History of the English Civil War



After for eleven years governing without a parliament, with Archbishop Laud and the earl of Strafford as his advisers, King Charles was constrained in 1640 to summon an English parliament, which, however, instead of at once complying with his demands, commenced by drawing up a list of grievances. Mr. Pym, a man of good reputation, but better known afterwards, led the remonstrances, observing that 'by the long intermission of parliaments many unwarrantable things had been practised, notwithstanding the great virtue of his majesty.' Disputes took place between the lords and commons, the latter claiming that the right of supply belonged solely to them.

The king speedily dissolved parliament and, the Scots having invaded England, proceeded to raise an army to resist them. The Scots entered Newcastle, and the earl of Strafford, weak after a sickness, was defeated and retreated to Durham. The king, with his army weakened and the treasury depleted, was in great straits. He was again constrained to call a parliament, which met on November 3, 1640.

It had a sad and melancholic aspect. The king himself did not ride with his accustomed equipage to Westminster, but went privately in his barge to the parliament stairs. The king being informed that Sir Thomas Gardiner, not having been returned a member, could not be chosen to be Speaker, his majesty appointed Mr. Lenthall, a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. In this parliament, also, Mr. Pym began the recital of grievances, and other members followed with invectives against the earl of Strafford, accusing him of high and imperious and tyrannical actions and of abusing his power and credit with the king.

After many hours of bitter inveighing it was moved that the earl might be forthwith impeached of high treason, which was no sooner mentioned than it found a universal approbation and consent from the whole house. With very little debate, the peers, in their turn, when the impeachment was sent up to them, resolved that he should be committed to the custody of the gentleman usher of the black rod; and next, by an accusation of high treason against him also, the archbishop of Canterbury was removed from the king's council.

The trial of the earl in Westminster Hall began on March 22, 1641, and lasted eighteen days. Both houses passed a bill of attainder. The king resolved never to give his consent to this measure, but a rabble of many thousands of people besieged Whitehall, crying out: 'Justice, justice! We will have justice!'

The privy council being called together, pressed the king to pass the bill of attainder, saying there was no other way to preserve himself and his posterity than by so doing; and therefore he ought to be more tender of the safety of the kingdom than of any one person howsoever. No one councillor interposed his opinion to support his master's magnanimity and innocence.

Thus in the end was extorted from the king a commission for some lords to sign the bill This was as valid as if he had signed it himself, though they comforted him even with that circumstance, 'that his own hand was not in it.'

The earl was beheaded on May 12 on Tower Hill. Together with that of attainder of this nobleman, another bill was passed by the king of almost as fatal consequence to him and the kingdom as that was to the earl, 'the act for perpetual parliament.' Thus parliament could not be adjourned, prorogued, or dissolved without its consent.

[King and prelates]

GREAT offence was given to the commons by the action of the king in appointing new bishops to certain vacant sees at the very time when they were debating an act for taking away bishops' votes.

Unfortunately, the king sent to the House of Lords a remonstrance from the bishops against their constrained absence from the legislature. This led to violent scenes in the House of Commons, which might have been beneficial to him had he not been misadvised by Lord Digby. At this time many of his own council were adverse to him.

Injudiciously, the king caused Lord Kimbolton and five members of the commons to be accused of high treason, advised thereto by Lord Digby. The king's attorney, Herbert, delivered to parliament a paper, whereby, besides Lord Kimbolton, Denzil Hollis, Sir Arthur Haslerig, Mr. Pym, Mr. Hampden and Mr. Strode stood accused of conspiring against the king and parliament.

The sergeant-at-arms demanded the persons of the accused members to be delivered to him in his majesty's name, but the commons refused to comply with this demand as inconsistent with their privileges and dignity, sending a message to the king that the members should be forth-coming as soon as a legal charge should be preferred against them.

The next day the king, attended by his own guard and a few gentlemen, went into the house to the great amazement of all; and the Speaker leaving the chair, the king went into it. Asking the Speaker whether the accused members were in the house, and he making no answer, the king said he perceived that the birds had flown, but expected that they should be sent to him as soon as they returned, and assured them on the word of a king that no force was intended, but that he would proceed against them in a fair and legal way.

Both houses of parliament speedily manifested sympathy with the accused persons, and a committee of citizens was formed in the city for their defence. The proceedings of the king and his advisers were declared to be a high breach of the privileges of parliament. Such was the temper of the populace that the king thought it convenient to remove from London, and went with the queen to Hampton Court. The next day the members were brought in triumph to parliament by the trained bands of London.

[The King's signal of War]

AFTER many disagreements with parliament the king, in 1642, published a declaration that had been long ready, in which he recapitulated all the insolent and rebellious actions which parliament had committed against him; and declared them 'to be guilty'; and forbade all his subjects to yield any obedience to them; and at the same time published his proclamation by which he 'required all men who could bear arms to repair to him at Nottingham by August 25, on which day he would set up his royal standard there, which all good subjects were obliged to attend.'

According to the proclamation, on August 25 the standard was erected about six in the evening of a very stormy day. But there was not yet a single regiment levied and brought there, so that the trained bands drawn thither by the sheriff were all the strength the king had for his person, and the guard of the standard. There appeared no conflux of men in obedience to the proclamation. The arms and ammunition had not yet come from York, and a general sadness covered the whole town, and the king himself appeared more melancholy than he used to be. The standard itself was blown down the same night it had been set up.

Intelligence was received the next day that the rebel army-for such the king had declared it-was, horse, foot and cannon, at Northampton, whereas his few cannon and ammunition were still at York. It was evident that all the strength he had to depend upon was his horse, which were under the command of Prince Rupert at Leicester, not more than 800 in number, whilst the enemy had, within less than twenty miles of that place, double the number of horse excellently well armed and appointed, and a body of 5,000 foot well trained and disciplined.

Very speedily intelligence came that Ports-mouth was besieged by land and sea by the parliamentary forces, and soon came word that it was lost to the king through the neglect of Colonel Goring. The king removed to Derby, and then to Shrewsbury. Prince Rupert was successful in a skirmish at Worcester.

Banbury Castle surrendered to Charles, and, marching to Oxford, he there experienced a favourable reception and recruited his army. At the battle of Edgehill neither side gained the advantage, though altogether about 5,000 men fell on the field.

On June 13, 1645, the king heard that General Fairfax was advanced to Northampton with a strong army, much superior to the numbers he had formerly been advised of. The battle began at ten the next morning on a high ground about Naseby. The first charge was given by Prince Rupert, with his usual vigour, so that he bore down all before him, and was soon master of six pieces of cannon. But though the king's troops prevailed in the charge, they never rallied again in order, nor could they be brought to make a second charge. But the enemy, disciplined under such generals as Fairfax and Cromwell, though routed always formed again.

This was why the king's forces failed to win a decisive victory at Edgehill, and now at Naseby, after Prince Rupert's charge, Cromwell brought up his troops with such effect that in the end the king was compelled to quit the field, leaving Fairfax, who was commander-in-chief of the parliamentary army, master of his foot, cannon and baggage.

The king and Prince Rupert, with the broken troops, marched by stages to Hereford, where Prince Rupert left the king, to hasten to Bristol, that he might put that place in a state of defence.

[All Lost]

NOTHING can here be more wondered at than that the king should amuse himself about forming a new army in counties that had been vexed and worn out with the oppressions of his own troops, and not have immediately repaired into the west, where he had an army already formed. Cromwell having taken Winchester and Basing, the king sent some messages to parliament for peace, which were not regarded. A treaty between the king and the Scots was set on foot by the interposition of the French, but the parties disagreed about church government.

Having now no other resource, the king placed himself under the protection of the Scots army at Newark. The chancellor of Scotland told him that the parliament, after the battles that had been fought, had got the strongholds and forts of the kingdom into their hands, that they had gained a victory over all, and had a strong army to maintain it, so that they might do what they would with Church and State; that they desired neither him nor any of his race to reign any longer over them; and that if he declined to yield to the propositions made to him, all England would join against him to depose him.

With great magnanimity and resolution the king replied that they must proceed their own way, and that though they had all forsaken him, God had not. The Scots began to talk sturdily in answer to a demand that they should deliver up the king's person to parliament. They denied that the parliament had power absolutely to dispose of the king's person without their approbation; and the parliament as loudly replied that they had nothing to do in England but to observe orders.

But these discourses were only kept up till they could adjust accounts between them, and agree what price should be paid for the delivery of his person, whom one side was resolved to have, and the other as resolved not to keep. So they quickly agreed that, upon payment of pound 200,000 in hand, and security for as much more upon days agreed upon, they would deliver up the king.

AND upon this infamous contract that excellent prince was, in the end of January 1647, wickedly given up by his Scottish subjects to those of the English who were trusted by the parliament to receive him. He was brought to his own house at Holmby, in Northants, a place he had taken much delight in. Removed before long to Hampton Court, he escaped to the Isle of Wight, where he confided himself to Colonel Hammond, and was lodged in Carisbrook Castle.

In a speech in parliament Cromwell declared that the king was a man of great parts and a great understanding-faculties they had hitherto endeavoured to have him thought to be without--but that he was so great a dissembler and so false a man that he was not to be trusted. He concluded, therefore, that no more messages should be sent to the king, but that they might enter on those counsels which were necessary without having further recourse to him, especially as at that very moment he was secretly treating with the Scottish commissioners how he might embroil the nation in a new war and destroy the parliament.

A committee being formed to prepare a charge of high treason against the king, of which Bradshaw was made president, his majesty was brought to St. James's, and it was concluded to have him publicly tried.

FROM the time of the king's arrival at St. James's, when he was delivered into the custody of Colonel Tomlinson, he was treated with much more rudeness and barbarity than ever before. No man was suffered to see or speak to him but the soldiers who were his guard.

When he was first brought to Westminster Hall, on January 20, 1649, before their high court of justice, he looked upon them and sat down without any manifestation of trouble, never stirring his hat, all the impudent judges sitting covered and fixing their eyes on him without the least show of respect. To the charges read out against him the king replied that for his actions he was accountable to none but God, though they had been such as he need not be ashamed of before all the world.

The several unheard--of insolences which this excellent prince was forced to submit to before that odious judicatory, his majestic behaviour, the pronouncing that horrible sentence upon the most innocent person in the world, the execution of that sentence by the most execrable murder ever committed since that of our blessed Saviour, and the circumstances thereof, are all so well known that the further mentioning it would but afflict and grieve the reader, and make the relation itself odious; and, therefore, no more shall be said here of that lamentable tragedy, so much to the dishonour of the nation and the religion professed by it.





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