WESSEX

I am a Worm

we're missing something. How did the English Civil War touch this prosperous community? In Oxfordshire, few places could avoid involvement.

Throughout the tangled period of England's revolution, Burford was represented in Parliament by William Lenthall. As Speaker of the House, Lenthall is remembered (briefly) at every televised State Opening of Parliament, when hush-voiced commentators repeat his speech

"I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am."

- in order to explain why the door is always slammed in the Queen's face. (King Charles had charged into the House of Commons with armed soldiers, to arrest five members of the House.)

It's always struck me as a rather priggish pronouncement, and Lenthall unfortunate to be saddled with this one entry in the history books. But it's doubtful whether Lenthall would have welcomed much more of the limelight. There were the scandals over the sale of confiscated Royalist land, for instance, in which he was involved. And his attempt, after the Restoration, to deny complicity in the regicide of Charles I. He never did come clean, but willed that his tombstone should bear the inscription Vermis Sum - "I am a Worm."

© David Craig Send me a message