Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war.
There was almost certainly room for a negotiated settlement in the late 1640s. There had been an increasing polarisation, away from the peace party, a middle group, and a war party into two camps, Presbyterian and independent. This meant that there was no one to smooth relations and come up with a general settlement that would satisfy both sides. King Charles was therefore able to try to divide and rule, hoping that both sides would bid for his support. The main parties to any settlement were therefore the King, Presbyterians and Independents.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Little Scottish or Irish impact on negotiations.
The Scots had been outmanoeuvred, left off subcommittees, even the English Presbyterians did not wish the Scots included in English negotiations.[[Lotte Mulligan, ‘Peace negations, Politics and the Committee of both Kingdoms 1644-1646’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 12, No.1, (1969) pp.3-22, p17]] When the Scots sold the King they solved a short-term problem but leaving themselves with a bigger long-term problem of how to make a permanent peace with England. Without the King they no longer had any way of influencing English events without recourse to war. The Scots, taking Argyll’s policy over Hamilton’s, also reduced the size of their army, their last means of influence.[[David Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-revolution in Scotland, 1644-1651, London, 1977, p81-2]]
The Irish were even more peripheral. During this period the Irish were also working for peace, with as an example the ‘Ormond peace’ that was rejected at the general assembly This caused Ormond to turn over his Royalist positions to Parliament; this seriously undermined the Irish position, as the English Parliament was their main enemy. Factionalism prevented the Irish Catholics from consistently aiding Charles win victory in the civil wars meaning that once Parliament was in complete control of England an invasion was only a matter of time.[[Jane H. Ohlmeyer, Civil War and Restoration in the Three stuart Kingdoms, The career of Randal MacDonnell, marquis of Antrim, 1609-1683, Cambridge, 1993, pp.182-184, 193, 199]] This attempt itself caused divisions between the New Model Army and Parliament however this was only indirect influence by Ireland on the prospects of an English settlement. The Scots and Irish were therefore peripheral and would effectively have to take whatever settlement resulted. Their main impact was in any English reaction.
The Scots had been part of the Committee of both Kingdoms and as such were theoretically supposed to be consulted on any peace proposals.
War not fought over big differences
A settlement should have been relatively easy to bring about. There was no clash, as yet, between irreconcilable ideologies.[[Austin Woolrych, Britain in revolution 1625-1660, Oxford 2002, p340]] The war had been fought over relatively small differences both accepted that it was King and parliament together who held power, the disagreement was over who should give way in the event of conflict, in this case over the Militia bill. For Parliament, if the King was in the hands of evil counsellors sovereign power resided in Parliament, whereas Charles believed this power should remain with the King.[[C.V. Wedgwood, The King’s War 1641-1647, London, 2001, p73]]
If parts of the opening proclamations are taken as the war aims of the two sides then they should never have been fighting. In His maiesties proclamation for the suppressing of the present rebellion the King called upon the trained bands:
A parliamentary declaration in response to the King’s declaration was that Essex’s forces were for:
Both declarations are very similar however Charles and Parliament both had different ideas about what the true protestant religion was, and what the privileges of parliament should be. Both sides also declared that the other were traitors to the King and offered pardon if the opposing side laid down their arms.
Parliament’s original objectives met
The main point raised against the Royalists by the Parliamentarians, as it the case in almost all rebellions, was that “the venom of those Traiterous counsellors about his majesty”[[England and Wales. Parliament. A declaration and resolution of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, London, 1642, EEBO, E.112, p3]] were those at fault. Parliament also blamed this misguided council for the immediate start of the war “Since which time by their perpicious Councells, they have caused his Majestie to ingage himselfe in a Warre against Hull”[[England and Wales. Parliament. The Parliaments protestation: Or The resolution of the Lords, and Commons, to maintaine the iust priuiledge of Parliament, London, 1642, EEBO, E.109, p3]] However these allegations against counsellors show the true reasons for parliaments fight against the King:
Thus Parliament was fighting to prevent the King accruing absolute authority as was occurring elsewhere in Europe.
Parliaments aims of preventing an absolutist King and replacing any misguided counsellors are brought about as soon as the King is in their hands. The King on the other hand is presented with a fait accompli; parliament has control of the army and any counsel to the King. At the end of the war it would seem that the King should be willing to accept a peace treaty that is based upon parliaments war aims, after all he has lost nothing since just before the war.
King Charles however was fighting to regain privileges that he believed parliament had taken from him:
Particularly the Kings privileges in relation to his command of any army
Charles is complaining against the hypocrisy of parliament for attempting to raise an army while denying his sovereign right to raise and lead any army in defence of the Kingdom.
‘Mixed monarchy’ a potential compromise
King Charles adopted the theory of mixed monarchy right at the beginning of the civil war, that there needed to be balance in which neither the King nor parliament could create a tyranny.[[Corinne Comstock Weston, ‘English Constitutional Doctrines from the Fifteenth Century to the Seventeenth: II. The Theory of Mixed Monarchy under Charles I and after’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 296, (Jul. 1960), pp.426-443, p427-428]] This balance was brought about through the three estates having independent powers with which to check the others.
Holles, one of the Presbyterians leaders, also certainly believed in a mixed monarchy, for him the vote of no address was:
In the theory of the mixed monarchy, and the opinion of the majority, neither Parliament nor the King could survive without the other.
However this conversion allowed Charles to position himself as champion of a reformed constitution,[[Weston, Mixed Monarchy, p429-430]] allowing the Royalists to accuse parliament of being the side that was acting arbitrarily and authoritarian, bring up the spectre of a puritan tyranny.[[J.W. Daly, ‘Could Charles be Trusted? The Royalist Case, 1642-1646’,The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, (Nov., 1966), pp.23-44, p37-8]] It gave him a convincing constitutional reason to reject any settlement that damaged that balance. Essentially it was a political tactic rather than a real change in belief in the monarchy being absolute.
Charles willing to negotiate
Charles himself may have believed that he was divinely ordained; God had given him paramount authority in his Kingdoms and that he would be committing a sin if he gave up any of his sacred authority.[[ C.V. Wedgwood, The Trial of Charles I, London, 1970, p11]] Nonetheless he was prepared to negotiate on some points, he consented on Ireland:
Charles’ position on religion did however give him some room for compromise with the Presbyterians who had similar nfor the Treaty of Newport, “he will consent to an act of parliament the form of church government, and Directory of worship” and “will consent to repeal of so much of all statutes as only concern the Book of Common Prayer” perhaps more importantly in relation to himself Charles “consents to acts to be passed… prevent the saying and hearing of mass in the court or elsewhere”[ibid, p.419, 437.]
Charles was prepared to negotiate with any opponent so long as the restraints placed upon him would not prevent him being, in his eyes, the King. If Charles’ primary concern about the church was that the King could exercise his authority through the church then a settlement over religion was also possible hence Charles could not accept:
This seems to be a half waypoint between Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism. He was also prepared to temporarily lose control over the army, as when a new army was needed the King would once more be needed.
Charles however was unwilling to compromise his position on the church his “conscience being irreconcilably engaged against it.”[[To the Lords Jermyn and Culpeppert, and Mr. John Ashburnham, Newcastle, July 22, 1646, Petrie, Letters, p201]] This put Charles at odds with those who would have been his most obvious constitutional supporters. Although Charles took his position based upon his conscience there were practical reasons as to why he was unwilling to give way on religion. The church was the foundation of the monarchy in several ways:
Charles recognised that “people are governed by the pulpit more than the sword in times of peace”. After all in and early modern society without other methods of government control “where was there ever obedience where religion did not teach it?”[[To the Lords Jermyn and Culpeppert, and Mr. John Ashburnham, Newcastle, July 22nd, August 19th, 1646, Petrie, Letters, pp.200, 204]] For Charles caving in on religion to the presbytery would give the presbytery control over the people and hence ultimately the King.
Independents willing to deal with the King
The independents position shifted most dramatically during the period in which a settlement between the two sides was possible. Cromwell like the King recognised in 1646 that “Things are not well in Scotland; would that they were in England! We are full of faction and worse.”[[Wilbur Cortez Abbott, The Writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell, Vol. I 1599-1649, Cambridge, 1937, p410]] Although from the outset the Independents were much more radical in being willing to think of replacing Charles they were equally willing to make a settlement with him at the expense of the Presbyterians. For Ireton the most important thing was a permanent peace, in which:
The independents views were reflected in the Armies heads of proposal, with Article I reflecting a desire for parliamentary reform, XI, XII and XIII for freedom of Worship and XV and XIV for a lenient settlement to reintegrate the royalists into the body politic:
At the Putney debates Ireton asserted that he would not “joyne with them that doe seeke the destruction either of Parliament or the Kinge.”[[Firth, Clarke Papers, p233]] Cromwell is supposed to have given his reasons for treating with the King in a conversation with Roger Boyle in the “Saddle letter”:
It was therefore simple necessity.
However the view of the independents changed quickly away from peace with the King. There had been accusations of bloodguilt levelled at King Charles during the first Civil war, for example by minister Christopher Love. The levellers in the Putney debates brought up the idea again, with the idea playing a role in the Army’s decision making, withdrawing support from any further negotiations. In launching the 2nd civil war Charles had gone against God, and God had confirmed his judgement against Charles. Blood guilt prevented any argument about the necessity of compelling Charles to sign a peace. This shifted the argument to how was the Lords wrath to be assuaged, blood guild destroyed the Kings sacredness, preventing Charles from being King and preventing any negotiations.[[Patricia Crawford, ‘Charles Stewart, That Man of Blood’, The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2, (Spring, 1977), pp41-61, pp.49, 52-4, 56, 45, 42]] Cromwell, also in the “Saddle letter”, cited the Kings untrustworthiness as preventing any negotiations after the 2nd Civil war:
The Army having many members who were not politicians or diplomats expected any settlement to be arrived at quickly, they would not wait for long drawn out negotiations and quickly moved to an alternative to prevent the Lords wrath.
Could not make peace without Charles?
Charles however was a genuine player in any negotiations for a settlement; his decisions had a genuine impact on the Independents and Presbyterians vying for power, there was even the potential for a revival of royalist sympathies, particularly if he brought peace. This revival is shown by the risings, in traditionally parliamentary areas, at the outbreak of the 2nd civil war.
Charles believed that as he was king was an organ of the state that could not be replaced, “without my establishing, there can be no peace”.[[To the Lords Jermyn and Culpeppert, and Mr. John Ashburnham, Newcastle, October 27, 1646, Sir Charles Petrie ed., The Letters and Speeches and Proclamations of King Charles I, London, 1968, p210]] His opponents would be forced to tone down their demands upon him. To this end he promoted division in his enemies camps:
Although written in relation to the Scots it could equally be applied to Charles’ position towards Parliament. Similarly he believes parliament and the Covenanters would not get along for long without a general settlement.
Charles assumed he had as long as it took for the opposing parties to come as close as possible to giving Charles what he wants.
C.V. Wedgwood asserts “In the new situation which had come into being the defeated King was merely a piece in the game to be used or set aside in the struggle between authority (Parliament or Presbytery, Church or Law) and the people.”[[Wedgwood, War, p615]]
What the Presbyterians wanted was set out in the Newcastle Propositions; its core was religion:
These strong religious conditions that the King would never accept reflected the Presbyterians alliance with the Scots. Moreover by these propositions 58 principle royalists were to be condemned of treason, hardly a way to settle the kingdom.[[J.S.A. Adamson, ‘The English Nobility and the Projected Settlement of 1647’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 30, No. 3, (Sep.,1987), pp.567-602, p584]]
Except on religion the demands of the Presbyterians were much more in line with the causes of the civil war, for example:
These were therefore much more likely to be palatable to both the King and the Independents.
The Presbyterians were involved in conflict with the independents in both Parliament and the army, making it less likely they would be able to impose a Presbyterian settlement on either the King or the country as a whole. Any attempt to establish Presbyterianism was coming too late as with the breakdown of authority during the war independent churches had sprung up and were supported by the army, in which with ideal conditions independency was flourishing.[[Clare Cross, ‘The Church in England 1646-1660’, in G.E. Aylmer ed., The Interregnum The Quest for Settlement 1646-1660, (London, 1979), pp99-120, p102]] In the long run this conflict could lead towards a settlement as the Presbyterians would have to give in or reduce their demands on religion, a major sticking point in any attempt to have a negotiated settlement.
Charles was wrong about the Independents. The independents had been willing from an early stage to contemplate replacing Charles with one of his, hopefully more compliant, sons. According to the Venetian Ambassador, Henry Vane was investigating this course as early as June 1644:
If this was the case then Charles could not spin out negotiations as he could with the Presbyterians. Unlike the Presbyterians who, as is usual practice in negotiation, made very tough demands and slowly reduced them as their position deteriorated, the independents first proposals were likely to be their most lenient conditions. The Independents in the Army were probably in their worst position, the Presbyterians had control of Parliament, issuing the Declaration of dislike, and threatening to impeach Cromwell, the two factions appeared to be on the verge of war.[[Woolrych, Statesmen, p116]] The heads of proposal had been directly debated with the King and the material things the King disliked struck out.[[Firth, Clarke Papers, pxli]] Thus the Army at this point needed the King to provide them legitimacy to create a general settlement, later the army’s position would improve and the soldiers would become more radical. Charles failed to grasp his opportunity; he rejected the terms because there was nothing to support Anglican Church government, rather a nominally Presbyterian national church for three years,[[Adamson, Nobility, p585]] not realising this did not matter as Robert Baillie points out:
In the meantime the church hierarchy could remain in place competing in a world of free religious conviction. Charles ever the opportunist hoped first that London with its offer of the Kings unconditional return would win and later that the Scots would intervene, he would not agree while he thought a better deal could be had elsewhere.[[Adamson, Nobility, p569, 598-600]] The army had however already gone beyond what it would like to create peace, so could not affirm church government for Charles, and the army therefore quickly became disillusioned:
Once Charles had rejected these proposals in favour of launching the 2nd Civil war he lost all hope of negotiating with his most powerful opponent.[[Woolrych, Revolution, p400]]
Charles was however correct that the Presbyterians and independents had divergent interests. In the summer of 1647 many in the Army believed that a settlement was more likely between them and the King than with Parliament. Charles never realised that ultimately he would have to choose between religious concessions to the Presbyterians or constitutional concessions to the independents.[[Woolrych, revolution, p359, 375.]] Charles was correct in his assessment of the Presbyterians, as they were unwilling to remove the King they had to move their proposals substantially towards the Kings position.
What do you think?