30th January 1649. Charles the Martyr?
King Charles 1st had a penchant for trying to divide and rule and upset the Puritans by reviving Elizabeth’s fines for their non-attendance at church, and use of the Star Chamber against those who criticised the High Church.(1)
In the end Charles Stuart’s attempt to divide the Scots and English and Royalist and Parliament, and his conviction of his Divine Right to rule led inexorably to his execution Today in 1649.
Charles inherited from his unstable father James I the notion of his supposed ‘God-Given’ power which was supported by the High Church Arminians and in his closet Catholicism by Archbishop Laud’s High Church leanings. He had also married a Catholic, Henrietta Maria, and wished for his the children to be brought up in that faith.(2)
The King dismissed three parliaments between 1625-28; in 1626 he was forced to summon his second Parliament for funds and attempted to attack Spanish treasure ships in his support of Louis XIII against the Protestant Huguenots. However the 1628 Parliament did force Charles to accept the Petition of Right giving Parliament the right to consent to taxation.
In reply Charles now chose to ignore parliament dissolving it from 1629 in the ‘Eleven years’ Tyranny’(3) whilst the Star-Chamber suppressed all opposition, so in his first five years Charles summoned and dissolved parliament three times.
The King was thus forced later to raise money in other ways when in 1635 he raised the controversial Ship Money, which along with monopolies on salt and bricks, contravened Magna Carta which required Parliament’s approval for raising taxes. The imposition of tonnage and poundage was an added grievance.
Charles’ attempt to bring the Presbyterian Scots into line with English religion by introducing an episcopacy, and the introduction of a new Prayer Book in 1637 by Archbishop Laud was resented and rejected on 28th February 1638, causing the nobles and gentry to to sign the National Covenant to uphold ‘true religion’.
Between the first Bishops’ War of 1639 and the second, the King was forced to call the ‘Short Parliament’ between May-June 1640, which ended his personal rule.(4) This was called in the King’s mistaken belief that the English would rally to his side especially with the Scots intriguing with the French, and his abandonment of ship money.
Parliament was dissolved after twenty-three days after it refused to grant supplies for the Bishops’ Wars until grievances were redressed; it was followed by the Long Parliament called on 3rd November 1640 to pass financial bills and which after many vicissitudes was not to be finally abolished until 1660, with Cromwell now dead, by the Convention Parliament.(5)
(1) One such was William Prynne in 1637 who had his ears cropped, nose slit and to cap it all was put in the pillory.
(2) Followers of Arminius with a doctrine of free-will. Laudian Rails protected the altar area.
(3) The Whig description of the period when Charles ruled without parliament (a right under his prerogative), was also known as the ‘Personal Rule’.
(4) In the second Bishops’ Wars, the Scots invaded England occupying Newcastle and Durham and though a peace was arranged in October 1640, the Scots only departed in 1641.
(5) The Long Parliament could only be dissolved by its members, but in 1648 it was ‘purged’ by Pride and his New Model Army. It didn’t dissolve until the Convention Parliament (1660).
Ref: The Verney Papers ‘Notes of the Procedures of the Long Parliament’, produced by the Camden Society.