British Civil Wars

(1.1.6) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Episode 6 - Three Weeks In Westminster

Buoyed by his belief that he can do what he likes, Charles makes his most tone deaf decision yet, with disastrous consequences.


Writer and Presenter: Fiona Barnett @stitchthisfiona

Producer: Emily Benita @BenitaEmily

Technical Producer and Sound Engineer: Ali Alnajjar @Alithelampie

Historical Consultant: Mary Jacobs @msmaryjacobs

Music Composer and Performer: Harry Harris @CmonHarris

A huge, highly-caffeinated thank you to our Patreons, ScaryBiscuits, Tom Vickers and Tom Wein.



“This is why I prefer during the civil wars to before them!” said a historian friend while I was working on Episode Six. I see why. In this episode - and in fact the next one - there are a lot of things going on at once. Many of them are administrative, or nitpicky, or just not very explosive. Personally I quite like finding out how the admin gets done, watching the groundwork get laid before everything goes to hell in a handbasket. Episodes Six and Seven were originally intended to be one episode where we raced through all the things. But Past Tense is nothing if not a passion project, so what’s the harm in slowing down to enjoy the scenery?

Speaking of enjoying the scenery, this episode and the next one are of the kind that is often called “great man” history, which is to say, it focuses on a few, often very privileged individuals at the expense of everyone else, and can sometimes over-simplify complex events to make it sound like only those very few people were entirely responsible for the course of the past. That kind of storytelling is hard to escape here, and honestly the Short Parliament and the things that came next in the halls of power are fascinating enough that I’d like to give them a bit of attention. That said: the rest of the country (countries!) definitely exists. Not-London definitely exists. It is very much within my field of vision to give them their fair share of attention in the near future.

The last few months, I’ve been reading the work of Veronica Wedgwood, so you’ll notice a fair bit of singing her praises in the near future. She was an excellent historian, with a great turn of phrase - you could do a whole lot worse than getting your hands on a copy of The King’s Peace (and its follow up, The King’s War), if you’re feeling particularly like an overachiever. I scored a copy of both in a second hand bookshop in Pitlochry last year - at the time it felt like a crowning achievement. Lovely stuff.



Argyll (Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll) - 1607-1661. Leader of the Scottish Covenanters, and chief of the Campbell clan. Nemesis of Montrose, both politically and militarily. Ultimately beheaded by Charles II for being too close to the English interregnum regime.

Bastwick, Burton, Prynne (John Bastwick, Henry Burton, William Prynne) - English Puritan writers of pamphlets which resulted in them being convicted of “seditious libel” (i.e. libel intending to persuade people to oppose the government) in 1637 and punished extremely severely. They became a rallying point for the growing anti-Royalist movement.

Charles I - 1600-1649; King of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1625-1649. Leader of the Royalist (Cavalier) faction; ultimately beheaded for treason.

Hamilton (James Hamilton, Earl of Hamilton) - 1606-1649. A personal friend of Charles I, he tried to mediate between Charles and the Covenanters. Both Royalist and Covenanter sides mistrusted his motives, and few of his attempts at negotiation had any success. Eventually captured, tried, and executed by the English Parliamentarians.

Hampden (John Hampden) - 1594-1643; MP for Buckinghamshire and leading critic of Charles during his Personal Rule. Best known for strongly opposing Ship Money, and for being the defendant in Rex v Hampden when he refused to pay it. A leading Parliamentarian in the Civil War.

Henrietta Maria - 1609-1669; wife of Charles I 1625-1649 (until his death); mother of Charles II and James II/VII, and seven other children (including three who died in infancy). French by birth, and practising Catholic.

Laud (Archbishop William Laud) - 1573-1645. English Privy Councillor from 1627, Bishop of London from 1628, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633. Steered Charles’s religious policy during the 1630s, which made him increasingly unpopular. Imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1641 by the English Parliament, and beheaded for treason in 1645.

Leslie (Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven) - 1580-1661. An experienced Scottish soldier who served in the Thirty Years’ War and returned to to command the Covenanter army in the Bishops’ Wars and the Civil Wars. Arrested by English Parliamentarians in 1651 and held prisoner until 1654, after which he retired to his estate in Fife.

Montrose (James Graham, Marquis of Montrose) - 1612-1650. A signatory of the National Covenant, but ultimately one of Charles’s most effective military leaders in the civil wars. Hanged and beheaded by the Covenanters in 1651. After the restoration of Charles II, he was remembered as a folk hero and martyr.

Pym (John Pym) - 1584-1643. MP for Tavistock, de facto leader of the House of Commons, one of the main political leaders of the English Parliamentary side in the First Civil War. Orchestrated an alliance between the English Parliament and Scottish Covenanters. Would be far more widely remembered (or I think so!) if he didn’t die of cancer in December 1643.

Traquair (John Stewart, Lord Traquair) - ??-1659. Scottish Privy Councillor who was Deputy Treasurer of Scotland 1630-1636, and Treasurer 1636-1641. Nominally a Royalist, his dealings with both Royalists and Covenanters meant that nobody really trusted him, and from 1640 onwards he didn’t have much influence.

Wentworth (Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford from 1640) - 1593-1641. An MP from 1614, Lord President of the North from 1628. After that he was appointed to the Privy Council, and rose in the ranks, becoming Lord Deputy of Ireland, and then returning to help Charles in the Bishops’ War. Beheaded for treason in 1641.



  • Braddick, Michael. God’s Fury, England’s Fire: A New History of the English Civil Wars. London: Penguin Books, 2008.
  • Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of. The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England Begun in the Year 1641. Edited by W. Dunn Macray. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888. (Six volumes.)
  • Cressy, David. England on Edge: Crisis and Revolution 1640-1642. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Fissel, Mark. The Bishops’ Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • Hexter, J. H. The Reign of King Pym. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.
  • Hughes, Ann. The Causes of the English Civil War. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1998.
  • MacPherson, C. B. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962.
  • Morrill, John. Revolt in the Provinces: The People of England and the Tragedies of War 1630-1648. 2nd edn. London: Addison Wesley Longman, 1999. First published George Allen & Unwin, 1976.
  • Plant, David. The BCW Project: British Civil Wars, Commonwealth & Protectorate 1638-1660.
  • Royle, Trevor. Civil War: The War of the Three Kingdoms 1638-1660. London: Abacus, 2004.
  • Sharpe, Kevin. The Personal Rule of Charles I. London: Yale University Press, 1992.
  • Thompson, Faith. A Short History of Parliament 1295-1642. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1953.
  • Wedgwood, C. V. The King’s Peace 1637-1641. London: Collins, 1955.

(1.1.7) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Episode 7 - Raise Your Standards

(1.1.ii) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Bonus 2 - Mince Pies And Misrule