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54 The Story of Parliament


Previous pages: A detail from a print by Wencelaus Hollar showing the trial of Tomas


Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, in Westminster Hall in 1641.


Te prosecution of Strafford was an attack on many aspects of the government of Charles I


Opposite: A print by Hollar showing incidents that helped to lead to civil war—(top) Pym


reports to the Commons on a plot to assassinate him, and (bottom) one of the king’s officers attacks a pro-parliamentary demonstration


D


enied parliamentary support, Charles’s second attempt to crush the Covenanters by force would end disastrously.


Undermined by taxpayers’ strikes and what amounted to a coup by leading English puritans, royal government virtually collapsed during the summer of 1640. With a Scottish army occupying Northumberland by September, and his treasury empty, the king was forced to call another parliament to meet the costs of defeat. A majority of members in this so-called “Long Parliament” (it would sit until 1653) supported the abolition of ship money and other “unparliamentary” taxes and demanded that the Church be purged of the changes that had been introduced in the 1630s under Archbishop Laud. But the parliamentary leadership, known as “the junto”,


had a more divisive agenda. Having treasonously conspired against the king, Pym and his confederates could ensure that he did not exact revenge only by levering themselves into government and destroying Charles’s prerogative power. Tis strategy could only succeed with the backing of the junto’s Scottish Covenanter allies; and the price of their support was further religious reform, notably the introduction of a Presbyterian system of Church government, which many in England found insufferable. Te puritan-Covenanter ascendancy in Britain helped to


provoke a mass uprising in Ireland, where most of the country remained strongly Catholic. Much of Ireland was soon liberated from English control. Yet far from uniting Charles and the junto against the Irish insurgents, the uprising put them on collision course, for neither side would trust the other with an army. Moreover, many puritans saw the Irish uprising as proof of the claim that there was a “popish plot” against Protestantism that involved the king’s court. When parliament began raising forces for Ireland, the king responded in January 1642 by taking an armed retinue to Westminster in a bungled attempt to arrest five members of the junto. Tis assault on parliament lost Charles so much support


that he had to flee London. But the junto’s own assault on the established order had gone too far to leave him permanently


friendless. Royal propaganda successfully re-branded Charles as a law-abiding Protestant monarch and the junto as puritan demagogues. By July 1642, Charles was joined at York by many lords and gentlemen (including MPs) who were prepared to fight in defence of monarchy and the Church of England. Tey left a parliament that was dominated by the junto. Parliament and the king raised armies in the summer of 1642, convinced that one battle would decide the issue. But when they met at Edgehill, in October, the result was a bloody draw. Faced with a protracted civil war, the junto split into war and peace parties—small groups of parliamentary “grandees” that vied for support among the less committed majority. Royalist victories during the first year of the war encouraged the peace party to seek a negotiated settlement. But the war party exploited evidence of Catholic support for Charles in all three kingdoms to push for a military alliance with the Covenanters and for total victory. In September 1643, Westminster and Edinburgh


ratified the Solemn League and Covenant by which the Scots agreed to help parliament defeat the king in return for (vague) pledges to extend Presbyterianism to England and Ireland. In order to fund and manage the war effort, parliament began to introduce new forms of taxation and to create a powerful executive and bureaucracy centred upon permanent committees with members of both Houses. Te large Covenanter army that marched into England early in 1644 helped to secure parliamentarian victory at Marston Moor in July, and to wrest northern England from royalist control. But it was unable to strike decisively southwards in case it was needed in Scotland. Tere, an army of Gaelic clansmen under James, Marquess of


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