Charles I at York 1642

York was in the heart of Royalist country at the beginning of the English Civil War. William Thurlow describes how it became the King’s capital.

On Tuesday, January 4th, 1642, King Charles I committed an act of violence that made the Great Civil War almost inevitable; he went to the House of Commons at the head of a body of armed men and attempted to arrest five members of Parliament - John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holies, Arthur Haslerig and William Strode. The attempt failed. The King’s move had been expected, and by the time he had arrived at Westminster Hall, the five members were being conveyed by barge to a secret hiding-place in the City of London.

That night, when the King went to dine with the Lord Mayor, he was menaced by hostile crowds. And within a few days, Parliament, confident of popular support, had secured London. The Trained Bands, the most efficient military force in the kingdom, had been mobilized under their commander, Philip Skippon, a veteran of the Dutch wars, and the seamen of the port had poured into the City to help defend Parliament against any attack by the King. On January 10th, the King and Queen fled to Hampton Court.

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