Cataloging Broadsides from the English Civil War : a pop-up exhibit

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"Cataloging broadsides from the English Civil War", a pop-up exhibit centered around broadsides published between 1641-1643, took place at the Folger on Friday, June 29, 2018 from 2:30-4:15 in the Deck B Seminar Room. It was curated by the Nadia Sophie Seiler Rare Materials Resident of 2017-2018, Brittney Washington.

Broadsides from the early modern period were issued for a variety of reasons: to let the masses know of changes in law or sometimes just as a way for the King to update the people on current events. This exhibit focuses primarily on legal broadsides issued between the years 1641-1643, right as the English Civil War begins. Despite the focus of only a three-year period, legal broadsides were being produced rapidly both by the King as well as by Parliament. As the years progress, the authoritative nature of the broadsides coming from Parliament becomes more apparent, and the number of messages in our collection that were issued from the King greatly decreases. This exhibit seeks to examine printed evidence of how the balance of power shifted between the King and Parliament.

View the exhibition flyer.

Items included

1) England and Wales. Sovereign (1625-1649 : Charles I). "By the King. A proclamation for the authorizing an uniformitie of the Booke of common prayer to bee used throughout the realme", 1643. Folger # 226787 This proclamation was first issued under James I in 1604 and reprinted again March 5, 1643 as shown here (it will be printed again in 1660 after the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II). The proclamation states that some small changes will be made, not much but “rather bee explained then changed”. The Book of Common Prayer was controversial from the start and was a centerpiece of the dueling sides in the English Civil War, even if it was intended as an answer to “the importunitie of the Complainers”. Although it was first authorized for use in 1549, the Book of Common Prayer continued to be a matter of contention particularly for Puritans throughout the years.

2) England and Wales. Parliament. "Die Jovis 13. Januarii. 1641. Whereas information hath been given to the Parliament, that the Lord Digbie (son to the Earle of Bristol) and Colonel Lunsford, with others, have gathered troops of horse, ...", 1642. Folger # 253085 Lord George Digby (1612-1677) and Colonel Thomas Lunsford (1610?-1653?) , both Royalists, are reported to have ridden to Surrey in a “warlike manner”. Parliament responds by issuing this order to suppress unlawful assembly and to secure stores of arms around the counties. This is one of the first executive orders of Parliament issued without the King’s assent in the Folger’s collections. Note that it is in Gothic text (usually reserved for those messages sent by the King himself) and printed by Robert Barker, “printer to the Kings most Excellent Majestie”.

3) England and Wales. Sovereign (1625-1649 : Charles I). "His Majesties letter to both Houses of Parliament : 20. Ianuarii 1641", 1642. Folger # 265- 628b The King, growing concerned by the “manifold distractions which are now in this Kingdome” deigns to lay aside his own dignity and introduces some propositions to Parliament. The first is that they will immediately determine what they believe is required for the settling of his revenue; they are also asked to establish what is necessary for them to carry out their duties as members of Parliament, and perhaps most importantly, they are charged with establishing what is necessary to secure the true religion and settle those ceremonies which represent it into one “clear body”. This message was published widely, and what we have here at the Folger is just one of 8 different editions cited in the J.L.L Crawford Bibliography of Royal Proclamations of the Tudor and Stuart Sovereigns and of Others Published Under Authority, 1485-1714.

4) England and Wales. Parliament. "An order made by both Houses of Parliament, to prevent the going over of popish commanders into Ireland, and also to hinder the transportation of arms ...", 1642. Folger # 157827 Here is another piece of evidence that Parliament was attempting to control stores of arms across England. By the time this was issued, January 29, 1642, the Irish Rebellion had been waging since October 1641. Many of the Irish Rebels were suspected of being involved in a conspiracy with the King to undermine Parliament and advance Catholic ideology. Sheriffs are ordered to apprehend any suspected papists (Roman Catholics or their supporters) traveling to Ireland to aid in the rebellion there. They are also ordered to keep tight control of the movement of arms, food, and other provisions “and to give speedy notice thereof unto the Parliament” when people are stopped on suspicion of these activities.

5) England and Wales. Sovereign (1625-1649 : Charles I). "His Majesties message to both houses of Parliament upon his removal to the city of York", 1642. Folger # 165- 886b Another message published by the King addressed to Parliament states that he hopes they will expedite the business of Ireland and reminds the reader of all the messages and support he’s given Parliament toward that end and feels that he can now “wash His hands before all the World, from the least imputation of slacknesse in that most necessary and pious Work.” He also iterates that he expects obedience to the laws in his absence and instructs his subjects not to obey any order, ordinance, concerning the militia or otherwise, unless it is by his own command. He recommends that Parliament reread the letter he wrote January 20, 1641. (His Majesties letter to both Houses of Parliament : 20. Ianuarii 1641. Folger # 265- 628b; number 3 in this exhibit).

6) England and Wales. Parliament. "The severall votes and resolutions agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament : Concerning the securing of the kingdome of England and dominion of Wales. Die Martij. 15. 1641. Printed by order of both Houses of Parliament. Also the bill of foure subsidies for the reliefe of the Kings army, was disputed on by a grand committee, and upon the debate, made choice of Sir Symon Dewes. Who speake as followeth", 1642. Folger # 152- 704q The section brought out in this display first discusses the King’s refusal to assent to order and arrange a milita; it then goes on to state that “resolved upon the Question by the Lords and Commons in Parliament, That in the case of extream danger, and of his Majesties refusal, the Ordinance agreed on by both Houses for the Militia doth oblige the people, and ought to be obeyed, by the Fundamental laws of this Kingdome” – in other words, this vote asserts that Parliamentary ordinances regarding the building and disposal of a militia are binding even without the King’s assent in times of danger. This vote is in direct opposition to the previously displayed messages from the King that states orders regarding a militia are not to be obeyed unless given by the King himself.

7) England and Wales. Parliament. "Die Sabbati 9. April. 1642. The Lords and Commons do declare, that they intend a due and necessary reformation of the government and liturgie of the church ...", 1642. Folger # 231- 949f Parliament declares its own undertaking to reform the government and liturgy of the Church “to take away nothing in the one or other, but what shall be evil, and justly offensive, or at least unnecessary, and burthensome”, essentially without the King’s input. This is another example of an order published to look very official, Robert Barker as the printer and text in Gothic type.

8) England and Wales. Parliament. "A declaration of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, that the sheriffes of London shall be saved and kept harmelesse by the authority of both Houses for not publishing some late messages and proclamations lately sent them in His Majesties name", 1643. Folger # 226- 777f This declaration asserts that the sheriffs are excused from posting messages and proclamations from the King for “being contrary to the priviledge of Parliament”. If they choose note to post any of the King’s messages, they will be “saved and kept harmlesse from all damages and inconveniences that shall or can happen unto them …” This declaration may be the reason why broadsides published by the King are fewer in the Folger’s collection for this time period. It was also an effective way to undermine the King’s authority and to bolster the authority of Parliament.

9) England and Wales. Parliament. "Die Lunae 27. martii, 1643. It is this day ordered by the Commons in Parliament assembled that if any person, tenant or other, after notice hereof given by the publication in print ...", 1643. Folger # 226- 778f In what may be the longest sentence ever, this order by the Commons asserts that no one needs to pay any rent or fees to William Archbishop of Canterbury, John Archbishop of York, and a long list of many other named bishops who’d aligned themselves with the King. The order also excuses payment of fees to any other bishops who have taken up arms against Parliament or have contributed to that cause in some way.

10) "A question answered : how laws are to be understood and obedience yeelded : necessary for the present state of things, touching the militia", 1642. Folger # 217- 453f To finish out this investigation, we have an anonymously published broadside that asks the question of how the people may interpret the laws after witnessing the back and forth between Parliament and the King. It summarizes the primary issue of who has the power to order and dispose the militia. The author asserts that if Parliament does not have the power to raise a militia in times of need, “for the good and preservation of the Republique, against Forraigne Invasions or domesticke rebellions”, then the kingdom itself would be experiencing “the greatest tiranny”.