Friday May 29, 2015
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01-006 The Arrest of the Five Members

Friday May 29, 2015

Lead: In early 1641, Parliament and King Charles I of England had reached a dangerous impasse.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Taxation, war with Scotland, the rights of Parliament, and royal manipulation of the courts were among the subjects of a contentious and sometimes bitter struggle between a majority of the House of Commons and the government of Charles I, but it was religion that generated much of the passion of those years. For nearly a century the Puritans, a minority in the Church of England, had been agitating for an end to corruption in the clergy, a simpler form of church worship, and greater control of congregations by local churches.

In late 1641, the king had had enough. He reasoned that if he could just get rid of the leadership of the House of Commons then the opposition would be broken and the rest of the people would fall in line. On January 3, 1642, he brought charges of treason against John Pym and four other members of Parliament and ordered their arrest.

The next day when it appeared the House would not arrest its own leaders, Charles, leading three to four hundred soldiers, entered the House of Commons determined to arrest them himself. Unfortunately for the king, they had been forewarned and escaped downriver, hiding in the back streets of London. Seeing them gone, Charles said, "I see all the birds are flown."

The king left the Commons that day never to return. Within six days he had fled the city, and by the end of the year the English Civil War had begun. Not since that time has an English monarch breached the privilege of the House by going there.

Today a quaint custom recalls the events of that day. Since the House is off-limits to the queen, when her representative goes to call the Commons to come to the House of Lords to open Parliament, the door is slammed in her face.

The Producer of A Moment in Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmondís School of Professional and Continuing Studies, Iím Dan Roberts.


Ashton, Robert. The English Civil War: Conservatism and Revolution, 1603-1649. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.

Smith, Lacey Baldwin. This Realm of England: 1399-1688. Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1988.

Copyright 2015 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.


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