotiating without permission could be tried for treason. Levellers began publishing The Moderate newspaper.
In Scotland their new Parliament convened on March 2, 1648. Covenanters were outnumbered by Engagers who elected Hamilton their leader. On April 11 he overcame Argyll’s allies, and they passed an ultimatum to the English demanding they establish Presbyterianism, disband their army, and let Charles return to London. The next week the Scots ordered the mobilization of 30,000 soldiers.
About 4,000 Royalists led by Charles Lucas and George Lisle gathered at Colchester in Essex, and they were besieged by Fairfax’s army on June 12. The town ran out of provisions in August, and the Royalists surrendered on the 28th. About 800 people had died during the siege. Lucas and Lisle had been paroled previously on the promise they would not fight again, and after being convicted of having executed Parliamentary prisoners they were killed by a firing squad. Colchester had to pay a fine of £14,000 to prevent pillaging of the town.
Neutralists, who did not want to be controlled by the King or by Parliament, incited Clubmen revolts in the spring, demanding the army be disbanded, taxes be reduced, and the rule of law return. In southeast England and Wales the Royalists rose up and sent petitions asking that the King be restored. However, Fairfax’s army put down Kent while Cromwell subdued Wales before heading toward Scotland. On July 8 a Scottish army led by Hamilton invaded England to Lancashire; but Cromwell’s army near Preston on August 17-19 killed 2,000 and captured 9,000 as others retreated across the border. On August 25 Hamilton surrendered at Uttoxeter, and Cromwell entered Scotland. After the defeat 6,000 Westland Covenanters took control at Edinburgh with Whiggamore’s Raid. Argyll and the Protesters then formed an alliance with Cromwell who arrived on October 4. The Scottish estates met on January 4, 1649, repudiated the Engagement with Charles, and renewed the Solemn League and Covenant. On the 23rd they passed the Act of Classes which prevented their political enemies from holding office for life or 10 years, 5 years, or 1 year with the approval of the clergy.
Parliament reversed itself and in September sent commissioners to Newport to negotiate with Charles who would only agree to Presbyterianism for three years. The Council of Officers approved a Remonstrance on November 18 calling for capital punishment of the “principal author” of the wars, but the Commons rejected the Remonstrance on December 1 by a vote of 125-58. The Presbyterians and the middle party accepted the King’s proposal, and on the 5th Parliament resolved by a vote of 129-83 to proceed toward a settlement.
On December 6 Col. Pride and Lord Grey of Groby at the door with a list of names had some 40 members arrested; about 70 were turned away, and about 260 withdrew, leaving a remnant or “rump” of about a hundred men in the Commons. These men wanted neither an Anglican nor a Presbyterian church established by the government. The Council of Officers appointed a committee on December 15 that charged King Charles with crimes on the 24th, and the Commons did so four days later. By a vote of 26-20 they created a high court with 135 commissioners including 29 army officers and the lawyer John Bradshaw presiding in Westminster Hall for the trial of King Charles which began on January 20, 1649. They accused him of being “a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and a public and implacable enemy to the commonwealth of England,” and they held him responsible for overthrowing the rights and liberties of the people. Charles calmly declined to enter a plea because he did not recognize the jurisdiction of the court. They found him guilty on January 26 and sentenced him to be executed by beheading, though only 59 of the judges signed the death warrant. On January 30 the Commons passed a bill making it illegal to proclaim a new king. In the afternoon after making a short statement in which he denied the right of the people to have a share in the government, Charles was executed. When the axe removed his head, the crowd was reported as being silent or groaning.
Thomas Browne was born in London on October 19, 1605. His father was a silk merchant but died in 1613. Thomas went to Winchester College in 1616 and entered Oxford University in 1623, earning a bachelor of arts in 1626 and a master of arts in 1629. He studied medicine at Montpellier, Padua, and Leyden. In 1633 he returned to England to serve his medical apprenticeship in Yorkshire until 1637 when Oxford accepted him as an M.D. Browne settled in Norwich and lived there until his death on his 77th birthday. He married in 1641 and had twelve children, but eight died before him. In addition to Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, he knew French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Danish.
Browne wrote Religio Medici in the 1630s and circulated a few copies. After two unauthorized editions were published in 1642, he published his correct edition in 1643. Alexander Ross criticized it in his Medicus Medicatus in 1645, the year Religio Medici was placed on the Pope’s Index of Prohibited Books. Browne published his long Pseudodoxia Epidemica in 1646 and revised it extensively five times by 1672. This book aimed to correct many popular errors. Browne considered William Harvey’s publishing in 1628 how blood circulates in the body more significant than the discovery by Columbus. His Hydriotaphia and The Garden of Cypress were published together in 1658. The former is a meditation on death and the latter is a geometric understanding of life. He wrote Christian Morals in the 1670s, but it was not published until 1712 and again in 1756 with Samuel Johnson’s short “Life of Browne.”
In Religio Medici Thomas Browne gave his views on religion. Though he realized many might consider him an atheist, he accepted Reformed Christianity that “our savior taught, the apostles disseminated, the fathers authorized, and the martyrs confirmed, but he noted that it had been impaired by “the sinister ends of princes, the ambition and avarice of prelates, and the fatal corruption of times.”2 He refused to take the rules of religion from Rome or Geneva, and he criticized and satirized many of the oddities of religion. He thought that people argued too much over religion and wrote, “A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender; ’tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace, than to hazard her on a battle.”3 Browne believed that humans owed a debt to God for reason which separates us from the beasts. God’s art created Nature, and art is the perfection of Nature. He noted that reason rebels against faith, and passion rebels against reason. Browne believed that God created spirits that included angels and devils and that these spirits could influence humans. Therefore he accepted the existence of witchcraft and magic. He suggested that we owe many discoveries of secrets to good and bad angels. He perceived great differences between things that exist, the life of plants and animals, and a greater distance between them and humans. Following this pattern he supposes the difference may be even wider between man and angels. Virtue is its own reward, but he found it a “cold principle” that cannot maintain its changing resolutions. He argued,
Those who do confine the church of God,
either to particular nations, churches, or families,
have made it far narrower than our savior ever meant it.4
In the second part of Religio Medici Browne discussed the virtue of charity. He found that compassion can make the misery of others our own, and by relieving them one relieves oneself also. He refused to condemn others for an error and did not think that a difference of opinion should divide affection or charity. He was especially offended by people who condemn whole nations such as when Paul condemned Cretans as liars because he misunderstood one of their poets. He noticed that self-love was a common complaint in his time, though he realized the need to be charitable to ourselves. He personally put God, his country, and his friends above himself but not parents, wives, or children. He did not recognize solitude because every person being a microcosm is never alone. Only God can be alone. Browne described how he acted charitably.
I have a private method which others observe not;
I take the opportunity of my self to do good;
I borrow occasions of charity from mine own necessities,
and supply the wants of others,
when I am in most need my self:
for it is an honest stratagem to take advantage of our selves,
and so to husband the acts of virtue, that,
where they are defective in one circumstance,
they may repay their want
and multiply their goodness in another….
He is rich, who hath enough to be charitable;
and it is hard to be so poor, that a noble mind
may not find a way to this piece of goodness.
He that giveth to the poor,
lendeth to the Lord. (Proverbs 19.17).
He loved his noble friends for their virtue, which is invisible.
John Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608. His father of the same name had been disinherited by his Catholic father Richard Milton for reading an English Bible, and he became a Protestant and a scrivener. His son John began reading the Bible at an early age. He was tutored in Latin and by 1620 was attending a fine grammar school at St. Paul’s that had been founded by the humanist John Colet. There he may have heard sermons by John Donne. Boys were required to speak only in Latin. Milton read much Latin literature and began learning Greek. When he was 15, he published his poetic paraphrases of Psalm 114 and 136. In 1625 Milton went to Christ’s College at Cambridge University. Though disappointed by his education there, he earned his bachelor of arts in 1629 and his master of arts in 1632. He spent the next six years studying the classics in his father’s home. He wrote the pastoral masque Comus which was performed in 1634 for John Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater. A fellow collegian Edward King drowned in a shipwreck in 1637, and Milton wrote for a memorial collection the pastoral elegy Lycidas, showing his allegiance to the Puritans. After his mother’s death in 1638 Milton visited Florence, Rome, and Naples, seeing Galileo while he was under house arrest.
As Britain moved toward civil war in late May 1641, Milton wrote and published anonymously Of Reformation Touching Church-Discipline in England, the first of five pamphlets critical of bishops and church government. He asked why the conscience of members of the English Church should not be trusted to elect their pastors, and he argued that the laity should have the right to exercise all church functions. He advocated removing bishops from the public body. This was soon followed by his Of Prelatical Episcopacy that emphasized the truth in the Gospels. Then he used satire against his foes in Animadversions upon the Remonstrants Defence in July. He opposed the episcopal hierarchy, use of The Book of Common Prayer, and rituals.
Milton wrote The Reason of Church-Government as a long letter to a friend and published it in January or February 1642 using his own name and suggesting ecclesiastical reforms similar to the Presbyterian model. In this book he complained that their liberties and the Parliament were controlled by the arbitrary power of the King, and he criticized bishops for being lordly in their outward form, ceremonious in doctrine, and tyrannical in jurisdiction. Instead he argued that the state should provide justice and be separate from the Church which is for worshipping God. He also explained his own views on poetry. In April he published his Apology against a Pamphlet in which he praised Parliament, and he acknowledged that he and his adversaries were reformers.
Milton married 16-year-old Mary Powell in June 1642, but a month later she returned to her family and did not come back for two years. On August 1, 1643 he published anonymously without license or registration about 1,200 copies of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce: Restored to the God of Both Sexes from the bondage of Canon Law and other mistakes to Christian freedom guided by the Rule of Charity. They sold out within six months, and the second edition was published with his name by February 2, 1644. After getting some responses he published two more tracts on divorce. He also translated from Latin a work by the German reformer Martin Bucer on divorce which he registered on July 15.
On August 13 the Puritan Herbert Palmer preached in both houses of Parliament against Milton’s views on divorce, and the Commons began a formal inquiry. Milton wanted to remove divorce from the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical and state courts and leave it to the husband. He suggested that incompatibility was a better reason for divorce than the physical reasons of adultery, impotence, frigidity, consanguinity, or desertion, and he never tried to get a divorce himself on the grounds of desertion. On March 4, 1645 he published Tetrachordon and Colasterion to answer critics of his views on divorce. In the former he accepted the Biblical views of male superiority but argued that a wife who is wiser than her husband should govern by natural law.
By the summer of 1645 Mary and John Milton were reconciled, and they had three daughters before she died in childbirth in 1652. Her Powell family was ruined by the war in 1646, and Milton welcomed the family of ten to live with them.
By 1640 Milton had begun teaching his nephews John and Edward Philips, and after his wife left in 1643 he taught full-time and took in more students. By October 1645 he had moved into a larger house which became a school until he moved to a smaller house by August 1647. Samuel Hartlib was the chief disciple of the great educator Comenius, and Milton’s essay “Of Education” was written as a letter to Hartlib and registered on June 4, 1644. Discontent with current education, Milton offered his ideas for a better education with more extensive comprehension in less time. The goal of learning is to know God, love God, and be like God. He advised learning the languages of the wisest people, though he thought one year was enough for Latin and Greek. Essential activities were studies, exercise, and diet. Students should learn early to love virtue and true work in order to be brave and worthy patriots. He did not mention educating girls and recommended manly and liberal exercises to learn diligence and courage. Studies included arithmetic, geometry, religion by scripture, agriculture, natural philosophy (science), astronomy, geography, architecture, engineering, anatomy, and medicine. To learn decision-making in ethics he suggested reading Plato, Xenophon, Cicero, Plutarch, Laertius (who wrote Lives of the Philosophers), David, Solomon, the evangelists, and the apostles. He added Greek, Latin, and Italian plays and the great lawgivers Moses, Lycurgus, Solon, and Justinian as well as English common laws. On Sundays they should read theology and church history. They should study poetry and learn how to write well. He suggested an hour and a half of exercise in the afternoon followed by music.
The 1637 Star Chamber decree requiring all printed books and pamphlets to be registered and licensed expired when the Star Chamber was abolished in 1641; but on June 14, 1643 the Parliament enacted a law ordering registration and licenses. In response Milton wrote Areopagitica, a speech for the liberty of unlicenced printing to the Parliament of England and published it on November 23, 1644. The title refers to the Areopagitus by Isocrates written in 355 BC.
Milton began by quoting a speech by Theseus in Athens from The Suppliants by Euripides in which he said that true liberty is speaking freely to advise the public, and he asked what could be more just in a state than that? Milton argued that when complaints are freely heard and deeply considered, they can be speedily reformed to increase the civil liberty that the wise value. Requiring prior approval before writing can be published discourages learning, stops the truth, and blunts the ability to know by limiting new discoveries. Milton reviewed the history of censorship and noted that as the reformation approached, writing was obstructed. The apostle Paul was advised that he was capable of judging correctly whatever he read, and he wrote to Titus, “To the pure all things are pure.” John Selden (1584-1654) wrote on natural law and argued that all opinions and even errors that are known and collated serve and assist the speedy understanding of what is true.
To know what is good one must also understand what is evil. Purification comes by trial of what is contrary. All religious controversies could be banned. Can the state confer on anyone infallibility? The wise make better use of a pamphlet than fools do of sacred scripture. Books, which some believe are temptations or vanities, to others are useful medicines. Milton asserted that no nation which valued books ever used licensing. What other things will be licensed to prevent corruption? If sins were expelled, virtues could not exist. God commands us to be temperate and just but allows many tempting desires.
Milton argued that the Parliament would also repeal and proscribe books already printed and foreign books, and this would require many scholars. Most books are partly useful and partly pernicious. Officials would have to make expurgations, and they would have to be very skilled and would make mistakes. The printing of revisions would be hampered. Milton noted that during the Inquisition books in Italy diminished, and he visited the prisoner Galileo. The waters of truth flow perpetually, but censorship would create “a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.” Trouble comes from those who divide the unity by excluding pieces needed for the body of truth. Milton concluded,
A little generous prudence, a little forbearance of one another,
and some grain of charity might win all these diligences to join
and unite in one general and brotherly search after truth,
could we but forego this prelatical tradition
of crowding free consciences and Christian liberties
into canons and precepts of men.5
In 1645 Milton published his Poems, and he did not publish any more prose works until February 1649. In the summer of 1648 he sent a sonnet to the commander-in-chief of the army which included the lines,
For what can war, but endless war still breed,
Till truth & right from violence be freed,
And public faith cleared from the shameful brand
Of public fraud. In vain doth valour bleed
While avarice & rapine share the land.6
1. Quoted in The Levellers by Joseph Frank, p. 96.
2. Religio Medici Thomas Browne, First Part, paragraph 2.
3. Ibid., 1:6.
4. Ibid., 1:55.
5. Areopagitica and Of Education with Autobiographical Passages from Other Prose Works by John Milton ed. George H. Sabine, p. 45.
6. Quoted in The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography by Barbara K. Lewalski, p. 215.