English Revolution Textbook Section Two

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  • Created on: 02-01-23 10:08

Charles's Personal Rule

When Charles dissolved Parliament, he was not necessarily being innovative or radical: he was exerting his right as king to rule as he saw fit. He didn't invent a new way of governing without parliament. Charles ruled without Parliament but not without advisors.

After the assassination of Buckingham, Charles had to distribute all of his titles which would prove to be of increasing significance as the Personal Rule evolved. Major Privy Councillors during Personal rule are Richard Weston (Earl of Portland), Francis (Lord Cottington), Henry Montagu (Earl of Manchester), Sir Thomas (Lord Coventry), William Juxon (Bishop of London), William Laud (Archbishop of Canterbury), Sir Thomas Wentworth and Sir Francis Windebank. The role of the privy council was to support the monarch with advice through regular sessions and by enacting the royal will back in their home regions. The privy council should have been a source of particular strength to Charles providing him with a broad base of advice. Two factors that mitigated against its effectiveness was the Charles attended the twice-weekly council sessions on only a handful of occasions and Charles allowed a group within the council, identified by contemporaries as a 'Spanish Faction' to gain significant influence.

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Charles's Personal Rule (part 2)

In the absence of Parliament, Charles couldn't enact any new laws but he had considerable influence over how existing laws would be interpreted through a number of powerful prerogative courts and relied on these to secure law and order.

The Star Chamber - made up of Privy council members selected by Charles. The King could remove cases from the common-law courts and bring them to Star Chamber where defendants could be questioned in private and fine, imprisoned or forced to undergo corporal punishment. Used to attack those who disagreed with government policy. Couldn't hand down a death penalty but it could impose huge fines.

The Court of High Commission - technically the chief court of the Church, designed to enforce conformity to canon law. The monarch could convene it to discuss civil as well as religious cases, its judgements could be passed on to Star Chamber for sentencing.

Regional Councils - Council of the North could function as prerogative courts to impose royal control far away from Westminster. The leader of each council (Lord President) ensured local officials carried out royal requirements effectively. The council used imprisonment and fines as its primary punishment.

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Charles's Personal Rule (part 3)

Privy Council - although chiefly an advisory body, could function as a prerogative court

The aim of local government was to ensure that the king's peace was maintained, so that communities could enjoy stability and order.

Thorough - regious policy that William Laud and Thomas Wentworth together used their authority as Privy councillors to govern by imposing strict standards upon royal officials including sheriffs, JPs, bishops and judges.

Book of Orders, January 1631 - long-established means of communication between Crown and local government. Set out a significant reform of local government and consisted of eight orders and twelve directions. The directions were conventional: instructions for preventing vagrancy, allocating poor children to apprenticeships, employing the idle, repairing the roads. A penalty was added for non-compliance: punishment by Star Chamber.

Charles had called Parliaments in 1625, 1626 and 1628 because he needed money. He dissolved Parliament in 1929 because Parliament was exploiting his need for financial help. Parliament's counter-argument was they were trying to maintain their traditional rights and privileges against an innovative king

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Charles's Personal Rule (part 4)

The Hampden Case - November 1637, Sir John Hampden was taken to court for failing to pay his Ship Money dues. The case became a test case for the king's prerogative and Hampden's cause was championed by some of the finest legal minds in the country at the time. The verdict was close, with five judges out of twleve agreeing with him that ship money was unlawful. The Hampden Case reduced the speed of collection of Ship Money but the most significant impact of the case was that it raised the debate wider constitutional issues as the opinions of the judges were widely circulated.

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