Today, 3 June, is the anniversary of a meeting at Heworth Moor just outside York. It was called by Charles I, for him to meet the people of Yorkshire, and our Special Collections hold some exciting material that helps us tell this story.
|Left: Charles I. Right: Charles I in Parliament.|
Firstly Charles decided to rule without Parliament which meant he was also without the funds that they could grant him. He decided to raise money through a variety of means, several of which seemed guaranteed to annoy everyone, such as taxing soap, or redrawing common land boundaries and then fining people for living in the King's forests.
Eventually, after eleven years, the money ran out and he had to recall Parliament. The atmosphere was, understandably, not relaxed, and tensions cranked up and up. In January 1642, Charles burst into the House of Commons to arrest five Members of Parliament he had accused of treason. They escaped, and the people of London showed their displeasure of the King's actions by rioting in the streets. Charles had overplayed his hand and the capital had become a hostile place for him.
|Illustration from a Civil War Tract|
|Charles' letter to John Goodricke|
In May, Charles called a meeting of the gentry of Yorkshire to come to York Castle. The Freeholders of the City were unhappy to be excluded, so a second gathering happened on 3 June at Heworth Moor. It is claimed that over seventy thousand people attended. What Charles wanted was for those present to pledge their allegiance to him for the coming conflict.
Parliament was unhappy with this state of affairs. Open hostilities had not been declared and they were keen to avoid war if possible. They prepared a petition to deliver to the king requesting him to stop trying to raise an army, and asked Thomas Fairfax, a Yorkshire gentleman, to deliver it. Charles knew that something like this was going to happen, and refused to let Fairfax anywhere near him. Every time Fairfax came close, the King would gallop off in the opposite direction, once almost running Fairfax down. This game of 'tag' finally ended when Fairfax managed to force the petition under the King's saddle. Fairfax wrote a letter to his father, Ferdinando, listing the people who had been at the meeting. This letter also survives in our Special Collections.
|Left: Thomas Fairfax. Right: Fairfax's letter to his father.|
All the items in the Special Collections are on the Library catalogue and available for study. For more information please contact Sarah Griffin, Special Collections Librarian.