The Tudors did a great deal to strengthen the authority of the monarchy, but were deft politicans and managed Parliament carefully. The Stuarts had a different mindset. They were commited to not only divine-right monarchy, but royal absolutism as well. Rather than attempting to mamage Patliament, the Stuarts were affronted by Parliament's perogatives. The conflict between the Stuart monarchy and Parliament culminated in the English Civil War. The English stepped back from establish a republic which they might have done if the War had occurred in the 18th century. The Civil War was, however, a major step in the development of English democracy. It also had a profound impact on American democracy. During this period of turmoil in Britain, the colonists were left largely to their own devices. This meant at an early stage of colonial development, the new colonial legisltures had to exercise considerable authority independent of royal control.
The Tudors are perhaps the most sucessful of the various English royal dynasties. Henry VII ended the War of the Roses. His son Henry VIII duing and intetwined with his many marriages brought the Reformation to England and also founded the Royal Navy. It was his children Edward VI and Elizabeth I who made England Protestant. Elizabeth is considered by many to be the greatest of all England's monarchs. It was during her reign that the Spanish Armada was defeated, but many long term trends like the rise of the middle class and a spirit of toleration grew as well as an accomodation of royal authority with Parliament and law. The Tudors did a great deal to strengthen the authority of the monarchy, but were deft politicans and managed Parliament carefully. Mary failed to return England to Catholcism in part because she over stepped those bounds. This was a lesson the Stuarts would fail to learn.
The Stuarts had a different mindset. They were commited to not only divine-right monarchy, but royal absolutism as well. Rather than attempting to mamage Patliament, the Stuarts were affronted by Parliament's perogatives. The conflict between the Stuart monarchy and Parliament culminated in the English Civil War. James soon after rising to the throne (1603) began alienating hIis subjects on both religious and political issues. He dismissed Parliament and then reconvened Parliament when the need for money as a result of his foreign policy became acute. There was no standing English army. Thus any decission to go to war necessitated obtaining funds to raisr and equip as well as pay for an army. The process of calling and dismissing Parliament went on several times. Each time Parlisment refused to grant James additional taxes and instead debated the increased number of abuses they preceived as emanating from the crown causing James to again dismiss them. His last Parlaimenr submitted the Great Protestantion reasserting Parlaiment's right to debate state affairs and advise the king. James was outraged and again dismissed Parliament. James reconvened Parliament for the last time in 1624 to declare War on Spain. Spain had invaded the Palatinate as part of the 30 years war and the province was rules by his wife's brother. James death (1625) left the conflict betwwen the monarchy and Parliamentb unsettled. Although relations had been strained there had been no break between them.
Many in England were not displeased with the passing of James I and received Charles with some enthusiasm (1625). Had Charles been willing to compromise, a constitutional crisis could have been avoided. Charles was, however, as firmly committed to devine-right monarchy and royal absolutism as his father. Despite the fact that Parliament had made their views clear with the Great Protestantion, Charles was determined to expand royal, authority. Thus conflict was inevitable. Charles reigned for two decades he tried ruling without Parliament. Inevitably the need for funds forced him to recall Parliament. His attempt to supress Parliment and arrest leading Parlimentarians sparked the Civil War.
While the Reformation in England was initaited by the monarchy, in Scotland in occurred in spite of the opposition of the monarchy, although supported by the English.The Reformation was preceeded by a rising sence of popular disatisgaction with the Catholic clergy. Both Lollardy and Wycliffe in England had influenced some. Merchants and the minor nobility were the first to embrace the Reformation, not only for religius reasons, but as a vehicle for independence from both England and France. Protestant teaching reached Scotland only a few years after Martin Lurther launched the Reformation. As early as 1522 the Royal Government was attempting to stop the circulation of Luthern books. Early Reformation leaders like Patrick Hamilton were adherents of Luther, but John Knox led the Scottish Reformation to a Calvinist confession. John Knox lived for a time in Geneva and was influenced by John Calvin. He became the driving force of the Reformation in Scotland. Know was the first spokesman for Presbyterianism. Knox persuaded the Scottish Parliament to adopt a confession and book of discipline modeled on those develooped by Calvin in Geneva (1560). Parliament created the Scottish Presbyterian Church governed by local kirks. Mary Queen of Scotts attempted to attempted to reinstate the Catholic Church, but was friven to exile in England. Her infant son James, the future James I of England, was kept in Scotland and eventually tutored by Presbyterian scholars. The Catholic Church was reduced to minor importance, except for a few districts in the north.
It was the Scotts who in large measure precipitated the English Civil War.
Scotland had become strongly Protestant, but the Scottish Presbyterian Church did not confrom to Anglican practice. Charles I was determined to enforce the Anglican reforms tghroughout his realm and this included the Scottish church. Not only were the Scots opposed to this, they wanted to destroy the power of the Anglican bishops over the church in Scotland. The Assembly of the Scottish Church at Glasgow rejected Charles' reforms (1638). The Scootish rejection of the reforms enraged Charles. He hastily gathered a military force and marched north to Scotland. Parliament never approved funds for a sanding English army and Charles did not have the funds to ammass a major army on his own. The Scotts did not relent. Having little confidence in the force that he had so hastily assembled, Charles prudently withdrew from Scoitland without fighting a major battle. As a result of Charles' failure to establish royal authority, unrest festered in Scotland. Charles continued to be concerned about Scottish defiance and upon learning that the Scotts were treating with the French, he decided upon another military expedition. This time Charles acted more carefully, calling Parliament into session to obtain the needed funds to assemble a credible military force (1640). When Parliament convened, however, the King's request was not formost on the agenda. It was not lost on parlimentarians that an army formed to supress the Scotts could just as easily be gurned on Parliament. Parliament began discussing grievances against the King's government. Most were opposed to a military operation against Scotland. Charles was furious and after only a brief period dismissed Parliament. The Parliament has this been named the 'Short Parliament'. Charles decided to proceed with his military operation ahainst the Scotts without Parliament's support and needed financing. The result was that the Scots defeated Charles' inadequate force. The Scots moved south and took Northumberland and Durham.
The Scottish defeat of Charles' army put the King in a critical position. There was no other alternative but to call Parliament into session again to get the funds needed to finance an army to confront the Scotts. Charles reluctantly called Parliament (November 1640). This Parliament has becomne known as the 'Long Parliament'. None of the greviences raised by the Short Partliament had been addressed by the King. Parliament was no more motivated to put a substantial army at the King's command.
Just before the outbrek of the English Civil War and the disasters to follow, the disposed Irish Catholics rose up against the English Protestant settlers who we now call the Scotts Irish in Ulster (October 1641). The circumstance are not well understood, especially just why the rebellion occured in 1641. The rebellion has been portrayed by Protestants as a vicious Catholic slaughter. Catholics have viewed it as a justified response to repression. The truth of course lies somewhere in between. [Gibney]The Ulster Plantation began (1610). Just what set the Irish off in 1641 is unknown. Some argue that it was the accumation of grevinces and the dispossed Irish were pushed too far. Others suggest that the prospect of a Puritan ominated England was seen as an existential threat to Catholic Irelandand the onset of religious persecution in Ireland. The 1641 rising may have a pre-emptive strike by Catholic Ireland in an effort to end Protestant control. Smoldering resentment combined with relgious differences ia a toxic brew. One of the many relgious wars of the 17th century. There is no doubt, however, that it proved to be one of the bloodiest episodes in Irish history. The dominant view is that the Irish apparently blamed the new Protestant settlers for their desperate plight. Some modern scholars maitain that substantial economic and social interaction developed between the Protestant settlers and the Catholic indigenous population. This is an issue that has yet to be resolved. There is no doubt, however, that the Catholic rebels surprised Protestant settlers who had no inkling of the rising and they massacring the Protestant settlers in large numbers.
The new Parliament would not support the King against the Scotts or the Irish. They understood that once the King possessedf a powerful army, they would be at his mercy. Charles moved to break the deadlock, in effect to stage a coup d'etat against Parliament. Charles attempted to arrest five parliamentarian leaders (January 4, 1642). The King supported by soldiers burst into Parliament, but found the leaders there had been spirited away. London was a center of support for Parliament. Charles thus left London. The King and Parliament began ammassing armies. Their goals differed. Parliament had no desire to dethrone the King and establish a republic. Most saw monarchy as the natural order of society. They simoly wanted a limited monarchy. They wanted Charles to accept the limitations on his power that had evolved over centuries in England. Charles for his part wanted to destroy Parliament as an effective institution and rule as in France as an absolute monarch. The country as a whole was largely apathetic. The armies involved were realtively small, only 13,000 men on each side in 1642. The Civil War was not a simple matter of artistocrats fighting the gentry and middle class. Many families were split by the War. Some English men quickly decided who to support. Many agonized over the decession. Charles launched the War, raising his standard at Nottingham (August 1642). The Parlimentary forces were commanded by Robert Devereux (3rd Earl of Essex). The War began with many experienced military commanders supporting the King. Charles marched on London, the center of Parliament's support, in an effort to achieve a quick victory. The first engagement between Charles and the Parlimentarian army under Essex was at Edgehill (October 23, 1642). The battle was inconclusive. Battles were fought all over England. The early fighting favored the Royalists, but were not decisive. Gradually Parlimentarin commnders gained experience and the initial royalist advantage was lost. Fairfax formed the New Model Army which achieved important victories at Naseby (June 14) and at Langport (July 10). These crushing defeats essentially destroyed Charles' effective military force.
Charles continued defiance caused many in Parliament to question whether he should be allowed to resume the crown. He still had his supporters within Parliament and debate continued. Those members desiring that Charles be regain his crown attempted to negotiate with him. The army was opposed to any ttempt to return Charles to the throne and disturbed by efforts by some in Paliament to accomplish this. The army marched on parliament and carried out "Pride's Purge". Army commande Sir Thomas Pride arrested 45 MP's were arrested and kept 146 other MPs out of parliament. The army permitted only 75 MPs to enter. These were called the Rump Parliament and were fully underr the army's control.
The Army required the Rump Parliament to establish a high court of justice to try the King for treason. There was little doubt about his guilt. Royalists would argue that a divine right king cannot commit treason.
The King was found guilty (January 1649) and was beheaded (January 30). Some of his key followers such as Baron Capel were also executed.
Oliver Cromwell commanded the army and quellied revolts in Ireland.
Charles son climingbthat hecwas the rightful king was crowned Charles II. He formed an army and marched south. Cromwell defeated the Scottish forces at Dunbar (September 3, 1650). Charles II succeeded in marching on into England.
The final battle of the Civil Wars was fought at Worcester (Septemver, 3 1651). The Royalist forced under Charles II were defeated and Charles forced to flee abroad.
England was left without a king. Cromwell established the Commonwealth and he ruled as Lord Protector of England.
The Civil War was a major step in the development of English democracy. It also had a profound impact on American democracy. During this period of turmoil in Britain, the colonists were left largely to their own devices. This meant at an early stage of colonial development, the new colonial legisltures had to exercise considerable authority independent of royal control.
Gibney, John. The Shadow of a Year: The 1641 Rebellion in Irish History & Memory (2012).
Well, H.G. The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man (Doubleday & Company: New York, 1971), 1103p.
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