The Early Stuarts, 1603-1660

By Godfrey Davies | Go to book overview

V
POLITICAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY, 1640-1

PARLIAMENT met on 3 November, and it soon became evident that, now as six months ago, grievances were to have precedence over all other questions. Once again Pym gave a masterly analysis of the misrule that had prevailed. His advice was to seek out and punish the authors of a design to alter both the religion and the government of the kingdom, which was the highest treason, and to land an Irish army 'to bring us to a better order'.1 The need to move very quickly soon became evident, for Pym learnt that Strafford had formed the daring design of anticipating his own plan of impeaching the king's ministers by accusing the parliamentary leaders of treasonable relations with the Scots, a charge of which the evidence has never come to light.

When the house met, wildly excited by this and other rumours, the speeches betrayed the fear the members felt lest some coup d'état was intended. Immediately, the resolution to impeach Strafford was taken, mainly on account of his alleged intention to bring the Irish army over to subdue England.

News that the commons had requested the lords to sequester him reached Strafford at the court. Hastily he went to the house of lords, and was proceeding to his seat, when many voices bidding him withdraw forced him in confusion to stand at the door until he was called in. Then he was commanded to kneel and was delivered to James Maxwell, Black Rod, to be kept a prisoner until the commons were ready to proceed with his trial. He offered to speak, but was ordered to be gone without a word. Deprived of his sword by Maxwell, Strafford made his way through the throng of people to his coach. All eyes were fixed on him, but no one 'capped to him before whom that morning the greatest of England would have stood uncovered'. To the general question, 'What's the matter?' he answered, 'A small matter, I warrant you'; and the spectators replied, 'Yes, indeed, high treason is a small matter.'2 Then he was taken to the Tower amid the scorn of the insulting multitude.3

____________________
1
D'Ewes Journal, pp. 7-11.
2
Baillie Letters and Journals, i. 272-3.
3
Hist. MSS. Com., Cowper MSS. ( 1888), ii. 262.

-99-

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