Taking Sides - Parliament and the King

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001
Charles I needed their support; they listed their grievances. There was no way back for Parliament and King

This page was published 21 years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy.

Civil war soldiers

Hearing of the rebellion, Charles rushed back to London to co-ordinate a fight-back. However, he had reckoned without the intransigence of Pym and other opposition MPs who were reluctant to give Charles command of an army. Charles looked to Parliament for supply and soldiers in a time of crisis; what he received was the Grand Remonstrance, a document outlining his alleged religious and political abuses over the preceding decade.

The Grand Remonstrance represented a direct attack on royal authority and Charles responded by launching an attack on Parliament. Accompanied by 400 guards, Charles set off for Westminster on 4th January 1642, determined to arrest Pym and his supporters. However, Pym had learned of the King's plans and had already gone into hiding. When Charles arrived, he found that 'the birds had flown' and Speaker Lenthall was unwilling to assist with his enquiries.

Buffeted by pro-Parliament mobs as he returned to Whitehall, Charles and his family set off for the relative safety of Hampton Court. In his absence, Parliament sanctioned the execution of several Catholic priests and began to seize control of strategic sites, including the arsenal at Tower Hill. Charles' decision to leave London reinforced the rift between Crown and Commons and initiated the process of forcing people to choose sides.

Charles I addressing parliament

Following the pasage of the Grand Remonstrance and fearing attempts to impeach the Queen herself, Charles attempted to arrest John Pym and four other critics in January 1642. However, Pym had learned of Charles' plans and had gone into hiding. Speaker Lenthall's refusal to assist the King was a dramatic assertion of Parliamentary autonomy.

Civil War: Taking Sides




  • picture of The Civil War Team

    The Civil War Team

    (Programme and web teams)

    Presented by Tristram Hunt, The Open University - BBC Civil War programmes explored the most turbulent time in British political history.

    View author profile

Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?