Make your own free website on
The Cavaliers
History Links




War Clouds


    War clouds hung over England like a mist over an English moor in the summer and fall of 1641. This island nation with less than five million people was rapidly moving toward a bloody civil war. Forces in Parliament were challenging the totalitarian rule of the king, the 40­year old Charles 1. The country was rapidly choosing up sides. Those loyal to and supporting the king were called Cavaliers and those oppos­ing the king were referred to as Roundheads.

    For the most part the Cavaliers were from the landed gentry or so-called upper-class. They dressed eloquently and wore broad-brimmed hats with one side turned up beside the crown decorated with a colorful feathered plume. They wore their hair long flowing to and below their shoulders. They were known for their chivalry and impeccably good manners. Most were excellent horsemen and they loved to hunt fol­lowing the fox with the hounds. All were fiercely independent. Most of them owed their positions and financial well being to grants of land and other favors extended to their ancestors by the king's ancestors and, as a result, they relied on the king for their support and the king relied on them to sustain him in power. The Cavaliers were the aristocratic gentlemen of England - the masters of large manor homes with vast expanses of land.

    The Roundheads were primarily shopkeepers, businessmen, and apprentices in London. Contrary to the Cavaliers, many of them wore their hair cropped off and turned up at the neck and, because of this hair style, they were referred to as Roundheads.

    It was by a quirk of fate that Charles I became king of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland at the age of 25. Had Queen Elizabeth I of England married and left an heir, the crown would have passed to such an heir and Charles would have been little . remembered in history. But such was not to be. Elizabeth died unmarried and without an heir and the course of the English monarchy switched to the lineage of Charles' grandmother, Queen Mary of Scotland who had been beheaded at the direction of Elizabeth, her cousin. Nor was it expected that Charles would become the king because he was not the first born son of his father, King James 1. The crown passes to the eldest son. But, once more, fate played a role, and Charles' older brother, Henry, a person of consider­able physical strength and self confidence, died of typhoid fever and Charles became the heir apparent at age 12.

    Needless to say, Charles' family background created a sense of insecurity within him which undoubtedly affected his actions as king. Although Queen Mary of Scotland was beheaded 13 years before Charles was born, he knew well the history of her tumultuous and tragic life. She was born to the royal family at the palace of Linlithgow in Scotland on December 8, 1542 and crowned queen of Scotland 12 days later. At age 16 she married Francis, the 14-year old son of the king of France. When Francis died two years later Scotland had become predominately Protestant Presbyterian and many resented the 18-year old Catholic queen. On July 29, 1565 Mary married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, and within slightly more than one month became pregnant with James, Charles' father. The marriage of Mary and Henry started to disintegrate almost immediately. Henry was an indulgent playboy who drank too much. The 23-year old Mary quickly found attention and romance from David Rizzio, her Italian secretary. On March 9, 1566, when Mary was six months pregnant, Henry and several other men stormed into Mary's quarters in the palace, seized Rizzio and stabbed him to death. After Mary gave birth to her son, James, she and her illegitimate half-brother, James Stuart, laid plans to rescue Mary from her unfortunate marriage. On February 10, 1567 at 2:00 a.m. there was a tremendous explosion at the Kirk o' Field House in Edinburgh where Henry was staying and Henry's body was subsequently found in a garden on the other side of the town wall, strangled. Rumor had it that James Hepburn was respon­sible for the murder and three months after Henry's death, Mary mar­ried Hepburn. Scotland was scandalized and on June 15, 1567 a group of Scottish nobles imprisoned Mary in Lochleven Castle and forced her to sign a deed of abdication naming her infant son, James, as the king of Scotland. Mary last saw James when he was 10 months of age and she spent the next 18 years of her life in England at various houses under house arrest until she was beheaded at 8:00 a.m. on February 8, 1587. Thus, there was strong evidence that both of Charles' paternal grand­parents were accessories to murder his grandfather part of a group who murdered his grandmother's paramour and his grandmother involved in a plot to murder his grandfather. As if this weren't enough, his grandmother was beheaded pursuant to a death warrant signed by her first cousin.

    Charles' father, James 1, also left a burdensome legacy, which, undoubtedly, caused insecurity in Charles and, in all likelihood, con­tributed to his totalitarian policies when he became king. James was crowned king of Scotland when he was only one year of age. When Queen Elizabeth I of England died without an heir, James also became king of England, Wales, and Ireland. James was small, awkward, and clumsy. He slobbered and sputtered and had a speech impediment. Many times he appeared to be unkempt and created a scruffy image. Nor was he particularly dignified. But, in spite of these shortcomings, he was considered by some to be intellectual. James married Anne of Denmark and they had three children, Henry, Elizabeth, and Charles. Charles was born on November 19, 1600 in Dunfermline Castle in Scotland a few miles north of the Firth of Forth. As an infant, Charles was very sickly. He was late to walk and talk and, like his father, he had a speech im­pediment which remained with him throughout his life. He was shy and reserved.

    James' homosexuality eventually became known because of his many passionate affairs within various royal chambers. When Charles was nineteen, many of the members of his fathers' court were languish­ing in the Tower of London for sexual and financial offenses including a former Lord Chamberlain, a former Lord Treasurer, a former SecretarY Of State and a former Captain of The Gentlemen Pensioners. But the true love of James' life was George Villiers, a handsome young member of the royal court. Within a few years James made Villiers the Duke of Buckingham, the first non-royal duke in over a century. Per­haps James excused some of his own weaknesses by believing that he ruled by divine authority. He adhered to the principle that the king can do no wrong and he impressed this belief upon Charles. Although considered to be a Calvinist Protestant, James had strong ties to the Roman Catholic Church which created resentment by many in Scotland and England. He detested Puritans. By the time he was 57 years of age, James had deteriorated into a state of near senility and Villiers, his homosexual lover, for all intents and purposes, took control of the English Government. In less than two years James died and in March, 1625, Charles became king of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland at the age of 25. James had very much wanted to unite the thrones of England and Spain by marriage to diminish the aggressive tendencies of the Spanish monarchy but in May, 1625 the 25-year old Charles married 14-year old Henrietta Maria, the sister of the Catholic King of France. The marriage took place at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris but Charles was not present the marriage having been completed by proxy.

    Charles was the first English monarch to have been brought up from childhood within the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church, or Church of England, was the official English church. It was created by King Henry VIII when the Roman Catholic Pope in Rome refused to sanction Henry's annulment from Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. The king, himself, became the titular head of the church and the Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed by the king, was the ecclesiastical head of the church. The Anglican Church was the state church and the practice of Roman Catholicism was against the law and there were severe penalties for those who did not subscribe to the prac­tice of the Anglican Church. Catholic priests discovered in England were liable to be put to death for treason. Everyone in England was required to attend a weekly sermon. All Englishmen were expected to support and attend the Anglican Church and those who refused were fined. While not a Roman Catholic Church because it did not recognize the Pope, the Anglican Church was far from being a Protestant Church. But for the Pope, the Anglican Church retained most of the vestiges of the Roman Catholic Church. However, in terms of being Roman Catholic or non­Roman Catholic, the Anglican Church was referred to as being Protestant. 

    Scotland was mostly Protestant - but not Anglican. The Presbyterian form of worship prevailed in Scotland and the Scots jealously protected their right to worship in the Presbyterian manner. The Puritans and Quakers in England resented the monarchy controlled Anglican Church which they felt came close to recognizing the king as a deity himself. They resented the symbol page used in the service of the Anglican Church. Most of Ireland had remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church. They regarded the creation of the Anglican Church as blasphemy.

    Each of these groups of the Christian faith feared that the others might gain control of the realm and each was ready to fight, in the name of Christianity and for the glory of God, to prevent this. It became Charles' task to appease or eliminate those Christian religions other than Anglicanism while at the same time mandating that Anglicanism was the official religion of the kingdom. And he was sympathetic to the Anglican doctrines that sought to establish a distinctive character to the Anglican creed separated equally from Catholicism and Protestantism. Because of his position and his marriage to Catholic Henrietta Maria, he was often accused by Protestants of favoring Roman Catholics and supporting popery but he was equally accused by Roman Catholics of supporting Protestantism. Like his father, Charles perceived himself as the God on earth divinely guided to lead his subjects and the kingdom he ruled. Early on he followed the principle that "Men are ruled more by the pulpit than by the sword." And he learned that in order to maintain his position of supreme authority, he had to control both the military and the church. Consequently, religion was seen as an essential concern of the kingdom and Charles sought to impose the mandates of his religion on all of his subjects. This led to bitter resentment from the Catholics, Puritans, Presbyterians and Quakers and ultimately, a majority of Parliament itself began to demonstrate rebellious tendencies. To repress this opposition, Charles, at the age of 29, dissolved Parliament on March 2, 1629, four years after becoming king. Many in Parliament were outraged by this dictatorial action and their outrage simmered and grew to explosive proportions during the next I I years while Charles ran the royal government as a dictator without the Parliament and with no representation of the people whatsoever. To strengthen his "rule of the Pulpit" Charles named 60-year old William Laud in 1633 to become Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office of the Angli­can Church just below the king himself. Laud took a strongly "Catholic" view of the doctrine and practice causing great concern among the Scots Presbyterians. He beautified the churches, rearranged the alters, Installed organs, encouraged church music, and approved of Sunday sports, causing great concern among the Puritans.

    In the summer of 1637 three Puritan writers and a lawyer, William Prynne, were tried for and convicted of treason for their printed attacks on the queen. They were sentenced to be fined, pilloried, and to have their ears cut off. By 1638 the Presbyterian Scots were in a state Of religious revolt against Charles and Charles attempted to quell the revolt by military force in 1639 further antagonizing the Scots. While the issues were many and devastating to the nation, religion was a prime issue. Many heads rolled on the executioner's block in the name of God Almighty.

    The venom of hatred grew to such a frenzy that in April, 1640 Charles felt compelled to call another Parliament into session. It took only a few weeks for Charles to realize that the resentment built up over I I years of his absolute rule could overthrow his monarchy and, in a fit of desperation, he unwisely dissolved the Parliament again and this only heightened the anger of the many enemies he now had.

    In a further unguided act of desperation Charles reassembled Parliament in November, 1640. The wrath of the Puritan and Presbyte­rian members of Parliament, a majority, was soon felt and Charles real­ized that his rule and his very life were in jeopardy. John Pym, Oliver Cromwell, William Strode, and Sir Arthur Haslerig lead a radical group in the House of Commons condemning the king's policies with respect to both church and state. The 41-year old Cromwell especially acted as an agitator in a rude manner using offensive and crude language in the House of Commons. Some of his speeches were disgraceful and un­seemly. He demonstrated his clear hostility to the Anglican Church. Sir Henry "Harry" Slingsby, a Yorkshire gentleman loyal to the king wrote: "These are strange spectacles to see this nation, which has lived for so long in peace when all the world around us has been at war, engaging in a war among ourselves which, with our own venom, will consume our­selves." Many in Parliament accused Charles of being aligned with the Irish Catholics. The Scots demanded that the Presbyterian religion be mandated in Scotland. In 1640 Charles stood by and did not raise a hand in their defense as Parliament condemned two of his loyal friends and supporters: Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, a Yorkshireman, be­headed at Tower Hill, and Archbishop William Laud, ecclesiastical head of the Anglican Church, imprisoned in the Tower of London. Charles had his supporters in Parliament including Sir Henry "Harry" Slingsby Edward Hyde, Sir John Culpeper, Lord Falkland, and Goeffrey Palmer: but they constituted a pitiful minority. Realizing that a clash with those Parliamentarians led by John Pym and Oliver Cromwell was inevitable, Charles went to Scotland in August, 1641 to seek military support from the scots and while he was in Scotland the Roman Catholics, fearing a triumph of the Puritans in Parliament, revolted and Pym and his follow­ers secured the passage of a bill in the House of Commons called The Grand Remonstrance. The bill condemned the king's policy both as to church and state and, most importantly, it condemned the king's right to control his own army. This was the final straw. Charles knew that he could not rule without an army. He must get rid of the rabble rousers. Back in London from his unsuccessful trip to Scotland, Charles sent his Attorney General, Sir Edward Herbert, to the House of Lords on Mon­day, January 3, 1642 where Herbert accused six members of Parliament of high treason - Lord Manville of The House of Lords and John Pym, John Hampden, Arthur Haslerig, Denzil Holles, and William Strode of 'Me House of Commons. It was Charles' plan to demonstrate his su­preme authority by personally arresting the five members of the House of Commons on the afternoon of January 4, 1642 but word of Charles' intention reached the five before Charles arrived. Charles entered the Commons chamber with his nephew, the Elector Palatine, took off his hat and walked bare-headed to the speaker's chair saluting some mem­bers of the Commons as he passed by. Although not large in stature, Charles presented a fearsome figure. He was, after all, the king. With utmost sternness he glowered at those in the chamber. Harry Slingsby, standing behind lawyer Bulstrode Whitelocke, was overwhelmed with sorrow. His eyes were fixed on the king - a king who had visited and slept in his home known as Red House near York. Slingsby, a very religious man of few words, detested violent behavior. He knew that a ter­rible tragedy was unfolding before his eyes. He was sickened at the sight. "John Pym! Is John Pym among you!" demanded the king. Silence. And Slingsby began to feel very uncomfortable. Charles inquired in the same manner of the other four - Hampden, Haslerig, Holles and Strode. Deathly silence! The five missing parliamentarians were well on their way to old London on a barge on the Thames. Charles looked at each member present in the chamber. "Mr. Speaker. I have come to arrest these five gentlemen for high treason. Where are they!" Silence. In disgust and with an air of contempt and frustration, the king said, "Well, I see the birds have flown the coop!" Without another word, the king strode Out of the chamber looking neither right nor left followed by his nephew. Charles knew this meant war and so did the Parliament. The seeds Of civil war had been sown.


To purchase my book for the Kindle click here:


For questions or comments about this web site contact: