4th January 1642. ‘The Birds Had Flown’.

‘A war without an enemy’: Sir William Waller, a moderate parliamentary general, on the English civil war.

Sir William Waller c1597-1668, Cornelius Janssens Van Coulen. National Picture Gallery.

Sir William Waller c1597-1668, Cornelius Janssens Van Coulen. National Picture Gallery.

The opening ‘shots’ came Today in 1642 when King Charles invaded the Commons in an attempt to arrest the five ring-leaders for  dissent, only to find ‘the birds had flown’.(1)

The King particularly wanted to impeach the leader of the opposition, John Pym, but after the King had left London, Pym and his allies pushed through the Militia Ordinance, which put the command of county forces into the hands of his supporters.

Charles now issued his own commission of array which assigned his followers to organise their own county forces.

The King and Family, after the abortive attempt, then fled to the Royalist stronghold, Oxford: on the 22nd August 1642, he declared war at Nottingham Castle by raising his Standard.

The seeds of these moves to war went back to the Irish uprising of the previous October which had raised the vital question as who should now control the army needed to quell the disturbances.

The vacuum in power was the  result of the Earl of Strafford’s dismissal and execution in May 1641, after he had upset both Catholics and Protestants as Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Condemned by Parliament, he was sacrificed by the King, who at his own execution, said it was retribution for allowing the death of his friend Strafford.(2)

The Irish uprising resulted in response to the Protestant English and Scots settlement of Ulster. The Catholics now sought the King’s authority for strict measures against this Protestant intrusion. A religious sectarian divide thus opened up, to develop into one political.

The upshot of these problems, was a build up of opposition to the King, which prompted Parliament’s ‘Grand Remonstrance’, listing the many grievances which had festered since the beginning of his reign.

It was drafted between August and November 1641 by John Pym, John Hampden, John Glynn, Sir John Clotworthy and others of the ‘Middle Ground’ who were attempting to bridge the ‘War and Peace Party’.

After a violent debate The Remonstrance was passed by 159 to 148 on 22nd November 1641, with opposition coming from Viscount Falkland and Edward Hyde. It was presented to the King on 1st December 1641 and rejected by him on the 23rd December.

The rejection of the Petition and the next month’s intrusion into the Commons was to see the English Civil War move ever nearer.

(1) A Journal (see below), describes the proceedings: ‘About 3 of the clock we had notice that His Majesty was coming from Whitehall to Westminster with a great company of armed men…to number of about 400′.

‘Mr Pym and the four members of our House who stood accused by His Majesty Attorney of High Treason knowing that His Majesty was coming to the House of Commons did withdraw out of it. His Majesty came into the House with Charles Prince Elector Palatine’. The King now ordered that the Speaker [Lenthall]  ‘tell him the whereabouts of the members’.

Lenthall ‘now kneeling down did wisely desire His Majesty to pardon him and saying he could neither see nor speak but by command of the House’. The King replied in effect, that ‘his eyes were as good as another’s, then looked round the House a pretty while to see if he could spy any of them’.

(2) (2) Thomas Wentworth named after Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire, became Earl of Strafford in 1640. From 1632 to 1639 he was Lord Deputy of Ireland.


The Author presented himself at Waller Barracks, Devizes in 1958. When he went to Roundway Hill for firing practice, the historical association passed him by.

Ref: C.V.Wedgwood. The Trial of King Charles 1983, Penguin P.190 re Charles’ remorse over Strafford.

Ref: Journal of Sir Simonds D’Ewes 1642 from spartacusschoolnet.co.uk/five members.

Ref: parliament.uk/civil war Breakdown of 1641-2 UK Parliament.

Ref: school history.co.uk /Grand Remonstrance.

Ref:johnredwooddiary.com Charles and the power of the Crown.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pic. Ref.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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