- Describe the tensions between the Stuart kings and Parliament over religion
- James I and his son and successor, Charles I of England, reigned England in the atmosphere of repeated escalating conflicts with the English Parliament.
- James I believed that he owed his superior authority to God-given right, while Parliament believed the king ruled by contract (an unwritten one, yet fully binding) and that its own rights were equal to those of the king.
- A failed assassination attempt in 1605 against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby fueled anti-Catholic sentiments in England. By the 1620s, events on the continent had stirred up anti-Catholic feeling to a new pitch, and James was forced to declare war on Catholic Spain.
- Charles I, married to a Catholic and reluctant to collaborate with or listen to Parliament, reigned in the atmosphere of constant, escalating conflicts with a consistently anti-Catholic Parliament.
- After an eleven-year period of ruling without Parliament, the Long Parliament assembled in 1640 and quickly began proceedings to impeach the king’s leading counselors for high treason.
- The escalating conflict between the king and the Parliament resulted in what is known as the English Civil War (1642–1651). A series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”) ended in, among other things, the prosecution of Charles I.
Thirty Years’ War
A series of wars in Central Europe
between 1618 and 1648. Initially a war between various Protestant and Catholic
states in the fragmented Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a more
general conflict involving most of the great powers.
A failed assassination attempt in 1605 against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby. The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England’s Parliament on November 5, 1605, as the prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands during which James’s nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was to be installed as the Catholic head of state.
eleven years’ tyranny
The period from 1629 to 1640, when King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland ruled without recourse to Parliament. The king was entitled to do this under the Royal Prerogative. His actions caused discontent among the ruling classes, but the effects were more popular with the common people.
English Civil War
A series of armed conflicts and political machinations between English Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”) over, principally, the manner of its government. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) wars pitted the supporters of Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament.
An English Parliament that lasted from 1640 until 1660. It followed the fiasco of the Short Parliament, which had been held for three weeks during the spring of 1640, and which in its turn had followed a parliamentary absence of eleven years.
Background: Reformation in England in Scotland
The separation of the Church of England (or Anglican Church) from Rome under Henry VIII brought England alongside a broad Reformation movement, but the English Reformation differed from its European counterparts. Based on Henry VIII’s desire for an annulment of his marriage, it was at the outset more of a political affair than a theological dispute. The break with Rome was effected by a series of acts of Parliament, but Catholic Mary I restored papal jurisdiction in 1553. However, Mary’s successor, Elizabeth I, restored the Church of England and reasserted the royal supremacy in 1559. After she died without an heir,
James VI, her cousin and King of Scots, succeeded to the throne of England as James I in 1603, thus uniting Scotland and England under one monarch (the Union of the Crowns). He was the first of the Stuart dynasty to rule Scotland and England. He and his son and successor, Charles I of England, reigned England in the atmosphere of repeated escalating conflicts with the English Parliament.
James I and the English Parliament
James developed his political philosophy of the relationship between monarch and parliament in Scotland, and never reconciled himself to the independent stance of the English Parliament and its unwillingness to bow readily to his policies.
The crucial source of concern was that the king and Parliament adhered to two mutually exclusive views about the nature of their relationship. James I believed that he owed his superior authority to God-given right, while Parliament believed the king ruled by contract (an unwritten one, yet fully binding) and that its own rights were equal to those of the king.
On the eve of the state opening of the parliamentary session on November 5, 1605, a soldier called Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellars of the parliament buildings guarding about twenty barrels of gunpowder with which he intended to blow up Parliament House the following day. A Catholic conspiracy led by a disaffected gentleman called Robert Catesby, the Gunpowder Plot, as it quickly became known, had in fact been discovered in advance of Fawkes’s arrest and deliberately allowed to mature in order to catch the culprits red-handed and the plotters unawares.
By the 1620s, events on the continent had stirred up anti-Catholic feeling to a new pitch. A conflict had broken out between the Catholic Holy Roman Empire and the Protestant Bohemians, who had deposed the emperor as their king and elected James’s son-in-law, Frederick V, Elector Palatine, in his place, triggering the Thirty Years’ War. James reluctantly summoned Parliament as the only means to raise the funds necessary to assist his daughter Elizabeth and Frederick, who had been ousted from Prague by Emperor Ferdinand II in 1620. The Commons on the one hand granted subsidies inadequate to finance serious military operations in aid of Frederick, and on the other called for a war directly against Spain. In November 1621, led by Sir Edward Coke, they framed a petition asking not only for a war with Spain but also for Prince Charles to marry a Protestant, and for enforcement of the anti-Catholic laws. James flatly told them not to interfere in matters of royal prerogative and dissolved Parliament.
The failed attempt to marry Prince Charles with the Catholic Spanish Infanta Maria (known as the Spanish match), which both the Parliament and the public strongly opposed, was followed by even stronger anti-Catholic sentiment in the Commons that was finally echoed in court. The outcome of the Parliament of 1624 was ambiguous; James still refused to declare war, but Charles believed the Commons had committed themselves to financing a war against Spain, a stance which was to contribute to his problems with Parliament in his own reign.
Charles I and the English Parliament
With the failure of the Spanish match, Charles married French princess Henrietta Maria. Many members of the Commons were opposed to the king’s marriage to a Roman Catholic. Although he told Parliament that he would not relax religious restrictions, Charles promised to do exactly that in a secret marriage treaty with Louis XIII of France. Moreover, the treaty placed under French command an English naval force that would be used to suppress the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochelle. Charles was crowned in 1626 at Westminster Abbey without his wife at his side because she refused to participate in a Protestant religious ceremony.
Domestic quarrels between Charles and Henrietta Maria were souring the early years of their marriage. Despite Charles’s agreement to provide the French with English ships, in 1627 he launched an attack on the French coast to defend the Huguenots at La Rochelle. The action, led by Buckingham (James and Charles’ close collaborator; hated by Parliament), was ultimately unsuccessful. After
Buckingham was assassinated in 1628, Charles’s relationship with his Catholic wife dramatically improved.
Although the death of Buckingham effectively ended the war with Spain and eliminated his leadership as an issue, it did not end the conflicts between Charles and Parliament. In January 1629, Charles opened the second session of the English Parliament. Members of the House of Commons began to voice opposition to Charles’s policies. Many MPs viewed the imposition of taxes as a breach of the Petition of Right. When Charles ordered a parliamentary adjournment on March 2, members held the Speaker down in his chair so that the ending of the session could be delayed long enough for various resolutions, including Anti-Catholic and tax-regulating laws. The provocation was too much for Charles, who dissolved Parliament. Shortly after the prorogation, without the means in the foreseeable future to raise funds from Parliament for a European war, Charles made peace with France and Spain. The following eleven years, during which Charles ruled England without a Parliament, are referred to as the “personal rule” or the “eleven years’ tyranny.”
The Long Parliament, which assembled in the aftermath of the personal rule, started in 1640 and quickly began proceedings to impeach the king’s leading counselors for high treason. To prevent the king from dissolving it at will, Parliament passed the Triennial Act, which required Parliament to be summoned at least once every three years, and permitted the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and twelve peers to summon Parliament if the king failed to do so.
The English Civil War
The escalating conflict between the king and Parliament resulted in what is known as the English Civil War (1642–1651). It was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”) over, principally, the manner of its government. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) wars pitted the supporters of Charles against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with the Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651.
The overall outcome of the war was threefold: the trial and execution of Charles I; the exile of his son, Charles II; and the replacement of English monarchy with, at first, the Commonwealth of England (1649–1653), and then the Protectorate (1653–1659) under Oliver Cromwell’s personal rule. The monopoly of the Church of England on Christian worship in England ended with the victors consolidating the established Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Constitutionally, the wars established the precedent that an English monarch cannot govern without Parliament’s consent, although the idea of Parliament as the ruling power of England was legally established as part of the Glorious Revolution in 1688.