King and Court in York

King Charles I after Sir Anthony Van Dyck oil on canvas, (circa 1635-1637) (c) National Portrait Gallery

April 1642: When the London mob made life too dangerous for King Charles I in the capital, he moved to York, bringing his family and court with him.  Foreign ambassadors, members of the nobility and officers of the state were compelled to come to the city too.  For six months York was, in effect, capital of the kingdom again.

In response, Parliament sent a committee to reside in the city, ostensibly to keep the lines of communication open with the king but also to keep a close eye on him.

Charles lived in Sir Arthur Ingram’s house and royalist propaganda was issued from his printing press set up in St William’s College.

While the monarch’s presence brought excitement to the city, not everyone was happy: an anonymous pamphlet criticising the king circulated around York and some Puritan councillors stayed away from meetings in protest.  Rival groups ‘ran foul of each other in the streets of York with rough words and rough handling’ and 600 soldiers wrecked the house of a leading Puritan.

Charles summoned two great gatherings of the county gentry, one in the castle on May 12 , the other on Heworth Moor on June 3, and appealed successfully for help in further army recruitment.

At Heworth Moor, those opposed to the king’s position selected Thomas Fairfax to present a petition calling for Charles to reconcile himself to Parliament.  Fairfax had to force his way past royal courtiers to reach the king’s side, placing the petition on his saddle.  Charles refused to accept it, and pushed his horse forward nearly trampling Fairfax underfoot.

York council hoped for a peaceful settlement.  It put the city's 600-strong militia at the king’s disposal but asked that it were not called away from the city to fight.

In July 1642 the authorities started strengthening York’s defences.  The walls were repaired and sentry boxes set up.

After the king made an unsuccessful raid at Beverley, it was clear that war was on its way.  Charles left York on August 16, six days before he raised his standard at Nottingham and hostilities officially began.

< Build-up to Civil War

York in the Civil War >