Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford

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Thomas Wentworth, about 1639, portrait after van Dyck Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (2).jpg
Thomas Wentworth, about 1639, portrait after van Dyck

Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (13 April 1593 (O.S.) – 12 May 1641) was an English statesman and a major figure in the period leading up to the English Civil War. He served in Parliament and was a supporter of King Charles I. From 1632 to 1640 he was Lord Deputy of Ireland, where he established a strong authoritarian rule. Recalled to England, he became a leading advisor to the King, attempting to strengthen the royal position against Parliament. When Parliament condemned Wentworth to death, Charles reluctantly signed the death warrant and Wentworth was executed.

English Civil War Civil war in England (1642–1651)

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and Royalists ("Cavaliers") principally over the manner of England's governance. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

Parliament of England historic legislature of the Kingdom of England

The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England, existing from the early 13th century until 1707, when it united with the Parliament of Scotland to become the Parliament of Great Britain after the political union of England and Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Charles I of England King of England and Ireland

Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649.

Contents

Early life

Wentworth was born in London. He was the son of Sir William Wentworth, of Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, a member of an old Yorkshire family, and of Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Atkins of Stowell, Gloucestershire. [1] He was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, [2] became a law student at the Inner Temple in 1607, and in 1611 was knighted. He married Margaret, daughter of Francis Clifford, Earl of Cumberland and Grisold Hughes. [1]

Wentworth Woodhouse country house in the village of Wentworth, South Yorkshire, England

Wentworth Woodhouse is a Grade I listed country house in the village of Wentworth, in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, England. It is currently owned by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust. Considered to be the largest private residence in the United Kingdom, it has an east front of 606 feet (185 m); the longest country house façade in Europe. The house has more than 300 rooms, although the precise number is unclear, with 250,000 square feet (23,000 m2) of floorspace. It covers an area of more than 2.5 acres (1.0 ha), and is surrounded by a 180-acre (73 ha) park, and an estate of 15,000 acres (6,100 ha).

Rotherham town in South Yorkshire, England

Rotherham is a large town in South Yorkshire, England, which together with its conurbation and outlying settlements to the north, south and south-east forms the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, with a recorded population of 257,280 in the 2011 census. Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, its central area is on the banks of the River Don below its confluence with the Rother on the traditional road between Sheffield and Doncaster. Rotherham was well known as a coal mining town as well as a major contributor to the steel industry. Traditional industries included glass making and flour milling.

Yorkshire Historic county of Northern England

Yorkshire, formally known as the County of York, is a historic county of Northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Due to its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform. Throughout these changes, Yorkshire has continued to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region. The name is familiar and well understood across the United Kingdom and is in common use in the media and the military, and also features in the titles of current areas of civil administration such as North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire.

Early Parliamentary career

1698 bookplate of Thomas Wentworth. Book-plate-thomas-wentworth-baron-raby.jpg
1698 bookplate of Thomas Wentworth.

Wentworth entered the English Parliament in 1614 as Yorkshire's representative in the "Addled Parliament", but it was not until the parliament of 1621, in which he sat for the same constituency, that he took part in debate. His position was ambivalent. He did not sympathise with the zeal of the popular party for war with Spain, [1] favoured by George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, James I's foremost advisor and favourite, [4] but James's denial of the rights and privileges of parliament seems to have caused Wentworth to join in the vindication of the claims of the House of Commons, and he supported the protestation which dissolved the third parliament of James. [1]

Yorkshire was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of England from 1290, then of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. It was represented by two Members of Parliament, traditionally known as Knights of the Shire, until 1826, when the county benefited from the disfranchisement of Grampound by taking an additional two members.

Addled Parliament the second Parliament of England of the reign of James I of England, which sat between 5 April and 7 June 1614

The Addled Parliament was the second Parliament of England of the reign of James I of England, which sat between 5 April and 7 June 1614. Its name alludes to its ineffectiveness: it lasted no more than eight weeks and failed to resolve the conflict between the King, who wished to raise money in the form of a 'Benevolence', a grant of £65,000 and the House of Commons. It was dissolved by the King, who observed grimly that he was "amazed that his ancestors should have allowed such an institution to come into existence". He probably intended to rule from then on without Parliament, and in fact did so for seven years.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham English politician

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, KG(; 28 August 1592 – 23 August 1628), was an English courtier, statesman, and patron of the arts. He was a favourite and possibly also a lover of King James I of England. Despite a patchy political and military record, Buckingham remained at the height of royal favour for the first three years of the reign of King Charles I, until a disgruntled army officer assassinated him.

In 1622 Wentworth's first wife Margaret Clifford died. Wentworth, according to his friends, was deeply grieved by her death; but in February 1625 he married Arabella Holles, daughter of John Holles, 1st Earl of Clare and Anne Stanhope: a marriage which was generally believed to be a true love affair on both sides. He represented Pontefract in the Happy Parliament of 1624, but appears to have taken no active part. He expressed a wish to avoid foreign complications and "do first the business of the commonwealth". [1]

John Holles, 1st Earl of Clare English politician and Earl

John Holles, 1st Earl of Clare was an English nobleman.

Pontefract was an English parliamentary constituency centred on the town of Pontefract in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons briefly in the 13th century and again from 1621 until 1885, and one member from 1885 to 1974.

In the first parliament of Charles I, in June 1625, Wentworth again represented Yorkshire, and showed his hostility to the proposed war with Spain by supporting a motion for an adjournment before the house proceeded to business. He opposed the demand for war subsidies made on Buckingham's behalf [1] —after the death of James I, Buckingham had become first minister to Charles—and after Parliament was dissolved in November he was made High Sheriff of Yorkshire, a position which excluded him from the parliament which met in 1626. Yet he had never taken up an attitude of antagonism to the King. His position was very different from that of the regular opposition. He was anxious to serve the Crown, but he disapproved of the King's policy. [1]

High Sheriff of Yorkshire Chronological list of the High Sheriffs of Yorkshire, England

The Sheriff is the oldest secular office under the Crown. Formerly the Sheriff was the principal law enforcement officer in the county but over the centuries most of the responsibilities associated with the post have been transferred elsewhere or are now defunct, so that its functions are now largely ceremonial.

In January 1626 Wentworth asked for the presidency of the Council of the North, and was favourably received by Buckingham. But after the dissolution of the parliament, he was dismissed from the justiceship of the peace and the office of custos rotulorum of Yorkshire—which he had held since 1615—probably because he would not support the court in forcing the country to contribute money without a parliamentary grant. In 1627, he refused to contribute to the forced loan, and was subsequently imprisoned. [1]

Council of the North administrative body of the Kingdom of England

The Council of the North was an administrative body set up in 1472 by King Edward IV of England, the first Yorkist monarch to hold the Crown of England, to improve government control and economic prosperity, to benefit all of Northern England. Edward's brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester was its first Lord President.

Justice of the peace Judicial officer elected or appointed to keep the peace and perform minor civic jobs

A Justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or puisne court, elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the same meaning. Depending on the jurisdiction, such justices dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions. Justices of the peace are appointed or elected from the citizens of the jurisdiction in which they serve, and are usually not required to have any formal legal education in order to qualify for the office. Some jurisdictions have varying forms of training for JPs.

Custos rotulorum is a civic post which is recognised in the United Kingdom and in Jamaica.

The Petition of Right and its aftermath

In 1628, Wentworth was one of the more vocal supporters of the Petition of Right, which attempted to curb the power of the King. [1] Once Charles had grudgingly accepted the Petition, Wentworth felt it appropriate to support the crown, saying, "The authority of a king is the keystone which closeth up the arch of order and government". [5] He was consequently branded a turncoat. [1]

In the parliament of 1628, Wentworth joined the popular leaders in resistance to arbitrary taxation and imprisonment, but tried to obtain his goal without offending the Crown. He led the movement for a bill which would have secured the liberties of the subject as completely as the Petition of Right afterwards did, but in a manner less offensive to the King. The proposal failed because of both the uncompromising nature of the parliamentary party and Charles's stubborn refusal to make concessions, and the leadership was snatched from Wentworth's hands by John Eliot and Edward Coke. Later in the session he quarrelled with Eliot because Wentworth wanted to come to a compromise with the Lords, so as to leave room for the King to act unchecked in special emergencies. [1]

On 22 July 1628, not long after the prorogation, Wentworth was created Baron Wentworth, and received the promise of the presidency of the Council of the North at the next vacancy. This implied no change of principle. He was now at variance with the Parliamentary Party on two great subjects of policy, disapproving both of the intention of Parliament to take the powers of the executive and also of its inclination towards Puritanism. When once the breach was made it naturally grew wider, partly from the energy each party put into its work, and partly from the personal animosities which arose. [1]

As yet Wentworth was not directly involved in the government of the country. However, following the assassination of Buckingham, in December 1628, he became Viscount Wentworth and not long afterwards president of the Council of the North. [1] In the speech delivered at York on taking office, he announced his intention, almost in the words of Francis Bacon, of doing his utmost to bind up the prerogative of the Crown and the liberties of the subject in indistinguishable union. "Whoever", he said, "ravels forth into questions the right of a king and of a people shall never be able to wrap them up again into the comeliness and order he found them". [1] His tactics were the same as those he later practised in Ireland, leading to the accusation that he planned to centralise all power with the executive at the expense of the individual in defiance of constitutional liberties. [1]

The parliamentary session of 1629 ended in a breach between the King and Parliament, which made the task of a moderator hopeless. Wentworth had to choose between either helping the House of Commons dominate the King or helping the King to dominate the House of Commons. He chose the latter course, throwing himself into the work of repression with characteristic energy and claiming that he was maintaining the old constitution and that his opponents in Parliament were attempting to alter it by claiming supremacy for Parliament. [1] From this time on, he acted as one of two principal members (the other being Archbishop William Laud of Canterbury) in a team of key royal advisors (the "Thorough Party") during an 11-year period of total monarchical rule without parliament (known both as "the Personal Rule" and the "eleven-year tyranny"). [6]

Lord Deputy of Ireland

Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford in an Armour, 1639, another portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford.jpg
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford in an Armour, 1639, another portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck

Wentworth became a privy counsellor in November 1629. In January 1632 he was made Lord Deputy of Ireland, arriving in Dublin in July the following year. [1] He had recently suffered the loss of his beloved second wife Arabella in childbirth. Despite his genuine grief for Arabella, his third marriage to Elizabeth Rhodes in 1632 was also a happy one; but through a strange lapse of judgement he did not announce it publicly for almost a year, by which time damaging rumours about the presence of a young woman in his house (who was reputed to be his mistress) had gained wide circulation. Wedgwood remarks that it was typical of Wentworth to be oblivious to the bad impression which actions like this might make on the public. [7] Gossip later linked his name with that of Eleanor Loftus, daughter-in-law of Lord Chancellor Loftus, but although a warm friendship existed between them, and her death in 1639 caused him much grief, there is no evidence that their relationship went beyond friendship. [8]

In Ireland Wentworth had to deal with a people who had not arrived at national cohesion, and amongst whom English colonists had been from time to time introduced, some of them, like the early Norman settlers, being Roman Catholics, whilst the later importations stood aloof and preserved their Protestantism. In his government here he proved to be an able ruler. "The lord deputy of Ireland", wrote Sir Thomas Roe to Elizabeth of Bohemia, "doth great wonders and governs like a king, and hath taught that kingdom to show us an example of envy, by having parliaments and knowing wisely how to use them." He reformed the administration, summarily dismissing the inefficient English officials. He succeeded in so manipulating the parliaments that he obtained the necessary grants, and secured their co-operation in various useful legislative enactments. He started a new victualling trade with Spain, promoted linen manufacture, and encouraged the development of the resources of the country in many directions. [1] The Court of Castle Chamber, the Irish counterpart of the Star Chamber, which up to that time had only operated intermittently, was transformed into a regular and efficient part of the Irish administration. [9]

Customs duties rose from a little over £25,000 in 1633–34 to £57,000 in 1637–38. Wentworth raised an army, put an end to piracy, instilled life into the Church of Ireland and rescued church property. His strong administration reduced the tyranny of the wealthy over the poor. Yet these measures were all carried out by arbitrary methods which made them unpopular. Their aim was not the prosperity of the Irish but the benefit to the English exchequer, and Wentworth suppressed the trade in cloth "lest it should be a means to prejudice that staple commodity of England." Castle Chamber, like its model Star Chamber, was accused of brutal and arbitrary proceedings. Individual cases of unfairness included those of Robert Esmond, a ship's captain, and cousin of Laurence Esmonde, Lord Esmonde, accused of customs evasions, whom Wentworth was alleged to have assaulted, so causing his death, Lord Chancellor Loftus and Lord Mountnorris, the last of whom Wentworth caused to be sentenced to death to obtain the resignation of his office, and then pardoned. Promises of legislation such as the concessions known as 'The Graces' were not kept. [10]

The Earl of Strafford with his secretary, Sir Philip Mainwaring Van dyck thomas wentworth earl of strafford with sir philip mainwaring 1639-40.jpg
The Earl of Strafford with his secretary, Sir Philip Mainwaring

Wentworth ignored Charles' promise that no colonists would be awarded land, to the detriment of Catholic landholders, in Connaught. In 1635 he raked up an obsolete title—the grant in the 14th century of Connaught to Lionel of Antwerp, whose heir Charles was—and insisted upon the grand juries finding verdicts for the King. One county only, County Galway, resisted, and the confiscation of Galway was effected by the Court of Exchequer, while Wentworth fined the sheriff £1,000 for summoning such a jury, and cited the jurymen to the Castle Chamber to answer for their offence. In Ulster the arbitrary confiscation of the property of the city companies aroused dangerous animosity against the government. [11] His actions in Galway led to a clash with the powerful Burke family, headed by the aging Richard Burke, Earl of Clanricarde. Clanricarde's death was said by some to have been hastened by the clash: Wentworth said he could hardly be blamed for the fact that Clanricarde was nearly seventy. It was, however, unwise to have made an enemy of the new Earl, Ulick Burke, 5th Earl of Clanricarde, who through his mother Frances Walsingham had powerful English connections: Clanricarde's half-brother, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, by 1641 was to become one of Wentworth's (who became Earl of Strafford in 1640) most implacable enemies.

Wentworth made many enemies in Ireland, but none more dangerous than Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, the most powerful of the "New English" magnates. A more diplomatic man than Wentworth would no doubt have sought Cork's friendship, but Wentworth saw Cork's great power as a threat to the Crown's central authority, and was determined to curb it. He prosecuted Lord Cork in Castle Chamber for misappropriating the funds of Youghal College; and ordered him to take down the tomb of his first wife in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. Cork, a patient and implacable enemy, worked quietly for Wentworth's downfall, and in 1641 recorded calmly in his diary that Wentworth (by then Earl of Strafford) had been beheaded "as he well deserved". [12]

Toward the native Irish, Wentworth had no notion of developing their qualities by a process of natural growth; his only hope for them lay in converting them into Englishmen as soon as possible. They must be made English in their habits, in their laws and in their religion. "I see plainly ... that, so long as this kingdom continues popish, they are not a people for the Crown of England to be confident of", he wrote. [11] Although staunchly Protestant, he showed no desire to persecute Catholics: as Kenyon remarks, it was understood that so long as Catholics remained the great majority of the population, there would have to be a much larger degree of toleration than was necessary in England. [13] He was prepared to give tacit recognition to the Catholic hierarchy, and even gave an interview to Archbishop Thomas Fleming of Dublin, whose homely face, plain dress and lack of ostentation made a poor impression on him. [14]

Wentworth's contribution to Irish cultural life should not be undervalued: it was under his patronage that the Werburgh Street Theatre, Ireland's first theatre, was opened by John Ogilby, a member of his household, and survived for several years despite the opposition of Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh. James Shirley, the English dramatist, wrote several plays for it, one with a distinctively Irish theme, and Landgartha, by Henry Burnell, the first known play by an Irish dramatist, was produced there in 1640. [15]

Wentworth's heavy-handed approach did yield some improvements, as well as contribute to the strength of royal administration in Ireland. His hindrance in 1634 of 'The Graces', a campaign for equality by Roman Catholics in the Parliament of Ireland, lost him goodwill but was based on fiscal and not religious principles. [16] Wentworth regarded the proper management of Parliament as a crucial test of his success, and in the short term his ruthless methods did produce results. Having settled on Nathaniel Catelyn as the most suitable Speaker, he coerced the voters of Dublin into returning him as member, and ordered the Commons to elect him Speaker. [17] The Parliament of 1634/5 did pass some useful legislation: [18] the Act against Fraudulent Conveyances remained in force into the 21st century. His second Parliament, however, having paid him abject compliments, began to attack his administration as soon as Wentworth left for England. [19]

The future Duke of Ormond became Wentworth's chief friend and supporter. [20] Wentworth planned large scale confiscations of Catholic-owned land, both to raise money for the crown and to break the political power of the Irish Catholic gentry, a policy which Ormonde supported. Yet it infuriated Ormonde's relatives and drove many of them into opposition to Wentworth and ultimately into armed rebellion. In 1640, with Wentworth having been recalled to attend to the Second Bishops' War in England, Ormonde was made commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland. [21] Wedgwood concludes that whatever his intentions Wentworth/Strafford in Ireland achieved only one thing: to unite every faction in Ireland in their determination to be rid of him. [22]

Wentworth's rule in Ireland made him more high-handed at court than ever. He had never been consulted on English affairs until February 1637 when King Charles asked Wentworth's opinion on a proposed interference in the affairs of the Continent. In reply, Wentworth assured Charles it would be unwise to undertake even naval operations till he had secured absolute power at home. He wished that Hampden and his followers "were well whipped into their right senses". The judges had given the King the right to levy ship-money, but, unless his majesty had "the like power declared to raise a land army, the Crown" seemed "to stand upon one leg at home, to be considerable but by halves to foreign princes abroad". When the Scottish Covenanters rebelled he advocated the most decided measures of repression, in February 1639 sending the King £2000 as his contribution to the expenses of the coming war, at the same time deprecating an invasion of Scotland before the English army was trained, and advising certain concessions in religion. [11]

Wentworth apparently intended to put down roots in Ireland: in the late 1630s he was much occupied with building a mansion, Jigginstown Castle, near Naas, County Kildare. [23] He is thought to have intended it to be his official residence where he could entertain the King, should he visit Ireland. The castle, which was to be built partly of red brick and partly of Kilkenny marble, would, had it been completed, have been probably the largest private house in Ireland, but after Wentworth's death it quickly fell into ruin, although the ground floor still exists. [23]

He made some efforts also to build up a network of family alliances in Ireland: his brother George, to whom he was close, married Anne Ruish, sister of Strafford's great friend Eleanor Loftus, [8] and his sister Elizabeth married James Dillon, Earl of Roscommon. [24] Roscommon, unlike most of the Anglo-Irish nobility, remained staunchly loyal to the King during the Civil War. His son Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon, was named for his distinguished uncle, and grew up to be a poet of some distinction. Strafford seems to have taken some interest in his nephew's education, and he spent part of his childhood at his uncle's Yorkshire home. [25]

Recall and impeachment

Wentworth was recalled to England in September 1639. He was expected to help sort out the problems that were growing at home: namely, bankruptcy and war with the Scottish Covenanters, and became the King's principal adviser. Unaware how much opposition had developed in England during his absence, he recommended the calling of a parliament to support a renewal of the war, hoping that by the offer of a loan from the Privy Councillors, to which he contributed £20,000, he would save Charles from having to submit to the new parliament if it proved truculent.

The King created him Earl of Strafford in January 1640 [11] (the Wentworth family seat of Wentworth Woodhouse lay in the hundred of Strafford (Strafforth) in the West Riding of Yorkshire) [26] and in March he went to Ireland to hold an Irish parliament, where the Catholic vote secured a grant of subsidies to be used against the Presbyterian Scots. An Irish army was to be levied to assist in the coming war. When Strafford returned to England, he found that the Commons were holding back from a grant of supply, so he tried to enlist the peers on the side of the King, and persuaded Charles to be content with a smaller grant than he had originally asked for. [11]

Detailed engraving of trial of Strafford by Wenceslas Hollar, labelling various people who were present. Wenceslas Hollar - Trial of Strafford (State 2) cropped.jpg
Detailed engraving of trial of Strafford by Wenceslas Hollar, labelling various people who were present.

The Commons insisted on peace with the Scots. Charles, on the advice of—or perhaps by the treachery of—Henry Vane the Elder, returned to his larger demand of 12 subsidies; and on 9 May, at the privy council, Strafford, though reluctantly, voted for a dissolution. The same morning the Committee of Eight of the privy council met again. Vane and others were for a mere defence against invasion. Strafford's advice was the contrary. "Go on vigorously or let them alone&nbspl... go on with a vigorous war as you first designed, loose and absolved from all rules of government, being reduced to extreme necessity, everything is to be done that power might admit ... You have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom". [11] He tried to force the citizens of London to lend money, and supported a project for debasing the coinage and seizing bullion in the Tower of London (the property of foreign merchants). He also advocated the purchase of a loan from Spain by the offer of a future alliance. Strafford was now appointed to command the English army, and was made a Knight of the Garter, but he fell ill at a crucial moment. In the great council of peers, which assembled on 24 September at York, the struggle was given up, and Charles announced that he had issued writs for another parliament. [11]

A plaque affixed to the floor of Westminster Hall commemorating Strafford's trial. Thomas Wentworth Plaque.jpg
A plaque affixed to the floor of Westminster Hall commemorating Strafford's trial.

By late 1640, there was no option but to call a new Parliament. The Long Parliament assembled on 3 November 1640, and Charles immediately summoned Strafford to London, promising that he "should not suffer in his person, honour or fortune". [11] One of Parliament's first utterances after its 11-year forced hiatus was to impeach Strafford for "high misdemeanours" regarding his conduct in Ireland. He arrived on 9 November and the next day asked Charles I to forestall his impeachment by accusing the leaders of the popular party of treasonable communications with the Scots. The plan having been betrayed, John Pym immediately took up the impeachment to the House of Lords on 11 November. Strafford came in person to confront his accusers, but was ordered to withdraw and taken into custody. On 25 November his preliminary charge was brought up, whereupon he was sent to the Tower of London, and, on 31 January 1641, the accusations in detail were presented. These were that Strafford had tried to subvert the fundamental laws of the kingdom. Much stress was laid on Strafford's reported words: "You have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom". [11]

The failure of impeachment and the Bill of Attainder

An Answer to the Earle of Strafords Conclusion, likely printed at London, April 1641 An Answer to the Earle of Strafords Conclusion 1641.jpg
An Answer to the Earle of Strafords Conclusion, likely printed at London, April 1641

However tyrannical Strafford's earlier conduct may have been, his offence was outside the definition of high treason. Although a flood of complaints poured in from Ireland, and Strafford's many enemies there were happy to testify against him, none of them could point to any act which was treasonable, as opposed to high-handed. The copy of rough notes of Strafford's speech in the committee of the council, obtained from Sir Henry Vane the Younger, were validated by councillors who had been present on the occasion, including Henry Vane the Elder, who did ultimately corroborate them (but nearly disowned his own son for having found and leaked them in the first place), and partially by Algernon Percy, Earl of Northumberland. [27] This was not evidence which would convict in a court of law, and all parties knew this. Strafford's words, particularly the crucial phrase this kingdom, had to be arbitrarily interpreted as referring to the subjection of England and not of Scotland, and were also spoken on a privileged occasion. Strafford took full advantage of the weak points in his attack on the evidence collected. Over and over Strafford pointed to the fundamental weakness in the prosecution: how could it be treason to carry out the King's wishes? The lords, his judges, were influenced in his favour. [11] The impeachment failed on 10 April 1641. [28] Pym and his allies increased public pressure, threatening members of Parliament unless they punished Strafford.

The Commons therefore, feeling their victim slipping from their grasp, dropped the impeachment, and brought in and passed a bill of attainder [11] on 13 April by a vote of 204 to 59. [29] Owing to the opposition of the Lords, and Pym's own preference for the more judicial method, the procedure of an impeachment was adhered to. Few of the Lords felt much personal liking for Strafford, but there were a fair number of "moderates", notably Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford, who thought that barring him from ever serving the King again was sufficient punishment. The families of his first two wives, the Cliffords and Holleses, used all their influence to gain a reprieve: even Denzil Holles, 1st Baron Holles, who was implacably hostile to the King, put aside political differences to plead for the life of his favourite sister's husband. Strafford might still have been saved but for Charles I's ill-advised conduct. A scheme to gain over the leaders of the parliament, and a scheme to seize the Tower of London and to liberate Strafford by force, were entertained concurrently and were mutually destructive. The revelation of the First Army Plot on 5 May 1641 caused the Lords to reject the submissions in defence of Strafford by Richard Lane [30] and to pass the attainder. Strafford's enemies were implacable in their determination that he should die: in the Earl of Essex's phrase "stone dead hath no fellow", while the view of Oliver St. John was that Strafford should be regarded not a man, but as a dangerous animal who must be "knocked on the head". Nothing now remained but the King's signature. [11]

Still Strafford had served Charles with what the King felt was a high degree of loyalty, and Charles had a serious problem with signing Strafford's death warrant as a matter of conscience, especially as he had explicitly promised Stafford that, no matter what happened, he would not die. However, to refuse the will of the Parliament on this matter could seriously threaten the monarchy. When he summoned the bishops to ask for their advice, they divided. Some, like James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh argued that the King could not in conscience break his promise to Strafford to spare him; others, like Bishop John Williams of Lincoln, took the contrary view that reasons of State permitted the King to break his word where a private citizen could not. [31]

Charles had, after the passing of the attainder by the Commons, for the second time assured Strafford "upon the word of a king, you shall not suffer in life, honour or fortune". [11] Strafford now wrote releasing the King from his engagements and declaring his willingness to die to reconcile Charles to his subjects. "I do most humbly beseech you, for the preventing of such massacres as may happen by your refusal, to pass the bill; by this means to remove ... the unfortunate thing forth of the way towards that blessed agreement, which God, I trust, shall for ever establish between you and your subjects". [11] Whether Strafford was now resigned to death, or whether he thought that the letter, if circulated, might move his enemies to mercy, is still debated. The King did not release the letter to Parliament. Meanwhile, violent mobs threatened the palace with harm to the queen and her children. The King's inept efforts to overpower Parliament with military force were revealed by Pym, and caused irresistible pressure. [32] Charles gave his assent on 10 May, remarking sadly "My Lord Strafford's condition is happier than mine". [11] [33] Accounts of Strafford's reaction when he was told that he must die differ: by one account he took the news stoically; according to another he was deeply distressed, and said bitterly "Put not your trust in princes". [34] Archbishop Laud wrote that the King's abandonment of Strafford proved him to be "a mild and gracious prince, that knows not how to be, or be made, great". [35]

Death and aftermath

Strafford led to Execution, by Paul Delaroche, oil-on-canvas, 1836, depicts Laud giving his blessing to the Earl of Strafford. Laud & Strafford.jpg
Strafford led to Execution, by Paul Delaroche, oil-on-canvas, 1836, depicts Laud giving his blessing to the Earl of Strafford.
An engraving by Wenceslas Hollar depicting from a distance the execution of Strafford, with significant persons labelled. Wenceslas Hollar - Execution of Strafford (State 3).jpg
An engraving by Wenceslas Hollar depicting from a distance the execution of Strafford, with significant persons labelled.

Strafford met his fate two days later on Tower Hill, receiving the blessing of Archbishop Laud (who went on to be likewise imprisoned in the Tower, and executed on 10 January 1645). [36] He was executed before a crowd estimated, probably with some exaggeration, at 300,000 on 12 May 1641 (as this number was roughly the population of London at the time, the crowd is likely to have been a good deal smaller). [37]

Following news of Strafford's execution, Ireland rose in sanguinary rebellion in October 1641, which led to more bickering between King and Parliament, this time over the raising of an army. [38] Any hope that Strafford's death would avert the coming crisis soon vanished: Wedgwood quotes the anonymous protest "They promised us that all should be well if my Lord Strafford's head were off, since when there is nothing better". [38] Many of Strafford's Irish enemies, like Lord Cork, found that his removal had put their estates, and even their lives, at risk. When Charles I himself was executed eight years later, among his last words were that God had permitted his execution as punishment for his consenting to Strafford's death: [39] "that unjust sentence which I suffered to take effect". [40] In 1660, the House of Lords voted to expunge the record of Strafford's attainder from its official Journal, with the intention of repudiating its legal validity. [41]

Assessment

In the course of his career he made many enemies, who pursued him, with a remarkable mixture of fear and hatred, to his death. Yet Strafford was capable of inspiring strong friendships in private life: at least three men who served him in Ireland, Christopher Wandesford, George Radcliffe and Guildford Slingsby, remained his loyal friends to the end. [36] Wentworth's last letter to Slingsby before his execution shows an emotional warmth with which he is not often credited. [42] Sir Thomas Roe speaks of him as "Severe abroad and in business, and sweet in private conversation; retired in his friendships but very firm; a terrible judge and a strong enemy". [36] He was a good husband and a devoted father. [43] His appearance is described by Sir Philip Warwick: "In his person he was of a tall stature, but stooped much in the neck. His countenance was cloudy whilst he moved or sat thinking, but when he spoke, either seriously or facetiously, he had a lightsome and a very pleasant air; and indeed whatever he then did he performed very gracefully". [36] He himself jested on his own "bent and ill-favoured brow", [36] Lord Exeter replying that had he been "cursed with a meek brow and an arch of white hair upon it, he would never have governed Ireland nor Yorkshire". [36] Despite his terrifying manner, there is no real evidence that he was physically violent: even the most serious charge against him, that he ill-treated Robert Esmonde, causing his death, rests on disputed testimony. [44]

Thomas was the subject of a verse play by the poet Robert Browning entitled "Wentworth".

Family

Strafford was married three times: [36]

Strafford's honours were forfeited by his attainder, but his only son, William, who was born on 8 June 1626, received them all by a fresh grant from Charles I on 1 December 1641. In 1662 Parliament reversed his father's attainder, and William, already 1st Earl of Strafford of the second creation, became also 2nd earl of the first creation in succession to his father. [45]

In addition to William, Strafford and Arabella had two daughters who outlived him: [45] Anne, born October 1627, [45] who married Edward Watson, 2nd Baron Rockingham; and Arabella, born October 1630, [45] who married Justin McCarthy, Viscount Mountcashel. Through his daughter Anne, Strafford was the ancestor of the prominent statesman Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. He had a daughter, Margaret, with his third wife. [45] The hatred felt by so many for Strafford did not extend to his widow and children, who were generally regarded with compassion: even at the height of the Civil War Parliament treated "that poor unfortunate family" with consideration. [46]

Ancestry

Sources: [47] [48] [49]

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 York 1911, p. 978.
  2. "Wentworth, Thomas (WNTT609T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. Castle 1893, p. 59.
  4. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 48, 117.
  5. Wedgwood 1961, p. 74.
  6. Sharpe 1996, p. [ page needed ].
  7. Wedgwood 1961, p. 125.
  8. 1 2 Wedgwood 1961, p. 242.
  9. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 143–4.
  10. York 1911, pp. 978,979.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 York 1911, p. 979.
  12. Wedgwood 1961, p. 175.
  13. Kenyon, J.P. The Popish Plot, Phoenix Press reissue (2000), p. 224
  14. Wedgwood 1961, p. 158.
  15. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 226–227.
  16. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 148–58.
  17. Wedgwood 1961, p. 150.
  18. Wedgwood 1961, p. 160.
  19. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 320–1.
  20. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 157–8.
  21. Wedgwood 1966, pp. 74–5.
  22. Wedgwood 1961, p. 391.
  23. 1 2 Wedgwood 1961, p. 226.
  24. Wedgwood 1961, p. 324.
  25. Chalmers, Alexander General Biographical Dictionary Vol. 12 (1813) p.91
  26. "He became earl of Strafford in 1640, taking the title from the name of the hundred in which Wentworth Woodhouse was situated" ( Kearney 1989 , p. xxxiv footnote 1)
  27. Upham 1844, pp. 187–198.
  28. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 353–355.
  29. Wedgwood 1961, p. 367.
  30. Orr 2004.
  31. Wedgwood 1961, p. 377.
  32. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 372–377.
  33. Abbott 1876, "Downfall of Strafford and Laud".
  34. Wedgwood 1961, p. 380.
  35. Trevor-Roper, Hugh (2000), Archbishop Laud 1573–1645 (reissue), Phoenix Press, p. 409
  36. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 York 1911, p. 980.
  37. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 383–389.
  38. 1 2 Wedgwood 1961, p. 389.
  39. Wedgwood 1983, p. 190.
  40. Kenyon 1966, p. 97.
  41. Handler, Nicholas (May 2019). "Rediscovering the Journal Clause: The Lost History of Legislative Constitutional Interpretation". University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. 21: 1251–52.
  42. Wedgwood p.384
  43. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 43, 39, 50, 103, 125–6, 384–5.
  44. Wedgwood 1961, pp. 246–7.
  45. 1 2 3 4 5 Gardiner 1899, p. 283.
  46. Wedgwood 1961, p. 393.
  47. "Some Descendants of the WENTWORTH Family Related to George Washington 1st US President". Washington.ancestryregister.com. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  48. Burke's Peerage, see page 564–5 of this edition
  49. "Wentworth". Tudorplace.com.ar. Retrieved 14 December 2012.[ unreliable source ]
  50. http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/families/ebt/Volume3.doc
  51. "Mayor of Oxford". Oxfordhistory.org.uk. 20 November 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  52. "Anne Atkinson". Genealogics.org. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  53. Jean Ashfield. "Ashfield of Heythorpe". Ancestryhost.org. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.

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References

Attribution

Further reading

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Richard Gargrave
Sir John Savile
Member of Parliament for Yorkshire
1614–1622
With: Sir John Savile 1614
Lord George Calvert 1621–1622
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Savile
Sir John Savile
Preceded by
George Shilleto
Sir Edwin Sandys, jnr
Member of Parliament for Pontefract
1624
With: Sir John Jackson
Succeeded by
Sir John Jackson
Richard Beaumont
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Savile
Sir John Savile
Member of Parliament for Yorkshire
1625
With: Thomas Fairfax
Succeeded by
Sir John Savile
Sir William Constable, 1st Baronet
Preceded by
Sir John Savile
Sir William Constable, 1st Baronet
Member of Parliament for Yorkshire
1628
With: Henry Belasyse
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Savile, Bt
Henry Belasyse
Honorary titles
Preceded by
John Savile
Custos Rotulorum of the West Riding of Yorkshire
1616–1626
Succeeded by
Sir John Savile
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Sunderland
Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire
1628–1641
Succeeded by
The Viscount Savile
Preceded by
The Lord Savile
Custos Rotulorum of the West Riding of Yorkshire
1630–1641
Preceded by
Lords Justices
Lord Deputy of Ireland
1633–1640
Succeeded by
The Earl of Leicester
(Lord Lieutenant)
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
1640–1641
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Strafford
1st creation
1640–1641
Vacant
Attainted
Title next held by
William Wentworth
Baron Raby
1640–1641
Viscount Wentworth
1629–1641
Baron Wentworth
1628–1641
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
William Wentworth
Baronet
of Wentworth Woodhouse
1614–1641
Attainted