Strafford, Thomas Wentworth, 1st earl of

Strafford, Thomas Wentworth, 1st earl of,

1593–1641, English statesman. Regularly elected to Parliament from 1614 on, he became one of the critics of George Villiers, 1st duke of BuckinghamBuckingham, George Villiers, 1st duke of
, 1592–1628, English courtier and royal favorite. He arrived (1614) at the English court as James I was tiring of his favorite, Robert Carr, earl of Somerset.
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, and of the war with Spain. Charles ICharles I,
1600–1649, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1625–49), second son of James I and Anne of Denmark. Early Life

He became heir to the throne on the death of his older brother Henry in 1612 and was made prince of Wales in 1616.
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 made him sheriff of Yorkshire in order to exclude him from the Parliament of 1626, but Wentworth continued his opposition and was imprisoned (1627) for refusing to pay the forced loan. In the Parliament of 1628 he advocated a moderate version of the Petition of RightPetition of Right,
1628, a statement of civil liberties sent by the English Parliament to Charles I. Refusal by Parliament to finance the king's unpopular foreign policy had caused his government to exact forced loans and to quarter troops in subjects' houses as an economy
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, but when Sir John Eliot and Sir Edward Coke succeeded in carrying their more severe form of the petition, he lost influence.

At this point Charles sought his adherence by creating him baron and viscount and president of the council of the north (1628), and Wentworth realigned himself as a firm supporter of royal prerogative. With William LaudLaud, William,
1573–1645, archbishop of Canterbury (1633–45). He studied at St. John's College, Oxford, and was ordained a priest in 1601. From the beginning Laud showed his hostility to Puritanism. He became president of St.
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, Wentworth evolved the policy known as "Thorough" to achieve an absolutist but just and efficient regime. As lord deputy of Ireland (1632–40) he systematically applied this policy. He cleared the sea of pirates, bolstered trade and industry (always with an eye to England's interest), began a reorganization of the church in Ireland, and enforced reforms in financial administration that doubled the state's revenue. His methods, however, were ruthlessly despotic, and he aroused even more fear and hatred.

After Charles I's humiliation by the Scots in the first Bishops' WarBishops' Wars,
two brief campaigns (1639 and 1640) of the Scots against Charles I of England. When Charles attempted to strengthen episcopacy in Scotland by imposing (1637) the English Book of Common Prayer, the Scots countered by pledging themselves in the National Covenant
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, Wentworth was recalled (1639) to England to become the king's chief adviser. Created earl of Strafford in 1640, he obtained money from the Irish Parliament to raise Irish troops to fight the Scots, but he was unable to get a similar grant of supplies from the Short Parliament (summoned on his advice) in England. An English army of sorts was mustered and placed under Strafford's command, but it was easily defeated by the Scots in a second war.

When the Long Parliament assembled (1640), it suspected that Strafford had intended to use Irish troops against the king's English opponents (although in fact the Irish army had never materialized). Impeachment proceedings were begun, but Strafford defended himself so ably that the opposition changed its tactics and introduced a legislative enactment of guilt, a bill of attainder, against him. The bill was finally passed in the panic following the discovery of the so-called army plot, by which the king had hoped to rescue Strafford and dissolve the Parliament. After anguished hesitation, Charles signed the bill, and Strafford was beheaded.


See biography by C. V. Wedgwood (1961); H. F. Kearney, Strafford in Ireland (1959, repr. 1989).

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