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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2013

University of Cardiff
Department of History, Cardiff University, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10


Charles I and his clerical supporters are often said to have been wary of print and public discussion, only entering the public sphere reluctantly and to comparatively little effect during the political crisis of 1642. This article challenges such views by focusing on the neglected role of official forms of print such as proclamations, declarations, and state prayers and their promulgation in the nation's churches. It traces the ways in which the king utilized the network of parish clergy to broadcast his message and mobilize support during the Scottish crisis of 1639–40 and again in the ‘paper war’ of 1642. The article argues that traditional forms of printed address retained their potency and influence despite the proliferation of polemical pamphlets and newsbooks. The significance of these mobilizations is demonstrated by the profound disquiet they caused among the king's Covenanter and parliamentarian opponents as well as the ‘good effects’ they had in generating support for the royalist cause.

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I am most grateful to Mark Stoyle, Mark Kishlansky, John Walter, Jacqueline Eales, and the anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of this article. All pre-1800 works were published in London unless otherwise stated.


1 Hyde, Edward, The history of rebellion and civil wars in England, ed. Macray, W. Dunn (6 vols., Oxford, 1888), i, p. 263, ii, p. 319Google Scholar.

2 Raymond, Joad, The invention of the newspaper: English newsbooks, 1641–1649 (Oxford, 1996), pp. 98, 123Google Scholar; Peacey, Jason, Politicians and pamphleteers: propaganda during the English civil wars and interregnum (Aldershot and Burlington, VT, 2005), pp. 37, 41Google Scholar.

3 John Morrill, ‘Introduction’, in idem, ed., Reactions to the English civil war (London, 1982), p. 4; Cust, Richard, Charles I: a political life (London, 2005), p. 167Google Scholar; Carlton, Charles, Charles I: the personal monarch (London, 1984), p. 159Google Scholar.

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5 Although see Kishlansky, Mark, ‘A lesson in loyalty: Charles I and the Short Parliament’, in McElligott, Jason and Smith, David, eds., Royalists and royalism during the English civil wars (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 22–3Google Scholar, and Cope, Esther S., ‘The king's declaration concerning the dissolution of the Short Parliament of 1640: an unsuccessful attempt at public relations’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 40 (1977), pp. 325–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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7 McElligott, Jason, Royalism, print and censorship in revolutionary England (Manchester, 2007)Google Scholar; Sharpe, Kevin, Image wars: promoting kings and commonwealths in England, 1603–1660 (New Haven, CT, and London, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, chs. 5–11.

8 Peacey, Politicians and pamphleteers, p. 37.

9 The emollient (or at least neutral) run of 1641 proclamations was ended by one of 10 Dec. for observing the Book of Common Prayer, which the earl of Essex told the king would ‘set all the kingdom by the ears’: Larkin, J. F. and Hughes, P. L., eds., Stuart royal proclamations (2 vols., Oxford, 1973–83), ii, pp. 752–4Google Scholar.

10 Raymond, Joad, Pamphlets and pamphleteering in early modern Britain (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 161201Google Scholar; Como, David, ‘Secret printing, the crisis of 1640, and the origins of civil-war radicalism’, Past and Present, 196 (2007), pp. 3782CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Waurechen, Sarah, ‘Covenanter propaganda and conceptualizations of the public during the Bishops’ Wars, 1638–1640’, Historical Journal, 52 (2009), pp. 6386CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 On Charles's propaganda efforts, see Sharpe, Kevin, The personal rule of Charles I (London and New Haven, CT, 1992), pp. 813–18Google Scholar; idem, Image wars, pp. 149–62; Kishlansky, ‘A lesson in loyalty’, pp. 23–4.

12 The National Archives (TNA), PC2/50, p. 130; Larkin and Hughes, eds., Proclamations, ii, pp. 662–7; Laud, William, Works, ed. Scott, William and Bliss, James (7 vols., Oxford, 1847–60), vii, p. 528Google Scholar; Laing, David, ed., The letters and journals of Robert Baillie (3 vols., Edinburgh, 1841–2), i, p. 189Google Scholar.

13 TNA, PC 2/50, p. 130. For it being read in Leicestershire and Essex pulpits, see Bodleian Library (Bodl.), MS Walker c. 11, fo. 51v; British Library (BL), Additional (Add.) MS 5829, fo. 32. There was a protest by three godly aldermen at its reading in Exeter Cathedral, and also from some London officials, including Sheriff Isaac Pennington, in St Paul's: Stoyle, Mark, From deliverance to destruction (Exeter, 1996), p. 43Google Scholar; TNA, SP16/420/157; 16/427/117, PC2/50, pp. 244, 294, 348, C115/109/8854; the proclamation was also translated into Dutch and distributed in the Netherlands where the Covenanters had printing presses and a network of sympathizers: Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC), Report on the manuscripts of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (London, 1900), p. 125; Placat und verklärung … betreffend die auffrührischen practicken von alichen in Schottland (Leiden, 1639).

14 Charles endorsed such confrontational language and directed that the proclamation's more extensive sister work, the Large declaration, be written in a similar ‘smart’ style: Laing, ed., Baillie, ii, p. 430; also ibid., p. 487.

15 Larkin and Hughes, eds., Proclamations, ii, p. 667.

16 On this, see the comments of Nicholas Estwick relating to the promulgation of the Book of Sports: Bodl., MS Tanner 71, fo. 187.

17 Henry Valentine, God save the king (1639); Henry Peacham, The duty of all true subjects to their king (1639); Thomas Morton, A sermon preached before the kings most excellent majestie in … Durham (1639). Preaching before Charles in Durham Cathedral on 5 May, Morton, referred to the 27 Feb. proclamation as evidence of Charles's clemency which, he claimed, would be ‘an astonishment to posterity’ (p. 41). Charles had, however, intervened to change Morton's sermon text before it was printed, specifically removing claims that Calvin never authorized resistance to higher powers: TNA, SP16/437/56. On the wider clerical campaign, see also the visitation sermon at Canterbury in Apr. 1639 mentioned in Richard Culmer, Cathedrall newes from Canterbury (1644), p. 9.

18 Sharpe, Image wars, pp. 144–89.

19 HMC, Manuscripts of the Earl Cowper (3 vols., 1888–9), ii, pp. 216–17Google Scholar. Charles would soon issue another proclamation against ‘libellous and seditious pamphlets and discourses sent from Scotland’ after the appearance of the Covenanters’ An information from the states of the kingdome of Scotland: Larkin and Hughes, eds., Proclamations, ii, pp. 703–5; Como, ‘Secret printing’, pp. 55–6 and n. 31.

20 Such comments suggest, pace Waurechen, ‘Covenanter propaganda’, that appeals to truth and an imagined rational audience through printed propaganda were not the preserve of the Covenanters.

21 See also the report of Covenanter reactions in BL, Add. MS 11045, fo. 5.

22 Laing, ed., Baillie, i, pp. 189, 487. Reading the proclamation in English churches was singled out by John Vicars in a discussion of the ‘foule calumnies and scoffes’ which had been cast upon the Covenanters in this period: John Vicars, God in the mount (1642), p. 16.

23 Paul, G. M. ed., Diary of Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston, 1639 (Edinburgh, 1896), pp. 69, 71, 73Google Scholar.

24 Spalding, John, The history of the troubles and memorable transactions in Scotland and England from the year 1624 to 1645 (2 vols., Aberdeen, 1792), i, p. 144Google Scholar.

25 [Alexander Henderson], The remonstrance of the nobility … within the kingdome of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1639), pp. 26–7.

26 Calendar of state papers, Venetian, 1636–1639, pp. 509–10.

27 Fielding, John, ‘Opposition to the personal rule of Charles I: the diary of Robert Woodford, 1637–1641’, Historical Journal, 31 (1988), pp. 769–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at p. 781.

28 TNA, SP16/423/44(ii), 44(iv). See also SP16/425/16, 16(i), 16/430/10.

29 It should also be noticed that one newsletter writer observed that since the proclamation was read, many Scottish books had been turned over to Justice Longe of Clerkenwell as required: BL, Add. MS 11045, fo. 1v. See also TNA, C115/109/8854.

30 Laing, ed., Baillie, i, p. 188.

31 [Walter Balcanquhal], A large declaration concerning the late tumults in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1639). Cf. Kishlansky, ‘Lesson in loyalty’, p. 23, who offers a more positive reading of the Large declaration as part of a ‘skilful propaganda campaign’.

32 Larking, L. B., ed., Proceedings … in Kent (Camden Society, 1st ser., 80, London, 1862), p. 149Google Scholar.

33 Gardiner, S. R., The history of England (10 vols., London, 1883–4), ix, p. 189Google Scholar. For problems distributing the proclamation in the north, see Calendar of state papers, domestic, 1640, p. 631. The same day, Charles also issued proclamations demanding the payment of arrears of ship money, and another requiring those holding land by knight's service to join his campaign or pay a composition: Larkin and Hughes, eds., Proclamations, ii, pp. 728–32; HMC, De L'Isle and Dudley manuscripts (6 vols., London, 1925–66), vi, p. 317Google Scholar; Green, M. A. E., ed., Diary of John Rous (Camden Society, 1st ser., 66, London, 1856), pp. 92–3Google Scholar.

34 Larkin and Hughes, eds., Proclamations, ii, pp. 726–8. Charles had previously declared recalcitrant Covenanters to be ‘open rebels and traitors’ in a proclamation issued in Scotland in Apr. 1639, but ‘printed and published all over England’. This was a response to the Remonstrance, and seems to have been the target for an act passed by the Scottish parliament in June 1640 against ‘unlawful and unjust proclamations’. The suppression of such anti-Covenanter print in England and Ireland was one of the demands made by Scottish commissioners at the Treaty of London: Calendar of state papers, domestic, 1639, pp. 40–1, 65, 77–81; [Charles I], To our lovits, heraulds, maissers, messengers, pursuivants and sheriffs (1639); Laing, ed., Baillie, i, pp. 202, 297, 300; A remonstrance concerning the present troubles (Edinburgh, 1640), pp. 33–9; Lords Journal (LJ), iv, p. 159; BL, Harleian MS 6424, fos. 17v–18; John Raithby, ed., Statutes of the realm (11 vols. in 12, London, 1963), v, p. 123.

35 A prayer for the kings majestie in his expedition against the rebels of Scotland (1640); Laud, Works, iii, p. 106. For the directive that this be read by the minister and not an inferior official, see TNA, SP16/468/76. Bulstrode Whitlocke recalled the proclamation and prayer as part of the same propaganda initiative: Memorials of the English affairs (4 vols., Oxford, 1853), i, p. 102. For discussions of earlier state prayers, see Cooper, J. P. D., ‘O Lorde save the kyng”: Tudor royal propaganda and the power of prayer’, in Bernard, George and Gunn, Steven, eds., Authority and consent in Tudor England (Aldershot, 2002), pp. 179–96Google Scholar, who describes such propaganda as ‘unquestionably directed towards a mass audience’ (p. 179), and Mears, Natalie, ‘Public worship and political participation in Elizabethan England’, Journal of British Studies, 51 (2012), pp. 425CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 A prayer for the kings majestie in his northern expedition (1639); Laud, Works, iii, p. 105.

37 TNA, SP16/467/147, 16/468/76, 16/469/52, 16/470/102.

38 For Bright, see Commons Journal (CJ), ii, pp. 518, 569; Parliamentary Archives (PA), HL/PO/JO/10/1/119; J[ames] W[ilcock], A challenge sent to Master E[dward] B[right], a semi-separatist (1641), p. 6; idem, The true English Protestants apology (1642); Larking, ed., Proceedings … in Kent, pp. 144–5.

39 George Swinnock, The life and death of Mr Th[omas] Wilson (1672), pp. 14–16. Wilson's case was raised in the early days of the Long Parliament by Sir Edward Dering, whose electoral candidacy Wilson had supported in both the Short and the Long Parliaments, and to whom Wilson dedicated a pamphlet in 1641: Jansson, Maija, ed., Proceedings in the opening session of the Long Parliament (7 vols., Rochester, NY, and Woodbridge, 2000–7), i, pp. 76, 81–2, 84–5, 368, 372, 379, 382Google Scholar; TNA, SP16/471/49; Larking, ed., Proceedings … in Kent, pp. 38–9; Thomas Wilson, Davids zeale for Zion (1641), sigs. A3–A4v.

40 Gardiner, S. R., ed., Constitutional documents of the puritan revolution, 1625–1660 (Oxford, 1906), p. 219Google Scholar.

41 John Bond, A doore of hope (1642), p. 22. See also Vicars, God in the mount, pp. 22–3, and Nehemiah Wallington's comments in BL, Add. MS 21935, fo. 93.

42 Culmer, Cathedrall newes, p. 8.

43 Laing, ed., Baillie, i, p. 261.

44 For concern about the ‘ventinge of private thowghts’ during the reading of this supposedly ‘public’ prayer, see Braddick, Michael and Greengrass, Mark, eds., ‘The letters of Sir Cheney Culpeper, 1641–1657’, in Seventeenth-century political and financial papers (Camden Society 5th ser., 7, London, 1996), pp. 158–9Google Scholar.

45 Holmes, Clive, ed., The Suffolk committees for scandalous ministers, 1644–1646 (Suffolk Records Society, 13, Ipswich, 1970), p. 34Google Scholar; BL, Add. MS 5829, fo. 65.

46 J. W. F. Hill, ed., ‘The royalist clergy of Lincolnshire’, Lincolnshire Architectural and Archaeological Society, n.s., 2 (1941 for 1938), pp. 34–127, at pp. 46, 49, 52.

47 For this, see Stoyle, Mark, Soldiers and strangers: an ethnic history of the English civil war (New Haven, CT, and London, 2005)Google Scholar, esp. ch. 4.

48 Holmes, ed., Suffolk committees, p. 57.

49 BL, Add. MS 5829, fo. 32. See BL, Harleian MS 6852, fos. 141, 295, and Stoyle, Soldiers and strangers, pp. 84–5, for later royalist allegations of the Scots entering England to take men's lands.

50 Harris, Tim, ‘“A sainct in shewe, a devill in deede”: moral panics and anti-puritanism in seventeenth-century England’, in Lemmings, David and Walker, Claire, eds., Moral panics, the media and the law in early modern England (Basingstoke, 2009), pp. 96116Google Scholar.

51 Bodl., MS Walker c. 6, fo. 47.

52 Russell, Conrad, The causes of the English civil war (Oxford, 1990), pp. 1516Google Scholar; idem, The fall of the British monarchies, 1637–1642 (Oxford, 1991), pp. 83–5, 195, 272.

53 Braddick and Greengrass, eds., ‘Letters of Sir Cheney Culpeper’, p. 158. It is worth noting that Richard Culmer later glossed positive responses to the prayer as ‘cathedrall’ amens: above, p. 305.

54 Reynolds, Matthew, Godly reformers and their opponents in early modern England: religion in Norwich, c.1560–1643 (Woodbridge, 2005), pp. 240–2Google Scholar.

55 BL, Add. MS 15903, fo. 75. It was probably not by accident that the document throughout referred to the minister as ‘Charles Devill’.

56 An interesting parallel here was the public display of Charles I's 1643 letter of thanks to the Cornish in the county's parish churches throughout the first civil war: Stoyle, Mark, West Britons: Cornish identities and the early modern British state (Exeter, 2002), pp. 160–2Google Scholar. I am grateful to Prof. Stoyle for drawing my attention to this.

57 The charge of the Scottish commissioners against Canterburie and the Lieutenant of Ireland (1641), p. 15; Jansson, ed., Proceedings of the Long Parliament, i, p. 646; Laud, Works, iii, pp. 360–1; HMC, De L'Isle and Dudley manuscripts, vi, p. 377. A manuscript ballad of 1640–1 reported how ‘little Lawd will pay for his fraud/And cunning innovation/ For service-booke & the eares that hee tooke/And the Scottish proclamation’: Bodl., MS Rawlinson Poet. 26, fo. 123v.

58 CJ, ii, pp. 274, 276; LJ, iv, pp. 379, 383; TNA, SP16/483/100; An ordinance of parliament for a day of publicke thanksgiving for the peace concluded between England and Scotland (1641). This clause was a later addition to the original ordinance secured at the commissioners’ request.

59 Hyde, History of the rebellion, i, p. 385.

60 Vicars, God in the mount, pp. 58–9.

61 Gardiner, ed., Constitutional documents, pp. 83–99; Sharpe, Image wars, pp. 158–60.

62 Whitlocke, Memorials, i, pp. 105–6.

63 Laing, ed., Baillie, i, p. 286.

64 Bodl., MS Clarendon 20, fo. 13; BL, Add. MS 11045, fo. 144v; HMC, De L'Isle and Dudley manuscripts, vi, p. 359.

65 For Drake, see Walter, John, ‘“Affronts & insolencies”’: the voices of Radwinter and popular opposition to Laudianism’, English Historical Review, 122 (2007), pp. 3560CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

66 Cressy, David, England on edge: crisis and revolution, 1640–1642 (Oxford, 2006)Google Scholar, chs. 10–11, 16.

67 Flintshire Record Office (FRO), D/DM 271; Derbyshire Record Office, D258/34/70; BL, Add. MS 71534, fo. 22; Wilson H. Coates, Vernon F. Snow and Anne Steele Young, eds., Private journals of the Long Parliament (hereafter PJLP) (3 vols., New Haven, CT, 1982–92), ii, pp. 45–7, 49, 84, 99, 104, 107, 112, 137–8, iii, pp. 107, 145, 148, 183, 206, 224, 245–6, 248; CJ, ii, pp. 421, 496, 499, 503, 506, 510, 512, 650, 652–3, 643, 669, 673, 677, 684, 696; Fletcher, Anthony, The outbreak of the English civil war (London, 1981), pp. 291–5Google Scholar; A declaration … concerning the publishing of divers proclamations … in his majesties name (1642).

68 FRO, D/DM 271/38, 44; Bund, J. Willis, ed., Diary of Henry Townshend of Elmley Lovett, 1640–1663 (2 vols., London, 1920), ii, p. 48Google Scholar. Cf. BL, Add. MS 70106, fo. 165.

69 PJLP, iii, p. 37.

70 FRO, D/DM 271/2; His majesties speech to the inhabitants of Denbigh and Flint-shire (1642), p. 6.

71 Bodl., MS Nalson 2, fos. 72, 79.

72 BL, Add. MS 15672, fo. 42v.

73 PJLP, ii, pp. 337, 341, iii, pp. 9, 12; CJ, ii, pp. 577, 603–4.

74 The royal insignia was not wholly absent from parliamentary publications (for example, BL, Thomason 669, f.5 (1)) but it was used sparingly and disappeared as time went on.

75 Hyde, History of the rebellion, ii, p. 74. Cf. ibid., pp. 48 n. 2, 69.

76 Calendar of state papers, Venetian, 1642–1643, pp. 37, 61, 68, 72, 83; Jackson, Charles, ed., ‘The life of Master John Shaw’, Yorkshire diaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Surtees Society, 45, Durham, 1877), p. 197Google Scholar.

77 Larkin and Hughes, eds., Proclamations, ii, pp. 767–9; His majesties answer to the petition … presented to him at York, May 23, 1642 (1642); CJ, ii, pp. 593–4; PJLP, ii, pp. 386–7.

78 CJ, ii, p. 597; PJLP, ii, pp. 398, 402, iii, pp. 17–18.

79 PJLP, iii, p. 37.

80 CJ, ii, p. 611.

81 His majesties answer to a printed paper, intituled, a new declaration of the Lords and Commons of the 21st of June 1642 (York, 1642); His majesties declaration concerning leavies (1642). A number of editions were produced, including two with black letter typeface for wider consumption.

82 At its appearance, one parliamentary diarist seized immediately on the directive that it be published in all churches: PJLP, iii, p. 164.

83 CJ, ii, p. 652; LJ, v, p. 182; BL, Thomason 669, f.5 (54).

84 Calendar of state papers, Venetian, 1642–1643, pp. 100–1.

85 PJLP, iii, pp. 210–11; CJ, ii, p. 669; Some speciall passages, 8 (12–19 July 1642), p. 47.

86 Bodl., MS Nalson 13, fo. 178; CJ, ii, p. 684; PJLP, iii, p. 245; Some speciall passages, 9 (18–26 July 1642), p. 56. Gibb later maintained that he was unaware of parliament's order against reading the declaration: PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/134/12; CJ, ii, pp. 789, 794.

87 Russell, Fall of the British monarchies, p. 499; CJ, ii, pp. 609, 616. Cf. Order for publishing declarations and books set forth by his majesties command (Oxford, 1644). Jason Peacey notes that parliamentary print runs of 6,000–12,000 were usual: Politicians and pamphleteers, p. 47.

88 For example, the Flintshire commissioners of array in Dec. 1642 directed ‘every minister in every parish churche’ to publish an order regarding the need to defend against the Chester parliamentarians ‘in the vulgar languadge’: Warwickshire Record Office, CR2017/TP646.

89 Bowen, Lloyd, The politics of the principality: Wales, c. 1603–1642 (Cardiff, 2007)Google Scholar, ch. 6.

90 On the politics of gesture, see Braddick, Michael, ed., The politics of gesture: historical perspectives (Past and Present Supplements, 4, Oxford, 2009), pp. 935, 96–127Google Scholar.

91 BL, Add. MS 15672, fo. 10.

92 Hill, ‘The royalist clergy of Lincolnshire’, p. 85.

93 Some speciall passages, 9 (18 July–26 July 1642), p. 54; CJ, ii, pp. 682, 691–2, 780. Gwin clearly did have a sense of the dramatic. A pamphlet of 1641 accused him of writing scurrilous verse during services and securing them to the whipping post while the congregation sang psalms, and also of changing the form and sense of the psalms ‘to his owne purpose’: Articles ministered by his majesties commissioners … against John Gwin, vicar of Cople (1641).

94 CJ, ii, p. 691.

95 Cliffe, John, The puritan gentry (London, 1984), pp. 161–2Google Scholar.

96 Bodl., MS Walker c. 4, fo. 155; Stoyle, Mark, Loyalty and locality (Exeter, 1992), p. 206Google Scholar. The publication in question was A declaration of the Lords and Commons … concerning his majesties advancing with his army towards London (1642); CJ, ii, pp. 810–11.

97 For example, TNA, SP16/280/54, and, more generally, Davies, Julian, The Caroline captivity of the church (Oxford, 1992), pp. 198200CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

98 Phillips, William, ed., ‘The Ottley papers relating to the civil war’, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 7 (1895), pp. 239360Google Scholar, at p. 359.

99 Larkin and Hughes, eds., Proclamations, ii, p. 897.

100 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/145/32; LJ, v, pp. 635–6. Nehemiah Wallington related this as Symmonds preaching ‘that we are bound to doe all yt his maiestie commands and beleeve all yt his maiestie saith’: BL, Add. MS 21935, fo. 125.

101 See, for example, Thomas Wyatt of Ducklington's description of ‘trifling pamphlets’ as ‘very rude, uncivill & trifeling babbs’: Bodl., MS Top. Oxon. C378, p. 321.

102 Bodl., MS Walker c. 11, fo. 78. Cf. PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/124/21(i); CJ, iii, p. 27.

103 For example, see The copy of a letter sent from the committee at Lincoln (1642); CJ, ii, p. 695, iii, p. 26; LJ, v, p. 157; Stoyle, West Britons, pp. 160–2; Jerome de Groot, Royalist identities (Basingstoke, 2004), pp. 31–2.

104 Fox, Adam, Oral and literate culture in England, 1500–1700 (Oxford, 2000)Google Scholar.

105 See Hunt, Arnold, The art of hearing (Cambridge, 2010)Google Scholar.

106 Robert Mossom, The preachers tripartite (1658), sigs. A3v–A4.