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The Politics of Propaganda: Charles I and the People in the 1620s

  • Thomas Cogswell


John Rous did more than record the news that reached his isolated parish in Suffolk; he also recorded the local discussions of these reports. The latter practice was potentially dangerous. Two recent royal proclamations had expressly prohibited discussions of “affairs of state,” and, as Rous's diary reveals, these private talks could easily become extended critiques of royal policy. Perhaps for that reason Rous, the local parson, consistently sought to be a moderating influence: “I would alwaies speake the best of that our King and state did, and thinke the best too, till I had good groundes” to do otherwise. Unfortunately for Rous, he found it increasingly difficult to “speake the best” in the mid-1620s as Charles I dissolved parliament after parliament, collected taxes of dubious legality, and experimented with the established church; “our Kings proceedings have caused men's mindes to be incensed, to rove, and projecte.” Popular projections, moreover, led to the edge of “an insurrection”; in such an increasingly tense atmosphere, Rous was fearful that one misplaced word would fuel reports that “the whole state were revolting.”

His most severe trial came in 1627 when Charles I interrupted an otherwise disastrous war against Spain to invade France. The motive for the Ré expedition quite simply baffled Rous's parishioners. When the parson refuted the criticism of Mr. Paine, one of his parishioners, Paine simply “would not heare it by any meanes: but fell in generall to speake distastfully of the voyage and then of our warre with France.”



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1 The Diary of John Rous, ed. Green, Mary Anne Everett (London, 1856), p. 12. See also Larkin, J. F. and Hughes, P. L., eds., Stuart Royal Proclamations (Oxford, 1973), 1: 495–96 (December 24, 1620), 519–21 (July 26, 1621).

2 Rous, pp. 12, 19. See also Hirst, Derek, “The Place of Principle,” Past and Present, no. 92 (1981), p. 94.

3 Rous, pp. 11–14. For further details on events of this period, see Russell, Conrad, Parliaments and English Politics, 1621–1629 (Oxford, 1979); and Cust, Richard, The Forced Loan and English Politics, 1626–1628 (Oxford, 1987).

4 Rous, p. 19.

5 Morrill, J. S., “William Davenport and the ‘Silent Majority’ of Early Stuart England,” Journal of the Chester Archeological Society 58 (1975): 118–21; and Russell, pp. 118–21.

6 Privy Council to the Archbishop of Canterbury, September 20, 1626, Acts of the Privy Council (APC), 41:282–85; and Bargraves, Isaac, A Sermon Preached … on 27 March (London, 1627), pp. 1819.

7 Morrill, J. S., The Revolt of the Provinces (London, 1980), pp. 1431; Zagorin, Perez, The Court and the Country (London, 1969), pp. 74118; and Hibbard, Caroline, Charles I and the Popish Plot (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1981).

8 Sharpe, Kevin, “Crown, Parliament and Locality: Government and Communication in Early Stuart England,” English Historical Review 100 (1986): 334, 322.

9 Cust, Richard, “News and Politics in Early Seventeenth-Century England,” Past and Present, no. 112 (1986), p. 87 and passim.

10 Set Russell, pp. 5–26, against Sommerville, J. P., Ideology and Politics (London, 1986). On the importance of the concept of the “political” court and country, see Thompson, Christopher, “The Divided Leadership of the House of Commons in 1629,” in Faction and Parliament, ed. Sharpe, K. (Oxford, 1978), p. 277.

11 Sharpe, Kevin, Criticism and Compliment: The Politics of Literature in the England of Charles I (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 34.

12 Deloche, M., Autour de la plume de Cardinal de Richelieu (Paris, 1920); Fagniez, G., “Fancan et Richelieu,” Revue historiques 107 (1911): 59–78, 310–22, and 108 (1912): 75–87; and Church, W. F., Richelieu and Reason of State (Princeton, N.J., 1970). I am grateful to Jeremy Popkin for this point.

13 See, e.g., Secunda Secretissima Instructio, Gallo-britanno-batava ([Brussels], 1626); Tertio Secretissima Instructio ([Brussels], 1627); Eglisham, George, Prodromus Vindictae ([Brussels], 1626); and Ralph Starkey to Sir John Scudamore, May 1627, Public Record Office (PRO), C115/N4/8578. On the translation and circulation of these tracts, see British Library (BL) Harleian MS 390, fols. 201–3; Cambridge University Library, MS Gg.iv.13, pp. 137–45; and Vere-Cavendish Papers, BL Loan MS 29/235, fols. 73–83v.

14 Elton, G. R., Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972), p. 171.

15 Countess of Buckingham to the duke of Buckingham, October 1, [1627], Warwick, Warwick County Record Office (RO), Feilding of Newnham Paddox MSS, CR 2017, Cl/22; and earl of Middlesex to [duke of Buckingham], [Summer 1627], Maidstone, Kent Archive Office, Cranfield Papers U269/2, CP 125. On the Ré expedition itself, see Adams, Simon, “The Road to La Rochelle,” Proceedings of the Huguenot Society 22 (1975): 414–29; and Cogswell, Thomas, “Prelude to Re: The Anglo-French Struggle for La Rochelle, 1624–1627,” History 71 (1986): 121.

16 Lords Journals, 3:282–83. See also Cogswell, Thomas, The Blessed Revolution: English Politics and the Coming of War, 1621–1624 (Cambridge, 1989), chap. 5.

17 On the domestic crisis, see Cogswell, Thomas, “England and the Spanish Match,” in Conflict in Early Stuart England, ed. Cust, R. P. and Hughes, A. (London, 1989).

18 Harris, Robert, Gods Goodness and Mercy (London, 1622), p. 16, and Peter's Enlargement (London, 1624), p. 22. For examples of antiwar rhetoric from the period, see Wall, John, Alea Searphicae: the Seraphins Wing (London, 1627), p. 139; Purchas, Samuel, The Kings Towre (London, 1622), pp. 101–2; and Adams, Thomas, Eirenopolis (London, 1622), pp. 171–72.

19 Tisdale, Robert, Pax Vobis (London, 1623), p. 8; and T. Wentworth to Calvert, G., Summer 1624, The Earl of Strafford's Letters and Dispatches (London, 1739), 1:24. For examples of the pointed homilies on obedience, see Tisdale; SirStradling, John, Beati Pacifici (London, 1623); and SirHayward, John, Christs Prayer on the Crosse (London, 1623).

20 Lockyer, Roger, Buckingham: The Life and Political Career of George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham, 1592–1628 (London, 1981), p. 316.

21 SirCole, Edward, Spring Diary, March 20, 1624, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., Houghton Library, English MS 980, p. 144. I am grateful to the kindness of Dr. Mark Kennedy for placing the typescript of the Yale Center at my disposal.

22 Lords Journal, 3:492. See, e.g., Charles's intervention in the Lords' debates in 1621: Notes of the Debates in the House of Lords (London, 1929), pp. 7, 10–11, 16, 19, 20, 27, 33, 34, 37–38, 42, 44–45, 5152.

23 Alnwick Castle MS, vol. 12, fols. 136–51 (the Relation) and 152–53 (précis); “The Effect of the Relation,” BL Lansdowne MS 498, fols. 35–35v; and Chester City RO, [Earwaker MSS], CR 63/2/19, fols. 37–38.

24 John Beaulieu to William Trumbull, March 5, 1624, Reading, Berkshire RO, Trumbull MSS, 7/151. See also Ruigh, Robert, The Parliament of 1624 (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), pp. 162–65.

25 Commons Journal, pp. 725–27; and Sir Thomas Wentworth's speech at Rotherham, April 23, 1621, in Wentworth Papers, ed. Cooper, J. P. (London, 1973), p. 153.

26 A Forme of Prayer Necessary to be used in these dangerous times of Warre and Pestilence (London, 1626).

27 [Charles] to the Archbishop of Canterbury, September 20, 1626, APC, 41: 282–85.

28 Sibthorpe, Robert, Apostolike Obedience (London, 1627), p. 19; and Mainwaring, Roger, Religion and Allegiance (London, 1627), p. 44.

29 Du Val, Michael, Rosa Hispani-Anglica (London, [1623]), pp. 5152. See also Garrard, Edmund, The Countrie Gentleman Moderator (London, 1624); and Stradling (n. 19 above).

30 Marcelline, George, Epithalamium Gallo-Britannicum (London, 1625), introduction. See also Crosse, William, The Dutch Survey (London, 1625), pp. [29]36.

31 A Declaration of the True Causes which moved his Maiestie to assemble and after inforced Him to dissolve the two last Meetings in Parliament (London, 1626), pp. 13, 24, 2728. See also His Maiesties Declaration, touching his proceeding in the late assemblie (London, 1622); His Maiesties dclaration [sic] … of the causes which moved him to dissolve the last parliament (London, 1629); and Richard Cust's forthcoming article on these tracts.

32 Jansson, M. and Bidwell, W., eds., Proceedings in Parliament 1625 (New Haven, Conn., 1987), p. 461; Slaughter, T., ed., Ideology and Politics on the Eve of the Restoration: Newcastle's Advice to Charles II (Philadelphia, 1984), p. 56.

33 “A Relation concerning the plaister and potion given to King James,” [1626], Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., V.a.402, fols. 68v–70. See also Eglisham, , Prodromus Vindictae (n. 13 above), and the English translation, Forerunner of Revenge (London, 1642).

34 Earle, John, Microcosmographie (London, 1628), no. 27, “The Pot-Poet.”

35 Hope doe mee no harme,” Yale University, Beinecke Library, New Haven, Conn., Osborn b197, pp. 110–11; and “On the Princes goeing to Spain,” Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., V.a.162, fol. 48v. For James's contributions, see The Poems of James VI, ed. Craigie, J. (Edinburgh, 1958).

36 Jonson, Ben, Poems, ed. Donaldson, Ian (Oxford, 1975), pp. 4849. On the overtly political nature of his masques, see Pearl, Sara, “Sounding to Present Occasions: Jonson's Masques of 1620–25,” in The Court Masque (Manchester, 1984), pp. 6077.

37 Butler, Martin, Theatre and Crisis (Cambridge, 1984); Heinemenn, Margot, Puritanism and Theatre: Thomas Middleton and Opposition Drama (Cambridge, 1982); and Limon, Jerzy, Dangerous Matter (Cambridge, 1986).

38 Middleton, Thomas, A Game at Chess (London, 1966); and John Woolley to William Trumbull, August 20, 1624, Reading, Berkshire RO, Trumbull MSS, 48/136. See also Cogswell, T., “Thomas Middleton and the Court, 1624: A Game at Chess in Context, “ Huntington Library Quarterly 47 (1984), pp. 273–88.

39 The Duke Returned Againe,” in Poems and Songs Relating to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, ed. Fairholt, F. W. (London, 1850), p. 19.

40 Valentine, Henry, Noahs Dove (London, 1627), pp. 67; and [Charles] to Archbishop Abbot, September 20, 1626, APC, 41: 284.

41 Hampton, William, A Proclamation of Warre (London, 1627), pp. 29 and 31.

42 Anonymous newsletter, August 9, 1628, BL Additional (Add.) MS 383, fol. 65. For another potentially embarrassing play of 1627, see also Massinger, Philip, The Great Duke of Florence, in The Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger, ed. Edwards, P. and Gibson, Colin (Oxford, 1976), 3:95180.

43 Martyn, William, The Historie and Lives of the Kings of England (London, 1628); and Fairholt, ed., pp. 13–14.

44 Drayton, Michael, The Battaile of Agincourt (London, 1627; reprint, Oxford, 1932), pp. 4 and 9–72. I am grateful to Dr. Les Timms for several discussions of this work; I will develop my views on Drayton at greater length elsewhere.

45 Joseph Mead to Sir Martin Stuteville, October 20, 1627, BL Harleian MS 390, fol. 305.

46 A Continued Journall of All the Proceedings, August 17, [1627] (London, 1627), pp. 8, 15.

47 See, e.g., Col. Fleetwood, William, “An Unhappy View,” Somers Tracts (London, 1811), 5:398404; and “A Journall of the Voyage,” BL Add. MS 26,051, fols. 1–23.

48 Rous (n. 1 above), p. 11.

49 Nicholas Fortescue to Sir William Pitt, August 3, 1627, BL Add. MS 29,974, fol. 101; and Lord Savage to the earl of Middlesex, August 25, 1627, Maidstone, Kent Archive Office, U269/2, CP 99.

50 A Continued Journall, October 2, [1627] (London, 1627), p. 6; and Richard Wilbraham to Sir Peter Legh, February 13, 1627, Manchester, John Rylands Library, Legh of Lyme MSS.

51 A Continued Journall, November 2, [1627] (London, 1627), p. 9.

52 A Manifestation or Remonstrances of the … Duke of Buckingham (La Rochelle, 1627), pp. 2 and 8. On the mechanics of publishing this tract, see duke of Buckingham to Lord Conway, July 28, 1627, PRO, State Papers (SP) 16/72/31.

53 Charles I to duke of Buckingham, August 13, 1627, BL Harleian 6988, fol. 34; Arber, E., ed., Transcript of the Register of the Company of Stationers (London, 1877), 4:179; and Nicholas Fortescue to Sir William Pitt, August 31, 1627, BL Add. MS 29,974, fol. 112.

54 Sir John Coke to Lord Conway, July 23, 1627, PRO, SP 16/71/85.

55 Lord Conway to Sir John Coke, July 27, 1627, [Melbourne Hall MSS, old bundle no. 30], BL Add. MS 64,892, fol. 44. I am grateful to Michael Young for assistance in tracking down this letter.

56 Sir John Coke to Lord Conway, July 28, 1627, PRO, SP 16/72/32–33.

57 “The Manifest,” [July 1627], PRO, SP 78/81/182–189v.

58 Ibid., fol. 183v.

59 Ibid., fol. 184.

60 Ibid., fol. 184v.

61 Ibid., fol. 185v.

62 Ibid., fol. 186.

63 Ibid., fol. 187v–188.

64 Sharpe, , “Crown, Parliament and Locality” (n. 8 above), p. 340.

65 Rohan, Duc de, The Apologie of the Reformed Churches (London, 1628), pp. 51, 39, 5–9, and 4445.

66 “The Manifest,” fol. 182.

67 Sir John Coke to Lord Conway, July 31, 1627, PRO, SP 16/72/48.

68 Present were Lord Keeper Coventry, Lord President Manchester, Lord Treasurer Ley, Chancellor of the Exchequer Weston, Master of the Court of Wards Naunton, Master of the Rolls Caesar, Secretary Coke, and the earls of Carlisle, Totnes, Bridgwater, Dorset. The one exception was the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Sir Humphrey May; APC, 2: 454–69; and Sir John Coke to Lord Conway, July 31, 1627, PRO, SP 16/72/48.

69 Lord Conway to Sir John Coke, July 27, 1627, BL Add. MS 64,892, fol. 44; and Conway's minute of this letter, Calendar of State Papers Domestic, Charles I (CSPD), II, p. 273.

70 Cust, Richard, The Forced Loan (n. 3 above), pp. 1390, and Charles I, the Privy Council, and the Forced Loan,” Journal of British Studies 24 (1985): 208–35.

71 Sir Edward Greville to earl of Middlesex, January 11, 1627, Maidstone, Kent Archive Office, U269/2, E28; Young, Michael B., Servility and Service: The Life and Work of Sir John Coke (London, 1986), pp. 171–85 and 189, and The Origins of the Petition of Right Further Reconsidered,” Historical Journal 27 (1984): 449–52.

72 See, e.g., Amerigo Salvetti to the duke of Florence, August 4, 1627, Historical Manuscripts Commission, Skrine [11th Report, part 1], p. 126. I am grateful to Richard Cust for stressing the importance of this point.

73 APC, 2: 437, 440; and Cust, The Forced Loan, pp. 44–45, 55.

74 Joseph Mede to Sir Martin Stuteville, October 28, 1626, BL Harleian MS 390, fol. 148; Fletcher, Anthony, A County Community in Peace and War: Sussex, 1600–1660 (London, 1975), p. 196; and Cust, , The Forced Loan, pp. 25, 29, 45, 55–56, 5859. On Dorset's popular standing, see Edward Moundsford to Framlingham Gawdy, April 16, 1627, BL Egerton MS 2715, fol. 327; and Francis Clyve to Sir John Newdegate, June 16, 1626, Warwick County RO, Newdegate of Arbury MSS, CR 126/b108, fol. lv.

75 Sir John Coke to Lord Conway, July 31, 1627, PRO, SP 16/72/48. For another assessment of Carlisle's role in this period, see Schreiber, Roy E., The First Carlisle: Sir James Hay, First Earl of Carlisle as Courtier, Diplomat and Entrepreneur, 1580–1636 (Philadelphia, 1984), pp. 100105.

76 Sir Isaac Wake to Lord Conway, May 25, July 16, and October 1, 1627, PRO, SP [Venice] 99/28/86, 112, and 143.

77 Dudley Carleton the younger to Lord Conway, May 19, 1627, PRO, SP [Holland] 84/133/146.

78 Sir John Coke to Lord Conway, September 6, 1627, PRO, SP [Denmark] 75/8/276; and Lord Conway to SirCoke, John, September 8, 1627, CSPD, 1627–29, p. 337.

79 Sir Isaac Wake to Lord Conway, October 5, 1627, PRO, SP [Venice] 99/28/166; and Sir Isaac Wake to Sir Thomas Roe, June 9, 1627, Trinity College, Dublin, MS 708, vol. 2, fol. 264. For a sampling of the apologias, see [Coke's] “Manifest for the Ambassador of Denmarck,” PRO, SP 75/8/463; Sir Isaac Wake to Lord Conway, August 17, 1627, PRO, SP 99/28/130–133v; Sir John Coke to Sir Robert Anstruther, May 22, 1627, PRO, SP 75/8/107–110; and Sir Isaac Wake to Sir Thomas Roe, [June 9, 1627], Trinity College, Dublin, MSS 708, vol. 2, fols. 301–302v.

80 Rous (n. 1 above), p. 19.

81 Lord Conway to earl of Carlisle, June 5, 1626, [draft], PRO, SP 78/79/64, and [original] BL Egerton MS 2597, fol. 13.

82 “Duke of Buckingham,” 1634, BL Harleian MS 7056, fol. 34.

83 Proclamation (June 14, 1626), in Stuart Royal Proclamations (n. 1 above), 2:9093; Instructions for the Bishops, 1633,” in The Stuart Constitution, ed. Kenyon, J. P., 2d ed. (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 142–43. See also Sharpe, Kevin, “The Personal Rule of Charles I,” in Before the Civil War, ed. Tomlinson, Howard (London, 1983), pp. 6263; and Cope, Esther, Politics without Parliament (London, 1987), pp. 6066.

84 Frank, J., The Beginnings of the English Newspaper, 1620–1660 (Cambridge, Mass., 1961), pp. 1415; Thomas, P. W., “Two Cultures? Court and Country under Charles I,” in The Origins of the English Civil War, ed. Russell, Conrad (London, 1973); and Smuts, Malcolm, Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition (Philadelphia, 1987).

85 Sharpe, , Criticism and Compliment (n. 11 above), pp. 99, 264, 290.

86 Morrill, John, “Introduction,” in Reactions to the English Civil War, ed. Morrill, John (London, 1982), p. 4. See also Caroline Hibbard's description of Charles as “painfully obsessive” in the 1630s (n. 7 above), p. 110.

87 Collinson, Patrick, “Puritans, Men of Business and Elizabethan Parliaments,” in Parliamentary History 7 (1988): 101.

The Politics of Propaganda: Charles I and the People in the 1620s

  • Thomas Cogswell


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