H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

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Engraved by O. Lacour, after the picture by Vandyke in the possession of
Sir Philip Grey-Egerton, Bart., of Oulton Park, Cheshire

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All rights reserved

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Early Life.


The First Parliament of Charles ... 8


The Third Parliament of Charles — Wentworth

in Opposition 20

Theories of WentworIjh's Apostasy



The Presidency of the North .


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Thb Appointment to Ireland .... 68

The Irish Parliament 86

c^The Church of Ireland 98

The Plantation op Connaught . . . .108

The Mountnorris Case 122

l General Review op Wentworth's Irish Adminis-



The Loptus Case — The Scotch War . . .145

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^Thb Short Parliament, and the Second Scotch

War 155

Impeachment 172

Attainder and Execution 187-

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In that momentous struggle between the rival principles
of Parliamentary Government and Monarchical Kule
which fills the annals of our country throughout * the
greater part of the seventeenth century, the latter of
the two contending theories is popularly and not un-
naturally associated with the name and personality of
Charles the First. The purpose of the following pages is
to delineate the character and to trace the career of a man
who might be much more justly regarded as the historical
representative of the Absolutist cause — of a man who
dedicated to it an intellect incalculably keener and a
will immeasurably stronger than the most fanatical of
cavaliers has ever attributed to Charles, and who sealed
his loyalty to it in a higher sense than did his unhappy
master by a death upon the scaffold. Of him it can be
said, as it never could be said of the monarch who used and
betrayed him, that if any man could have held firm the
flood-gates of authority against the rising tide of demo-
cratic aspiration, it was he. To his powerful arm and
to none other would the Trojans of Koyalism have been
justified in committing the defence of their citadel ; and
3B B

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only from his failure to preserve it could they have had
a right to draw the Virgilian omen of an irresistible
fate. He alone was entitled to appropriate the boast of
Hector and to declare that

" Si Pergaina dextrft
Defendi possent etiam h&c defensa fuissent."

His life, in short, was the life of the Absolutist cause,
his temporary mastery its fleeting hope, his defeat and
death its destruction.

Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford
and Baron Wentworth, was born in Chancery Lane on
Good Friday, April 13th, 1593, at the house of his
maternal grandfather Kobert Atkinson, a bencher of
Lincoln's Inn. He came of an old Yorkshire family which
had been seated on the manor of Wentworth since the
Conquest. His father, Sir William Wentworth, does
not appear to have taken any active part in public life,
but the family had in the course of its history given not
a few servants to the State ; a Lord Chancellor and a
Bishop were numbered among its members. The great-
grandfather of the subject of this memoir was in favour,
it would appear, at the Court of Henry the Eighth, and
the appendix to Kadcliffe's collection of the Strafford
Letters contains a curious grant under the hand of that
monarch authorising his well-beloved subject, Thomas
Wentworth, for " certain diseases and infirmities which
he daily sustegneth in his hede, ,, to wear " his bonet on
his said hede " in the royal presence.

As the eldest son of an important county family,
Wentworth, of course, received the education deemed

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necessary to fit him to become its head. He was
sent at an early age to St. John's College, Cambridge,
where, without being known to have particularly dis-
tinguished himself, he must have laid the foundations of
a sound scholarship, and whence he bore away with him
affectionate remembrances of his University, which were
to reveal themselves on more than one occasion in later
life. To the usual academical course he added a careful
study of modern letters, and he appears to have sedu-
lously trained himself in those arts of expression, oral
and literary, which were afterwards to become such
powerful weapons in his hands. A letter to Sir William
Wentworth from a friend of the family, under date
of 1611, when Thomas Wentworth had reached his
eighteenth year, and was probably just concluding his
university course, congratulates the father on the son's
" honourable fortunes," and at the same time suggests
that the younger brother William should be entered of
the Middle Temple. He himself was to go through a
steady course of legal training at a future period, but
the first step towards the completion of his education
was a year of continental travel. Accompanied by his
tutor, the Rev. Charles Greenwood, a Fellow of University
College, to whom he became much attached, and whom
he afterwards warmly recommended to his nephew,
Wentworth left England probably in 1611 or 1612 for
the Continent, where he made a stay of some fourteen
months. The only noteworthy or indeed known in-
cident of the tour was his having made the acquaintance
of Sir Henry Wotton, then our ambassador at Venice.
On his return from abroad Be appeared at Court, and was
knighted by James the First. The origin of this honour

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seems pretty clearly indicated by the age of the recipient.
Like his father's baronetcy, which was apparently con-
ferred at the same time, they were probably granted by
the royal founder of the latter title for a "valuable
consideration." It had doubtless been procured for him
in contemplation of his marriage, which took place at
this time, to Lady Margaret Clifford, eldest daughter of
Francis, Earl of Cumberland.

The year 1614 was an eventful one in Wentworth's
life. It witnessed at once his attainment of his majority,
his succession to the baronetcy and family estate by the
death of his father, and his first entrance into Parlia-
ment as member for Yorkshire. His voice, however,
was not heard during the single session of that short-
lived assembly. "Till such time," he afterwards
wrote to his nephew, " as experience hath ripened your
judgment it shall be great wisdom to distrust yourself,
and to fortify your youth by the counsel of your more
aged friends before you undertake anything of conse-
quence. It was the course that I governed myself by
after my father's death, with great advantage to myself
and affairs, and yet my breeding abroad had shown me
more of the world than yours hath done, and I had
natural reason like other men, only I confess I did in all
things distrust myself, wherein you shall do, as I said,
extremely well if you do so." We shall see hereafter
how widely Wentworth's account by himself here given
differs from the estimate formed of him by Clarendon.

Wentworth, however, had many other things to oc-
cupy his mind at the time besides public affairs. The
estate to which he had succeeded was large for those
days — six thousand a year ; and besides, in addition to

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the work always entailed by a succession, there had, at
the same time, devolved upon him the care of the inter-
ests of two nephews, the sons of Sir George Savile, who
had married his sister, and who d^ed the same year as
Sir William Wentworth. To this trust he dedicated
himself with that ,energv and l oyalty which were to be
his most salient characteristics as a statesman, devoting
minute and laborious study to the affairs of his wards,
and personally attending the courts at every hearing of
a long -protracted law -suit in which their property was
concerned. This last sacrifice of time and labour, how-
ever, was no doubt made to serve a double purpose, for
we know that he systematically studied law for several
years at this period of his life, and was a regular attend-
ant at the sittings of the Star Chamber.

From 1614 to 1621 no Parliament sat in England,
but Wentworth soon found an opportunity of gratifying
that desire for public employment which seems to have
been always his strongest passion. In 1615 Sir John
Savile, having for some cause or other made himself
" impossible " as Keeper of the Records for the West
Riding of Yorkshire, received an intimation that he
must resign his office, and being allowed to recommend
a successor, he determined, or was induced — the
form of appointment contains the words "out of his
love," but this may be mere "common form" — to
nominate Sir Thomas Wentworth, who was duly in-
stalled in the office. After two years' service, however,
he was suddenly informed by Buckingham that the
King had received Sir John Savile into favour again, —
which, no doubt, being interpreted, meant that Savile had
purchased the good offices of the favourite, — and that

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Wentworth would do well to resign. But his Grace
did not yet know the man he had to deal with. Went-
worth was not to be so easily dislodged. He defended
his post with spirit, pointing out that Savile's resignation
had been a matter of necessity and for cause of mis-
conduct, and declaring that if further pressed to resign,
he would come up to London and make good his case.
Buckingham gave way, with the graceful pliancy which
came so easily to him when he had a purpose to serve ;
but it is more than probable that he remembered the
rebuff, and resolved to clear scores at the first oppor-
tunity which offered.

In 1621, after seven years' intermission, another
Parliament was summoned, and Wentworth stood again
as candidate for Yorkshire, in conjunction with Sir
George Calvert, the Secretary of State. He, — or rather
his fellow -candidate, for his own seat was regarded as
safe, — was opposed by Sir John Savile; but official influ-
ence was brought to bear in favour of the Minister, after
the usual unscrupulous fashion of the time, and both
Wentworth and Calvert were returned. In the records
of this brief Parliament, Wentworth has left behind him
some traces of his i ndividual action. He supported,
with Pym, a Bill for keeping the Sabbath, a fact which
sufficiently indicates his then connection with the Puri-
tan party. Also we find him, when the House was
threatened with compulsory adjournment, urging the
members to pass as many of the more important bills as
they could in the shortened time. And on the resump-
tion of their sitting he moved, in view of similar tactics
on the part of the Crown, that no member leave town
till the session was ended. In January 1622 the Parlia-

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ment was dissolved, to the grief of Wentworth, as he
assured a friend, to whom he described the event as a

This year, moreover, was one to be remembered with
sorrow on private grounds. In the summer he lost
his wife by a fever contracted during his residence at
Austin Friars, whither he had transferred his household
in order to fulfil his parliamentary duties. He was
himself visited with a severe attack of the same disease,
which left him only to be followed by an ague, which
troubled him for long afterwards.

To the last Parliament summoned by James in 1624
he was again returned — this time for Pontefract — and
again sat as a silent member. On February 24th in
the following year he married his second wife, Lady
Arabella Holies, , a younger daughter of Lord Clare,
who became the mother of the children who survived
him, his first wife having died without issue. In
March 1625 James the First died. Writs were issued
for a new Parliament, and Wentworth stood for York.
He was opposed by a son of his old opponent, Sir John
Savile, but was returned. Savile petitioned, alleging
illegality, and a new election was ordered, when Went-
worth a second time secured the seat. With this event
the important period of his career begins.

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Charles the First, though always subtle and often
stubborn, was not a prince remarkable for either grasp of
intellect or force of will ; but one may admit that even a
much more abundant supply of both qualities might have
failed to equip him adequately for the singularly difficult
task which lay before him on his accession to the English
throne. There have been many stronger players at the
game of kingcraft than he, but few who ever sat down
to the table with a worse hand. When, moreover, to the
external difficulties of his position we add the constitu-
tional defects of his character, we may well doubt whether
from the outset he ever had any real chance of winning
the game. The conditions adverse to him make up at any
rate a most formidable array. A heavy legacy of debt
bequeathed him from his father besides financial embar-
rassments of his own ; the reflected unpopularity of an
ill-conducted continental war; a distrusted French
Catholic wife and a detested Minister-favourite; the
menace of a levelling religious movement, daily allying
itself ever more and more closely with new and dangerous
political ideas ; — these troubles alone would have been

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sufficient in all conscience to engross the energies of the
strongest and to try the tactics of the most skilful of
rulers. But in Charles's case the external enemy found
treacherous confederates within the camp, and the un-
happy King had to contend not only with hostile circum-
stance, but with the gravest moral and mental failings
of his own — with a narrowness of vision which forbade
him to see farther than those dangerous expedients of
the moment which he saw all too clearly, with a coldness
of heart which left him without any of those emotional
promptings to honesty and staunchness which often
supply the place of principle, and with a will at once
obstinate and irresolute, wavering when firmness might
have won the day, and immovable when concession was
the only path of safety.

His first Parliament assembled at Westminster on
June 10th, 1625, and Charles, whose needs were too
pressing to admit of circumlocutory statement, told
them in plain terms that he wanted money. His father
had left £700,000 of debts : he had already contracted
considerable liabilities of his own ; and the money voted
for the war with Spain in the Palatinate was long
since swallowed up. He did not hint at a peace ; he
said, on the contrary, that the war must be pushed on
with vigour. He reminded the Parliament that they
themselves had had recourse to arms, and that therefore,
the war being their own work, the dishonour would be
theirs if it were not followed up with spirit from a want
of necessary supplies. Charles, however, had already
anticipated some of these supplies in a manner which
did not tend to predispose the Commons to liberality.
During the interval between his accession to the Crown

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and his summons of Parliament he had issued warrants
for the levying of troops for the Palatinate, and had
exacted a tax, or rather a forced loan, from the people in
the form of "coat and conduct" money — as the charge
for the equipments and transport of troops was called —
the payers of the irregular impost receiving a promise of
a payment from the Treasury. This and other grievances,
and the increasing hatred of the Parliament for the all-
powerful favourite, determined the character of their
response. They limited their votes to two subsidies,
amounting only to about £140,000, and the duties
of tonnage and poundage not for life, as had been
the practice for two centuries, but for one year only.
The Bill, however, for thus limiting these duties was
thrown out by the House of Lords, and Charles, much
disgusted by the niggardly reply to his application,
adjourned the Parliament, appointing it to meet again
on August 1st at Oxford, London being at that time
under a visitation of the plague. Here accordingly
the Commons reassembled, but in no more pliable mood
than before. They declined to alter their decision in
the matter of tonnage and poundage, and broke out
into fresh complaints of grievances. Charles endeav-
oured, not very happily, to quicken their movements by
a hint that " the plague might touch them " if they were
too dilatory, and that if they would not give answer
about the supplies without loss of time, " he would take
more care of their health " than they themselves seemed
disposed to take, and shift for himself as he could. This
threat of dissolution only drew from the House an
address in which they declared themselves " abundantly
comforted by his Majesty's care for their health," but

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proceeded to notify their fixed intention of doing their
utmost to discuss and reform the " abuses and grievances
of the realm and State," and (but afterwards) to
"afford all necessary supply to his most excellent
Majesty upon his present occasions and designs," etc.
The declaration, however, was never presented, for
before this could be done the King dissolved the Parlia-
ment after an adjourned session of eleven days.

In this Parliament Wentworth sat as member for
York, and took a more active part in its proceedings
than he had done in those of either parliaments of the
preceding reign. It becomes therefore of much im-
portance to determine what his attitude was towards
the Court and the popular party respectively at this his
first really active participation in political affairs. It
has been usually believed, and it is even now sometimes
said, — principally indeed by those who have a motive
for giving a more dramatic turn to his subsequent apos-
tasy, — that he threw himself at once and unreservedly
into the popular cause. The accessible evidence, how-
ever, does not seem to me to support this conclusion.
It is true that Wentworth appears to have acted in the
Parliament of 1625 with Pym, Selden, Sir Francis Sey-
mour, Sir John Elliot, and others of their party ; that
his name has ever since been associated with them in
responsibility for all the protests and proceedings of that
party in this Parliament; and that such historians as
Hume, for instance, hesitate not to reckon him among
their number. True it is also that he was regarded
by the Court as formidable enough to be worth including
in the list of those "whom it was ingeniously attempted,
by a peculiar exercise of the prerogative, to prevent

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from serving in the next Parliament. But nevertheless
it seems impossible to draw any other conclusion from
documentary evidence brought to light in later times
than that, even as early as 1625, Wentworth was no
single-minded and disinterested opponent of the Court.
Had he been so it is incredible that he should have
amicably received overtures made to him by the hated
favourite, and should even, as it seems he did, have
complied with the request which they prefaced. Yet
this in fact happened. Buckingham made advances to
him through Weston, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
soliciting his good offices in Parliament, and was in-
formed in reply that Wentworth would be ready " to
serve him in the quality of an honest man and a gentle-
man." For this he received the Duke's thanks; and
the treaty was some time later ratified by a personal
interview. Wentworth, to quote his own words, received
Buckingham's command "to kiss his Grace's hands"
before leaving town, and on doing so was very graciously
entertained. The favourite appears to have sent him
away crammed with pretty speeches and fair promises,
and he departed, as he says himself, " with a great deal
of content and full security."

The interchange of such courtesies as these between
one of the reputed leaders of the Opposition and the
Minister against whom they were directing every
parliamentary weapon within their reach would, even
alone, have been a suspicious incident; but matter
of yet stronger suspicion is to come. Pressed by his
necessities, Charles found himself compelled to sum-
mon a second Parliament, and in Order to rid himself
of a few of the most troublesome of the opponents of

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the Court in the last Parliament, the King appointed
seven of them sheriffs of their counties, so as to dis-
qualify them for parliamentary seats. Among them
was Wentworth, who, naturally attributing the inclu-
sion of his name to the instigation of Buckingham, was
highly indignant at the supposed act of treachery on
the part of a professed friend. Buckingham however,
who was then in Holland, assured him, whether truly

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Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillLord Strafford → online text (page 1 of 15)