Monarchs And Parliaments 1602-1629


How did James' character and court affect events?

James' outgoing personality, love of debate and ability to engage with people enabled him to make the English political system work for most of the reign. 

  • James firmly believed in Divine Right and was keen to defend his prerogative, but was generally pragmatic when it came to dealing with the ambiguous balance between royal prerogative and the unwritten constitution. 
  • James was able to distinguish between the theory and practicalities of ruling in a way that Charles I was not!
  • The court was an open and lively place, reflecting his enjoyment of life 
  • However, James' fondness for young male 'favourites' led to concerns about the morality of the court. 
  • When James arrived in England in 1603, he brought a number of young Scotsmen whom he showered with gifts. The English elite became increasingly concerned at the influence that the Scotsmen could wield. 
  • By 1607, James had made the 17 year old Robert Carr his main favourite, making him Earl of Rochester and Earl of Somerset by 1611. 
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How did James' character and court affect events?

James fondness for favourites was important because it was bound to have political effects: 

  • It made it much more difficult for MPs to sympathise with James' financial difficulties at a time when he was trying to argue that Crown finance was insufficient. 
  • Favourites were likely to become involved with the different factions presented at court. 
  • James' reputation was certainly damaged by his fondness for favourites; this became even more important later in the reign when George Villers, Duke of Buckingham became the main favourite. 
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James I: Finance and Financial Problems 1603-1610

Finance was the most persistent problem in James reign as it lasted the whole reign. 

The inadeqacy of royal finance in James reign was never fully accepted or appreciated by MPs. 

The failure to find a solution to the financial problem meant that royal debt greatly increased; this increased the chances of conflict with Parliament. 

Key problem to finance 

  • James was unable to economise in spending 
  • MPs were unwilling to update the value of parliamentary subsidies or to accept the increased costs of government in the early C17. 


  • Any dicussions / disagreements over finance were bound to overlap with the other key issues of parliamentary authority, foreign policy and the extent of royal prerogative. 
  • James was bound to attempt to stretch his financial prerogatives if parliament was unwilling to subsidise the costs of government 
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James I: finance

Many of the problems of finance were not of James' making. He had the bad fortune to inherit the consequences of: 

  • The inflation fo the mid-C16
  • The enormous costs of Elizabeth I's wars against Spain in the 1580s and 1590s
  • The costs of putting down rebellion in Ireland (1595-1603) 
  • The costs of helping the Protestant Dutch in their fight for independence from Spain (1580s onwards) 
  • Elizabeth I's failure to reform Crown finances in the late C16. 

State of royal finances in 1603 -  Debt of £420,000 

Elizabeth I had opted out of financial reform because it would have been too politically damaging. Instead she sold £800,000 of Crown Lands. 

Salisbury attempted a nationwide survey of Crown Lands for reform but it was never completed, because it was easier to sell more Crown Land. James sold nearly as much land as Elizabeth, in a reign half as long. 

Therefore by the end of James reign, rent from Crown lands ceased to be a major source of royal income

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Parliamentary subsidies

Subsidy assessments bore almost no relation to the real wealth of the country; partly because they hadn't taken account of the inflation of the C16 , but also because it was the local gentry that drew up the assessments. 

This meant that the English were the most undertaxed people in Europe. 

This partly explains James' constant need for exploring other sources of revenue, espeically if parliaments were unwilling to recognise the increasing costs of government. 

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How much was finance a problem of James' own makin

  • There is no doubt that James' extravagance contributed greatly to his financial problems 
  • He never appreciated that although England was far wealtheir than Scotland, the "mechanisms" for tapping wealth effectively didnt exist. 
  • 1603-1612: James spent £185,000 on jewels 
  • James held Ante-suppers which were a notorious example of court extravagance. They were purely to show of wealth. "conspicious consumption". 
  • Household expenditure had doubled by 1610. 

What made the situation worse was that the feeling among MPs / the gentry that James' extravagnce was filling the pockets of the hated Scottish foreigners. 

1611: James gave away £90,000; £67,000 to 11 Scotsmen. 

This was politically unhelpful and unwise at a time when Parliament was being asked to grant extra taxation not normally expected in peacetime. 

It was particularly unhelpful in the early part of James' reign, when Salisbury was trying to persuade Parliament of the urgent need for financial reform; espeically with the Great Contract of 1610. - MPs feared James would waste any money they provide. 

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How did James / Salisbury subsidise royal governme

Exploitation of Feudal Dues


  • Brought in £65,000 p.a by 1610
  • Hated by nobility and gentry
  • Wardship rights were often granted to ambitious courtiers as a reward
  • Families affected by wardship could be financially ruined within 2 generations 


  • The right of the Court to buy goods at fixed prices 
  • This was open to gross abuse by corrupt officials: they would buy goods at low fixed prices, then sell them at a large profit 

The "Book of Bounty" 

1608: Salisbury ordered a survey of all Crown lands, entitled the "Book of Bounty". This would update all rents from Crown Land. However, the lack of Crown officials to carry out the survey honestly and James' continuous granting of Crown lands as gifts to favourites meant little was achieved 

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How did James / Salisbury subsidise royal governme

"Impositions" (new customs duties) 

These were the most controverisal financial methods that James used, since they had never been authorised by parliament. 

1606: Bates case 

  • John Bates was taken to court because he refused to pay an imposition on currants. He argued that the imposition had not been sanctioned by a parliament. 
  • The judges were in favour of the king
  • The precedent created by Bates Case meat that Salisbury could now levy extra customs duties. 
  • This opened the way for a vast increase in Impositions. 

1608: Salisbury's new "Book of rates" 

  • New customs duties on 1400 articles. 
  • By the late 1630s, 50% of Crown income came from customs duties 

Financially, impositions were a success. Politically, a serious error! 

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Why did attempts at financial reform fail?

There were attempts at financial reform in all parliamentary sessions between 1603-1610. 

Parliamentary sessions of 1604, 1606-7: 

  • Salisbury introduced plans to abandon wardship and purveyance, in return for fixed annual parliamentary payments. 
  • But: this was dropped because James was more interested in persuading MPs to accept his plans for Anglo-Scottish union. 
  • Also: it was unlikely to succeed because of parliamentary complaints about James' extravagance. 
  • By 1608, Crown debt reached £600,000
  • In 1608-9, James promised Salisbury that he would not give any further gifts of land or pensions without Salisbury's agreement, but failed to keep this promise. 
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The Great Contract 1610

Had this been accepted, royal finances would have been transformed, and British history would have been very different 

  • James would recieve a £600,000 lump sum to pay off royal debts 
  • He would then recieve a parliamentary income of £200,000 p.a.
  • James would abandon wardship and purveyance
  • James would not introduce any more impositions 

However both James and MPs had serious reservations about the Great Contract. 

  • James disliked surrendering any royal prerogatives; wardship was useful for patronage. 
  • James was concered that the annual parliamentary grant was not "inflation-proof"
  • MPs were concered that the Crown might become financially independent of parliament 
  • MPs had no guarantee that James might be just as extravagant with the new grant 
  • James was unwilling to give guarantees; he felt that the Crown did not have to justify what it spent money on, and that negotiating about Crown powers was beneath his royal dignity. 
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The Great Contract 1610


  • The Great Contract was dropped
  • Salisbury's power was destroyed; he died in 1612
  • Power at court drifted into rivalry between different factions 
  • Government began to drift, lacking clear purpose
  • Royal debt increased
  • The court began to gain an increasing reputation for corruption 

By 1610, the opportunity to reform finance had slipped away

The failure of the Great Contract was due to 

  • The short-sighted outlook of many MPs
  • James reputation for extravagance 
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1604 parliament

This started with a dispute over the MP elected for Buckinghamshire. 

  • The privy councillor John Fortescue was defeated by Francis Godwin. Godwin's election was delcared invalid by the Court of Chancery because he was an outlaw who had been summonsed twice for debt. 
  • The Lord Chancellor declared Fortescue was elected instead
  • But MPs declared they alone had the right to decide on disputed elections
  • James delcared both elections invalid, a new election was held
  • James accepted that Parliament should be the judge in any future disputed elections

James' actions were a mixture of compromise / tactlessness 

  • He told the Commons that it was for him as an 'Absolute Ruler' to decide what Parliament's rights were. 
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1604 parliament

1604: The "Form of Apology and Satisfaction" was drawn up 

  • This claimed that the Common's privileges were 'Our right and due inheritance'. 
  • It warned James not to follow trends in Europe towards absolute monarchy 
  • It complained about excessive wardship and purveyance
  • It claimed a parliamentary say in any future religious settlement 
  • It was never presented to James. 

1604: Shirley's case 

  • Thomas Shirley was an MP who was arrested for debt, then freed by MPs. 
  • This established that whilst parliament was sitting, MPs had freedom from arrest except for serious crimes. 

therefore there was some signs of mutual distrust, but hardly open conflict. 

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1604 / 1606 / 1607 parliaments

In all these parliaments, James' cheif aim was to achieve a political union between England and Scotland (Anglo-Scottish Union) 

This came to nothing, despite James efforts. 

  • MPs thought that English prosperity would be undermined by Scottish poverty
  • there was simply too much anti-Scottish feeling; this was intensified by the presence of James' Scottish favourites and espeically his extravagance towards them. 

Some Anglo-Scottish reforms were carried out by royal proclamation: 

  • Creation of the Union flag (1606)
  • Abolition of laws limiting trade
  • Common citizenship for those born after 1603 

But James' anglo-Scottish plans were a 'dead' issue by 1607 

The 1606 parliament was generally cooperative, mainly because of the aftermath of the Gunpowder plot. 

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Conclusion 1603-1610

There was no gradual build up of tension between James and Parliament between 1603-1610. 

The opportunity for financial reform had slipped away due to two factors: 

  • The short-sighted outlook of many MPs
  • James' reputation for financial extravagance 

How did royal debt damage relations between Crown / Parliament?

  • When James called Parliament to gain subsidies, MPs criticised his use of prerogative devices (wardship,purveyance,impositions) which provided money that hadn't been sanctioned by parliament 
  • James' use of prerogatives to raise money gave rise to fears that he was trying to make himself independent of parliament. MPs therefore granted him insufficient money or none at all. 
  • Insufficient subsidies from Parliament meant that James was forced to increase his prerogative taxation devices even more. 
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The years of drift 1610-1618

With the exception of the Addled Parliament (1614) these years saw no parliaments and in many ways, can be seen as "years of drift" with no real direction in policy. 

Government lacked clear leadership and James did not allow any single figure to dominate government as Salisbury had done, instead dividing it among different factions 

  • The Howard faction: led by the Earl of Northampton, were Pro-Catholic and in favour of an understanding with Spain 
  • The Pembroke faction: Led by the Earl of Pembroke, who wanted a more actively "protestant" foreign policy. 

Example of rivalry at court - Between Sir Edward Coke and Sir Francis Bacon. 

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Finance after 1610

Sale of honours

1611 – a new title of baronet created, specifically to raise funds. Original asking price £1095. However by 1622, because its prestige had been so reduced, the asking price was only £220.

The sale of prestigious titles in England caused great offence among the older nobility


Even more irritating to the general population was the practice of selling monopoly patents for the production or importing of certain goods.

By 1610, James’ financial problems and the need to reward those who serve him led to a great increase in the granting of monopolies. This was much resented by other merchants, and increased the feeling of anger at the extravagance and corruption of the court.

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The Addled Parliament 1614

The failure of the addled Parliament of 1614 symbolises the growing difficulties between James and his subjects in the middle of his reign.

James required extra finance to cover costs for his son’s funeral and daughter’s marriage.

James had been encouraged to call parliament by the Pembroke faction, who felt that a more openly protestant foreign policy would win support from MPs. However, the Howard faction (who wanted a more peaceful pro-Spanish policy) was almost certainly intent on sabotaging the 1614 parliament.

James made almost no attempt to guide or manage parliamentary elections and as a result, the commons lacked leadership. MPs criticised what they saw as James’ relaxed attitude towards Catholics. James saw himself as “rex pacificus” – “blessed peacemaker”.

There was already tension over James’ growing pro-Spanish policy by 1614. James decided to dissolve parliament. No finance or laws were passed.

James was forced to rely even more on non-parliamentary financial methods and the court continued to gain an increasing reputation for corruption. This also highlights how factional rivalry was increasingly damaging the reputation of James and the royal court. 

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The Ovebury Scandal 1615-16

Robert Carr had an affair with Lady Essex and managed to force an annulment of her marriage to the Earl of Essex.

Sir Thomas Ovebury, who originally helped the affair along, tried to persuade Rochester not to marry lady Essex.

James was persuaded to send ovebury to the tower, where he was poisoned by lady Essex.

When this was discovered in 1616, Rochester and lady Essex were tried, sentenced to death, but then simply banished from court.

This finished Rochester as a favourite, lowered respect for the court even further and it brought the influence of the Howard faction to an end.

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The Cockayne project, 1615-17

This was an attempt by the Howard faction to raise money by reorganising the cloth trade.

The English cloth trade was in the hands of a London company, the merchant adventurers. James took away the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly, set up his own company to buy and finish cloth for export.

This project was badly planned and underfunded, resulting in a collapse of the cloth trade. This was made worse by the outbreak of war in Europe in 1618. The city of London never trusted James again.

By 1616, the deficit on Crown revenue stood at £160,000. There was growing tension about the level of corruption at court. This was bound to have a negative effect on relations between James and his subjects when a parliament was called in the near future.

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1618-21: The rise of Buckingham

George Villiers had been introduced to James in 1613. He became a gentleman of the bedchamber in 1614 and became Duke of Buckingham in 1617.

His power was entirely the result of his personal relationship with the King and his ability to control access to royal patronage.

 Between 1618 and his assassination in 1628, Buckingham was the most influential man in England.

Buckingham created a great deal of resentment among the country gentry because of his complete control of patronage. If anyone fell out with Buckingham, their careers quickly ended.

Buckingham increased the sale of titles honour until it became a public scandal.

Buckingham became largely responsible for foreign policy throughout this period. He seems to have had no fixed principles, originally being in favour of a peaceful policy towards Spain, later pushing for war.

However, James did not allow Buckingham to dominate government. 

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Financial reform: Cranfield

Cranfield insisted on economies in royal household expenses; this eventually cut costs by nearly 50%. Waste and corruption were greatly reduced. “retrenchment”.

However, a key demand of Cranfield, was that James must avoid war. This would eventually make him unpopular with MPs, who were insisting that England should declare war on Spain.

Buckingham originally supported Cranfield’s reforms; but only while it suited him.

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James and foreign policy

Peace would avoid the financial drain of war. As ruler of the largest protestant power in Europe, James aimed to make peace with Spain.

1604: The treaty of London ended war between England and Spain.

1608: England joined the Protestant Union of European States.

James was obviously trying to keep a foot in both camps to restrain both sides from reckless actions which would trigger a general European religious war.

1612: James’ daughter, Elizabeth, was married to Frederick of the Palatinate, the leading German protestant prince.

At the same time, James maintained a close relationship with Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador. This gradually caused increasing fears about the influence that Gondomar had over James. 

1616: James began to consider marrying Prince Charles to the eldest daughter of King Philip III of Spain, the “infanta” Maria Anna. This plan was encouraged by the Howard faction.

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James and foreign policy

However, what James failed to realise is the political unpopularity of his policy towards Spain. 

Many gentry thought of Spain as the symbol of the “popish” antichrist. There was a widespread believed that Rome was the centre of an international Catholic conspiracy to destroy not only English Protestantism, but English liberty. Spain was seen as the military wing of the Catholic Church.

James failed to realise that religious tensions and hatred were increasing in the early C17; in many ways, not only was James’ Spanish policy unpopular, it was virtually doomed to failure.

 1618: Frederick was driven out of the Palatinate. To all European Protestants, this seemed to signal the beginning of the long-awaited Catholic crusade to reduce or even wipe out Protestantism in Europe.

This marked the beginning of the thirty years’ war, in which the protestant princes of Northern Germany fought against the Catholics of the South led by the Habsburgs.

The implications of the thirty years’ war completely changed the political atmosphere in England. 

To many gentry, it was simply unthinkable that England should not play a major part in defending the cause of “true religion”.

Therefore by 1620, James was under considerable pressure to act in defence of his son-in-law.

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The 1621 Parliament (1st session)

This began with both sides in a mood of compromise.

James acknowledged previous mistakes in finance, emphasised his commitment to financial reform and argued that it was necessary to make plans for war.

Parliament voted the king only £140,000 this was insufficient to fund a war but it left open the chance of further subsidies.

Parliament then began to debate the long-standing grievance of monopolies. MPs revived the use of impeachment.

Therefore this session ended on a good mood.

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The 1621 Parliament (2nd session)

in Europe, this situation now looked even more dangerous for Protestantism.

When parliament reconvened, most MPs were even more convinced that war with Spain was vital, and that James’ marriage plans with Spain must be stopped.

However, Cranfield had already advised James that he could not afford war with Spain.

Some MPs asserted that James had invited them to discuss foreign policy. MPs were keen for James to enter the war, but were unwilling to pay the expenses of equipping an army to go to the Palatinate.

For James, MPs debating foreign policy overstepped the boundaries of parliamentary freedom and royal prerogative. He ordered them not to “meddle with anything concerning our government or matters of state”. E.g. foreign policy, marriage of royal family and religion.

This would not go down well with the growing anti-Spanish mood in parliament

A further petition by MPs complained that James was depriving them of the right of free speech. In fact, MPs were overstepping their privileges as foreign policy was part of royal prerogative but this shows how MP’s concerns had led them to overstep the boundary.

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The 1621 Parliament (2nd session)

18 Dec 1621: MP’s issued the protestation

this claimed that parliamentary privileges were “The ancient and undoubted birth right and inheritance of the subjects of England”

30 Dec 1621: after dissolving parliament, James tore the protestation out of the House of Commons Journal with his own hands.

James also arrested those MPs who were mainly responsible for drawing up the protestation.

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The implications of the 1621 parliament

The issue of foreign policy and war had turned into a debate on the issues of royal prerogative and parliamentary privilege.

Religion had become a key factor in difficulties between James and his parliament. MPs were horrified and suspicious of James’ motives in continuing to pursue a Spanish match.

There was no doubt that MPs had strayed into discussing an issue normally part of royal prerogative, but this reflects the concern felt by MPs about James’ pro Spanish policy.

The quarrel over a future war with Spain and parliamentary privilege heightened existing fears about the king’s motives.

However, the 1621 parliament did not mark a breakdown in Crown-Parliament relations.

Despite the events of the 1621 parliament, James continued negotiations with Spain over the Spanish match; his pro-Spanish foreign policy seemed as strong as ever.

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1624 parliament

Key events 1621-25

Feb 1623: Buckingham and Charles set off for Madrid

Oct 1623: Buckingham and Charles return from Madrid, keen to get revenge against Spain

Feb 1624: Parliament called

March 1625: James dies.

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The Spanish Match

Charles and Buckingham secretly set out for Madrid, without informing James.

James was horrified, but could do little.

It seemed that Charles agreed to all the Spanish conditions for the marriage, including toleration for English Catholics.

The Spanish almost certainly spun out negotiations in order to delay any English military action over the palatinate, and had little intention of allowing the marriage alliance to take place.

Charles and Buckingham had realised the negotiations were farce and returned to England, humiliated and keen for a war of revenge against Spain.

Both Charles and Buckingham were treated as heroes when they returned. They were both determined to exploit the universal anti-Spanish feeling throughout the country.

James “Spanish Match” and Pro-Spanish policy was dead.

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The 1624 Parliament ("The Happy Parliament")

The key reason for the calling of the 1624 parliament was to finance war against Spain and its Catholic allies.

There is no doubt that the idea of war was very popular with MPs.

Cranfield opposed war with Spain on financial grounds.

Buckingham, persuaded parliament to impeach Cranfield on charges of corruption. Cranfield was fined and removed from office.

James rightly saw the dangers of the strategies being adopted by Charles and Buckingham in Parliament.

Charles and Buckingham tried to exploit the mood of parliament by encouraging MPs to discuss the nature of a future war with Spain. In effect, they were allowing parliament to discuss foreign policy, a royal prerogative.

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The 1624 Parliament ("The Happy Parliament")

James asked for 6 subsidies and 12 “fifteenths” in taxation to launch a land expedition to free the palatinate. MPs refused to vote on such huge amounts, preferring a naval war with Spain which would be self-financing. Charles and Buckingham agreed to MP’s demands, but planned to launch both a land expedition and a naval war. This would have serious repercussions by the time Charles became king in 1625.

Buckingham negotiated a marriage treaty between Charles and Henrietta Maria. This meant Buckingham had to promise to suspend the Recusancy laws in England (Catholics given freedom) in return for an Anglo-French expedition to the Palatinate (which France had no intention of keeping).

A further part of the marriage treaty stated that James had to promise to help the French King to help put down a rising of Huguenots (England was being forced to fight fellow protestants). The consequences of this were not realised until Charles’ first parliament in 1625.

Therefore, while the mood of the 1624 parliament was generally cooperative and the reign ended on a high note in terms of relations between James and parliament, it is clear that there were underlying tensions that were likely to surface in Charles’ reign, especially if the future war with Spain was a failure.

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James I and religion, 1603-25

Religion was not a major issue in James’ reign. This was mainly due to James’ skill in promoting a “middle way” within the Anglican church.

Most “puritans” continued to remain within the Anglican Church. Religion only became an issue of serious conflict in Charles I’s reign.

Historians refer to James’ success in maintaining a “Jacobethan balance” in the Church.

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Puritans - The Hampton Court Conference 1604


Many puritans had a preference for Presbyterianism, the form of church organisation used in Scotland, and would have liked to have seen he episcopacy abolished. However, many puritans had no wish to abolish bishops, preferring to reduce their powers instead.

For Puritans, the Catholic Church was not simply an alternative form of worship, but an evil anti-Christian force, and the Pope was the Antichrist. Therefore, it was essential to remove any traces of “popery” from the Anglican Church.

The Hampton Court Conference 1604

1603 – James was presented with the Millenary petition; in which puritans requested that they be “eased and relieved” of what they considered to be “popish” practices in the Anglican Church.

James agreed to meet at Hampton Court in 1604. One of the puritans mentioned the word “presbytery”, meaning the use of a council to govern the Anglican Church rather than Bishops. (James would no longer be King). James responded by saying “No Bishop No king” and the only positive result of the conference was the authorisation of a new translation of the Bible.

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Did 1603 mark a turning point for Puritans?

In 1604, 141 strict new canons were issued which regulated all aspects of Church life. Presbyterians were unable to accept these.

There is no doubt that for some Puritans, this was the beginning of the final separation from the Anglican Church.

However, no more than 90 ministers refused to subscribe to the 1604 canons.

This was because James had no wish to provoke the Puritans unnecessarily. James was prepared to turn a blind eye to ministers who did not comply with what Puritans saw as “Popish” practices. James also allowed Puritan laymen to buy tithes to local churches and set up their own ministers in these Churches.

 Therefore 1603 does not mark a turning point in the Anglican Church, or in religious problems in England.

James was careful to promote and encourage leading figures from all groups within the Church.

James had managed to maintain the “peace” in the Anglican Church by not favouring any particular wing of the Church.

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James and the Catholics

Because of James' pro-Spanish policy, a similar attitude was adopted towards English Catholics. 

1603: James tried to soften the recusancy laws. However, pressure from Puritans in parliament and the need to use recusancy fines as a source of revenue led to increasing recusancy fines and a proclamation banning all Catholic priests fro England. 

The result was the 1605 Gunpowder plot which increased the anti-Catholic feeling at court. 

Despite savage anti-Catholic feeling in the years afterwards, James was keen not to harass Catholics unless they were a threat to peace. James was aware that the majority of English Catholics were loyal and peaceful. 

1606: An Oath Of Allegiance for Catholics was drawn up, but not vigorously enforced. 

After this, as long as Catholics worshipped discretely, they were left in peace. Treatment of Catholics futher improved in the years that James promoted his pro-Spanish policy. 

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Did tensions in religion begin to develop towards

Towards the end of his reign, James seemed to develop doubts about the doctrine of predestination. Some historians have argued that James was beginning to be more influenced by Arminianism, which rejected predestination. 

1624: James allowed the publication of the Arminian Richard Montagu's "A New Gag For An Old Goose", which hinted that the Catholic Church was a "Sister Church" and misguided rather than the symbol of evil. James began to allow Arminian preachers more access to Court. 

1618: James issued the "Book of Sports", permitting some recreations on a Sunday. This angered many Puritans who believed in Sabbatarianism. 

Also, foreign policy was making it increasingly difficult for James to maintain peace in the Anglican Church, with growing Anti-Catholicism and growing fear of an international Catholic Crusade in the form of the 30 years war. 

However, James also refused to promote William Laud to higher posts within the Anglican Church, rightly feeling that Laud's promotion would cause untold damage to James "broad" church.  This was the key to James' success in religious policy; not to be seen to be favouring one particular wing of the Church. 

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Charles I (1625-29)

The reign of Charles I was certainly a turning point in relations between King and Parliament. Within 4 years, the relationship had broken down. 

Why did relations between the Crown and Parliament deteriorate so rapidly in the late 1620s? 

  • The enormous financial burden of the wars against Spain and France that Charles persued in the late 1620s.
  • The unwillingness of MPs to vote for wartime taxes. 
  • Charles' methods of funding the wars 
  • Charles' reliance on Buckingham
  • Charles' promotion of the Arminians within the Anglican Church. 

All these factors combined to create increasing conflict, which led to a breakdown in 1629. 

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The Buckingham years (1625-28)

1625: Charles became king. he appeared to be in control of the situation. However, relations were less harmonious than it appeared: 

  • There were fundamental differences over foreign policy. Puritan MPs saw the war against Spain as a religious crusade. But Charles and Buckingham were purely guided by the desire for revenge over the "Spanish Match", and saw the war as a matter of honour. 
  • Recent research suggests that there was a large number of MPs who did not want war with Spain; while they were pleased that the Spanish Match had been abandoned, this did not mean that they wanted to fund the huge costs of a war with Spain. 

Therefore Charles and Buckingham tried to follow and fund both a land expendition to Germany and a naval expedition against Spain. These plans cost about £2 million. Because MPs were unsure about the plans, they only contributed £250,000. 

Mid 1625: The land expedition under Count Mansfield was a disaster. None reached Germany, most died of disease. 

Sept 1625: Buckingham led a naval expedition to Candiz and nothing was achieved. 

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The Buckingham years (1625-28)

March 1625: The marriage of Charles and Henrietta Maria. Charles had agreed to suspend the recusancy laws against Catholics and to lend ships to the French king to use agaisnt his rebellion against his rebellious Protestant subjects, the Huguenots. 

To MPs, this did not fit in with their ideas of a godly crusade. They felt that they were financing the "wrong" war, and fighting fellow protestants. 

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The 1625 Parliament

MPs were already concerned about the implications of the French marriage treaty as well as the plans for war against Spain, and only voted Charles 2 extra subsidies. 

  • They voted him Tonnage and Poundage for one year only. MPs wanted to review the whole issue of duties and impositions which had caused tension in James reign, and this was not intended as an attack on Charles. However, Charles was infuriated by the decision and continued to collect tonnage and poundge without parliamentary consent. 

There was already growing concern over the encouragement of Arminian ideas in the Anglican church. MPs spent much of the time in the 1625 parliament attacking Montague and Arminian ideas, with the main attack led by John Pym. 

1625: MPs were shocked when Charles announced that Montague had been appointed royal chaplain and ordered the Commons to drop the matter. (Indication of Charles' religious sympathys)

1625: MPs demanded enforcement of the recusancy laws and a full enquiry into the sale of honours and titles. As their hostility became more and more focused on Buckingham, Charles lost patience with Parliament and dissolved it.

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Why did the promotion of Arminians create so much

  • They reinforced the role of authority within the Church, enhancing the power of Bishops and increasing the status of the clergy at the expense of the local gentry. (Like in the Catholic Church). 
  • They emphasised the idea of "Beauty of holiness", ceremony and ritual, at a time when there was increasing concern about the long-term future of Protestantism in Europe. 

The most important way in which Charles increased religious tension was by allying himself to the Arminians and refusing to promote any other groups within the Church. 

This was bound to increase tension in Parliaments, especially with growing suspicion abut financial methods Charles was using to fund the wars against Spain and later France. 

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Why was the role of Buckingham so important betwee

The key problem was Buckingham's total control of royal patronage and his dominance over all aspects of Charles' policy. 

Buckingham's foreign policy lacked aims other than fame and glory. His control over patronage angered the older nobility and made it impossible to gain promotion without Buckingam's assent. 

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The 1626 Parliament (Feb-June 1626)

Charles was forced to recall parliament to finance further military expeditions against Spain. By the times MP's met, news of the disasters of Mansfeld's expedition and at Candiz was common knowledge, and Buckingam was seen as the chief focus of blame. 

To protect Buckinham, Charles appointed some of Buckingham's chief critics (Edward Coke and Thomas Wentworth) as county sherrifs, making them ineligible to stand as MPs. However, this meant that more "fiery" MPs like John Eliot were apponted, and made the commons more determined to remove Buckingham. 

MPs voted for four subsidies (£300,000), but only if grievances were redressed, namely the removal of Buckingham, who was now being referred to as the "grievance of grievances". 

Buckinham had stirred up further religious tension by taking the side of the Arminians at the 1626 York House Conference on religion. 

Charles arrested Eliot and Digges for insulting language against Buckingham, but was forced to set them free when the Commons refused to do any further business. When the commons began moves to impeach Buckingham, Charles dissolved Parliament and no subsidies had been granted. (Main cause of tension was Buckingham and Charles refusal to remove him). 

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June 1626-March 1628: Rule without Parliament

The nature of Charles' rule in this period confirmed the constitutional and religious fears that had surfaced during the 1625 and 1626 parliaments. 

Charles allowed Buckinham's stranglehold on patronage to become tighter than ever; privy councillors who were opponents of Buckinham were dismissed with those who had defended him gaining senior Court appointments. 

The privy council was now dominated by those least sympathetic to calling a parliament and most willing to use non-parliamentary methods of raising money. 

The court was no longer a "point of contact" between king and subjects. 

Charles ordered the continued collection of tonnage and poundage. 

Summer 1626: an attempt to raise a "benevolence" was a failure. 

Sept 1626: Charles authorised a Forced loan, arguing that in a national emergency he was entitled to raise taxes without parliament's agreement. Financially it was a success (£240,000 of the £300,000 demanded was raised), politically it was a serious error. There was increasing feeling that Charles was abusing his emergency powers of taxation. 

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June 1626-March 1628: Rule without Parliament

1626: Laud appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells, and Bishop of London in 1628. 

Other prominent Arminians were promoted. 

1627: The case of the Five Knights: 5 Knights who had been imprisoned by Charles for refusing to pay the Forced Loan challenged the legality of his right to detain them without trial. The judges supported Charles, but declared that the case should not be entered as a legal precedent. Charles forced them to make the case a precedent. 

many of the political nation began to fear that the common law no longer offered protection of their lives, liberty and property, since Charles' methods seemed to be overriding common law. 

1627: Buckingham's arrogance and blundering diplomacy had led to war with France. Determined to retrieve his reputation, Buckingham launched a campaign to assist the Huguenots of La Rochelle. 

Buckingham's expedition was an even greater disaster than the Mansfield or Candiz expeditions. 

Charles had no option but to recall parliament. 

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The 1628 Parliament (March 1628)

MPs were aware that if parliament failed to grant Charles subsidies, he would probably dissolve it and continue with non-parliamentary taxation. 

Elliot and Coke drew up the Petition of right: 

  • There should be no more forced loans 
  • No imprisonments without trial 
  • No bileting of soldies 
  • no use of martial law against civilians 

House of commons argued they weren't asking for new rights - only their old rights confirmed.

Charles had little choice but to sign the Petiton of Right in June 1628, and MPs now granted five subsidies. This could have been an opportunity for reconciliation. 

But, when the commons prepared a Bill approving tonnage and poundage, Charles denied that he needed Parliament's approval. This raised the old issue of impositions and some merchants refused to pay duties. 

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The 1628 Parliament (March 1628)

Religion became a major issue again. 

Eliot produced a "remonstrance" against the growth of Arminianism and against Buckinghams conduct of the war. Charles replied by proroguing parliament, to meet again in 1629. 

August 1628: Buckingham was assassinated by someone in his own army. There was nationwide rejoycing. 

His removal should have given another opportunity for reconciliation; but this was made impossible by Charles' resentment at MP's obvious pleasure in Buckingham's death, and MPs continuing fear over the direction of Charles' religious policies. 

The seperate issues of religion, finance and the relative rights of king and parliament were becoming so entagnled that progrress in one area was undermined by continuing difficulties in the others.

With Buckingham's death, Charles became more closely identified with the conduct of government. By 1629, the majority of Bishops were Arminains / Laudians. 

Merchants who refused to pay customs duties were arrested without trial. 

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The 1629 Parliament (The 2nd session of the 1628 p

It seemed that Charles called this session to gain a formal grant of tonnage and poundage. 

MPs insisted on a full investigation of the recent developments in the Anglican Church. A commons committee drew up the resolutions on religion which deeply criticised the spreading of Arminian ideas within the Church. 

Charles summoned the commons to the house of lords, probably to announce another prorogation. 

Fearing that they would be dissolved before airing their grievances fully, some members held the speaker in his chair while they passed the three resolutions, delcaring as a "capital enemy to this kingdom and commonwealth" anyone who: 

  • Bought in "innovation in religion" or introduced "popery or Arminianism" 
  • Advised the king to collect tonnage and poundage without parliamentary consent 
  • Paid tonnage and poundage. 

Charles dissolved Parliament in March 1629, arrested the main ringleaders and blamed the dissolution on a "few ill affected members"

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Why had relations broken down by 1629?

  • Charles believed that he was facing a deliberate attempt to extend the powers of parliament, with parliament's control of taxes being used as the chief weapon. 
  • However, MPs crticism was mainly directed at the way in which money was used under Buckingham's leadership. 
  • Therefore, much of the blame for the breakdown of relations lies with Buckingham. 
  • However, it was Charles' stubborn determination to defend Buckingham that caused the conflicts over subsidies and the Forced loan, and therefore turned the issue into a conflict over prerogative rights. 
  • Many MPs genuinely feared that Charles was trying to establish absolute monarchy. 
  • What made matters worse was that Charles introduced changes in the Anglican Church that frightened and offended many of his subjects. While James had been flexible and promoted ministers of all shades of religious opinion, Charles favoured a minority group at the expense of all others. More dangerously, the Laudian group was associated too closely with Catholicism, at a time when it was widely felt that there was a "popish plot" to overthrow English Protestantism. 
  • It was inevitable that these tensions would surface in Parliament, especially since Charles' court was no longer a point of contact.
  • Therefore, Charles should bear the blame for the breakdown in relations by 1629. 
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