THOMAS WENTWORTH, first Earl of Strafford (1593-1641), statesman, the eldest son of Sir William Wentworth of Wentworth-Woodhouse, and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Atkinson of Stowell, Gloucestershire, was born on Good Friday, 13 April 1593, at the house of his mother's father, in Chancery Lane, and was baptised at St. Dunstan's-in-the-West. The family had long been settled at Wentworth-Woodhouse, and the Barons Wentworth and Earls of Cleveland were descended from a younger branch.
The future Earl of Strafford was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, but the date of his entrance is unknown. In November 1607 he was admitted a student of the Inner Temple.1 On 22 Oct. 1611 he married Margaret, the eldest daughter of Francis Clifford, fourth earl of Cumberland; was knighted on 6 Dec, after which he travelled on the continent2 under the care of Charles Greenwood, a fellow of University College, Oxford. He returned home, about fourteen months later, in February 1613. In 1614 he sat for Yorkshire in the Addled Parliament, and about Michaelmas in the same year3 he became second baronet and head of the family on his father's death.
In 1615 he was appointed custos rotulorum in Yorkshire in succession to Sir John Savile, who surrendered the office to avoid dismissal. In 1617 Savile, who had in the meantime curried favour with Buckingham, obtained a letter from the favourite asking Wentworth to restore the dignity to its former holder as having been voluntarily surrendered by him. On Wentworth's explanation of the true state of the case, Buckingham abstained from pressing his request. A lifelong quarrel between Savile and Wentworth was the perhaps inevitable result. For the Yorkshire seat in the parliament which met in 1621, Wentworth was a successful candidate in opposition to Savile. As he stood in conjunction with Calvert, the Secretary of State, it is evident that he was at that time prepared to support the king's government, especially so far as it was represented by Calvert, who was a member of that party in the council which favoured an understanding with Spain.
It was, in fact, perfectly natural that it should be so. The main question likely to occupy parliament was that of succouring the Elector Palatine after his loss of Bohemia, and Wentworth was not the man to wish to hurry the king into a further extension of a warlike policy than he was willing to agree to. All through his life Wentworth gave the first place to domestic reform, and disliked entanglement in continental politics, and especially in a religious war. In the early part of the session he appeared as an occasional speaker, but it was not till after the adjournment in the summer that the young member took any prominent part in the debates. The government having proposed a vote of supply to enable James to maintain a force in the Lower Palatinate during the winter, leaving it to him to declare war or not when the summer arrived, the opposition showed an inclination to drag the king into a more direct conflict with Spain, and Wentworth on 26 Nov. proposed an adjournment, apparently to give James time to come to an understanding with the house; and, being beaten, supported the government on the 27th in its demand for a supply, leaving the king the choice of a fit time for declaring war.
Later in the session, when a constitutional question was raised by James's declaration that the privileges of parliament, were not the 'ancient and undoubted right' of the house, Wentworth on 15 Dec. avowed his own opinion to be opposite to that of the sovereign, but recommended that it should be embodied in a protestation which need not be communicated to the king, and would therefore maintain the ground taken by the house without necessarily
leading to a collision with the king. Wentworth's suggestion was adopted, and it was James's own want of wisdom which found in the protestation an occasion for dissolving parliament. Young as he was—he was only in his twenty-ninth year—Wentworth had displayed during this session a mingled firmness and moderation which marked him out as a statesman who might do good service to his country if the personages in authority had been such as to allow of a prudent and moderating policy. While Wentworth regretted the dissolution as putting a stop to domestic legislation, he was as hopeful as James himself of seeing the Palatinate restored through the mediation of Spain, on the ground that it was to the interest of Philip IV to keep himself out of war, being inclined in this matter, as in many others in the course of his career, to think of men as led by their interests rather than by their feelings and passions.4
In the spring of 1622 Wentworth had a serious fever, and on his recovery removed to Bow, where his wife died, leaving no children. After her death he returned to Wentworth-Woodhouse, and was again seriously ill in 1623.
In the Parliament of 1624 Wentworth sat for Pontefract. From scattered hints in his letters it appears that he had no sympathy with the eagerness of Buckingham and Parliament to rush into a war with Spain. 'I judge further,' he wrote before the session opened, 'the path we are like to walk in is now more narrow and slippery than formerly, yet not so difficult but may be passed with circumspection, patience, and silence.'5 In another letter written after the prorogation he shows sympathy with Bristol, the negotiator of the Spanish marriage, and jestingly dwells on the folly of the House of Commons in a reference to a statue of Samson killing a Philistine with the jawbone of an ass, 'the moral and meaning whereof may be yourself standing at the bar, and there with all your weighty curiously-spun arguments beaten down by some such silly instrument as that, and so the bill in conclusion passed, sir, in spite of your nose.'6 In the same spirit he mocks at 'the cobblers and other bigots and zealous brethren' who rejoiced in the departure of the Spanish ambassador, and laments the injury done by the Dutch to English commerce. The whole tone of this letter, written by Wentworth to his lifelong friend (Sir) Christopher Wandesford, is that of a man who has ranged himself on the anti-puritan side, but who has no great respect for the conduct of the government as managed by Buckingham.
On 24 Feb. 1625 Wentworth was again a married man. His second wife was Arabella, second daughter of John Holles, first earl of Clare, and sister of Denzil Holles. In the first parliament of Charles I, which met on 18 June, he again sat for Yorkshire, but was unseated on petition, on the ground that the sheriff had prematurely closed the poll against the supporters of Wentworth's old rival, Savile. In the proceedings which followed in the House7 Wentworth, in defiance of the rules, attempted to address the House in his own defence when the case was under investigation, and brought down on himself a fierce attack from Eliot, who compared him to Catiline, who had come into the senate in order to destroy it. There was an impatience of contradiction in Wentworth which exposed him to attack, but Eliot would hardly have been so severe unless it had been generally understood that Wentworth's views were at that time regarded as contrary to those of the popular party.
Wentworth was re-elected on 1 Aug. in time to take his place after the adjournment to Oxford. To an offer of favour conveyed to him from Buckingham, he replied that 'he was ready to serve him as an honest man and a gentleman.'8 It is, however, evident that he was not in favour of the war with Spain, whether it was promoted by Buckingham or his opponents, 'Let us first,' he said in the House, 'do the business of the commonwealth, appoint a committee for petitions, and afterwards, for my part, I will consent to do as much for the king as any other.' The avoidance of external complications with a view to the pursuance of internal reforms was, to the end, the main principle of Wentworth's political conduct, putting him out of sympathy alike with the popular sentiment and with the aims of the powerful favourite. At the close of the session his sense of independence was roused by the threat of a penal dissolution. To a proposal that the House should withdraw from the position it had taken up in opposition to the duke, he replied, 'We are under the rod, and we cannot with credit or safety yield. Since we sat here, the subjects have lost a subsidy at sea.'
In November 1625, when a new parliament was contemplated, he was made sheriff of Yorkshire to prevent his sitting in the House. Yet Charles could not but be aware that his conduct had differed from that of the other members of the late parliament, who were treated in the same way. 'Wentworth,' he remarked, ' is an honest gentleman.'9 The difference between Wentworth and the other opponents of the court was no less strongly shown by his own words written not long after he had been marked for exclusion from the House of Commons. 'My rule,' he wrote,' which I will never transgress, is never to contend with the prerogative out of parliament, nor yet to contest with a king but when I am constrained thereunto, or else make shipwreck of my peace of conscience, which I trust God will ever bless me with, and with courage, too, to preserve it.'10
It was the misfortune of Charles and Buckingham that they knew not how to convert a half-hearted opponent into a friend. So far from associating himself with the attack on Buckingham, Wentworth, on a rumour that the presidency of the Council of the North was vacant, wrote to ask for the appointment.11 There was no vacancy, but in Easter term he came to London, was introduced to the Duke, and was favourably received.12 Yet on 8 July his name appears on a list of the opponents of the court to be dismissed from the justiceship of the peace,13 and Wentworth accordingly lost this office, together with that of custos rotulorum, which was given back to Sir John Savile, from whom he had previously wrested it. The blow was the more keenly felt as the letter of dismissal was handed to him as he was sitting as high sheriff in his court at York. From the language used by him in announcing his loss of place, it would appear that he had refused to perform some service required of him, probably to support Charles's demand of a free gift from his subjects. Subsequently, when the free gift reappeared in the shape of a forced loan, Wentworth refusing to pay his quota, was placed in confinement in the Marshalsea in May 1627, though after six weeks' imprisonment he was allowed to retire to Dartford, under the obligation not to stir more than two miles from the place.14 At this time he seems to have held that as parliament had no right to encroach on the king by usurping executive functions, so the king had no right to levy taxes without the consent of parliament. It is not unlikely that his support of the latter proposition was strengthened partly by his sense of personal wrong, partly by his dislike of Buckingham's rash foreign policy, which had involved the country in a war with France in addition to that with Spain.
In this spirit, when Charles's third parliament met on 17 March 1628, Wentworth came to an agreement with the parliamentary leaders to drop the attack on Buckingham and to vindicate the violated rights of the subject. On the 22nd he spoke strongly on the illegality of 'the raising of loans strengthened by commissions with unheardof instructions and oaths, the billeting of soldiers by the lieutenants and deputy-lieutenants.' At the same time he urged that the fault was in the king's instruments, not in the king himself. A privy council—that is to say a secret council, apart from the constitutional council of the king—had been introduced, 'ravishing at once the spheres of all ancient government,' an expression which shows Wentworth to have been a diligent reader of Bacon's essays (Essay on Superstition), 'imprisoning us without banks or bounds.' A third complaint against imprisonment without cause shown was thus added to the two against forced loans and martial law mentioned in the earlier part of the speech. The course Wentworth recommended was no less clearly indicated. The house was to vindicate the 'ancient, sober, and vital liberties by reinforcing of the ancient laws of our ancestors, by setting such a stamp upon them as no licentious spirit shall dare hereafter to enter upon them. It was for the interest as much of the king as of the parliament that this should be done, otherwise it would 'be impossible to relieve him.'
A fourth demand, that of the abolition of martial law, was afterwards added. With this exception Wentworth's speech contained the substance of the future Petition of Right, yet with this difference, that whereas the petition declared the law to have been broken, Wentworth merely asked that the law as it had long existed should be clearly explained. In the following weeks the discussion turned mainly upon imprisonment without cause shown, on which Charles was particularly obdurate. On 2 April, when there was a debate on the supply needed for the war, Wentworth refused even to discuss foreign complications. 'Unless we be secured in our liberties, we cannot give,' was still his simple ground of inaction. To see whether the king was prepared to yield on the domestic question, he proposed and carried the adjournment of the debate to the 4th. The adjournment only brought a vague assurance from Charles that the liberties of his subjects were in no danger. When a new question of the king's right to press soldiers for foreign service was raised by Selden, Wentworth carried a motion referring it to a committee.
So far as was in those days possible, Wentworth stood forth as the leader of the House of Commons. Representing faithfully the general temper in favour of an accommodation with Charles on the basis of his abandonment of what were understood to be unconstitutional claims, he secured the adoption (4 April) in committee of supply of a motion that five subsidies should be granted, without specification of the purposes to which they were to be applied. He followed up this success by carrying another motion that no report of the grant should be made to the House, so that the king could not, as he had done after the session of 1626, demand payment, in the shape of a forced loan, of subsidies on the ground that the House had signified its approval of a grant, though no bill had been passed on the subject. The present offer, as Wentworth said, was conditional on the settlement of the fundamental liberties. To secure this, Wentworth asked that a subcommittee be appointed to draw up a bill in which these liberties should be set forth.
Wentworth was now known as the man 'who hath the greatest sway in parliament.' But the motion to avoid reporting the grant had given offence to the king, and when the four resolutions had passed the House and had been laid before the Lords, it seemed as if Charles would, to some extent, find an ally in the Upper House, which on 25 April drew up counter-proposals, allowing the king to imprison without cause shown, till he found it convenient to do so. In the commons, Noye, who was under Wentworth's influence, proposed to provide for the case by the more ready issue of writ of habeas corpus, and by an enactment that 'if there be no cause of detaining upon that writ,' the prisoner was 'to be delivered.' Wentworth supported Noye's desire of proceeding by a bill declaring 'that none shall be committed without showing cause,' with a penalty attached to its violation. If it was violated, he added, 'on any emergent cause, he thinks no man shall find fault with it.' Wentworth's view of the case was what it remained to the end. Let the law be declared with provision for enforcing it. If some real necessity arose, let the king use his prerogative boldly, and violate the law for the safety of the state.
The real weakness of Wentworth's position lay in the impossibility of securing that Charles would not discover a necessity where it could be seen by no one else. Wentworth's proposal was, however, adopted, and on 28 April a bill was brought into the house by a sub-committee, making no reference to the past conduct of the government, but declaring in set terms that by the existing law every freeman committed by the king's sole command was to be bailed or delivered, that no tax, tallage, or other imposition was to be levied, nor soldier billeted. The question of martial law was left over for further consideration. On 1 May Wentworth proposed to modify the bill by softening it down. It would be enough to confirm the old laws, adding that every prisoner should be bailed if cause were not shown in the writ. There would then be no denial of the king's right to commit; but whenever he did commit without showing cause on which the prisoner could be tried, the judges would be required to bail him.
Wentworth might carry the House with him; he could not depend on the king. Charles replied by a message asking the House to depend on his royal word and promise; and Secretary Coke explained that whatever laws parliament might please to make, he should find it his duty to commit without showing cause to any one but the king. The ground was thus cut from under Wentworth's feet. On 2 May, indeed, he replied that, though the House had no ground of complaint against the king, the law had been violated by his ministers, and a bill was therefore needed. The house drew up a remonstrance to bring the substance of Wentworth's argument before the king, and this remonstrance was presented on 5 May. Charles would have none of Wentworth's bill, and he merely offered to confirm the old laws 'without additions, paraphrases, or explanations.' For the rest, the Houses must be content with his royal word. Wentworth's mediation between king and parliament had hopelessly broken down by the obstinacy of the king. It was not for him to lead the House further. The Petition of Right occupied the place of his bill, but it was drawn up by other hands. When it was before the House, indeed, he favoured its modification in such a way as to secure the consent of the Lords, and thereby (28 May) came into collision with Eliot; but he expressed his general concurrence in the petition as it stood. Charles had left no other course open to him. On 7 June the petition was accepted by the king.15
On 22 July following Wentworth was created Baron Wentworth, and on 10 Dec. he exchanged his baronage for a viscountcy, with the same title. On 26 Dec. he was appointed president of the Council of the North. What is usually styled his apostasy was thus accomplished before the end of the year. That there was no real or pretended change of principle is obvious. Wentworth had sought to limit the powers of royalty, as had been done in the Petition of Right, for the sake of the king as well as of his subjects, but he had never shown any desire to transfer the control of the executive from the king to parliament, or to favour the growth of puritanism in the church. It was, however, precisely these two points on which the House of Commons had put forward claims at the close of the session of 1628, and were likely to put forward claims in the coming session of 1629. Yet there could be no doubt that a change of position would bring with it a change of view. Few men, and least of all men of Wentworth's strength of will, could be expected to see things in the same way after ceasing to be critics and becoming actors.
As wielding the executive powers of the crown in the north, Wentworth would soon come to regard the crown as the sole upholder of the rights of the state, and all who opposed it as engaged in the destructive work of weakening the authority without which the state would dissolve into atoms. In the speech which he delivered on 30 Dec. to the Council of the North, he set forth his conception of the unity of interest which ought to prevail between king and people in terms which would have satisfied Bacon: 'To the joint individual well-being of sovereignty and subjection,' he said, 'do I here vow all my cares and diligences through the whole course of my ministry. I confess I am not ignorant how some distempered minds have of late very often endeavoured to divide the considerations of the two, as if their end were distinct, not the same—nay, in opposition; a monstrous, a prodigious birth of a licentious conception, for so we would become all head or all members. . . . Princes are to be the indulgent nursing fathers to their people; their modest liberties, their sober rights ought to be precious in their eyes, the branches of their government to be for shadow, for habitation, the comfort of life. [The people] repose safe and still under the protection of their sceptres. Subjects, on the other side, ought, with solicitous eyes of jealousy, to watch over the prerogatives of a crown. The authority of a king is the keystone which closeth up the arch of order and government, which contains each part in due relation to the whole, and which once shaken, infirm'd, all the frame falls together into a confused heap of foundation and battlement of strength and beauty."16 Wentworth's conception of parliaments, in short, was rather that which prevails in Germany at the present day than that which was already growing in England in the minds of the parliamentary leaders.
Whether Wentworth took any part in the debates of the House of Lords in the short session of 1629 we have no means of knowing. But it may be safely conjectured that he regarded the House of Commons as wholly in the wrong in the events which led to the dissolution. Early in September he obtained knowledge of a paper written by Sir Robert Dudley in 1614 recommending James to erect a military despotism in England. He at once took it to Charles, who on 10 Nov. 1629 made him a privy councillor as a reward for his loyalty, as it was suspected that the paper was being circulated by the leaders of the opposition as indicating Charles's true intentions. In November 1630 he spoke strongly in the Star-chamber against Alexander Leighton (1568-1649), and it is said that a common feeling against aggressive puritanism drew him on that occasion to contract an intimate friendship with Laud, which continued to his death.17 On Wentworth's action in the privy council in these years we have no evidence, and it is certain that he had not, at this time, the predominant influence which has been subsequently attributed to him.
In October 1631 Wentworth lost his second wife, the mother of his children. At York there was a strong feeling of sympathy with the lord president in his trouble. 'The whole city' had 'a face of mourning; never any woman so magnified and lamented even of those who never saw her face.'18 In October 1632 Wentworth married his third wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Godfrey and granddaughter of Francis Rodes.
In governing the north, Wentworth's main dilficulties arose from the spirit of independence shown by the gentry and nobility in a district in which the idea of the predominance of the state had made less progress than in the more thickly populated and wealthier south. His first conflict was with Henry Bellasys, the son of Lord Fauconberg, who, coming into the hall in which Wentworth was sitting with the council, neglected to make the customary reverence, and kept his head covered when the lord president left the room. Bellasys was sent before the privy council at Westminster, and, after a month's imprisonment, agreed on 6 May 1631 to make due submission both there and at York.19 More important was the struggle with Sir David Foulis, a Scot who had received a grant of lands from James I, and who, after assailing Wentworth's personal honesty, urged the sheriff of the county to refuse obedience to the president's summons to York, on the ground that the Council of the North had been erected by the king's commission, and not by act of parliament.20
Wentworth stood forth in defence of the prerogative. In a letter written to Carlisle on 24 Sept. 163221 he took his stand on the necessity of preventing subjects from imposing conditions on the king, in his eyes the cause of offence in the last parliament after the acceptance of the Petition of Right. When Foulis attempted to bargain with Charles by offering to gain him the affections of the gentry if he were himself taken into favour, Wentworth's wrath blazed higher. His majesty, he said, would but gain by making Foulis an example of his justice. Ordinary men were not to be allowed to bargain with the king.22 To Wentworth the king was the depository of the idea of the state, called on to execute justice without fear of persons or parties. In the end Foulis was punished with fine and
imprisonment by a sentence in the Star-chamber. Lord Eure, too, resisted an order in chancery in his house at Malton till Wentworth ordered up guns from Scarborough Castle, and had them fired at his house in Malton. Sir Thomas Gower, having insulted the king's attorney at York, took refuge in London, and, on the plea that he was out of the jurisdiction of the northern circuit, drove off Wentworth's officers who attempted to arrest him in Holborn. Charles took Wentworth's part, and on 21 March 1633 a new set of instructions were issued,23 giving the fullest possible powers to the Council of the North.
By this time Wentworth, though still continuing president and executing his office by deputy, had been transferred to a wider sphere of action. On 12 Jan. 1632 he had been appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, though he did not enter Dublin till 23 July 1633. His first difficulty was likely to arise, not from the native Irish, but from the English immigrants or their descendants, who occupied all posts in Dublin, were seated at the council table, and had the ear of influential personages at the court of Charles himself. Accordingly while still in England Wentworth had drawn up proposals securing the Irish revenue against encroachments, and protecting himself against the granting of writs by the king behind his back, and these proposals were on 22 Feb. 1632, by Charles's order, registered in the council book, that they might not be disregarded.24 His own government was to be, according to the watchword frequently found in his correspondence with Laud, 'thorough'—that is to say, founded on a complete disregard of private interests, with a view to the establishment, for the good of the whole community, of the royal power as the embodiment of the state.
On his arrival in Dublin he found that the contribution which had been granted by an informal assembly in return for the grant by Charles of certain 'graces' was coming to an end, but he obtained its renewal for a year by mingling hopes of a parliament with hints that he would otherwise be compelled to exact the money by force. Being thus enabled to pay his soldiers, he reduced his little army to discipline. It was to the army that he looked to secure his power in the last resort; but he hoped rather to build it up on the basis of good government, fostering the material prosperity of the country. The piracy which was rife in St. George's Channel was put down. Schemes were entertained for opening commerce with Spain. The growth of flax was introduced and industry of every kind encouraged, except that, with the view of rendering Ireland dependent on England, the exportation of salt was to be a monopoly in the hands of the government, and any attempt to manufacture woollen cloth was to be discouraged. Wentworth's aim was in the end to make Irishmen as prosperous as Englishmen were, but at the same time to make them as like Englishmen as possible, in order that they might be equally loyal to the English crown.
Wentworth was thus brought to seek the reform of the protestant church in Ireland, which was far from being in a state to win the hearts of Irishmen. The ecclesiastical courts were mere machines for extortion. Scarcely a minister was capable of addressing an Irishman in his own tongue. Churches were in ruins, the clergy impoverished and ignorant,and their revenues often in the hands of the laity. The Earl of Cork, for instance, had secured the revenues of the bishopric of Lismore, worth £1,000 a year, by the annual payment of £20. Wentworth ordered a suit to be commenced against him in the castle chamber, and compelled him to disgorge his prey. The same nobleman had built a gorgeous tomb for his deceased wife in St. Patrick's Cathedral, in the place on which the high altar had once stood. Wentworth compelled him to remove it to another part of the church. Some kind of decency he enforced in the ceremonial of the church, though far short of that which Laud was enforcing in England. In November 1634 he forced the Irish convocation to substitute the articles of the church of England for the Calvinistic ones drawn up by Ussher which they had previously adopted. He also set himself to suppress the puritan practices of the Ulster settlers, most of whom were Scots. But his main effort was kept for the recovery of the property of the church as an inducement to men of zeal and ability in England to accept preferment in Ireland.
To secure a supply of money which would enable him to carry out his objects till the growth of prosperity should give him a constant revenue, Wentworth recommended Charles to allow him to summon parliament. An Irish parliament did not, like an English parliament, represent a tolerably united nation. It had been so manipulated as to contain a large minority of representatives of English and Scottish immigrants, another large minority representing the Roman Catholics for the most part of Anglo-Norman descent, besides a small number of officials who could form a majority by throwing their weight to one side or the other. Such a body easily lent itself to management, and Wentworth intended it to be managed. Parliament met on 14 July 1634. In his opening speech the Lord Deputy frankly declared that the king looked to the members to pay off his debts, and to fill up the deficit of £20,000 a year.25 It was beneath his master's dignity, he said, to 'come at every year's end, with his hat in his hand, to entreat that you would be pleased to preserve yourselves.' If they would trust the king by voting supplies in this session, there should be another session for redress of grievances. Let them not run into factions dividing between catholic and protestant, English and Irish; above all, let them make no division between king and people. 'Most certain is it that their well-being is individually one and the same, their interests woven up together with so tender and close threads as cannot be pulled asunder without a rent in the commonwealth.'26 A test division showed that the protestant members, reinforced by the officials, were in a majority of eight. On 18 July six subsidies were voted, and on 2 Aug. parliament was prorogued. On 20 Sept. Wentworth asked the king for an earldom as a sign of his support in the struggle on which he was embarked, but met with a denial from Charles, who liked to be the originator of his own favours.27
The second session of parliament commenced on 4 Nov. What the catholic members expected was that Wentworth would introduce bills to confirm the 'graces' to which Charles had given his word. On his announcing that he did not intend to submit all of these to legislation, they being, through the absence of some of the protestant members, in a majority, broke out into what Wentworth held to be a mutiny, and, under the leadership of Sir Piers Crosby, a privy councillor, urged the rejection of those bills that had been laid before them. In a despatch to the Secretary of State, Wentworth treated their conduct as arising not from a natural anger at seeing the king's promise to them broken, but from a desire to prevent the cause of good government prospering in English hands; for he wrote, 'The friars and jesuits fear that these laws would conform them here to the manners of England, and in time be a means to lead them on to a conformity in religion and faith also; they catholicly oppose and fence up every path leading to so good a purpose; and indeed I plainly see that so long as this kingdom continues popish, they are not a people for the crown of England to be confident of; whereas if they were not still distempered by the infusion of these friars and jesuits, I am of belief they would be as good and loyal to their king as any other subjects.'28 In these words lay the strength and weakness of Wentworth's Irish policy. He would strive his best to raise Ireland to the highest standard of English well-being, but his reforms must be emphatically English. The customs, the feelings, the very religion of Irishmen, might of necessity meet with contemptuous toleration for a time, but it was the business of governments ultimately to sweep them away in order that Irishmen might at last be happy in conforming to the English model. Wentworth, through the return of the protestant absentees, recovered his majority. He struck Crosby's name off the privy council book, and in this and in two other short sessions in 1635, he obtained the passage of a body of legislation carrying into effect the greater number of the 'graces.' He would gladly have kept this parliament in existence, but Charles insisted on a dissolution.
The 'graces' which Wentworth refused to pass into law were two: one which agreed to confirm defective titles to land, and the other giving a special promise to the landowners of Connaught that their right to their estates should never again be questioned. As far as the past was concerned, it was not that he wanted to seize lands from owners whose titles had been lost or destroyed in the wars which had devastated Ireland: he merely wanted to make the concession profitable to the state; and, with that end in view, he appointed commissioners to negotiate separately with the landowners, requiring them to set aside a permanent rent to the crown in consideration of a confirmation of their titles. The case of Connaught was part of a larger policy. Wentworth had set his mind on carrying further the plantation policy of James I. English colonists were to be settled in the purely Celtic regions to teach the natives the advantages of English civilisation, and in the meantime to form a garrison against domestic disaffection or foreign invasion. It was without effect on his mind that in 1635 the Ulster plan was shown not to have effected all that had been expected of it in this direction, and that, in accordance with a decree of the English Star-chamber, the city of London was declared to have forfeited its lands in that province for allowing the natives to encroach upon lands set apart for the settlers and for other similar misdemeanours; while it was shown in the progress of the inquiry that the natives, so far from embracing protestantism, had remained constant to their own religion.
Wentworth resolved to plant Connaught with Englishmen, and, to carry all before him, visited that province in person in the summer. He insisted on the highly technical claim that Connaught had been granted in the fourteenth century to Lionel, duke of Clarence, and that, King Charles being the duke's heir and prescription not being available against the king, all Connaught belonged to the crown. In Roscommon, Sligo, and Mayo he got juries to pass a verdict in favour of this view of the case. In Galway the jury being recalcitrant, he fined the sheriff for returning a packed jury, sent the jurymen before the castle chamber to answer for their action, and procured a decree from the court of exchequer to set aside their adverse verdict. His proceeding in this case showed his character at his worst. In pursuit of an object which to him appeared politically expedient—the settlement of Englishmen in Connaught—he not merely swept aside all consideration for the wishes and habits of the people with whom he was dealing, but justified his action by the employment of legal chicanery. After this it was of little importance that Charles's plighted word had been given not to do the very thing which his imperious minister was doing in his name.
So harsh to the feelings of whole communities, Wentworth was not likely to avoid giving offence to private persons, especially as he was subject to occasional fits of the gout, which did not, when they occurred, render him more forbearing. In November 1634 he summoned before him one Esmond, who had refused to carry some of the king's timber in a vessel belonging to himself. Irritated by Esmond's attitude, he shook his cane at, though it is almost certain that he did not strike, him. He, however, sent Esmond to prison, where he soon afterwards died of consumption. It was at once given out that he died from the consequences of a blow inflicted by the Lord Deputy.29
Wentworth's eagerness to secure from the English officials at Dublin the same devotion to the public service that he himself displayed brought him into collision with Lord Mountnorris, the vice-treasurer and an active member of the council. During the greater part of 1634 and the spring of 1635 Wentworth had constantly to complain of his acts of malversation, or at least of irregular practices, in the execution of his office. Mountnorris, probably knowing that the eye of the Lord Deputy was upon him, had begun to make arrangements for his resignation. In April 1635 he broke them off, and announced his intention of leaving his case in the king's hands. It is to be supposed that he was encouraged by the knowledge that there was a party at court hostile to Wentworth, and that this party was supported by the powerful interest of the queen, who disliked Wentworth's resistance to her wish to grant snug berths in Ireland for her favourites. Mountnorris was now quick to take offence. A kinsman of Mountnorris having dropped a stool on Wentworth's gouty foot, Mountnorris spoke of this event at a dinner at the Lord Chancellor's as having been done in revenge. 'But,' he added, 'I have a brother who would not take such a revenge.'
On 31 July Charles gave authority to Wentworth to inquire into Mountnorris's malpractices,30 and in another letter empowered him to bring Mountnorris before a court-martial.31 After Wentworth's return from Connaught the inquiry was held to Mountnorris's detriment,32 and on 12 Dec. Wentworth summoned him before a council of war, which condemned him to death, as being a captain in the army, for inciting his brother, a lieutenant, to revenge himself on the deputy for a real or imaginary wrong. Wentworth, however, only wanted to frighten Mountnorris into a resignation of his office. When that end was obtained he was set at liberty. So much hostility had been awakened by these proceedings that Wentworth thought it advisable to plead his own cause at court. On 21 June 1636 he made a statement before the council at Westminster setting forth the marvellous improvement of Irish affairs since he had become deputy.33 He returned to Dublin with a full assurance of the king's favour.
Up to this time, so far as we know, Wentworth's opinion had never been asked on affairs outside his own department. On 28 Feb. 1637 Charles, who had just received the opinion of the judges in favour of his right to levy ship-money, consulted him on the advisability of taking part at sea in the war which France and other states were waging against the house of Austria.34 Wentworth's advice, given on 31 March,35 was distinctly against war. Apart from his dislike of a war with Spain, and his clear view of the difficulties which would attend any attempt to recover the Palatinate, he held that the king was not yet strong enough to go to war at all. It was true that the opinion of the judges in favour of the legality of ship-money was 'the greatest service that profession hath done the crown at any time,' but unless the king 'were declared to have the like power to raise a land army upon the same exigent of state,' the crown stood but on 'one leg at home,' and was 'considerable but by halves to foreign princes abroad.' To fortify 'this piece' would for ever vindicate 'the royalty at home from under the conditions and restraints of subjects.' So far had Wentworth travelled. It is true that he had never done more than support Parliament in refusing supplies required to carry out what he judged to be an evil policy, yet he had never before so distinctly sided with the advocates of an absolute self-centred monarchy. Between him and his old parliamentary allies—they had never been more—there was more than a difference of judgment on the existing form of government. The real question was whether future generations would be better governed if the crown were freed from 'the conditions and restraints of subjects.'
Wentworth's strength, however, lay rather in action than in theory, and at the close of a progress in the summer of 1637 he was able to boast of the prospects of material improvement. 'Hither we are come,' he wrote from
Limerick, 'through a country, by my faith, if as well husbanded, built, and peopled as are you in England, would show itself not much inferior to the very best you have there.' Two more districts, Ormonde and Clare, had been secured for a plantation, and that 'which beauties and seasons the work exceedingly, with all possible contentment and satisfaction of the people.'36 Wentworth's attempt to build up a government in Ireland on the comfort of the people came to nothing. Englishmen had too much to do at home, and the expected settlers for Connaught or other districts were not to be had, and Wentworth himself was interrupted by a summons to shore up the tottering monarchy in England.
That he should have judged fairly the men who broke in upon his beneficent labours was not to be expected. To Laud, writing on 10 April 1638, he expressed a wish that Hampden and his like 'were well whipped into their right senses.'37 In July he expressed himself no less strongly on the Scottish covenant, and recommended that Berwick and Carlisle should be garrisoned and the troops exercised during the winter in preparation for an invasion of Scotland in the following summer, when the ports could be blockaded and commerce destroyed. The strong hand against the nation must be accompanied by clemency towards individuals. No blood was to be shed on the scaffold. Conquered Scotland was to be governed by a council subordinate to the English privy council. The English common prayer book was to be substituted for the newly invented one against which the Scots had protested.38 When Charles prepared for war in 1639, Wentworth backed his opinion by sending £2,00039 to the king towards the support of the army. Yet he protested against an invasion being attempted with a raw army, the only one at Charles's disposal, and urged him to be content with a blockade of the Scottish ports till he had time to discipline his men. He had been too long absent from England to appreciate the change of feeling there towards the crown, and he thought it possible that English soldiers would be content to serve five or six months at their own expense, and that after that a parliament would be willing to grant supplies for the next campaign40
Before the value of Wentworth's advice could be tested he was once more in England. Some time before he learnt that Crosby and Mountnorris had been collecting evidence against him in the Esmond case. He anticipated their attack by prosecuting them in the Star-chamber as the authors of grave statements circulated to his discredit. The suit came up for judgment in May 1639, and Wentworth appeared to enforce his views. He had also to justify himself against the complaint of the Irish chancellor, Lord Loftus of Ely, against whom he had given sentence—as it was alleged unreasonably—in favour of his daughter-in-law's claim for a settlement.41
Wentworth not merely gained his way on all these points, but on 22 Sept., when the attempt to invade Scotland had broken down and Charles was beginning to be dissatisfied with the results of the Treaty of Berwick, he was admitted by the king to the informal position of his chief counsellor. It was to him that was owing the advice to summon Parliament, coupled with the suggestion that, to make Charles independent of Parliament, the privy councillors should make up a sufficient sum as a loan. His advice was accepted, and he himself contributed £20,00042 on the security of the recusants' fines in the north, the collection of which was in his own hands. Before Parliament met in England he was to revisit Ireland, and to summon a parliament in Dublin to show the way of loyalty to the one at Westminster.
On 12 Jan. 1640 he was created Baron of Raby and Earl of Strafford. His assumption of the title of Raby gave deep offence to the elder Vane [Sir Henry Vane, the elder]. It was, says Clarendon,' an act of the most unnecessary provocation that I have known, and I believe was the chief occasion of the loss of his head.' Shortly afterwards Strafford was raised to the dignity of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He was to bring with him from that country a thousand men to serve against the Scots, and was himself named Lieutenant-General under the Earl of Northumberland, who was to take command of the invading army. Before leaving for Dublin Strafford supported the claims of Robert Sidney, second Earl of Leicester, to the secretaryship about to be vacated by Sir John Coke, but Charles refused his request, and appointed the elder Vane. Strafford's advocacy of Leicester's candidature is mainly noticeable as a sign of his desire to be on good terms with the queen, who also favoured it.
On 18 March 1640 the Lord Lieutenant landed in Ireland. He found the Parliament, already sitting, and on the 23rd a majority, composed of officials and Roman Catholics, voted four subsidies, or about £180,000.43 There can be little doubt that the Roman Catholics hoped by supporting Charles against the covenanters to obtain toleration for their own religion. The next day Strafford wrote to Secretary Windebank that, if only money were sent him in advance of the collection of the subsidies, he would assist the King with an army of nine thousand men from Ireland.44
As soon as the session was ended he returned to Westminster to take his place in the House of Lords in the Short Parliament. He found everything in confusion. On 23 April the commons resolved not to vote supplies till their grievances had been redressed. On this Strafford audaciously recommended Charles to go in person to the House of Lords, and to urge the peers to declare that the King ought to be satisfied before grievances were presented.45 On the 27th Charles spoke as Strafford had suggested, and was supported by a majority of sixty-one to twenty-five. Strafford had not only gained the support of the peers; he even obtained the queen's favour, who now in the time of peril discovered his value. The commons, on the other hand, on 27 April declared the intervention of the Lords to be a breach of privilege. On 2 May, the King having asked for an immediate answer to his request for money, Strafford announced that a refusal would be followed by a dissolution. On the 3rd Strafford induced the King to hold out a hand to the opposition by allowing the ship-money judgment to be carried to the House of Lords upon a writ of error, at the same time urging him not to require the exact twelve subsidies which he had authorised Vane to demand, but simply to 'put it upon' the affections of his subjects. Charles could not understand the wisdom of this course, but agreed to be content with no more than eight subsidies.46
It is uncertain whether Vane played the traitor or persuaded the vacillating King to return to his former resolution. At all events, on the 4th he announced to the Commons that, if ship-money was to be abandoned, the whole twelve subsidies must be granted. The house made further demands, but broke up without coming to a resolution. That night it was known at court that Pym intended to move the house at its next sitting to adopt a petition asking the King to come to terms with the Scots.47 Charles at once summoned the privy council to meet at the unusual hour of 6 A.M. On a declaration by Vane that there was no hope that the Commons 'would give one penny,' Strafford voted with the majority for a dissolution. That morning the Short Parliament was dissolved.48 Strafford's position was evidently that, while he preferred to accept whatever reasonable sums the Commons were inclined to give, so long as they supported the war, he refused to bargain with them if they made it a condition that the war was to be stopped.
Later in the morning a meeting of the committee of eight appointed to give advice on Scottish affairs—of which Strafford was a member—was held to discuss the situation. Vane and others wished the King to content himself with defending England against invasion. Strafford, knowing that it would be impossible to procure supplies for protracted operations, was eager for an offensive move against Scotland which he thought would be decisive in a short time. He urged that the city should be required to lend £100,00049 for the purpose, and that ship-money should be collected.
Northumberland hesitated to embark on war with means so scanty. 'Go on vigorously,' replied Strafford—at least so far as the hurried notes we possess enable us to ascertain his language—' or let them alone. No defensive war; loss of honour and reputation. The quiet of England will hold out long. You will languish as betwixt Saul and David. Go on with a vigorous war, as you first designed, loose and absolved from all rules of government; being reduced to extreme necessity, everything is to be done that power might admit, and that you are to do. They refusing, you are acquitted before God and man. You have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom. Confident as anything under heaven, Scotland shall not hold out five months. One summer well employed will do it. Venture all I had, I would carry it or lose it. Whether a defensive war is as impossible as an offensive, or whether to let them alone.'50 Later on a question was to arise as to whether the kingdom to be reduced was England or Scotland. Taking the; position of the words in the speech, it is at least highly probable that England was intended.51 At all events, the Irish army was only intended to be employed in England in the case of rebellion in that country. Its primary employment would be in Scotland. Within two days it was rumoured that the King thought of using the Irish army against his English subjects, as well as agains the Scots.52 From that moment a strong feeling of wrathful indignation against Strafford—'Black Tom Tyrant' as he was called—arose among his English countrymen.
With the government the first necessity was to raise money. On 10 May, on the refusal of the Lord Mayor and aldermen to take any steps to raise a loan, Strafford told the King that unless he hanged some of them he would do no good. Baffled in the city, Strafford turned to the three Spanish ambassadors then in England, requesting them to ask the king of Spain to lend £300,000.53 If the security offered was thought insufficient, that King might confiscate the property of English merchants in his harbours. In the midst of this agitation Strafford was incapacitated from open action by an attack of dysentery. On 24 May, when he was convalescent, he was visited by the King, and threw off his warm gown to receive him properly. The result was that he caught a chill, and for some days his life was despaired of. It was not till 5 July that Strafford was sufficiently recovered to take his seat in the council. By that time the Irish parliament had proved restive in the absence of his controlling hand, having insisted on a mode of collecting the subsidies voted by it which would seriously diminish their amount. Nevertheless, it was expected that the Irish army would rendezvous at Carrickfergus towards the end of July, in readiness to cross the sea.
In England various schemes for raising money had been tried in vain, and the English forces marching northwards were in a dissatisfied and almost mutinous condition. On 11 July Strafford supported a scheme for the debasement of the coinage,54 and threatened strong measures against those who opposed it. Later in the month he again pleaded in vain with the Spanish ambassadors for a loan, offering his personal security for the repayment of £100,000.55 When on 30 July a petition against the violence of the soldiers was presented from Yorkshire, Strafford urged that itshould be rejected as on act of mutiny. He could see that Charles had brought himself to such a pass that if he could be saved at all it could only be by the ruthless employment of despotic power, 'loose and absolved from all rules of government;' but he failed in this to secure the support of the King. As far as words could give power he had backing enough. On 3 Aug. a patent appointed him 'Captain-General over the army in Ireland, and of such in England as the King by his sign manual shall add thereunto to resist all invasions and seditious attempts in England, Ireland, and Wales, and to be led into Scotland there to invade, kill, and slay.' He was to lead these troops into 'any of the King's dominions, with power to suppress rebellion or commotions within any of the three kingdoms or Wales.'56
This patent is the best comment on Strafford's declaration, 'You have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom.' That army never crossed the sea. The English force broke down before the Irish one was in a position to move. On 8 Aug. Strafford once more pleaded with the Spanish ambassadors for a loan, if it were but of £50,000.57 This time the ambassadors forwarded to the cardinal-infant at Brussels a recommendation that the request should be granted, but before an answer could be received Charles's military power had fallen into a condition in which it was no longer worth helping. On 20 Aug. it was known that the Scots had crossed the Tweed. Strafford persuaded himself that such a disgrace would rally England round the King. On the 27th he appealed to the gentry of his own county of Yorkshire, telling them that they were bound to resist invasion 'by the common law of England, by the law of nature, and by the law of reason.'58 On the very next day, 28 Aug., the Scots defeated Conway at Newburn, and his beaten troops had afterwards to fall back on York, where the main body of the English army was gathering in a sullen mood.
That army was now virtually under Strafford's command, as he was himself Lieutenant-General; and Northumberland, the General, had remained in the south in broken health. To the King Strafford maintained his wonted cheerfulness. To his bosom friend Sir G. Radcliffe he acknowledged the hopelessness of the situation. 'Pity me,' he wrote, 'for never came any man to so lost a business. The army altogether necessitous and unprovided of all necessaries. That part which I bring now with me from Durham, the worst I ever saw. Our horse all cowardly; the country from Berwick to York in the power of the Scots; an universal affright in all; a general disaffection to the King's service; none sensible of his dishonour. In one word, here alone to fight with all these evils, without any one to help. God of his goodness deliver me out of this the greatest evil of my life.'59
To some extent Strafford had been right in thinking that Englishmen would be roused by a Scottish invasion. On 13 Sept. he persuaded the Yorkshiremen to support their own trained bands, a success which Charles rewarded by making him a Knight of the Garter. Other counties in the northern midlands seemed likely to follow the example of Yorkshire; but this feeling did not extend to the south, and London was clamouring for redress of grievances by means of an English parliament. On 24 Sept. the great council of peers having met at York, Charles announced to it that he had already issued writs for a parliament. In the great council Strafford urged the necessity of raising £200,00060 at once, and a deputation was sent to London to ask for a loan to that amount. With this Strafford's influence over affairs came to an end. On 6 Oct. he attempted in vain to inspirit the great council to resist the demands of the Scots, and on the 8th suggested in a private letter that the renewal of war might be marked by an attack of the Irish army upon the Scottish settlers in Ulster, with the object of driving them out of Ireland.61 By this time Strafford knew that the Scots were prepared to name him as a chief incendiary. When, on 28 Oct., the great council held its last session, even he did not venture to advise further resistance, and he knew enough of the temper of the new parliament which had by that time been elected to remain in Yorkshire when it met.
On 3 Nov. 1640 the Long Parliament met, and Charles, either feeling the need of his counsel or moved by the intrigues of the personal enemies of the Earl, sent for him, assuring him that if he came he 'should not suffer in his person, honour, or fortune.' Strafford set out on 6 Nov. 'with more dangers beset, I believe,' as he wrote, 'than ever any man went out of Yorkshire,'62 reaching London on the 9th. On 10 Nov. the parliamentary committee on Irish affairs named a sub-committee to examine complaints that had reached it from Mountnorris and other of Strafford's enemies in Ireland. As this sub-committee was not to meet till the 12th, it was evident that the leaders of the House of Commons had no intention of acting in a hurry, but were prepared to conduct a deliberate inquiry into Strafford's conduct, as a preparation for the impeachment which would follow in due course. Pym was the more resolved to call Strafford to account as he had in his possession a copy of the notes taken by Vane of the Earl's language in the committee of eight, and interpreted them to mean that Strafford had proposed an invasion of England by the Irish army.
On the 10th Strafford proposed to the King to anticipate the blow by preferring a charge of high treason against those members of either house who had invited the Scots into England.63 On the 11th Charles was to hold a review in the Tower, and if the persons named by Strafford were carried thither an armed force would be ready to receive them. Charles's court was, however, full of intriguers who hated Strafford, and the project was soon communicated to the parliamentary leaders. On the morning of the 11th, whether in consequence of Charles's indecision or because it was intended to seize the leaders before the accusation was brought, Strafford appeared in the House of Lords, but soon left without uttering a word. The Commons were excited about the review at the Tower, and Pym, within locked doors, moved for a committee to prepare for conference with the Lords 'and the charge against the Earl of Strafford.' The committee hurriedly set down certain accusations, and by the order of the House Pym at once proceeded to impeach him before the Lords. 'I will go,' said Strafford, 'and look my accusers in the face.' When he arrived, the Lords took care that he should not speak, some of them doubtless being afraid lest he should bring against them a charge of complicity with the Scots. He was ordered to withdraw, and when he returned he was told that he had been committed to the gentleman usher. His request to be allowed to speak was refused.
On 26 Nov. a preliminary charge against him was brought up by the Commons, on which the Lords committed him to the Tower. In the first article it was declared that he had 'traitorously endeavoured to subvert the fundamental laws and government of the realms of England and Ireland, and instead thereof to introduce an arbitrary and tyrannical government against law, which he hath declared by traitorous words, counsels, and actions, and by giving his majesty advice by force of arms to compel his loyal subjects to submit thereunto.'64 This was the gist of the whole accusation. Pym and the commoners had resolved to support two propositions: first, that Strafford had endeavoured to subvert the fundamental laws; and, secondly, that such an endeavour was tantamount to high treason. On 20 Jan. 1641 the detailed charges were brought into the House by Pym from the committee entrusted with their preparation. They did not terrify Strafford. 'I thank God,' he wrote to Ormonde, 'I see nothing capital in their charge, nor any other thing which I am not able to answer as becomes an honest man.'65
On 30 Jan. the articles were accepted by the house and sent up to the lords. Whether they could be sustained or not, it was obvious that the object of the House was more political than legal. The main cause of its wrath lay partly in its belief that Strafford had intended to employ the Irish army against Englishmen, but far more in its belief that if he were to regain his liberty he would carry out his intentions. It was for Charles to save Strafford, if he could, by convincing the Commons that he had himself abandoned the idea of using force, and that, in any case, Strafford, if his life were saved, would be excluded from the public service. Unhappily no such conduct was to be expected from Charles. Not only did he keep the Irish army on foot, but he continued Strafford in the command of it. On 11 Feb. Sir Walter Earle drew attention to the danger from this army. On the 13th the House petitioned for its disbandment. By taking no notice of this demand Charles markedly increased Strafford's peril.
On 24 Feb. Strafford read his answer at the Lords' bar. His trial upon the impeachment of the House of Commons opened in Westminster Hall on 22 March. The case against him was stated by Pym on the 23rd. Two constitutional systems were at issue. Pym, it is true, failed to do justice to Strafford, because he was thinking of England rather than of Ireland, and imagined it to be safe to uphold the same constitutional rules in Ireland that he wished to maintain or develop in England. Strafford knew far more about Ireland than his accusers, but his main object was to defend himself, not to propound theories about government. The vigour with which he met the attack gained him favour outside the House of Commons, especially as his general line of defence was that, whether he were guilty or not of the charges brought against him, they did not constitute treason. On 5 April the charge of raising an army of Irish papists 'for the ruin and destruction of England and of his majesty's subjects, and altering and subverting the fundamental laws and established government of this kingdom' was reached. He had, it was said, declared that the King, if Parliament failed to supply him, might use 'his prerogative as he pleased to levy what he needed, and that he should be acquitted of God and man if he took some courses to supply himself, though it were against the will of his subjects.'
The elder Vane was brought forward as a witness that the words advocating the employment of the Irish army to 'reduce this kingdom' had been actually spoken. Strafford urged, in reply, that he had meant to use the Irish army in Scotland. The most probable explanation is that Strafford's intention had been to employ it in Scotland, but that he had hypothetically expressed his readiness to use it in England if the English nobility rose in support of the Scots. 'In case of absolute necessity,' he said,' and upon a foreign invasion of an enemy, when the enemy is either actually entered or ready to enter, and when all other ordinary means fail, in this case there is a trust left by Almighty God in the King to employ the best and uttermost of his means tor the preserving of himself and his people, which, under favour, he cannot take away from himself.' This view of the case, that of all fundamentals the kingship was the most fundamental, was in direct opposition to Pym's view that this was the position of parliament alone. To his constitutional argument Strafford, with the eye of a tactician, added an appeal to the interests of the peers. How would any of them venture to enter the King's service if he were liable to be condemned as a traitor for delivering an opinion which ought to have been kept secret? When the lawyers who followed had done their worst and the proceedings were adjourned, it was known that Strafford had gained considerable support among the lords who sat as his judges.
To Pym and his colleagues the event of an acquittal seemed to be a grave public calamity. They knew, what has now been placed beyond dispute, that Charles and the Queen had been considering a plan for the bringing the influence of the English army in the north to beat down opposition in Parliament. They knew, too, that the army itself was discontented for want of pay, and was ready to vent its displeasure on Parliament. The leaders of the Commons were more than ever convinced that Strafford must be got rid of as a public enemy. On 7 April fresh charges were brought against him. On the 8th the Commons resolved to produce the copy taken by the younger Vane of his father's notes of the proceedings in the committee of eight. On the 10th there was a dispute as to Strafford's right to produce fresh evidence in reply to the fresh charges now brought forward by the Commons, and the Lords decided in Strafford's favour. The meeting broke up in confusion.
When the Commons returned to their own house, it was resolved to proceed by a bill of attainder, which the lords must either accept or refuse. Pym objected to drop the constitutional pleadings, and, though he was obliged to submit to the first reading of the bill, he contrived on the 12th to regain the mastery. The House abandoned its claim to produce fresh charges. The Lords, on the other hand, called on Strafford to proceed with his reply to his accusers, as if the Lower House had manifested no intention of changing the procedure. On the 18th Strafford made a masterly defence, asking how a number of misdemeanours could be held to constitute treason. Pym argued, speaking from his notes, and not as Strafford with unassisted vehemence, that the prisoner was guilty of divorcing the King from his subjects, and that in this lay the treason he had committed. Whatever Pym might wish, the House of Commons insisted on proceeding with the attainder bill, and on the 15th asked the Lords to postpone the trial. The Lords took offence, and ordered the lawyers to go on with their arguments. On the 19th the Commons declared Strafford to be a traitor, and on the 21st, by a majority of 204 to 59, it passed the attainder bill. It was no secret that the Lords were likely to take offence at the distrust in their judicial character revealed by this new procedure.
It is evident that much depended on Charles's skill in carrying the Lords with him in the constitutional struggle. 'The misfortune that is fallen upon you,' he wrote to Strafford, 'being such that I must lay by the thought of employing you hereafter in my affairs, yet I cannot satisfy myself in honour or conscience without assuring you now, in the midst of your troubles, that, upon the word of a King, you shall not suffer in life, honour, or fortune.' For a time he played his cards well. He entered into communication with the parliamentary lenders, Bedford, Saye, and Pym, offering to admit them to office, probably on the understanding that some lesser punishment than death was to be inflicted on Strafford; while the Lords on 27 April gave a second reading to the bill, which committed them to nothing. Whether the negotiation broke down through Charles's fault or not cannot be said. Even if it was his fault, it was the more incumbent on him to gain over the majority of the peers by showing that he was resolved to seek Strafford's liberation from death by constitutional methods only. It is beyond doubt that he and the queen intended to save him by assisting him to escape, and at the same time were plotting to seize the Tower, where they expected Balfour, the lieutenant, to be ready to play into their hands, and to retire to Portsmouth, where they believed the governor, Goring, to be ready to admit them, and then to summon Irish and Dutch forces to their help, while a dissolution of parliament was to render their opponents helpless. Unluckily for Charles and Strafford, some of this plan was certain to leak out, especially as Goring was betraying to Pym so much as he knew of the secret. On 28 April the Commons learnt that a vessel chartered by Strafford's secretary had been for some time lying in the Thames, evidently to enable him to escape, and the King's reiterated refusal to disband the Irish army increased their suspicions.
On the following day St. John, arguing on the legal point before the Lords, denied that any consideration ought to be shown to Strafford. 'We give law,' he said, 'to hares and deer, because they be beasts of chase; it was never accounted either cruelty or foul play to knock foxes and wolves on the head . . . because they be beasts of prey.' It was the present, not the past, danger to which St. John and the Commons were looking, and the Lords were gradually coming round to the same conclusion. On 1 May Charles tried to stem the tide by assuring the peers that he had resolved that Strafford was unfit to serve him even as a constable. On 2 May, which happened to be a Sunday, took place the marriage of the Princess Mary to the Prince William of Orange, and there is little doubt that the prince brought over money to enable Charles to enter on an armed struggle with the Commons. On the same day Captain Billingsley appeared at the Tower gate, asking in the King's name for the admission of a hundred men, only to find that Balfour, the lieutenant of the Tower, refused to let him in. Sir John Suckling, too, was collecting armed men under the pretence of levying them for Portuguese service.
The next day London was wild with excitement. A mob beset the House of Lords, crying for justice on Strafford, and posted up the names of the fifty-nine members of the House of Commons who had voted against the bill of attainder as 'Straffordians, betrayers of their country.' Of course there were wild tales bandied about in addition to those now known to be true. Pym still attempted to shield the King, and carried the House with him in voting a protestation, binding those who took it to endeavour to suppress plots and conspiracies. On 4 May the protestation was taken by the Lords. Rumours, this time of French intervention, were widely spread, and on 5 May Pym at last revealed his knowledge of the army plot and of the danger of Portsmouth.
The knowledge which the Lords now possessed, or believed themselves to possess, of the intrigues of Charles and the Queen was fatal to Strafford. They did their best to stop the queen's intended journey to Portsmouth, and on 8 May passed the attainder bill. All that was now wanting was the royal assent. Strafford had already acknowledged that he could no longer avoid his fate. He had already, probably on 4 May,66 asked Charles to pass the bill, and, by sacrificing his minister, to come to an agreement with his subjects. On the 8th, when the attainder bill was passed, London was wildly excited by a rumour that a French fleet had seized Guernsey and Jersey. The Queen's carriage was actually at the door of Whitehall to carry her to Portsmouth. When she abandoned her design, the Lords sent two deputations to urge Charles to assent to the bill. An armed mob flocked to Whitehall to enforce their request.
Strafford made one last effort. In a paper addressed to the King, he asked him to refuse to pass the bill except conditionally on its being understood that he was to pardon the Earl in respect of life, or otherwise to set it aside in favour of another bill incapacitating the prisoner from all offices or from giving counsel to the crown, with the penalty of high treason annexed if the Earl failed to fulfil these conditions.67 All through the next day, Monday the 9th, the king hesitated. Having obtained from the judges an opinion that Strafford had committed treason, he consulted four bishops. Juxon and Ussher advised him to stand firm; Williams urged him to yield. He could not make up his mind. A last attempt to bribe Balfour to forward his escape had failed, and Newport, who was now Constable of the Tower, had announced that if the King did not assent to the bill he would have Strafford executed without legal warrant. The mob was again howling outside Whitehall and threatening violence to the Queen and her mother. Before this latter menace Charles gave way, and on 10 May the royal assent was given by commission to the bill. Strafford is said to have been surprised by the news, and to have exclaimed, 'Put not your trust in princes!' If he used the expression, he must have received an assurance from Charles that the advice given in the Earl's paper of the 8th would be followed out.
On the 11th, knowing that his execution was to take place on the following morning, Strafford sent a message to Laud, also imprisoned in the Tower, to be at his window as he passed. When he went forth on 12 May 1641, Laud raised his hands in blessing, and then fainted away when his friend passed. On the scaffold on Tower Hill Strafford told the vast crowd assembled to see him die that he had always believed 'parliaments in England to be the happy constitution of the kingdom and nation, and the best means under God to make the king and his people happy,' asking further whether it was well that the 'beginning of the people's happiness should be written in letters of blood.' Refusing to bind his eyes he, after prayer, spread forth his hands as a sign to the executioner, and the axe ended his life. He was buried at Wentworth-Woodhouse.
Van Dyck seems to have painted Strafford at least four times. The best known portrait is that of Strafford and his secretary, Sir Philip Mainwaring.... It was engraved by Vertue and prefixed to the 'Strafford Letters,' 1739; four other engravings of this portrait are mentioned by Bromley. Another portrait of Strafford by Van Dyck is at Wentworth-Woodhouse, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam, and a third belonged in 1866 to the Earl of Home.68 A fourth, belonging to the Duke of Portland, is at Welbeck, and is reproduced in Mr C. Fairfax Murray's 'Catalogue of Pictures at Welbeck' (p. 25). There are also engravings by Hollar, Houbraken, R. Houston, G. Glover, and R. White, and an engraving of Strafford and his three surviving children by Vertue.69
Strafford's aims as a statesman are easy to discern. A reformer by nature, he sought to retain the kingship in the position it had acquired under the Tudors—to be assisted but not controlled by parliaments. To maintain this position was impossible with Charles, and Strafford was therefore forced into a reaction from which the Tudor sovereigns had kept themselves free. Personally he was most lovable by all who submitted to his influence, with an imperious temper towards all who thwarted him.
By his second wife, Arabella Holles, Strafford had four children, three of whom outlived him: William; Anne, bom in October 1627; and Arabella, born in October 1629.70 By his third wife, Elizabeth Rodes, he had a daughter Margaret.
Straflord's honours were forfeited by his attainder, but his only son, William, who was born on 8 June 1626, received them all by a fresh grant from Charles I on 1 Dec. 1641. In 1662 parliament reversed his father's attainder, and William, already first Earl of Strafford of the second creation, became also second earl of the first creation in succession to his father. He was elected K.G. on 1 April 1661 and F.RS. [Fellow of the Royal Society] on 6 Feb. 1668.
1. G. E. Cokayne, Complete Peerage, xii. 262.
2. Nichols, Progresses of James I, ii. 435; State Papers, Docquets, 8 Dec.
3. Earl of Strafford's Letters and Despatches, William Knowler, Ed., London, 1739, ii. 430.
4. Strafford Letters, i. 15.
5. ib. p. 19.
6. ib. p. 21.
7. Forster, Life of Eliot, i. 153; Gardiner, History of England, v. 349.
8. Strafford Letters, i. 34.
9. ib. i. 29.
10. ib. i. 32.
11. State Papers, Dom. xviii. 110.
12. Strafford Letters, i. 35.
13. Harl. MS. 286, f. 297.
14. Strafford Letters, ii. 430.
15. Gardiner, History of England, vi. 230-309, with references to the original evidence.
16. Printed from Tanner MSS. lxxii. 300 in Academy, 5 June 1875.
17. Leighton, Epitome, 1646.
18. Fairfax Correspondence, ii. 237.
19. Rushworth, ii. 88.
20. ib. ii. 205.
21. Forster MSS. in the South Kensington Museum.
22. Wentworth to Carlisle, 24 Oct., in the Preface to Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1631-3.
23. Rymer, Foedera, xix. 410.
24. Strafford Letters, i. 65.
25. £20,000 in 1634 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £2,610,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
26. Strafford Letters, i. 286.
27. ib. i. 301, 331.
28. ib. i. 345.
29. cf. Rushworth, iii. 888, with State Papers, Dom. ccccxx. 36, and a statement bv Lord Esmond in State Papers, Ireland, undated.
30. Strafford Letters, i. 448.
31. ib. i. 498.
32. ib. i. 497.
33. ib. ii. 16.
34. ib. ii. 53.
35. ib. ii. 59.
36. State Papers, Ireland.
37. Strafford Letters, ii. 156.
38. ib. ii. 189.
39. £2,000 in 1639 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £264,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
40. ib. ii. 279.
41. See for the whole affair, Loftus, Adam, first Viscount Loftus of Ely, to which may be added, as an argument against the suspicion that Wentworth had been too familiar with the young Lady Loftus, the testimony of his intimate friend Sir G. Radcliffe, Strafford Letters, ii. 435.
42. £20,000 in 1639 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £2,640,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
43. £180,000 in 1640 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £25,000,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
44. Strafford Letters, ii. 398.
45. Montreuil to Bellièvre, 10 March, 30 April, Bibliothèque national de France, MS français 15995, fol. 81.
46. Whitaker, Life of Radcliffe, p. 233.
47. State Papers, Dom. cccclii. 46, 114, 115; British Library Harleian MS. 4931, f. 49.
48. Laud, Works, iii. 284; Whitaker, Life of Radcliffe, p. 233.
49. £100,000 in 1640 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £13,900,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
50. Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 3.
51. See a discussion of this in S. R. Gardiner, History of England, 1603-42, ix. 123 n.
52. Montreuil to Bellièvre, 7-17 May, Bibliothèque national de France, MS français 15095, fol. 84.
53. £300,000 in 1640 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £41,700,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
54. State Papers, Dom. cccclix. 77.
55. £100,000 in 1640 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £13,900,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
56. Abstract of the patent in Carte MSS. i. 240.
57. £50,000 in 1640 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £6,950,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
58. Rushworth, ii. 12, 35.
59. Whitaker, Life of Radcliffe, p. 203.
60. £200,000 in 1640 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £27,800,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
61. ib. p. 206.
62. ib. pp. 214, 228.
63. Rushworth, Strafford's Trial, p. 2; Laud, Works, iii. 295; Manchester's 'Memoirs' in BL Addit. MS. 15567.
64. Lords' Journals, iv. 97.
65. Carte, Ormonde, v. 245.
66. For the date see Gardiner's History of England ix. 362 n.
67. 'Papers relating to Strafford,' ed. Firth, Camden Miscellany, vol. ix.
68. Cat. First Loan Exhib. Nos. 579, 624.
69. Bromley, p. 76.
70. Strafford Letters, ii. 430.
Gardiner, S. R. "Thomas Wentworth, first Earl of Strafford."
Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. XX. Sidney Lee, Ed.
New York: The Macmillan Co., 1909. 1179-1194.
Other Local Resources:
Books for further study:
Merritt, J. F. The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621-1641
Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Wedgwood, C. V. Phoenix: Thomas Wentworth: First Earl of Strafford: A Revaluation
Sterling Publishing, 2001.
Lord Strafford on the Web:
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