Charles I, the Scots and the Second Civil War I

When the Scottish commissioners left England there had been some preliminary discussion about co-ordinating an invasion with provincial risings in England, but there was no clear plan in place. Their report on the Engagement to the Committee of Estates was well-received, but no further measures were taken prior to the meeting of the Scottish parliament on 2 March. This delay proved fatal to the enterprise, since events in England were moving more quickly. Moreover, the Scottish commitment to the Engagement was not unanimous. Once back in Scotland the commissioners had begun to whip up support for the King, but there were serious concerns that the Engagement was a betrayal. Hamilton, Loudon and others felt that the King had given ample commitments. However, Argyll and others were bitterly opposed and were supported by leading figures in the kirk (the ‘kirkmen’), who felt that Charles, having failed to agree to take the Solemn League and Covenant, had given insufficient commitments on religion. This was after all the same King that had brought Scotland the new Prayer Book, prompting armed resistance. When it met, opinion in Parliament was similarly divided over renewing war in England and the divisions became bitter – in fact, a series of duels were offered. Englishmen keen to renew the conflict travelled to Edinburgh to try to encourage the laggardly Scots, among them notable Cavaliers like Sir Philip Musgrave, Sir Thomas Glemham, Sir Marmaduke Langdale and Sir Charles Lucas. Royalist newsbooks reported that whole districts of England were ripe for revolt, but the Scottish clergy, and the women of Edinburgh and Leith, were said to have ‘cried out’ against a renewal of war. Petitioning campaigns against the invasion were organized by the kirkmen, and this worsened the divisions.

There had been hopes of help from Ireland, but they came to nothing. In the summer of 1647 the Confederates had been in a strong military position, although under Rinuccini’s influence they were not particularly eager to intervene in England to support a heretic king. The upshot of the English debate about Ireland during the spring and summer was the landing of an English force under Michael Jones which quickly pushed back the Confederates. The Confederates were defeated at Dungan’s Hill on 8 August, a battle which changed the balance of power, and, on 10 August, Jones entered Dublin in triumph. Inchiquin, commander of parliamentary forces in Munster, also won major and bloody victories during September, eventually reaching the walls of Kilkenny. George Monck had been put in command of the parliamentary forces in Ulster. He had fought for the King in England and, following capture at Nantwich, had preferred imprisonment to changing sides. Following the King’s final defeat in 1646, however, Monck felt free of personal obligation, took the Covenant, and accepted service in Ireland. On 2 October 1647 Jones set out from Dublin to meet Monck, and Inchiquin won another major victory at Mallow on 13 November.

All this put the Confederates on the defensive by the winter of 1647. But they were not the only potential royalists. Ormond, strongly opposed to the Confederate programme and Rinuccini’s influence, was nonetheless loyal to the King. For that reason he was willing to pursue peace with the Confederates, and he was joined by Inchiquin, commander of the parliamentary forces in Ireland, who ‘changed sides’ in March 1648. He was upset by the Vote of No Addresses and drawn towards the Scottish/royalist coalition in favour of Presbyterianism and a relatively powerful monarchy. Although Inchiquin was sufficiently disillusioned with the parliamentary regime to throw in his lot with Ormond, however, he did not take all his men with him. Rinuccini, meanwhile, was extremely hostile to the compromises necessary to forge this proto-alliance and pronounced excommunication on all those who co-operated with Ormond and Inchiquin. For a time though, in the spring of 1648, a menacing royalist alliance of Irish and Scottish forces had seemed to be taking shape.

In England royalist hopes rested on an apparently rising tide of hostility to the parliamentary regime. The failure to settle, the continuing burden of the army, and fear of social and religious radicalism all fed impatience with those in control in London. These were hard times: a second bad harvest in succession made for a ‘sad, dear time’ for the poor in Essex, where ‘money [was] almost out of the country’. In Wiltshire there were food riots and attacks on soldiers and excisemen at Chippenham on New Year’s Eve. These miscellaneous discontents were the basis for mobilizing support, as in 1642; but, as in 1642, it was not clear that any of the national platforms really addressed them.

The festive calendar was a powerful focus for political mobilization. In Kent there was opposition to the reformed liturgy and in many places worship continued according to the Prayer Book. During 1647 the county committee heard reports of ‘sundry seditious sermons’ and ‘dangerous speeches… darkly implying threats against the parliament and a course to be taken with the Roundheads about Christmas’. As a result they took a hard line, publishing an order throughout the county underlining the prohibition of Christmas celebrations. This proved badly misjudged. One minister’s sermon was protected by armed men at the door of the church, and when the mayor of Canterbury ordered that the market should stay open only twelve shopkeepers complied. They were told to shut up again ‘by the multitude’, and when they did not their goods were ‘thrown up and down’. In the ensuing melee the sheriff was ‘stoutly resisted’ and the mayor knocked down. Despite his torn and dirty gown the mayor commanded everyone to go home, and those who resisted were briefly imprisoned. But only briefly – they soon broke out and were jeering at the aldermen. Shortly afterwards some of the leaders, along with some soldiers, appeared on the high street with two footballs. Joined by large crowds the football game quickly became a tumultuous demonstration, surging through the streets to cries of ‘Conquest’. Holly bushes were set up at doorways and free entertainment offered. The gaol was opened, aldermen chased and beaten into their houses and Richard Culmer, the Puritan minister, pelted with mud.

Over the weekend Canterbury became the focus for a wider protest as people from surrounding parishes flocked into the town. On Monday a heated argument with ‘a busy prating’ Puritan led to pistol shots and cries of ‘Murder’. Crowds surged through the town, calling out ‘For God, King Charles, and Kent’. The sheriff, trying to keep the peace, was knocked down, receiving a serious head injury in the process. Windows were broken in the houses of the mayor and other prominent men, and some of the godly ministers and members of the accounts committee were assaulted, imprisoned and ‘laid in irons’. Worse, the city magazine was seized, and there were reports of similar, smaller riots elsewhere in the county. This was quickly becoming a pro-royalist rising: when news arrived of the King’s attempted escape from Carisbrooke on 29 December a number of gentry were reported to have openly declared their willingness to support the King and the Engagers. Their aim, they said, was to ‘release the King’s Majesty out of thraldom and misery,… restore him to his just rights,… and… endeavour the preservation of the honourable constitution of parliament… and all the just privileges thereof’.

In the event the county committee was able to muster sufficient support to re-establish control in Canterbury. Elsewhere, however, festive pastimes became a means of expressing political dissent. A hurling match between the men of Devon and Cornwall was thought to be a pretext for anti-army action. In Bury St Edmunds on May Day a crowd gathered around a maypole or May bush as a troop of Fairfax’s cavalry rode into town. The soldiers were attacked to cries of ‘For God and King Charles’, before the gates were shut, streets barricaded and the magazine secured. There followed attacks on parliamentarians by a crowd containing 600 armed men and another hundred on horseback. The rising was contained by a ring of five troops of horse around the town, but it did not stop other protesters gathering at Newmarket ‘under pretence of horseracing’. The anniversary of Charles’s accession, 27 March, was another focus for discontent. In Norwich the mayor permitted bonfires and feasting to mark the occasion, and refused a summons to attend Parliament to explain himself. On 24 April a crowd gathered in his support seized the headquarters of the Norfolk county committee, which was also the county magazine. When troops arrived to take back the building the magazine blew up, killing more than a hundred people.

London was not immune. On 17 July 1647, a week before the Presbyterian assault on London, with tensions reaching a crisis point, the theatres had been closed down, reviving an ordinance of 1642 passed in similar circumstances. The measure lapsed on 1 January 1648, probably by oversight, and theatre owners and patrons took full advantage. On 27 January 120 coaches were said to have delivered customers to the Fortune Theatre alone. On 11 February the theatres were closed once more – a traditional measure of crowd control and probably therefore a sign more of security concerns than of Puritan hostility to pleasure. On the anniversary of Charles’s accession bonfires were lit across the City and those passing along the streets in coaches were compelled to drink the King’s health. There were shouts both for the King and against Hammond, his keeper. Butchers were apparently saying that if they caught Hammond ‘they would chop him as small as ever they chopped any of their meat’. On Sunday, 9 April, during afternoon service, the Lord Mayor sent a party of Trained Band members to stop boys playing tip-cat (a relatively harmless bat and ball game) in Moorfields. A crowd of apprentices intervened, pelting the men with stones and disarming them. Now armed they marched along Fleet Street and the Strand, attracting a crowd of 3,000 or 4,000, raising shouts of ‘Now for King Charles’. Their target was a regiment in Whitehall, but they happened to pass Cromwell and Ireton at the head of cavalry regiments. Cromwell led a charge along the Strand in which two of the crowd either were killed or were nearly so. During the following night apprentices secured the gates at Newgate and Ludgate, and attacked the house of the Lord Mayor. By 8 a.m. they controlled the City, and were only finally subdued when a regiment of foot and four troops of horse were let into the City at Moorgate. Onlookers appeared more sympathetic to the rioters than to the troops sent to restore order.

Mixed in with these disputes were hostility to the burdens of taxation and the tyrannies of parliamentary administration, and positive commitment to royalism and Prayer Book religion, and to the forms of local government that had existed prior to the war. There were rival petitioning campaigns once more as activists sought to harness these multiple grievances to drive forward their programme. Through 1647 there were sporadic petitions for settlement, and an end to military occupation. October, for example, had seen a petition promoted at Somerset quarter sessions against the persistence of free quarter. But following the Vote of No Addresses a number of Independent MPs promoted petitions in support of their position: in Warwickshire, Essex, Somerset and the northern counties. In Essex, Sir Henry Mildmay did get a packed Grand Jury to approve his petition, but a meeting of freeholders at Romford expressed strong opposition. In Buckinghamshire 5,000 signatures were gathered and in Somerset a packed Grand Jury at the March assizes also approved a petition which had enjoyed some success in parts of the county. It commended the Vote of No Addresses, was critical of local malignants holding office, and drew attention to the material hardships of the times: just as in 1642 complaints about material hardships were not necessarily the home ground of the royalists.

This Independent mobilization did not go unanswered. A ring of counties from Essex to Hampshire produced petitions against military government and centralization. In Essex, the failure of the petition in favour of the Vote of No Addresses was followed by the adoption of a petition calling for a personal treaty with Charles, which was accepted by the Grand Jury at the Chelmsford assizes in March. It linked this call for a personal treaty with a denunciation of free quarter and high taxation, and a call for the disbandment of the army. Two thousand men came to London to present the petition. The key point in the ‘moderate’ campaign, therefore, was the call for a personal treaty, and opposition to the Vote of No Addresses: it was intended to forestall a Scottish invasion, and secure a rapid settlement by bringing Parliament back to the table. Similar petitions were produced in Sussex and Hampshire, and calls for restraint of the county committees, local control of the militia, and restraint of the military and of sectaries were heard around the country throughout the summer. But while that might offer a means to resolve disparate problems it was not clear that those who joined in these campaigns were royalists, or in favour of a return to the religion of bishops and the Prayer Book.

Naturally, these disparate issues also got an airing in print. During March there were attacks on sectarianism and protestations in favour of the calendar and promoting the image of a royalist London. A true and perfect picture of our present reformation was yet another catalogue of sectarian errors, arranged thematically (scripture, God, Trinity and so on). Its diagnosis was plainly stated on the title page: ‘the Christian’s Prospective to take a short view of the new lights that have brake forth since Bishops went down’, ‘Printed in the first year of King Charles His Imprisonment’. Heading the list of authors in whose works these new views could be found was Thomas Edwards, rubbing shoulders with some of the pantheon of religious enthusiasts – Roger Williams, Laurence Clarkson, Richard Overton, John Lilburne, John Milton and others. The current parliament was denounced as mother to this monstrosity in Mistris Parliament Brought to Bed of a Monstrous Childe of Reformation, while another pamphlet announced the Last will and testament of that ‘monstrous, bloody, tyrannical, cruel and abominable’ parliament, which was ‘desperately sick in every part of its ungodly members, as well committees, sequestrators, agitators, solicitors, promoters, clerks, door keepers and all her other untrue and unlawful adherents’.

The tide was not all in one direction, of course. Along with calls for parliamentarian unity, vindications of Independents and celebrations of the conversion of Indians in the New World came a translation of the Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos, the leading work in favour of the right of subjects to resist their monarch in early modern Europe. The man often named as the translator, William Walker of Darnall (near Sheffield), was later credited with cutting the King’s head off, although it is more likely that his credit lay in the inspiration than in the physical act. More ambiguously, Edward Husbands republished Elizabeth I’s speech to her last parliament, made on 30 November 1601. Here, in miniature, lay one of the crucial weaknesses of the royalist mobilization in 1648: did attachment to this view of harmonious relations between monarch and Parliament necessarily support a second civil war? Proponents of this vision might be in favour of the Vote of No Addresses and bringing the King to see reason, for example – would a weak peace of the kind threatened by the Treaty of Newport really restore this vanished world?

It was not, however, completely unreasonable to think that these grievances might support pro-royalist risings all over England. Henry Firebrace had a plan for the King’s escape from Carisbrooke, rumours of which reached the Committee of Derby House on 7 February and of another one on 13 March. The following week came the attempt foiled by the failure of the King’s physical body to fit through the window. If he had got out, though, he would have had a welcome – there is evidence of individuals seeking with some success to mobilize arms from many areas of the north, north Wales, the Marches, East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire and the east Midlands as well as Bristol, Bath and Tavistock. Many people seem to have gone from, or through, London to join the risings in Essex and Kent.

There were strong parallels with 1642 – the end of parliamentary attempts to come to terms, against a backdrop of more or less spontaneous expressions of miscellaneous grievances, led activists to mobilize support. Petitions, promoted at quarter sessions and assizes, and pamphleteering publicized grievances, while activists sought to forge from them coherent political campaigns – to renounce the Vote of No Addresses and enter into a personal treaty with the King, for example. In June 1648 in Hampshire a petition was organized, despite pressure from the county committee, which denounced the continued restraint of the King, high taxation, ‘arbitrary power’ and ‘those that think they have monopolised all truth and would therefore square our religion according to their own confused models’. The King was to be restored to his ‘indubitable right’ and ‘the true reformed Protestant religion professed in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth, and King James of blessed memory’, with some ‘ease to tender consciences’. This was more comforting for the King than Parliament, for sure, but it was not particularly happy reading for many of his allies among Presbyterians and Engagers.

As in 1642 this attempt was only partially successful, for there were two essential difficulties in forging an alliance from these very disparate forces: it was going to require people to start a new war, aimed in part against the consequences of the last one; and that people persuade themselves that the King, who was what held the alliance for a personal treaty together, was worth fighting for. Hostility to the army, the sects, the parliamentary regime might all fuel resentments, but they did not necessarily lead to support for the aims of the Engagers. The Scottish kirk, after all, was not a known supporter of Christmas festivities, or games of tip-cat during divine service. Formal Scottish demands, received in Parliament on 3 May, included the suppression of heresies and schisms, including the Prayer Book, and the extirpation of episcopacy. The previous summer the Presbyterians had made concessions to anti-excise feeling largely because they had to, and had sought to insulate apprentices from the consequences of their reform of the calendar. But they were no more the people’s friends than the army, which, its material burden aside, offered a potentially attractive alliance of tolerant Independents and indulgent Anglicans. Being against the Vote of No Addresses was not the same as being in favour of the Engagement; indeed, it might mean quite the opposite – talk not silence might be the best way to keep the Engagers out.

With hindsight it is possible to see that the story of the second civil war is the story of a dog that didn’t bark. As in 1642 there were plenty of grievances but a relatively small number of activists willing to resort to arms. And in 1648, it turned out, there were more-effective forces of suppression, including auxiliary forces raised by hawkish parliamentarians, which prevented activists from rallying effective support. It may also be that the disparateness of the movement, and recent experience of the costs of warfare, served as another disincentive: for how many of these grievances was warfare likely to be an effective solution? In Scotland, as in 1640, the decision to invade England was controversial, particularly since it was in defence of a king who was so palpably unreliable on religion. An alliance of Charles with Presbyterians against Parliament was, in the end, a peculiar sight, in both kingdoms. Enthusiasm for renewed warfare was limited, in both England and Scotland, but quite what forms of negotiation might forestall it was impossible to say.

Last-minute attempts to square the Vote of No Addresses with the pursuit of a settlement were less impressive than the preparations for war. The obvious solution was to try to secure a deposition or forced abdication in favour of one of his elder sons. Charles, Prince of Wales, now seventeen years old, had fled to the Isles of Scilly in March 1646 and from there to Jersey, before taking up an offer of refuge in France following his father’s surrender. There he was beyond reach or persuasion. His younger brother James, Duke of York, now in his fifteenth year, had been in Oxford during the war. When it ended he was placed under the guardianship of the Duke of Northumberland at St James’s Palace in London. He was not willing to countenance a deal of the kind being proposed and was to escape, at the third attempt, in April 1648, in the course of a specially arranged game of hide-and-seek. Colonel Bampfield was waiting for him, and spirited him away to the Netherlands. Replacing the King was therefore not an option, however attractive it might have been as a way out of the impasse. Henry Marten had made overtures to the Scottish commissioners to try to avert an invasion, but they were rebuffed. Meanwhile men rushed north to sign up for the Engagers” army and both Berwick and Carlisle were quickly occupied in the last days of April. For a time, the prospects for armed royalism looked quite good. In late April the Scottish parliament announced that the Solemn League and Covenant had been broken, called for the establishment of Presbyterianism in England and named its officers. On 4 May the Scottish parliament ordered the raising of an army. But it would not arrive for some time, until after England and Wales had been pacified, in fact.

In the meantime the situation in many areas of England and Wales was tense – the disorders of March, April and May and the rival petitioning campaigns spoke of serious problems for the parliamentary position. On a number of occasions there had been moves to take hold of local magazines and to resist the army, but only two of these movements actually resulted in armed risings against the parliamentary regime: in south Wales in April and May; and in Kent and Essex in June.

Politics in south Wales displayed continuities from 1642, a history which illustrates the uneasy relationship between local grievances and national political platforms. In Glamorganshire in 1642 prompt action by the Marquess of Hertford had secured royalist control, but in 1645, faced with increasing military burdens, a ‘Peaceable Army’ was formed, committed to a programme rather like that of the English clubmen. The King went along with their demands, but when he seemed to be about to renege on the deal the Peaceable Army made common cause with the parliamentarians in neighbouring Pembrokeshire. By February 1646, however, there was open resistance to parliamentary government on more or less the same grounds – the intrusion of new men and the suppression of the rites and traditions of the Anglican church prominent among the grievances. A similar revolt took place in June 1647, defeated by force. In 1648, however, there was a military ally. Colonel John Poyer, the mayor of Pembroke in 1642, had taken military control of the county under cover of a fabricated popish plot. In alliance with Rowland Laugharne he had established military domination in an area where there was little sign of enthusiasm for either side. By 1648 Poyer and Laugharne had many local enemies, however, and Poyer had become very vulnerable should he lose command of Pembroke Castle – his power base. When the armies were rationalized late in 1647 this happened and he was required to hand over the castle to a detachment from the New Model. The resulting mutiny became a vehicle for a pro-royalist rising, drawing on the kinds of grievance visible in many other areas.

Although Poyer never accepted a commission from the King, he did put his mutinous troops behind a rising of the Glamorgan gentry. The aim of the movement was to bring the King to a personal treaty, along with demands that:

the just prerogative of the King, privileges of the Parliament, laws of the land, liberties of the people, may be maintained, and preserved in their proper bounds, and the Protestant religion, as it now stands established by the law of the land, restored throughout the kingdom with such regard to tender consciences as shall be allowed by Act of Parliament.

In a sense this was the programme of the Prayer Book petitions of 1642, but without the anti-sectarian bite – liberty to tender consciences had become a currency of ‘moderate’ politics. But here, in essence, was the problem of the second war – a movement in favour of the Book of Common Prayer was hardly an easy bedfellow of a Covenanting army and it seems unlikely that ease of tender consciences would extend very far in the direction of the Irish Catholics also being wooed by royalists. The secular concerns about the balance between the prerogative, law and the people’s liberty was the kind of mother and apple pie declaration that all sides had been making since 1642. Little had changed to promise agreement about what that meant in practice.

At St Fagan’s on 8 May a small force under Colonel Horton, who had been sent to disband Laugharne’s force, engaged them instead. Many of Laugharne’s troops wore papers in their hats saying ‘we long to see our king’. The battle was a small one, and Parliament’s forces were victorious, but elsewhere in south Wales the picture was less good. In late April, Colonel Fleming had led 120 horse too far into rebel territory and was forced to surrender. He died by a shot from his own pistol, although whether it was suicide or an accident was not clear. In the meantime Cromwell had been ordered to march into south Wales to retake Pembroke Castle. His campaign was quickly successful. Chepstow fell on 25 May and Tenby a few days later, so that he soon arrived before Pembroke.

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