Committee of Both Kingdoms

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The Committee of Both Kingdoms, (known as the Derby House Committee from late 1647), was a committee set up during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms by the Parliamentarian faction in association with representatives from the Scottish Covenanters, after they made an alliance (the Solemn League and Covenant) in late 1643.

When the Scottish army entered England by invitation of the English Parliament in January 1644 the Parliamentary Committee of Safety was replaced by an ad hoc committee representative of both kingdoms which, by parliamentary ordinance of 16 February, was formally constituted as the Committee of Both Kingdoms. The English contingent consisted of seven peers and 14 commoners. Its object was the management of peace overtures to, or making war on, the King. It was conveniently known as the Derby House Committee from 1647, when the Scots withdrew. Its influence long reduced by the growth of the army's, it was dissolved by Parliament on 7 February 1649 (soon after the execution of Charles I on 30 January) and replaced by the Council of State.[1]

A sub-committee on Irish affairs met from 1646 to 1648. The sub-committee spent, in Ireland, money raised by the Committee of Both Houses.[1]


On 9 January 1644 the Estates of Scotland sitting in Edinburgh arranged for a special commission to go to London with full powers to represent the Scottish Estates.[2] The special commission had four members:

The four Scottish commissioners presented their commission from Scottish Estates to the English Parliament on 5 February. On 16 February, so that the two kingdoms should be "joined in their counsels as well as in their forces", the English Parliament passed an ordinance (Ordinance concerning the Committee of both Kingdoms[3]) to form a joint "Committee of the Two Kingdoms" to sit with the four Scottish Commissioners. The ordinance named seven members from the House of Lords and fourteen from the House of Commons to sit on the committee and ordained that six were to be a quorum, always in the proportion of one Lord to two Commoners, and of the Scottish Commissioners meeting with them two were to be a quorum.[3]

The Earl of Essex (1591–1646), Parliamentarian commander 1642 to 1645

The seven members appointed from among the House of Lords were:[3]

  • Algernon, Earl of Northumberland (1602–1668), one of the "peace lords", in 1642 he was dismissed as Lord High Admiral and in 1643 headed the parliamentary delegation to negotiate with the king at Oxford.
  • Robert, Earl of Essex (1591–1646), in 1642 became the first Captain-General of the Parliamentary army, but was overshadowed by the ascendancy of Oliver Cromwell and resigned in 1646, dying later the same year.
  • Robert, Earl of Warwick (1587–1658), from 1642 Lord High Admiral, appointed by Parliament. In 1648, he captured the Castles of Walmer, Deal, and Sandown for Parliament.
  • Edward, Earl of Manchester (1602–1671), in August 1643 was appointed major-general of the parliamentary forces in the east, with Cromwell as his deputy; he was in command at Marston Moor, but later fell out with Cromwell, and in November 1644 opposed continuing the war.
  • William, Viscount Saye and Sele (1582–1662), was mainly responsible for passing the Self-denying Ordinance through the House of Lords; and by 1648 wanted a negotiated settlement with the king; he retired into private life after Charles's execution.
  • Philip, Lord Wharton (1613–1696), a Puritan and a favourite of Oliver Cromwell, was one of the youngest members of the Committee.
  • John, Lord Roberts (1606–1685), with the Self-denying Ordinance of April 1645 he lost his command in Plymouth and was sidelined. Shocked by the execution of the king, he withdrew from public life, but after the Restoration he became Lord Privy Seal and later Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

The fourteen members appointed from the House of Commons were:[3]

David Masson states that the Earl of Essex, the Lord General, was opposed to the formation of the committee as it was constituted because "there can be no doubt that the object was that the management of the war should be less in Essex's hands than it had been".[4]


The Committee met in Derby House at three o'clock every day of the week—including Sundays.[5] Attendance in 1644 was patchy, since before the enactment of the Self-denying Ordinance, many of the members of the Committee had commands in the field. Warwick, for example, was the Lord High Admiral. The more active and influential members on the Committee were Lord Wharton and Henry Vane the Younger, and Lord Warriston for the Scots.[6]

The Committee had to accommodate several factions within its ranks, and jealousies and personal animosities between some of its members, such as Waller and Essex.[7] It was also subject to control by Parliament (though the need to pass legislation or resolutions through both Houses meant that the Committee could control matters day by day without much interference).

Its greatest achievement was the establishment of the New Model Army, and the maintenance of this army and other forces in the field until King Charles was defeated in 1646. The Committee provided a continuity of policy and administration which the King could not match.


Denzil Holles, leader of the English Presbyterian moderates who dominated the Derby House Committee post January 1647

On 27 April 1646, Charles left Oxford and surrendered to the Covenanter army outside Newark. A few days later, they withdrew north to Newcastle, taking the king with them despite the furious objections of the English.[8] In July, the Committee presented Charles with the Newcastle Propositions, which included his acceptance of a Presbyterian union between the kingdoms. Once Charles rejected the terms, it left the Covenanters in a difficult position; keeping him was too dangerous since many Scots, regardless of political affiliation, wanted him restored to the throne. On 28 January 1647, they handed Charles over to Parliament in return for £400,000 and retreated into Scotland.[9]

The Committee was now dissolved but its English members continued to sit as the Derby House Committee, dominated by Holles and moderate MPs, many of whom were Presbyterian.[10][11] Internal political conflict was exacerbated by economic crisis, caused by the war and a failed 1646 harvest. By March 1647, the New Model was owed more than £3 million in unpaid wages; led by Holles, Parliament ordered it to Ireland, stating only those who agreed to go would be paid. When regimental representatives or Agitators supported by the Army Council demanded full payment for all in advance, it was disbanded but the army refused to comply.[12]

In response, Holles and his allies formed a new Committee of Safety and attempted to raise a new army commanded by Edward Massie. On 21 July, eight peers and fifty-seven Independent MPs left London and took refuge with the New Model; on 6 August, the army occupied the city, dissolved the Committee and issued a list of Eleven Members who they wanted removed from Parliament.[13]


  1. ^ a b National Archives 2009.
  2. ^ Dates are in the Julian Calendar with the start of year on 1 January (see Old Style and New Style dates)
  3. ^ a b c d Firth & Rait 1911, p. 381.
  4. ^ Masson 1873, p. 41.
  5. ^ Manganiello 2004, p. 124.
  6. ^ Carlyle 1897, p. 202.
  7. ^ Young & Holmes 2000, pp. 181–182].
  8. ^ Royle 2004, p. 385.
  9. ^ Wedgwood 1958, pp. 603–605.
  10. ^ Arnold-Baker 1996, p. 273.
  11. ^ Kennedy 2000, p. 96.
  12. ^ Rees 2016, pp. 173–174.
  13. ^ Royle 2004, pp. 405–406.


  • Arnold-Baker, Charles (1996). The Companion to British History (2015 ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-1138928831.
  • Carlyle, Thomas (1897). "Letters I (1) to LXXXVI (86)". Oliver Cromwell's letters and speeches: with elucidations. Vol. 1. London: Chapman and Hall. p. 202.
  • Firth, C.H.; Rait, R.S., eds. (1911). "February 1644: An Ordinance for the appointing a Committee of both Houses of Parliament, to join with the Committees and Commissioners of Scotland, for the better managing the Affairs of both Nations, in the common Cause, according to the Ends expressed in the late Covenant and Treaty between the Two Nations of England and Scotland". Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642–1660. pp. 381, 382.
  • Kennedy, DE (2000). The English Revolution, 1642–1649 (revised ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23063-X.
  • Masson, David (1873). The life of John Milton: narrated in connexion with the political, ecclesiastical, and literary history of his time. Vol. 3. MacMillan & Company. pp. 40, 41.
  • Manganiello, Stephen (2004). The Concise Encyclopedia of the Revolutions and Wars of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1639–1660. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810851009.
  • Murdoch, Steve (2003). Britain, Denmark-Norway and the House of Stuart. East Linton.
  • Rees, John (2016). The Leveller Revolution. Verso. ISBN 978-1784783907.
  • Royle, Trevor (2004). Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638–1660. Abacus. ISBN 978-0-349-11564-1.
  • Wedgwood, C.V. (1958). The King's War, 1641–1647 (1983 ed.). Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-006991-4.
  • Young, Peter; Holmes, Richard (2000). The English Civil War. Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 1-84022-222-0.


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