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The Grand Remonstrance

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001

Pym took the dispute to the people with the publication of the Grand Remonstrance

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On hearing of the rebellion, Charles hurried back to London to co-ordinate the fight-back against the Irish. A nation deeply shocked by news of the events cheered him on his way. The King, the father of the nation, seemed back in control at this time of crisis.

But in the gloomy corridors and alcoves of Westminster, John Pym, the Puritan leader and scourge of King Charles, had other plans. While the rest of the nation was rallying round, supporting Charles, and demanding an army to crush the Catholic rebels, Pym was afraid such a move would only empower the King. With an army under his control, he would renege on his deal with Parliament and use force to crush Pym and the Parliamentary opposition. In short, the King could not be trusted with an army.

There was also the sneaking suspicion that the Irish rebels had the support of the quasi-Catholic Charles himself, such was the level of distrust. Pym's suspicion appeared confirmed when the rebel leaders forged a document showing an alliance with Charles and declared they had risen,
'only for the preservation of his majesty, and his rightful government over them...the defence of their religion, laws, and liberties.'
It was a hoax, but one that cemented many peoples' inner prejudices.

Rather than help prepare a force to retake Ireland, Pym proposed that Parliament should instead issue a 'Grand Remonstrance' detailing all of Charles's religious and political abuses. When the Catholic menace was on the doorstep, Pym was more interested in attacking Charles than defending the nation. He actually stopped a motion supplying arms to royal forces in Ireland fighting to suppress the rebellion. Extraordinary behaviour.

The debate over the Remonstrance split the Commons with many seeing it as an unnecessary provocation to a monarch who had already agreed to most of their demands. After a night of violent debate, the Commons passed the Remonstrance by nine votes. It was a totally unprecedented attack on the royal prerogative.

The Grand Remonstrance was a highly significant development because it took the dispute beyond King and Parliament. The text was printed and circulated through London. A dispute that had previously been kept behind doors was now being aired in public. Pym was astute in appealing to extra-Parliamentary forces. But that dangerous radicalisation also helped forge the beginnings of a Royalist party.


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