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Siege Musings - Charles I and York

Although Charles I was in the south during the Siege of York, focusing his personal military campaign on keeping the upper hand in Oxfordshire (Cropredy Bridge, 29 June), he was deeply concerned about the situation in York, and he sent his nephew, Prince Rupert, to relieve the city.

Charles had visited York and worshipped in the Minster on several occasions in the 1630s. At his insistence, the new organ built by Thomas Dalham was installed, not on the Quire Screen (where it was before, and is now) but opposite to the bishop’s throne the south side of the Quire,'His majesty giving for reason that it spoiled the prospect of the fine east window from the body of the church’ (Drake, Eboracum).

While in York, Charles resided in King's Manor, previously the Abbot's Lodging of St Mary's Abbey and later the seat of the Council of the North. Now part of the University of York, there remains a fine crest above the entrance with Charles' coat of arms.

King's Manor, York.  Charles I, royal crest.

The King attended the Maundy service at the Minster in 1639 and 1642; it was on this second visit that Charles attempted to raise support for his cause against Parliament. Just after Easter, on St George's Day, Charles installed his brother James and nephew Rupert as Garter Knights in the Chapter House in York Minster. Its not clear how many of Charles' court musicians would have made the journey north with him as their pay was in arrears - in March the Commissioners of the Treasury heard a petition from the king's musicians (insrumetalists and singers) that they had ‘received command from his Majesty to attend and then do service at York, and are most ready to do so; but they are behind of their ordinary entertainments in the Exchequer above two years….’ The resident Minster Choir would no doubt have taken part in the musical celebrations, which in 1642 consisted of 12 choristers and 8 gentlemen. In Music for Troubled Times, we perform 'Behold, a great and joyful thing it is' by John Hutchinson, organist of the Minster from 1634, a work typical of the period, largely syllabic but with interesting (if conservative) Italianate melodic and harmonic ideas.

If Charles hoped this show of chivalric pageantry would help bind the regional nobility to his cause, he was wrong.

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