Strafford Executed

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVIII

In 1640 another appeal was made by the King for assistance and Wentworth headed the contribution with £20,000. He had devoted himself with considerable ability to increasing the Irish revenue, and the trade of the country had improved, although the Irish woollen manufacture had been completely crushed, as it threatened to interfere with English commerce. The Lord Deputy now saw the advantage of procuring a standing army in Ireland, and he proceeded to embody a force of 10,000 foot and 1,000 horse. These men were principally Irish and Catholics, as he knew they would be most likely to stand by the King in an hour of trial, notwithstanding the cruel persecutions to which they had been subjected. But the Deputy's own career was nearer its termination than he had anticipated. When he forsook the popular side in England, Pym had remarked significantly: "Though you have left us, I will not leave you while your head is on your shoulders." The Puritan faction never lost sight of a quarry when once they had it in sight, and it scarcely needed Strafford's haughtiness and devotion to the King to seal his doom. The unhappy King was compelled to sign his death-warrant; and the victim was executed on the 12th of May, 1641, redeeming in some manner, by the nobleness of his death, the cruelties, injustices, and duplicity of which he had been guilty during his life.

The kingdom of England was never in a more critical state than at this period. The King was such only in name, and the ruling powers were the Puritan party, who already looked to Cromwell as their head. The resistance, which had begun in opposition to tyrannical enactments, and to the arbitrary exercise of authority by the King and his High Church prelates, was fast merging into, what it soon became, an open revolt against the crown, and all religion which did not square with the very peculiar and ill-defined tenets of the rebellious party. In 1641 the Queen's confessor was sent to the Tower, and a resolution was passed by both houses never to consent to the toleration of the Catholic worship in Ireland, or in any other part of his Majesty's dominions. The country party had determined to possess themselves of the command of the army; and whatever struggles the King might make, to secure the only support of his throne, it was clear that the question was likely to be decided in their favour. The conduct of Holles, Pym, Hampden, and Stroud was well known even in Ireland; and in Ireland fearful apprehensions were entertained that still more cruel sufferings were preparing for that unfortunate country.