Speaker Lenthall defends Parliament against the King

The House of Commons Journal records this event as follows: King Charles sits in the Speaker's Chair and Speaks to the Commons.

On 4 January 1642, King Charles I entered the House of Commons to arrest five Members of Parliament for high treason. The MPs were Mr Holles, Mr Pym, Sir A Haslerig, Mr Hampden and Mr William Strode.

The Speaker at the time was William Lenthall.

Image right: William Lenthall, Speaker 1591-1662. Oil on Canvas by Cornelius Johnson, WOA 2741, Copyright Palace of Westminster Collection.
WOA 2741, Copyright Palace of Westminster Collection.

House of Commons Manuscript Journal 4 Jan 1642

His Majesty came unto the House and took Mr. Speaker's chair.

Gentleman I am sorry to have this occasion to come unto you

Image left: House of Commons Manuscript Journal, 4 January 1642. Parliamentary Archives, HC/CL/JO/1/22.

House of Commons Journal for 4 Jan 1642


The Five Members had already fled. Speaker Lenthall did not give any information about them, instead replying to the King's questions as follows:

May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty's pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this is to what your majesty is pleased to demand of me.

Image right: Speaker Lenthall's answer to Charles I. Parliamentary History, 4 Jan 1642.
Speaker Lenthall's reply

WOA 2894, Copyright Palace of Westminster Collection

Speaker Lenthall therefore defied the King to uphold the privileges of Parliament. The King had to leave without arresting the Five Members.

No monarch has entered the House of Commons since then.

Image left: Speaker Lenthall Asserting the Privileges of the Commons Against Charles I when the Attempt was made to Seize the Five Members.  Waterglass Painting by Charles West Cope, 1866. WOA 2894, Copyright Palace of Westminster Collection.

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