4th January – On this day in 1642, King Charles I and his henchmen entered the Houses of Parliament and attempted to arrest five Members of Parliament, namely, John Hampden (c.1595–1643) (*), Arthur Haselrig (1601–1661), Denzil Holles (1599–1680), John Pym (1584–1643) and William Strode (1598–1645).
It is said that when the King demanded to be told the whereabouts of the MPs, the Speaker of the House, William Lenthall, retorted:
“May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here”.
The event was essentially the last in a series that eventually led to the Civil War between on the one hand the Royalists under Charles, and on the other the Parliamentarians under Cromwell (*).
It is ceremonially re-enacted each year during the State Opening of Parliament, when the Crown’s representative, “Black Rod”, is despatched from the Lords to the Commons, there to have the doors slammed shut in his face.
*Hampden was Cromwell’s cousin, and one of his ablest military commanders during the early part of the war. He died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Chalgrove Field in 1643.