British Civil Wars

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

As is the way when tensions run high, Charles and Parliament lock horns, setting off a period that can only be described as, “alarmingly eventful.”


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, Michael Molcher, ScaryBiscuits, Tom Vickers and Tom Wein.



Episode Seven is the one in my notes that I refer to as “the one where all hell breaks loose”, and it took a very long time to write - mainly because in my opinion it would be absolutely criminal to squander half the drama that happens in it. I’m particularly referring to the trial of Wentworth - which some might say I’ve given too much emphasis to, but this is my podcast so I’m going to focus on the fun bits - and also the flight of the Five Members when Charles went to the House of Commons to arrest them in January 1641. You have to give those the screen time they deserve. 

I’ve asked a couple of historians now whether they would have been a Cavalier or a Roundhead, and they all seem to think there’s an obvious answer to it, before coming out with wildly different things. I think it’s a great question, because the answers are always interesting, and don’t always match up with their areas of expertise. (For example, no Scottish historian ever has told me, “If I’d been born 400 years earlier, I’d definitely have been a Covenanter.”) The classic answer is something along the lines of, “Heart of a Royalist, head of a Parliamentarian”. At this stage, looking down the barrel of Episode Seven, I have a great deal of sympathy with that. Maybe you can tell that I’m fascinated by John Pym - some people like their historical figures to be Byronic heroes chock-full of feelings, but apparently my favourite kind are both formidable and impenetrable. And that, I think, is why I really wanted to spend so much time on the Pym vs Wentworth battle - the all-head-no-heart battle of wills, no less emotionally charged for the fact that it’s so often couched in such rational terms.

That does, unfortunately, have the tendency to lead me towards the kind of history that focuses heavily on individual men with knighthoods, which is a position that’s getting less fashionable these days and rightly so. There’s definitely a balance to be drawn between telling as many people’s stories as you can manage, and going for the big, flashy stuff about the people at the top. I like flashy - I like reading about it and then telling you about it afterwards. But there’s a balance to be drawn, and seven episodes in I’m very aware of all the considerations involved in trying to draw it.

As for which I’d have been - I debated whether to tell you, but on the whole I think it’s better to acknowledge your biases. I lean mildly Royalist, but with a strong facepalm reflex. It is entirely possible that, had we been around in the mid seventeenth century, PTP’s resident historian Mary and I would have had fisticuffs on the common at dawn.



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. His head ended up on the same spike that Montrose’s had been impaled on.

Balmerino (John Elphinstone, Lord Balmerino) - ??-1649. One of Charles I’s most prominent critics in Scotland, he was tried for sedition and libel by Charles, for having an annotated copy of the 1635 supplication against the Book of Common Prayer in his possession. He was pardoned a year later. Becoming the president of the Scottish Parliament in 1641, he was a leading Covenanter.

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

Clarendon (Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon) - 1609-1674. Member of Parliament who was a Royalist, but a moderate one. He fled to Jersey in 1646, and on the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 he became Lord Chancellor to Charles II. In later life he was exiled to France and spent his later years writing an account of the Civil Wars known as The History of the Rebellion.

Hamilton (James Hamilton, Earl of Hamilton) - 1606-1649. A personal friend of Charles I, he tried to mediate between Charles and Argyll. 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. One of the Five Members whom Charles tried to arrest; leading Parliamentarian in the Civil War. Died in 1643 from wounds sustained on the battlefield.

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.

Hesilrige (Arthur Hesilrige) - 1601-1661. Prominent Parliamentarian and religious radical, one of the Five Members of Parliament King Charles tried to arrest in January 1642. He fought for Parliament, but after the wars fell out with Cromwell’s government. He died in the Tower of London in 1661.

Holles (Denzil Holles, 1st Baron Holles) - Prominent Parliamentarian, one of the Five Members of Parliament King Charles tried to arrest in January 1642. He fought for Parliament, and was a Presbyterian church leader. Later reconciling with Charles II, after the Restoration he became a diplomat. 

Ker (Lord Henry Ker) - 1599-1643. Younger son of Robert Ker, first Earl of Roxburghe. Royalist and friend of Montrose, responsible for the plot to kidnap Hamilton, Argyll and Lanark known as “The Incident”.

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. Impeached and arrested for treason in 1641, he was beheaded four years later by the Parliamentarians.

Mandeville (Edward Montagu, Lord Mandeville, later Earl of Manchester) - 1602-1671. Member of the House of Lords nearly arrested with the Five Members in January 1642. He fought for Parliament, but later reconciled with Charles II and remained involved in politics until his death.

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. Member of Parliament for Tavistock, de facto leader of the House of Commons, one of the Five Members whom Charles tried to arrest, and a main political leader 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 if he didn’t die of cancer in December 1643.

Rothes (John Leslie, Earl of Rothes) - 1600-1641. A leading Covenanter and opponent of the Book of Common Prayer, he was a member of the Glasgow Assembly and very influential in the negotiations between the Covenanters and Charles. After the pacification of Scotland in 1641 (oh yes, that’ll happen soon), he remained in Charles’s court, and died of consumption in 1641.

Strode (William Strode) - 1598-1645. Member of Parliament and strong opponent of Charles. During the Personal Rule he spent eleven years in prison for his criticism of Charles. He was one of the Five Members of Parliament King Charles tried to arrest in January 1642. He died in 1645.

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.



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