THE POLITICS OF RECEPTION: POLITICAL IDENTITY, PARLIAMENT, AND POPULAR POLITICAL CULTURE

These subscribed texts, and the processes by which they were arrived at, made important statements about the nature and identity of the local community. This was something reflected and recognized in the self descriptions accompanying the returns, descriptions made more valuable by the lack of an administrative template which had to be followed. The preambles that prefaced the returns again prove valuable in providing evidence of what meaning was given to the Protestation (and to the act of taking it) locally. The returns made statements about belonging (and not belonging) and the boundaries to the political, confessional, and moral community. The symbolism of the community coming together in the church to take the oath was recognized and reflected in the identities under which parishes reported. The returns also showed a sensitivity to the source of the authority that lay behind the act of protestation, identifying the provenance of the Protestation in ways that were to have consequences for the political identity under which parishioners reported (and, perhaps, later mobilized). Sometimes taciturn or terse and in most cases probably the product of the parson’s pen, these are nonetheless invaluable as evidence of what was said locally about the Protestation, how it was represented and received in the parishes. The returns are therefore valuable in allowing us to see popular perceptions of the state at the intimate level of the parish and at a moment of political crisis.

The preambles showed a recognition of the inherently political nature of what they had been required to undertake. Thus, at Sowe in Warwickshire, the parishioners described themselves as having taken the Protestation ‘in the faith of honest men, & good subiects’, while those at Conisholme in Lincolnshire described their actions as being for the maintenance of religion and the ‘dutie of our Allegiance & the indevoring of keeping the union of the 3 kingdoms’.1^ But there were differences both in the attribution of the source of authority for the Protestation and in the identification of the political duties and relationships taking it created. An exceptional reference in the churchwardens’ accounts for Great Marlow to a payment for ‘wrighting of all them that toke the oaths of alleagients’ suggests how the Protestation might be assimilated to existing practices.143 These differences doubtless reflected the sometimes awkward interface between local political and religious affiliations and the seeming ‘mother-and-apple-pie’ nature of the final text of the Protestation with its recital of political commonplaces.

Some returns registered a degree of confusion over the Protestation’s provenance. A minority of communities identified the Protestation as originating with the king. Thus the return from Matterdale in the parish of Greystoke in Cumberland was made ‘according to his Mats Comand’, the parishioners taking the Protestation in the belief that this was ‘according to the kings majesties injunction’. From Cockerington St Mary in Lincolnshire, the return was addressed to His Majesty’s Loyal [1] [2]

Commissioners.[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Coming through the familiar pathways of provincial royal government, printed in several editions under the royal arms, and requiring takers to defend the king’s person, honour, and estate, it is surprising that not more parishes did so.

More communities [mis]understood the Protestation to come from both king and Parliament. Thus at East Anstey in Devon it was taken, ‘according to the command of the king and Parliament’; at West Anstey, ‘according to his maiesties comaund at the honourable house of parliament nowe Assembled’, and at Raddington in Somerset, ‘according to a proscribed order wch his majestie & both houses set forth’. At Sebergham in Cumberland it was described as ‘sent from his Majestie and the honorable houses of parlement’, at St Stithians in Cornwall simply from ‘Kinge & parlament’, while at Sheepwash in Devon the return referred to the parishioners having taken ‘his Maiesties protestation according to the act of this prsent Parliament’.i45 This confusion suggests the strength of the idea of mixed monarchy in early modern popular political culture. Thus the return from Holt in Denbigshire, while correctly identifying the Protestation as originating from the House of Commons, ended, ‘in all humility and obedience according to our bounden duties [we] present the same to the King’s most excellent majestie whom god blesse and preserve with longe and happie raigne over us to the unspeakable joy and comfort of our hearts; and to the most honourable assembly of both Houses of Parliament’.^6

But most parishes understood the Protestation to have originated from the Parliament. Thus parishes, as at Buckerell in Devon or Wookey in Somerset, could refer succinctly, but tellingly to it as ‘the Parliamentary protestation’. The parish of Auckland St Andrew in County Durham referred to the Protestation as being ‘exhibited to us by parlement’, while at Marton in Westmorland it was taken ‘according to the injunction of the High Court of Parliament’ and at Austrey in Warwickshire as being ‘injoined by Parliament to be taken by All’.i47 At the borough of St Germans in Cornwall the inhabitants willingly took what they called ‘the Parliament Protestation of association’.W8 Some parishes identifying Parliament as the source of the Protestation saw it as coming from both Lords and Commons. Sometimes parishes elided the difference between the authority of the Speaker’s letter and a parliamentary act. Thus, the return from Barrowby in Lincolnshire described it as taken, ‘according to the law in that case made & provided’. At Marcham (Berkshire) a much corrected return had struck out reference to being warranted by act and replaced it with ‘commended’, a testimony again to local knowledge about the politics of the Protestation’s makingTh9

Most parishes recognized that the Protestation had been introduced by and came from the Commons, and in their identification of this they revealed something of local political orientations. For example, at both Ashby Puerorum and Tetford in Lincolnshire the Protestation was described as ‘commended to them by the religiously affected House of Commons’.i5° At Ashover the entry of the Protestation in the parish register referred to the Parliament ‘now assembled blessed be God’, while elsewhere in Derbyshire reference was made, in a draft form for the return of subscriptions, to the Protestation ‘so wisely commended & so necessaril- yie commanded’ by ‘that honourable assembly’.^1 At Ashprington in Devon the return was preceded by an elaborate preamble which ran:

We the parson & parishioners ofAshprington whose names are underwritten have wth alacrity & publickly taken & do wth or hearts assent & wth or hands subscribe unto the protestation imposed by the best of Parliament, duly praying god [to] further their religious care & Constant vigilance over the declining & almost desperate estate of or Country & daily praying for a happy issue of their pious & parent-like travell [travail] in the same.152

Evidently Parliament, as well as kings, could be seen as parents to the nation. More succinctly, but with the same intent, the preamble to the return from Auckland St Andrew ended, ‘god blesse them and send them good proceedings’.^3 Such statements suggest the importance and respect accorded to Parliament both as idea and institution in constructions of the state within early modern popular political culture.

Conflicting readings of the Protestation’s provenance had consequences for the identities under which parishioners described themselves as having protested. At Cockerington St Mary, where the return had been addressed to His Majesty’s Loyal Commissioners, the minister William Fetherington, later to be sequestered, reported the oath taken there in a way that might be taken to have excluded the Parliament: ‘We have to this present protestation taken our oaths. Confirmed it with our hands: to be true to our Royall Soveraigne; in life power & estate: in the true defence of the protestant religion: expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England against all poperie and popish innovations’.^4 While some returns spoke the language of mixed monarchy, other parishes aligned themselves with the Parliament and adopted a language that was to become familiar among godly parliamentarians. Thus, those who had taken it at Yaxley in Huntingdonshire associated themselves with the Parliament and ‘all the Kings Majesties well affected Subiects’.i55 At St Martin Orgar in the City, the preamble to the list of subscribers, recorded in this case in the churchwardens’ accounts, omitted any reference to the king and declared that they had (‘According to the order & direction of the High Court of Parliament’) ‘made their protestacon for maintenance of religion & the

  • 15° PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/58, 75 (Ashby Puerorum & Tetford, Lincs: Cole & Atkin, 318, 328).
  • 151 DRO, D253A/PI/1/1; D803M/Z9, p. 39.
  • 152 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/84/68. i53 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/93/27 {Wood., 60).
  • 154 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/97/9 (Cockerington: Cole & Atkin, 273—4); WR, 250.
  • 155 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/91/22 [my emphasis].

liberties of the subiects’.^6 Although most returns reflected the fact that in 1641 and 1642 Parliament continued to represent itself as acting for king and Parliament, the statements made in the preambles, as in the later petitioning campaigns, allow us to see how local inflections might align the community more strongly with either king or Parliament.

The sensitivity sometimes shown in the citing of authority for their actions doubtless reflected a growing recognition, by 1642 especially, that taking the Protestation could be contentious. Some communities, if aware of the problem, simply described their action in taking the oath, ‘according as was Commanded by Authorytie’, as at Water Millock in the parish of Greystoke in Cumberland, or ‘set forth’ or ‘directed’ by (an otherwise unspecified) authority, as at Chillington in Somerset and at Halwell in Devon. ^ The return from Sturmer reported the ‘whole towne by a ioynt consent heartily willing to submit to Authority in witness whereof the parishioners doe willingly susbcribe’.^8 But most communities, recognizing that it was Parliament that required the Protestation to be taken, justified their actions accordingly. Taking the Protestation was variously ‘commended’ (a common description), authorized, directed, enjoined, ordered, or required by the Honorable High Court of Parliament.^9 ‘Set forth and commanded to be taken by the parliament’ was how the Protestation was described in the return from Croglin in Cumberland.^0 Other communities demonstrated a more precise recognition that the requirement came from the Commons. At Canterbury Holy Cross it was ‘according to the order by the House of Commons’; at Hawton in Nottinghamshire it was ‘commended and commanded by the Honourable house of commons’.161 Such affiliations help to explain why Parliament was to be so successful in swearing the nation.

Both the preamble and text of the Protestation made clear the political commitments taking the oath entailed: defence of Crown, Parliament, and liberties. As some preachers noted before going on to stress the oath’s religious commitments, this was a civic as well as a religious oath, and the Protestation’s use of the language of anti-popery was therefore understood within a culture which stressed the corrupting dangers that popery posed to State as well as Church. Parishes consistently saw the Protestation as an oath for the defence of the true religion and taking the Protestation as primarily an act in defence of Protestantism. Thus, takers at Ulpha in Cumberland were listed as ‘true protestants’, an identification repeated at Ennerdale in the same county. From Brothertoft in Lincolnshire the return ran, ‘A true and perfect bill of all the faithfull and true protestants within our towne’ who [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

had ‘reverently and willingly made the protestation for the truth’. At Shalbourne in Berkshire takers were simply described as ‘protestantes’, a play on words between Protestation and Protestant that according to John Bond, preaching at Exeter, had originally given Protestants their name.[15] [16] [17] [18] But descriptions in parish preambles might suggest that here, too, there were conflicting understandings of the truth to be defended. Some parishes parroted back the words of the Protestation itself, as at Ripple in Kent whose preamble specified that it was, ‘for upholding and maintaining the true protestant religion according to the doctrine of the Church of England'. By January 1642 use of this phrase at the level of the parish might signal a commitment to the existing Churchd63 Other parishes emphasized that their commitment was to the true reformed Protestant religion. Thus at Moresby and Cleator in Cumberland, Kirton in Nottinghamshire, and Great Rollright in Oxfordshire the parishioners described themselves as having promised, vowed, and protested to maintain and defend ‘the true reformed protestant religion’^64

That the Protestation might be represented or received primarily (or even exclusively) as a religious oath was captured in the descriptions accorded it in the parish returns. Thus, the return from Lamorran in Cornwall referred to the ‘holy & Christian Protestation’, while at Stanhope in County Durham the parishioners represented themselves as having taken ‘the oathe of the true protestant Religion’. At Hamsterley in County Durham, it was simply ‘this Oath of religion’.^ Taking it was a badge of Protestant identity. This identification, commonly to be found in preaching on the Protestation, was to have important consequences when the people came to exercise the agency that Parliament and preachers stressed taking the Protestation required of them.

  • [1] pa, HL/PO/JO/10/1/107/77 (Sowe); /97/10 (Conisholme: Cole & Atkin, 274).
  • [2] Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, PR 140/5/1, fo. 98.
  • [3] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/82/94 (Greystoke); /97/9 (Cockerington: Cole & Atkin, 273—4).
  • [4] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/87/46-7; /104/86 (Raddington); /82/66 (Sebergham); /79/61(St Stithians); /84/25 (Sheepwash). John Lethbridge, the rector at Sheepwash, was sequestered in 1647: WR, 118.
  • [5] pa, HL/PO/JO/10/1/83/2 (Blackwell, ‘Did any of your ancestors come from Holt?’, 7).
  • [6] pA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/90/22 (Auckland St Andrew: Wood, 60-4); /93/27 (Marton: Faraday,19); PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/107/73 (Austrey).
  • [7] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/83/31 (Buckerell); /104/48 (Wookey); /79/22 (St Germans).
  • [8] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/86/37 (Barrowby); /77/21 (Marcham).
  • [9] LMA, P69/MTN2/B/001/MS00959/001, unfo.
  • [10] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/82/94 (Water Millock); /104/3 (Greystoke); 84/76 (Holwell).
  • [11] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/91/38.
  • [12] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/85/68 (N. Huish, Devon: ‘authorized’); /103/4 (Broadway, Som: ‘commended); /91/39 (Tilbury juxta Clare, Essex: ‘commanded’); /83/56 (Halwell, Somerset: ‘directed’);/108/9 (Faraday, 19: Marton, Westm.: ‘injoined’); /84/34 (Berrynarbor, Devon.: ‘ordered’); /79/33(Tremayne, Cornwall: ‘required’).
  • [13] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/82/92.
  • [14] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/92/33 (Wickhambreux, Kent); /102/25 (Swalcliffe, Oxon.: Gibson, 47);/92/58 (Canterbury Holy Cross); /101/37 (Hawton); /106/56 (Broadwater, Sussex: Rice, 38).
  • [15] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/81/29, 13 (Ulpha, Ennerdale); /96/18 (Brothertoft: Cole & Atkin, 53);/77/66 (Shalbourne); Bond, Door of Hope, 101. See also Calamy, Gods free Mercy to England, 5.
  • [16] Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Canterbury, U3/132/1/1, fo. 42v; PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/93/27(Ripple, Kent) [my emphasis]; /82/77 (Cumwhitton, Cumberland); /103/3, 7 (Bickenhall &W. Hatch, Som.).
  • [17] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/81/23, 6 (Moresby, Cleator, Cumb.); 100/30 (Kirton); /102/67(Gt Rollright: Gibson, 96).
  • [18] PA, HL/PO/JO/10/1/80/55 (Lamorran); /90/39 (Stanhope: Wood, 100); /90/33 (Hamsterley:Wood, 88—90). Noting the taking of the Protestation in London, the sculptor Nicholas Stone describedit as ‘for the aboleshen of Poprey and mantayning of the true religion’: W L. Spiers, ‘The note bookand account book of Nicholas Stone’, Walpole Society 7 (1919), 81.
 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >