Oliver Cromwell — Lord Protector

Steve Newman Writer

Part 4: The Last Step To Civil War

Image: Pinterest — From a painting by William Barnes Wollen (1836–1936)

With parliament against him Charles fled to Scotland in August 1641, remaining there until November. In his absence rumours of the King’s conduct flew like bats, with Charles accused of plotting to have the Earl of Argyll and the Marquis of Hamilton — the Scottish Presbyterian leaders — carried off “…beyond the seas.” Nothing happened other than the Earl and Marquis rising higher in esteem and rank as a result.

Then, out of nowhere, Parliament and the King (he was playing golf on the links at Leith) heard news of the Irish Rebellion, news that shook London to its core, and probably made Charles miss his shot.

As John Buchan writes:

“ The peace which Stafford had imposed had ended in blood and fire.”

For those in Parliament, on both sides, the Irish Rebellion, by native Irish men and women, was an outrage that must be subdued with all force. To an increasing number of parliamentarians and the public the rebellion had obviously been orchestrated by the King (therefore a popish backed plot)who would now take up residency in Ireland, form an army made up of Irish and Scots, and then attack England. It was all added flame to the fuse wire of civil war.

Parliament was in turmoil.

Cromwell supported the re-conquest of Ireland, and put down a payment of £500 (as did many more)toward that end. It would be several years before Cromwell took on Ireland and its rebels.

To try and bring order to parliament, and focus attention away from the Irish rebellion and back onto the King, a discussion paper was put forward by the influential John Pym, entitled The Grand Remonstrance of November to December, 1641, which was basically an appeal to the nation to support Pym’s 206 carefully expressed grievances. The debate lasted from 9.00am on the 22nd November, finishing at 2.00am on the 23rd, with a vote of 159 in favour, and 148 against. Cromwell was heard to say some days later “…If the Remonstrance had been rejected I would have sold all I have the next morning, and never have seen England again: and I know there were many other honest men of the same resolution.”

Civil War was now only a matter of time.

Charles returned to London two days later receiving the Remonstrance document with “…good humour and indifference”.

When he ventured out he was quite surprised to find that he had, suddenly, become quite popular again and quickly presented himself to the public as the protestant king of England. All was safe in his hands.

For those who cheered him it was probably from a sense of relief that, maybe, the rumours of war were not true.

That new popularity can be seen as little more than a blip after an election in the City of London brought forth a strong majority for the Parliament Party. And when the king tried to take control of the militia, then refused a bill to put officers chosen by parliament in charge of the militia, the king’s old colours shone through. Parliament effectively took no notice and began preparing for war.

Hilda Johnstone writes:

“ At this period the days of the feudal army were over, and the day of the professional standing army not yet come. The national force was the militia, which theoretically included every able-bodied man in each county. It had become usual, however, to issue ‘commissions of array’, that is, to order up a certain number only, [with] the county paying their wages. They were drilled one day a month, and commanded by a king’s officer. Such as they were, they were all there was. No wonder that Charles refused to give up his hold upon them. No wonder either that parliament refused to heed his refusal, declared vaguely that the ordinance ‘ ought to be obeyed by the fundamental laws of the kingdom,’ and issued their bill as the Militia Ordinance.’ ”

The consequence was that both side were racing to take possession of “…ports and powder”, with parliament taking an early lead, securing, most importantly, Plymouth, Portsmouth and the majority of other English ports, most importantly Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Cromwell did his bit by taking and securing Cambridge Castle, and its store of arms and powder.

The time for talking was over.

On August 22nd, 1642, Charles unfurled his great silk standard, with a red cross and two lions, in the courtyard of Nottingham Castle. It was later moved to highest tower so that all could see that the king was about to start the Great Rebellion, as he called it.

Having taken control of Cambridge Castle Oliver Cromwell had, by the end of August, raised a troop of sixty light horse for the army of Essex.

As John Buchan writes, Cromwell:

“ At forty-three… had found his proper calling, and a force of incalculable velocity had been unloosed on the world.”

Read Part 5

Steve Newman Writer

Written by

Playwright, Historian & Freelance Writer Living and Working in Shakespeare’s Stratford

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