23 April 2017
On 23 April 1642, Charles I arrived at the gates of Hull with 300 soldiers with the intention of securing the arsenal within for his looming war with Parliament.
However, Sir John Hotham had been made governor of the town and sent north by Parliament to stop the King’s design.
When Charles arrived at the Beverley Gate, Hotham refused him entry – with the novel political theory that an order from the King was not necessarily an order from the sovereign authority of that king.
Charles proclaimed Hotham a traitor and rode away disappointed. It was an early PR coup for Parliament, who could now argue that the King was attempting to arm himself for war. Within weeks, the first siege of Hull began – the first armed conflict of the English Civil Wars. That summer, the King raised his standard at Nottingham and the two sides were formally at war.
Hotham’s stand was the spark that lit the slow fuse of civil war and by the following September, England began a decade of conflict.
The complicated but tragic life of Sir John is currently being brought to life by the Royal Shakespeare Company, with Mark Addy starring as the doomed aristocrat in The Hypocrite. Despite his position as the man who defied a king, Hotham and his son soon found themselves branded traitors and heading to the scaffold.
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