'All My Birds Have Flown'

Dame Veronica Wedgwood turns to one of the great set pieces of English history – Charles I's January 1642 attempts to settle his differences with Parliament by the attempted arrest of five MPs.

For the King and for Pym, the war in Ireland was principally a weapon to be wielded in the struggle at home. The centre of conflict was not, for them, in the burning villages of Munster, in threatened Dublin or oppressed Kilkenny. It was at Westminster. Pym had already used the Irish Rebellion to discredit the Court and Royal Family; though he had been cautious of involving the King, he had repeatedly insinuated that the Queen, her priests and her friends knew more than they should. So now Charles, in his speech to Parliament, used the disasters in Ireland to make his opponents in the Commons appear remiss in assisting the English settlers. The phrasing of this speech and especially the suggestion that the Militia Bill should have a salvo jure clause added to it – to safeguard the rights of the King, and thus destroy its whole purpose – seems to have been suggested by Oliver St. John, the Solicitor-General. St. John belonged to Pym's party and his appointment earlier in the year had been intended to pacify the King's enemies while bribing St. John into being his friend. He may have made the suggestion in all good faith, but Edward Hyde later thought it had been a trap to enable John Pym to accuse the King of breach of privilege. A reference from the Throne to a bill still under discussion in Parliament was, Pym averred, a grave interference with freedom of debate.

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