Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars, 1625-1649

During the reign of Charles I, the king and his councillors received hundreds of petitions every year. Then, after civil war broke out in 1642, the new Parliamentary regime in London began receiving petitions as well. As part of ‘The Power of Petitioning’ project, we have transcribed and published almost 400 of these manuscripts from across the seventeenth century on British History Online. We also completed a six-month Shared Learning Project with a large group of amateur researchers from the London Region of the University of the Third Age.

Each of these researchers wrote one or more reports about the petitioners and their requests or complaints. The introduction to this U3A project includes much more information, including important caveats about accuracy and interpretation. This set of 36 reports cover the second quarter of the seventeenth century, from the accession of Charles I in 1625 to his execution in 1649.

The reports include the intriguing case of the Lion, a merchant’s ship seized by Algerian pirates and then spotted seven years later in the Thames ‘manned by Italians, Turkes, and English bound for Holland’. As Graham Camfield explains, the owners wanted it back and they sought help from the Admiralty in 1629. Another case from a few years later throws light on a long-running struggle between puritans and anti-puritans in Great Yarmouth. Lesley Scott-Stapleton provides illuminating background on an alderman’s counter-petition against an allegedly false petition by his local adversaries in 1632. A more overly ‘political’ petition came in 1645, in the midst of the Civil Wars, from ‘the distressed county’ of Cumberland, presented by the MP Richard Barwiss. In his report, David Moffatt explains their complaints about taxes and the Scottish army occupying the county, and also tracks the hostile response that the petition received by Parliament.

A petition from Kent just before a Royalist revolt in 1648, discussed in a report by Sarah Harris.

These are merely a few of the reports that can be read below, which offer insights into the challenges and complaints that reached the ears of authorities under Charles I and during the Civil Wars.

The Petitions and the Reports

For further petitions and reports from the rest of the seventeenth century, return to the main ‘Investigating Petitioners’ page.