Lecture 18: The English Civil War & Regicide (part I of 2)
I. Introductory Comments / note office appointments—we're continuing with office appointments. You should be reading the two books. Remember, you're building an argument based on the arguments put forth in both of the monographs.
II. Charles I (1625-1649) and the conception of monarchy
A. Divine Right
B. Economically and politically Absolute—he believed that his power superceded that of Parliament and that he had Absolute authority over his subjects. This also guided his father's thinking, though his father faced fewer problems with Parliament than he did.
C. Rights over the populace—as an absolute monarch, the king had certain rights over the populace. One of those rights, according to Charles, was the right to obtain money from those subjects. There were certain "historical" rights, according to Charles, which guaranteed him an income during periods of external conflict (War)
III. The "Real" world in which Charles lived--distrust of monarch grew after 1600.
A. Personalities of Kings
often seen as not very competent. James was a foreigner and often seen as inferior, as we've examined last week. Charles I was the opposite of his father but he was more aloof and condescending, if you can imagine that. Charles was seen as a King who would rather ignore problems than deal with them. He didn't want to tackle affairs head on, especially given his understanding of the role of monarchy.
B. Finance—it's difficult to finance the government when there's no such thing as government finance (that doesn't really happen until the Bank of England is founded). so king had to get extra finances through Parliament. In the 16th and 17th centuries there was incredible inflation, so the King kept going to Parliament for money. which raised a key question among MPS: is it legal for the king to raise money if Parliament hasn't approved it?
C. Religion—and religion was still at the center of everyone's life. By the seventeenth century England was a protestant country, an independent Christian church, so protestants detested catholics and vice versa. People were highly sensitive to the idea that the RCC might come back. Charles I was a protestant but it looked as if he wanted to bring back Catholicism. Also, he had a Catholic wife.
IV. Political Impasse--Charles grapples with Parliament
A. Petition of Right (1628)
1. forced loans— Charles was conducting an unpopular war and asked Parliament for money. They refused, he didn't like it and pursued it anyway. He called for a forced loan, which required everyone of a certain income to give him money. THERE WERE PRECEDENTS TO IT. This was received as a bad thing, though, because it looked like he was raising taxes without Parliament's consent. Some MPs refused to pay it and the king threw them in jail. They sued him saying that he violated the law of habeus corpus, but the court backed the king and this really made people nervous.
signed by Charles I in order to get money from Parliament. It guaranteed no forced loans or taxes without the consent from Parliament, no arrests without a specific cause (due process), no martial law and no quartering of soldiers. Nevertheless, the king did engage in forced loans when he attempted to raise money without consulting Parliament by requiring wealthy people to loan him money when he had no intention of repaying them.
2. ship money—ship money was nothing new in the seventeenth century, specifically in 1634 when Charles first set about invoking it. Ship money was an old tax on maritime counties / shires to rid the sea channels of pirates and other threats. In part, ship money paid for the ships that were built and that sailed. This was relevant in the era that predated governmental fleets. What Charles did was extend the tax from the maritime communities to the whole nation in order to finance the Royal Navy. This led to problems for the king, a legal battle which the king won in 1641, but which further set the dichotomy between what the king could do and what he couldn't.
B. political Affairs--Quartering of Troops—in an unpopular war, Charles also quartered troops among the people, which meant that people were forced to support the armies without their approval.
C. His own rights as monarch—these represent the acts of a king who wanted to eliminate a cooperative relationship and institute absolute power. But we also need to know that he still didn't have enough money, so he went back to Parliament, which refused to grant him money unless he signed the above petition. His response was to dissolve Parliament (1629) which was not reconvened for another 11 years.
But was Charles I so grossly incompetent? Was he totally oblivious to the factors governing England since the time of the Magna Charta in 1215? In an era without government finance—that is, when there is no specific component funding the political and military affairs of a monarch, how was a king supposed to obtain required material? One case in favor of Charles I was that the history of his early reign cannot be read solely as his inability to understand the government, but that he was following through with certain demands of Parliament that wanted to see the political effects of war, invasion, etc., without the economic costs. The two go hand in hand, and Charles was stuck, really, in a lose-lose situation.
This sets the context for the civil war which we'll talk about next time.
V. Concluding Comments, setting up for next time (1642-1649)