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Why did people go to war in 1642?

Case study 2: 1640-42 - Source 4

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Images from the trial of Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford

(4a: John Rushworth, The Trial of Thomas Earl of Strafford. Published in London, 1680. 4b: SP 16/479/28, 4c: Wenceslaus Hollar D1317, 1641 National Portrait Gallery)

Images from the trial of the Earl of Strafford
Images from the trial of the Earl of Strafford
Images from the trial of the Earl of Strafford
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J.Rushworth: The trial of Thomas Strafford

What is this source?

Here is a portrait of the Earl of Strafford, an extract from the final speech he made on 13 April 1641, and a picture of his execution in May 1641.


What's the background to this source?

Strafford was Charles I’s right-hand man during the Personal Rule. This was the period from 1629-40 when Charles ruled without once calling Parliament. Charles’s opponents in Parliament (led by John Pym) feared Strafford. When Parliament finally met in 1640, Pym accused Strafford of treason. The penalty was death. Basically, Pym and his supporters were trying to have Strafford killed.


It's worth knowing that...

The evidence against Strafford was very weak. The trial dragged on into 1641 and fell apart. John Pym then accused Strafford again, using a Bill of Attainder. This was a legal process that allowed Parliament to simply vote on whether he was guilty rather than basing the judgement on evidence in a fair trial. Strafford was found guilty. Many MPs disliked the way Pym twisted the law to get Strafford executed. Pym’s actions eventually led many MPs to support Charles.


Your turn: What can we learn from this source?

  1. What was Strafford accused of?
  2. Look at the extra information in the notes on this source. Does this information suggest other reasons why Strafford was put on trial?
  3. According to Strafford’s speech, what methods did his enemies use against him in his trial?
  4. How did Strafford’s opponents justify what they did to bring him down?
  5. In 1640 most MPs were critical of Charles I. However, by 1641 many Lords and some other MPs were concerned about the actions of Pym and the other leading opponents of Charles. What impact do you think Strafford’s speech might have had on those concerned MPs?
  6. Look at the image in source 4c. How would you describe this scene if you were commenting on it for a radio broadcast?
  7. How can you tell that this was an important event?
  8. Does this picture suggest that Strafford was popular or unpopular?
  9. How do you think this event might have affected Charles I’s views towards Parliament?
  10. Does this give us any clues about why the kingdom went to war in 1642?