1641 The Grand Remonstrance

The relationship between King Charles I and Parliament began on a sour note.

Charles, who had been personally insulted in marriage negotiations with Spain, forced a war upon the divided Parliament in 1625.

Charles I by Daniel Mytens

Though the House of Commons agreed to the war, the first Parliament of his reign did not explicitly grant Charles the traditional right to collect excise and import duties, known as poundage and tonnage.

The war with Spain expanded to include France and over the next few years, bankrupted the country.  Charles faced increasing opposition from the House of Commons until he prorogued Parliament in 1629.

For the next eleven years, Charles attempted to rule the country without Parliament.

This was not in and of itself unusual – Charles father James had ruled without parliament for a period of seven years – but given the antagonistic nature of Charles and the House of Commons, Charles own authoritarian style of government and finally his overwhelming unpopularity, the decision to move to Personal Rule was politically dangerous.


Charles was able to rule without Parliament for so long, mostly because the wars with France and Spain had been concluded and he avoided entering continental conflicts throughout the 1630s.

Internally though, dissent grew as Charles imposed his sense of decorum and order upon the government and the churches.

Charles attempted throughout his reign to unite the governments of his three Kingdoms, with quite poor results.

In fact, it was his attempt to unify all of his kingdoms under one prayer book that resulted in Civil War in Scotland.

Prayerbook Rebellion

For the first time since he prorogued Parliament in 1629, Charles needed to raise funds to prosecute a war and to do that, he needed to recall Parliament.

The resulting session, known as the Short Parliament because it sat for only three weeks, saw the King and the Commons at loggerheads.

The King saw Parliament as his bankroll so that he could execute a war against the rebelling Scots.

The Commons saw Parliament as a chance to present Charles with a list of their grievances, which had been unaddressed in the years of Personal Rule.

Charles and Parliament

After a few weeks of deadlock, Charles realized that the Commons had no intention of helping him and called Parliament to an end.

This action fed the accusations of paranoia that had dogged him all of his life.

The Scots invaded England and the English army in the North rebelled and rioted alongside Scottish troops.

It became apparent to all that Charles would have to call another Parliament, this time called the Long Parliament as it sat for eight years.

The Long Parliament pulled concession after concession out of Charles:

  • The Triennial Act which stated that Parliament must be called at least once every three years;
  • The imprisonment and execution of some of Charles closest advisors;
  • The abolition of the Star Chamber, a kind of supreme court which always acted in favour of the king.

In 1641 a bloody rebellion brokeirish rebellions.jpg out in Ireland and Parliament adopted the Grand Remonstrance, reciting the evils of Charles’s reign and demanding church reform and parliamentary control over the army and over the appointment of royal ministers.

Charles responded to the Grand Remonstrance by attempting to arrest the MPs responsible for it, which drove a further wedge between the court and the Commons.

By 1642, the English Civil War had begun in earnest.



1485 Henry VII Enters London


When Henry VII entered London, he not only started a new dynasty, but he immediately started to intervene in the old dynasties to make sure that they didn’t challenge his new position.Henry VII a.jpg

Proclaimed King of England by Sir William Stanley, he was as yet unmarried to Elizabeth of York, the to-be mother of Henry VIII. Instead, he stayed with the Queen Mother, also confusingly named Elizabeth. (Seriously, everytime I get to that bit in Richard III when he’s wooing Elizabeth, I have to apologize that they used so few names back in the medieval/early modern periods.)

Nineteen year old Elizabeth of York was housed at Coldharbour House, along with the eight year old Duke of Buckingham and the ten year old Earl of Warwick. Coldharbour House was granted by Henry VII to Margaret Beaufort, who then went on to arrange marriage between Thomas Grey and Eleanor St. John, neutralizing the Grey’s opposition to the new dynasty. Further, Margaret Beaufort took into her custody the surviving heiress of the York house, Cecily of York.

Within the next few months, working with his mother and his close allies, Henry VII ensured that the families who had been so influential in the previous decades, the Greys, the de Veres, the Stanleys, would be firmly on his side.

1570 Pius V Excommunicates Elizabeth I

Today in 1570, Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I. In doing so, he absolved her subjects from allegiance to her and her monarchy. Of course, this didn’t go over so well in England.

In a throw-down ideological match between creepy Santa and Queen Bess, I know who I would put money down on.

Celebrate by absolving your pets of allegiance to you for a day. See if the cats act any differently.

1570 Earl of Moray Assassinated

1570 Earl of Moray Assassinated

Today in 1570, the Earl of Moray was assassinated with a firearm. This was the first instance of political assassination using a firearm in history. Mark the occasion by getting rid of your guns. Seriously. you don’t need them. The British aren’t coming.

Well, in the case of Moray, they weren’t coming because everyone was already British. But that’s neither here nor there.

Moray was assassinated by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, who was himself a supporter of Moray’s sister, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was at that time being held by the English. As the Earl of Moray was passing underneath him in the main street in Linlithgow, Hamilton shot him from a window.


1547 Execution of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey



From Tuscany came my lady’s worthy race;
Fair Florence was sometime their ancient seat.
The western isle, whose pleasant shore doth face
Wild Camber’s cliffs, did give her lively heat.
Fostered she was with milk of Irish breast:
Her sire an earl; her dame of prince’s blood.
From tender years, in Britain doth she rest,
With king’s child; where she tasteth costly food.
Hunsdon did first present her to mine eyne:
Bright is her hue, and Geraldine she hight.
Hampton me taught to wish her first for mine;
And Windsor, alas! doth chase me from her sight.
Her beauty of kind, her virtues from above,
Happy is he that can obtain her love!


1642 Charles I Enters Parliament for the Five Members

1642 Charles I Enters Parliament for the Five Members

When Charles I came to the throne in 1625, he inherited his father’s fractious relationship with Parliament. James and Charles both saw the English throne as their divine right. Literally. They had a right to rule over the kingdom and no one had a right to question their decrees. The English Parliament, ever the contrarians, thought it would be only fitting to have a voice in such things as their own taxation. After all, according to ancient custom only Parliament had the right to approve new taxes on the people. Charles, as James had done, tried to rule without Parliament for years on end, but when a rebellion broke out in Scotland in 1639, Charles was forced to call a new Parliament to levy taxes to support the military expedition to punish the Scots.


Calling the parliament, that… didn’t go so well. Parliament refused to do anything until the King listened to their demands for reform. Charles said, “Go away” and that was that. That first parliament of 1640 sat for only three weeks and is known in history as the Short Parliament.

Later in the year, Charles gave in and called a new parliament (this one called the Long Parliament) and promised that yes, well, maybe he’d think about listening to what the Commons had to say, but they bloody well had better vote for new taxes because the Scots were still revolting!

Prayerbook Rebellion

Over the course of 1641, Charles and Parliament were at increasing loggerheads, with neither side wholly winning, but increasing acrimony on both sides of the equation. Charles close advisor and friend, the Earl of Stafford was executed by the prompting of Parliament, while Charles secured a peace and eventual military alliance with the Scots.

Finally, in January 1642, Charles had had enough of dealing with Parliament and decided to show them his power in full. He chose five MPs who were particularly troublesome to his political goals and decided to arrest them for treason. Being something of a histrionic man, Charles chose to enter Parliament himself, at the head of an armed guard, to arrest the MPs himself. Before he could arrive, the word came that he was coming with soldiers and the five MPs were shuffled off into hiding. Charles entered the House of Commons, surrounded by armed men and ascended to the throne of the Speaker of the House. He asked the Speaker to point out the men whom he had come to arrest. Charles had never laid eyes on his political opponents before. They were names to him, not faces.

The reply of the Speaker of the House, William Lenthall, has ever since then been cited as a pivotal moment in the history of parliamentary democracy in the English speaking world.

May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this is to what your majesty is pleased to demand of me.

Charles was forced to leave the House of Commons, humiliated and cowed. The first shots of the English Civil War followed soon after.